Odd bedfellows try collaborating to resolve conflicts- from E&E News

Thanks to a friend from Montana for this one from E&E News. Here’s a link to the principles agreed to by the Montana Forest Restoration Committee. This photo is from the Monitoring tab on the MFRC website.

This quote below is interesting:

“The groups said the project — the first CFLRP-funded project to come under legal fire — is in violation of the Endangered Species Act. The four challengers — the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Wild Swan, the Montana Ecosystem Defense Council and the Native Ecosystems Council — say the proposal does not consider the potential effects on lynx and other threatened and endangered species.”

IMHO, there’s a difference between “not considering” and “not coming to the same conclusions we did after consideration.” Perhaps they were misquoted. Check out this post for the details of the latest legal exchange, or check out the EA and the letters from FWS, and you be the judge of whether those were “considered”. You can also use the search box on the sidebar to the right and type in “Colt Summit” and find many posts on the subject.

In addition, for some time I’ve been puzzling over understanding the “collaboration backlash.” To me, we must go deeper than the statements about going “against the law.” I have worked with and talked to collaborative groups and they all seem very law-abiding folks, upright citizens volunteering for the good of the land and the community.

So I found this quote from Horning perhaps yielding a clue to a deeper understanding.

Frankly, I feel progressives are frightened of conflict, and therefore we’re suckers for consensus and collaboration as a process, and we’re sometimes willing to completely abandon any measurable outcomes, because it’s consensus. Sometimes you end up appealing to the lowest common denominator.

Of course, I wondered what a “progressive” is in this day and age (having read my history of the Progessive era). I looked at this website and found this quote from John Podesta:

Under a progressive vision of the common good, government must pursue policies that benefit everyone equally. It must ensure that opportunities are abundant and that even those who have been left out and left behind can get the help they need to succeed. Common good progressivism does not meant that everybody will be the same, think the same, or get the same material benefits. Rather, it simply means that people should start from a level playing field and have a reasonable chance to improve their stations in life.

Internationally, common good progressivism focuses on new and revitalized global leadership through the just use of force; multi-lateral engagement; and the creation of new institutions and networks to deal with difficult problems. As in past battles against fascism and totalitarianism, common-good progressives today seek to fight global extremism by using a comprehensive national-security strategy that employs all our strengths for strategic and moral advantage.

To pursue the common good, though, we as Americans owe something to our country in return. People must assume responsibility for their actions, treat others with respect and decency, and serve their families and communities.

Seems like progressives tend to “fight extremism” and treat others with respect and decency, create new institutions to deal with difficult problems.. they sound like…likely volunteers for collaborative groups. Maybe progessives, by definition, can’t be ideologues? What do you think?

FOREST SERVICE:
Odd bedfellows try collaborating to resolve conflicts

April Reese, E&E reporter

Amid a tangle of lawsuits over controversial logging projects 10 years ago, federal officials in western Montana tried a new approach to forest management that involved gathering input from a range of interests.

First came the Blackfoot Challenge, a group of local residents, timber interests, conservationists and others that came together to address issues in the Blackfoot National Forest. Then, buoyed by the success of that effort, the Forest Service and its collaborators expanded the initiative in 2007 to include districts in the Lolo and Helena national forests.

The resulting Montana Forest Restoration Committee brought together representatives of the forest-products industry, conservation groups, recreation interests and private property owners who were determined to blaze a trail around gridlock that had blocked efforts to thin forests, reduce wildfire risks, stanch a beetle epidemic and restore habitat.

“We were involved in a lot of lawsuits,” recalls Lolo National Forest Superintendent Debbie Austin. “So we made a concerted effort to understand where people’s concerns were, and find places where we could agree and move forward together. We had a lot of meetings with the people who were opposed to what we were doing — mostly conservation groups.”

The project signifies a recent shift within federal natural resource agencies toward collaborative decisionmaking to resolve thorny issues on public lands. The more buy-in there is from those interested in natural resource management, from environmental groups to foresters to recreationists, the easier those projects are to get done, collaboration advocates say.

“A lot of agencies are looking at collaboration, I think because there are so many of the issues out there — water, forest management, climate change, you name it — and collaboration is a good way to do decisionmaking,” said Kimberly Skyelander, associate director of the Center for Collaborative Conservation at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo. “It’s not so much top-down driven, but bottom-up.”

