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Evaluating natural resource planning for longleaf pine ecosystems in the Southeast United States

Foster, Michaela, Peterson, M. Nils, Cubbage, Frederick, McMahon, Gerard
Forest policy and economics 2019 v.100 pp. 142-153
Pinus palustris, forest ecosystems, learning, models, nongovernmental organizations, planning, stakeholders, Southeastern United States
Natural resource plans play a critical role in guiding the sustainable management of forest ecosystems. However, little is known about the quality of management plans. In this study, we evaluated and compared the quality of 35 management plans from federal, state, and nongovernment groups managing longleaf pine ecosystems in the Southeast United States. We developed a plan evaluation tool consisted of five components: (1) Problem and Objective Statement, (2) Fact Base, (3) Actions and Implementation, (4) Integration with Other Plans, and (5) Stakeholder Participation, to examine to what extent plans incorporated planning best practices. We tested a hypothetical model for understanding the relationship among plan components, and our results suggested stakeholder participation predicted clear problem statements, better integration with other plans, and better actions and implementation protocols. The Fact Base component scored highest across most plans while the Actions and Implementation component scored lowest. Newer plans scored modestly higher than older plans, suggesting agencies may be learning to develop better plans over time and indicating older plans should be prioritized for revision. Plans from federal and state agencies scored higher than plans from nongovernmental organizations. Our findings suggest planners should consider incorporating more stakeholder participation, which was positively related to better actions and implementation and improved problem and objective statements.