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March 31, 2005

EMS References
John Rupe

Here are some links to learn more about Environmental Management Systems.

Here is the Forest Service website that introduces EMS.  http://www.fs.fed.us/emc/nepa/ems/

Here is the Forest Service sponsored public forum which contains several references.  http://www.ecosystem-management.org/forum/

Here is the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive (OFEE) website about EMS.  http://www.ofee.gov/ems/ems.htm

Here is EPA's website about EMS. http://www.epa.gov/ems/

Here is one of the self-assessment checklists that is used to determine if you have met the requirements of the ISO 14001 standard.  http://www.gemi.org/ISO_111.pdf

Posted by John Rupe on March 31, 2005 at 05:16 PM Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 30, 2005

Bolle Center Panelists Asked if NFMA Rule Makes Sense

On March 7, The University of Montana’s Bolle Center organized a panel of diverse people to discuss the USDA US Forest Service's recently adopted new National Forest Management Act (NFMA) regulations governing land and resource management planning on the national forests:

The U.S. Forest Service Planning Rules: What They Mean, Why They Matter?

Panelists included:

Pam Gardiner, Director Ecosystem Assessment and Planning, USDA Forest Service, Northern Region

Martin Nie, University of Montana, Associate Professor of Natural Resource Policy  (Nie’s Paper)

Julia Altemus, Montana Logging Association (Altemus’ Paper)

Timothy Preso, Attorney, Earthjustice  (Preso’s Paper)

Bob Wolf, Retired, Congressional Research Service (Wolf’s Paper)

Jack Ward Thomas, University of Montana, Boone & Crockett Professor of Wildlife Conservation, Former Chief, USDA Forest Service

Bolle Center, http://www.forestry.umt.edu/research/MFCES/programs/Bolle/default.htm

We dug up as many “perspectives” from the panelists as we could, hyper-linked above as "Papers." We also leave you with this perspective, from the Managing Editor of New West magazine and network.

The 'Paradigm Shift' in Forest Policy You Never Heard About

By Courtney Lowery, 3-08-05

In December, right before Christmas, the Forest Service finalized and released new rules on how forest supervisors on the ground should manage their forests. The rules were the first revision of the management planning process since the early '80s.

Nearly everybody says the revisions were long overdue. The process of drafting and finalizing management plans for our national forests has become too cumbersome, they say, too rigid, too lengthy. A management plan is basically a forest's "constitution," governing how the forest should be used, which parts should be logged, which parts should be open to off-road recreation etc. They are updated every 15 years, but under the current rules for revising the plans, some have been in the revision process since the last one was finalized.

Hence, the need for the revision of the top-down "streamlined" rules for management planning.

It was no small revision by any means. It's pages upon pages of what University of Montana associate professor of natural resource policy Martin Nie calls a "a paradigm shift" in how our national forests will be managed.

The Forest Service doesn't deny that, at all.

"This new rule is a big deal," said Pam Gardiner, the Forest Service's director of ecosystem assessment and planning in the Northern Region. "It's a big deal for the Forest Service ... it's a big deal for the public."

And it is a big deal. Big enough to bring out the big guns of forest policy Monday night in Missoula. Former Forest Service Chief Jack Ward Thomas for one. Gardiner for another. Julia Altemus of the Montana Logging Association and the lawyer she had a little scuffle with during the panel -- EarthJustice attorney Timothy Preso.

Altemus and Gardiner were the only ones to come out and say they were big fans of the new revisions. Gardiner, granted, is a fan, because she is the Forest Service and her colleagues worked long and hard on the
new regs. She said at the panel discussion Monday that the regs will better allow the public to become involved. The agency says public involvement will increase partially because the new regs will cut the time it takes to develop said plans nearly in half.

Altemus, of course, loves the plan because it means there doesn't have to be an environmental impact statement for each broadened management plan like there used to be under the National Environmental Policy Act. Instead, there's a simplified "Environmental Management System," which the logging community favors.

Thomas was unsure of the ramifications of the new rules, but said a revision was long overdue. And then there was Preso, who has already helped put the new rules into their first set of litigation in Defenders of Wildlife vs. Johanns.

So why are we just now getting word of all of this? (If you are one of the devout followers of forest policy, you likely have already heard all of this... maybe you even participated in the conversation that drafted these rules. If so, kudos. But too bad the rest of us got left out.)

The truth of it is, we tend not to give a hoot about forest planning. We want to know when there is a timber harvest. We want up-to-date information on fires and lightning strikes and fuel densities on forest floors, but rarely do we involve ourselves in the process. It's long and drawn out -- precisely why the Forest Service made the revisions. But now, the rules are too lax -- too open to interpretation. As Nie said, the new regulations will do good in either's hands -- a utilitarian administration or a preservationist administration. They are designed to take a systematic approach to planning and give "maximum administration direction," Nie said.

