Is There a Place for Legislating Place-Based Collaborative Forestry Proposals?

Homework assignment: Read “Is There a Place for Legislating Place-Based Collaborative Forestry Proposals?: Examining the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act Pilot Project,” Journal of Forestry, July 2016.

Focuses on the Quincy Library Group. Was anyone on this blog involved with the group? I’d like to hear your comments on the paper.

Here’s the abstract:

In 1993, a group of national forest stakeholders, the Quincy Library Group, crafted a proposal that intended to reduce wildfire risk, protect the California spotted owl (Strix occidentalis occidentalis), restore watersheds, and enhance community stability by ensuring a predictable supply of timber for area sawmills and biomass for energy plants. The Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act of 1998 codified this proposal, directing the USDA Forest Service to conduct forest treatments on 40,000 – 60,000 acres per year by creating defensible fuel profile zones and logging by group- and individual tree-selection methods. The law also designated an Independent Science Panel to review monitoring studies, administrative studies, and research to assess efficacy of the implementation and achievement of goals. Although several goals were achieved, implementation fell short of treatment and volume goals, and evidence was lacking to make conclusive judgments about environmental impacts. Shortcomings were due to differing interpretations of the Act’s prescriptive intent, changes in management direction, compounding economic factors, appeals and litigation, variation in site-specific forest conditions, and variation in approaches among national forests and districts. Most notable was a lack of monitoring of the treatment effects on California spotted owl populations and other environmental concerns. These findings suggest that attempts to legislate prescriptive, collaboratively developed proposals may not account for the complex biophysical, management, social, and economic contexts within which national forest management occurs. These findings also suggest that current national forest policies and directives promoting collaboration should also be accompanied by a commitment to monitoring and adaptive management.

8 Comments

  1. I was not involved with the group although I conferred often about Quincy Library with then forest supervisor Wayne Thornton (a good friend, now deceased). Wayne was quite excited and QLG was innovative at the time in getting competing interests to sit together to fashion solutions. I’m generally skeptical about the utility of legislation in resolving complex issues or mandating a particular fix. I’ll take a look at the article which provides a service by reflecting on an important, if isolated, place-based effort to engage affected interests in creating solutions.

  2. “These findings also suggest that current national forest policies and directives promoting collaboration should also be accompanied by a commitment to monitoring and adaptive management.”

    See, this quote illustrates why collaboration gets a bad name. By modern definition, collaboration IS monitoring and adaptive management! It is a planning “process,” not a state of affairs. When the term gets thrown around by people who don’t know (or care) about the meaning of the word as a planning tool, an incredibly useful tool for confronting wicked problems gets the smear. When we talk about “collaboration” we need to be talking about “collaborative rationality,” as described by Innes and Booher in their book Planning With Complexity (Routledge, 2010). If we’re not, then we’re just putting lipstick on a pig. Here is a link to a pretty good summary of the process if anyone is interested: http://theconsensusbuildingapproach.blogspot.com/2010/02/collaborative-rationality.html

  3. My take on Collaboration is that it is, initially, a vehicle for education. It is part of those three “C-words” which preservationists despise. Collaboration, Consensus and Compromise. In my opinion, those words need to go in that order. You should Collaborate until you reach an educated Consensus. That process will be difficult, awkward and painful, for most involved. If a Consensus is crafted, it should be easy to reach the proper Compromise.

    However, proceeding with a Compromise before a Consensus is met is what the Forest Service wants to do, seemingly ignoring the threat of litigation. It is pretty clear to me, that we need more education to reach that elusive consensus. That may take years, or even decades but, the other option is to wait for Congress to change the laws….. properly. Their track record is rather bleak, as evidenced by the current situation.

    If you want to see my latest work, I have a new Instagram account at https://www.instagram.com/larryharrellfotoware/

  4. I appreciate your thoughts, Larry. My perspective on why preservationists “despise” the 3 C-words (although I do not agree that are unwilling to engage in true collaboration) — If you found the Forest Service unwilling to hear your voice and concerns for decades, if the FS viewed you as the enemy and un-American because you questioned their mgmt, if mgmt favored timber industry for decades… And now, the agency wants you to start from the point that the playing field is level, as if the consequences of the past 50 years are immaterial to choices now bearing on the future, maybe you’d be suspicious, guarded, and a bit cynical too.

    I believe collaboration (the truly effective kind) is a powerful tool, properly used. I do not despise it. But I can understand how the “have nots” resent and are jealous of the privileges historically afforded to those collaborators seated across the table. The FS can restore some much needed trust if they will acknowledge what I think are legitimate issues. Hard core enviros I have worked with understand and respect the differences between national forests and parks. They respond well to humility and sincerity and being accepted as legitimate “owners” of public lands.

    • Then again, it is all-too-easy to blame the present for the past. We ALL know that activities going on in the Sierra Nevada, right now, are a far cry from the clearcutting and highgrading of the 80’s, which you seem to be alluding to, Jim. We also know that “doing nothing” won’t solve anything that people are concerned about.

      I did work on implementation of some of those QLG projects, and they did have some problems, in my mind. Two acre patch cuts distributed around the landscape does very little to protect communities. Installing fuelbreaks with boundaries at mid-slope make them much less effective, as well.

      We also should not forget that Feinstein dropped her affiliation and support with the QLG, only to re-join the effort, and slapping her name on the bill. The collaborative idea is a good one but, implementation remains problematic. You can collaborate all you want but, in the end, if no one bids on it, the project is a failure (especially when the mill has a monopoly going).

    • “the “something” they see is worse than nothing…”

      So, apparently, those people do not like thinning and prescribed fires in the Sierra Nevada. The elimination of clearcutting and old growth harvest was not enough for them… apparently. The changes in salvage projects to merely thin out the snags wasn’t enough, either. Not for the “not one stick” mindset. Not for the “Whatever Happens” mindset. Not for the “free-range” firestorm fanatics….. Apparently.

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