We’re Throwing a Party! And You’re Not Invited.

We're Throwing a Party!

The Forest Service is throwing an invitation-only party for “key stakeholders.” How do you know if you’re a “key stakeholder?” Well, have you been invited? No? There’s your answer.

The party is to revise the nation’s most important forest plan — the Northwest Forest Plan. Remember it? It either saved 8 million irreplaceable old-growth forest acres from the ax or it devastated Pacific Northwest rural economies, or both. Regardless, it was (and is) a big deal. A lot of people believe they have a stake in it.

But only a handful have been anointed as “key” stakeholders; those to whom the Forest Service wants to give special attention. Here’s the invite that most readers of this blog did not get:

Good afternoon:

The U.S. Forest Service would like your input on the process for revising land management plans within the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) area.

The NWFP was created in 1994 with the intent of protecting the critical habitat of the northern spotted owl, while maintaining a viable forest products industry in the Pacific Northwest. In total, the NWFP amended 26 land use plans, including 19 National Forest System and seven Bureau of Land Management plans. The NWFP established standards and guidelines to approach forest management in a scientifically-based way. As the USFS begins the forest plan revision process, we are interested in gathering input from the public and key stakeholders on the scope, scale, timing and sequence of this revision process. We will invite this feedback through a series of listening sessions early this spring.

We have identified you as a key stakeholder with interest in the NWFP and the forest revision processes. In advance of these listening sessions, staff from a neutral, third-party consulting firm hired by the USFS will contact you. This consulting firm, Triangle Associates, will request a phone interview with you to take place sometime in February. Your input into this process is highly valued and we hope you are willing to participate.

If you have questions, please let me know. Thank you very much in advance for participating with us.

And for those who didn’t get their embossed invitation, well, I suppose your input isn’t as “highly valued.”

Sucks to be you.

25 Comments

    • Kim, there is petition being circulated asking that more sessions be held in the impacted rural areas. One link is on our Face Book page: Saving Skamania County. Another is on the Healthy Forest website.
      There is also a bipartisan letter sponsored by most of the House of Rep. members from districts in northern Oregon and Washington that have NF’s in them, sent to Tidwell and Pena asking them not to ignore rural input.

      • Yessir, the listening session for Seattle is tomorrow. Since I posted the question, the USFS had set these meetings up, and I have been talking to several organizations around here, and I have a better understanding of what to expect.

  1. When has any government at any level paid attention to its regular citizens’ input? The USDA-FS is no exception but in this case it is refreshing to know that the USDA-FS is telling you in advance that your advice is not needed. We often ask ourselves why younger citizens do not vote but we know the obvious, for a variety of reasons, voting as it is instituted in the US and Canada does not matter.

  2. This parable came across my desk a few minutes ago:

    The Old Forest Service and the Modern Forest Service decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri River . Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.

    On the big day, the Old Forest Service won by a mile. The Modern Forest Service, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate the reason for the crushing defeat. A management team made up of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action.

    Their conclusion was the Old Forest Service had 8 people rowing and 1 person
    steering, while the Modern Forest Service team had 8 people steering and
    1 person rowing. Feeling a deeper study was in order, Modern Forest Service
    management hired a consulting company and paid them a large amount of money for a second opinion. They advised, in the National Rowing Plan, that too
    many people were steering the boat, while not enough people were rowing.

    Not sure of how to utilize that information, but wanting to prevent another loss to the Old Forest Service, the rowing team’s management structure was totally
    reorganized into 4 steering supervisors, 3 area steering superintendents and 1
    assistant superintendent steering manager, none of them having any rowing
    experience. They also implemented a new performance system that would make the 1 person rowing the boat more professional. It was called the “IFPM Rowing Team Program”, with meetings, classes and deadlines for the rower. There was
    discussion of getting new paddles, canoes and other equipment, extra vacation
    days for practices and bonuses.

    The next year the Old Forest Service won by two miles. Humiliated, the Modern
    Forest Service management abandoned the National Rowing Plan, laid off the
    rower for not meeting the deadline, halted development of a new canoe, sold
    the paddles, and canceled all capital investments for new equipment. The money
    saved was distributed to the Albuquerque Service Center as bonuses and the
    next year’s racing team was out-sourced to contractors.

    Author Unknown

    I’m increasingly convinced the fed’s use process and collaboration as a means to avoid making a decision; kind of like forming another committee.

  3. OK.. this may be completely different, but I can think of one possibility. When folks were working on the Planning Rule and on Colorado Roadless (following neatly in the tracks of the Planning Rule and trying to thereby stay out of trouble- didn’t work that way ;)), we had some stakeholders help us design the process for public input. They didn’t get any more chance to comment on substance than anyone else.