The issue now is -- which kind of administration do you think is in the White House right now?

Exactly. We are being governed by the kind of administration that pushes a set of regulations, dripping with phrases like "establishes a dynamic process to account for changing forest conditions," and "will help local forest managers provide future generations with healthier forests, cleaner air and water, and more abundant wildlife while sustaining a variety of forest uses."

It does this quietly while we stand by wondering what the hell "forest planning" really means.

So next time you hear your local forest is having a planning meeting -- bring some coffee if you need to -- show up. Whether you think our forests should be logged or turned into wilderness shouldn't matter. What should matter is that these new regulations will take that decision away from the public by putting more power in the hands of the managers.

Really, forest policy is one place where officials can pretty-up the language and spoon feed it to us (sans Congressional review, for instance) without us knowing that really -- it could mean the difference between whether our kids have a National Forest system to enjoy or not.

Posted by Dave on March 30, 2005 at 03:45 PM Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

March 21, 2005

Visioning Planning Nirvana
Sharon Friedman

One of the challenging things about land management planning in the Forest Service is that it lies at the boundary between different areas of expertise. As a federal agency, the FS wants to be able to plan and carry out management activities to accomplish its mission. The planning and analysis process as a whole (from GPRA to project) should be transparent, provide opportunities for public participation and collaboration, use the best and most current science and technology, follow all applicable statutes and regulations and be done in a way that iseffective in its use of both the agency’s funds (just enough analysis and just enough collaboration) and the time and costs to the public, partners, other agencies, contractors, and permittees. Successes and failures and new knowledge should form an adaptive loop to improve plans and plan implementation.

I propose this as a first cut at a definition of planning nirvana.

Defining and moving toward planning nirvana is what we might call "contested terrain," in the sense that planning practitioners, the public, the science communities, the legal communities and the academic planning communities and the public all have valuable knowledge and experience, but no one group alone can lay claim to knowing what is best. In this kind of situation, the designers can best open the subject for deliberation within and among the various communities.

I am encouraged that this forum may lead to that kind of deliberation.. and perhaps move toward "planning nirvana." What do others think about the characteristics of good planning so we would know if if we see it? Do you have examples of particularly good experiences (not necessarily "forest" planning)? What did you like best about them?

Posted by Sharon Friedman on March 21, 2005 at 01:48 PM Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 19, 2005

A Planning Model and a Planning System
John Rupe

When the new planning rule was in it's early stages of development, I was in a small group of planners who got together to figure out and prototype what a Forest Plan should look like.  This is what eventually evolved into a couple of "concept books" about a three-part articulated (and integrated) plan and some adaptive principals about planning.  You can find them at this link:


Although our group of planners weren't researchers, we tried to review how planning is done in large organizations, as well as how the profession of land planning is used in other contexts such as county planning, urban planning, and community planning.  We found several themes that seemed to be repeated.  Plus, I keep coming across this stuff in many different places over and over.

For instance, we looked at some of the work of Michael Chandler, who is retired from Virginia Tech, about community planning.  He said that instead of beginning a planning process with a listing of issues, you should begin with a visioning exercise to craft a picture or image of what the community intends to make of itself.  This vision then becomes a rallying point or goal to be achieved.

The idea of an articulated plan matches the urban planning model, that starts with a comprehensive master plan, follows with a zoning plan (although recent models tend to be less precise with their mapping), and finally with specific plans such as historical preservation, parks and open space planning, building codes, etc.

The nice thing about this model is you start to think about "levels" of plans that have different purposes, different shelf lives, and different approaches in how they can be developed collaboratively. In application to forest planning, it provides accessibility to different audiences, and may help situations where we've got some people in the room wanting to draw maps where the campground should be while others are debating whether camping should even be a permitted use in the particular forest, while others want to talk about what color to paint the outhouses. 

Finally, the entire system is intended to be flexible and adaptable, which is another important theme in this model.

Posted by John Rupe on March 19, 2005 at 09:49 AM Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 18, 2005

Analysis vs. Evaluation vs. Assessment
John Rupe

As planners start to develop work plans implementing the new rule, we're thinking of the major "cost centers" of activities we're engaging in.  One thing we're struggling with a bit, and I'd like some feedback, are the differences between "analysis", "evaluation", and "assessment."  Although the 1982, the 2000, and the new rule all contain these technical processes, they are emphasized in different ways.  In the 1982 rule, early steps focused on "analysis" while "evaluation" was the seventh step.  For most planning efforts, I think people were too exhausted as they stumbled toward the end to really do a good job with "evaluation."  In the 2000 rule, we put a lot of emphasis on "assessments" in the early steps - (we even had to change some words - one of the authors told me once that we changed the name of "local assessment" to "local area analysis" to make it appear less dominant.)

