When I worked for the Forest Service, I worked on many coal and oil and gas projects. If a Forest Service fuels reduction project appeals and litigation seems incredibly complex, think about coal or oil and gas, in which BLM and the Forest Service have different pieces, different appeal processes and different lawyers all for the same project. Of course other federal agencies are involved; OSM for coal, and the relevant regulatory agencies, and for each NEPA document EPA has to review it and give their opinion (of the NEPA). So there’s lots of opportunities for interagency intrigue and drama.
I was always curious about using IBLA (the Interior Board of Land Appeals) and how that works compared to the Forest Service appeals process. It seems like that group (IBLA) would develop expertise and perhaps lead to fewer projects ultimately going to litigation, because judges are involved (hey, it’s just a hypothesis).
Note: for the projects I was involved with, future plaintiffs had these projects in their sights for litigation from day 1, and it was only a case of bullet- proofing the documentation, because certain groups are strongly philosophically opposed. So perhaps in that situation, the different appeals processes don’t matter except for giving folks many, many more (federally funded) bites at the same apple because there are separate processes.
I’m hoping someone on the blog (or ask your colleagues) has some comparative experience between IBLA and FS processes in terms of CREATE (conflict resolution effectiveness, accountability and transparency)?
I found this writeup “Administrative Appeals in the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Servicein 2012” by the Congressional Research Service.. it’s mind-boggling and seems like, though it would be a large task, cost savings and clarity to everyone could be improved if an attempt were made to somehow consolidate and streamline appeals processes. The many flowcharts themselves are enough to make your neurons implode.