Squillace’s Thoughts on Proposed Rule –Post National Forum

Professor Squillace, director of the Natural Resources Law Center at University of Colorado Law School, Professor Joe Feller, and Michael Saul from NWF and various law students came to visit us yesterday to discuss the proposed planning rule. Both he and John Rupe had been at the national forum.. so far I haven’t heard much from folks who had been there. He posted his thoughts here on the Red Lodge Clearinghouse blog. IMHO, his thoughts are worth reading and very comprehensive.

As he says

This current iteration of ideas was developed at the conclusion of the National Planning Rule Forum held in Washington, D.C. on March 10, 2011. To the extent possible, it reflects some of the comments and questions addressed at that forum.

I’d be interested in what others think- he’d also like to hear from you directly.

8 thoughts on “Squillace’s Thoughts on Proposed Rule –Post National Forum”

  1. I haven’t gone over Dr. Squillace’s review in detail but it appears that he has some good points to make. Two points that I have a different take on are:

    Requiring the inclusion of non-statutory standards and guidelines in land management plans is a big mistake for four important reasons.

    There is one very important reason to include standards. As I have posted before, range-wide standards incorporated into a plan or group of plans is the best way to implement conservation strategies for listed species such as the red-cockaded woodpecker. If this can’t be done in forest plans there will need to be some other sort of NEPA document that the Fish and Wildlife Service can consult on.

    First, subsection (d)(1)(v) requires the agency to identify lands that are suitable or not suitable for particular uses, including timber production. It will be far more productive for the public to engage the agency on this aspect of planning than on the standards and guidelines for such activities.

    This is such a 20th Century concern! I know NFMA requires it, but isn’t it time to move on to timber production as a by-product of managing for desired future conditions, not an output? Suitable acres would then be a meaningless concept. Any acre could be “suitable” for management (which in some cases could include harvest) as long as not statutorily prohibited.

  2. Professor Mark Squillace concludes thus about the NFMA Draft Rule:

    The bottom line is that the current planning process is too complex, too time-consuming, and too fraught with unnecessary decisions and choices that invite litigation.

    The draft rules inspire no confidence that this situation will change in any meaningful way. Moreover, the complexity of the process stifles meaningful public engagement. Plans should offer a vision for the forest and spell out with some particularity what types of uses will and won’t be allowed on particular zones within the forest. They should also address the management of certain resources – such as water and wildlife – that necessarily require landscape- or basin-level planning. Generally, however, they should avoid the unproductive practice that has historically been used of setting particular standards and guidelines for the development and use of particular resources.

    My advice is for Squillace and others to rewrite the rule to effect what they desire. Andy Stahl has done it, here. I intend to do it by May 1. Others ought to as well. I agree with Squillace that currently proposed (and past) NFMA rules do a disservice. But I am not at all convinced the the Forest Service will listen — as it has never listened in the past (how many?) rule rewrite attempts. So let’s at least show them what a useful rule would look like.

    BTW. I do believe that standards and guidelines are helpful, but they ought to be developed situationally as needed, not as a part of a forest plan revision. And most would likely be developed as scales broader than a national forest, whether in “program development” or broader-scale assessment/planning/monitoring efforts, e.g. “utility corridor placement”, or?
    Update: I talked about standards and guidelines in more detail before, beginning here

    • Dave said:

      BTW. I do believe that standards and guidelines are helpful, but they ought to be developed situationally as needed, not as a part of a forest plan revision. And most would likely be developed as scales broader than a national forest, whether in “program development” or broader-scale assessment/planning/monitoring efforts, e.g. “utility corridor placement”, or?

      Agreed. And shouldn’t forest plans be done at broader scales as well? Say, for example, the Mendocino, Klamath, and Six Rivers as an ecological landscape?

  3. Yes.. If/when we agree on what constitutes “a plan.” Certainly assessments and monitoring efforts are more often than not better done at biophysical and/or sociological scales above a national forest.

  4. In my view, a forest plan is ultimately a social, not a biological, construct. I would argue that it makes sense to have them done at a scale where there is social coherence- and many of our forests are too large for that. I can see analyses at whatever scale is appropriate for the topic .. species ranges, watersheds, etc., but the fundamentals of visioning and what you can do where needs to be focused on the people who understand the land and its niche in the “all lands approach.” In the process of becoming more “efficient” we now have some gigundo-forests that are larger than can have a meaningful social nexus for collaboration.

