June 3, 2011– Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the release of a new map that characterizes the health and condition of National Forest System lands in more than 15,000 watersheds across the country. The U.S. Forest Service’s Watershed Condition Classification Map is the first step in the agency’s Watershed Condition Framework, and is the agency’s first national assessment across all 193 million acres of National Forest lands. Vilsack made the announcement at a USDA event in Washington highlighting the United Nation’s International Year of Forests.
“Clean, healthy forests are vital to our efforts to protect America’s fresh water supply,” said Vilsack. “Our nation’s economic health, and the health of our citizens, depends on abundant, clean and reliable sources of freshwater. The Watershed Condition Framework and map will help provide economic and environmental benefits to residents of rural communities.”
The map establishes a baseline that will be used to establish priorities for watershed restoration and maintenance. The national Watershed Condition Framework establishes a consistent, comparable, and credible process for characterizing, prioritizing, improving, and tracking the health of watersheds on national forests and grasslands. The Framework also builds added accountability and transparency into the Integrated Resource Restoration program which is included in President Obama’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year.
The Framework uses three watershed condition classifications:
Class 1 watersheds are considered healthy.
Class 2 watersheds are relatively healthy, but may require restoration work.
Class 3 watersheds are those that are impaired, degraded or damaged.
Additional benefits to the Framework are the opportunities it provides to current and future partners in watershed restoration and maintenance. It also increases the public’s awareness of their local watershed conditions and the role they can play in improving them. The Forest Service expects that as the map gains more widespread use, it will promote the department’s “all-lands” approach to managing the nation’s forest and landscapes.
The Economist piece here begins a series of posts on the topic of “what pieces of what we do are based on a pre-climate change/non-dynamic worldview, and what must we do to develop new approaches with climate change in mind?”
The comment from Les Joslin here pointing out that Thoreau’s quote was about wildness, not wilderness, reminded me of David Oates’ book Paradise Wild: Reimagining American Nature. Now, all who follow this blog know that I am not a wallower in deep thinking. I tend to be more interested in facts and actions than ideas. But I recognize that ideas (and words) are important, because they form a fundamental framing of the universe. If we are unaware of that framing we can talk past each other and never, ultimately, understand each other. And those misunderstandings can lead to attribution of bad intent, and rifts among us when, instead, there could be powerful surges of joint action for ourselves and the Earth.
Here are a couple of quotes from the book that seem relevant to our current discussion. You can find more excerpts, as well as his other work, on Oates’ website here.
Eden is a myth that has ended up telling its tellers, speaking through them without their ability to see it or to imagine any other words, or worlds. But we cannot afford to let this storyline use us any more. It is time to bring it into consciousness, recognize it as a historical artifact, and move to other ground. For the immediate political gains we make in using the Eden-and-Apocalypse language are paid for with long-term defeat. Like Muir, we find we cannot live in Eden, and that however “saved” it is, it is somewhere else. We trudge in a flat and dusty world, separated and alienated (as all the nature writers declare) from a vital connection with the world. Eden can’t be saved unless we are, too. Our fates are intertwined. We must re-imagine what Eden means.
“But they have too often veered into the dead-end language of Paradise Lost. When the rhetoric of Lost Eden shows up,as it does in classics like Muir and Abbey and lots of recent environmental writing and politicking, it pretty much squelches the possibility for grounded choices, for practical spirituality. For knowing when to keep the tree and when to make it into something else. That’s the real work (in Gary Snyder’s phrase):smutting along in the world. Glorying along in it, growing roses from our dungheaps and dungheaps from our roses. This work takes passion, energy, humility and perhaps humor. Willingness to try, to get soiled; to compromise, learn, improve. (note from Sharon: sounds like collaborative adaptive management?)
But these traits we cannot find when we are loaded down with post-Edenic guilt and pessimism. These leave us in a state of environmental denial, too exhausted from crisis-overload to pay attention; or whipped up into Puritan absolutism, searching for purity in the form of fantasy wildernesses and defeatist politics. “Apathy and dogmatism” in the words of James D. Proctor’s searching analysis of the forest debate. Neither response works very well in the world we actually live in, which generally isn’t about purity but is ready to reward attentiveness bountifully.”
Note I think Oates may be referring to this book edited by Proctor.