Where Do We Go From Here?This article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
The structure and diversity of the upland oak ecosystem has changed significantly, primarily caused by fire suppression and historic forestry practices, leaving the ecosystem vulnerable to outbreaks of pathogens and insects. These conditions, coupled with periods of drought, have caused significant oak mortality throughout the Interior Highland region shifting the communities to different forest types. There is great concern among conservationists that a shift in forest type will cause declines in wildlife populations and rare species dependent upon these ecosystems. Upon witness-ing this continued degradation of upland oak forests and woodlands, a momentum of purpose and resolve became established among a diverse group of conservation partners that lead to the idea of gathering various resource disciplines to this “state of our understanding” conference. Once assembled and with the quality of papers presented, it was easy to see that it would be beneficial to capture more of the expertise attending the event. Many of the research findings presented by the scientists can now be used by those in positions of management authority to make better decisions about the resources entrusted to their professional care. In keeping with the overall strategy of the symposium, the conference committee attempted to take advantage of the expertise gathered at the conference by polling the audience for ideas of “where we go from here.” In concluding the symposium, the last session’s focus was to provide closing comments by a panel of experts in each of four broad categories that encompass the various issues surrounding oak sustainability; restoration, research, policy and management. Audience responses to posed questions were then collected and tabulated. It was agreed by many present that information exists to restore the ecosystem, but political and economic barriers must be overcome for landscape level restoration to occur.