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Liaison Panel Meeting

PROJECT PHASE II:

BANKHEAD FOREST HEALTH AND RESTORATION HEALTH INITIATIVE PROGRESS AND FINAL REPORT

For the:
USDA Forest Service, National Forests in Alabama, Bankhead National Forest

Bankhead Liaison Panel

Bankhead Forest Community and Interested Parties

US Institute of Environmental Conflict Resolution

Submitted by:
Mary Lou Addor

Natural Resources Leadership Institute,

North Carolina State University

December 2004

Purpose

The purpose of this document is to 1) provide a progress report on Phase II of the Bankhead Health and Restoration Initiative (October 2003- November 2004); and 2) convey the results of a Phase II evaluation. This document outlines a history of deliverables, provides recommendations to support the continuing efforts of the Bankhead Liaison Panel, and provides a historical and current perspective to enable a successful transition of process management.

Background and Context

In September of 2002, the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution (“U.S. Institute” henceforth) through its Federal Partnership Program provided support to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) in Alabama in order to develop collaborative decisions for the Bankhead National Forest, Forest Health and Restoration Initiative. The Bankhead National Forest has a history of controversy over natural resource decisions, and many citizens, organizations, local, county, state and other federal agencies expressed concerns about the management of the forest. The history of controversy, and a heighten degree of interest in forest management decisions led the USFS to design and offer a public involvement process in order to increase public trust, improved working relationships, and increase overall understandings.

Interested individuals and groups worked with the Bankhead National Forest District Ranger and staff and developed a major initiative for public involvement, the Bankhead Liaison Panel. The Bankhead Liaison Panel includes representatives from federal agencies, environmental and other community advocacy organizations, both local and national, forestry groups, local government, and citizens representing various interests related to the Bankhead National Forest.

The U. S. Institute worked with the USFS to interview and contract with third-party facilitators (the Natural Resources Leadership Institute or “NRLI” and RESOLVE), to support a collaborative process for the Liaison Panel. The NRLI/RESOLVE facilitation team, Mary Lou Addor and Juliana Birkhoff, met the USFS staff and members of the Bankhead Liaison Panel for an orientation meeting in September 2002, and held seven more meetings between January and October 2003 during Phase I of the project. The meetings began with participants educating one another about issues related to the Bankhead National Forest such as forest uses (including logging, mining, recreation, cultural uses, and other historic uses), conservation, private property interests, fire plans, forest restoration, watershed protection, and wildlife habitat planning. The Forest Health and Restoration Initiative planning process provided an opportunity for the Bankhead National Forest community 1) to explore and learn about each other's values and priorities; 2) to discuss different approaches to meet respective interests; 3) to propose the desired future forest conditions; and 4) to build the capacity for productive long-term collaboration within the Bankhead community.

During Phase I, the Bankhead Liaison Panel proposed Alternative 5 as the Desired Future Condition for the Bankhead Forest Health and Restoration Initiative in Alabama. This alternative, based on a five- year schedule of work, emphasizes the forest health and restoration of Southern Pine Beetle (SPB) damaged stands by thinning overstocked loblolly pine stands and reforesting SPB damaged stands. Emphasis would be placed on restoration of upland native hardwood forests; restoration of native fire dependent pine and oak woodlands; provide forest communities and habitats uncommon on other lands in the Southern Cumberland Plateau; and improve the short-term forest health through reduction of the Southern Pine Beetle risks.

In addition, the Liaison Panel specifically identified the need to create community-based work groups to monitor the progress and implementation of the Bankhead Forest Health and Restoration work. Five monitoring work groups were identified:

1)      Timber and Thinning Performance Work Group;

2)     Recreation Work Group;

3)     Cultural and Historic Work Group;

4)     Wildlife Work Group; and

5)     Desired Future Conditions Work Group.

A major focus of Phase II was establishing the five monitoring work groups, in addition to convening and facilitating seven more Liaison Panel meetings. These work groups would monitor the progress and performance of each aspect of the health and restoration work by: convening work groups meetings and field trips as needed; observing forest health and restoration progress and implementation; documenting lessons learned; interacting with the USFS staff during work group meetings and observations; and presenting findings to the Liaison Panel regarding observation activities and lessons learned. The monitoring work groups would also serve as an educational forum for broader public involvement and continuing education about the Bankhead Forest Health and Restoration Initiative, as well as assist the USFS with their ongoing monitoring efforts. A description of the five monitoring work groups follows:

1)      Timber and Thinning Performance Work Group will work with USFS to ensure thinning work is performed according to best management practices and contract specifications. Monitoring group will look over thinning operations and work with USFS to develop approaches to overcome challenges of accomplishing work with least environmental impacts.