    Jim, since our talk with Professor Squillace this week, I don’t think he meant timber per se, I think he meant that determining where and what activities can occur on a piece of land is the most fundamental and important piece of work for a plan. My experiences at public meetings would suggest that people care most about this as well. John has discussed on this blog here.

    Andy had the opposite opinion from me here.

    • Sharon,

      You say,

      it makes sense to [determine where and what activities can occur on a piece of land] at a scale where there is social coherence- and many of our forests are too large for that.

      I think it’s more complex still. When I think of special places I’d like to be involved in “futuring” for, I come up with Utah’s Uinta Mts (spanning parts of the Wasatch-Cache-Uinta NF and the Ashley National Forest), The Wasatch Front (contained in the combined Wasatch, Cache, and Uinta National Forests), Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains, spanning parts of two forests, the Bridger-Teton NF and the Shoshone NF, in two different USFS Regions (2 and 4).

      I’m sure that if I were to think a bit more, I’d find special places where such futuring would spill over into other ownerships. Yep, I just did: Jackson Hole and surrounds, that would likely include at least one national forest, the Bridger-Teton, maybe two with the Shoshone NF added in, and both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. And any such futuring would have to take into account the multitude of mixed public/private ownerships in the area.

      Then there is the really big one: Yellowstone to Yukon, spanning parts of the the US and Canada.

      So I still believe that scale-dependent futuring, and/or problem puzzle solving, is in order alongside scale-dependent assessments and monitoring. We ought to add in scale-dependent standard setting as well, although that also fits under the header “puzzle solving.” Where scale-dependent is really the stuff of framing decisions/actions according to a “Garbage Can Model” wherein issues, actors, and arenas self-organize across the landscape into various and sundry decision containers.

      More soon, as I work up my version of the NFMA rule. But in the meantime, all need to think hard about wicked problems and, e.g. Cohen, March, and Olsen’s garbage can decision model. Here’s a pdf of CMO’s 1972 article: A Garbage Can Theory of Organizational Choice.

      See too Pritchard and Sanderson’s chapter in Panarchy, “The Dynamics of Political Discourse in Seeking Sustainability.” After setting stage for for what we might call adaptive governance (a better term than adaptive management) Pritchard and Sanderson conclude:

      … for such a profoundly disorganized and multiscale approach to thrive, government, market, and citizen must share a common vision—that all must address these puzzles in order that they might be engaged and worked on—not solved forever; that “expertise,” popular voice, and power are separable, and none holds the dice [from a “floating crap game” model of politics] for more than a pass.

      • Ok.. Let’s add one more article to the mix, a brand new one: “Disentangling Scale Approaches in Governance Research: Comparing Monocentric, Multilevel, and Adaptive Governance, (pdf) by Termeer, Dewulf, and Lieshout, from Ecology and Society 15(4), 2010

        I’ve been searching for a good definition of adaptive governance, but the more I reflect on it I think that it would be better to use the definition of adaptive management from this article and link the whole to the concept of adaptive governance via the preamble to the NFMA rule. I’m guessing that trying to get the words “adaptive governance” into the rule would be a bridge too far. It is a stretch to think that I can get planning reduced to a minor role in the NFMA process.

        Here’s how they define adaptive management: “A systematic process for improving land management policies and practices by learning from the outcomes of management strategies that have already been implemented.” That doesn’t quite cut it either, but I’ll keep digging/working until I get something I can work with.

  5. Dave- that quote is a keeper! In a way, I think that’s what we have.. but we just get caught up in people trying to keep the dice for “more than a pass.”

    I think state governments and organizations of people by state have an important role as decision containers and maybe haven’t been used by the feds as much as they could be. BTW I attended an excellent workshop last year on climate change in Wyoming where the it was particularly obvious that states and feds can’t do much (at least in the west) without each other.

    I think the idea of having more than one FS Region in a state is suboptimal (and I know some denizens of a certain state who agree with me)!


Leave a Comment