Planning & Collaboration

Here’s an interesting piece by our friend John Freemuth, making some provocative connections between forest planning regulations, collaboration, and Senator Tester’s proposed Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.

I don’t see it John’s way on this matter.  But the interconnections are worth considering. 

I’m certain, for example, that widespread frustration with the forest planning process helps explain the growing interest in place-based (national forest-specific) legislation.  If you’re looking for greater certainty and stability in forest management (from roadless areas to timber supply), you’re not going to find it in plans that are nothing but “strategic and aspirational.”  Instead, you seek it through legislation, or some other formal agreement with the agency.  Of course, this is not the whole story.  But problems in planning most definitely help explain the growing interest in place-based forest law.

7 thoughts on “Planning & Collaboration”

  1. I’m sure Senator Ron Wyden would agree with Martin. Last month Wyden chaired a hearing devoted to Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. You can listen to the archived hearing here.

    Two take-home messages. First, Tester’s bill and Wyden’s similar eastern Oregon measure aren’t going to become law anytime soon — and probably not anytime at all. Second, both bills are intended to reflect these senators’ growing frustration with the Forest Service. They are exasperated that the Forest Service has become an agency of planners, not doers. And planning doesn’t put food on the table (for anyone other than planners).

  2. I don’t think the FS wants to be planners not doers. In fact, quite the opposite. I never heard of our wish to be a “can plan” agency.

    So how did this happen? And how do we get out of it?

  3. Sharon – while walking over for coffee, Forest Magazine editor Patricia Marshall and I talked about your two excellent questions. Patricia will ask Char Miller for his answer to the “how did this happen?” question. We’ll publish his answer in the next issue of Forest Magazine.

    I also asked Cato’s Randal O’Toole. He promised to think about it. I’ll bug him to contribute his answer here.

    The FS’s basement-level rating as-a-good-place-to-work in the federal government may, in part, be due to its “can plan” vs. “can do” status. Other evidence includes a 15-year trend among FS employees in favor of more active forest management, as shown in these poll results. These unpublished data are from three surveys conducted by Greg Brown over a 15-year period. The graph shows that support among FS employees (including FSEEE members, line officers, and staff) for increasing timber harvest rises as timber harvesting declined dramatically. The correlation is apparent; causality can only be inferred.

    When I’ve thought of my answer to your questions, I’ll post!

  4. I think the answer to your poll results question is simply that people felt in the past that we might have been doing too much active management (I remember those days and those discussions) and now I think they don’t. So people, at least field people, have a feeling for what they consider too much, and not enough, and how carefully we are doing it, etc.

  5. These are interesting obervations, in my view. Let me throw something else in here. I want to play around with this notion of “active management”. One thing I have noticed, during the time I used to give talks down at the Region 4 leadership team meetings was a stunning burnout with all the intiatives that seemed to come down from various DC shops and people. This constant barrage of these intitiaves was causing widespread cynicism in the agency. This is “active management” of a different sort but it caused damage in morale.


  6. Sharon muses: “I don’t think the FS wants to be planners not doers. In fact, quite the opposite. I never heard of our wish to be a ‘can plan’ agency. So how did this happen? And how do we get out of it?”

    I remember overhearing an interesting and relevant conversation between John Freemuth and one of our USFS Intermountain Region planners. John wanted some followup and asked when said planner might devote some time to working on it. The planner looked at his day-planner and said that he was booked up for the next month and more. At that point John said, paraphrasing:

    I don’t understand the Forest Service. You are always meeting, and you are always meeting with yourselves. How do you ever get any work done?

    So too with the whole of planning and collaboration. The Forest Service spends so much time meeting with itself, often thinking that it is pre-plannner collaborative processes or pre-planning to plan (e.g working on planning rules and directives), that it can’t find time and energy to plan or collaborate — let alone to learn about how to effectively plan or collaborate.

    Sometimes there is either unwillingness to collaborate, else incompetence in collaboration. For example, take a look at the so-called planning rule blog (not a blog at all, but simply a comment collector) that is part of the USFS planning rule effort, here:


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