Where should we Invest in Forest Climate Adaptation? Incorporating Public Attitudes and Ecological Priorities to Inform Management of Washington’s Forested Parks


Under warming temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, and shifting disturbance regimes, forests on public lands in the western US face the possibility of enduring decline, protracted recovery from disturbance and, in some cases, transition to non-forested states. Ensuring the integrity of these forests—and the ecosystem services they afford—may require active management that aims to resist or forestall changes (e.g., of highly valued resources) or facilitate forested landscapes into conditions (e.g., with different species or ecotypes) that are tenable under climate change. However, the sheer extent of forests potentially in need of such management, policy constraints, limited resources, and societal pressures can hinder implementation of climate-adaptive management. Overcoming these challenges to maximize the benefits of climate-adaptive management will require aligning the forested areas on public lands that are at greatest risk with societal priorities. Plus, a nuanced, place-based understanding of societal values associated with public lands, of attitudes towards climate adaptation, and of how these vary across stakeholder groups can provide insights to managers for how to best engage the public regarding active, climate-adaptive management.

This project will use remote-sensing observations to map forested areas on Washington’s public lands at the greatest risk of enduring transitions under climate change. With input from land management partners at state and local agencies, a suite of plausible management options to address such transitions will be developed for two or three highly visited forested parks within the greater Seattle region. Public stakeholder attitudes towards these possible futures and associated climate-adaptive management will be evaluated through focus groups. Resultant maps and case studies could be used by managers to inform decisions about where, when, and how to prioritize active, climate-adaptive management on forested public lands in light of empirically-tracked ecological trends and societal preferences.