The Obama administration aims to direct more money at the approach. In a March 2 letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Coalition thanked the administration for proposing to fully fund the agency’s collaborative forest restoration program in its fiscal 2013 budget request at $40 million. The group called collaboration a “win-win solution that provides jobs, restores forests, protects water supplies, and engages people in management of the public lands.”

But collaborative efforts still can hit snags. Four environmental groups last fall challenged in federal court a project on the Lolo National Forest developed through a Forest Service collaborative program, claiming the proposal would log critical habitat for lynx and bull trout as well as prime grizzly habitat, violating multiple federal laws.

And some critics say collaborative efforts run the risk of undermining key environmental laws and can be a recipe for inaction.

Last month, however, a broad alliance of environmental and timber groups defended the Forest Service’s plan for the Lolo, arguing the project must stand up in court in order to prove that the collaborative management process can work (E&ENews PM, Feb. 28).
The Mont. example

After its initial success, the Montana Forest Restoration Committee came up with a set of principles that are used to determine which projects the group will support.

The committee has helped dozens of restoration projects move forward without facing administrative or legal challenges, allowing thousands of acres to be restored.

A couple of years ago, after the Forest Service announced its Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, the Montana group submitted a proposal to create the Southwest Crown of the Continent Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. The Forest Service selected it as one of a handful of pilot CFLRP to receive funding in 2010. The Southwest Crown collaborative aims to restore 1.5 million acres of national forestland in the Blackfoot, Clearwater and Swan River valleys.

In 2011, contractors hired by the Forest Service restored 11,000 acres of wildlife habitat, 14 miles of streams and decommissioned 10 miles of old roads, according to agency.

“I think [the Montana Forest Restoration Committee and the Southwest Crown of the Continent CFLRP] have been very effective,” Austin said. “The reason is because we agreed up front on what we agreed with. For example, we set restoration principles we could work from, and we know each other, so we really have the social license to move forward with certain kinds of activities. As we go along, we’re building trust with each other, and that’s key.”

Gordy Sanders, resource manager for Pyramid Lumber and co-chairman of the Montana Forest Restoration Committee, struck a similar note.

“Collaborative efforts are definitely successful,” Sanders said. “For a long, long time I’ve said, ‘We can’t do this by ourselves.’ We need to establish relationships and develop long-term relationships with other folks who are interested in working together. In a collaborative approach, you can get more done. So we’re providing multiple benefits for a wide variety of interests, so all the different folks in the collaborative can see good work done on the ground.”

And while some in the industry have been slow to warm to the idea, that skepticism is waning, he added. “There’s growing support amongst the industry for this approach,” he said. “I think there’s a solid basis for collaborative efforts, and it’s building over time.”
Wider efforts

The Montana group is a prime example of a larger trend that’s been growing over the past few decades.

Collaborative groups began forming in kitchens and conference rooms in the 1990s, taking on controversial issues ranging from endangered species conservation to logging to watershed protection. The concept has gained favor over the years, drawing support from both Republicans and Democrats.

Under George W. Bush’s administration, then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton made collaborative conservation a central tenet of her reign, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack have been strong advocates of collaboration under the Obama administration.

The Forest Service has also partnered with other entities to achieve management goals, such as the “Forests to Faucets” collaboration between the agency and Denver Water to restore national forestland scorched by the 2002 Hayman fire. The fire stripped much of the land of vegetation and sent 1 million cubic yards of sentiment into the main reservoir that provides drinking water for the city, clogging water treatment systems and affecting water quality. Denver Water had to spend $10 million to scour the reservoir and repair infrastructure.

“We enter into different types of agreements in order to be able to prioritize projects, to ensure that the source of the water is taken care of, and make sure we’re doing what we can on the land to improve water quality and water quantity,” said Janelle Smith, a spokeswoman for the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain region.

Participants often find a collaborative, local approach preferable to a solution imposed from the outside.

And while the collaborative process may take longer than the usual National Environmental Policy Act review process, the benefits of having all interests on the same page and avoiding expensive and even more time-consuming lawsuits is well worth that prolonged effort, Austin said.
Lawsuit over Mont. project

But the collaborative approach has its critics — and occasionally the projects it helps shape do end up embattled, despite the concerted effort to keep such projects out of the courtroom.

