“Collaboration on natural resource management is divide and conquer” The Wildlife News

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Collaboration on natural resource management is divide and conquer
By Ralph Maughan On March 11, 2012 · 3 Comments
Collaboration is all the rage. How it has worked in Montana-

Past stories have not been very friendly to process called “collaboration” here at The Wildlife News although we not written of it for a while. That does not mean it has disappeared nor become friendly to conservation of our forests, grasslands, sage steppe, or alpine tundra in the meantime. The reason is that the collaborators who meet are almost always weighted by design in favor the the exploiters by right wing governors. It sucks up conservationist’s time, energy and causes the corroborating members to defend the scraps they think they have “saved” against criticism by those who think the process stinks.

The media usually thinks it is wonderful, however. They get to write feel good stories, at least a few years before they write about the natural gas and oil blowouts, the landslides, sinkholes, polluted air and water, and the demise of wildlife.

At the Missoula Independent, George Ochenski is not confused about the effects of collaboration in Montana as he writes, Hang the ‘collaborators’ And heed the clear-sighted “extremists” Here he expands on the presentation by Michael Donnelly at the recent Environmental Law Conference at Eugene, Oregon “The Wages of Compromise: When Environmentalists Collaborate.”

It should be noted that the Western Watersheds Project does not collaborate, and regional media do not write feel good stories about them. However, they usually win their battles.

The comments are also interesting.

JB had an interesting comment:

Okay, for once I’ll beat WM to the punch: I can’t but help point out how self-serving it is for a lawyer to come out against collaborative processes, which often help agencies AND conservation groups avoid lawsuits.

From the perspective of agencies who have a LEGAL MANDATE to allow for multiple uses, these processes can be useful for making decisions where there is no objectively *RIGHT* answer–which is often the case when it comes to the management of our National Forests. In fact, these processes are designed precisely to deal with the situation Ken laments–i.e., stakeholders have very different ideas about how lands should be managed (values) and there is no clear statutory guidance on which types of management priorities should prevail.

Concisely: Collaboration is a symptom, NOT the problem; the problem is that the federal statutes that direct agency activities (NFMA, FLPMA) set up multiple, competing uses (and interests) without clear guidance as to which use should prevail when conflicts arise. Going after collaboration won’t fix this (though it may make the lawyers happy). The only way to fix the problem is to change the law.

.Ken Cole of Western Watershed project says..

The collaborative process is designed to bypass the processes of these laws and make people feel good about doing so.

Note from Sharon: I don’t think that’s an accurate statement. I think collaborative FS efforts are intended to get people to work with each other and with the FS to jointly think about things; learn about things; and debate things to help inform FS decisions that still have to abide by the same laws. I wonder why people keep saying “intended to bypass” when it’s not true?

43 Comments

  1. “It sucks up conservationist’s time, energy and causes the corroborating members to defend the scraps they think they have “saved” against criticism by those who think the process stinks.”

    This is exactly what happened in Breckenridge, Colorado with a proposed ski area expansion, except is wasn’t at behest of a “right-wing” governor; instead it was driven by the corporation that controls the ski town and entrenched business interests.

    For background: Vail Resorts proposal to expand on Peak 6 drew hundreds of negative comments from residents during the scoping phase with the general consensus that Breck is big enough, and that the ski area should concentrate on making improvements within its existing footprint.

    The resort COO said, “Oh, let’s start a task force.” That group ended up being dominated by local and county government officials who supposedly were “neutral” but really are part of the establishment – the resort-industrial complex, to revamp a phrase.

    The group met for nearly 2 years, nibbling around the edges of the issues, all the while the resort was plowing ahead with shaping a proposal for exactly what they wanted, in “collaboration” with the Forest Service and the resort consultants.

    Instead of spending energy organizing and focusing on the very real problems with the proposed expansion, opponents got sucked into a “collaborative process” where they settled for a watered-down MOU that didn’t address the central issues at all.

    http://summitcountyvoice.com/2011/07/22/opinion-some-funky-moves-in-the-peak-6-poker-game/

  2. I stand by my contention that collaboration is intended to bypass science and the law. That is precisely how it is being used in many western states and when task forces or collaborative groups are assembled they routinely exclude stakeholders who insist that the baseline for decisions be the best available science and the law.