2)     Recreation Work Group will work with USFS to monitor restoration work impact on recreation sites and users, will help notify recreation users of

restoration work, and develop approaches to mitigate negative impacts on

recreation users and sites from restoration work.

3)     Cultural and Historic Work Group will assist as needed USFS staff with survey work, will work with USFS to monitor impact of restoration activities on cultural and historic sites.

4)     Wildlife Work Group will work with USFS to monitor impact of restoration activities on wildlife and develop approaches to protecting wildlife and enhancing habitat.

5)     Desired Future Conditions Work Group will work with USFS and academic partners to monitor the restoration activities, burning impacts, pest, and disease of treatment areas, monitor health of short leaf experiments and long leaf pine plantings, and monitor success of oak forest and oak woodlands transition.

HISTORY OF Phase I and II Deliverables

PHASE 1: From September 2002 through October 2003, the Natural Resources Leadership Institute and the RESOLVE team provided the following assistance to the USFS and the Bankhead Liaison Panel:

1)      Conducted a situation assessment, involving key individuals and groups that identified issues and stakeholder interests related to the Bankhead National Forest’s Forest Health and Restoration Initiative. The assessment highlighted essential issues, points of common ground and potential controversy, strategic options, and suggested activities for improving relationships among affected parties.

2)     Designed and supported an effective and intensive public involvement strategy for the Forest Health and Restoration Initiative through facilitation of seven Bankhead Liaison Panel stakeholder meetings.

3)     Conducted steering committee conference calls or calls to respective steering committee members and USFS members to determine how to move forward with agenda planning and/or to assess the overall quality of the process and needed improvements.

4)     Developed agreements with the Bankhead Liaison Panel regarding a shared vision for desired future conditions of the forest communities and a 5-year program of priority actions needed to address current issues.

5)     Maintained a Bankhead Liaison Panel website for comprehensive outreach to interested parties regarding the USDA Bankhead Liaison Panel efforts to date.

6)     Encouraged the value of collaborative learning and inquiry for supporting and making good decisions amongst the Bankhead Community. The Liaison Panel established the following decision-making criteria for the forest health and restoration initiative:

a). Future users will say the Bankhead Liaison Panel did a good job;

b). Use the best science and information available at the time;

c). Qualify decision-making: way of thinking behind decisions is transparent,

clear, and documented.

d). Decisions meet interests of all panel members.

e). Decisions are adaptive to allow for incremental learning and future

modifications through monitoring and evaluation.

PHASE II: From October 2003 - November 2004 the Natural Resources Leadership Institute provided the following assistance to the USFS and the Bankhead Liaison Panel:

 

1)      Produced the Bankhead Forest Health and Restoration Initiative Phase I Final Report for distribution. The situation assessment conducted in Phase I formed a basis for this final report.

2)     Continued to design and support an effective public involvement strategy for the Forest Health and Restoration Initiative through facilitation of seven Bankhead Liaison Panel and Monitoring Workgroup stakeholder meetings.

3)     Conducted steering committee conference calls or calls to respective steering committee members and USFS members to determine how to move forward with agenda planning and/or to assess the overall quality of the process and needed improvements. Determined future topics for Liaison Panel discussions and meeting agendas throughout 2004.

4)     Developed a monitoring and evaluation strategy outline for the five monitoring work groups as identified in the 5-year program of priority actions to assess the future desired conditions. The work groups established operating structures and criteria to focus the monitoring efforts. Although not a direct or intended outcome, the monitoring work groups also increased public involvement in the Bankhead Liaison Panel.

5)     Provided coaching and coordination for the development and active engagement of the Timber and Thinning Monitoring Work Group as well as the Recreational Monitoring Work Group. Active work groups are the Timber and Thinning Work Group, the Recreation Work Group, and the Cultural Work Group.

6)     Continued to maintain a Bankhead Liaison Panel website for comprehensive outreach to interested parties regarding the Bankhead Liaison Panel efforts to date.

7)     Provided Bankhead Liaison Panel Orientation Notebooks to all Liaison Panels members, the USFS, and other partners including local libraries which contained all previous meeting summaries, handouts, and presentations; contact information; Phase I Final report; contact information, and other materials to support new members to the Bankhead Liaison Panel or monitoring work group process.

8)     Updated procedural documents to reflect Phase II project changes (e.g., updated operating protocols and Liaison Panel membership). Consulted on expanded outreach efforts, and establishment of a technical resource network.

9)     Conducted an evaluation of Phase II to assess the process and ongoing needs and potential changes to the collaborative effort. Provided a progress report to the Bankhead Liaison Panel and the USFS.

