|When I get questions on Environmental Justice (EJ) related to The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), there are five key sources I've been pointing our field folks to:1) A good place to start is the 1994 Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice. This provides the context for the other documents. 2) The USDA Departmental Regulation on Environmental Justice (5600-2) includes specific direction for considering EJ during the NEPA process, including categorical exclusions. 3) The Council on Environmental Quality's Environmental Justice - Guidance Under NEPA provides general principles and considerations for considering EJ under NEPA, including specific phases of the NEPA process such as scoping, public participation, determining the affected environment, analysis, alternatives, record of decision, and mitigation. 4) The Environmental Protection Agency's Guidance for Incorporating Environmental Justice Concerns in EPA's NEPA Compliance Analyses provides further ideas for Forest Service NEPA practitioners, including a summary of factors to consider in EJ analysis and a listing of "communications issues of particular concern in low-income and/or minority communities. Possible approaches for public participation strategies are given. 5) The EPA Office of Environmental Justice provides a host of EJ information, including the EJ Quarterly, An Environmental Justice Bulletin.|
|Here is a new link to the Executive Order on Federal Actions To Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations. This can also be found as an appendix to the Department Regulation.|
|Does anyone have an example of Forest Service action/s or policy/s where analysis has shown disproportional negative impacts to low-income and/or minority populations? I am interested in identifying specific types of action and policy decisions where the Forest Service should expect impacts with possible EJ concerns.|
|It's no secret that nearly all public land in the USA is surrounded
by,in many cases, private development of "trophy homes". The front range
of Colorado is a prime example where thousands of homes have been built,in
the phrase of the Denver Post's Ed Quillen, in the "stupid zone" .
The basic premise of my argument is that aggressive fire suppression to save homes adjacent to public lands:
1)is essentially a transfer of wealth from the average taxpaying citizen to the more affluent;
2) may place firefighters at greater risk and skew fire control strategy towards "protect private property first" and away from purely public forest resource values such as wildlife habitat.
I don't have any studies to cite but maybe someone else does. Perhaps I'm off base here, but I'd really like to know the average income and assets of homeowners adjacent to public land versus the income and assets of the average taxpaying Anerican Citizen.
|An interesting point on allocation of resources; however, I don't see this as an environmental justice situation (as defined by the Executive Order and Department Regulation) where minority and/or low-income populations are shouldering a disproportionate share of the negetive human health or safety impacts. Perhaps a specific example where the fire preveniton benefits attributed to the rich at the expense of low-income and/or minority populations would make the EJ tie for me.|
|The EO could possibly be connected to this issue under Sec. 2-2
through more of a civil rights issue than environmental justice: "Each
federal agency shall conduct its programs, policies, and activities that
substantially affect human health or the environment, in a manner that
ensures that such programs, policies, and activitiesdo not have the effect
of excluding persons (including populations) from participation in,
denying persons (including populations) the benefits of, or subjecting
persons (including populations) to discrimination under, such programs,
policies, and activities, because of their race, color, or national
Fire suppression policies, programs, and activities would seem to fall under this because of the "benefits of" language and because fire suppression affecting human life and safety does seem to fit under the EO. This could be more of a civil rights issue than an EJ issue under the executive order, although it's strange that no mention is made of low-income populations under Sec. 2-2.
Case studies would be helpful for looking at this.
|I do not see where wealthy homeowners who happen to live next to
Forest Service land gain any benefit from fire supression any more than an
average (or poor) homeowner in the same area. In the Sierras we have a
real mix, some "wealthy" subdivisions, average homes, and somewhat
undeveloped rural areas where residents are low middle income and below.
