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Recent advances in applying decision science to managing national forests

October 31, 2012

Management of federal public forests to meet sustainability goals and multiple use regulations is an immense challenge. To succeed, we suggest use of formal decision science procedures and tools in the context of structured decision making (SDM). SDM entails four stages: problem structuring (framing the problem and defining objectives and evaluation criteria), problem analysis (defining alternatives, evaluating likely consequences, identifying key uncertainties, and analyzing tradeoffs), decision point (identifying the preferred alternative), and implementation and monitoring the preferred alternative with adaptive management feedbacks. We list a wide array of models, techniques, and tools available for each stage, and provide three case studies of their selected use in National Forest land management and project plans. Successful use of SDM involves participation by decision-makers, analysts, scientists, and stakeholders. We suggest specific areas for training and instituting SDM to foster transparency, rigor, clarity, and inclusiveness in formal decision processes regarding management of national forests.