Putting Your Dot on the Map

They are “remembered landscapes.”

Nearly every weekend when I was growing up, my parents, my two sisters, our large family dog, and I would get in the car and head to my grandparents’ house in St. Maries, Idaho.  The trip was usually pretty boring for a kid, but we always got excited when we got to the White Pine Scenic Drive in the St. Joe National Forest.  The highway carved through the forest creating a tunnel effect, and in the middle was a sign along the highway that said “cool spring.”  Even the dog somehow knew when we were getting close to cool spring.  We’d stop, get a drink, walk into the woods a bit, and marvel at the dense trees with moss growing everywhere.  Down the road was the tallest white pine tree in the world, but that was just a boring statistic to a kid.   The statistics didn’t matter, but the place was special.

Today the sign is gone, cool spring is gone, and the trail has been expanded for motorized use.  White pine is incredibly susceptible to blister rust and many trees have died.  The large tree has fallen over.  My dad and my niece got their picture taken by the incredibly huge roots.  It doesn’t matter that the forest has changed, but the place will always be special.

When I was working in the Black Hills, I once talked to a county commissioner on the Wyoming side.  She told me that when she was growing up, her dad loaded up the Studebaker and headed up a road that isn’t even recognized as a road today.  They would reach a large meadow and have a picnic lunch.  Today, that meadow is overgrown with dense small trees, and probably needs to be thinned.  The place is special, but her experience is gone.

In Colorado, Monarch Pass feels like it’s on top of the world.  From the top, you can see an expanse of trees that seems to go forever.  For folks that have traveled on U.S. 50 from the east, this is their continental divide experience.

In the San Juan Mountains of Southwest Colorado, you can go on a hike from the desert to a meadow with a stream running through it, and look up at snow capped peaks as high as you can imagine.  It’s unreal that you can see desert and tundra at the same time.

Social scientists often group participants in a forest planning process as members of a “community of place” or “community of interest.”  I don’t have a direct economic or social stake in how forests in Idaho are managed.  I don’t even live in Idaho any more, but I am still connected to a “place” in a forest along a 12-mile stretch of highway.

Before 1976, the Forest Service conducted “unit planning” with units roughly the size of ranger districts.  In part to increase the working circle of potential timber harvest to assure a continuous supply, NFMA established Forest Plans.  But Forests often were too big for the community of place.  Then, the scale of planning grew even bigger.  The St. Joe and White Pine Drive were administratively split between the Clearwater and the new monolithic Idaho Panhandle National Forests.   The area around cool spring fell on the Clearwater side.  The old Forest Plan put White Pine Drive in a scenic corridor management area, but the area was too small to show on the forest plan map.  The Clearwater has now combined with the Nez Perce to complete one large planning effort.

The area in the Black Hills fell into an inventoried roadless area subject to the 2000 roadless rule.  Monarch Pass was designated in the Westwide Energy Corridor EIS as an important corridor.  The multi-state decision doesn’t mention how the corridor entirely covers the Monarch Pass Ski Area.

Forest planners have discovered that place matters.  The Medicine Bow-Routt-Thunder Basin has done three plans.  The Pike-San Isabel-Cimarron-Comanche will do two.  There are some excellent examples of place-based planning in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Chugach, and GMUG forest planning processes, where forests are subdivided into “places” for planning.  These were discussed in a 2003 workshop in Portland.    The authors note:

“Place-based planning” refers to land and natural resource planning efforts that bring together diverse human values, uses, experiences, and activities tied to specific geographic locations. Although planning efforts have always focused on specific places through land use zoning frameworks, place-based planning is different from other types of approaches. For example, whereas land use zoning segregates dominant uses from one another on the landscape, place-based planning takes a more holistic approach, focusing on identifying current uses, values, and meanings. In addition, place-based approaches tend to take a longitudinal perspective, exploring desired future conditions for the landscape. This approach enables participants to identify a variety of uses that might occur concurrently rather than designating one primary use for the upcoming 10 to 20 years.