While it is true that the presence of these properties in the wildland interface does divert firefighting efforts away from natural resource protection, I have never heard any allegations of fire supression favoring the protection of "wealthy" homes over that of lower value properties. In my experience ANY property is protected to the best of our ability within the context of the fire situation. High value properties get burned in wildfires nearly every year in Southern California. It is a factor of fuel condition, weather, and fire history of the location (the "Stupid Zone" is a good term!), not fire supression policy.
|I received the following comment from someone with an interest in Forest Service EJ issues. It is provided with his permission. He states: "I suggest, that as part of a "Rural Environmental Justice" analysis, fire be added as a concern. Some might question this at first glance. However, certainly smoke can have toxic effects and fire is all consuming. In an urban setting toxic smoke and fire is an established EJ issue of concern. So also, in a rural setting, fire and smoke human health risk and economic impacts need to be analyzed, in the context of the potential for a disproportional impact on poor and minority people. In a rural prairie or forest setting fire is a constant threat. The mitigable build up of fuels certainly will result is a toxic release, with the potential for serious economic, social, and health impacts. Think about the disproportionate burden on the rural poor and poor minorities have in dealing with a catastrophic loss of housing. In California and elsewhere rural poor's housing typically is more fire damage susceptible (wooden houses with tar shingled or papered roofs). Upper end rural California housing, in fire prone areas, now more typically have tile roofs and stucco walls. The rural poor can not obtain replacement housing as easily, due to low income, thus they may need to stay in public shelters longer or be homeless longer. The rural poor cannot replace furniture and appliances as easily as higher income people. The rural poor may not have good insurance or they may not have any insurance. The health impact of fire and toxic smoke may require health care and may rural poor have poor health coverage or no coverage at all. Amazingly, some may say fire impacts all equally == that is simply not true. My biggest concern is with the children of the rural poor, because while it may be arguable that the poor somehow deserve their condition, because of laziness or whatever, we need to understand that the children of the poor are basically powerless to materially change their circumstances until they are grown up."|
|I will agree that fires can have greater effects upon low income
families than wealthy ones, simply because wealth provides assess to
greater resources to recover, take care of injuries, provide shelter while
the primary home is being rebuilt, etc. But, by the very nature of
poverty, disproportionate impacts of natural (and human-caused)disturbance
events will happen to the poor regardless of the disturbance type. Flood,
fire, snowstorm, tornado, riots, etc. etc. Low income families will not
have the resources to recover as well as higher income families. But is
this an issue of Environmental Justice that the Forest Service, through
policy or management, can mitigate? Is there any single entity that can be
brought before a court of law and be accused of causing or magnifying this
inequity? This is a far greater social issue that has been attacked by
President Johnsons "War on Poverty" (have we won yet?), massive Federal
social programs, and largely failed experiments with Communistic forms of
government around the world. The fact remains that in a free society,
there will be people with more money, and people with less. The worldwide
history of attempts to eliminate this economic disparity is a very
miserable one indeed.
There are legitimate Environmental Justice issues that we can address, such as assistance to communities that were formerly dependent on a flow of Federal timber, water rights of small family farms verses urban interests, rights of Native American Indians to hunt or gather in traditional areas, etc. But,in my mind, when it comes to the issue of economic disparity in the face of natural disasters, I ask myself "What can my agency do to minimize the inequity here?" The answer to this one lies far above the Chief of the USDA FS.
|I don't know of ay analysis being done but One obvious example where
folks on our District actually deal with members of minority populations
is in the permitting of "special forest products". Especially the
matsutake gatherers who are mostly itinerant SE Asian immigrants with
often very little English languags skills?
