Responding to Climate Change in National Forests: A Guidebook for Developing Adaptation Options

Developed by the United States Forest Service (USFS), this guidebook summarizes current knowledge on climate change adaptation and provides science-based tools and processes to guide adaptation planning in national forests. Targeted towards resource managers and planners, the guidebook focuses on topics and approaches related to "climate-smart" resource management on federal lands.

A conceptual framework and range of adaptation options are presented to be chosen and modified to suit specific locations, time scales, budgets, and concerns. The adaptation options focus on both general strategies (e.g., increasing forests' fire resilience forests) and tactical actions (e.g., reducing stem densities to specific levels). The toolkit includes resource management practices, educational and reference modules, decision-support aids, and models addressing resource adaptation. The guidebook describes how to utilize these tools and design management strategies which an emphasis on science-management partnerships.

The guidebook is extremely detailed and covers a wide amount of background information. Readers are introduced to federal national forest adaptation efforts and the concept of ecosystem management. The guidebook describes existing Forest Service Guidance and its requirement that climate change be considered in the delivery of the Service's mission and that managers include relevant climate science in planning. 

USFS suggests that “science-management partnerships” are useful in facilitating forest-level adaptive planning.  The following topics are detailed: how to develop a science-management partnership, sharing scientific and management knowledge, identifying and incorporating available scientific information, and how to develop adaptation options and set priorities.

Users are given general instructions on how to conduct vulnerability assessments and use the Climate Project Screening Tool - a process-oriented tool which helps managers set priorities and consider the effects of climate change on different management decisions. The guidebook also describes the Forest Service Climate Change Resource Center, an online portal of tools and resources for U.S. land managers.

The guidebook makes frequent references to case studies of adaptation planning efforts in national forests and national parks in California. These case studies complement the guidebook's descriptions of adaptation actions and provide examples of recommended practices.


Publication Date: November 2011

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • David L. Peterson
  • Constance I. Millar
  • Linda A. Joyce
  • Michael J. Furniss
  • Jessica E. Halofsky
  • Ronald P. Neilson
  • Toni Lyn Morelli

Related Organizations:


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Planning guides
  • Tool (general)

States Affected:


  • Drought
  • Precipitation changes
  • Wildfires

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