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Incorporating climate change into the management of National Forests: Lessons learned from a Forest Service employee survey

Friday, February 20, 2015 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm

Zhao Ma, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University

By analyzing interview and survey data from 1,640 USDA Forest Service employees across three management levels (i.e., Ranger District, National Forest, National Forest System Region), we assessed their perceptions, actions, concerns, and needs regarding incorporating climate change into managing the National Forests, as well as their perceptions towards climate change communication within the agency. We found that regional- and forest-level employees tend to think climate change presents new challenges and requires new approaches to address it, while on-the-ground managers tend to view it as a buzzword and want more flexibility to continue doing what they do.  We found that forest managers have been engaged in conversation and thinking about climate change but few on-the-ground actions.  Our study suggests a need for incorporating local staff knowledge into agency decision making, establishing common ground within the agency by promoting climate change initiatives in the context of enhancing forest resilience, providing more scale-relevant data, research, training, and guidance, and developing strategies that enable forest managers to address management challenges that interact with climate change. Our study also suggests that future intra-organizational communication should focus on building trust across the hierarchical structure of the agency, encouraging vertical and horizontal information flow, enhancing formal and informal social networking, and improving the quality rather than quantity of climate change information shared within the agency.


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Presentation slides attached