    Just look at the newly formed task force in Idaho on sage grouse. The group who has been the main force behind sage grouse protection, Western Watersheds Project, has been excluded from the task force even though they have asked to participate. What do you think the intent of this task force? It’s to whittle down sage grouse protections and maintain the status quo.

    • Ken, I think we are talking past each other somehow.

      The baseline for decisions on projects I think has to be best available science (based on 2000 NFMA regs ??) I think all projects have to follow the law. But that still leaves a great deal of latitude.
      Conceivably, if the FS alone can come up with decisions that follow the best available science and the law as determined by courts, then collaborative groups plus the Forest Service could do the same. Perhaps I am being too linear in my logic here?
      What I hear you saying is that WWP would like to be included in the task force in Idaho. Is this the task force you are talking about?

      Gov. Butch Otter has decided to form a sage grouse task force by executive order.

      A group had been announced two weeks ago and a meeting scheduled by Otter Office of Species Conservation. But after briefing with Idaho legislators, the first meeting of the team scheduled for last Thursday was abruptly called off.

      Otter made the decision to elevate the issue, said his press secretary Jon Hanian, “because it’s critical not only to our economy but to our way of life.”

      The task force is seeking to write a sage grouse plan for Idaho that will allow the federal government to avoid listing of the desert bird that is still hunted in the state as a threatened or endangered species. Federal officials have said to avoid listings the states cannot rely on voluntary actions if they are to meet the federal requirement of “adequate regulatory mechanisms.”

      Wyoming already has developed its own plan by designating “core areas” where protection of sage grouse is the highest use. Idaho officials said they were using Wyoming as a model. But they also are pointing to the Idaho Roadless rule, approved by the Forest Service with the support of Otter and groups from all sides of the issue.

      Th idea was that a separate rule would be written that would amend Bureau of Land Management plans in the state.

      In a recent newsletter, Laird Lucas, executive director, of Advocates for the West, which has pushed for sage grouse listing in court, has endorsed at least the states’ approach.

      “These are precisely the kinds of steps we envisioned when we filed a suite of cases at the end of the Bush Administration over BLM’s inadequate treatment of sage-grouse habitat”, said Lucas.

      Wyatt Prescott, executive director of the Idaho Cattle Association, said his group backs Otter’s effort.

      Read more here: http://voices.idahostatesman.com/2012/02/27/rockybarker/otter_shifts_gears_decides_form_sage_grouse_task_force_executive#storylink=cpy

    • That quite a “broad brush” you got going there, Ken. Labeling ALL collaboration as evil will probably brand you as “uncooperative”. It is no wonder that such inflexible and predjudiced people are being marginalized. You can either be a part of the solution, or a part of the problem. Of course, I’m not going to say there aren’t problems with collaboration but, to outright label other concerned people as criminally destructive is pretty paranoid.

      Other regulars on this blog have offered examples which do, indeed, bring up questions about projects, and how they got there. I don’t doubt that some local interests are pushing very hard for their points of view, at the expense of wildlife and other values. I think it is still quite early in this age of collaboration to say that it is bad for the land.

      • I have to wonder what the latest legal advice from OGC, DOJ and CEQ is on how the Forest Service can engage in collaboration effectively and legally without running afoul of FACA and FOIA ;).

        Inquiring minds want to know:)

        In my view, there is just no substitute for ongoing substantive dialogue to help the agency truly understand what the real underlying interests of various constituents are. Having a rich two way dialogue also assists the agency in creatively exploring all available options for meeting agency goals while trying to meet sometimes competing interests. At the risk of sounding like a broken record tho, to be legitimate and effective, any collaborative effort has to be well grounded within a larger public involvement strategy that gives the larger community of interests substantive opportunity to comment on and influence collaborative recommendations BEFORE decisions are reached.

        Of course for any of this to work, the process has to be seen as credible and fair, both in terms of who directly participates in a collaborative group and how those “not at the table” have meaningful opportunities to contribute before decisions are made. While good faith among all interests is not a requirement for this approach to be successful, good faith on the part of the Forest Service or other third party convening any collaborative effort is absolutely essential.

