The USDA Forest Service has altered its traditional method of land management to include the concept of ecosystem management (EM) while not discounting or changing its mission for multiple use. It requires that ecosystem considerations be factored into every aspect of natural-resources management. EM incorporates concern for biodiversity, and application of ecosystem and landscape concepts in resource management. It increases use of scientific knowledge in the management of natural resources, and an understanding of processes that cause change and how they affect and are affected by the activities of people. Demands placed on ecosystems by man have been significant and have changed the landscape, some recently, others over centuries. EM responds to human dependance on ecological systems by insisting that ecosystems be kept resilient and capable of recovery after disturbance. Understanding landscape dynamics and ecological processes is key to EM planning efforts. It is necessary to understand how ecosystems are arranged spatially on the landscape and how they are connected-how materials and energy flow between them and how one ecosystem influences another. Photosynthesis by green plants drives all ecosystem processes. Accumulation of biomass on the landscape through the 20th century and fire-management policies have caused a problem in the Northern Rockies. Success of the Forest Service in firefighting has resulted in a disturbance regime unlike what forest species adapted to over the past 10,000 years. As a result, forest composition and structure in the Northern Rockies, and associated fuel patterns, have changed. The ecological consequence is that fires can have a dramatically different outcome than they did prehistorically. With fewer fires and increased fuel loads since settlement, fires now have a more devastating effect on the landscape. Key to EM is conserving biodiversity. The approach selected by the Forest Service is a multi-faceted strategy that emphasizes managing regional-level landscapes within natural system variation. Managing ecosystems and landscapes, conserving biodiversity, and producing goods and services for mankind requires that land managers analyze ecosystems at much broader scales to achieve these goals. The more landscapes are kept near or at their range of natural variability, the greater the potential for maintaining sustainability. The only way to achieve an understanding of ecosystems and gain acceptance for this style of management is with a team approach, where everyone has an opportunity to understand and participate in the development of EM strategies.
Risbrudt, Christopher D.
"Ecosystem management: a framework for management of our National Forests,"
Natural Resources and Environmental Issues: Vol. 5
, Article 15.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/nrei/vol5/iss1/15