Experience and Expertise
Public lands are a bounty of opportunity, but they cannot give everyone what they want in every place. Competition is intense for where the mining, drilling, hunting, biking, timber harvesting, paddling, wind farming, etc. should be allowed.
Often this leads to drawn-out or inconclusive decisions, usually followed by litigation. People do try to negotiate and present agreements to the government agencies. This “collaboration” is promising but it struggles to make a difference in the legally required process for making decisions. Conflict remains a problem.
The Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Park Service, and other Federal agencies operate under rules made over 100 years ago. The latest versions are already about 50 years old: the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, National Forest Management Act, Taylor Grazing Act, Multiple Use – Sustained Yield Act, and National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act.
The principle of these laws goes back a century: that experts in agencies can figure out the best use of land and let the people know. Today, experts are even smarter about managing forests and grasslands; but, people are more engaged in the choices of goals and strategies. The new principle that experts advise and people decide is what collaboration is about. The law still imposes expert decisions, which rarely makes everyone happy, and often makes no one happy.
Meanwhile, Congress and the President hold authorities for designating areas for special uses and these decisions also sometimes benefit from collaboration. Decisions over decades of shifting politics have favored one view or another, and then have been interpreted by the courts as lawsuits have scrutinized them line-by-line. Today, the squabbles are being overtaken by a backlog of maintenance projects for roads and trails and an increasing number of severe wildfires – both of which limit the options for reaching agreements.
Watershed Results is involved in both technical and process solutions to Federal land issues. We have supported Stewardship End-Results Contracting, which enables the Forest Service to hire a single contractor for a complete job of timber harvesting and habitat improvement. We support a better role for Litigation in the decision-making process. We help convene and manage collaborative negotiations.