Four environmental groups filed suit against the Forest Service over the 4,330-acre Colt Summit restoration project, which was designed with input from the Montana Restoration Committee and funded in part by the Southwest Crown CFLRP. It was intended to thin overly dense forest stands and decommission roads to benefit bull trout, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The groups said the project — the first CFLRP-funded project to come under legal fire — is in violation of the Endangered Species Act. The four challengers — the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Wild Swan, the Montana Ecosystem Defense Council and the Native Ecosystems Council — say the proposal does not consider the potential effects on lynx and other threatened and endangered species.

Austin said she could not comment on an ongoing lawsuit but added that generally speaking, collaboration is not intended to replace the legal avenues for challenging projects.

“It’s difficult to have absolutely everyone agree with absolutely everything,” Austin said. “The collaborative groups are trying to help people be involved and allow them to be involved. But all those options — administrative challenge and litigation — are still available to people. In general, I just would hope people do come to the table.”

The conservation groups fighting the project were invited to join the Southwest Crown of the Continent CFLRP early in the process, Austin said.

Michael Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, one of the groups challenging the Colt Summit project, said he was asked to join the group but not until the environmental assessment for the project was already done.

And it is important to hold the federal government accountable when it violates the law, as the alliance says the Forest Service did in crafting the Colt Summit project, he said.

“Federal agencies still must comply with the law, regardless of how a management decision was made,” Garrity said.
Broader objections

With a few rare exceptions, collaboration is “a way to undermine good environmental laws, including NEPA,” Garrity said. “The goal is to try to get some resource out rather than improve the environment.”

John Horning, executive director of the Santa Fe, N.M.-based group Wild Earth Guardians, which also has seen considerable success using litigation to advance its conservation goals, is more equivocal.

“I’m of mixed minds on it,” Horning said. “Consensus and collaboration have been the term du jour for over a decade now. Frankly, I feel progressives are frightened of conflict, and therefore we’re suckers for consensus and collaboration as a process, and we’re sometimes willing to completely abandon any measurable outcomes, because it’s consensus. Sometimes you end up appealing to the lowest common denominator. It could be a hardening of the status quo, at worst.”

Wild Earth Guardians does support some of the Forest Service’s CFLRPs: “We’re comfortable with experimentation within some bounds,” he said. But it takes issue with the Four Forests Restoration Initiative, intended to unify and expand restoration efforts across a large swath of northern and eastern Arizona, because it focuses too heavily on logging, Horning added.

But he reserves his harshest criticism for the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program in New Mexico, designed to assuage conflicts over how to balance water supplies and habitat for the endangered silvery minnow and the Southwestern willow flycatcher.

“You have people who have widely conflicting views … it’s a recipe for getting absolutely nothing done,” Horning said.

“Unless there’s a commitment to a new vision or that the current framework is really really dysfunctional and not serving any interest, then collaboration models don’t really work,” Horning added. “If the status quo is serving some interest, they’ll participate as a means of preventing further change.”

Skyelander of Colorado State University said that generally speaking, there are two main problems that can undermine a collaborative effort: trying to impose a particular point of view on the group and turnover within the group over time.

“If they can come to the table without an agenda, of course that’s ideal,” she said. “The best collaboration is when people come with an open mind. They want their voices heard, of course, but they’re also open to hearing other people’s opinions.”

21 Comments

  1. Sharon says,

    I’ve been puzzling over understanding the “collaboration backlash.” To me, we must go deeper than the statements about going “against the law.” I have worked with and talked to collaborative groups and they all seem very law-abiding folks, upright citizens volunteering for the good of the land and the community.

    The other day, in a radically different context, a friend noted that process and outcomes must be considered jointly, the first as ‘means’, the second as ‘ends’.

    Judicial deliberation is almost always about “means”. If ‘due process’ is not followed, then typically a federal action is declared illegal if challenged in court. It matters not whether people “seem very law-abiding …, upright citizens volunteering for the good of the land and the community.” What matters is whether the government has set up a viable and just process, and that said ‘process’ is followed.

    I mean not to denigrate ‘outcomes’ or ‘ends’, but rather to once again point out that we need to be careful how we frame arguments when dealing with matters of law and policy, since governmental process must be followed along a trail that lead toward outcomes and actions. Typically, these days, when it comes to presidential politics, the phrase most on target is: “It’s the economy, stupid.” When it comes to the law, however: “It’s the process, stupid.” At least that’s the way I see it.