Some commentators are concerned that place-based planning and the new emphasis on collaboration are putting National groups at a disadvantage.  Ohio University political science professor Nancy Manring wrote a paper in 2004 about the 2005 planning rule provision that replaced the appeals process with an objection process.   She observed:

McCloskey (2000), Coggins (2001), Foster (2002), Hibbard and Madsen (2003) and Kenney (2000) all have argued that collaboratives may maximize community-based interests at the expense of national stakeholders and values. As Weber (1999, p. 482) cautioned, “The danger is that such communities will develop a sense of themselves apart from and to the detriment of the nation.” No doubt, it will be easier for communities to develop a separate sense of themselves if representatives of national interests and values are not physically present at the negotiating table. The potential tensions between local and national values – between the communities of place and the communities of interest – are thrown into sharp relief by the realities of collaborative planning without the traditional appeals process as a safeguard. “

At the beginning of the planning process for the San Juan Forest Plan Revision, participants at public meetings were given sticky dots to place on a map.  There was even a parallel process on the web, where you could put a computerized dot on the map.  The idea was that participants could identify their special places, and where resource conflicts might occur.  These sticky dots were used in drawing the the forest plan map.  The Plan will use geographic areas as big as ranger districts, and within the areas, there are subdivisions displayed by using eight development “themes.”  A final Plan is expected next year.

13 Comments

  1. John: All your posts are excellent but this one is particularly wonderful. It really captures a lot of what it means to have people involved in a collaborative process for managing a forest.

    I want to comment on one thing, not any of your comment but the research about how a collaborative process can leave out national values. “The potential tensions between local and national values – between the communities of place and the communities of interest – are thrown into sharp relief by the realities of collaborative planning without the traditional appeals process as a safeguard.”

    Two comments:

    (1) I say thank goodness for getting national groups out of the picture if they choose not to get involved locally. Usually, they do not put forth national “values” but their own national political agenda, which may or may not have anything to do with any particular forest, or even all of them together. Example: I was involved in a regional lawsuit over failure to survey for MIS; EarthJustice was lead counsel and Sierra Club was lead plaintiff. I made the mistake of signing a contract agreeing to be second chair and thus making myself subject to the orders of the EJ lawyer. They wanted an Alabama project as part of the suit, but at the time, all the forests here were preparing restoration programs and not doing projects, except for the Conecuh, which had already completed its program. The Conecuh did an EA to add a new project into the program. EJ ordered me to appeal that project, despite there being nothing wrong with it. The MIS survey had not covered every stand in the project, but it was valid restoration in all aspects, beneficial to all MIS that might be there.

    As part of the appeal, we had a field trip; I pleaded with the Club rep and the EJ attorney to come with me into the forest to see the project and to see previous good restoration work there. They refused, saying, “We do not want to know the reality on the ground; it might conflict with our legal positions.” I was livid. On the field trip, I told the Supervisor, “You will agree to survey the missed stands (which they had planned to do anyway as part of the site prep). Based on that promise, I will dismiss the appeal. Then no one will having standing to sue and add this project to the regional case.” That happened; EJ and Club were not happy, but I pointed out that the additional surveys would negate their MIS claims anyway. So, they let it drop. So much for national “values.”

    (2) I do not agree that local folks cannot present and champion completely “national” values. Two examples: one, I know the NFs in AL and MS as well as anyone. They have few roadless areas and those are small. Yet, I was able to advance the national roadless area protection values here better than anyone from DC or San Fran. I knew the areas and knew how national values applied to them. A national perspective from a non-local would have been generic, not fully integrated with local realities.

    Second, in the late 1990s, the AL supervisor tried to punch roads and clearcuts into the heart of our last, best roadless area to prevent it from becoming wilderness and to remove its roadless protections. Not one national (or even regional) group did anything to stop it; they did not even write letters in protest. I took the legal actions that stopped it; that area is now the Dugger Mountain Wilderness, one of my special places, a remembered landscape that is still there and will be.

    So, I like your comments and examples of local collaboration working with input from anyone else who wants to be involved, as is their right. But with that right comes the responsibility to be involved and present values, not agendas. Thus, the Manring piece is something I think we should consider and show how it is wrong. Stuff and claims like hers WILL be used by national groups who do not like collaboration, not because collaboration is local or disconnected from national values, but because collaboration tends to bring political agendas to light and winnow them out of the process. If anything, her claims make collaboration look better to me than ever.

