“Friends of Clearwater” not Friendly to Forest Service Planning Collaborative

an article I found but can’t get the rest without a subscription.. someone on our blog probably lives around there.. could you help and excerpt some of the rest of the article?

Friends of the Clearwater members continued to protest the collaborative process to develop a management plan for the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests during a Forest Service community meeting Monday, arguing it undermines the National Environmental Policy Act where public involvement should begin.

The combined forests were selected under a 2012 planning rule as one of eight early adopters in the nation, and since then a collaborative group has been formed by the Forest Service to provide recommendations for a new plan with work groups meeting monthly.

I have written to them to see if we can get their side of the story.

UPDATE from Matthew: I contacted Friends of the Clearwater and asked them for their letter to Secretary Vilsack, which JZ had requested in the comment thread to this post. The letter is available here: http://ncfp.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/secretary-vilsack.pdf.

10 thoughts on ““Friends of Clearwater” not Friendly to Forest Service Planning Collaborative”

  1. Why is the name “Friends of the Clearwater” in quotation marks, Sharon? Should we also do that to the “Forest Service?” Does that fit into the comment guidelines that you often refer to when you don’t like other people’s comments or their style, Sharon?

    Regardless, here is the entire article, I put some of the part in bold, as it helps explain where Friends of the Clearwater is coming from. Thanks.

    US Forest Service discusses forest collaborative:
    Friends of the Clearwater continue attempts to stop it

    Posted: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 9:31 am, Tue Mar 5, 2013.
    By Brandon Macz, Daily News staff writer | 0 comments

    Friends of the Clearwater members continued to protest the collaborative process to develop a management plan for the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests during a Forest Service community meeting Monday, arguing it undermines the National Environmental Policy Act where public involvement should begin.

    The combined forests were selected under a 2012 planning rule as one of eight early adopters in the nation, and since then a collaborative group has been formed by the Forest Service to provide recommendations for a new plan with work groups meeting monthly.

    The conservation group argued Monday while the planning rule might make the public involvement process legal, there are still those who question whether the rule itself is legal. Gary Macfarlane with the Friends of the Clearwater said public involvement should begin with the NEPA process, once a forest assessment has been completed, and not before as what is happening with the collaborative.

    In a letter issued by the organization and several other conservation and environmental groups to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on Thursday, the Friends are asking he stop the collaborative over concerns it inappropriately expedites the planning process, goes around directives within the planning rule and gives an unfair advantage to special interests involved in the process.

    Forest Supervisor Rick Brazell and others at the meeting who have been involved in the collaborative since last fall continued to insist Macfarlane and others join the collaborative effort, adding public comments made now would still apply to the comment period required under NEPA. Those involved in work groups touching on subjects like infrastructure or vegetation will have as much influence as those commenting in other ways, Brazell said.

    Macfarlane and others who argue the process limits public involvement by setting workshops where not everyone can attend were the catalyst for forming an e-collaboration online, said Carol Hennessey, USFS collaboration coordinator. Through the Forest Service’s website, people can leave comments on a USFS map overlapping a Google Earth map, she said.

    “We did hear you, and I still hear you,” Hennessey said. “There’s no framework, right now. We’re kind of building it as we go.”

    Forest Service members at the meeting said they understood why many no longer trusted the agency, and even Brazell said issues of megaloads and the Upper Lochsa Land Exchange have been frustrating at times.

    He and staff will sit down with an agency attorney today to clarify a federal judge’s decision in early February that the Forest Service could have prevented ExxonMobil from transporting shipments on U.S. Highway 12 under the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

    “It’s that stupid to me that we should manage those megaloads,” Brazell said. “It gets into the courts, and then we can’t control it.”

    The land exchange is now being appraised by the state, Brazell said, and won’t be available to the public for at least six months to prevent entrepreneurs from trying to buy up premium lands. He said the exchange is being handled under the 1982 forest management plan, and Western Pacific Timber didn’t want to take the time to go through a public process, adding he anticipates the issue to be resolved through mediation.

    A draft plan is expected this year with a final environmental impact statement by spring 2014. Work will likely wrap up in July and restart in the fall.

    • Thanks for posting. I put Friends of the Clearwater in quotation marks because the only difference between generic friends of the Clearwater (including me) and the organization Friends of the Clearwater is the capitalization of Friends. Now since titles are supposed to be all capitalized, I tried to denote Friends and being different from friends through quotation marks.

      I’m sorry if that offended anyone.

      PS I think what the court said was that the FS had regulatory authority and should have analyzed it .. it would still be up to the FS to determine the degree of harm if any to the W&S river above other kinds of trucks traveling on the same road,”could have prevented” is the key thing. We could go down the road (so to speak) with much more analysis to get to the same place.

