More Info Dribbling Out From Lewiston About Objections Rule

objection

AP story here.

My favorite part of this story was…

But critics worry the changes will force them to predict the future. Instead of filing an appeal based on a specific decision, they will have to anticipate a wide range of possible final decisions the agency might make.

“Whether you are a timber industry advocate or a strict preservationist, you are going to need to break out your crystal ball to determine what the Forest Service is going to do before they do it,” said Jonathan Oppenheimer of the Idaho Conservation League.

That has the possibility of spawning more objections and taking more time than the current system, said Gary Macfarlane of the Moscow-based Friends of the Clearwater.

“Right now appeals are done after a decision is made so both parties know what the decision is; objections and concerns can be more pointed, more boiled down,” he said. “It’s going to force people who object to do the kitchen-sink model, to throw as many concerns out there as possible.”

Those who do not participate in the public involvement and objection process won’t have standing to file lawsuits, raising the stakes and incentive for filing a broad range of objections, environmentalists say.

where Mr. Oppenheimer predicts what timber industry advocates think.

However, further down in the article, we actually hear from a real live industry advocate.

For Tom Partin, executive director of the American Forest Resource Council in Portland, Ore., the new process is welcome and long overdue. He believes the new process will compel people who oppose things like timber sales to come forward with their objections rather than holding back and saving rhetorical ammo for court.

“They have to put their dislikes in up front and try to work it out in the resolution process,” he said.

But it’s interesting that “the critics” predict future bad things, but we have actually been using objections since HFRA, so the territory is, in reality, well known or, perhaps, trammeled ;).

It’s interesting that Earthjustice attorney said about the track record (real, past, as opposed to hypothesized future) objections..

“That concept of pre-final decision comes from the Healthy Forest Restoration Act (of 2003), and it works fairly well,” said Earthjustice attorney Kirsten Boyles, whose law firm frequently challenges Forest Service policy. “It requires people be involved earlier in the process, and it seems to have worked fine.”

If the press release is tomorrow and it’s coming out in the Federal Register Wednesday, we might want to review our previous posts and comments on it..

But check out Rob Chaney’s Missoulian piece from January and our discussion and links here. And here (45 comments!) is another extensive discussion we had..plus the tacky diagram above (public opp. is opportunity to give comments) that we can use to parse out some of the discussion, or at least until the news release and background material tomorrow.

3 Comments

  1. Sharon referenced a Missoulian article from January 2012 at the bottom of this post. Below is a comment I made back at that time, which I think still holds true, especially since the AP article from today also includes some mistaken impressions about the appeal process:

    The Missoulian article is just strange, and includes a number of errors, such as the false notion that in the normal appeal process citizens, businesses, non-profits, etc don’t need to participate in the scoping, Draft EA/EIS process, etc in order to file an appeal. The article makes it seem that someone can just come in at the very end and appeal a project when they didn’t comment in scoping, draft, etc. That’s just not true at all.

    Also, the following perspective (which I agree with) about the pending switch to only a pre-decision objections process was made in that 2012 Missoulian article by Arlene Montgomery:

    “I think it’s kind of screwy,” said Arlene Montgomery of Friends of the Wild Swan, an organization that’s frequently tangled with the Forest Service. “The normal process is they scope a project, release an environmental assessment, you comment on that, they make changes. Then they issue a decision and you can appeal the decision. “Now they’re skipping a step. It’s not possible for the public to raise every issue that could possibly come up in an EA before seeing the EA. I think it’s a way to truncate and thwart the public process.”

    P.S. Also, Sharon, can you please link to the AP article. Thanks.

  2. 1) The existing rules already requires prior involvement. One must comment before they can appeal, and they must appeal before they can litigate.

    2) The HFRA regs do not work very well, in part because the regs do not require the identification of a proposed decision. So the objection is directed as an unknown.

    3) This problem may be fixed in the new objection rules. I think the draft rules required the FS to identify a proposed decision to provide a focal point for objections. Hopefully, the final rules will fix that for both HFRA and all other projects covered by the new regs.

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