Whatever happened to ecosystem management and federal land planning?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


To be honest, I did not know what to make of the invitation to write a chapter on ecosystem management (EM) and federal lands. My cynical side questioned the relevance of doing so, as a lot of thought has been given to the topic over the years. Yet here we are, roughly two decades after the term became popularized and the same problems remain largely unresolved. So do I write the chapter in the past tense, as a sort of obituary? More than a few colleagues of mine rolled their eyes when asked "whatever happened to ecosystem management on federal lands." Now, the language du jour is adaptation, ecosystem services, resiliency, landscape-scale restoration, and other fashionable terms. And like EM, some of these terms are useful rhetorical devices that are malleable enough to become multiple things to multiple constituencies. Like 'sustainability,' some language becomes so politically appropriated that it loses its original meaning. But this cynical narrative is too simple. Part of the problem in assessing EM lies in the difficulty of tracing and measuring political change and transformation. In this case, there is no single law, regulation, or policy statement about ecosystem management that has forced change in a neat and linear fashion from the top-down. The story is much messier but one with some hope. My argument, as explained in the following pages, is that the central components of EM have undoubtedly made their way onto the federal lands. This includes adaptive man agement, collaboration, and restoration. All were commonly associated with the EM paradigm, and now all figure more prominently in federal land politics and planning. All the talk about EM was not in vain. The problem, however, is that the same barriers to practicing a more ecosystem-based approach to planning are still in place. The legal and institutional challenges identified years ago as hindrances to EM now frustrate efforts in adaptive management, collaboration, landscape-scale restoration, and other related initiatives.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Laws of Nature
Subtitle of host publicationReflections on the Evolution of Ecosystem Management Law and Policy
PublisherUniversity of Akron Press
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9781937378271
ISBN (Print)9781935603634
StatePublished - 2013


Dive into the research topics of 'Whatever happened to ecosystem management and federal land planning?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this