Every national forest or grassland managed under the Forest Service has a land management plan. This plan provides the framework for on-the-ground decision making and establishes forest-wide management directive for integrated resource management. Under the new 2012 planning rule, sustainability and public involvement have become often cited topics. Broadly, sustainability encompasses the long-term viability of biological systems to endure over time, which includes ecological, economic, political, and cultural dimensions now and for future generations. Fostering these initiatives, the Francis Marion National Forest hosted an ecological sustainability workshop on August 6th at the Sewee Visitor center in Awendaw, South Carolina (SC).

Kicking off the meeting, Forest Supervisor, Rick Lint, and District Ranger, Orlando Sutton, welcomed approximately 80 attendees which included affiliates from the SC Department of Natural Resources, SC Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, SC Geological Survey, University Associates, the US FWS, NOAA’s Marine Fisheries Services, the South Atlantic LCC, the US Army, USDA’s NRCS, local land trusts and conservancy’s, and numerous private landowners.

“I was impressed with the turn out and commitment that the attendees have for the Francis Marion National Forest,” says Lint, “this forum serves as a great example for sharing information as we move through our planning process.”

Following welcoming remarks, the Francis Marion planning team presented information on the status of the forest plan so that the primary stakeholders would 1) understand the approach being used to develop the plan, 2) understand, at a detailed level, the major ecological concepts that structure the plan, and 3) promote their engagement in the planning process. The planning team consists of a diverse assortment of experienced resource specialists and land planners that provide the high-level technical and scientific knowledge necessary to develop an actionable and science-based Forest Plan for the Francis Marion. “We are pleased at the turnout for this meeting and we hope it leads to renewing existing partnerships and creating new ones,” says Mary Morrison, Forest Planner for the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forest.

In general, the forum was highly successful with exceptional speakers, well attended breakout sessions, and meaningful public involvement and participation.

“The forum exceeded my expectations — not only for the high caliber of information collected thus far, but also for the excellent interaction the forum provided” says Lint.

Highlights include: two outstanding presentations on ecological systems present on USFS lands in SC; four breakout group sessions presenting the preliminary findings on the terrestrial environment, aquatics and hydrologic systems, the wildland-urban interface, and climate change; and, a wrap up session highlighting the next steps and “need for change” component of the planning process.

If you would like to learn more about the preliminary findings presented during the four breakout groups, I’ve included each in a link below:

Finally, in case you were not able to make the Forum, the Francis Marion staff has done a great job making all documents and materials from these meetings available. You can learn more about who is involved, how it’s getting done, and how you can help plan the Francis Marion’s future, by visiting this site, or getting in touch with the Francis Marion’s planning team fmplanrevision@fs.fed.us