        PS in the interest of full disclosure, I must confess to being a retired FS pao and facilitator who routinely preached and practiced a collaborative approach to pre-decisional public involvement at the plan and project level. Based on 30 years plus experience in the public involvement trenches, I firmly believe that while not a panacea, collaborative approaches have almost always resulted in better on the ground decisions, than the more formal written “comment and response” approach of classic NEPA public involvement.

        • Terry,

          I think An Optimist mentioned the Easy Button to FACA in his or her post here.
          As to FOIA, all FS involvement would be documented and FOIAble. If there were a collaborative group that did not involve the FS, then it wouldn’t be FOIAble- say a group got together to give recommendations to the FS for what is to be done. At least that’s how I see it. But there are lawyers who read this site so maybe they can help.

          • I followed the link to the “Easy Button on FACA.” http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5203270.pdf I fear that the Forest Service has taken FACA compliance to be easier than it really is, despite these words “Doing this [complying with FACA] isn’t always
            easy”. At the end of an embedded “decision tree” is this little word of warning: “If you have questions about FACA applicability to a general group, contact the [USDA] Office of General Counsel.” I wonder how often that happens?

            I guess I’ll have to dig deeper to see if my “fear” is well-founded.

            • My experience has been that many FS field folks don’t understand FACA very well and may avoid talking to the public outside of NEPA out of fear of violating the law. This fear is often unwarranted. Of course there are circumstances that clearly require a FACA committee. I was a designated federal official for one for about 4 years.

              • Jim,

                I know that what you say happens, but I’m more interested in is the opposite: Where a Forest Service forms (or ‘Chairs’) a committee, but claims that it is not an ‘advisory committee’. I want to find out when a court will declare such a committee to need be in compliance with at least some provisions of FACA. In particular I’m wondering whether in some cases we’ve been discussing on this blog, there are at minimum hints of FACA violations.

                • I agree with Jim that people seem unnecessarily spooked about talking to people during NEPA due to FACA. which can interfere with collaborative efforts. I too was a Designated Federal Official for one for two years.

                  To understand why the ones mentioned work the way they do, the initiators must have received some advice on FACA and probably have some rationale as to why FACA doesn’t apply.

                  • initiators must have received some advice on FACA and probably have some rationale as to why FACA doesn’t apply.

                    I wish I shared your optimism. I’ve seen too many times through the years where legal advice was neither sought nor heeded.

        • Terry Seyden muses, “I have to wonder what the latest legal advice from OGC, DOJ and CEQ is on how the Forest Service can engage in collaboration effectively and legally without running afoul of FACA and FOIA.”

          We’ve been wondering on the Tongass too Terry, as Mark Rey set it up to skirt FACA (that is, the Tongass Futures Roundtable). Actually there is no ‘legal advice’ for Rey’s grey areas, just a lengthy, expensive, legal challenge which has environmental nonprofits on opposite sides of the dispute. This is just one of the cool benefits of collaboration.

          One of Rey’s tactics was to have TFR set up where members can actually assert they only represent themselves as individuals at the roundtable, even though they were an ED of an environmental nonprofit, clearly being paid by the funders of TFR representing their organization there. This creates all sorts of sticky wickets.

          So you can imagine what happens when a followup on an incident involving the Tongass Forest Supervisor very pointedly upset, and openly lobbying the TFR membership on legislation being discussed at the roundtable, but the legal followup on the incident got stymied by that ED denying it occurred!!

          It could’ve not only been a TFR show stopper, but an ED salary hit — so of course, when someone is being paid to show up at the TFR, its going to be hard to get him to objectively weigh-in on a process which by the way, PROHIBITS the press or the public from recording plenary sessions (and strictly enforced by The Nature Conservancy Staff — I know, because I was told to turn off my recorder or leave just prior to that incident.)

            • TFR doesn’t meet very often because there was a mass exodus of a major portion of the stakeholder membership which included the state of Alaska, and other proponents of the timber industry.

              ED (Executive Director)

              The first three items of the TFR charter are a prescription for a focused pursuit of a Quid pro Quo Wilderness Bill (a la, Tester’s FJRA, and this is NOT a collaborative coincidence) :

              (TFR Charter)
              • A stabilized land base; (??, too? read on, you’ll get it)
              • ANCSA entitlements and other potential draws from Tongass National Forest lands;
              • Watersheds and other areas of the Tongass that should be conserved;

              The Quid:
              “ANCSA entitlements and other potential draws from Tongass National Forest lands”

              (Keep in mind, everyone wants to see this native corporation get its entitled lands, it is just about WHERE it gets to choose.)

