What is a forest collaborative?

Posted by Andrew Spaeth on February 18, 2015

A brief overview of what forest collaboratives do, and the growth of these groups in Oregon.


The awe-inspiring public forest lands across Oregon are a source of clean air and water, valuable habitat for wildlife species, and a place of spiritual, social, and economic value for hikers, fishermen, and loggers, among many others. Yet, who is taking care of these lands to ensure we can all benefit from the tremendous value that forests provide?

A new approach to public lands management has emerged over the last two decades and is increasingly the model of choice on Oregon’s forests. That approach is collaboration, or collaborative problem solving – not divisiveness or fighting in courtrooms – and it works because it brings together a diversity of stakeholders that would be hard to find anywhere else.

Imagine a group of people standing in a circle in the forest – timber industry workers, environmentalists, county commissioners, small business owners, recreation enthusiasts, state and federal agency representatives. Those are all common members of forest collaboratives, and they develop recommendations to the Forest Service and other land management agencies to advance ecologically sound forest and watershed management that also benefits local communities and their economies.

Forest Collaboratives in Oregon

The popularity of this model has burgeoned. Dr. Emily Jane Davis, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist at Oregon State University, shares, "Some people joke that forest collaboration has gone viral. In Oregon, there was one collaborative group in 1992, there were about ten in 2005, and there are an estimated 25 today. Each national forest in the state has at least one.”

The following map developed by the Ecosystem Workforce Program and Dr. Davis at the University of Oregon testifies to this fact. It shows the locations of the active forest collaborative groups across the eleven national forests and adjacent lands in Oregon.

A map of forest collaboratives in Oregon
A map of forest collaboratives in Oregon

Dr. Davis goes on to say, “Typically they have broad missions that include ecological, economic, and social goals, and work to build agreement about planned activities on public and other lands. In some cases, their work has helped overcome conflict and resulted in increased restoration and job creation in rural communities. People are inspired by these examples, which has helped the rapid proliferation of this governance model."

Sustainable Northwest is a pioneer in fostering collaboration on land management models in watersheds, forests, and rangelands across the state. Since 1994, we have supported grassroots efforts that have brought together disparate partners to forge agreements and continue to advance this important work across the region.

Stay tuned for more information about Sustainable Northwest’s work with forest collaboratives, and in the meantime, don’t hesitate to find more information about collaboration and innovative forest management by visiting the following links:

Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program

The National Forest Foundation

Wallowa Whitman Forest Collaborative