Resource ChallengeThe primary purpose of revising the BTNF's Forest Plan is to update our strategy for the Forest's contribution to social, economic and ecological sustainability. While science plays an important role in this process, the Forest Service's multiple-use mission depends on a complex array of trade-offs and interrelationships that are essentially a manifestation of society's values on the landscape. Identifying and prioritizing those values depends on substantive public collaboration, and shared learning among participants and agency personnel must be a key component if that collaboration is to be truly constructive. Ultimately, our goal is to promote public management of public lands through a transparent and meaningful public process. Planning the management of a National Forest is the nexus where our nation's 'grand experiment' in democracy meets the principles of sustainability in a mutually reinforcing manner.
Examples of Key Partners
- "Local voices:" Citizens of communities in the BTNF area, particularly western Wyoming, eastern Idaho and northern Utah, who attend public workshops organized by the BTNF;
- "Distant voices:" Citizens nationwide and around the world, who participate via the Web by submitting comments, reading other participants' comments, participating in an experimental web-log ("blog"), etc.
- A Cooperators' Group consisting of state agencies, county commissions, resource conservation districts, and other representatives of local/state elected officials, which meets on a parallel track with public workshops and assists the BTNF in interpreting public input as well as providing its own.
- Federally recognized tribes in the BTNF area (Eastern Shoshone/Northern Arapahoe, Shoshone-Bannock, Crow)
- Other Federal land units in the Greater Yellowstone Area, especially those that are also in various stages of management planning at present, such as Grand Teton National Park, Shoshone National Forest, and the National Elk Refuge;
- Professors Steve Daniels (Utah State Univ.) and Gregg Walker (Oregon State Univ.), who are assisting with the design and implementation of our collaborative process;
- The Nature Conservancy provides assistance in evaluating long-term ecological sustainability;
- The State of Wyoming provides assistance in evaluating key socioeconomic conditions and trends;
- Other organizations and institutions are collaborating with BTNF's Plan Revision in a variety of ways.
Results and AccomplishmentsSo far, we have completed a first-round of collaboration focused on identifying Desired Conditions, which are thought of as the elements of social, economic and ecological sustainability that are most important on the Bridger-Teton N.F. These Desired Conditions represent the attributes toward which the land should be managed. Subsequent rounds of collaboration will focus on identifying meaningful measures of progress toward these Desired Conditions (Criteria & Indicators), followed by collaborative evaluation of current conditions to identify those elements of the current management plan that have the greates need for change. This sets the stage for a series of workshops in which we work together to find a way to make better progress toward Desired Conditions, by considering: 1.) which Desired Conditions should apply to various parts of the Forest; 2.) what uses are suitable for those Desired Conditions in those places; 3.) what guidelines must be placed on such uses in order to ensure that htey remain compatible with those Desired Conditions; and 4.) what measurable objectives we should expect to achieve as indicators of progress toward sustainability, which works as a set of assumptions on which to base adaptive management as the revised Plan is implemented.
The transparent, pre-decisional, and shared-learning approach of our collaborative process is a new way for the Forest Service to think about and implement public involvement. By involving the public in this way, there is greater shared ownership of the product of the process, which decreases the likelihood of litigation and increases the public's and agency's commitment to effectively implement the revised Plan.