First National Roundtable is Completed

The first of three National Roundtable meetings on the planning rulemaking process ended today with a short closeout.  The full notes of the two-day meeting will be posted on the Forest Service planning rule website by the meeting facilitator, the Meridian Institute.  The majority of the attendance at the meeting were representatives from interest groups and Forest Service employees.  An unofficial count of meeting participants included 24 Washington Office Forest Service or USDA employees and 8 regional Forest Service employees; 3 retired employees; 20 representatives from wilderness, wildlife, or environmental coalitions; 5 timber or woodland owner representatives; 2 motorized recreation representatives and 4 aircraft association representatives; 2 mining representatives; 2 representatives from other Federal agencies; 3 representatives from community groups; 2 representatives from States; 1 academia member; and 15 consultants.

During the closeout, participants were invited to step forward and give closing thoughts about important takeaway messages and key questions to keep on the agenda as the series of roundtable meeting continue.  These include:

  • We need to believe that we can do this in a way that captures the essence of the challenge, but brings elegance and simplicity.
  • However, this will be challenging.  The idea of simplicity is alluring, but for instance when you edit a paper from 25 to 6 pages, that’s more challenging than keeping the paper long.
  • Remember the Precautionary Principle.  This is first set of plans to deal with climate change. 
  • We need a clear definition of terms in the rule.
  • The word collaboration means to collaborate.  These roundtables are a series of ongoing dialogue and discussions, but we don’t have time here.  This is a robust public outreach, left hand side of NEPA triangle, which is good, but we probably need to call this what it is, and be careful in using the word collaboration.
  • The Rule should ask the right questions about ecosystems and describe how to do the planning process.
  • There is a need for humility and recognition of how short our current understanding will last, which calls for simplicity in the rule. 
  • Climate change is a difficult issue to struggle with, and the questions will continue to evolve. 
  • We need to stress the collaborative part of planning.  The all lands approach demands a collaborative approach.  This is not just for the development of the plan, but this is ongoing and includes a large array of people. This is especially important in urban interface areas where Forests are fragmented.
  • A key question going forward is the issue of adaptive governance, and how the regulations can help enable that and make that work.  The all lands approach is about collaboration at that level.  Can we have a crosswalk between climate change and adaptive governance?
  • It’s important to understand flexibility within the larger framework of accountability.  We need flexibility without giving Forest Supervisors carte blanche.
  • We need to address long standing institutional barriers to adaptive management and monitoring.
  • There is a lack of clarity about where the Forest Service is going, and there is some cloudiness and confusion. The planning rule can help clarify what the Forest Service is about.  Forests today are more valuable to society than 60 years ago. 
  • Elevate recreation as a substantive topic of the rule.  Consider recreation in the realm of active management.  Make the rule broad and flexible, but keep the majority of decisions local, and keep it defensible so it’s not bogged down in litigation.
  • Remember the context of the current 6th great extinction of species.  It’s important to maintain ecosystems in response to this global crisis.
  • Think about ways to improve species management, such as the presence/absence paradigm mentioned in the science forum.
  • Think about the public use of lands and effects on ecosystems.

More information on the meeting will be posted on the Forest Service planning rule website and blog.

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