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The Ponderosa Pine Forest Partnership


San Juan National Forest, Southwestern Colorado

Case description

Decades of fire suppression, logging of large trees, and appeals from environmentalists, resulted in an unhealthy forest ecosystem surrounded by social turmoil and a depressed local economy. Recognizing the problem as multi-dimensional, the Ponderosa Pine Forest Partnership emerged as a different way of doing business by addressing the needs of local communities.


Primary partners

San Juan National Forest
Montezuma County
Colorado State Forest Service
Colorado Timber Industry Association
Colorado State University
Fort Lewis College
Interested Citizens

Primary objectives
  • Increase the abundance and diversity of wildlife habitat and wildlife species.
  • Create a sustainable commercial approach to thinning second growth pine.
  • Assist industry in transitioning to small diameter material.
  • Demonstrate a process of coupling scientific analysis with broad based public input to inform management.

From "The Stories and Principles of the Pine Partnership," Mike Preston and Carla Garrison, 1999.


Year of initiation


What is fostering progress?

  • Support of Forest Service: The Partnership's pilot project has been institutionalized by the Forest Service as standard practice in managing this ecosystem.
  • Leadership: Leadership of well-connected and persistent individuals who have adopted an "opportunistic networking" approach, not coalition-building.
  • Clarity: The Partnership has clear objectives and principles guiding its progress.
  • Shared Responsibility: Authority and expertise used as avenues for sharing responsibility.
  • Continued Learning Opportunities: Participants understanding enhanced by being exposed to new adaptive strategies.
  • Making Connections: Found ways to connect science, values, and management rather than addressing each separately

What challenges were faced and how were they overcome?

  • Integrating Science and Management: Managing the ponderosa pine forest with a new harvest approach created skepticism. The best science available at that time was not enough. Adaptive management coupled with monitoring allowed the group to correct changes and grow from past experiences. Pilot projects also provided a forum for interaction around something tangible.
  • Attaining Community Involvement: At a time when the Forest Service was being challenged at all levels of the decision-making process, local governments were found to play an important role in mobilizing the community to support change.
  • National Pressure on Forest Service, Environmental Groups, and Timber Representatives: The environmental community was receiving pressure from national environmental organizations suspicious of local efforts. The timber industry was wary of adapting to small diameter materials when uncertain of market demands. Meanwhile, the Forest Service was charged with balancing the needs of all interests. Together they are taking incremental steps and an adaptive management approach.
  • Budget Limitations: Funding constrains the scope and viability of the project. Primarily, product revenues will determine the long-term sustainability. Industry must be willing to diversify their operations, while improving market place efficiencies.

What lessons can be drawn?

  • Show results: Get something done on the ground quickly, which enables the group to monitor work and practice adaptive management.
  • Look to other examples: Seek advice from other restoration and stewardship projects.
  • Focus on baseline issues first: Establish common ground, trust, and internal stability prior to expanding the issue outside the area of interest.

Learn more about related lessons from a broader set of partnerships

Contact information at the Forest Service

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