              This is really about a HIGHLY controversial bill (S.730) which Senator Lisa Murkowski has been attempting to pass for several years. It would amend ANCSA and allow a regional native corporation to create land categories never considered by Congress, and select the most valuable timberlands on the Tongass, effectively eliminating all federal protections of that landscape, creating the next corporate timber monopoly on the Tongass. These lands not only contain the benefits of a road system, and USFS-built infrastructure worth hundreds of millions of dollars (paid for by US taxpayers, already at a horrific loss to the US Treasury), but are forest lands of the Tongass which are among the last remaining giant trees, crucial to the carefully arrived at conservation strategy central to struggling endemic species about to be listed under the ESA.

              http://ak.audubon.org/sites/default/files/documents/audubon_s730-hr1408_high-grading_white_paper_-_oct2011_final.pdf

              http://ak.audubon.org/newsroom/press-releases/2012/report-sealaska-legislation-threatens-rare-tongass-rainforest-habitat

              So that was the Quid.

              And the Quo? The third item on the TFR Charter–
              “Watersheds and other areas of the Tongass that should be conserved”

              Enter:
              http://www.tu.org/conservation/alaska/tongass
              “Tongass 77″ majorly marketed by Trout Unlimited (well-known national cheerleaders of “collaboration”) hand$omely financed by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation which is coincidently financing TFR, and the aforementioned ED of SEACC.
              (Don’t get me wrong, conservation is a good thing, but at what cost?)
              What could be wrong with additional protections for 77 salmon watersheds on the Tongass? Well, for starters, the watersheds aren’t particularly threatened and already enjoy Roadless Rule protections and 100 ft buffer strips. Secondly, the timber industry is so marginal, it is unlikely the watersheds will ever be threatened. Lastly, packaged in an omnibus QPQ Wilderness bill, it enables privatization and deregulation of public lands of a rare temperate rainforest national treasure.

              Trout Unlimited is not being honest about “Tongass 77″ which is nothing more than a recycled version of a failed proposal at the Tongass Futures Roundtable. What TU is mostly not being honest about though is what it will COST the US taxpayer if it is the Quo:

              It would allow the largest private landowner in Southeast Alaska with the most notorious record of clear cutting in the history of the region, to cash-in on hundreds of millions of taxpayer built infrastructure, and clearcut the last of the best of what remains on the most valuable timberlands on the Tongass. It would imperil species and erase vital habitat protections and disrupt existing rural economies. For an example of Sealaska’s past work:

              This will occur to the detriment of nine rural communities which will be among the most impacted victims of the legislation and are solidly on record opposing the Sealaska bill.

              The opponents of the Sealaska legislation span the full spectrum of politics, from grassroots enviros to Forest Service employees, to sport fishermen groups to Native shareholders and far, far beyond. However, if it weren’t for the TFR, and its paid-off stakeholders, this would have died a quiet death long ago. But somehow, the TFR still exists.

              And the simple solution? Let each legislation fail on its own merits or demerits. Tied together, though, they form an unnatural union of corporate interests which are being advanced by the further existence of the Tongass Futures Roundtable which was primarily created by multi-billionaire and multi millionaire corporate “philanthropists” to manipulate legislative outcomes on our nation’s largest, (relatively intact) coastal temperate rainforest.

              That’s “collaboration” on the Tongass.

          • My only experience has been with collaborative efforts initiated by the FS, not “third party” efforts. I’m also not going to take the bait on commenting about motives of previous undersecretaries:)

            For FS initiated collaborative efforts to be successful the FS leaders involved have to be impeccably evenhanded in the way they relate to those who disagree with them as well as those who agree with them. Agency credibility at the local level takes a long time to earn and it is sooo easy to lose. Agency credibility at any level has to be built up slowly and in the following order: personal credibility (acting in good faith), process credibility, and finally product credibility. If you have a breakdown in the first two, no matter how good your final decision is, it’s not going to generate the public support necessary for agency success in the long run.

            ok, ok, I’ll get off my soapbox for a while and go see how my beehives are faring in this unseasonably warm early spring weather in the Blue Ridge Mtns of Carolina:)

          • How can this be legal?: “process which by the way, PROHIBITS the press or the public from recording plenary sessions.”

