Legislation With Time Limit to Streamline FACA Approvals?


Black Hills Federal Advisory Committee 2014


Talking about the Black Hills reminded me of their FACA Committee, and this history from their website.

In 2001, then-Senator Tom Daschle hosted a Forest Summit in Rapid City that drew a crowd of over 600 people to air their views on how the national forest is currently being managed. One of the concepts discussed was the formation of a “council” of diverse interests that would work cooperatively to provide advice and recommendations regarding national forest management. In the months following the Summit, it became clear that the public supported this concept and was ready to participate. In response, Supervisor John Twiss made the decision to establish the Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board. The Board was chartered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972 (FACA).

Right now, as I understand, the Black Hills folks are trying to get their FACA committee members approved, having been successful at getting their charter approved.  For those who haven’t had the pleasure of working with the Federal Advisory Committee process at USDA, the charters need to be re-upped every two years, but you can’t start the process for approving nominations until the charter is approved.  Each of these processes goes into a mysterious Department black hole (this seems to be regardless of Administration) so that by the time your members get approved, it’s almost time to start the charter approval process again. Unless they didn’t approve the nominees for two years and the charter expired and you have to start over. With the approval of a new charter, which you wait on to be approved before you can send in the nominations.

So this can be frustrating for everyone involved.  But… in reading some recent legislation, I thought I had seen (I think it was for RACs possibly) that if the Department didn’t respond in 30 days, the individuals were considered to have been appointed.  I went through the Infrastructure Bill and couldn’t find it, but that’s not to say that it isn’t there somewhere.

I wonder if all departments have this much trouble, and whether there’s anything to be done, either by USDA or by legislation – to ensure that Advisory Committees are helped to exist rather than hindered. Or just stop them if they’re not useful.

When President Trump tried to reduce the number of advisory committees, he was roundly thrashed in the media. But for decades folks have tolerated the presence of glacial bureaucratic procedures interfering with their function (at least at USDA).  As one of my colleagues used to say, “pick a lane, folks!”

9 thoughts on “Legislation With Time Limit to Streamline FACA Approvals?”

  1. This seems like a formalization of what has been going on in R1. We in R1 could stand to have the approval process, as all of our collaborative have had dominate pro-wilderness members. The approval process may encourage balanced representation?

    • I believe it’s in the FACA regs somewhere.. “balanced representation”.. however, my memory of the approval process circa the 90s was that many random USDA folks had to sign off, (and during the Clinton Admin, the White House Office of something or other) who would have had absolutely no clue. I don’t know how the process works now but it still seems inordinately slow.

      When a FACA committee is chartered, they have a list of what interests are represented.
      For the Black Hills, it’s

      National Forest Advisory Board
      The purpose of the National Forest Advisory Board (NFAB) is to provide advice and recommendations on a broad range of forest issues such as forest plan revisions or amendments, forest health including fire and mountain pine beetle epidemics, travel management, forest monitoring and evaluation, recreation fees, and site-specific projects having forest-wide implications.

      Committee is currently inactive (2021)

      The board represent the following areas of interest:

      Developed outdoor recreation, Off-Highway Vehicle use, or commercial recreation
      Economic development
      Energy and mineral development
      Forest products industry
      Nationally recognized sportsmen’s group such as anglers or hunters
      Archaeological, cultural, and historical interests
      Nationally recognized environmental organization
      Regionally recognized environmental organization
      Dispersed recreation
      Hold federal grazing permits or other land use permit
      Tribal government elected or appointed official
      Hold county or local-elected or appointed office South Dakota or Wyoming
      South Dakota elected or appointed office
      Wyoming elected or appointed office
      State Natural Resource Agency official from South Dakota
      State Natural Resource Agency official from Wyoming

      for the RACNAC (state roadless rules) I couldn’t find a list like that, but did find this..
      “Members of the committee will review petitions submitted by states, seek consensus,
      identify issues, and provide the Secretary or the Secretary’s designee with advice and
      recommendations on implementing the State Petitions Rule. The committee membership is
      geographically diverse, with members from ten states and the District of Columbia.
      Members of the committee include: Darin Bird, representing state-elected officials; Robert
      Cope, representing locally-elected officials; Adena Cook and Geraldine Link, representing
      developed recreation organizations; Jeff Eisenberg, James Riley, and Gregory Schaefer,
      representing commercial interest organizations; Denny Scott representing organized labor
      organizations; and Paul Hansen, Dale Harris, Todd Schulke, Howard Vaughan, and Chris
      Wood representing environmental organizations. ”

      So I suppose balance can be set out at the beginning, or be in the eye of the beholder. In the Clinton Admin they were also looking for racial and gender diversity, which did require some back and forth at the time.

  2. My interaction with the NFAB was a pleasant surprise, I was working as Forest Supervisor there and sure was a step up from “Secure Rural Schools” involvement. Interestingly, leadership above the Forest level looked at NFAB as a distraction, and not necessarily appreciated for what they brought to the table…..

  3. There is an automatic 30-day approval provision in the infrastructure bill for certain Secure Rural Schools RACs as part of a pilot program. Here’s a partial excerpt – the full provision appears in

    at pdf pp. 704-706. The automatic appointment language appears in (C) below.

    ‘‘(A) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary concerned shall carry
    out a national pilot program to allow the Chief of the
    Forest Service or the Director of the Bureau of Land
    Management, as applicable, to submit to the Secretary
    concerned nominations of individuals for appointment as
    members of resource advisory committees.
    ‘‘(B) APPOINTMENT.—Under the national pilot program,
    subject to subparagraph (C), not later than 30 days after
    the date on which a nomination is transmitted to the
    Secretary concerned under subparagraph (A), the Secretary
    concerned shall—
    ‘‘(i) appoint the nominee to the applicable resource
    advisory committee; or
    ‘‘(ii) reject the nomination.
    ‘‘(C) AUTOMATIC APPOINTMENT.—If the Secretary concerned does not act on a nomination in accordance with
    subparagraph (B) by the date described in that subparagraph, the nominee shall be deemed appointed to the
    applicable resource advisory committee.
    ‘‘(D) GEOGRAPHIC LIMITATION.—The national pilot program shall apply to a resource advisory committee chartered in any State other than—
    ‘‘(i) the State of Montana; or
    ‘‘(ii) the State of Arizona

    • Yes, thank you so much, Rich! This is what I saw. Apparently the SRS RACs must have had some frustration with the same issue the other FACA committees have. too bad it doesn’t apply (or a 60 day window) to all USDA and INT FACA commitees..

  4. It’s time to move the US Forest Service into the Department of the Interior, dissolve the Black Hills National Forest and make it a national monument co-managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the tribal nations signatory to the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty. Mato Paha (Bear Butte), the associated national grasslands and the Sioux Ranger District of the Custer Gallatin National Forest should be included in the move.


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