USFS National Advisory Committee meeting in Missoula

“Committee in Missoula helps Forest Service make plans for public lands,” The Missoulian today.

To explain how to get inside the U.S. Forest Service’s planning process, the agency has turned to a roomful of outsiders.

“This is participatory democracy at its finest,” said Ray Vaughan, a co-chairman of the Forest Service’s National Advisory Committee meeting in Missoula this week. “In the old style, the Forest Service figured out what it wanted to do and then asked everybody to comment. If you didn’t know about the comment period, you missed out. Now it’s more of an ongoing, organic, adaptive-management kind of process.”

Full text is here.

List of committee members is here.

The committee is writing a “citizen’s guide” that explains the National Forest planning process.

18 Comments

  1. Hm. There is little representation for recreation – but for one urban youth group and one for disabled recreationists. Need to read up on this committee – perhaps recreation is represented elsewhere…? But at first glance, it seems if they’re planning the future of the USFS and writing a citizen’s guide, their first mistake – surely there will be others 🙂 – is ignoring a really big user group.

    Am I incorrect that recreation is not represented here? Back Country Horsemen, American Hiking Society…?

    • These reps are certainly recreation oriented:

      Mike Anderson, National, Regional, or Local Environmental Organization Representative, The Wilderness Society, Seattle, Washington

      Daniel Dessecker, Commercial or Recreational Hunting and Fishing Interests Representative, Ruffed Grouse Society, Rice Lake, Wisconsin (BIO)

      Russell Ehnes, Developed Outdoor or Commercial Recreation Interest Representative, National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council, Great Falls, Montana

      True, the Wilderness Society focuses of preservation, but does represent a form of recreation.

  2. The Wilderness Society can represent the hiking community, but it’s not clear that they do in this capacity – or if Wilderness Society represents wilderness character and other issues re: planning. Hunting, fishing, developed recreation, Off-Hiway – sure. But what about hiking, backpacking, and equestrians and bicycling (non-commercial users)? These are really big user categories.

    I’ll check with Wilderness Society in Seattle. Perhaps they represent on behalf of other user-groups. Odd I haven’t heard about it though – I work for a not for profit organization that represents one of the largest voices for hikers in Washington state (but I must clarify that I do not represent them on this forum – this is just me for fun)

    • I supplied almost half of the nationwide comments for the Draft Planning Rule but, they didn’t address much of my comment’s substance, especially regarding the implementation and application of it in our Forests. In reality, I doubt that very few important decisions will be made until after the next Presidential election. Of course, you can also forget about any Congressional action before November, as well. I think our only hope is to have a modern record fire year, with over 10,000,000 acres burned. Add to that some more floods, more bark beetles, more homes burned and more old growth gone, and maybe the public will have had enough of these “natural and beneficial” destructive firestorms.

      • This is confusing to me. On one website, the FS says that “This new rule was developed using an open collaborative process, and was refined by nearly 300,000 public comments that were received in response to the proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement.” (http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/planningrule/collaboration) But then, on another page they list supposedly all the 2,151 comments “received on the proposed rule and DEIA”: http://contentanalysisgroup.com/fsr/ It seems like 2,151 is a lot fewer than 300,000, is this Forest Service math or am I missing something? Larry, are either of these the comments that you supplied almost half of? You must have been really busy, or else maybe I’m looking at the wrong data?

        • My comments were just on the draft proposal, and I was hoping that I would be able to educate those of the general public about what was really going on. Many of my comments were responses to other posts. Yes, some of the posts were also about how the current Forest Service couldn’t implement what was being proposed. Of course, that really isn’t applicable to the new Rule but, I was merely adding a layer of reality to some people’s “pie in the sky” slants, claiming it would “fix” everything. I was also supporting some of the new Rule, relishing the fact that the serial litigators were wringing their hands over some of the issues. I think that this kind of public participation would work better if the government would actually respond to some of those comments. It felt like they knew what they wanted and were going through the motions, on their way to their preferred outcomes.

          If I remember correctly, I supplied over 500 comments to the Draft proposal.

          • got it, thanks. It does seem like this is a recurring problem: “I think that this kind of public participation would work better if the government would actually respond to some of those comments. It felt like they knew what they wanted and were going through the motions, on their way to their preferred outcomes.” On the other hand, I can understand FS frustration with a process like the National Advisory Committee, where being inclusive also means involving people in decision-making when they may not have much technical knowledge at all, I can just imagine being a FS fisheries biologist or hydrologist having to explain “more general things like how water determines a forest’s ecology and capabilities” (quote from the newspaper article) and wondering how much of that information is even being understood by many members of the advisory group.

        • The Forest Service often makes a distinction between the the number of commenters and the number of unique comments. The former includes form letters. The latter is what would likely show up after the agency performs its ‘content analysis’ – which is what the ‘content analysis group’ does. Sometimes there is a big difference in these numbers. I don’t know if that is the explanation in this case.

          • My comments weren’t the “Official Comments”. Since it was about the Draft Rule, it was informal. I wonder if those comments even exist, anymore. Maybe backed up on a server, somewhere.

            The Forest Service likes to trumpet the raw total of comments, including form letters and “flooding” from activists. Indeed, original comments carry more weight and those form letters should only count as one comment. Additionally, there are always comments that show the ignorance of the poster (ie “Stop clearcutting the Roadless Areas!”).

            I also think that “Official” comments should require some sort of authentication, with nicknames being banned. If you’re going to comment, you should put your own name on it! (That being said, I used my old screen name of “fotoware” for all my un-Official comments.)

  3. 1. I was hoping someone there or listening in on it could give his/her own impressions.

    2. If we’d done what Andy said years ago, and developed a KISS rule, we could probably use a one pager for a “People’s Guide.” Oh, well.

  4. I was struck by the public at large not having any representatives for the west. We have a marketing specialist for a real estate company, and an environmental lawyer (Vaughn), he’s running the show. Dispersed recreation represented by “human powered” when most actual users think of dispersed as in camping and fishing and just driving around and hunting and other stuff.
    The FACA design itself is completely skewed with all the “conservation org” seats, and then the categories for others are filled with yet more environmentalist conservation professionals? I’m impressed.

  5. Sorry, Trav, but having two Deep South representatives for the public seats when it comes to planning for a primarily Western agency is not what I would expect.
    And motorheading is not exactly developed recreation as in campgrounds.
    So, what org do you represent? I’m chairman and chief armorer of Stumps Unlimited. Member of both Montanans for Multiple Use, BlueRibbon, and Citizens for Balanced Use.

  6. I didn’t notice the Outdoor Alliance representative when I first posted my frustration about hiking and backpacking not being represented; so there’s that.

    It’s good to have a wide range of people, though I do wish there was more solid Pacific Northwest recreation representation (Susan Jane Brown from Oregon is not a representative for recreation).

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