BRC Nationwide Land Use Advisory - National Forest Planning Rule Collaborative Meetings AnnouncedMarch 26th, 2010
IMPORTANT LAND USE ADVISORY
USFS PLANNING RULE MEETINGS ANNOUNCED
Dear BRC Action Alert Subscriber,
Below is an update on the U.S. Forest Service revision of its rules and regulations for amending Forest Plans. The agency has said it is committed to a open collaborative approach, and has announced several national and regional meetings.
After reviewing the agendas for the meetings, BRC believes there is good reason for the recreating public to be concerned about the direction the agency is proceeding. We discuss these concerns below, as well as provide information and links to the meetings.
This issue is of sufficient importance that we hope you will take some time to review the information, but if you want to skip it, or leave it for later, and go straight to the action item click here.
As always, please call or email if you have any concerns or questions.
Public Lands Policy Director, BlueRibbon Coalition
208-237-1008 ext 102
BRC NATIONAL LAND USE ADVISORY:
USFS PLANNING RULE MEETINGS ANNOUNCED
We're collaboratin' now!
The U.S. Forest Service (FS) is beginning the process of revising their regulations that govern how the agency prepares Forest Plans. Known as the "Planning Rule." These regulations will be the driving force behind how the agency develops, amends and revises their Land Use Plans. The FS has recently closed a formal comment period on a proposed action that includes several so-called "Principles" that will guide the new regulations.
The FS partnered with the US Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution, and they have been working to develop a collaboration strategy for the ongoing development of the new planning rule. As part of that effort, Chief Tom Tidwell recently announced a series of events to provide additional opportunities for “public discussion.” Events include a series of meetings, including a national science forum, three national roundtables and nine regional roundtables.
In a news release, the agency stated:
"The Forest Service is committed to developing a new planning rule that endures over time. We believe a transparent and participatory method is the best way to accomplish this. We’ll be working hard to gather input collaboratively throughout the development of a new planning rule."
Now, I think that is an excellent statement, and I would wholeheartedly support a true collaborative approach. But the science forum and the current agendas for the regional roundtables evoke concern.
The Little Principles that WILL
During the recently closed formal comment period, the UFSF stated:
The Department [of Agriculture] has not made any decisions as to the content of a new rule. We intend this process to be collaborative, transparent, and participatory. Issuing an NOI [Notice of Intent] ensures that the public is involved at the ground level.
To begin the conversation, the Forest Service has included in the NOI a set of potential principles that could guide development of a new planning rule. We are seeking public input on the potential principles and on specific associated questions. We are also asking for input on possible principles or issues not mentioned in the NOI.
Many interested parties, including BRC, believe the “set of potential principles that could” were significantly flawed and didn't solve any of problems with the current Planning Rule. Some of the “principles that could,” such as this “all lands” concept, where the USFS would attempt to influence activities on privately owned land, were vehemently opposed by many key stakeholders.
Many concerned stakeholders believe the agency needs to re-evaluate its process. BRC believes the existing “principles” threaten to create new, undefined goals and criteria which will exacerbate, not resolve, the planning gridlock accelerating through the agency. It is sadly ironic that the Planning Rule is supposedly designed to reduce such gridlock.
BRC was among many urging the FS to steer this effort back to its necessary focus: (1) to fill the current regulatory void; and (2) to redouble proper focus on the primary goals of efficiency and expediency in the Forest planning process.
Those comments have been received by the agency and are supposedly being analyzed, but upon review of the science forum and roundtable agendas, it doesn't look like our message has gotten through.
I would love to give these folks the benefit of the doubt, but it looks like the “principles that could” are trying to be the principles that WILL.
If you put me in another breakout group my head will explode!
Here is a quick low-down on the agency's meetings and agendas.
The Science Forum is scheduled for March 29 and 30, 2010, in Washington, DC. According to the FS website, the Science Forum is:
Panels of scientists will present the latest science on topics relevant to the development of the planning rule. The key themes from the science forum will help frame the collaborative discussions at the regional and national roundtables that will follow.
If you've read the agenda, you might agree with me that a much more colorful description could be used!!
