This seems like a strange source for hearing about evolution in forest planning policy, but here is what the Region 6 regional forester is telling the world. It’s not something I remember serious discussion about when the 2012 Rule was developed, nor have I heard of it being done anywhere. Has anyone participated in something like this in forest planning? (I’ve added the bold type.)
Connoughton: Public policy for each national forest is set by law. The national forest plan follows the procedures of the National Environment Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and a few other pieces of legislation. The advantage of collaborating on a GIS platform is that people have data, tools, and maps that give them greater insight, and they can ask design questions. On the platform, you are in a spatial environment that allows you to display the problem, query one another’s ideas, and look at the logical outcome. This type of dialog becomes a mechanism for designing alternatives. Instead of forest service specialists putting together alternatives that are mandatory under the National Environmental Policy Act, they could collaboratively engage in setting public policy and ask design questions.
Boy, what an advance that is. Otherwise, we are drawing public policy from inside the government and the outcome does not capture people’s interest. Why not turn the ability to design public policy over to them. The foundation of policy is spatial. Its design is largely supported by sets of spatial information. This is very liberating to people who otherwise have had to depend on the government to create the forest plan.
Turning forest information over to people in a way they can understand is empowering. The responsibility of government is to be faithful and trusting to the people. The people then use tools for designing alternative solutions and public policies.