Spatial forest planning to meet multiple natural resource goals: Developing geospatial tools to forecast management outcomes across a diverse landscape of ownership types and stakeholder interests
University of Maine
Jeremy Wilson, Forest Resources
Maine Cooperation Forestry Research Unit (CFRU)
This research will provide a better understanding of forest management and natural disturbance as drivers of landscape and policy change in Maine. As the foremost natural disturbance agent of Maine’s spruce/fir forest, past infestations of spruce budworm have strongly influenced current ecological conditions, forest policy, and social attitudes about forest management. To adequately address Maine’s forest sustainability challenges in the future, we must better understand the coupled dynamics of budworm outbreaks and forest management practices. Specifically, spatial planning and decision support systems (DSS) are needed to evaluate how the ecological and policy environment of today will shape management options and outcomes in the future, which will ultimately determine the sustainability of Maine’s forest resources. By integrating geospatial data with spatial forest planning software and advanced DSS tools, we will provide a process to evaluate current forest conditions and potential outcomes of future resource management strategies, including effects on wood supply, wildlife habitat, and budworm vulnerability. Our research will evaluate the costs, benefits, and tradeoffs involved when managing forestland to meet multiple natural resource goals across a diverse landscape of ownership types and stakeholder interests. Moreover, because Maine’s citizens hold the “social contract” on forest management practices, and because the outcomes of past budworm outbreaks have strongly influenced social attitudes and forest policy, we will empirically evaluate the relationship between environmental values and reactions to communications about forest planning and the potential outcomes of alternative management strategies and budworm mitigation efforts. We expect that this research will provide information needed for long-term planning across a diverse landscape of ownership types and stakeholder interests, as well as an approach and set of tools that can be applied to a variety of future analyses.