Don't get me wrong. This stuff is important and could meaningfully impact FS planning. But it is reasonable to assume that most of this will result in further movement away from the agency's multiple use/sustained yield mission, and probably a whole lot more 'analysis paralysis.' BRC's “Concern-O-Meter” is at a fairly high level at this point, so at least one BRC staff member and/or contractor will be at the forums. Ditto for the national and many of the regional roundtables as well. (Your membership makes that possible, by the way... thanks!)
There are three National Roundtables scheduled, April 1 - 2, April 20 - 21, and May 11 - 12, 2010, in Washington, DC. The stated purpose for the first is to “solicit focused input on how the planning rule should address restoration, climate change, watershed health and biodiversity,” which are the agency's priorities identified in the NOI. The second meeting purportedly will discuss “social, economic and cultural contribution of National Forest System lands to surrounding communities; provide for effective collaboration; consider the relationship between national forests and surrounding lands; and use the latest in planning science.”
I'm going to assume the second meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss the need to re-evaluate this process, the trend away from multiple use and how the agency intends to address this key issue in the rulemaking process, not to mention the need for a focus on recreation. The third meeting will “allow stakeholders to discuss and build upon the synthesized results from the Science Forum and the preceding national and regional roundtables.”
Based on conversations with the outfit running the national roundtable, I think my assumption about the second meeting above is safe. Not all collaborative planning facilitators are bad, and to the FS's credit, they have contracted with a group that is on the National Roster of ECR Practitioners.
Some will then say that I'm being overly paranoid by express concern. Before you pronounce me guilty, let’s look at the agendas for the regional roundtables.
The agenda for Region 5's roundtables (California) is of particular concern. As of this writing, the agenda is one sentence long: “Discuss Planning Rule Principles and Concerns to Submit to the National Planning Rule Revision Team.”
The agenda for Region 10 (Alaska) is even worse. They have a detailed agenda, but, like Region 5, the focus is exclusively on the agency's principles. Things might change, but it doesn't look like there will be any opportunity to discuss other issues. That's collaboratin', Forest Service style!
The roundtable for Region 1 (N. Idaho and Montana) will allow some discussion on “what is working well and what isn't [with the current Rule],” and they will touch on a topic called “Plan Content” that, while wasn't a principle the agency identified, was discussed in background information and alluded to in the NOI. (Plan Content is defined by the agency as “the kind of information that should be included in plans and whether or not to include standards and guidelines.”)
The agendas for Region 2 (Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming and both Dakota's) and Region 4 (S Idaho and Utah) looks a bit more interesting, and these meetings look a lot more open to recieving actual public input. Also, Regions 2 and 4 will have a “Brief panel by a diversity of participants on what they hope to see and not see in the new draft rule for planning.”
Region 8's (Southern US, from Texas eastward) meetings looks positively trendy. According to their agenda, they will break everyone into groups and begin with a “small group dialog allowing each participant to state the 1 most important thing they'd like to see in the new rule.” Then, after lunch, they will... well, I'll just quote the agenda here:
Using “world café” discussion format, participants rotate in small groups among 4 stations every 25 minutes; each station elicits input on subset of NOI planning principles; additional, unstaffed station accepts written suggestions all day on anything else related to planning principles. Groups will continue to rotate through stations every 20-25 minutes until all participants have had a chance to provide comments at each station. Current plan is that principles will be allocated across stations as follows: (1) Ecosystem Restoration; Climate Change; Watersheds Station; (2) Species Diversity; (3) Vibrant Rural Economies; (4) Process Principles. Focal question is, “How, if at all, should new planning rule reflect this / these principles?”
Now, I should admit that I'm a fan of true collaborative planning, and I will also admit that is somewhat of a character flaw (I'm working on it), but even I know a sham collaboration when I see it.
I bet Region 8 provides the best lunch though!
As of this writing, no agendas have been made available for Region 3 (Arizona and New Mexico), Region 6 (Washington State and Oregon) and Region 9 (Eastern US). (The full meeting schedule is available here.)
What you need to do
The regional roundtables will provide the best opportunity for recreationists to influence the process. We encourage our members to register and attend, and I'll raise that to a “strongly encourage” for any land use officers or others that are active in FS planning and management.
I need to give the disclaimer that much of this information appears to be in flux. I began writing this update on Tuesday, and the information, agendas and meeting locations on the FS website have been changing on almost a daily basis. We strongly recommend checking the FS websites often for changes and updated agenda's. (See links below.)
