Milepost 3 on the Diversity Trail- Coming into the Legal Country

One of the reasons I gently encouraged Martin to co-administer this blog was for us to have discussion among practitioners, the public, interest groups, scientists, academics at natural resource schools and environment schools, and lawyers and academics at law schools.

The incident that led directly to the inception of this blog was a discussion on the 05 Rule in our office in Golden, Colorado. We invited Fred Cheever and Mark Squillace and their students from University of Denver Law and University of Colorado Law. Fred Norbury from the Washington Office of the Forest Service was live on video, telling us the story of his conception of the 05 Rule and the reasons behind it and answering questions. Our Regional Forester was there with his cowboy boots up on a table, sharing and questioning, and I and some folks from my staff. For me, it was just about as much fun as you can have at work, without being out of doors. At the end of the discussion, Mark said something along the lines of “I can agree with you to some extent on the problem, but I just don’t agree with you on the solution.” Which triggered in my mind..of course.. next time, let’s all work together on defining the problems and proposing solutions. It also made me want to open up this practitioner – academic dialogue to others who don’t happen to be located conveniently to FS offices where people like to discuss and debate these kinds of things.

There are many interesting cultural differences that I hope we explore among scientists, FS employees, interested publics and lawyers. Since we are on the NFMA trail, though, I’ll start with a couple. The first is accessibility of information to those outside the community. Fortunately, our local library is part of Prospector, a service by which you can order books across Colorado. So I could obtain “Land and Resource Planning in the National Forests” by Wilkinson and Anderson (which I’ll take up next week) through them.
But many of the papers in journals are not accessible to the public. For example. Let’s pick a paper.. I ran across this one.
“Eliminating the National Forest Management Act’s diversity requirement as a substantive standard.” by Julie A. Weis
Unfortunately it requires a subscription to read the whole thing.. I could probably get access, somehow, but not as easily as clicking a key. Then, of course, practitioners don’t necessarily have time to read entire papers. That’s why I appreciate when people on this blog summarize, or just say what they think are key points and how they apply to the discussion at hand.

The last point I’ll make in this entry is that the attitude toward what constitutes the rationale for a knowledge claim seems different, at least between scientists and lawyers. For example, the author states “Recently, however, the Forest Service proposed a rule change for land and resource management planning that would allow the agency unbridled discretion in managing the national forests.” As a scientist, I would not perceive that statement to be accurate, since there appear to be plenty of bridles, not the least of which are the statutes ESA, NEPA and CWA. It seems to have sacrificed precision for polemics. The difference in style of writing may cause us to consider the implications of possible underlying differences among scientists’, practitioners’, and lawyers’ epistemic models.

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