FEBRUARY 24-25, 1998, ATLANTA
USFS Region 8 (Southern) Presentation
Elizabeth Estill - Regional Forester
We need to simplify the legal structure for managing national forests, and to provide some predictability. Assure other expectations of public met. Reasons plans donít work:
Good information is more important than a plan. The foundation is for all interested parties to agree on whatís out there, and then we can work on uses. Good information leads to collaborative stewardship. USFS need a compelling reason to involve the public. Both local and national agendas are important, and therefore we have social plans. We need to maintain a continuous dialogue with these interests. Flexibility allows accommodating science and change. Scale is an important consideration: Districts are appropriate for some planning and multi-forests for others. Political boundaries are not appropriate to planning. National forests are backdrops for nature, natural places. Private industry is looking to private lands for commodity production; there is little public dialogue about that in the planning process.
Gary Pierson, Planning Director
There are four plan revisions completed in the Region: Texas, George Washington, Francis Marion, and the Caribbean. Bio-regional assessments have been completed for the Ozarks and Southern Appalachians. In these areas it was not appropriate to analyze forest-by-forest. Wanted an interagency look at the relationship of the national forests to the overall ecosystem, and how the public and partners interact and share information. Five forest plan revisions are being done simultaneously with the Southern Appalachian Assessment. Still achieving regional and subregional consistency required for wildlife issues. Did all this under current 219 regulations. Expectations internally and externally were too high as going into revision process - plans donít solve everything. Do we really need national consistency or just between Forests? Need planning strongly tied to monitoring. Peaks and valleys between dollars and people. NEPA only one part of the planning process - donít need NEPA compliance at every scale. Timeframe for the process is way too slow, and the end product not comparable to effort put into it (often out of date the day it signed). Major blowdown changed a whole Forest, and lack of flexibility in the process for adjusting. Amendment process too frustrating. Need new process for public involvement focused on relationships. Science must be part of the process, but outcomes and decisions are social/economic. Look at the planning critique done in 1990.
Glen Gaines - Ecology; Team Leader, Southern Appalachian Assessment
Discussed the approach used for aquatics and terrestrial resources in the S. Appalachian Assessment and plan revisions (handout). Course and fine filter approach - structure and composition of landscapes, and rare community types, e.g. old growth. Stream types and watersheds. Fine filter looks at individual species requirements. Screen for rare species on the edge of their range. Additional screens were for social issues, e.g. game species. Were able to bring in ecological keystone species. Then looked at landscape patterns and habitat associations were developed for each of the key species. Coordinated habitat models for specific species needs, and integrated into management prescriptions.
Larry Hayden, Croatan Plan Revision, North Carolina
The Nantahala-Pisgah Plan was remanded in 1990. Rebuilt the plan together with interest groups. Everyone worked together, got to know each other, depolarized, got to real issues. Eliminated a lot of rhetoric. Took two years to build a foundation of facts and attain a decision. The analysis and documentation process bogged everyone down. Tools required so much specificity. The partners lost interest. Doing a significant amendment, not revision (remand situation), so could set the scope. Focused on a set of applicable problems. Then new people enter the arena and bring new issues. The 1994 decision built expectations; not everyone was happy, but it went fairly well until 1997. Public consensus began fraying around edges. Whole 15-year process came down to a few land allocations on a few areas. Perhaps a cycle of 3-year intervals as checkpoints would work better. The Croatan NF had a different environment. Surrounded by industrial lands and a military complex. Needed the flexibility to take different approaches with groups, areas, publics. Used a different landscape plan. The EIS required too much analysis for the area. Better to have fewer substantive requirements. Interdisciplinary teams function well in a 6-8 month period. Organize in bites so products can be developed in that timeframe.
Chief Dombeck & Al Ferlo (via conference call)
Summarized key points of February 1998 speech. Secretary Glickman and Undersecretary Lyonís asked him to provide a framework for moving into next century. Four principles: 1) USFS has a strong science & technology base, and has embraced adaptive management; 2) Ecosystem management as strengthened by Jack Ward Thomas; 3) Sound business practices and accountability (GPRA), and 4) Partnerships and collaborative stewardship.
Priorities - had three significant meetings with national directors (USFS), and others. Watershed health and restoration, recreation. We have paid less attention to the water side of the equation. If we work within the limits of land, protect healthiest watersheds and restore those that need it, we will be able to move forward. We have 40 million acres with high risks of disease and insects. Sustainable forest management - challenges us to meet consumption levels that have increased in U.S. by 12%; the burden is shifting to other countries or private lands. Must work within limits of ecosystems, will produce products in a sustainable way. Roads - looking at whole policy to have framework based on science. Have 373,000 miles on the books right now. To the public, roads equal logging. But roads are part of the infrastructure people need. The USFS is responsible for 7700 bridges nationwide. Would have to repair 400/yr to keep them maintained; we have funding for 40/yr. Taking timeout for 18 months while assessing affects of roads. More controversial issues this year. Recreation, increasing urbanization, desire to enjoy open spaces. Society redefining what is happening in natural resource management.
