Three Former Chiefs support Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act

See this story on the three former FS chiefs supporting the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act.

“It’s sort of a special place. A wide variety of people have been working together for a long time and I think they’ve done an outstanding job,” (former Chief Dale) Bosworth said Tuesday. “But if they never see any outcome, they have to question of why they spent so much time together pounding something out.”

But despite its “uniqueness”, it seems like people could feel this way about many areas (this is a quote from a Save the Front factsheet):

Why is a Conservation Management Area needed? The 2007 Travel Plan is a good Forest Service commitment but will only be in place for 10 or 15 years. However, after that a future Forest Service supervisor or Washington, D.C. political appointee could make changes that would hurt the integrity of the land or limit local uses. For example, maybe a future Forest Supervisor will think it is a great idea to open new routes at the expense of stock travel and hiking. Reasonable side-boards on the Forest Service and the BLM will protect access for future generations of hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bike users in the same areas the forest plan allows today.

This quote reminded me of a quote from Mark Rey about the roadless issue in Martin Nie’s interview with him here

So when we came in, we looked at that history and we concluded that the crux of the problem with this issue is that it’s—on the one hand—an intensely political debate because it’s a basic resource allocation question over resources that people feel very strongly about. On the other hand, it’s a very technical debate because you’re trying to decide the fate of individual areas, putting boundaries around them that are based upon site specific data and so therefore you have to be able to amass and work with a substantial database to make good decisions.

In the case of trying to do a nationwide rule, you know you can get all the political closure you want to finally end the debate. You can have the president of the United States stand on the side of a ridge in southern Virginia and announce the outcome, but as the courts have told us, it’s hard to do justice to all the technical detail that is required to make the decision sound from the standpoint of a reviewing judge.

On the other hand, if you deal with this on a forest-by-forest basis, you can—by virtue of the fact that you have a lot less data to deal with—deal with it more intelligently.

The problem is that you can’t really get political closure to the decision because the decision is going to be made by a GS-14 or a GS-15 career civil servant and everybody knows that you can take the debate on up the food chain to see if you can get a better result. So you don’t get any real closure to the issue, both because of where it’s made and also because you don’t engage national interests to the same degree that you do in a national debate.

So we thought if we tried to find a middle road or a third path by working on a state-by-state basis, we could, on the one hand, reduce the size of the decision down to a manageable level, and on the other hand engage for the purposes of bringing better political closure to this, the one person who’s arguably elected to represent all the citizens of the state and that’s the governor, and that in a partnership with the governor we could get the right balance.

Have “lines on maps” and “what you can do on the ground effectively” decisions that have moved beyond being able to reach closure through the forest planning process? and beyond local civil servants?

Leave a Comment