If there are responses to this and informaton available then I suggest it become a separate sub-topic here.
|EJ issues have been raised on 4 Forest Service-related linear projects that I know of. These are pipeline, powerline, and transportation corridor projects where ultimately the project enters population areas. For example, here is the specialist report: Potential for Impacts on Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations for the Yellowstone Pipeline EIS being conducted for the Lolo NF. The summary explains the rationale for the findings.|
|In a July 9 note to all employees, the Chief wrote that he had met with Undersecretary Lyons and USDA Civil Rights Director Rosalind Gray for a mid-year review of the Forest Service Civil Rights Performance plan. The letter noted that one of the areas highlighted as needing improvement includes environmental justice. It is not clear whether Forest Service decisions in general are resulting in disproportional impacts to low-income populations and/or minority populations or there are specific decisions that have been made with these results. Does anyone have specific examples of environmental justice problems related to Forest Service decisions that they can bring to light and open for discussion within this forum? The Chief's note to employees went on: "Environmental Justice ensures that Forest Service programs, policies, and activities affecting human health or the environment do not exclude minorities from participation in or the benefits of programs or activities based on race or economic status." I received two notes related to this statement. One person wrote that he found this reference to environmental justice misleading: "I thought EJ ensured fair treatment of all people so that minority and low income populations would not have to shoulder a disproportionate share of negative environmental or health effects. The letter appears to promote it as a minority program to ensure that they are not prevented from participating and receiving the benefits of programs/activities because of their income or race. In my mind it gives EJ a different twist, and not sure one envisioned by the EO." Another wrote: This seems different than what's in the Executive Order and what I've been hearing from various sources on the distinctions between EJ, social justice, and civil rights. They seem somewhat muddled together in this language. Maybe I'm just confused on this. How do you interpret what he's saying here on this?" The Chief's note and the followup questions are typical of the environmental justice discussions I've been engaged in. While there appears to be agreement on a core set of environmental justice principles, there are many perspectives on what is and is not to be addressed under the topic "environmental justice" as defined by the President's executive order. What's your perspective?|
|Here's another puzzler for you. |
Policy shifts in this administration has caused timber harvest from FS lands to plummet, causing severe local economic hardship.
Is it reverse environmental justice if policies impact the middle income groups causing them to become low income groups? Is the expansion of poverty a desireable outcome of forest management decisions?
|How about a native community that is evenly split between those who
wish to protect the forest for their subsistence lifestyle, and those who
earn an income working local timber sales?? Is it just to protect those
interested in subsistence over those interested in the cash economy??
What spatial scale do we look at? If a person were to plot the location of all past harvest and the areas the Forest Plan allows future harvest... you might notice an absence of activity around Juneau and other areas that have a majority of non-native residents. Is that because these communities whine the loudest and fight timber sales more effectively, or because the infrastructure and more marketable resources are surrounding other communities?
How do cummulative effects fit into an EJ analysis?
How is 'community' defined? At what scale are we looking for low-income and minority populations?
And how low is low? ----------- Answers - anyone??
|The income level is defined in the Department of Agriculture EJ directives. The rule EJ scale is the same as the uban EJ analysis scale, which is down to the neighborhood level. In a rual setting the neighborhood may be larger in acreage, but still involve a similar number of people as an urban neighborhood. The little rural towns may be looked at as neighborhoods. Any residential social pocket with a distinct localized identity is a neighborhood|
|The Council on Environmental Quality Guidance for Environmental Justice states: "In identifying minority communities, agencies may consider as a community either a group of individuals living in geographic proximity to one another, or a geographically dispersed/transient set of individuals (such as migrant workers or Native Americn), where either type of group experiences common conditions of environmental exposure or effect. The selection of the appropriate unit of geographic analysis may be a governing body's jurisdiction, a neighborhood, census tract, or other similar unit that is to be chosen so as to not artificially dilute or inflate the affected minority population. A minority population also exists if there is more than one minority group present and the minority percentages, as calculated by aggregating all minority persons, meets one of the above-stated thresholds." Cumulative effects does come into play for EJ concerns the same way it does for any environmental effect one is concerned about. In the case of EJ, we would be looking at "adverse", "disproportionate" and "high" impacts (including cumulative impacts).|
