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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Addressing uncertainty in forest planning Cerda, Juan Pablo


Forests are complex 'systems' with forest ecosystem, resource, stakeholder and policy 'subsystems'. Knowledge about forest systems is always incomplete, and uncertainty pervades decision-making. Uncertainty produces risk of losses and potential opportunities, which have to be recognized and characterized. From then, the best probabilistic predictions, guesses, judgments, and scenario models can be made. Good planning addresses uncertainty, and adapts to changes. It is based on constant learning, and includes processes that enable feedback on past outcomes to inform future planning. British Columbia (BC)'s forest land area is 60.6 million hectares. Most of it is publicly owned, and forest harvesting is licensed. Licensees must prepare Forest Development Plans (FDP's), which describe specific areas proposed for harvest. These plans allow for discussion and resolution of environmental and socioeconomic issues. The annual cost of preparing and reviewing FDPs province-wide exceeds $30 million. In spite of this expense, actual outcomes routinely differ from those described in the original FDPs because of uncertainty. This is due mostly to natural disturbance events, shifts in social values or policy, and timber market changes. FDPs are constantly amended. The annual cost of preparation and review exceeds $12 million. Furthermore, unexpected outcomes and frequent amendments undermine public confidence in the planning process. In addition to highlighting the weaknesses in the current planning processes, a method to address uncertainty through better forest planning in BC is proposed. Complexity in the forest system and uncertainty in planning have a spatial dimension, which is representable and analyzable using Geographic Information System (GIS) tools. Ecosystem dynamics, and the impact on biophysical attributes of the landscape of changes in resources prices and policies, and people's values can be mapped, and spatially matched with unexpected outcomes of planning. Using the "SAFEPLAN" method these outcomes can be explained, and improvements to the planning processes can be recommended. Results obtained for southeastern BC show how the adoption of this method could increase the efficacy of forest plans, and improve the cost-effectiveness of the whole planning process, including its role in the proposed context for forest planning in BC.

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