The United States of America’s experience implementing its Bonn Challenge pledge demonstrates the value of balancing national metrics with flexibility for local innovation, the importance of cross-boundary partnerships, and the need for practitioner learning networks to enable continual improvement.
Balancing national and local needs in tracking restoration progress
Under the Bonn Challenge, the US pledged to restore 15 million hectares of forest land by 2020. Since 2011, the United States has implemented restoration activities across 12.3 million hectares of lost or degraded forest land.
The United States Forest Service, part of the United States Department of Agriculture, is responsible for implementing the US pledge. The US Forest Service manages the 80 million hectare National Forest System and provides financial and technical assistance for work on tribal, state and private forest land. Restoration needs span diverse ecosystems, from longleaf pine restoration in Florida to riparian restoration in the temperate rainforests in Oregon. The US Forest Service and its partners need metrics that track overall, national progress and allow room for local communities to develop and track measures most relevant to their needs.
The US Forest Service is using the performance measure – acres of public and private forest lands restored or enhanced – to track its progress for the Bonn Challenge. The measure accounts for a diverse suite of activities to restore or maintain forest and grassland health, including reforestation, invasive species removal, wildlife habitat improvement and treatments to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire. The measure uses a formula to take a subset of the individual measures (like invasive species or reforestation) to best approximate a footprint of total aggregate treatments.
However, if a landscape needs treatment over multiple years to be complete, treatments are counted separately over each year. The US Forest Service is working to create a more accurate national footprint of completed restoration work using improved spatial data and measures that better account for multi-year treatments. The agency is also investing in improved tools for assessing ecosystem condition, prioritising work, and tracking restoration outcomes at national and regional scales.
The US Forest Service also works with partners to develop measures that are tailored to local community restoration goals. For example, many of the agency’s restoration projects use multi-party monitoring approaches to assess the ecological, social, and economic impacts of their activities. These projects have minimum monitoring requirements at the national level. Partners in each project develop their own tailored monitoring strategy by collaboratively identifying and prioritising monitoring questions and determining shared capacity to collect, analyse, share, and discuss the data and findings.
This balance of a national metrics for restoration treatments, combined with frameworks to foster local measures, has allowed the US Forest Service to meet national restoration tracking needs while encouraging local innovation. Multi-party monitoring efforts create learning and trust between diverse stakeholders, sustaining and improving the collaborative restoration work over time. The US Forest Service is working with partners to identify best practices from these efforts so they can continue to improve monitoring and overall adaptive management practices.
Leveraging cross-boundary partnerships
57% of the US’s forests are in private landownership, and another 23% are in state, tribal, county, municipal, and various federal ownerships. The US Forest Service supports the sustainable stewardship of 7.2 million hectares of forest lands on Indian reservations, 27 million hectares of states’ forest lands, 52 million hectares of urban and community forests, and 171 million hectares of private forest lands.
To meet Bonn Challenge goals, the US Forest Service found it must engage local communities and local, state and tribal governments. In doing this work, the agency is extremely fortunate to have a large and diverse partnership programme. In a typical year, the US Forest Service enters into more than 7,500 grants and agreements, with over US$ 500 million in partner contributions. In addition, volunteer organisations provide an average of 1,900 person-years of volunteer service each year, valued at over US$ 88 million.
A major strength of the Global Partnership for Forest Landscape Restoration (GPFLR) is the strong partner network it brings to forest landscape restoration (FLR) globally. The US Forest Service’s experience demonstrates the critical role of partnerships in achieving FLR, and the agency looks forward to helping build and strengthen partner networks throughout the broader GPFLR community.
Learning together for better results
The US Forest Service and its partners have also learned that investments in practitioner learning networks, or communities of practice, help sustain and improve restoration work over time. These networks allow restoration practitioners to share information, tools, capacity, and promote dissemination of lessons learned to benefit practitioners beyond the local project areas. Some networks, like the Fire Learning Network, are formal and established, while others are still nascent. Key observations on the value of learning networks include:
- Learning networks translate shared learning into action. Identifying common challenges and building (and sharing) solutions increases capacity and helps avoid ‘reinventing the wheel.’
- Supporting learning across multiple scales. Sharing between local-level groups and dissemination of ideas through regional and national networks allows lessons to be shared further and applied to the level where they can have the most impact.
- A variety of tools and approaches can support learning. Approaches include in-person workshops, virtual peer learning sessions, website resources, peer-to-peer mentoring, and cross-collaborative technical assistance.
- While informal communities of practice exist widely, and have been effective, formalising networks can provide added benefits. Benefits include broadened access to information and tools, added accountability, and access to more resources or ways to improve efficient use of existing resources.
The US Forest Service, together with its partners, looks forward to building on its lessons from Bonn Challenge implementation and continuing to exchange information and expertise with our Bonn Challenge partners to enhance global efforts to restore 350 million hectares of deforested or degraded landscapes by 2030.
Web story written and provided by the US Forest Service.
Learn more about tracking progress on the Bonn Challenge
Bonn Challenge Barometer of Progress
Learn more about the restoration work of the US Forest Service and its partners
- Examples of Locally-developed, Multi-party Monitoring of Restoration Projects – Provides a sample of project level restoration reporting, including annual reports and ecological indicator reports.
- Conservation Connect – A learning network, Conservation Connect serves community-based groups and US Forest Service employees involved in collaborative stewardship on National Forest System lands. Conservation Connect is run by the National Forest Foundation, the Congressionally-chartered foundation that supports stewardship of the US National Forest System.
- Fire Learning Network – The Fire Learning Network (FLN) engages dozens of multi-agency, community-based projects to accelerate the restoration of landscapes that depend on fire to sustain native plant and animal communities. It is a joint project of The Nature Conservancy, the US Forest Service and several agencies of the US Department of the Interior.
- Forest Service Restoration Overview – The US Forest Service main restoration webpage provides an overview of agency restoration authorities and programmes.
- 2016 Collaborative Restoration Workshop – The 2016 Collaborative Restoration Workshop was a forum for sharing innovative approaches to collaborative restoration, tools, and lessons about planning, implementing, and monitoring restoration efforts.