This is an account of a series of meetings that seems like a useful step in the forest planning process that I don’t think I’ve seen before:
Over the last year, the Forest’s planning team has held dozens of public meetings regarding the ongoing revision process. Through those, and other submission options, they have collected hundreds of comments on various aspects of the Gila’s management. Heather Bergman, of Peak Facilitator Group, called this round of meetings the “last call for ideas,” at Tuesday’s meeting in Reserve. Throughout the meetings, Bergman — whose company the Forest Service contracted to consult on the plan revision process — and Gila planner Matt Schultz showed attendees the range of opinions the team had gathered on each of the most divisive issues to that point.
These might be the same thing as “significant issues” under NEPA that warrant development of alternatives. Here they are:
- Livestock grazing management (“permittee should decide how resources are managed on their allotment” vs. “more restrictions placed on permittees” or eliminate grazing)
- Land adjustments (“less public land” vs. “acquire desirable lands”)
- Wilderness (delist some wilderness vs. significantly expand wilderness)
- Riparian area management, restoration tools and “a few more”
Here’s what the facilitator took home:
“It is really amazing when you think about all of the different things the Forest Service manages on the Gila, these are the only things there is controversy on,” Bergman said. “There is a great deal of consensus on management, which is really nice.”
Lucky them! Wildlife apparently didn’t make this list, which is not uncommon, even in places where it is a source of controversy, which is most places. Maybe that’s because it is the underlying reason for other divisive issues like livestock grazing and riparian management. (Maybe fire management is included under “restoration tools?”)
“Land adjustments” is not usually on this list, but at least on the Gila (home of Catron County) it looks like forest planning is seen as an opportunity to bring up privatization again.