Strategies Towards a Red and Green New Deal for Forests
Author: Jason Latady
Institution: The University of Pennsylvania
Instructor: Nicholas Pevzner
Studio: Green New Fire Landscapes: A Green New Deal for Forests; Graduate Landscape Architecture; Spring 2021
Partner: Stephanie Carlisle (Carbon Leadership Forum), Studio Advisor
The Green New Deal seeks to transition to clean and renewable energy, guarantee living wage jobs, and create a just transition for both workers and frontline communities within the next ten years. The Red Deal goes a step beyond this, calling for the fulfillment of Indigenous peoples’ rights and liberation. This project addresses the demands of the Red Deal through the lens of forests and forest management. It focuses on the boundary lines where National Forests managed by the US Forest Service meet the reservation lands managed by sovereign Indigenous nations.
This project begins with a recognition of Indigenous people as the original stewards of the land. By promoting Indigenous stewardship, through co-management across jurisdictional boundaries, there are increased opportunities for self-determination and the restoration of forests adjacent to tribal land. Currently there are several programs and policies that enable tribal governments and the federal government to partake in the co-management of forests, including: the Tribal Forest Protection Act, 638 Contracts, Good Neighbor Authority, and the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP). The proposed reworking and expansion of these programs supports a toolkit of strategies that can be implemented within the co-management of forests, and that promote tribal stewardship on ancestral treaty-rights land. These strategies focus on restoration efforts, community, economic development, and mitigating catastrophic wildfire risk.
Finally these strategies are applied to an existing boundary between the Colville National Forest and the Colville reservation to provide an illustration of how these strategies can be implemented to begin to achieve the goals laid out in the Red Deal.
Wildfires are not a new threat, but on a warmer and drier planet, they are growing in severity and frequency. Firefighters are having to learn new tactics to combat increasingly intense and fast-moving wildfires. Fire seasons, which have historically been limited to the summer months, are starting to become year-round. For more and more communities, megafires represent an immediate climate threat. Fire management is also intimately tied to carbon emissions. As forests are recognized not only for their ecological and cultural value but for their importance as major carbon sinks, protecting and enhancing these forest carbon sinks has become an essential piece of the strategy for mitigating climate change. As forests burn or die, they emit their stored carbon back into the atmosphere. Changing fire behavior is already changing some forests from net carbon sinks, into net sources of carbon emissions. Reducing wildfire risk is a climate strategy. Getting back to a healthy fire ecology sounds simple, but it is in fact extraordinarily difficult to counteract more than a hundred years of fire suppression, to reduce fuels and get forests to a place where they can be safely burned again, in line with their fire ecology. A Green New Deal for forests would unleash government resources to overcome this fuels reduction backlog, would do so according to the ecologically sound tenets of Climate-Smart Forestry principles, and create millions of jobs along the way. It would foreground rural labor, and re-invigorate rural economies that rely on forests to generate economic activity, by developing markets for sustainable wood products that are non-extractive and carbon-negative. It would advance climate science, including forest carbon models that better account for carbon in trees and soil. And it would prioritize local community and Indigenous concerns, including supporting Tribal forestry enterprises through cooperative management initiatives that take a more ecologically responsible approach to forestry and fire management. This studio posits a number of landscape strategies towards a Green New Deal for forest management. Building on the legacy of the CCC of the 1930s, these strategies would deploy funding, equipment, and labor; they would put millions of people to work sensitively reducing fuel buildups and protecting forests against future climate threats; would get those forests ready to once again receive low-intensity prescribed fire (as Indigenous land managers have long advocated); and would keep more carbon stored both on the landscape and in long-lived forest products, while providing economic and cultural benefits to frontline communities.