Theory of Change

By Gangloff, Deborah | American Forests, Autumn 2007 | Go to article overview

Theory of Change


Gangloff, Deborah, American Forests


Policy efforts must begin witha shared understanding-and lead to positive results for forest ecosystems and communities.

How does change happen? One hundred thirty years ago the need for a different approach to forests led to the creation of AMERICAN FORESTS. With no public forests, controls on industry, or help for private landowners, the need for good public policy was compelling enough to draw together a range of interests for the good of the woods.

Policy change occurs when a critical mass of citizens, organizations, and policy leaders begin to think and act around a shared understanding. At AMERICAN FORESTS, we see our role as helping to develop that understanding. We want our policy work to achieve changes that will affect forest ecosystems and communities in a positive manner and at a significant scale. These changes might enhance new legislative and administrative policies, private sector markets and business opportunities; collaborative revenue approaches to planning, and landowner attitudes and practices.

To do that, we follow three principles: Provide credible, understandable information on current conditions and the need for change; involve local citizens and organizations that have place-based and practice-based knowledge; and create opportunities to share information and collaborate at different scales, for example among landowners in a watershed or communities in a sub-region.

AMERICAN FORESTS pursues policy change within four basic thematic areas: conserving private forests and open space, changing federal forest management, enhancing rural development through community-based forestry, and restoring and sustaining forest-based ecosystem services. Ecosystem services derive from natural systems on which life depends and earth's economies rely. There are many, including air and water filtration, productivity of food and fiber, and biological diversity. We need a clearer understanding of these services and conservation strategies to protect, restore, and sustain them.

Climate change may be the largest, most immediate threat to these ecosystem services and their abundance and quality. AMERICAN FORESTS advocates for tree planting-through Global ReLeaf-as a way to sequester and offset carbon dioxide. We are committed to comparing and analyzing the several pieces of global warming legislation introduced in Congress-and to bringing you the latest scientific evidence of global warming's impacts. …

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