            When I used to be on a city council we always talked about “government in the sunshine” laws. Of course, even there too much government was taking place far from “sunshine.” So it goes.

            I guess that that only way it could be legal, would be for ‘collaborators’ to claim that it was not a government-sponsored thing. But if government people were there, on government time, I wonder whether it would be legal. I have fewer reservations about claiming the act ‘immoral.’

            • Dave asks, “How can this be legal?”

              In a practical sense it becomes legal by “consensus,” and policed by TNC staffers, until it gets challenged in court.
              This is one of the many advantages of collaboration: if enough money gets thrown around in enough directions, the field of potential challengers gets winnowed considerably.

              Funders also find one stop shopping convenience with SEACC, as the only regional environmental group on the Tongass, (composed of ACTUAL grassroots groups) but under the restructured SEACC bylaws, their voices are eclipsed, so many just exited.

              I wouldn’t be surprised if the State factored in their legal exposure to the Open Meetings Act and Public Records Act and said, “What the heck, let’s just make a big splash of protest as we leave en masse?”

  3. I wouldn’t argue that specific players in most collaborative efforts don’t have agendas. Of course they do. The challenge is to design a fair and open and inclusive process that complies with other laws. Whatever the intent of a collaborative process, it cannot legally bypass other laws such as NFMA, NEPA or ESA. If it does, it rightly should be challenged. These laws also have requirements for considering science which of course is rarely a simple straightforward affair and which can also be legally challenged.

    It would not be appropriate to categorize the efforts I am familiar with in the South as “intended to bypass science or the law.”

    • Jim, you bring up a memory — a watershed moment for me when I first heard the SEACC ED announce on statewide public radio that “NEPA was not working” and its problems would be fixed by the TFR. Not that I’ve extensively researched this but as far as I know, this is the first time an ED of an environmental organization actually went on record attacking NEPA. (btw, that ED left the organization a couple years later.)

    • Jim Fenwood :

      Whatever the intent of a collaborative process, it cannot legally bypass other laws such as NFMA, NEPA or ESA. If it does, it rightly should be challenged. These laws also have requirements for considering science which of course is rarely a simple straightforward affair and which can also be legally challenged.

      Jim, You pretty much have described the situation with the Colt Summit timber sale on the Lolo National Forest.

  4. Here is a missing hyperlink from Sharon’s post: “George Ochenski is not confused about the effects of collaboration in Montana as he writes, Hang the ‘collaborators’ And heed the clear-sighted “extremists”

    And here’s a snip from Ochenski’s Hang the ‘collaborators’:

    [T]he roots of collaboration in Montana came from a document titled “En Libra” that was published by the industry-funded Western Governors’ Association. “En Libra” set out, as its founding principle, “collaboration, not polarization,” that would “result in improved and expedited environmental decision-making and implementation.”

    It’s worth noting that nowhere in the document does it actually describe enhanced environmental protection as a goal or outcome, just “expedited environmental decision-making and implementation.” What that means in plain language, and in the manner that collaboration now works, is that extractive industries get quicker access to more resources with less hassle from environmentalists because the “consensus” of the “collaborators” is given credence via the blessing of the government.

    There was, however, a secondary strategy, widely-known as “divide and conquer.” The faux credibility of consensus did a great job of marginalizing those who were not appointed to the collaboration groups and who believed that the laws of the land, not a phony agreement from a stacked deck, should be followed when it came to resource-extraction impacts. These outcasts, also known as environmental heroes to many, were dubbed “extreme environmentalists” and beset with slings and arrows from government agencies, the collaborators, the media and the corporate extractive industries with whom they did not seek “consensus.”

    Donnelly quotes David Brower, the first director of the Sierra Club, who said, “Compromise is often necessary, but it ought not to originate with environmental leaders. Our role is to hold fast to what we believe is right, to fight for it, to find allies and to adduce all possible arguments for our cause. If we cannot find enough vigor in us or our friends to win, then let someone else propose the compromise, which we must then work hard to coax our way. We thus become a nucleus around which activists can build and function.”