The new rule I think properly emphasizes a planning system, and uses evaluation as a way to look at the recent past as a springboard for making changes to the plan.  The draft directives also mention elements of analysis and assessment, and I wonder if it will be important to make a distinction in how we develop planning processes.

Here's my understanding.  Evaluation is a process of looking for meaning of monitoring data and detecting early warning signs.  In an adaptive management approach, evaluation is sometimes used to review information according to an original design.  Assessment is a process to obtain information through surveying, characterizing, synthesizing, and interpreting primary data sources.  I think most of the sustainability requirements of the new rule and draft directives might be met through assessment processes.  Finally, analysis, is a process to search for understanding, by taking things apart and studying the parts.  Analysis is problem solving - you develop a question, and try to figure out an answer.

There may be important differences in these processes.  They may need different expertise.  They may differ in how the results are communicated and used in the process.  For some phases of planning, it might not be important to separate a technical process this way.  But when we start to think about the "rigor" of a process, that probably means different things depending upon whether you're looking at analysis, evaluation, or assessment.

Posted by John Rupe on March 18, 2005 at 02:49 PM Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 17, 2005

The forest planning directives are out!
Tony Erba

The planning directives, in response to the 2004 planning rule, have been released for public review! Click on this link (http://www.fs.fed.us/emc/nfma/index.htm) to see these directives. The Federal Register notice announcing the start of the 90-day comment period is expected to released next week, tentatively set for Wednesday, March 23.

People wanted details...now they have them. I hope that people take the time to read the directives and offer thoughtful and informed comments rather than firing off comments without reading what they're commenting on.

Posted by Tony Erba on March 17, 2005 at 01:39 PM Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

March 13, 2005


"Site-Keeping Posts" will be used to solicit feedback on site-design, forum use, and so on. They also provide a means for us to let folks know when we introduce new features, when we are having problems, etc.

Here are a few things we will be working on in the next month.

  • We will establish some 'links' to other groups working in this arena, and links to some of our favorite books.
  • We will build a separate but linked "knowledge base" of things that need a website home.
  • We will add a Site-search.

We hope you will help us make this a good place to visit and commune. Add Forest Policy - Forest Practice to your Favorites List.

Posted by Dave on March 13, 2005 at 10:48 AM Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 10, 2005

Forest Planners Gone Wild
John Rupe

Although not perfect, to a certain extent, the new Forest Service planning rule is an attempt to move Forest planning closer to the latest thinking in the planning profession, organizational psychology, and the management literature.   Those of us in the Forest Service planning business have for years seen forest planning as essentially broken.  A typical planning team will cost a little over one million a year, and we typically take five, six, seven, or more years to complete a plan.  Meanwhile, we were seeing the final product becoming less and less relevant to managers, while being less and less accessible to citizens who care about forests.  At the same time, those who cared enough about National Forests that they expected plans to actually be implemented quickly learned that they never could really be followed.

So the new rule and our new model of a plan is so exciting!  I'm hoping to share our hopes with everyone on this forum.  It's not about streamlining planning or that those of us in the planning profession are lazy and don't want to do a thorough job.  Rather, we want to do planning that matters, that informs managers and those who wish to collaborate.  We want planning that is relevant and useful in guiding the Forest Service in using scarce federal dollars wisely.  We want planning that helps to reestablish trust.   We want planning where those who get involved can really make a difference.

Stay tuned................

Posted by John Rupe on March 10, 2005 at 08:52 PM Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

March 01, 2005

Forest Service Announces Multiple "Forums"

The Forest Service recently unveiled multiple Intranet forums to help examine and evaluate policy and practice, "to exchange thoughts, ideas and knowledge on a variety of topics including planning, monitoring and inventory.” (FS folks can find these internal forums at http://frdev.ftcol.wo.fs.fed.us/imi/phpBB2/index.php.)

The agency also announced an "Ecosystem Management" public Internet forum dealing with Environmental Management Systems (EMS). This forum can be found at http://www.ecosystem-management.org/forum/.

We hope that Forest Policy - Forest Practice will be a compliment to these and other forums. By allowing different “communities of practice” to grapple with some of the same issues and cross-pollinating the efforts we hope to add value to all conversations. 

It will prove interesting to see how we do.

Posted by Dave on March 1, 2005 at 11:28 AM Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack