NCASI comments on Southern Forest Futures Project

 

The Southern Forest Futures Project (SFFP) released public review drafts of Summary and Technical Reports in May 2011. These reports are posted at www.srs.fs.usda.gov/futures/reports/. NCASI has submitted detailed comments. A summary follows.

“The SFFP report is well-organized and informative, identifies important issues affecting southern forests, and uses an approach that has some important advantages relative to the methods used in the 2002 assessment. A key finding is that forest-based manufacturing in the South creates demand for timber that gives landowners an incentive to keep “forests as forests.” This finding and its policy implications should be highlighted in the Summary Report.”

“Some SFFP results depend on assumptions and equations of questionable validity. Influences of these assumptions and equations on model projections are often difficult to evaluate due to the complexity of the modeling framework. Explicitly stating important assumptions, caveats, areas of uncertainty, and limitations in the Key Findings sections of the individual chapters in the Technical Report and in the Summary Report would strengthen the report.”

“Climate projections are a key aspect of the analysis that distinguishes the SFFP from earlier assessments, and the projections have a strong influence on projections for water resources, biodiversity, and other issues. The SFFP should address limitations of the approach used to model climate and consider uncertainty in climate projections in their assessments of biodiversity, water resources and other resource issues. More complete discussion of the limitations associated with the assessment of wildlife/biodiversity issues also would be useful. For example, many of the species included in the analysis are not forest related. Greater attention should be given to recreational opportunities provided by private lands such as leasing of hunting opportunities.”

“The SFFP should be cautious not to overstate concerns about invasive species and the potential for climate change to exacerbate invasive species problems. Rather, the report should provide more details about policy and management options for controlling invasive species. The SFFP should be similarly cautious when describing effects of forest management on water resources and should not conflate effects of forest harvesting with effects of forest conversion to non-forest uses. Greater recognition of the effectiveness and high implementation rates of forestry best management practices also would be appropriate.”

“Finally, the report could be strengthened by more rigorous analysis of opportunities for growth in global markets for forest products and the potential for those opportunities to influence southern forests. The draft report shows that timber markets provide landowners with incentives to “keep forests as forests” but relies too much on recent market trends as justification for a generally gloomy outlook on the future of forest-based manufacturing in the South. The report should explore in much greater detail (a) factors driving growth and change in global markets for renewable materials and energy; (b) the potential for some factors (e.g., increasing demand in China and India) to lead to greater demand; and (c) the southern forest sector’s key challenges and opportunities in global markets. Government policies that are hindering investment and innovation in timber production and forest-based manufacturing in the US South are virtually ignored in the draft report and should be discussed in much greater detail.” 

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