Overall Collaboration and Public Involvement Strategy
The Forest Service partnered with the US Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution to gather input from various stakeholders on how to build the best possible collaboration and public involvement strategy for the planning rule. (The Institute is a program of the Udall Foundation, an independent federal program based in Tucson, Arizona.) Using what we heard from those interviews, we worked with the Institute to design a comprehensive collaborative strategy for the rulemaking process. We have used this strategy to identify the following inter-related collaborative activities:
Consultation for the new planning rule was initiated in September 2010 and was ongoing throughout the rulemaking process. Tribal consultation was augmented by Tribal engagement in the public meetings and additional opportunities for Tribal participation through Tribal roundtables and forums via conference calls. For further information go to the Planning Rule Tribal Relations webpage.
The Planning Rule Blog has received more than 300 comments since it was launched in December 2009. The blog can be viewed at http://blogs.usda.gov/usdablogs/planningrule/.
Formal Public Comment
Formal public comment periods occurred following the publication of the Notice of Intent (NOI), the proposed planning rule, and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The comment period for the proposed rule and DEIS closed May 16, 2011. Comments received on the NOI and the proposed rule and DEIS are available for viewing:
Interagency Working Group
The Forest Service has estabalished a working group of regulatory and cooperating federal agencies to provide input and oversight to the rulewriting team.
Internal Task Group
The Forest Service has formed a working group of internal Forest Service staff, known as the Internal Task Group, from various levels and diverse program areas in the agency to provide input and review ideas for the rule writing team.
What do we mean by collaboration?
As described in the CEQ publication, “Collaboration in NEPA: A Handbook for NEPA Practitioners,” public involvement can span a spectrum that includes informing, involving, consulting and collaborating with the public. Many aspects of this rulemaking effort will align more closely with the categories of “inform, consult, and involve.” Although there will be opportunities to collaboratively develop options within the rule, this rulemaking effort does not involve shared decision making. Rather, the collaborative effort will bring diverse interests together to explore critical issues and provide meaningful input to the agency’s decision process.