The initial phase of public involvement for a new Forest Service planning rule ended this week with a final national roundtable in Rockville, Maryland. Notes from the meeting will be published on the Forest Service’s planning rule website. The Forest Service has now hosted three national meetings and nearly 40 regional and local meetings across the country. Essentially, these meetings were listening sessions. Now all the ideas will be compiled and screened into specific proposals and alternatives.
For some issues, there is no clear consensus. There are significant differences in opinion between national and local participants, so further dialogue will be necessary. Also, while Forest Service employees were well represented at all the roundtable meetings, they were largely in a listening mode, and didn’t always present their point of view. There may be differences in opinion between the Forest Service and public participants, and there always seems to be differences of opinions within the Forest Service.
At this week’s meeting, a tentative future meeting was announced for the last week of July, to allow the public to discuss possible specific rule text. The rule writing team is open to suggestions on the next steps. Hopefully, there will be opportunties to increase understanding among groups across the country, and between Forest Service employees and the public.