Stewardship contracts – a better tool for the job than a roadless rule?

I wouldn’t have thought that one is a substitute for the other, and maybe this suggests that Utah defined its problem wrong initially.  But they’re happy enough with the way their Shared Stewardship agreement is working that they have put their roadless rule proposal on a back burner.  At least some greens seem happy, too, and least those concerned about roadless areas.  Priority-setting, within the framework of a forest plan, is one thing that I think lends itself to collaboration.

Amid debate about state-specific exemptions to the Roadless Rule, Congress created the capacity to negotiate “stewardship contracts” ranging up to 20 years with states in the 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act.  It allows the Forest Service to rely on “state’s guidance for designing, implementing, and prioritizing projects geared toward reducing the risks of damaging wildfires and promoting forest health.”


Wilderness Society Senior Resource Analyst for National Forest Policy Mike Anderson said conservationists are encouraged by what Shared Stewardship agreements could foster in addressing critical needs.  “Working side-by-side to identify the major risks and implement projects that are actually going to make a difference on the land is something conservationists, I think, can generally can support,” he said. “We think it is good.”


(Utah Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office lead counsel) Garfield said under the agreement, projects “can happen, and are occurring, within and without the roadless area, when necessary.”    ‘The existing rule provides a lot of exceptions that the Forest Service can use for forest restoration,” he said. “The Forest Service wasn’t using those” exceptions in many cases.  Garfield said PLPCO will be watching closely over the next four years to see if the Shared Stewardship agreement works out before withdrawing its petition. “I won’t say everything we hoped to accomplish under a state-specific Roadless Rule will be achieved under the Shared Stewardship agreement,” he said, “but a lot of progress is being made.”

(One error in this article – the Idaho and Colorado state roadless rules have been approved.)

7 thoughts on “Stewardship contracts – a better tool for the job than a roadless rule?”

    • Thanks. I had a feeling the author (and I) might be missing some distinctions. Was the mistake in using the term “stewardship contracts?”

  1. So, as with CFLRP, the devil will be in the details that environmental groups force those initiating the projects to agree upon before moving forward.
    For example, one major trade-off I’d pursue is binding the agencies into enforcing the CWA’s “pipe” (even though SCOTUS disagrees with the interpretation) rule to help protect against roadless area road run-off.

    Which brings us around full circle. Is the “collaboration champion” Wilderness Society ready to dig in and fight for negation points such as I just proposed? Doubtful. The responsibility will devolve upon the smaller groups with less funding to expend on the time intensive “collaborative” approach.

    Perhaps the time is right for a new kind of environmental 501c3: Small lean environmental watchdogs whose only mission is to watchdog the big, purported watchdogs, like the Wilderness Society.

    Who’s in?

  2. I think the authors are missing quite a bit. There are many reasons for proposing a roadless rule, as Jon pointed out, Idaho and Colorado have been approved and been in place for awhile, with, it seems minimal national drama, and in Colorado’s case a long-drawn out set of lawsuits on an area where temporary methane drainage wells and roads were allowed to be removed after use. Stewardship (a way of doing projects) and Roadless (where and how you can do projects) are like apples and pumpkins.

    Now, Utah might have done a spatial analysis and figured out that it might not be worth the hassle, it might not get approved by a new administration (I think Colorado’s took two national and two state administrations) and they don’t want to finalize one and spend the next five years in litigation.

  3. Sharon, I’m assuming you mean this portion:
    “temporary methane drainage wells and roads were allowed to be removed after use.”

    I thought about that. Remember, I am in Idaho and due to my time w/the USFS here I’m well acquainted with the projects, and the people that make them happen. And yes, the temp road use and restricting harvest to winter months when those temp roads are being used figures large into the R1 approval calculus. I get it.

    However, as a litigator and sometime mediator (all litigators are mediators viewed for the right context — managing party’s expectations is 75% of what we do) what I also get, is the fact that when you give an inch the other side takes a mile. If environmental groups aren’t coming with these demands up front, thereby allowing those on the other side to understand the full range of the stakes, things tend to get forgotten or swept under the rug — wink, wink, nod, nod, say no more, say no more.

    And to my knowledge, the Wilderness Society and Nature Conservancy types do a lot of winking and nodding. Si vis pacem, para bellum.


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