    Further, as I have discussed elsewhere, the objection process has usually worked much better for me than the appeals process. I really do not like the appeals process for plans. Maybe that is because the objection process fits nicely with local knowledge of the place and process and an appeal works better for those who have not been there and been involved beyond the APA minimum. Regardless, I do not think Manring’s claim in defense of appeals holds any truth. Thanks.

  2. I agree that “sense of place: is very important in managing public lands. Here are three recommendations I wrote, in my first epistle to the Clinton-era Committee of Scientists in 1998.

    First, I hope that we address forest management and planning in context. In the context of society and culture including law and policy. In the context of hierarchically interrelated systems, both natural and social with no clear lines of separation between them. In the context of interrelated, open systems theory. We must remember that contextual approaches require thinking that is both holistic and particularistic. It is no longer “either-or,” but “both-and” that guide our thoughts and actions.

    Second, I hope that whatever we end up with is founded on principles of “sense of purpose” and “sense of place.” Sense of purpose has to do with sustainability, ecosystem health, biological integrity and conservation of species, living in harmony with Nature’s discordant harmonies. Like sense of purpose, “sense of place” is also a hierarchically ordered multiscale notion. Bryan Norton and Bruce Hannon describe it well, paraphrasing geographer Yi-Fi Tuan, by saying that “we need a sense of place and a sense of space around that place, for it is the surrounding space that defines our place and shapes our sense of who we are (p. 232).” The idea is that it tends all to be multiscaler, encompassing both spatial and temporal dimensions. Any planning or management must avoid any single focus (B.G. Norton and B. Hannon. Environmental Values: A Place-Based Theory, Environmental Ethics 19(3): 227-245, 1997.)

    Third, I hope that we build both the rules of the game and site-specific variants through extended dialogue between management and science, where both domains reach beyond the narrow confines of professionalism and engage stakeholders in dialogue throughout the process.

  3. This reminded me of Gloria Flora’s controversial decision some time ago. If you recall, as Supervisor of the Lewis and Clark, she decided not to open the Rocky Mountain Front for energy development and partly based her decision on “value of place:”

    “The Forest has tried to recognize these social and emotional values and they have figured prominently in my decision not to lease.”

    I think that was the first time such language was used in a ROD (though I could be mistaken).

    And an interesting twist: her explicit recognition of cultural values, tribal and secular, was challenged by the Rocky Mountain Oil and Gas Association whom argued that Flora acted outside her authority by acknowledging “value of place,” and that accommodating Native American religious practices is prohibited by the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

    The Court disagreed with such a silly argument and saw Flora’s decision as reasonable and within her discretion–as it was also couched within a larger legal/planning framework.

    Just another relevant example I suppose.

    But I’m curious of what happens after these folks place their dots on the map. What happens if one’s value of place includes, say ORV access, and the other more primitive hunting experiences or whatever? Does the exercise simply help planners predict contested areas (which is helpful obviously)? What if ORVers all put dots on similar places–what then? Do these places become ORV sacrifice areas BECAUSE of the exercise? If so, that raises a different set of concerns about how management decisions get made.

    Martin

    And my preference is to isolate two issues here: the place-based approach to planning, and second, the appeals process.

  4. Regarding Martin’s question on the San Juan process, here is a paper by planning team leader Shannon Manfredi. Her description of the interactive mapping process begins on page 21. By the way, she wants to add that she has a TON of leftover sticker sheets that she would like to find a use for, if anyone is interested.

    Participants had the option of putting their sticker upon specific locations on the map, or in a “general landscape comment” box. The cluster of icons within a specific area on the map indicated a “hot spot” of great public interest or use. After the sticker exercise, then there was a second activity where participants identified the management “theme” for the area on the 8-level development scale. They also developed “landscape information sheets” with help of Forest Service district employees that listed outstanding features, active uses, landscape concerns and opportunties. Shannon explains that this process took about six and half meetings. After a final visioning exercise to develop a “niche” statement, they took the information and developed a Forest Plan preferred alternative, plus two additional alternatives and the no action alternative, which appeared in the DEIS. (There has been a delay in getting the final done because of a concurrent oil and gas decision that needed a Supplemental DEIS to be released later this year. )

    Essentially, the sticker exercise only took about 30-35 minutes but captured a great deal of information. Shannon explains in her paper that the exercise helped them diffuse public tension and grandstanding. Participants also learned from each other about why they put their stickers on the map.

