Mark Squillace, Director of the Natural Resources Law Center at University of Colorado Law School, wrote a piece on the Red Lodge Clearing House blog..here. Some quotes.
First, the Forest Service deserves substantial credit for initiating this remarkable process. The agency wisely chose to hire an outside professional consultant (Meridian Institute) to organize and facilitate public involvement and the consultant performed admirably. Moreover, recognizing that not everyone has the time, inclination, or interest to participate in workshops, the Forest Service has supplemented this more conventional process, with a web page, blog, live web casts of the workshops, and other electronic resources, in an effort to engage a broader audience.
Second, if the first step to addressing a problem is admitting you have one, then the Forest Service seems well on its way to addressing its problem with planning. While the workshops certainly did not dwell directly on past failures, the unspoken premise for much of the discussion was that forest planning is broken. Agency officials seem to get that. Despite several substantial efforts to develop a workable planning process, going back to at least the early 1980’s, land and resource management plans, as they are called, take far too long to prepare and are too often the subject of appeals and litigation. Moreover, they tend to suck most of the energy (and financial resources) out of the agency, with the result that not much is left to adequately assess project level decisions and to engage in post planning monitoring of forest conditions.
Third, the Forest Service seems genuinely committed to engaging the public and hearing how they might improve the planning process. Numerous agency officials at all levels actively participated in both the regional and national workshops and they genuinely seemed grateful for the public’s sometimes disparate ideas for designing a smarter approach to forest planning.
Fourth, the level of dialogue among participants was, on the whole, quite sophisticated, but it was also welcoming toward the views of those with less direct experience in forest planning. Kudos once again to the facilitator, Meridian Institute, for attracting and convening a diverse group, and for structuring an efficient and effective program for engaging participants with varied backgrounds in the task at hand.
I have to say that Meridian did our regional roundtable in Denver as well and were equally excellent.
Two other things: First, on the Red Lodge blog piece it is mentioned that Mark has a piece on the FS blog called “Rethinking Forest Planning”. I tried to find it but couldn’t; the search on his name didn’t work for me.. if someone else can find it please let me know and I will post the link.
Second, in the Red House blog piece a comment referred to “Hidden Gems.” For the non-Coloradans, that is a wilderness proposal.