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Incorporating social factors to improve the Japanese forest zoning process

Sugimura, Ken, Howard, Theodore E.
Forest policy and economics 2008 v.10 no.3 pp. 161-173
forests, zoning, land use, psychosocial factors, forestry, forest management, timber production, objectives, forest policy, methodology, multiple use forestry, decision making, citizen participation, natural resource management, society, aesthetics, case studies, quality control, Japan
The Japanese forest zoning process used to be simpler when society treated wood production as the primary objective rather than the current system that requires zoning for a variety of uses. Although we support the recent change in zoning process, we identify two potential problems. One is that land is zoned by means of forest site quality that is evaluated based on natural conditions without paying much attention to social factors. The second problem is that they attempt to determine the primary management objective of a forest block simply by comparing the results of a site quality assessment, which is often very difficult. To alleviate these problems we propose a methodology that incorporates social factors into a zoning process. We used a set of social factors to revise the site quality assessment (SQA) for some forest functions. Then, we proposed a method that integrated SQA scores and weighted values that were obtained through public involvement. As a case study in which we examined the effectiveness of the methodology, we selected two regions; Rokko, which is close to large cities, and Shiso, where forestry is one of the major industries. We divided these regions into a grid of about one thousand units and classified the forest functions into eight categories. First, we compared SQA scores that had been evaluated based on the natural conditions with those that were adjusted according to social factors. Then, employing the revised SQA scores and social evaluation (SE) for each function, we determined the number of units on the grid to which each function was assigned as the primary management objective. We found that incorporating social factors yielded significant differences in the site quality assessment as well as the determination of the number of grid-units for some functions, suggesting that this method may be used to alleviate existing problems with the current zoning process.