- Erickson, Jon D.
Rubinstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont
The vitality of communities in the Northern Forest depends on the relationship between forest ecosystems and evolving social values held by citizens. Sustainable approaches to forestland management must therefore actively engage the citizenry to address the complex web of social, economic, and ecological challenges facing Northern Forest watersheds, communities, and working landscapes. Conventional top-down managerial strategies that have been used to define and resolve these challenges in the past must now be reoriented toward bottom-up implementation involving “the people who live within its boundaries, work with its resources, use its products, visit it and care about it” (NFLC 1994). Toward this end, this project designed, tested, and implemented a standardized small group decision-making process and management evaluation framework that was detailed enough to capture community-based landscape goals and management alternatives, yet flexible enough to be adapted to communities throughout the Northern Forest region. The research represented a unique marriage of decision tools from ecological economics, international and national work on criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management, and new methods for small group decision-making drawn from social psychology and behavioral economics. The framework was designed, implemented, and evaluated in the White River watershed of Vermont in close alliance with the White River Partnership, a citizen’s group wrestling with issues similar in scope to many communities throughout the Northern Forest.