  5. 1) I agree with Ray that John’s piece is wonderful. It gives the story and personal meaning its proper place in planning. What if revisions started with a celebration of the forest that would showcase music, art, drama and written and oral storytelling about the forest (communities could chip in for awards for the best and local artists could serve on panels to rate them)? Anyway, people’s relationship with the land, in my view, is more than a left-brain exercise.

    2) I just don’t get the “national view” either. We have local chapters of most national organizations- should their opinions count? when does the national point of view overrule the local point of view? Are our local greenies somehow not as green? I guess if I were a member of a local environmental group, I would be wondering about this also. One experience I had was interesting in that national people decided to get involved, swooped down like a flock of birds at a bird feeder in the winter, and seemed to drive away the local birds from the discussion. We had to walk around to find where the local birds were roosting and ask them what they were thinking.

    3) I agree with Martin that the appeals/objection discussion is worth its own entry. John and I disagree on this so it should be easy to start a discussion.

    4) I hadn’t seen Shannon’s thesis and think it’s well worth looking at. One thing that struck me is the below quote from the Recommendations section of her thesis, which sounds to me like what Ray just said above.

    Furthermore, some interest groups, particularly those with economic or proprietary information, still prefer to use their formal legal procedures for participating in the process rather than open public involvement processes. These interest groups are used to getting their share of the pie through formal legal measures. This is frustrating since a broad representation of the public spent time deliberating with one another to understand all perspectives and explore solutions. The perpetuation of using legal methods to influence decision making is diminishing the potential of public involvement and collaborative efforts.
    The same can be said for political influences that direct changes to be made to solutions recommended by the public through time consuming deliberations. It is a great disappointment to the many citizens who committed their time and energy to discuss solutions, when an interest group uses legal methods to negate the process by questioning the validity or authority of decision, or when changes are made for political reasons unexplained to the public. Public involvement strategies cannot be sustained if they are not given some leverage (i.e., legitimacy) in the process to counter political and legal maneuvers.

    Local Decision Making: A recommendation for improving the decision making process would be to make changes to planning policy that would provide for more local decision making responsibility through representation, in other words, increasing citizen participation and responsibility (Jeffersonian concepts) and assuring deliberation of diverse perspectives through representation (Madisonian concepts). Being that national forests are “public lands,” it is understandable that all citizens, anywhere in the nation should have a right to these common resources and a right to comment on the management of these common, public lands. However, the problem with outside interests is that they often lack understanding of the inter-related social, economic, and environmental conditions of site-specific geographic areas.

    Rather, they simply represent “their interest” without regard for the public good. This dilemma is described by Daniel Kemmis (1990) as “communities of place and communities of interests”. As stated in the 2005 Planning Rule, there must be “opportunities for the public to collaborate and participate openly and meaningfully in the planning process, taking into account discrete roles, jurisdictions, and responsibilities of interested and affected parties” (36 CFR 219.9a). A case could be made that the local communities surrounding the public lands comprise the “interested and affected parties” that have the greatest stakes to be considered, and thus the process should give weight to their recommendations in the decision making. This seems viable considering that most national industries and interest groups typically have local representatives in the area, for example, national groups and industries such as the Wilderness Society, Blue Ribbon Coalition (motorized recreation advocacy group), Trout Unlimited (backcountry hunter and fishermen), Cattlemen’s Association, the Sierra Club, BP, to name only a few. Any national interest not locally represented could appoint a representative to deliberate with the local groups. National groups and industries would delegate responsibility to their local representatives to deliberate the issues and accordingly, they would honor the decision. Such a process would eliminate uniformed interests-based objections, which tend to lead to litigation, prolong the process, and often result in unsatisfying results. By having national groups delegate responsibility to local representatives and honoring the outcomes, decision-making processes would be tailored to appropriately address the communities’ needs and desires, and citizens would have an increased ownership and acceptance for the resulting decision.

