I would just like to restate that I believe strongly in “telling the truth and obeying the law.” The discussion below is about the pros and cons of resolving natural resource disputes through the courts.
Awhile back, I had some questions about what the litigants on the Colt Summit project felt needed to be changed about the project, so we could understand their reasoning better.
Matthew suggested here that I write the litigants directly, which I did. Here’s the series of emails.
Here’s my original note:
Dear Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Friends of the Wild Swan,
I administer a blog called New Century of Forest Planning. We have
been following the litigation on the Colt Summit Timber Sale with some
interest. We would be interested in finding out exactly what changes
could be made to the sale such that you would support it enough not to
litigate. Could you explain what activities you want to stop in what
units and why?
Here’s his response:
Dear Ms. Friedman,
Thank you for contacting me.
Since you are a Forest Service employee and Forest Service attorneys have gotten upset with us in the past for talking to Forest Service employees about pending litigation, we need to first ask our attorney to contact your attorney to ask if it is alright to negotiate with you.
We do think is is odd that the Forest Service was non-responsive to our comments and appeal and yet we are supposed to believe that if we debate this on a blog site it will bring changes to the project.
Alliance for the Wild Rockies
The NCFP blog is something I do in my spare time and not related to my
“day job”. Therefore, any discussion with FS lawyers would be
I wasn’t implying that blogging will bring changes to the project,
but it would bring understanding to our readers of what your position
is in terms of “specific activities on the ground that you disagree
with.” The purpose of our blog is to help understand and clarify why
people disagree about resource issues (in a safe and respectful
We seek to understand.
You are still a Forest Service employee so before I discuss the case with you I would like your lawyers to OK it first so they don’t get made at me later. They were very clear in the past that I was not to discuss any pending litigation with Forest Service employees. They didn’t make any distinction about after hours conversations. If you would like to learn more about the case without talking to me I sure the Forest Service attorneys would be happy to discuss it with you.
This all makes sense to me. The FS and AWR are in litigation now, so only lawyers should be talking and only ones involved in the case. But I still think that we need to be upfront about the disadvantages of going from an open public dialogue to something else. Again, I think a required period of mediation, open to the public to observe, would be an improvement. I think we would all learn something about the different approaches people take, and different beliefs, and interpretation of facts.
I’d also like to clarify that I see my role on this blog similar to my membership in SAF and, in the past, when I was in leadership in that group. I could represent the SAF at some times, the FS at other times- as long as I was clear with others whom I was representing. If there were potential conflicts of interest, I would recuse myself. I am not blaming Mike here for not making the same distinction; it is a natural consequence of entering Litigation World. But, again, when we may need a broad diversity of viewpoints and ideas to come to a mutually agreeable conclusion, I wonder if under the “cone of silence” is the best place for that to happen.