Weaving Discussion Threads Together

Once a week or so, I will try to weave some of the discussion threads from the past week together. There are many interesting ideas in posts that any of us may not have time to respond to in real time, but may be working in the back of our minds somewhere.

Here’s an attempt for the past couple of weeks:

There is the minimalist, timber-only, view of planning – Andy’s KISS approach, which keeps us legal with NFMA. This seems pretty well developed.

Then we have some consensus around something like an “adaptive governance” .
On some timeframe, at some appropriate spatial scale (a forest or subsection of forest or Forest/BLM combination ?), a collaborative group (FACA committee?) would involve the public in discussions of “what’s working now and what needs to change”, determine some ideas for change and learning questions, prioritize some activities to learn about and test ideas for change, monitor, and have a formal, transparent, public process (annually?) for checking on goals and adaptive changes. Climate change would be incorporated as included in scenarios this group would consider. It’s more about public deliberation, and learning from the land in real time, than analysis. As Dave said here

“You can only hope to accomplish anything when you are able to define the scope the problem (time, space, issues, etc.) into “decision containers” that people (stakeholders, administrators, etc) can get their minds around. It seems that traditional “forest plan” containers are hopelessly over-filled when land management zoning, land management goals and objectives, program goals and objectives, and related “standards and guidelines” are all in play — and “in play” in a spatial container that isn’t really relevant to many of the objectives at hand.”

So this idea is adaptive governance for a spatial scale appropriate to the problem at hand, which would make decisions within decision space bounded by environmental law.

ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS: In addition, there is a fundamental legal framework of environmental laws that translate into standards (BMPs, species-wide standards such as grizzly) and serve as restrictions on activities, as well as ideas for improvements to help species recovery (sometimes it is about doing things, in addition to “not doing” things) that can both feed into Adaptive Governance (AG).

MONITORING: There should also be some fundamental framework of monitoring for key elements of environmental quality, such air, water and some, but not all. species, that crosses ownership boundaries and also provides some useful information to the regulatory processes. In addition to this basic monitoring, AG groups could add other monitoring related to their questions and learning objectives at hand.

NEPA : NEPA would be done for each project or at the appropriate scale for larger scale issues (power lines, oil and gas leasing, travel management, species protection). Cumulative effects would be done “just in time” as what is “reasonably foreseeable” one year may be substantially different in three to five (for example, industry is interested/is not/is in certain energy deposits, species are reintroduced or move in on their own or become threatened, bark beetles, big fires and their aftermath, roadless rules, etc.) This is the NEPA equivalent of what Dave articulates here .

“Peter Drucker used to write about the “futurity of current decisions”, that is to look at that will emanate from each decision, as it relates to all other decisions. But to act in as close to “real time” as possible, and adjust policy and program and all else to accommodate emergent realities. I call this “just in time decision-making” or “once and forever decision-making.”

(Dave, did you mean “in contrast to” “once and forever decision-making?”)

There does seem to be some dichotomy among us on the utility of predictions at the “forest plan level.” And differences in the view that somehow broader scale- say, landscape scale- NEPA will both be better and remain fresh while the projects are carried out. This may be where Martin is with his contingency/adaptive NEPA, or maybe that’s just for long term projects such as grazing.

Ray Vaughan expresses a need for something strategic at a broader level in this post, but whether it needs to be NEPA or not is another question, in my view. The idea being that we think ahead strategically so that we don’t end up in some kind of corner by focusing on a project at a time. But to me, that’s a discussion with the public about strategy about what “might could” happen under a variety of scenarios, and not an explicit NEPA analysis of alternatives.

I liked Ray Vaughan’s analogy that he discusses in the same post, but the family in the analogy doesn’t have to spend a significant part of this year’s budget on a formalized, legally defensible, construct of different alternatives to reach its goal, given that perhaps it doesn’t know a)how many children will arrive, b) their family income, nor c) costs of education, that far in the future.

So does my weaving resemble yours? Tell us about what yours looks like.

2 thoughts on “Weaving Discussion Threads Together”

  1. Yesterday, the Summit County Citizens Voice, an online news site based in Frisco, Colorado, posted this article about the proposed planning rule and Tuesday’s close of the scoping period, including a link to the New Century blog. In particular, since the White River National Forest has a large number of winter recreation special uses, the article notes Andy’s post and the discussion thread on special uses and forest planning.

    Congratulations to Martin and Sharon for starting this blog, which is becoming an important gathering spot for informed discussion on changing how forest planning is done. For places like Summit County, Colorado, where 80% is within a National Forest struggling with balancing uses and ecological changes like the mountain pine beetle epidemic, the way planning is done (or not done) has huge consequences.
    The White River Forest Plan was last revised in 2002, so it’s over half-way through its 15 year design life.

    It can be a challenge for those who depend on National Forests to keep up with some of the theoretical or academic discussions we’re having on this blog, so it’s always good to talk about examples. Since planning is slow, and plans currently aren’t meaningful on the ground until specific projects are proposed and executed, it’s especially difficult to pay attention to changes to the planning rule. This can be boring stuff, but it’s important. Hopefully, we are making planning more meaningful, or reducing it where it’s not.

  2. Adaptive Governance has a nice ring to it. But in my opinion Adaptive Governance (AG) is the umbrella under which all of land management and environmental law making and compliance efforts fit. AG includes development of law and associated rules, administrative agency policy development and administration, agency program management, and field-level implementation decisions.

    I’m OK with Sharon’s idea that:

    On some timeframe, at some appropriate spatial scale (a forest or subsection of forest or Forest/BLM combination ?), a collaborative group (FACA committee) would involve the public in discussions of “what’s working now and what needs to change”, determine some ideas for change and learning questions, prioritize some activities to learn about and test ideas for change, monitor, and have a formal, transparent, public process (annually?) for checking on goals and adaptive changes.

    In my Adaptive Governance model, however, this is an evaluation process that ought to be done (annually, with more robust efforts as needed or at least every 5 years) by the the Washington Office (at the center of the organization), by program managers (again at the center of the organization, but also likely at the administrative Region level), at broad landscape scales (by multi agency, multi-private-party actors), at smaller scales as appropriate, and likely at an administrative forest scale. At the forest scale, if that scale makes sense, a 10-15 year check-in with NFMA might be appropriate—assuming that the US Congress doesn’t wake up and repeal RPA/NFMA and replace it with legislation more appropriate for assessments/planning/monitoring and evaluation for the 21st century. Or maybe better still, just repeal RPA/NFMA and not replace it with anything at all.

    PS.. No I did not mean “in contrast to”.. “Just-in-time decision-making” refers to making decisions in a timely manner as issues emerge and ripen. “Once-and-forever decision-making” means that once we enter the adaptive-co management world, we are constantly in the decision container (somewhere) in an Adaptive Governance model. All is “in play” and decision-makers need to know who else is dealing with similar and connected (in time and space) decisions. Hence the need for a robust information system that informs managers and the public no matter where or how they choose to wander into the assessment, monitoring and evaluation, policy or program development, or landscape decision space. That is an essence of what I’ve called Adaptive Co-management—the administrative side of Adaptive Governance.

    PSS. Web 2.0 tools (blogs and wikis, etc.) enable the type collaboration tools needed to make adaptive co-management possible. Without them, the transaction costs (time and money, particularly) defeat the possibility of collaborative engagement. And with Web 2.0, if collaboration is done correctly the FACA problem may well fade away.


Leave a Comment