  2. But what I don’t get is that the process is the responsibility of the agency, not the collaborators. The FS needs to follow “the law”. So if the agency does not follow the process accurately, why would that in any way shape or form, be the fault of the collaborators.

    Garrity says above:

    With a few rare exceptions, collaboration is “a way to undermine good environmental laws, including NEPA,” Garrity said. “The goal is to try to get some resource out rather than improve the environment.”

    So either 1) collaborators are trying to undermine environmental laws.
    2) the FS is trying to undermine environmental laws and use the collaborators toward that end. and,
    not to make too fine a point of it but “producing natural resources” from federal land is also a legitimate law of the land. Passed by the very same Congress that passed the environmental laws.

    Garrity’s statement is about the intent of collaborators and the FS. I’m just saying that that’s the last thing on the minds of the FS and the collaborators I know- “let’s break some environmental laws and see if someone notices.” Please….

    Now about assuming the intent of others, there is a vast literature on this subject.
    ntent
    “Misunderstandings often arise when we judge others’ intent by their behavior, while judging our behavior by our intent.”
    ~ Bill Crawford
    http://www.billcphd.com/quotes.php?quote_id=117

    But you can just Google “assume intent by others” and find that it’s usually not a helpful thing to do.

    I also see ends and means, as you do, Dave, and I think that treating people we disagree with respectfully is part of the means.

  3. Speaking of ends and means, some people want “re-wilding”, and that end seems to justify any means, including letting forests burn at high intensity. It is almost funny when the majority party complains about “dirty tricks”, only to use those same techniques when they become the minority. And vice versa. When one side cannot get the 60 vote majority needed to pass a bill, they simply make it into an amendment, and attach it to a bill already passed. Or, hiding important issues within 100 page bills, which few read all the way through, is a common tactic, these days. Not many lawmakers read the bills they vote for.

    Is this the kind of “non-collaboration” we want?!?

  4. [P]rocess is the responsibility of the agency, not the collaborators. The FS needs to follow “the law”. So if the agency does not follow the process accurately, why would that … be the fault of the collaborators.

    It would not be the fault of the collaborators. Collaborators would find themselves to be collateral damage, due to failure of the Forest Service to follow the law, policy, regulation, etc.

    So either 1) collaborators are trying to undermine environmental laws.
    2) the FS is trying to undermine environmental laws and use the collaborators toward that end. and,

    No. There is a third possibility. The Forest Service simply failed to follow the law, most likely because it was more intent on “outcomes” than “process.”

    “producing natural resources” from federal land is also a legitimate law of the land. Passed by the very same Congress that passed the environmental laws.

    But this mandate, to the extent it is one at all, is bracketed by environmental law that limits said production.

    “Misunderstandings often arise when we judge others’ intent by their behavior, while judging our behavior by our intent.”

    I agree completely.

  5. “Failing to “follow the law” may not be a “simple” thing. Laws are subject to interpretation. It’s often impossible to know for sure if a law such as NFMA is being “broken” until a judge rules on a particular instance. Then, of course, a different judge might have a differing opinion.

    A judge’s call is fairly straightforward when it’s a simple yes or no process question of say “Did the Forest Service consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service regarding effects on federally listed species?” It’s much less so when the question is “Did the FWS properly assess those effects?” (My science vs. your science.)

    • It’s often impossible to know for sure if a law such as NFMA is being “broken” until a judge rules on a particular instance.

      Yes, the law is a complicated matter. That is why the USDA has assigned Office of the General Counsel (OGC) attorneys to advise the Forest Service. But I have it on good authority that the Forest Service often doesn’t want to hear what the OGC attorneys have to say. This is odd. The Forest Service’s track record in court is pretty much abysmal. Maybe OGC advice is not much better. But I doubt that.

      Here is a question: Where are the Forest Service and/or OGC’s blogs/wikis to help folks better understand both the substance and the nuance of the law as reflected in the courts? I’ve been after the FS for years to begin to use blogs/wikis. Where are they? And in particular, where are they w/r/t judicial decisions/interpretations?

      • I have seen OGC fail to give good clear advice and and I have seen OGC be extremely didactic. I have seen the Forest Service afraid to use any discretion and also also fail to make good use of OGC’s expertise. Here are some vaguely remembered examples (don’t ask me for names or dates)–

        Sh*t OGC Says:
        “I can defend you either way, which way do you want to go?”
        “If you don’t do “X” you are breaking the law.”

