Evaluating Environmental Justice in California Forest Management Projects

July 5, 2023
Bristlecone Pine

Cecilio Ricardo, US Forest Service

In a new Society & Natural Resources publication, SW CASC researchers, Deniss Martinez and Beth Rose Middleton, propose a new rubric for evaluating socio-ecological considerations related to forest management in California, to ensure that the environmental justice goals of the state are achieved. In the article, “Environmental Justice in Forest Management Decision-Making: Challenges and Opportunities in California,” the authors examine current processes for addressing environmental justice issues in California and describe a rubric that evaluates projects based on holistic consideration of environmental justice.


As funding for environmental justice efforts in California increases, an evaluation system that can be used alongside existing metrics to determine the effectiveness of projects in meeting state environmental justice goals is needed. In this study, the researchers found that California’s current metric for defining disadvantaged communities was not sufficient and lacked criteria relevant to procedural and Indigenous environmental justice, especially in forested communities. The new, proposed rubric would address these gaps in project evaluation, specifically related to California’s Forest Health Program, but could also be applied to other programs and more broadly in other states. 


In this research, the authors propose an alternative evaluation framework that would privilege forest management projects that score higher in three main environmental justice priority areas: 1) Distributive Environmental Justice, which relates to the fair distribution of environmental costs, benefits, and resources; 2) Procedural Environmental Justice, which measures access to environmental information, decision-making, and redress for environmental wrongs; and 3) Indigenous Environmental Justice, which considers how Indigenous communities are affected by environmental issues, and their ability to practice self determined decision-making. The overall purpose of the new evaluation rubric would be to allow for more complex social, economic, and social justice-related measures of success to be implemented when considering forest management projects for funding in California.