    Collaboration is an industry-initiated, industry-funded and industry-friendly strategy to neuter the environmental movement. Divide-and-conquer is working as planned. Yet there are those who know we cannot continually cut the environmental pie in half to benefit extractive industries, especially when the pieces have become too small to split.

    Strong words from political analyst George Ochenski, writing for the Missoula Independent. More from Ochenski here.

    • Donnelly quotes David Brower, the first director of the Sierra Club, who said, “Compromise is often necessary, but it ought not to originate with environmental leaders.”

      This just means that the eco’s want to get the most mileage out of any potential compromise, even if it goes beyond what they REALLY want. Some still resist any and all compromises, until it is forced upon them. They “play the game” from both ends.

      In the Pacific Rivers case, did they REALLY want to eliminate the timber industry from Sierra Nevada National Forests?!?! Did they REALLY want to close the mills, impact families, increase fire dangers and probably CAUSE more erosion and impacts? Well, that is what they got, by not offering a compromise.

    • Well said Dave.
      Divide and conquer might be the funders’ strategy– but it’s a gambit — backfiring on both the funders and the collaborationists, as evidenced by the expose’s in the national and statewide media, and locally, with the meltdown of the Tongass Futures Roundtable, and the formation of a new regional group in response.

      As the green collaborationists retreat into their insular, compartmentalized subgroups obsessed with “security” and “intel” on their funder’s free market strategic objectives, etc., their only connections are coordinating with each other on their common funders’ strategies pushing those objectives.

      The professionalized rank and file collaborationists are creating cognitive dissonance. They are slowly realizing they are (not so slowly) losing their core grassroots base and legitimacy.

      This is ironically, a retiling of the rich earth from which principled grassroots activists spring. Instead of the well-funded free market takeover on the Tongass, we are seeing ironically, the re-creation of fresh purposeful energy with savviness, comparing what some groups say with what they do instead.

      So what was strategized as “Divide and conquer,” is turning into ‘divide and concur’ (upon the motives of collaborators.)

    • The interesting thing about “industry funded” is that I have never known “timber” and “oil and gas” and “ski” to actually sit around and plot how to reduce the power of environmental groups. But maybe ski is not “extractive” but is certainly an “industry” or not? George seems to think there is the people who are “protectors of the land” who shouldn’t “compromise” with “extractive industries” and the “media” is against them.

      The Forest Service, not industry, sometimes initiates collaboration and more often given that the last two or three planning rules have encouraged it. Why?
      As my ex-boss used to say, the people with different viewpoints need to talk to each other, not all come to us and expect us to decide. Actually his version is more articulate but you get the point. It’s easy to tell us that the “others” are wild-eyed enviros or evil industry destroyers of all that is good. It’s harder to look someone else in the eye and say it to them. Especially when one or the other is the coach of your kid’s soccer team. The badl to me is not in each other’s point of view, it is in the act of demonizing the “other.” This is so common in op-eds it’s not even worthy of note.

      And if it’s all about “industry” then why do we have successful collaborative efforts on fuel treatments where the trees aren’t sold, and on travel management decisions (say the travel management subcommittee of the FACA committee on the Black Hills).

      • I have never known “timber” and “oil and gas” and “ski” to actually sit around and plot how to reduce the power of environmental groups.

        How would you (or I) know whether or not such plotting occurs? What I do know is that some environmentalists believe that there is way too much power vested in “industry groups” relative to other special interest groups in government policy making, project development, and so on. I am one of them.

        And if it’s all about “industry” then why do we have successful collaborative efforts on fuel treatments where the trees aren’t sold, and on travel management decisions

        It is NOT all about “industry groups,” but when industry groups are present, some environmentalists (maybe all environmentalists) are very wary as to how power is vested in government-encouraged collaboration or any other government-sponsored endeavor. And sometimes, environmentalists, myself included, wonder whether or not some environmental groups or some government agencies have been infiltrated by “industry types.” Of course, those on the other side of this battle believe that government agencies and government-led collaboratives have been infiltrated by “environmentalist types.” So it goes.