        Sh*t The Forest Service Says:
        “We better do exactly what OGC says.”
        “Let’s wait and see if we get sued, then the judge can tell us what the law is.”

        And there was a conversation that I think went something like this–

        OGC: “Don’t put such a strict requirement for monitoring in the planning rule.”
        Cheif Jack Ward Thomas: “Why not?”
        OGC:”Because then you will have to do it.”
        JWT: “But we should have to do it!”
        OGC: “My job is to advise you not to obligate the agency to do anymore than what the law strictly requires.”
        JWT: “!@##$$%^^”

        I really don’t think it’s odd that that OGC’s advice is not always followed. (Although in my experience, it usually was.) OGC is not the decision-maker, just one of many advisers that help responsible parties make decisions.

        • You are right Jim, OGC has not been without fault in the whole sorry mess of the USFS and its continued joust with the courts, particularly but not exclusively in the Ninth Circuit. I understand (via rumor mill) that OGC field attorneys fault their WO counterparts for capitulating to FS power way too often, and failing to do an adequate job as counselors instead of cheerleaders. I wonder what the WO OGC says about their field attorneys?

          Be that as it may, “WHERE ARE THE BLOGS/WIKIS that could help all (USFS people and the general public) better understand the law?

    • To build off of various comments in this thread, “failing to follow the law” is not necessarily a simple determination, as Jim Fenwood is saying in #5, but the reverse is true too. Following the law often means making appropriate, legally legitimate use of available discretion, which is another way of saying “following the law” is not necessarily simple.

      What I’m getting at is the idea that laws generally don’t say, “go do this exactly.” Instead, they often lay out procedural requirements–60 day notice, publications in the paper of record, consultation with various other agencies–that type of thing. Some laws also set up outcomes of some form or another, like the Wilderness Act establishing certain prohibitions (think of it as an outcome–no motorized recreation).

      Sharon and Dave Iverson seem to be talking about the FS responsibility for the process and the role of collaborative participants in exercising that responsibility, at least I hope I’ve characterized that decently for the purposes of discussion. One way to think about it might be that the FS is accountable for any procedural violations and also, simultaneously accountable for making good use of available discretion. The accountability for making good use of discretion seems to most often play out in the court of public opinion, instead of actual courtrooms. Those who participate in a collaborative effort can help inform FS decisions about making use of that discretion, but its still the FS that is held responsible.

      And, as I write this, I’m struck by the contrast with Garrity’s premise that collaborative efforts are efforts to undermine laws. Like Sharon says, I’ve never seen that and I’ve seen quite a number of collaborative efforts. Perhaps there are exceptions, but I would ask how we might avoid those situations. My own answer has always been to err on the side of daylight and transparency. Are there other answers anyone might suggest?

      • I’m struck by … Garrity’s premise that collaborative efforts are efforts to undermine laws. … I’ve never seen that…. I would ask how we might avoid those situations. My own answer has always been to err on the side of daylight and transparency.

        Daylight and transparency? Certainly.

        If ever we were to see a FS case-law wiki to shed daylight on matters legal, I’d love to see the workup around Judge Winmill’s 2009 District Court ‘FACA decision’ blasting the FS for creating illegal FACA committees in Idaho (pdf).

        I only mention this case, because I get the impression that these Idaho court-declared FACA committees are not the only ones that would be declared illegal should court challenges be brought.

        • Dave- I’m not sure we could ever have a case law wiki because the records are not public information. To debate whether plaintiffs or defendants are correct, we would need to see the record.

          As to FACA committees, I wrote about my experience previously on this blog here.

          In my experience, it was unnecessarily bureaucratic for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the approval process for members. I think the process could be streamlined without losing the basic FACA principles….

          • What I’m talking about is a wiki that deals with public court decisions as they relate to extant policy, regulation, etc. When a decision is reached that has broad implications (as opposed to a decision narrowly framed), then that would provide material for conjecture, argument, discussion as to how it might effect policy or regulation. All of it is ‘out there’ right now, just like the FACA decision I highlighted in my previous comment.

            I began to read and study court decisions many years ago. I never figured out why colleagues in the Forest Service would never read them. So much focus on Manuals and Handbooks, and so little focus on regulation, on law, and on court decisions that bring law and regulation to life.

