Barriers to collaboration: NEPA concerns?

Interesting story. from the Billings Gazette.. I noticed a couple of things..

First, the FS process looks good- so having a cooperators group is clearly something that can work well. Right now it is not a requirement of any rule but something that makes some sense (at least it is popular in Wyoming).

Second, the BLM seems to be caught up in concerns of “pre-decisionality”, which is a concern about talking to people violating the NEPA process. Since this is a topic that is worrisome to FS folks, it would be useful to explore further.

My pragmatic view is that you talk to people and they talk to you, throughout the NEPA process. Unless you convene a formal group (without FACA), you don’t have to worry about FACA. At some point, the decision maker has to go behind closed doors and make a decision, and they and their staff bring all the conversations, formal public comment, views of cooperator groups and make a decision.

What really concerns me is that NEPA can become a reason for “not talking” to people, and I don’t think that is the spirit of NEPA. Anyway, perhaps some of you could shed some light on these concerns- you can see some of the issues that can be raised in this news story.

1 thought on “Barriers to collaboration: NEPA concerns?”

  1. The spirit of NEPA is for everyone (the agency decision-maker, agency staff and the public) to be as informed as possible about a proposal and its potential environmental impacts. To me, NOT talking to the public is a violation of NEPA; talking to the public can never violate NEPA. As one who has litigated NEPA cases for more than 23 years, I have never, and would never, sue agency personnel for talking to the public openly. The need for pre-decision confidentiality occurs once the agency has gathered all the information it can (including talking with the public all it reasonably can) and is then synthesizing that to make a final decision. People should not confuse secret deals made with one segment of the public to decide the issue a certain way with talking with the public to get their input, ideas, information and concerns. Meetings with limited members of the public that DECIDE the issue are what are illegal; meetings with the anyone from the public that INFORM the decision are encouraged, indeed required, by NEPA.


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