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State law (Public Resource Code 4789) requires the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) to periodically assess California's forest and rangeland resources. The Fire and Resource Assessment Program (FRAP) of CDF performs the assessment in cooperation with federal, state and local agencies, public and private organizations, and California's academic research community. The Changing California: Forest and Range 2003 Assessment covers specified topics including:
In developing the Assessment, the legislative mandate requires that CDF solicit the cooperation of, and information collected by, public and private organizations, federal forest and rangeland resource agencies, state agencies concerned with forest and rangeland resources, county planning and taxation agencies, and state-supported forest and rangeland resource research agencies (PRC 4789.3(b)).
The Forest and Range 2003 Assessment is the fourth FRAP assessment. To facilitate sharing of information, it is web based.
The first two assessments (1979 and 1988) were organized by demand, supply, limits, and opportunities in the use of forests and rangelands. In 1995, CDF, under the Board of Forestry's leadership, experimented with framing the Assessment on the most limiting natural factor on forest and rangelands - wildfire. It contained a fiscal, planning, and policy framework and was widely published as the California Fire Plan (1996).
The 2003 Assessment goes beyond the California Fire Plan methodology and uses criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management. Following the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the United States committed to the goal of managing its forests in a sustainable manner by 2000. Since then, the United States has joined more than 150 other countries in developing national criteria and indicators that identify components of sustainable forest management by assessing trends. These include conservation of biological diversity, maintenance of productive forest functions, maintenance of forest health and vitality, conservation of soil and water, forest contribution to global carbon cycles, maintenance of socioeconomic benefits, and the policy framework needed to foster forest conservation and sustainable forest management.
Within the United States, many organizations and governmental agencies have adopted assessment approaches that emphasize sustainability and related criteria and indicators. Perhaps the best example of a state pursuing this approach for forest lands is Oregon. They completed a preliminary assessment using criteria and indicators in 1999, called the First Approximation Report, and are currently expanding it to a full assessment.
In California, discussion of sustainability has penetrated all levels, from communities and watersheds to international forums on forest and range policy. For this reason the 2003 Assessment is organized around sustainability indicators and criteria developed by the Montreal Process (see International Discussions). Chapters are grouped by subject matter contained in the Montreal Process (see On-line Technical Reports).