Public Comment Period
Fifteen members of the public spoke to the Committee for five minutes each. These individuals then formed an impromptu panel and answered questions from the committee for approximately one hour.
Art Cooper - Chair of Original COS
There is a limited amount of information that can be transferred from original COS to this one. The original COS came in at end of a large debate. Considerable confusion in Congress after NFMA passed. Asked for guidance on handling COS. USFS used what the National Academy recommended. USFS was very different agency then - very timber dominated. Had no agency planning process. Had processes for individual ranger units, but nothing overriding. COS had to make up planning as went along. Had to invent process. Criticized for focusing on process. USFS at the time felt NFMA was a jab at the belly, and if they flexed those muscles the Act would go away.
Members of the public at COS meetings - decided to let them come and participate. About a year into their work, President Carter tried to move the USFS to the Department of Interior. USFS used that as a bargaining tool to hold up approval of the first draft of the regulations.
Important difference between COSs was the time involved. Met in May of 1977 and ended in June 1979. Had a period of 4-7 weeks between meetings. Time to think and write and exchange material between meetings. This COS may have limits on ability to think out what they want to say. More members and diversity of opinion. That COS - easy to get past issues because deferred to each others areas of expertise.
Recommended that COS insist report published in Federal Register. When came to dispute between COS and USFS, COS could say that their opinion would be published in F.R. Needs to be given the widest possible circulation, unfettered by any edits from the USFS. Will raise the level of credibility if people know this is COS report.
The original COS report included an analysis of proposed regulations, and the second part was a full draft of regulations the way COS thought they should be. There were places where they actually wrote the language in the regulations, however, the USFS actually wrote them, and augmented, changed COS language. Reason COS wrote language: USFS limited in planning experience.
New regulations should have a timelessness to them. Donít cater to current views.
Greatest weakness of first regulations was failure to give detail to monitoring requirements; just said you should monitor. USFS did not accept and COS did not push it. Represented only half the job. How you determine whether a plan was working was not spoken to well. This COS can do a great service to the cause of forest planning by adding substance to monitoring and how to implement planning. Planning in NFMA was an attempt to deal with on-the-ground management without describing what it would be like. Requires a process be developed.
Larry Haydenís levels of planning
Stage 1 - Goals, objectives, vision by bio-region - 2 years
State 2 - Watershed 1, WA 2, etc. (visioning & integrated project set) - 6-8 months/watershed
Stage 3 - NEPA projects
Revisit: Stage 1 every 3-5 yrs, for 2-4 months
Revisit: Stage 2 every 3-5 yrs, for 2-6 months
Revalidate dealing only with questions needing change.
Inclusive, include right people.
Skills and funding in place for continuous planning.
Agency commitment to planning and understanding of objectives.
Keep "ownership" and commitments at local level to plans.
General Discussion of Principles
Committee should make recommendations on processes that affect achieving the purposes of planning., like appeals and budget. Lay out ideas, state assumptions and limits.
Choice of bio-regional boundaries should come from ecological processes. Maybe we are being blinded by setting boundaries when each situation may need something else. The Southern Appalachian Assessment boundary started with counties that matched, and ecoregions.
Predictability vs. flexibility. There is inherent variability in the system, but trust and viability of certain publics depend on predictions. Need to disclose where uncertainty exists. Trust issue: 1) donít trust USFS to make right decisions, or 2) donít trust USFS to make decisions that I approve of. Canít get consensus on whether agency met consensus or issues. How to proceed in face of divergent objectives (w/in constraints of ecosystems). People have a fundamental belief that national forests can meet extractive processes and natural conditions. When run into conflicts, which gets retained. How to integrate the two so they are not conflicting.
Purpose of planning is to fulfill legitimate uses of national forests. Always balancing; mining allowed for 20 yrs in Wilderness areas. MUSY requires sustainability, however, there is no distinction on which most important. Providing clean water for communities - 1897 Organic Act - preserve favorable conditions of waterflows. Second, continuous supply of timber. Strenuous opposition at that time to allow timber harvesting on the national forests. Not permitted for commercial uses at that time. Intended to not interfere with watershed processes. (Timber not to be sold across state boundaries, is an example of a prescription). WWII cut went from 1 billion to over 11 billion. NFMA - congress had a number of objectives, one clearly to reign in harvesting, and other to give USFS discretion. Laws intended to be flexible now. Choices among various uses. Since 1989, timber domination has been reeled in. Down to 3-4 billion/yr. Chiefís Feb. 1998 speech - protect our healthy watersheds. Other uses are legitimate, but suggest we consider the Chiefís words that protecting watersheds is number one.