|Of course decreased incomes are not a desireable effect of policy changes. No-one wants that.But wouldn't you say that protecting the forest ecosystem is a much broader issue? An issue that affects the population of the WORLD, not just the local population that derives direct and immediate benefit from harmful timber harvesting practices. People can recover lost money. Be happy that we are working to protect something a lot more valuable than money.|
|The problem with the broader issue is that in some - maybe many - ecosystems, we are "protecting" nothing. We have recognized major ecological problems, and a major tool for solving, reducing, or at least managing those problems is being severely restricted. Meanwhile, society continues to demand the products that are an output of using that tool. Those products are then taken out of ecosystems perhaps more fragile than ours, likely with considerably less commitment to minimizing negative effects. Within the realm of Environmental Justice, the effects are exactly opposite of the intended goal. Not only are we reducing the standard of living of formerly middle class workers, we are shifting and amplifying the negative environmental effects to areas of high poverty and minority populations (although in different countries). This is justice at the world scale?|
|Joe, could you post the words that are to go "in full on all materials which are produced by USDA..." such as EAs, schedule of proposed actions, scoping notices, etc.? That is, the words from Department Regulation 4300-3 (2/25/98)-- or a couple of places we might go to find those words? I tried a couple of other routes, but thought that maybe if you'd post something here to help us, it might help others out here in the field too. Thanks. And thanks for the note about this EJ Policy discussion forum.|
|The statement that I think you are referring to that needs to go on material for public distribution is the US Department of Agriculture non-discrimination statement, not an environmental justice statement. The statement and instructions for its use can be found in Departmental Regulation 4300-3. This can be found on the USA Civil Rights page on the USDA home page http://www.usda.gov/da/cr.html|
|The Conference, "Building on Leopold's Legacy: Conservation for a New Century' is being held in Madison, Wisconsin October 5-7. Some of the sessions are available on the Internet. Check out this session scheduled for Wednesday, October 6th from 9:30-12:00 noon: The Land Ethic and Environmental Justice Working Session|
|Session Report B7 The Land Ethic and Environmental Justice is now posted. Click on report B7 for the full report. Here's a sample: Bob Knox, EPA Office of Environmental Justice began by describing the history of the environmental justice movement and the EPA's late recognition of this movement (not until the 1990s). He defined environmental justice as the "fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people" in decisions that impact their local environment, noting that minorities and low income people have endured a disproportionate burden of industrial and commercial pollution and highway construction. Vernice Miller, National Environmental Justice Advisory Council spoke about the meaning of environmental justice and the schism that exists between environmental justice movements and conservation movements. First, she defined environmental justice as a complex set of issues, stressing the need for a holistic interpretation of environment as something inseparable from ourselves, rather than a focus on technical issues (such as pollution) and their technical solutions. Key points from audience or panel discussion: The session set out to look at three major questions which were touched on throughout the discussion. These questions were: 1. Does the traditional conservation and land ethic recognize environmental justice issues? 2. How do we correct the problems of the past, use lessons learned, and prevent new problems from occurring? and 3. What is the value of land conservation to the Nation(s) as a whole and in modern America? The question and answer session underscored the need for long term involvement in environmental issues (getting communities involved before the decisions have been made) and the difficulty of negotiating the real or apparent jobs/environment or jobs/health dilemmas: How can people turn down jobs in places where jobs are desperately needed, even when environmental effects are likely to be devastating? The need for better demographic information (who lives where, and what are their needs) was also stressed as a first step to the "fair treatment" that environmental justice seeks. The main themes and areas of future direction were: 1. Communities must be valued and the source of community strength is often grassroots movements. Communities must look to themselves to deal with environmental problems but must also be given the chance to speak about decisions that affect them, rather than bringing in "experts" from outside the community. 2. The land ethic covers both a people-to-land relationship and a people-to-people relationship. Environmental justice and land ethics meet on this second relationship; land ethics recognizes that the way people treat the land impacts the way we treat each other (no necessary split between land ethics and justice issues). 3. A paradigm shift is needed in the whole concept of "decision making" -a shift from a concept of controlling communities from without to allowing communities to guide themselves from within. We need a different model of decision-making that allows communities to be proactive. 4. Just as the land has been impoverished by urbanization and industrialization in the 1900s, people have been displaced and inequitably affected. 5. As we move to the new millenium, we will entertain and construct new models for talking about race and class. 6. People are a part of the land community|
"Do user fees exclude low-income people from resource-based recreation?"
