Human Dimensions Assistance to Other Natural Resource Management Agencies

Over the years, HDRP has provided substantial assistance to the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Agriculture's U.S. Forest Service.

Program leader Stewart Allen was a co-developer and trainer for the Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management training course, "Social and Economic Aspects of Planning". The course was taught during the following years at these locations:

  • 2004 Portland, Oregon
  • 2005 Denver, Colorado
  • 2006 Boise, Idaho
  • 2007 Phoenix, Arizona

The entire course was taped at the 2007 course in Phoenix and is now available on the web at:

HDRP has also provided social science assistance to the U.S. Forest. Program staff helped rewrite a forthcoming technical guide to be published by the Forest Service, Values, beliefs, and attitudes technical guide for Forest Service land and resource management, planning, and decision-making. This publication is available at:

In addition, over the past four years Stewart Allen served as Principal Investigator on two USDA Forest Service Human Dimensions Information Assets Investment projects, Protocols for Community Self-Assessment and Protocols for Assessing Community Social Capital. The latter two projects are described in more detail below.

  1. Protocols for Community Self-Assessment

    As the nature of the relationship between communities and public forests changes, communities and federal agencies need to better understand the connection between community social values and economies, and the resources they depend upon. Methods of social assessment provide communities a way to systematically gather information about their quality of life as related to natural resources management and share this with decision makers who cannot always collect this local information. The U.S. Forest Service provided funding to NOAA to develop a workbook which communities can use to collect information about themselves to better chart the course of their community's future and to better contribute to Forest Service planning and management projects. The workbook contains a set of guidelines addressing:

    • Potential types of information that communities might wish to collect
    • Information currently documented by the agencies that communities might find useful
    • How communities could go about collecting and making sense of information
    • Ways communities could work with an agency to identify information that is important to communities, yet the agency is not likely to have available
    • How to present this information to the residents, county government and federal agencies
    • Ways the agencies could agree to use the information in its documents and decisions
    • Ideas for sources of funding and technical assistance.

    Using the guide book will help community leaders and residents ensure that the information they collect can be successfully applied to federal forest decision-making and will provide numerous benefits, including:

    • Community residents and agency staff will learn a variety of ways to collect and analyze social and economic data and incorporate this data in community development.
    • Collecting information about the community, its past and future connections to the forest, can build common ground among participants and further their understanding of social and economic processes.
    • Government agencies will have new information to help address community needs, design projects that fit community capacity, or see the positive impacts of forest management actions.
    • The resulting information would help community leaders in planning and fund raising activities, and other collective action.
    • The process of defining and collecting the information would benefit community participants by building their own capacity and increasing self-understanding, instead of being the subject of someone else's study, although in most cases it's assumed that some technical assistance would be available to help community residents with portions of the project.
    • Community leaders and residents will have a set of agreed-upon guidelines for engaging agency decision-makers with information the community feels is important and will have explored new ways of working together.
    • The procedure will be transferrable to other agencies and types of communities, such as coastal communities affected by NOAA Fisheries' management of marine resources.
  2. Protocols for Assessing Community Social Capital

    This project is designed to develop a set of procedures communities and the Forest Service can use to assess the level and type of social capital present in a community, as well as to assess the Forest Service's level of social capital in the community. NOAA Fisheries is coordinating development of the procedures, which are expected to be adaptable to other community settings, under a cost-reimbursable agreement with the Forest Service. At a workshop convened by NOAA Fisheries in Honolulu, HI on March 3-5, 2009, a team of social scientists developed a draft set of procedures for conducting a rapid assessment of community social capital and Forest Service social capital. The procedure is targeted towards small, rural, forest-associated communities. The draft procedures were pilot tested in seven community-forest settings across the U.S. Contractors are conducting the pilot tests and writing reports on the outcomes, along with recommendations for revising the procedures. The product will be a revised set of procedures. Our process also measures the Forest Service's social capital within a community and how that social capital is created and used. This is important because community acceptance of the agency's actions, and the community's willingness to become involved and assist the agency, can be influenced by the agency's social capital within the community.

    The rapid assessment procedure consists of several elements: a checklist of community conditions and trends that can reflect social capital; a checklist of Forest Service conditions that can affect its social capital in a community; a community workshop at which residents, including the Forest Service, work through two scenarios and complete two social capital rating sheets; and summary ratings that combine these elements to provide a snapshot of community social capital and agency social capital within the community. Two pilot tests also utilized an analysis of internal Forest Service networks.

    The rapid assessment results should be viewed as a starting point for discussions within the community, within the agency, and most importantly, for discussions between the community and agency. It provides a stimulus for discussions about social capital and a structure for targeting areas of possible future activity. The procedures are also applicable and adaptable to other agencies and associated communities.