An Adaptive Governance Structure Round-up

Right now we have two possibly complementary approaches being discussed on this blog; which I will call Doing Useful Things and Satisfying NFMA Requirements (Andy’s KISS approach). Adaptive Governance probably falls in the former category.

I am sold on the concept of some form of adaptive governance, and so would like to explore some questions around “how would it work?” This post is about the structure.

When we think of adaptive governance, we may be thinking of something informal, as Dave described in his recent comment

Many years ago on the Boise NF we got a forest planning group of collaborators together for a one-time meeting to set a stage for followup meetings. The Boise NF sup told the various groups that if they (as an independent/interdependent group) called subsequent meetings, then the FS would most-likely attend. He also told them that if any consensus were to develop (across a very wide distribution of interest groups, state and local gov interests, etc.) that the FS would find it hard to do something other than try to follow the lead of the group. The Sup. also made the forest plan ID team available to the group.

I immediately thought of more formal approaches, such as the FACA committee approach, used in RACs, the Black Hills National Forest Advisory Committee, the RACNAC and so on (in my post here). Then there are the Cooperators committees, who work on forest plans, who are elected officials and other government folks. Easier to organize, but not so broad-based. If formal collaboration is important, perhaps it would be useful to streamline the process to develop FACA committees. At least in the past, committee members had to be reviewed by the Administration (the Office of White House Liaison). FACA committees can either be long term (BHNFAB) or for a particular purpose (RACNAC).

Another interesting approach, possibly better for a particular one-time purpose, was the approach of the Colorado Roadless Taskforce. It was developed by state legislation

(4) The task force shall consist of:
(a) The executive director of the department of natural resources or the executive director’s designee, who shall convene and chair the task force and who is authorized to contract with a mediator or other third party to facilitate accomplishment of the task force’s duties;
(b) Four members appointed by the governor;
(c) Two members appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives;
(d) Two members appointed by the president of the senate;
(e) One member appointed by the chair of the house agriculture, livestock, and natural resources committee;
(f) One member appointed by the chair of the senate agriculture, natural resources, and energy committee; and
(g) Two members appointed by mutual agreement and consent of the governor, the speaker of the house of representatives, and the president of the senate.

Of course, this approach is only bipartisan as long as the House, Senate and Governor are somehow split between the parties. If that were not the case, the concept could be tweaked to have one person determined by the majority lead and the minority lead for each category. What I thought was interesting were the people who needed to be agreed upon cross parties- what does it take to be recognized across interests as having a valuable perspective? Whatever that is, we probably need more of it, in our sometimes unnecessarily partisan world. This approach was not as formal about the different interests to be represented as some of the FACA committees (one of this interest group and one of that interest group), but through coordination most of the important interests were represented. Another interesting things is that it is an expressly political approach; it’s not by interest, or by scientific discipline.

This was a state-wide deliberative body, and many of the folks are still working together on various issues- as they were before the Taskforce. So the relational piece is there, possibly to a greater extent than a national advisory group.

As Lynn said in her comment here, I think working on explicitly characterizing and understanding the relationships between local and state governments as part of the planning process is important, especially if we are to make good on some kind of “all lands approach.”

So the above are groups developing and implementing plans and policies. As Lynn says in her post here, there may also be a need for a mediation group to take disagreements with those plans and policies before litigation. I like her idea of the Federal Reserve Board as a model.

What other structures have you seen? How have they worked?


  1. Sharon,

    First, I’m curious why the USFS has never really utilized NFMA’s provision allowing for advisory boards. Is it a FACA-phobia issue?

    Also agree that the public participation component is absolutely critical to the adaptive governance idea. It is also my duty, as Bolle Center representative, to emphasize how much value and focus the Bolle team put on public participation in forest planning and management (from the Bitterroot controversy on). When you go through the NFMA legislative history, it is a dominant theme. I want to quote from that Bolle Report, but will restrain myself.

    Do you know if BLM RACs are easier to assemble and more nimble than other FACA committees? Another example is provided by ANILCA’s Federal Subsistence Board, which receives advice from regional advisory councils throughout Alaska. These councils “provide recommendations and information to the Board; review proposed regulations, policies, and management plans; and provide a public forum for subsistence issues.” I think the arrangement is pretty neat.

    I also know of some neat arrangements being used by various state wildlife commissions–embedding collaborative groups and science advisory panels into the commission framework.

  2. Hmm. I don’t think the USFS is FACA-phobic, necessarily. I think probably folks felt it was extra work and required approval through the Department so perhaps the extra paperwork would be a negative. Or it could have been that local FS people were afraid the boards might make getting things done more difficult. Some FS line officers at that time may have felt proprietary about “their” piece of ground. But I actually wasn’t around when this was starting (or I was, but not paying attention to NFMA), so I don’t know what they were thinking. Others? Any retirees want to weigh in?

    It seems to me that broad “public participation” is great, and the value of FACA committees is that people have to face each other and work things through, instead of each coming to the responsible official separately. The Forest Service is otherwise like the parent to whom warring siblings come to make a call- when if people were dealing directly with each other, they might work out better agreements; or at least form better relationships. As I’ve said before, it seems like the more formal the committee, the more seriously everyone takes it and the greater likelihood for success- but I am willing to listen to others with different experiences.

    Further, the FS has had many RACs recently established that are FACA committees (hundreds?) so it could be that when NFMA was established, that FACA committees were unknown strangers, and as the RACs have been required, FACA committees now seem like old friends.

    The Black Hills NFAB seems to be successful, and my understanding is that it was required, so maybe the FS likes them when they are required, but if not, they seem like extra work. That’s my current hypothesis.. other FS folk, please weigh in!

    Finally, I am a big fan of Service First, so if we had unit advisory boards it would be handy to have the same one for our joint FS/BLM units.

    Martin, I would be interested in hearing more about the structure of the Federal Subsistence Board and the wildlife commissions.

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