    This is a possibility. . I think Andy or another FOIA savvy person could ask for the interview questions and post them and then we would all know.

    A fact of life is at the end of the day, though, political chums of the administration and those who are likely to sue are always there when decisions are made and their opinions count more than we humble or not so humble policy wonks.

  4. As Sharon mentioned, usually a set of interviews/conversations takes place with “identified stakeholders” prior to undertaking any sort of collaborative or public engagement process to get a better sense of the issues, scope, etc. I’d imagine something like “who else should we talk to” or “who else needs to be involved in this process” would be included in the set of questions. In my experience the interviews have never been a bad thing — they lead to a stronger, more inclusive process down the line.

    • ““who else needs to be involved in this process” would be included in the set of questions … lead(ing) to a stronger, more inclusive process down the line.”

      Our experience on the Tongass NF is quite the opposite.

      The first utterance of the term “stakeholder” arrived with the implementation of the Tongass Futures Roundtable (’06) — schemed by Mark Rey himself, and “founded” by Tongass NF Supervisor Forrest Cole, and the National Forest Foundation. This was majorly funded by NFF, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and several other neoliberal foundations. TFR was administered by The Nature Conservancy (also richly funded by GBMF).

      The upshot was TFR folded in ignominy a few years later when the state and timber industry reps walked out. The environmental “stakeholders” (the usual cast of green washing sell-outs: TNC, TWS, TU, SEACC, ACF, etc.) stuck to their word: they would be “the last to leave the table, ” (primarily due to their grant deliverables which paid their salaries to attend in the first place).

      Fast forward to 2014 and poof! the Tongass Advisory Committee was formed (with 15 members) which comprised not only less than half of the TFR membership (35), but further, featured the same green alumni of TFR: (TNC, ACF, and SCS- a member group of SEACC.)

      SCS not only deftly captures “Stewardship and Restoration” funding streams, but distinguishes itself as the only environmental organization which writes for — and posts directly to — the USFS website, agency PR on — you might’ve guessed it — “Stewardship and Restoration” puff pieces!

      On second thought, maybe the Tongass Advisory Committee (TFR v.2.0) was “stronger” as far as achieving a manufactured consensus — but certainly NOT a “more inclusive process down the line.”

    • I agree, Emily, plus we had some people (actually people who had expertise in the legal sector, not a bastion of public involvement expertise) who complained vociferously in the press if we didn’t have open-mike kinds of public meetings, until they listened to others than the FS say that these aren’t particularly helpful. Face it, consulting organizations have more credibility in these areas than Feds, however up on the current literature FS folks are, people tend to think the worst about their expertise and intentions.

      • I would mostly agree with Sharon’s comments (except maybe the legal sector/public involvement comment; some in the legal sector work hard in this area, I don’t claim to be one of them but I respect what they do; i.e. too broad a brush 🙂 ) Anyway, “The U.S. Forest Service would like your input on the process for revising land management plans within the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) area.” That doesn’t necessarily mean exclusion of all us hoi polloi from the planning process, this seems to be a first step to define the process and go from there… kind of makes sense to me. Unless I’m being too trusting of the USFS (which some have intimated I’m often not), this seems like much ado about not very much. I’m sure Andy will save us a seat in the limo.

  5. I wonder if this is a part of the “Pendulum Swing”. I’m sure some Republicans are foaming at the mouth over changing stuff. If anything passes, I’m sure it will be contested in court. Not too much to get excited about. If the President’s desk is flooded with bills he won’t sign, everyone loses. Send him something he will sign.

  6. How about they implement the NWFP as it was designed. It allowed harvest of timber, even old growth, in the advent of cartographic events.. The health of the communities surrounded by these forests depends on having access to this resource. The health of these forests might depend on these communities.
    I’m personally disappointed I didn’t get invited. Local wood processors need to be able to work with our federal timber managers for resource.

  7. I was the person who requested the release of Peterson from his duty as Chief of the forest Services, after George W. Bush was elected. Hope I will be able to help the present Chief of the Forest service retire.
    Give me liberty.