  6. In this discussion, I also want to credit the good forest planning work that Region 1 is doing in Northern Idaho, which we’ll be seeing as their planning gets going again. In particular, Cynthia Manning sent me Region 1′s excellent “Sense of Place Protocol.”

    Here are some important points in the R1 guidance:

    The person who draws the map has the power, so this must be shared.

    A map that delineates special places will never be finalized. Also, some things can’t be mapped – people don’t want to divulge the meanings, and of course, Tribal information must be treated as sensitive information.

    Discussions may want to address “scope, intensity, and duration.” Is this a Nationally known place with National scope? How intense do people relate to an area, i.e. can you substitute one swimming hole for another? How long has the place been used – is it historic? is it seasonal?

  7. Ok. I disagree with both Sharon and Ray, with this caveat: National interest groups with local chapters ought to participate in local forums. But, there are procedural issues that often need to be dealt with at higher levels in hierarchies (see my #2 above). As many of you know, sometimes the only way to get at a problem that exists at a “higher” level is to deal with it at the level it manifests itself. Nancy Manring was (and is) right to argue that people ought not to be cast out of the process if they are not in the “hand holding” that constitutes collaborative engagement yet have legitimate procedural claims.

    The problem as I have said for the last decade and more is that we have a set of wicked problems that can’t be dealt with at any single scale. The Forest Service has attempted to force resolution of too much into a single scale forum: the administrative unit forest plan. As I said above, “Any planning or management must avoid any single focus”.

    I see shades of both The Blame Game and The Frame Game at work in what Sharon and Ray are advocating.

  8. I have been thinking about how the governance of environmental groups reflects or does not reflect the same governance approach as the Forest Service and industry groups. For example, individual ski areas belong to an association for membership- the point of the organization is to support the members.
    I wonder if national environmental groups have the same worldview, or a different worldview about the local chapters. If they do, that would explain some of the disconnect.
    To me, to deal with the scale issue, the FS way would be to say “nationally we set policy and guidelines, within those guidelines local people are the best to make the decisions.” The environmental group equivalent might be “nationally we focus on national policies, legislation and rules, leaving the rest of the decision space to local groups.” It seems like it might be easier on all of us if we were all either working off the same model, or at least knew what each other’s model was.

    • Sharon,

      It looks like you are moving close to what I used to call Texas Two-step planning, where there are only “national policy” and “local” decision-making. Such an approach is anathema to adaptive co-management (or adaptive governance). In adaptive governance issues/concerns are first viewed as wicked problems (interconnected, nested, complex, political), then resolution forums are tailor-made to fit the situation. Scale considerations are dealt with on-the-fly as part of the process.

      For example, establishing a transcontinental or subcontential powerline (or natural gas line) corridor does not fit the either-or (national/local) framing you set up above. Yet it is an important consideration in adaptive governance.

      As you know, my resolution to the forest planning dilemma (given RPA/NFMA) is to deal with what has been called forest planning under the broader umbrella of adaptive governance, allowing for an “every five years review/evaluation” of ALL decisions relating to an administrative unit of the national forest system. The “review” would be accompanied by some scenario planning that fits into your recent comment on John’s latest post about talking through emergent, but unknown futures with only very simple modeling — which might be entirely conceptual, but certainly not overly analytical. My vision of such an every five years evaluation would allow for “niche” statements to be developed for a forest unit and/or subunits.

      Slight correction: I misspoke above. When I used to talk about “Texas Two-Step planning”, it was about forest level planning and project level planning with nothing in between and nothing above other than the RPA Assessment and national level policy making above, and Wilderness Acts, and other legislation.

