Forest Options Group- Some thoughts and questions

Here I suggested we meet back here in a week after we had time to read the report of the Forest Options Group.

I’m glad that Andy brought this paper to our attention. Many of the problems are still as relevant today as they were in 1997.

Not really about planning but interesting to me..

FS pilots
I don’t know how many current FS employees were on the pilot forests in the 80’s. I was on the Ochoco at the time and we thought the bucket of money concept was fantastic. As I recall, it foundered on the shoals of budget line item accountability to Congress or our regional or Washington Office’s view of that. Here’s a summary of that effort to decentralize from the bottom up..

User fees– we have experience with rec fee demo and the Valles Caldera, which suggests that people are worried that if FS units get funds from uses, they will be inclined to favor those uses to the detriment of the environment. Just on its face, the simple act of charging for recreation is a concept that works for state and federal parks… why not national forests?

On to collaborative planning.. Pilot 3. I am not so sure that collaborative councils to help with planning and monitoring are all that different from cooperators’ groups or FACA committees that exist for some forests around the country, except where the final authority rests.

But the forest plan would be developed under a new hierarchy in which a collaborative council helps the forest planning team prepare and evaluate alternatives. Forest planners act as staff for the council, and the council replaces the regional forester in selecting the final plan.

Would the ultimate locus of the decision in and of itself really help people become less polarized? I wonder how the Group thought that would work.

Also, being from a region with low timber values, and as I said above, unable to charge for most recreation, and unlikely to wrest oil and gas revenues from Interior, I don’t think getting receipts directly to the unit is a strong enough incentive to get a plan done. We could think of other mechanisms, but collaboration can take time. In my experience, in general, the fact that the plan is old does not seem to unduly inconvenience anyone (if you can do amendments). Hence there may need to be additional incentives to get plans done, even with a collaborative council.

2 thoughts on “Forest Options Group- Some thoughts and questions”

  1. Actually, the Forest Options report is directly relevant to planning because many of the people who wrote the report recognized that planning is not working and were looking for alternatives. These were the planning (and governance) alternatives they developed.

    Part of the proposal is that the pilots would be exempted from current regulations, the FSM, and the FSH, though they would still have to comply with the law. That means that each pilot forest would be able to determine for itself how much planning it needed to do.

  2. antiplanner- welcome to the blog! Are you meaning that the pilot forest would work directly from NFMA? So they have to follow NFMA but beyond that determine how much they would need to do? That seems to still be a serious amount of work, based on the discussion we’ve had here.


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