I’m working on a project for a conference in July. My goal is to understand the views of environmental groups who are successful at influencing policy, either via political clout or via litigation, and to see whether there is a zone of agreement that could be imagined. The goal being to increase the pace and scale of “restoration” (including fuel treatments) which is supported by all recent Administration, and to have such groups support the efforts at the least, or to help, at best.
I’m interested in getting feedback on my proposal and will touch base with The Smokey Wire as the project goes forward. Questions at this stage are below.
Here’s part of the writeup I did for a proposal.
“Some groups seem to support prescribed fire, but not mechanical treatment of fuels. While developing markets for woody material seems key to funding this work through time at the scale required, some organizations do not support these efforts. In some cases, they may think that those markets would ultimately lead to environmental degradation (pers. comm.). Many national groups are also active in efforts such as Wilderness legislation, and these designations would have impacts on suppression actions, as well as fuel treatments and, in some cases, the use of prescribed fire.
Where timber industry is active, we seem to have an endless conflict that is reminiscent of the old Timber Wars. Litigation holds up projects. Republicans want to streamline. Democrats argues that the methods used are bad, and that the R’s are in the pockets of the timber industry and want to destroy federal lands and so on. Some scientists chime in with “logging won’t stop fires” and we’re off to the “talking past each other” races.
Meanwhile, other states without a history of Timber Wars simply want to develop some uses for material removed in mitigation efforts so that they can offset some costs, and not release carbon and particulates from burning piles. They may feel their views and needs are not seen at the national level because at that scale, the partisan framing of the issue has sucked all the oxygen (so to speak) out of the policy room. And the fact that Coloradans, New Mexicans, and Californians would like these markets for the material can’t ignite, or fan the flames of partisan factionalism.
To move into the future as we manage fire in a changing climate, we need to identify where we agree, and find national policies that suit both the Timber Wars and the market-free parts of the West.
For the purposes of this paper, I will focus two different kinds of groups. First are the litigators, and second, the national influencers who help set Administration policy and lobby Congress, which tend to be large national environmental groups. I will select five groups in each category.
For example, in the group of litigators would be Wild Earth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity, NRDC and others.
In the group of influencers would be the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, Defenders of Wildlife and others.
First, I will conduct a literature review on previous studies of these groups, and see if there has been any work done on their views on fire management. A preliminary review for this proposal has so far yielded nothing relevant.
Second, I will review the organizations’ websites for information on their views. For litigators, I will also use their comments on proposed projects to help understand their views.
Third, based on the website (and project comment) information, I will develop a series of questions and conduct interviews with key people in each organization. These interviews will include questions like “what are your concerns about current and future fire management?“ “do your concerns differ for private and federal lands?” “what does your organization currently contribute to discussions and implementation of fire management policies?” and “what would it take for your organization to support interventions including mechanical fuel treatments, prescribed fire, and developing markets for small-diameter material?”. Other interview questions will be based on information found in the website review.
Fourth, based on these interviews, I’ll suggest some innovative policy ideas to be outlined in the paper.
So what groups do you think I should select and why? Have you run across any documentation of groups’ opinions? Have you seen any studies that examined views of environmental groups on this topic? Any other thoughts?