Assessing forest plan revision under the 2012 planning rule: understanding policy implementation and organizational learning

Ricco, Gwendolyn M., author
Schultz, Courtney, advisor
Rocca, Monique, committee member
Williams, Dan, committee member
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In 2012, under the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), the U.S. Forest Service promulgated a new planning rule that was a significant change from past planning regulations. For example, the concepts of ecological integrity and climate change adaptation were introduced as important management priorities. This research identified lessons learned, innovations, and best practices under the 2012 planning rule and characterized how organizational learning occurred during times of policy transition and implementation. I used learning frameworks to identify types of learning occurring. In addition, early policy implementation is a critical time for an organization to experience learning, but there has been relatively little literature that looks at how learning occurs during this period. The policy implementation literature discusses both top-down and bottom-up variables impacting implementation, and I considered how these may also affect learning. We collected qualitative data from the 2016 Planners' Meeting in Fort Collins, Colorado held by the Forest Service and conducted 25 semi-structured, follow-up interviews with planning staff to understand what types of learning were occurring during early implementation of a new policy, determine how the factors that affect policy implementation affect learning, and identify how the agency could better support learning throughout the implementation of the 2012 planning rule. This study revealed that although the Forest Service is displaying some characteristics of a learning organization, such as creating social learning networks, the agency needs structural and cultural changes to reach their goals and overcome barriers. Much of the learning that is occurring happens at the individual level, and a critical challenge is how to improve diffusion and consolidation of the knowledge being gained. Therefore, the agency will need to create entirely new structures to capture their knowledge and lessons learned to better encourage continual learning. This could include improving trainings and workshops and offering mentoring opportunities but may also require reorganization and dedication of new staff positions to support more effective organizational learning.
2017 Summer.
Includes bibliographical references.
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