Collaborating with the enemy

This story reminded me of that use of this term:

The County Commission passed a resolution officially requesting the forest service immediately cease actions it has been taking since 2013 pertaining to grazing on Dixie National Forest.

The forest service actions protested include the gathering of data, conducting studies and preparing reports without the county’s involvement. The resolution further protests a cooperative relationship the forest service has engaged in with Grand Canyon Trust Inc., which the commission and the Utah Association of Counties maintain constitutes an improper relationship with nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs.

In its resolution, the County Commission “respectfully requests” the forest service discard any data, studies and reports prepared without notice and involvement of the county since 2013 and that the service coordinate with Washington County in any future action from the outset.

An undated letter from Mark Ward, senior policy analyst and general counsel for the Utah Association of Counties, (responding to an Aug. 18, 2014, forest action), supports and is made a part of Washington County’s resolution. In his closing, Ward wrote to the supervisors of Dixie National, Fishlake and Manti-LeSal forests, all affected by the Aug. 18 action:  ‘Forest Service should scrap the FS Initial Review, start over and next time, integrate NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) into the process. After all, it is the stated policy of Forest Service to ‘fully integrate NEPA requirements into agency planning and decision-making,’ … and ‘apply (NEPA procedures) to the fullest extent practicable to analyses and documentation of Forest Service actions …’

NEPA doesn’t apply until you have an ‘action’ to propose, and the NEPA process is supposed to encourage review of the data used in evaluating the action (regardless of its source).  The cash-starved government is always looking for help in collecting data.  Is there a problem with this approach?

 

9 Comments

  1. Oh, I get it. The commissioners don’t trust the “trust” and maybe with good reason.
    Looking at their website it doesn’t seem they especially like cattle grazing, and once again like most “trusts” are promoting more wilderness.

  2. Hi All,

    When you’re starving, you don’t turn away food that is offered…As long as the food is of good quality (which is will need to be to pass “inspection” down the line), I would think the FS would be foolish to pass up a good meal no matter where it comes from. Nothing keeps the counties from doing the same and I doubt the FS would turn down a “free” meal from them either. Why spend your time and money arguing for starvation just because you don’t like where the food comes from, when you can instead help feed those in need?

    As an aside, GCT owns an actively managed ranch in southern Utah and are working toward modeling sustainable ranching practices. I know they advocate for wilderness, but their perspective extends well beyond wilderness alone…my two cents.

    Mike

  3. “Washington County is entitled by law to be involved in any forest service planning or proposed changes to current land management practices beginning at their earliest stages.”

    That’s a stretch. Though it would have been smart and diplomatic to get the county involved at the start, in some role. Still, throwing away data, studies, reports obtained without the county’s blessing… pretty childish.

  4. I would have to ask, what help could/would the counties provide in gathering data, stats, or writing reports? None I suspect. Of course, what they want to do is clear…they would love to prevent the accumulation and day-lighting of data that shows the true condition of the rangelands, ie the result of decades of improper cattle/sheep grazing on public lands.
    Data collection and the reports that show the results of the data and range conditions are meant to be honest, scientifically accurate facts. Not political skewed by the ranchers or range managers or county commissioners. Clearly all this is nothing but a ploy to slow down the review process so the ranchers with their sinfully cheap grazing permits can continue with “business as usual”.

  5. Gentlemen – this conflict is not about data or how it’s gathered, but relationships with county governments. After spending 4 years of my planning career on the Dixie NF (2000-2004), I came to appreciate that keeping the FS planning processes (whether they be NEPA- or NFMA-related) transparent to the counties was in our best interest. The recently passed county resolution in Washington County is exactly what we were trying to avoid. By 2003-2004, we actually were moving forward to a more cooperative relationship, which in the end would have allowed district rangers to make the necessary land management decisions to protect the resource while also accounting for the social considerations of livestock producers and county officials. In what I read in the article, the agency missed an opportunity to avoid this conflict – the data gathering exercise should be inclusive of all those interested in the topic.

    Finally, Jon is right…NEPA is also not the issue here and claims of “cooperating agency” status are code words for “include us in your activities”. NEPA is not going to solve that request.

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