Looking after the land today is the only way we'll be able to reap its beneficial products tomorrow. A group of foresters looked deeply into the concept of stewardship and provided some pointers that might just help a broad audience gain better understanding.
PHOTO: BC Wildfire Service members receiving a thank-you in Victoria after a busy fire season.
Management of public lands and resources in BC is complex because there are so many players involved.
According to the Forest Practices Board of British Columbia, it is important to be clear about stewardship responsibilities. In a recent publication the board pointed out that "no one group is necessarily responsible for all aspects of all principles".
The Victoria-based FPB decided to share its findings in the form of a report that can be viewed here. A key finding was the definition of stewardship itself:
"Ensuring responsible resource use today, while maintaining the health of the land for future generations."
The board said it recognized that management of lands and resources in the public interest requires more than a collection of activities and standards prescribed in law. In addition to responsible practices today, a long-term outlook is required that sustains the full range of resources for future generations.
Five Principles of Stewardship
The following five principles build on the board’s definition of stewardship and, together, these provide a vision for stewardship of forests and rangelands in BC:
1. PLANNING IS COMPREHENSIVE AND BASED ON THE BEST AVAILABLE INFORMATION, WHILE ACKNOWLEDGING FUTURE UNCERTAINTIES.
Planning that demonstrates stewardship is ongoing and charts a path for management and onthe-ground practices over time. Planning:
establishes a clear hierarchy of goals and objectives, with measurable or verifiable outcomes at appropriate scales, including the landscape scale;
reflects the complexity of ecological conditions and processes, while remaining feasible to implement;
incorporates information that is up-to-date, comprehensive, and reliable;
coordinates and integrates the activities of tenure holders and other resource users over time (this includes coordination and collaboration among multiple tenure holders operating in the same area);
considers potential risks and tradeoffs among competing resource uses and values to facilitate decisions regarding those trade-offs (this includes assessment of cumulative effects); and
acknowledges future environmental, social and economic uncertainties and anticipates vulnerabilities, to maintain options and benefits over the long term.
2. PLANNING AND DECISION MAKING ARE TRANSPARENT AND RESPONSIVE TO INPUT FROM THE PUBLIC.
- resource data are readily available, so the public is able to participate effectively in planning and management at appropriate times;
- the public is consulted in a manner that is proactive and effective, and collaboration is sought where opportunities arise;
- the public is provided with access to professional assessments and other relevant information; and
- the rationales for management decisions that potentially impact the public are documented and shared.
3. PRACTICES ON THE GROUND SUSTAIN ECOLOGICAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL VALUES.
On-the-ground forest and range practices that reflect stewardship demonstrate a clear understanding of landbase characteristics and the values present. Practices will:
maintain, enhance or restore the long-term productive capacity of ecosystems;
maintain ecological structures, composition and functions across the landscape and over time, informed by natural disturbance regimes and influences, such as climate change; and
recognize and manage risks to all values, including environmental, social, cultural and economic, at relevant scales.
4. MANAGEMENT INCORPORATES MONITORING AND CONTINUOUS LEARNING AND IS ADAPTIVE TO NEW INFORMATION
Management should be based on up-to-date knowledge and adapted to reflect the evolving understanding of the interplay between the environment and use of natural resources. This includes:
fostering a culture of continuous learning and innovation through research, monitoring, training and extension that will further the understanding of good management and practice;
integrating the most relevant learnings available from various sources (science, monitoring, traditional knowledge, business) into planning, decision-making and practices in a timely manner, through effective feedback loops; and
promoting flexibility, innovation and adaptability within resource management organizations.
5. MANAGERS DEMONSTRATE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR OUTCOMES
Stewardship requires follow-through on programs and projects to ensure that they are properly implemented and that they achieve their desired outcomes. Accountability is demonstrated by:
tracking and documenting decisions and activities;
conducting inspections and monitoring operations to ensure that activities on-the-ground are carried out according to plan, possibly through independent verification;
evaluating whether plans and practices meet intended outcomes;
recognizing problems when they occur, in a transparent fashion, accepting responsibility where appropriate, taking corrective actions in a timely manner; and
providing adequate resources to support and maintain management systems, strategies and activities.
Photos from Ministry of Forests.