Highlights from the Joint Leadership Team Meeting

Station and Region connect on key issues

On August 30, the U.S. Forest Service Southern Regional Leadership Team met with the Southern Research Station Leadership Team in Asheville, NC.

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Tony Tooke shares regional priorities with attendees. Tooke was the regional forester for the Southern Region at the time of the meeting and is now the FS chief. Photo by Jennifer Moore Myers, USFS.

Ken Arney, deputy regional forester, kicked off the day with a recap of the last joint meeting held in 2015. Several priority topics from that forum are still of great importance: longleaf pine restoration, broad-scale monitoring, and strengthening relationships with rural partners and communities.

Rob Doudrick, SRS director, also emphasized the value of collaboration and the role of Forest Service R&D in providing sound science for partners in the National Forest System.

Jim Guldin, member of the new SRS Research Advisory Board, reviewed some joint efforts between the Region and SRS.

Several examples of collaborative work were discussed, including forest plan revisions with the TACCIMO tool and monitoring disturbances on national forest lands with ForWarn.

After lunch, the teams split off into small groups to discuss a range of issues that were important to both the Region and Station.

Topics included forest health, forests and water, inventory and monitoring, keeping forests as forests, restoration, and social science. Facilitators and subject matter experts led the participants through questions. The groups discussed the following issues:

  • How can the agency better educate the public on the importance of national forest lands for public water supplies? What practices will help national forest managers protect water quality on public lands?
  • How are we transferring the results of our inventory, monitoring, and assessment work to audiences in both the Region and Station so that they can be applied to inform environmental analysis and decision making?
  • How do we help private landowners understand the value of keeping forests as forests? How can we better educate the public on the benefits of healthy managed forests?
  • How can Forest Health Protection approach the increasingly important issue of restoring tree species that have been decimated by invasives? How can restoration work proceed in the context of sagging timber markets?
  • What information or tools do we have and need to address social sustainability in forest planning?
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Amanda Walrod, natural resource specialist on the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests, takes notes on how to understand qualitative data about social values. Photo by Stephanie Laseter, USFS.

The outgoing regional forester, now chief of the Forest Service, Tony Tooke, challenged the group to consider the following: How are we intentional with what we learn today? Where are the intersections between our work? What aren’t we tackling and why? Knowing that we can’t do it all, how can we prioritize the list? How was this meeting different from the last?

Tooke closed with a note that continued collaboration between the Region and Station ensures that management decisions are anchored in good data, good science, and common sense.

The Leadership Teams will be investigating how we can answer these and other questions from the meeting, then relaying priorities out to the field. This discussion will take place at the next executive team summit planned for later this fall.

For more information, email Stephanie Laseter at slaseter@fs.fed.us.

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