FOC notes problems with the Collaborative Forest Plan Revision Process

The Clearwater and Nez Perce National Forests have initiated an effort to revise their Land and Resource Management Plans, or Forest Plans.

The planning area encompasses approximately four-million acres of national forest land in north-central Idaho. From east to west, the national forest lands stretch from border to border. On the north is the rolling terrain of the Palouse. On the south is the rugged Salmon River canyon.

If you use these special lands for work or play, or if you value them for other purposes, you should have an interest in this revision process.

Our colleagues at Friends of the Clearwater have been keeping a close eye the developments within the process and forwarded us the problems they are encountering with the Collaborative Forest Plan Revision Process:

1. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regards all American citizens as equal and places them on equal footing. The proposed collaborative forest plan revision process does not. Instead it aims to create two types of citizenry, or a set of citizens that will be “involved” or instead “informed.” A genuine forest plan revision process should not create a hierarchy or different levels of participation.

2. The National Environmental Policy Act provides all American citizens equal access to the decision making process–throughout the entire process. The proposed collaborative forest plan revision process does not. Instead, the agency is hosting a series of “informational meetings” before a special working group is established at a future three-day forest plan summit. A genuine forest plan revision is not based around a working group, nor does it schedule meetings or summits that are not conveniently scheduled for the general public to attend. Rather, it is open to all, including those who cannot attend meetings, through a ways to submit written concerns.

3. The National Environmental Policy Act requires that an objective analysis of alternatives be made before decisions are finalized. By selecting a special working group, NEPA becomes a pro-forma exercise, and the recommendations made by the working group will most likely be the only alternative(s) seriously considered. Claims by the Forest Service that the working group’s alternative or alternatives won’t carry any more weight are disingenuous, because politically the agency will have to defer to those who spent so much time in the working group.

4. Similarly, the purpose of the National Environmental Policy is to have a wide range of alternatives that explores and looks at the consequences of various options in an unbiased way. When a broad range of alternatives are equally considered, citizens can feel confident that their recommendations will be fairly considered, and that the agency will develop a final plan that serves the public interest, possibly taking elements from more than one alternative to achieve that goal.

5. The recently developed federal planning rule allows forest plans to be unaccountable to the public. The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests forest plan needs to include measurable standards that are supported by scientific data through required monitoring. Absent adequate monitoring and data collection, actions that may negatively affect attainment of standards should not occur until there is sufficient monitoring in place to ensure those standards will be met. In other words, the fox should not be permitted to guard the hen house.

6. The exclusive Clearwater Basin Collaborative, which is largely funded at taxpayer expense, is already greatly influencing the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. Creating another collaborative, spearheaded by yet another special working group, would create a second, if not third, parallel Forest Services, and is therefore, an even bigger waste of American tax dollars and citizen time.

The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests forest plan revision is an incredibly important document that will guide the agency over the next ten to fifteen years, possibly longer. It is paramount that the process is genuine and open to the public in its entirety. We ask you to join us in holding the agency accountable and ensuring that public lands stay in public hands.

Send your comments to:

Les Dobson

Forest Plan Revision Team

12730 Hwy 12

Orofino, ID 83544

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