Place-Based Forest Bills & Agreements


Senator Wyden of Oregon

This is my introductory post related to an important emerging trend: the increasing interest in “place-based” (national forest-specific) legislation and the use of formalized agreements/MOUs between the USFS and various collaborative groups.  We’ve had some discussion of Senator Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act already (here’s my perspective on it).  Another controversial bill is Senator Wyden’s S. 2895, the Oregon Eastside Forests Restoration, Old Growth Protection, and Jobs Act of 2009. 

While these bills receive national attention, there are place-based initiatives happening on other national forests as well, including the Lewis and Clark, Colville, Clearwater and Nez Perce, Fremont-Winema, Tongass, and federal forests in Arizona, among others.  Each initiative is different in significant ways.  But all are searching for more durable, bottom-up, and pro-active solutions to national forest management.  Some negotiations, like that on Idaho’s Clearwater and Nez Perce, may result in proposed legislation.  But others, including arrangements on the Colville and Fremont-Winema, aren’t based on forest specific laws but instead operate through formalized agreements and protocols with the USFS.

Here is a list of such initiatives that I’ve been looking at lately:

Bills and Legislation
S. 1470 Forest Jobs & Recreation Act (Senator Tester/Montana Bill)
S. 2895 Oregon Eastside Forests Restoration, Old Growth Protection, and Jobs Act of 2009 (Senator Wyden Bill)
Pub. L. No. 111-11, Forest Landscape Restoration Act
Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act (unsponsored proposal) (Lewis & Clark National Forest, Montana)
Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition Blueprint (Colville National Forest)
Lakeview Stewardship Group (Fremont-Winema National Forest, Oregon)
Misc/In Development
Clearwater Basin Collaborative (Clearwater and Nez Perce National Forests, Idaho)
Others at various stages of development (e.g., Arizona’s Four Forests Restoration Initiative, Tongass Futures Roundtable, etc.)

I’ve chosen this sample because it includes two controversial bills and two well-established MOUs that share some similar goals and purposes, but go about things differently.  I’ve also included the proposed Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act because it provides a specific proposal focused on travel management and other resource management issues, like weeds.  My analysis also includes the Forest Landscape Restoration Act (Pub. L. No. 111-11).  I included this Act because it shares some similar goals and purposes as found in the aforementioned bills and MOUs, and because some initiatives hope to use funds already authorized in the law.   Also included in parts of the analysis are some proposals that are still in the drafting stage.  In these cases, no final agreements have been made, but in some situations there are preliminary areas of agreement that are of relevance.  This list is not exhaustive, and there are others I hope to learn from as well, like the restoration efforts in Alabama, the Four Forests Restoration Initiative in Arizona, and the tumultuous life of the Tongass Futures Roundtable. 

What I hope to do in this series of posts is to make some initial observations that are of general relevance to national forest management, and in some cases of particular relevance to the new forest planning rule.   I believe these cases offer a lot of lessons, from the bottom-up.  I also hope that our sophisticated cast of contributors and readers can help raise questions, and in so doing help sharpen my analysis of this issue. 

Martin Nie

6 thoughts on “Place-Based Forest Bills & Agreements”

  1. Martin

    this is a terrific inventory and will be very helpful in framing and addressing a host of questions.

    i am particularly interested in how we might promote and support these type of place-based experiments in the new planning rule … linking grass-roots vision, passion, and capacity to the established decision-making system. it seems to me this train of thought might make place-based initiatives more accountable, and for the established system to be more flexible and adaptive… that said, not exactly sure how to write such a provision into rule … or if its even a good idea

    • Matt,

      What are your thoughts about possibly carving out some space for additional experiments and pilot projects–placing them into some sort of experimental framework, with legal sideboards? I’m thinking, for example, of things like a variation of the Region 7 proposal.

      (for those not familiar with this Region 7 idea, it would basically create a virtual region of the USFS in order to house various experiments and different models in forest management and governance. After receiving congressional authorization to experiment, different trials would be selected in order to test new ideas and foster learning)

      Keep in mind also how stewardship contracting was first considered as a sort of experiment or demonstration program.

      What do you think of this approach–creating some sort of legal framework that would house different pilots/experiments in forest management (and planning?)


  2. I hope you talk about the formality of the collaboration as well as the NEPA angle on each one.. I’m looking forward to seeing what you have found!

  3. Martin

    i must admit that i have not had a chance to think through this. however, the basic idea is as you framed it… to carve out some legal space within the new planning rule that would encourage citizen-initiated, place-based experiments … and to figure out how best to fold the outcomes of such collaborative processes into the formal planning process… perhaps making the outcomes of such processes the preferred alternative in the NEPA analysis…

    anyway, it might be worth thinking about…


  4. I agree, Matt. That is the big question .. how to “encourage citizen-initiated, place-based experiments … and to figure out how best to fold the outcomes of such collaborative processes into the formal planning process.”


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