Excerpt from an E&E Daily article, “BLM, Forest Service officials support contentious bills.”
Glenn Casamassa, the Forest Service’s associate deputy chief, indicated the service also supports the goal behind S. 2160, sponsored by Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.).
Daines’ bill would require the Forest Service chief to establish a pilot program using “alternative dispute resolution,” most likely arbitration, in lieu of legal action “for certain projects” designed to reduce wildfire risks in Montana and parts of Idaho.
Only projects dealing with reducing wildfire risks, and developed “through a collaborative” process with various stakeholders, would be eligible for arbitration, he said.
“Combating chronic litigation doesn’t erode public input, it safeguards it,” he said. “It does so by ensuring that consensus-driven decisions of the majority are not obstructed by isolated dissenters, in most cases extreme environmental groups.”
Casamassa told Daines that litigation has harmed important forest management projects and is a concern for the Agriculture Department and Forest Service.
“USDA supports the idea of arbitration as a tool to help streamline project decisions while maintaining public engagement and input,” he said.