        • Of course there are people with a variety of opinions and agendas within the agency. And there are a variety outside the agency. To me, industry has a position. I don’t know what “industry types” are. Perhaps we are all not types but individuals with differing opinions who can learn from each other.

          PS I changed the blog so we could nest up to 10 replies, but it is getting hard to read so perhaps we could take this discussion to the Black Hills post above?

            • One could say very similar things about the preservationist “industry”, which “extracts” money from the eco-”dittoheads”, and pushes for “re-wilding”, at any cost. Is there anyone HERE who gets “paid to advocate for said industry”?

              • (While Sharon may not ” know what “industry types” are, might she know what ‘eco-”dittoheads”‘ are, and finds no problem with Larry Harrell’s routine descent into adolescent slurs and name calling?)

                • Just being a “counterbalance” to the similar WWII connotations of “collaborationists” and “neo-liberals”. I’m just a lot more creative than you, David. The “you’re either with us, or against us” meme gets tiring. And, actually, an adolescent wouldn’t think up the things I do. My own point of view is in the middle, far from being an “industry type”.

              • My point is similar to yours Larry, (although removed by about two to four comments–scroll upwards): There are people on both sides of issues inside collaboratives and inside government, who act as if they were paid to advocate for various positions. But they are not so paid. We all ought to be very careful to understand who is advocating for what, and why–and who they are aligning themselves with.

                And then there are people who are indeed getting paid to do so, albeit sometimes via revolving doors. When a Mark Rey, comes to a Under Secretary of Agriculture position right from an industry lobbyist position, we ought not forget that. So too when those who were former lobbyists for the environmental community find their way into government positions.

                So much political BS, so little ability to sort wheat from chaff.

  5. While I think it’s good to discuss these issues I don’t think it is right that you cut and paste entire stories from other sources. I think proper etiquette is to quote a paragraph and then cite the source rather than take an entire post and put it on your own website thereby bypassing recognition of the original author and their website.

  6. The challenge of any collaborative process is to integrate the ideas, alternatives and recommendations that flow from collaboration into the broader agency public involvement and NEPA/NFMA decision making process. This is a subtle but important component that gets too little attention in the design of collaborative processes. Collaboration is at its best when it is an integral part of a larger, open, transparent process where those interests who “are not at the table” still have meaningful opportunity to provide substantive input and influence final agency decisions based on the merits of their comments.

  7. Maybe someone has an example of when this was done well… it appears to me that the NEPA process has requirements for documents and public comment. Most projects of any degree of controversy have some form of response to comments; where people respond with the reasons they thought this comment was worthy of changing the decision or not.

    Most of the projects we’ve examined here have changed between draft and final on the basis of those comments.

    I’m still not getting it…

  8. Not sure how many of you commentors have been involved, hands on, in a local USFS collaborative effort. I did for over 2 years, and although the group has dissolved for various reasons, it was instructive as to the process.
    Here is a reality check. The USFS never concedes that it wants to “break the law” or subvert regulations, but when you get down to project level decisions there are fine points of various prescriptions that law/regulation don’t clearly speak to. Interpretions must be made as to what NFMA means in these 40 acres.
    The Forest Plan may say broadly that X percent of the forest shall be retained in Old Growth (OG), but it doesn’t give clear direction on various small patches of existing OG in a drainage that needs some “management”. If parts of this OG are in a WUI ,decisions must be made regarding the fire hazard reduction treatments (if any) and how these treatments would impact the OG values. Decisions at the project level or watershed level will cumulate and influence how closely the forest will meet its Forest Plan objectives. Invariably the scientists on the ground, at the ranger district or forest level, will have differing views as to how to scope down the regulations, so how can science alone dictate the final prescriptions?

    That is where this group often found itself…do you put more weight on the biologist’s opinion or the fire specialist’s recommendation? If the consensus group can’t reach consensus, then the district ranger must make a decision. And too often this decision is challenged by an outside group on the basis of their scientists’ viewpoints. Therein lies the issue. And lets face the fact that a large percentage of lawsuits brought by the environmentnal “extremists” have been successful, as ruled by supposedly unbiased judges.

    So, maybe we do need new legislation. But to be meaningful in terms of minimizing the current level of legal hangups, the law and following rules must be more specific, not less detailed or broad, as some critics are crying for. Good luck getting anything that detailed through today’s Congress.

