DECEMBER 19, 1997, CHICAGO
COMMITTEE OF SCIENTISTS
Dr. Norm Johnson, Chair
Dr. Jim Agee
Dr. Bob Beschta
Dr. Virginia Dale
Dr. Linda Hardesty
Dr. Jim Long
Dr. Larry Nielsen
Dr. Barry Noon
Dr. Roger Sedjo
Dr. Margaret Shannon
Dr. Ron Trosper
Charles Wilkinson, Prof. of Law
Dr. Julia Wondolleck
Bob Cunningham, Designated Federal Official
Jim Lyons, Under Secretary of Agriculture
Brooks Preston, Dept. Agriculture
Mike Dombeck, U.S.Forest Service Chief
Chris Risbrudt, USFS
Mike Gippert, Office of General Council (OGC)
Committee Staff Support
Harriet Plumley, USFS
Ann Carlson, USFS
Jonathan Stephens, USFS
Joanne Hildreth, USFS
Vince Vukelich, OGC
Leslie Auriemmo, OGC
Al Ferlo, USFS
Cara Nelson, Nat. Res. Defense Council
Nadine Bailey, Timber Producers Assoc.
Mary Munson, Defenders of Wildlife
Michael Freeman, Reg. Assoc. Concerned Environmentalists
Paul Friesema, Northwestern Univ.
Tregan Trepanier, The Greens
Overview of the Committee Of Scientists (COS) Assignment
by James Lyons, Under Secretary of Agriculture
Jim Lyons, Under Secretary for Natural Resources, U.S. Department of Agriculture, gave the COS an overview of its assignment, with the help of Brooks Preston, his assistant. Under Secretary Lyons gave a short speech covering his views which will be placed on the public record, will appear on the COS web page, and will be distributed with these meeting notes. In that speech, Under Secretary Lyons emphasized the COS charge is to "review the present forest planning process as well as proposed revisions to the current regulations, and to recommend improvements to guide the development of future land and resource management plans. The Charter is clear that the Committee is to work within the context of existing law." He also covered the many changes that have occurred since the regulations were last revised, and stressed the need to bring the regulations in line with new concepts of ecosystem management.
Under Secretary Lyons said, "New science, new technology, and a reviewed emphasis on seeking greater involvement on the part of the public and other agencies in the planning process warrant a new look at how we go about planning the management of the national forests. This is the Committee’s charge." He further stated that he wanted the COS to be bold and creative in its thinking, and stressed the importance for the planning processes of the future to be "more user friendly, more interactive, more responsive to changing information, and more affordable."
Future Focus of the Forest Service
by Chief Mike Dombeck
Chief Dombeck also spoke at the 12/19/97 meeting; we have summarized his remarks below.
The Forest Service is going through a period of changing expectations for our National Forests. The public is demanding to be more involved in the decisions about these forests.
We need to work within the limits of the land to preserve options. Our first priority is to protect and restore the health of the land. Resource conditions are improving in many parts of the country. We need to concentrate on what we leave on the land and less on what we take from it.
To help improve accountability, we need (and will have) clearly-defined performance measures based on resource conditions to help us gauge how the National Forests are progressing toward the goals of management. Performance measures will be needed to assess trends such as those in water quality, soil stability and watershed condition, riparian condition, management of fire-dependent landscapes, and noxious weed management. These measures should help communities to understand the need for a focus on land health, be in terms they can understand, and relate to the American people.
The Need for Improvements in Land and Resource Planning
We must be ready for the next giant step in forest management planning.
Plans should be built around what people want, measured in ways people understand.
Planning seems to have become almost an end in itself; it should be simplified in order to devote more organizational energies to implementation, monitoring, and management.
The COS must avoid writing in ways that only other scientists can understand. If need be, the Chief will hire a writer to develop a straightforward version of ideas in the COS report.
In reviewing planning, the COS needs to address both the process and substance, e.g. we need to understand how to measure and ensure sustainability and forest health.
The link between forest planning and the appropriations process needs attention.
It is important that the COS help establish a framework for planning. What do we want? How do we get there? How do we tell how we are doing?
Review of the Charter
The Chair led the COS through a review of its Charter. Two key clauses in the charter that define the task before the COS are: 1) "The purpose of this advisory committee is to provide scientific and technical advice to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Chief of the Forest Service on improvements that can be made in the National Forest System Land and Resource Management planning process." and 2) " In its report, the Committee shall make recommendations on how best to accomplish sound resource planning within the established framework of environmental laws and within the statutory mission of the Forest Service. The Committee shall provide technical advice on the land and resource management planning process, and material for the Forest Service to consider for incorporation into the revised planning regulations. The Committee shall recommend improvements in Forest Service coordination with other federal land management or resource protection agencies, state and local government agencies, and tribal governments, while recognizing the unique roles and responsibilities of each in the planning process."
Relative to the completion date for the Committee’s work, the Charter states that "The Committee shall produce and deliver its report four months from its initial meeting, unless additional time is needed." Under Secretary Lyons said that he hoped the Committee’s report to the Forest Service could be finished by Spring (April/May) 1998. A summary report for the public may be developed by a professional writer after the Committee submits its report.
Review of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA)
Jonathan Stephens, USFS, led a discussion of FACA,
assisted by: Errol Meidinger, Univ. of Buffalo Law School (by phone),
Mike Gippert, Office of General Council, USDA, and
Vince Vukelich, Office of General Council.
All meetings must be announced at least 15 days in advance in the Federal Register. It takes 3-4 working days to get information published.
The Designated Federal Official (DFO), Bob Cunningham, is responsible for attending all Committee meetings, ensuring public participation, approving meeting agendas and minutes, and coordinating a Forest Service response to Committee recommendations. Bob will be in the office of the Deputy Chief for the National Forest System for the duration of the Committee’s Charter, phone 202-205-2494, FAX 202-205-1758.
Committee Operational Processes
A brief discussion occurred about Committee operation processes. The Chair will bring a proposed set of operational processes to the January meeting.
A Committee of Scientists web site has been established at Oregon State University, in Corvallis, Oregon, in order to enable people across the country to keep track of the COS process and offer suggestions. This Web site supplements two locations where all records will be kept for public inspection.
Meeting 1 - December 19, 1997; Location: Chigaco
Meeting 2 - January 22-23, 1998; Location: Denver (Region 2)
Meeting 3 - February 12-13, 1998; Location: Seattle (Region 6)
Meeting 4 - February 24-25, 1998; Location: Atlanta (Region 8)
Meeting 5 - March 3-5, 1998; Location: To be selected
Meeting 6 - March 31 - April 1 ; 1998; Location: To be selected
Meeting 7 - April 14-15, 1998; Location: To be selected
Meeting 8 - April 22-23, 1998; Location: To be selected
Potential Agenda for January 22-23, 1998
Allow time for Committee member to share key issues.
Obtain historical view of NFMA and evolution of the regulations and of the role of the Committee of Scientists.
Begin developing a set of scientific principles that will provide a useful framework for suggesting improvements in the land and resource management planning process of the Forest Service.
Discuss draft of a Work Plan.
END OF MEETING NOTES