            • My experience is that people in the FS read court cases all the time, especially when we have to decide whether to appeal them (although that’s not our final decision).

              But some of it seems too puzzling to spend much time on… like how can programmatic EIS’s that are not specific be OK for the 10th Circuit as in 2001 Roadless, but be not OK for the Sierra Nevada Pacific Rivers case?

              I don’t agree that court cases “bring law and regulation to life”. I think that they are a natural part of the separation of powers, as are legislation and executive agency action. They are simply one part of the whole; and, in my opinion, on the whole less participatory and transparent than the other two.

              • Wow! Either things have changed wildly in the Forest Service since I left, or you and I travel in wildly different circles. Like I said, I don’t recall that anyone ever read court cases.

                But some of it seems too puzzling to spend much time on

                That is why a wiki on “case law” relative to policy and regulation might be helpful. (I leave out FS Manual and Handbook because I would like them thrown in the Potomac)

                Yes, “court cases”, as a part of the judicial branch of government is “one part of the [three-part ]whole”, but one that has been sorely neglected by the Forest Service in my experience. Of course you and I disagree on that.

          • In my experience, [the FACA Committee] was unnecessarily bureaucratic for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the approval process for members.

            If you read the court decision I highlighted above, and again here (pdf), you’ll find reasons for the the courts to require “advisory committees” to comply with FACA even though they are not formally chartered as FACA committees. The process is bureaucratic by design—to preclude the kind of undue influence that brought the FACA law into being in the first place.

  6. Well, my experience is that a lot of the slowness has to do with the clearance process (perhaps unique to USDA?) across agencies that have little or no involvement with the FACA committee, and political vetting of the nominees. Hopefully that process has been streamlined.
    It looked to me from a brief read of the decision, that if the Govs had specifically designated the state officials as representing them, and if the group had left out the Canadians, it would have then not been subject to FACA?

    • As per FACA in the Payette NF case, Sharon asks:

      if the Govs had specifically designated the state officials as representing them, and if the group had left out the Canadians, it would have then not been subject to FACA?

      My reading suggests that the FACA failings were broader, that indeed the committee violated both aspects of UMRA:

      Uniform Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (“UMRA”), … states: The Federal Advisory Committee Act . . . shall not apply to actions in support of intergovernmental communications where –

      (1) meetings are held exclusively between Federal officials and elected officers of State, local, and tribal governments (or their designated employees with authority to act on their behalf) acting in their official capacities; and

      (2) such meetings are solely for the purposes of exchanging views, information, or advice relating to the management or implementation of Federal programs established pursuant to public law that explicitly or inherently share intergovernmental responsibilities or administration.

      In this case, the advisory committee’s role was determined by the court as follows:

      The RADT Committee was convened and managed by the Forest Service “to provide decision makers with information about the likelihood of disease transmission from domestic sheep to bighorn sheep for specific sheep allotments on the Payette [National Forest].” …

      Likewise, the Payette Principles Committee was convened and managed by the Forest Service to “clarify the science-based information regarding disease transmission and its risk of occurring on the Payette National Forest that the Forest Supervisor should consider in conjunction with the RADT analysis.” … Page 19 of 24

      This purpose seem to me to be far afield from UMRA (2) above.

  7. Dave, I think the advisory committee case is worthy of its own post, exploring what the FS and plaintiff arguments were. Just diving into it a little, I think it is very important to understand what it says and whether it makes sense to all of us. And also think about ways the FS could have proceeded without getting into this. Would you be willing to do that? Otherwise I could when I have more time.

    • Great suggestion and discussion. As I look at the FS’s FACA “Easy Button”, it looks like at least one aspect of the “Woolgrowers” decision is reflected: a FACA violation at the front-end isn’t necessarily excused by public vetting on the back-end.
      LINK: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5203270.pdf

      In #15 above, Dave Iverson says, “If you read the court decision I highlighted above, and again here (pdf), you’ll find reasons for the the courts to require “advisory committees” to comply with FACA even though they are not formally chartered as FACA committees.” That’s exactly right, and a key point to understand: FACA compliance is about understanding the requirements of an established FACA group AND understanding the ways in which a non-chartered, non-FACA group might violate the requirements of FACA.

      Dave, might be a good topic for your pending entry. Also, as you already may be thinking, there’s some good fodder for your post already available on various threads throughout this blog.

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