The Science of Planning

Digging into the Forest Plan Revision. 

The Custer Gallatin National Forest is hosting a free half-day symposium on Friday, September 14 at Big Sky Resort. The Science of National Forest Planning serves as a great jumping-off point to early weekend festivities on the surrounding acres of public land. 

At just over half-way through the four-year process of forest planning, the draft plan and draft environmental impact statement (EIS) are due out this winter, with an anticipated final decision date of late 2019 or early 2020. The Forest Plan is the overarching document that guides what we do on National Forest System lands for at least the next ten years. This Symposium is an opportunity to learn more about the science that goes into Forest Planning, and what resource specialists are analyzing.

Ten speakers will be highlighted throughout the morning and a five-speaker panel discussion rounds out the symposium. The speakers carry a wide variety of expertise and experience, from the Forest Service's National Advisory Committee to directors for locally and regionally based nonprofits and research scientists. Many have positivity impacted the natural resources field or are providing direct application of scientific findings for incorporation into Forest Plan Revision.   

The topics highlight what we’ve heard at public meetings and in public comment, including overall planning for forest resilience, fire as a part of the ecosystem, and connectivity. Each session aims to provide an overview, then step down into more detail, and lastly provide the application context to the Custer Gallatin Forest Plan. 

“The day will definitely be very interesting, hearing from each of these speakers, highlighting just some of the science we have at our fingertips,” said Virginia Kelly, Forest Plan Revision Team Leader.  “For example, we’ve heard so much about connectivity and we are stepping beyond with the Center for Large Landscape Conservation and modeling connectivity for all species. When we talk about fire, we are taking a broader look at how fire is woven into our plan and the challenges and opportunities that presents.  And with perhaps one of the most complex topics in forest planning, ecological integrity, we’ll cover how we look at modeling, and considering a changing climate,” Kelly explained. 

Agenda (8 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.)
8:00 :  Moderator:  Jim Hart – Madison County Commissioner & Custer Gallatin Working Group Vice Chair

Welcome and Intro
Mary C. Erickson, Forest Supervisor

Opening – The Forest Service’s 2012 Planning Rule and Its Implementation
Martin Nie, Ph.D, Professor of Natural Resources & Policy, Director Bolle Center for People and Forests, University of Montana

Planning for Ecological Integrity
Jon Haufler, Ph.D, Executive Director Ecosystem Management Research Institute

Vegetation Climate Adaptation Planning, Supporting Custer Gallatin N.F. Plan Revision
Andy Hansen, Ph.D, Director Landscape Biodiversity Lab, Montana State University, Professor

9:25:  Changing Fire Regimes and Forest Resilience:  Past, Present and Future
Philip Higuera, Ph.D, Associate Professor, Fire Ecology University of Montana

Choices and Consequences in Fire Management
Mark A. Finney, Ph.D, Research Forester, Wildfire Behavior, Modeling, Risk at RMRS, USFS

Fire Risk Assessment in Forest Plan Revision for the Custer Gallatin National Forest
Dave Calkin, Ph.D, Supervisory Research Forester, Human Dimensions, RMRS, USFS

10:25 – 10:40 a.m. Break
10:40:  Resources for Planning:  Economics, Wildfire and Home Building
Ray Rasker, Ph.D, Headwaters Economics

Wildlife Connectivity Modeling in Montana:  products, experiences and lessons learned
Justin Gude, M.S. MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Ecological Connectivity within and around the Custer Gallatin N.F.  – an analysis to inform forest planning.
Tyler Creech, Ph.D, Center for Large Landscape Conservation

Riparian Area Importance, Management and Modeling
Brett Roper, Ph.D, Aquatic Ecologist, National Stream & Aquatic Ecology, USFS & Adjunct Utah St

12:00 – 1: 00 p.m. Panel Discussion  

The Forest will broadcast live, and host a webinar session here.