  9. AS long as NEPA and ESA litigation are the great force multiplier for those who wouldn’t get 10% of the vote, who needs collaboration. It’s a great democracy that listens to the 10%, it’s a flawed democracy that allows the 10% to force their will upon the majority.Collaboration serves wonderfully to sharpen the dividing line and drive a wedge between moderate and radical enviros. Otherwise, change will only come when the social license changes-and that will most likely be similar to the Berlin Wall. None of the experts will predict it and it will happen in the twinkling of an eye. The pendulum always swings.

    • Derek,
      So interesting to read what you consider to be the greatest threats our democracy faces.
      Are you serious about the enforcement of environmental laws as an equivalent of the Berlin Wall? And the change that might come by disallowing such measures will be equivalent to the Wall coming down?

      My read is, If this fails, it will be tantamount to the Wall going UP, not down.

      Do you really think citizens holding their government accountable to established laws is against the will of 90% of Americans? Based upon public comments on record in USFS land management plans, the Roadless Rule, and support for other long standing conservation measures, your assertion is decidedly flawed.

      You need to either check your math or provide a source for your claim of “10%” (and of what “vote”?). Until you do, you are only going to be perceived as a misinformed extremist with an axe to grind.

      The pendulum has already swung Derek.

      Bearing witness, is the Occupy Movement representing the 99% protesting the massive maldistribution of wealth over the last decade and the disproportionate influence and corruption of democracy by the wealth of the 1%.

      And who are the One Percenters? The Corporate foundations, and “corporate partners” that are disproportionately funding election campaigns AND collaborationists.

      Speaking of pendulums and percentiles, and “flawed democracy” — in case you haven’t noticed — mass arrests civil liberty violations, arrests and surveillance with no probable cause, etc. etc.have been occurring across our nation because it’s the power and wealth of the top 1% that brings people into the streets, not citizens holding their government accountable to environmental law.

      This is certainly representative of the Berlin Wall being built around us.

      • Yep, every timber faller, logger and mill owner is now roilling in the dough and suddenly inserted into that 1%, eh David? Yep, there’s a lot of money in a 12″ incense cedar! I’d like to see those multi-millionaire celebrity “greenish browns” fork out the money to outright BUY all the precious redwood trees, instead of making shallow slogans and spouting the rhetoric they have been fed. All the while, loving their mansions made of rare and exotic woods. Look at Al Gore’s multiple mansions, with his armies of immigrant “Gardenistas”, to take care of the acreages.

        “No probable cause”?!? The laws keep both conservatives AND liberals from camping in restricted areas. Since they refused to follow the laws, and have caused millions in damages and costs, that does make them criminals, if they refused to follow the laws.

        So many of the quibbles with projects are more about opinions and dueling partisan cherry-picked science, rather than clear violations of solid law. However, some projects DO appear to be testing those laws, and the grey areas appear to need to be “judged”. Branding all commercial logging, no matter how small the merchantable trees are, as illegal and destructive, is ignorant and fraught with a vast array of unintended and undeserved terrible consequences. Some of these rural impacts are closed hospitals, child poverty, deteriorating roads, closed schools, more illegal forest activities, catastrophic firestorms and increased flooding.

        “Walling” off the forests to active management is a tool the opposite “elitist” 1%.

  10. “Yep, every timber faller, logger and mill owner is now roilling in the dough and suddenly inserted into that 1%, eh David? ”

    Larry,
    Try as I may, I cannot make any sense out of what you are saying. But here’s something that may help clear up some serious confusion on your part.

    When you join a poker game and ask yourself, (“hmm. I wonder who the mark is here?”) that means YOU are the mark. The same can be said for a timber faller, who is one of the one per centers’ “fall guys” (pun intended), a mere pawn in the big picture. In fact we are all pawns of the 99th percentile.

    “A fall guy is a person who is used as a scapegoat; someone who ends up taking the blame (or being held responsible) for the actions of another person or group.”(Wikipedia)

    The sooner the faller, (and you) understands this, the better, because he, and you, and me are surely not of the one percentile. They are counting on us pitting our energies against each other.

    Hope this helps.

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