That's the question of the hour in an article scheduled to be published this fall in the Journal of Leisure Research . Authors Thomas More, of the Forest Service Northeast Research Station in Burlington, Vt., and Tom Stevens, a professor of Resource Economics at the University of Massachusetts, argue that "user fees, although widely accepted, significantly discriminate against low-income people."
For more see: Survey finds forest fees discourage some users, By Lois R. Shea, Globe Staff, 4/30/2000, published in the Boston Globe's New Hampshire Weekly on 4/30/2000.
|Here's a recent set of articles done by John McQuaid, a writer for
the New Orleans Times Picayune paper, on Environmental Justice: http://www.nola.com/speced/unwelcome|
Thanks to Mike Vasievich for letting us know about this informative set of articles.
|As we start to aggressively move ahead on wildland urban interface projects a new twist on EJ will most certainly arise. Already communities are placing extreme political pressure to reduce fuels within and around their communities. The pressure comes from a variety of values - folks who want to see jobs created in their local economies and folks who want the value of their homes and their lifestyles (views) maintained. How the Forest Service responds to this pressure could open discussion on "justice". Do we treat areas around country clubs prior to treating areas near the trailer courts. How do we select our priority areas? Who is left out? Do we invest as much capital in small rural, low income and minority communities as we do in watersheds surrounding the wealthy and politically influential communities? We need to make sure we have a solid and just process for determining our strategy. I cringe when I hear folks talk about the need to do something because of political pressure - who has influence over this political position? Is it those we are supposed to be protecting as part of EJ?|
|Good questions. Naturally, one of the first questions managers ask
when allocating scarce resources (dollars and people) is "where can I get
the most bang for the buck?" All other things being equal, much of the
"fire-proofing" could be done around wealthier neighborhoods where the
value of the property protected is highest. |
This ought to immediately trigger equity questions, with or without the EJ sword over managers' heads. The administration's multi-agency strategy to manage fire hazards includes a strong component of community involvement. Managers should be working with communities to get partnerships established where funding, equipment, and personnel are provided by communities to supplement federal funds. It should be relatively easy since there is a direct benefit to the community. Wealthier communities should be expected to contribute much more than poor communities. On the other hand, it could be argued that they are already contributing much more to federal funding than poorer communities, and it is about darn time they get a tangible return on their past contributions.
So, back to the means to a solution.
1) base proposed treatments on prioritized areas identified through ecological principles and expected fire behavior;
1) build partnerships to allow funding and activities to treat more acreage; and
2) be coldly arbitrary in assuring equitable distribution of treatment areas to avoid the appearance of inequality based on racial or economic discrimination.
|Public outreach and involvement are key to giving all communities access to the decision process. Making specific arrangements to ensure that low income and minority communities are able to participate will help overcome typical barriers to involvement. Sometimes it takes special efforts to level the involvement field and provide equal access to the process and the decision makers.|
|There is a list of environmental justice-related web sites available on the NRIS Human Dimensions Home Page: http://www.fs.fed.us/emc/nris/hd/|
|Forest Policy - Forest Practice, at http://forestpolicy.typepad.com/|
|Has anyone ever determined, under any type of env. analysis, that a
project would have disporportionate and adverse effects on some type of
population? If so, what happened with subsequent projects within the same
project area? Is there some kind of threshold for EJ such that once you
have adverse effects, and all future projects will cumulatively exceed
Has anyone every determined disporportionate/adverse effect for an action that is categorically excluded and still proceeded with a CE analysis? Or was it considered an extraordinary circumstance that triggered an EA?
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