  8. I’ve been meaning to circle back and leave a comment here. As a current USFS employee, I don’t normally visit unofficial web sites for commenting on USFS business. But I have a lot of respect for the commentors here whom I’ve known personally as former colleagues or as acquaintances with common policy interests.
    The facts are that Region 5 and Region 6 of the Forest Service are “throwing 3 parties” to extend the metaphor and the public is invited to all three!
    Sharon’s intuition is correct. We have contracted with the US Institute for a professional facilitator to help us design and host 3 public “listening sessions” on March 17 in Portland, March 18 in Seattle, and March 25 in Redding CA. The purpose of the 3 listening sessions is to share our current thinking in R5 and R6 on how we might revise the land management plans within the NW Forest Plan area, discuss the science behind it, and ask the public participants to give us their ideas on how we might approach this. Triangle Associates is conducting sensing interviews with a sub-sample of representatives of the cross section of interests who’ve been involved in NWFP issues, including, conservation organizations, timber industry, State, County officials, and others, in the 3 states. The interviews are intended to help design these meetings so that they will best serve the purpose of initiating a public dialogue on this very important issue that so many care about. We could not interview everyone who has a strong view on this, of course, but I think our sampling will make for a much richer, focused dialogue at the meetings.
    The sensing interviews are not where we expect to get the ideas we’re seeking to inform our revision approach, but to design the meetings. The 3 public listening sessions are where the public has a chance to get their ideas out and help shape plan revisions going forward within the area of the NWFP.
    These will be evening meetings. The actual physical venues and times will be announced soon.
    Information on the sessions will be posted at the Region 5 and Region 6 web sites, “Recent News”:

    Region 5 – http://www.fs.usda.gov/r5
    Region 6 – http://www.fs.usda.gov/r6 (You may have to copy and paste these into your browser.)

    With apologies to Churchill, its important to note that we are “at the beginning of the beginning” for plan revisions in the NWFP area. The work is still ahead of us and no decisions have been made yet on when, where, and how.
    We hope to have a good turnout. I apologize in advance for probably not being very timely in responding to any comments subsequent to my post here. But I applaud this forum and those who dialogue here. Some very thoughtful people and discussions.

    Ric Rine
    USFS Regional Director, Resource Planning and Monitoring
    Region 6, Portland OR

    • I think the Forest Service picking Portland, and Seattle as sites for these meetings shows how out of touch they are with communities that been most affected by the Nwfp. Also it shows how little they care. At least Redding makes some sense. Surprises they didn’t choose San Francisco or Los Angeles.
      Either way it doesn’t seem they don’t want any comments from Southern Oregon.

  9. Ric, this is great information. Interestingly, while looking for something else a few moments ago, I stumbled on the R6 webpage containing the information sessions, and came to this site to post the information. It was posted on the R6 site on Feb 18th, but so far, local forests have not sent out any press releases.
    March 18th isn’t that far off, and this is a big deal. People may want time to do a bit of research before attending the meetings.

  10. Ric, I also appreciate your description. However, I am concerned that these sessions are all being conducted in urban areas, with little regard to those of us who actually reside in the rural communities amongst the forests.

    No other group is as heavily impacted as these by the decisions you will make.

    I live in Skamania County and have sat in on the South Gifford Pinchot Collaborative meetings, sporadically at first and now on a regular basis. We have formed a local volunteer group known as “Saving Skamania County”.

    The group has sponsored 5 community meetings over the past year beginning with the Public Roads Input meeting last March, Since then, the South GP Ranger, Mosé Jones-Yellen has participated in 3 of those and answered questions we provided in advance. We comment him for being the first in a long while to actually engage our community. (He actually spends a lot more time than that meeting with the Colloaborative and our County Commissioners)

    However, we discovered that there is not a great deal he can do to improve our plight. So we are escalating our efforts to engage the federal elected officials as well as other groups who support a much more balanced approach to responsible, sustainable and predictable forest management.

    Of the five basic tenets of the NWFP two are very specific about the “Human and economic dimensions of issues” and “Produce a predictable and sustainable level of timber sales and non-revenue”.

    The FS has provided for the “Scientifically sound, ecologically credible and legally responsible strategies”, I believe they have failed on the “Implementation” part of that one; which would have led to the “long-term health of the forests, wildlife and waterways”.

    In the time that we have been learning about the “Gordian Knot” of rules, regulations, litigation, funding and politics, we have seen a consistent and apparently deliberate move away from two of these basic tenets.

    The original PSQ for the GP was 65 Million BF/Yr. Yet the average through 2012 was only 17 Million BF/Yr. As a result, the FS left $142 million on the table, while the county was bought off with OWL and SRS payments from taxpayers.

    During that period the 25% from Timber Sales for the county would have produced just a bit less than the OWL/SRS payments, and the FS would have produced an additional $106 million.

    As to the one about “Ensure that Federal Agencies work together” I have too little experience to comment.

    With the recent loss of SR funding we have again reduced county staff by
    20-25 %, we’re now at 45 FT employees. In 2012 there were 141.

    Schools are faced with similar reductions. We have documented all of these statistics if anyone is interested

    We are very interested in the outcome of the revision to the NWFP and having our education on the issues continue.

    Our motto used to be “Don’t Josephine Us!” but now it’s too late.

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