    • Awfully touchy there Matt. Doubt anyone but you even noticed. Now if It was “Friends” of the Clearwater, I could see your point, but geez….

      Regardless, any chance you could use your connections to get a copy of the letter to Vilsack for the rest of us to read?

  2. I sent the Secretary Vilsack letter to Matthew Koehler who has the ability to post the letter on this blog. I also have a few comments to make of my own.
    While the newspaper article captures many of the important points, the use of the word “protest” conjures up placards and shouting to disrupt the meeting. That didn’t occur. The meeting was billed as a public dialogue and that is how it proceeded. The meeting was not unfriendly though there was strong disagreement; it was an open discussion, all too rare these days. The University of Idaho facilitators were wise to allow this dialogue to occur.

    One of members of the forest planning collaborative for the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests–Jonathan Oppenheimer of the Idaho Conservation League–termed the process collective collaborative (or collaboration) confusion at a presentation given at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference in Eugene, Oregon this past weekend. Even proponents of collaboration find the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests plan(s) revision process on these two forests is putting the cart before the horse. The letter to Secretary Vilsack also addresses similar concerns.

    There are several retired Forest Service employees who share the concerns of Friends of the Clearwater and one of them is a board member of the organization. Some were at the meeting in Moscow.

    One of the stated reasons behind the new planning rule was to save time and money in revising forest plans. At the meeting, the Forest Service told the public the collaboration process would take even longer, in spite of the fact the Forest Service previously had told the public this process is on the fast track and would speed up revision. While taking more time to produce a good plan is most likely necessary, what isn’t necessary is creating two redundant public involvement processes for forest planning. Scoping under NEPA has not yet begun for the plan(s) revision for the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. In order to assure the pubic at the Moscow meeting, the Forest Service essentially said NEPA scoping is a second beginning of public involvement in plan revision. If that is indeed the case, why have a pre-NEPA collaborative process anyway?

    The exclusive Clearwater Basin Collaborative, which is largely funded at taxpayer expense, is already guiding the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest managers before NEPA is undertaken on any project pushed by the collaborative. Creating another collaborative, spearheaded by yet another special working group, creates a second, if not third, parallel Forest Service, and is therefore, an even bigger waste of American tax dollars and citizen time.

    I spoke with Carol Hennessey, the agency’s collaboration coordinator for plan revision and a fine Forest Service employee, after the meeting. I told here I was afraid that the citizens in the forest planning collaborative process had expectations that they would be given special deference, as opposed to those who participate deeply in the NEPA process, in spite of any warnings to the contrary. If the expectations of the collaborators are not met, the agency may create even more distrust.

    I am not sure whether it was Andy Stahl or Dr. Richard Behan who first said something to the effect the Forest Service loves to plan. The 2012 planning rule may assure that is all the Forest Service ever does.

    If those who believe that local, stakeholder processes are the way to manage national forests, then they should advocate for the repeal of NEPA, NFMA and other laws predicated upon current public land policy and decision-making. Indeed, there is no statutory authority or mandate in NFMA to create a pre-NEPA forest planning collaborative processes. Trying to conflate local stakeholder decision-making processes with our current public land decision-making process only heightens citizen distrust about the integrity of the agency’s planning process and increases the fear that NEPA is being circumvented and rendered a pro-forma exercise.

    • Thanks, Gary! I don’t agree with you on this (except I liked Andy’s minimalist planning rule) but I really appreciate your responsiveness and willingness to express your point of view..

    • When a group’s position is considered and rejected in a collaborative situation, they will often find a reason to “call foul”. Sometimes there is a valid reason, and sometimes not.

      Calling it like I see it….. again.

  3. Yes, Thanks for commenting Gary. I would disagree with a few things as well (especially that the FS “loves” to plan – are you kidding!? – you think responding to comments is fun!?!?) but appreciate the reply as well. Good to see you on here.

    Gotta say though, I’m a little disappointed in your description of the meeting. After seeing some of the youtube video of the megaload protests/arrests I was hoping for more drama to spice up an otherwise mundane process!!! (BTW – I’m guessing the spelling error preceeding “Moscow” was just that and not some sort of Freudian slip??). Just laugh……

    Some very good points in the letter and above, especially regarding false expectations and potential for more distrust of the FS. That has been a big concern of mine for a while with project level collaboration.

    It will be interesting to see when and who starts the “real” protesting, eh? We may all be in for a surprise…

    • Thanks for the link to the new HCN article JZ. I agree, pretty good reporting on the issue. Also good to see HCN using this blog as a reference and/or story incubator.


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