Community-based forestry involves local communities working together to benefit from the ecological and economic opportunities provided by the forest resources near their community, whether on public or private lands. In contrast, a community forest generally involves ownership and shared management of forest resources for local community benefit. To effectively practice community-based forestry, the affected community needs to participate in the management of the surrounding public forest. This is best achieved through collaboration at all stages of the management process. Ideally, the community and local businesses benefit from the forest management work.
On federal lands, both collaboration and local benefits can be accommodated through stewardship contracting, with its requirements for collaboration and best value contracting. These provisions allow for community involvement in project design, development, and implementation. They also allow for projects and contracts to be scaled to benefit the local communities, and allow for a preference for using local businesses to do the forest management work. The longer contracting periods authorized by stewardship contracting can help local businesses be more competitive, can offer more operating flexibility, and can help reduce investment risks.
Community-based forestry projects should be scaled to complement the existing and future capacities and needs of the communities and local businesses. In small, remote, low capacity communities, smaller projects could present fewer potential ecological impacts, thereby simplifying the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, and allowing for the use of Environmental Analyses (EA) rather than Environmental Impact Statements (EIS). More modest projects would potentially have more overall buy-in by other stakeholders, particularly if collaboration happens early, with less litigation. The Staney Creek Community Forest Report outlines how this collaborative group addressed community forestry on Prince of Wales Island.
There are several examples of collaborative groups and community forestry projects in southeast Alaska. The TNF recently interviewed key collaborative stakeholders In an attempt to learn what is and what is not working in collaboration. The Collaboration on the Tongass National Forest: Strategies for Success summarizes the lessons that have been learned from these collaborations.