I think we posted this earlier in blog history, but I couldn’t find it and FACA has come up again.. so here goes.
Here is the link:
Here is an excerpt:
Best Practices for Avoiding FACA Violations
Help participants understand how to work with the Forest Service in a FACA-compliant manner; Ensure that Forest Service staff and external stakeholders understand what constitutes consensus advice or recommendations under FACA;
o Individual group members can provide their own personal opinions, advice, or recommendations without implicating FACA.
o This is true even if several individual members of a group provide similar or identical opinions, advice, or recommendations.
Do not solicit consensus advice or recommendations from a group that was established, utilized, managed, or controlled by the Forest Service;
Inform (orally and in writing) members of a group that was established, utilized, managed, or controlled by the Forest Service that the agency cannot obtain the group’s consensus advice or recommendations without triggering FACA;
Seek advice or recommendations from interested stakeholders only after making clear that the agency is not asking the group to reach consensus or to provide only consensus advice;
Ensure that collaborative meetings are open to the public and properly advertised in advance;
Keep detailed minutes of all collaborative meetings;
and Make all records, reports, transcripts, minutes, and other information related to a collaborative group publicly available.
Here’s a big thank you to all involved: Peter Williams, who coordinated it, and other Forest Service folks, OGC, National Partnership Office (NPO) and the Office of Regulatory Management Services (ORMS). This is now the FS’s default “EZ Button” for FACA.
This is a bit of an aside, but when I worked in applied forest ecology (aka silviculture), it was considered good to write things down so that people who didn’t know as much as you do about a certain topic could learn.. you would still be the expert, but there are many things that they could learn for themselves and people on the ground learning more was generally thought to be a good thing. When I got into planning, I discovered that lawyers did not generally feel the same way about writing down helpful summary documents and white papers. Unfortunately, we were assigned to write one called “When NEPA applies” and that’s where I learned this. I think the problem is “writing down” because the lawyers’ reaction to written down “lessons learned” was not good either. In the case of “lessons learned” because plaintiffs could acquire them. Anyway, I just wanted to share what appeared to me to be a cultural difference between “biological advice world” and “legal advice world.” Which makes things like this document even more difficult to do and more worthy of appreciation, IMHO.