  9. Sharon stated, “I wonder if national environmental groups have the same worldview, or a different worldview about the local chapters. If they do, that would explain some of the disconnect.” Every group is different. The Wilderness Society does not have local groups but sometimes has local reps. The Sierra Club has lots of local groups, none of whom have any say in anything once the national office takes an interest in something, local or not. Mostly, the national groups are national. They get involved in local issues only to advance national agendas. That is why so many regional (think Heartwood and Wild South) and local (Friends of Generic National Forest, etc.) exist, because the national groups have repeatedly failed to represent or support local issues, or even national issues as applied locally (as my previous post illustrated).

    Instead of focusing on finding a process structure that will “solve” litigation issues that arise at scales and levels above the local, we need to look at simply giving a process of opportunities for they people involved in forests to do good management. Even the most obstinate, political hack locked in a cubicle in DC has the right to comment (and thus appeal and litigate) any plan on any forest. We should not be looking at taking that right away from them. What I want is to rise up the responsibility that goes with that right. I have found that well-done, scientifically-sound, collaborative projects, programs and even plans do not get sued over by national groups. It is not because any right was taken from them in the process. It is because such adaptive co-management processes tend to eliminate the “easy issues” that are litigated; such collaborative processes are filled with responsibilities that make someone who operates only as dropping a letter and then a lawsuit think twice in the face of such work. As a litigator, I can tell you that what we look for first in any challenge to a project or plan are the obvious violations of law, things that are easiest to show in court via an administrative record. Good collaborative decisions tend to not have such things, mainly due to the old adage of “two heads are better than one.” For things like plans, it is many heads. Working together, I helped the agency avoid NEPA, APA and ESA traps that they would have stepped into if I had not been showing them, “Do this; don’t do that.” as we headed toward a common vision. Agency staff taught me about forest management and I taught them about process and legal requirements better than any infrequent training sessions from the OGC ever could.

    Thus, when the largest project in agency history hit the streets, no one sued, or even threatened to; even though, none of the national groups were involved in developing the project. But they saw what went on as it was developed and were satisfied that laws had been complied with, science was followed and nothing strange or nefarious was happening. No one cut them out; they were invited in and chose to watch but not get directly involved. Did the agendas of those national groups change? No. But national enviro groups will choose their battles; they usually will not waste resources on something that is stupid for them to do, whether their agenda is furthered or not. They simply move on. You do not need to solve problems at that level to make forest planning work. If you make it work for the forest and for the people who know the forest and get involved, then the final product will not be ripe for attack at the problem levels. They will find an easier target 98% of the time. Especially if other enviros stand with you against any potential attack, as I did in that record project.

    Why I say 98% of the time is that there are some things that some of the nationals simply cannot pass up. The Idaho Roadless Rule is the prime example; although, most enviros involved support the rule. But with 100+ forest plans out there; if a particular plan is done well and with good collaboration and local enviro support, the nationals who were not directly involved and are just looking for lawsuits to file will move on. Do this enough times, and they will unwittingly find themselves without plans to sue over. But they will move on to something else, mountaintop removal, something. As I have said for decades, “I would love it if the Forest Service got to the point where I could never sue them any more. I could move on to go after the Corps of Engineers full time.” I see the Forest Service REALLY close to that point these days. I think that with a well-done planning rule and some surgical legislative things that put every forest on a positive, restoration management path, the days of litigation over National Forest issues will be over. Sure, there will always be a particular case over a particular impact on a particular forest, but the big issue cases will be over. Thanks.

  10. Dave- I am aware of decisions between and above plans and projects, but I was getting ahead of myself and trying to think of Adaptive Governance structures. Can we afford to have a governance structure for each decision, or would most of them fit into buckets (forest, national) and just created special structures for the inbetween decisions (grizzly, power corridors)?

    Ray- I thought about what you said about litigation, but I am not sure it matches well with our current list of litigated projects which seem to have only one thing in common – their quirkiness. Perhaps in a few years, at least some will be over with, and we can have more discussion on this then.

  11. Sharon, analyze the litigation by whom filed it. It will then show more patterns and the difference due to whom filed it, local, regional or national groups. And also, the issue in the case may, or may not, and usually IS NOT, the real issue being forwarded by the plaintiffs. I am privy to the behind-the-litigation agendas, and believe me, there is pattern there, lots of it.

  12. Pingback: In Search of Our Desired Forest « A New Century of Forest Planning

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