Requirements of NFMA for the regulations - 1960's way of saying sustainability. Should we prioritize what directed under NFMA?
What could planning contribute to the management of the national forests? What weíve heard so far: mechanism to integrate across ecosystems, scales, inherently provides an opportunity to think about the future, context of pieces to link to the whole, context by which learning can occur and find way into management, engaging the public, envisioning future of forests, problem solving, instilling sense of responsibility, building communities, establishing security or predictability for future, encouraging accountability. What process would encourage these things to occur?
Be knowledgeable of the current regulations (1982) and the latest proposed (1992).
Need to come up with an original set of purpose and principles. Then, help people understand what they mean, e.g. what does it mean that planning should be efficient. Successful planning must capture the essence but not necessarily the details of the dynamic nature of ecosystems. 1) What does that mean? 2) How will we tell when planning embraces that approach? 3) Examples of successful approaches.
Report of COS
Historical overview of planning
2. Purpose and Principles
3. Discussion of purpose and principles
Framework for implementation
4. Compare Principles to latest draft regs and propose language
Education and Communication
>Community Involvement (Maggie, Julia, Linda)
Bringing together different bodies of research. Last line of USFS critique said political process. The public involvement process was designed to intersect with planning process. Current example of community groups and processes are the result of failure of the planning process. Donít necessarily use as models of where we want to go. Other hand, can learn a great deal in terms of conceptualizing process from the Southern Appalachian Assessment. What can we learn from these collaborative groups around country. Focus microscope on community-based problem solving. What are the characteristics that link them together. Handout: Organizing for Innovation. Have Quincy Library Group (Michael Jackson) - why did they form. Heard and believe public needs to be involved more substantively. Can we acknowledge that and just leave it at we should work with everybody? Do we need to say new model needs to be participative instead of consultative? How much specifics do we need? Creating a fundamentally different relationship with the public is the challenge. Handout from Maggie on "Typology of Deliberation." Does law allow for community groups to be involved from beginning? FACA committees providing advice must be chartered. Not much distinction between information and advice. Public participation is not a barrier to planning, but a resource. Agency itself does not have the ability to carry out plans by themselves. Public groups take lead on carrying out plans.
>Economists (Roger, Norm, Ron)
Effective planning requires a specification of resource management goals, each of which can be measured with quantitative or qualitative standards of attainment. Tradeoffs among goals can be evaluated. Failures can be measured? Quantified measures useful, but a lot of values are nonmarket and it is difficult to quantify their benefits in monetary terms. Public doesnít always recognize that economists know that. Given that reality, how should we build in economic principles, such as, "plans should be cost efficient in achieving goals." Plans should be cost effective and efficient in achieving goals. Regulations through time - some call for efficiency and some do not. Latest regulations talk about an efficient planning process. Most efficient process would be an autocratic decision. Democracy is an inherently inefficient system.
Did an initial evaluation of how the regulations meet these principles. Plans must be based on realistic budgets and budgets must be connected to the plans. Last set of forest plans were pie in the sky, did not consider budgets. During development of forest plans, spent a lot of analysis time on budgets, but this was not used in selection of alternatives because decisions were based on political factors. So, tell us why this is important.
>Ecological Principles (Jim L., Jim A., Virginia, Bob, Barry)
Successful planning must capture the dynamics of ecosystems. Ecological processes operate at different time scales. Vegetation structure, and size, shape, and spatial relationships of land cover types, are key elements shaping dynamics of populations, communities and ecosystems.
Species, and networks of interacting species, have broad impacts on ecosystem characteristics.
Deliberately stated these independently of planning; just biological wording. Idea of succession did not survive in any explicit way here, but needs to be here. Put in more common language. Viability regulations - yes, we can do it for one species but not for all. Not just integrating the ecological principles; including the social, etc. Fine filter. Havenít talked about trees [timber] at all. NFMA - all deals with trees, i.e. timber - optimal, suitability, sustained yield. Come up with principles, then see how current requirements are useful. E.g. ensuring long-term sustainability is the highest priority...nondeclining yield becomes less useful because you are measuring on an ecological basis. Issue of suitability moot because harvest coming off unproductive lands. Suitability once had an operational context - couldnít go on steep ground because didnít have the methods. Planning for what we leave, not what we take. Allowable sale quantity concept not needed. To what degree has current practice moved ahead through political/social change and where has it moved farther than in other places? How will this shifting paradigm sit with local publics? If we are talking about an unstable, unpredictable system, there has to be some way to predict outputs. .Must be concerned with business viability (mills).
END OF MEETING NOTES