You do have to register for the roundtables, which appears to be relatively easy. The agency's websites are a bit hard to navigate, but they are updated often and they should be able to get it all together before long. You can register for Region 2 and 4's roundtables here. For other regions click the “View other USDA Forest Service events” link on the right to find out how to register for the other Regions.
If you decide to go to the roundtables, BRC strongly recommends reviewing our formal comments. Our comments will give you some ideas on what points you might make during discussion of the principles, as well as additional concerns you might want to raise (if that is possible). We posted them on a webpage for easy viewing. Please feel free to cut, paste and/or link to these comments as you see fit.
We will have more comments and plan to have additional info on the meetings as they draw near. So stay tuned.
I don't want my head to explode, but I want to help. What can I do?
We also have an ACTION ITEM prepared for those who can't make it to the meetings and still want to do something to help.
It involves contacting your Congressional Representatives, and I know you think that's all I ever ask our members to do, and I also know that some of our political representatives aren't listening on these land use issues, but Congress has a very important oversight role to play, and they need to hear from YOU!
This is very important for members in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. That's because you have representatives that are on the committees overseeing the Department of Agriculture and the FS. They need to know your concerns now before the process gets really moving.
Dates, links and a LOT more info is below. As always, call or email if questions.
Public Lands Policy Director, BlueRibbon Coalition
208-237-1008 ext 102
PS. I need to mention that memberships and donations from individual OHV enthusiasts give us the resources needed to represent your interests in this important planning process. Everyone at BRC is profoundly grateful to our members and supporters. Membership is our lifeblood!
INFO ON FS PLANNING RULE COLLABORATIVE MEETINGS:
•National Science Forum March 29 and 30, 2010, in Washington, DC.
•National roundtables April 1 and 2, April 20 and 21, and May 11 and 12, 2010, in Washington, DC.
•Nine regional roundtables in the following locations:
Pacific Northwest Region (Region 6), Portland, OR, on April 6, 2010;
Pacific Southwest Region (Region 5),Sacramento, CA, on April 6, 2010;
Intermountain Region (Region 4), Salt Lake City, UT, on April 8, 2010;
Rocky Mountain Region, (Region 2), Lakewood, CO, on April 12, 2010;
Northern Region (Region 1), Missoula, MT, on April 13, 2010;
Alaska Region (Region 10), Juneau, AK, on April 13, 2010;
Southern Region (Region 8), Atlanta, GA, during the week of April 12, 2010 (exact date to be determined);
Eastern Region (Region 9), Chicago, IL, during the week of April 28 (exact date to be determined); and
Southwestern Region (Region 3), Albuquerque, NM, on April 28, 2010.
Region 2 will host additional meetings on April 14 in Cheyenne, WY, and on April 21 meeting in Rapid City, SD.
More Info on the Web:
BRC’s Latest Action Alert
BRC's comments on Planning Rule: Click here.
USFS Planning Rule Homepage
Complete list of meetings:
Map and links to USFS Regional offices:
Forest Service collaborative planning and public involvement portal.
Another FS collaborative planning and public involvement portal (mostly the same info, but some additional stuff)
Science panel agenda:
Register for all but Region 3, 6 and 9's Regional Roundtables here.
Webcasting may also be available for selected meetings; please check the planning rule website, at http://www.fs.usda.gov/planningrule
, for the most up-to-date information.
FS Planning Rule Blog
To encourage widespread participation the Forest Service is using new media tools in conjunction with the public meetings. Please visit http://blogs.usda.gov/usdablogs/planningrule
to participate in the Forest Service web-based planning rule blog.
Our advice? Skip the FS blog.
Another blog has interesting and useful discussion, and it also has the bios posted for those participating on the Science Forum. See:
A New Century of Forest Planning
A New Century of Forest Planning - Bio’s for Science Panel
Note: This is NOT the official FS blog for the new planning rule. A New Century of Forest Planning is a collaborative effort between the University of Montana and the Forest Service. The intent is to provide a forum where different academic communities (social, physical and biological disciplines, law, policy), practitioners of planning, and participants in planning processes can come together to share perspectives on forest planning. The opinions expressed by those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the University of Montana nor the U.S. Forest Service.