10) Researched, provided, and contacted a list of multi-party facilitation resources in Alabama to potentially facilitate the Liaison Panel over the next term of the project. The Bankhead Liaison Panel and the USFS prefer that a third party neutral facilitate and coordinate the local meetings, otherwise it is suggested that one member of the Liaison Panel and one USFS staff coordinate and facilitate the meetings, potentially rotating these facilitative leadership roles.

11)  Continued to encourage the value of collaborative learning and inquiry for supporting and making good decisions amongst the Bankhead Community.

CURRENT PERSPECTIVEs AND PHASE III RECOMMENDATIONS

Reasonable people will disagree on the nature, scope, and complexity of National Forest issues. However, most people can agree on some core values, such as their love for the forest, which can transcend competing interests as was exemplified throughout the Bankhead Forest Health and Restoration assessment process. To assist with next steps and to sustain working relationships governing implementation of the forest health and restoration initiative, the Bankhead Liaison Panel continues to meet and discuss ideas and concerns with the USFS. A meeting, held October 19, focused on generating ideas on how to control and limit illegal looting on historic and culture sites; and a meeting on December 9 explored future demands for outdoor recreation and how to meet those demands. In addition to the Liaison Panel meetings, the Timber and Thinning Work Group and the Recreation Work Group continue to meet and assess forest health and restoration activities.

The Bankhead Liaison Panel and the USFS staff will need to continue in their efforts to monitor the aspects of the Forest Health and Restoration Initiative as well as continue to provide public involvement forums to educate each other about the issues and concerns on the Bankhead National Forests. Though development of a share vision can be a challenge, it can be even more of challenge to implement and sustain a collaborative initiative. According to Wondolleck and Yaffee (1997; 2001), experience and empirical research suggests there are four key factors to sustain the success of a collaborative:

1)      Maintain continuity of people and philosophy;

2)     Continue agency commitment and support for the process;

3)     Retain the compelling focus on sense of place and community; and

4)     Maintain a mechanism to support continued involvement.

A fifth factor to sustain the success of any initiative or determine whether it needs to continue is:

5)     Evaluating progress and adjusting programmatic and planning efforts accordingly.

The Natural Resources Leadership Institute team has provided recommendations around these key factors based on the results of the Bankhead Liaison Panel evaluation and facilitation team's observations and perspectives. It is recognized that reaching an agreement is only one-step in the overall process of better management of the Bankhead National Forest. Monitoring and evaluation is needed not only to ensure appropriate management decisions are being made but also to revisit or revise previous decisions, including changing directions where appropriate. Furthermore, the working relationships being developed provide additional opportunities to grow and learn, while encouraging involvement of others who want to support their community.

A. Maintain Continuity of People and Philosophy

Continuity of People

Bankhead Liaison Panel Representation

Since September 2002, representation on the Bankhead Liaison Panel has remained fairly consistent. In fact, membership on the Bankhead Liaison Panel ranges from those who have served at least two years to those who have served five years, with average length of service at 4 years. Members of the Bankhead Liaison Panel continue to serve in the following roles: as primary and alternate members; as leadership for the Bankhead Liaison Panel Steering Committee; and as chairs of sub-committees.

Recommendations:

1)      Two members representing the multi-use perspective did not attend the 2004 meetings. The Bankhead Liaison Panel and the USFS are in the process of asking other interested individuals to provide a consulting forestry perspective as well as requesting a private property rights advocate. In addition to new representation or members, considering adding a local business representative or someone from a Chamber of Commerce; a youth organization rep that uses the Bankhead National Forests; and representative from a local ethnic and minority community.

2)     A majority of the Bankhead Liaison Panel members have served for several years. It may be helpful to determine if these members prefer to stay on indefinitely or if they considering a point in the future to transition and how this transition can occur without the Liaison Panel losing its significant organizational memory and professional expertise.

Notwithstanding, this same recommendation would apply to the USFS staff that have supported the continuity of the process. There has been little turnover in the USFS staff at the Bankhead National Forest. If turnover is expected in the future, it would be prudent to consider how to make successful transitions from key USFS staff that currently serve the Liaison Panel to new USFS replacements.

Bankhead Liaison Panel Responsibilities

In addition to their roles, members continue to provide the following responsibilities: travel and commitment time to attend the Liaison Panel meetings; preparation for Liaison Panel and subcommittee meetings; steering committee conference calls; documentation of subcommittee meetings; presentations at Liaison Panel, subcommittee, and constituency meetings; and attendance of field trips. Alternates often attend meetings even when the primary member attends (alternates typically attend meetings when primary members cannot attend).

The majority of primary and alternate members on the Liaison Panel are volunteers. Several members, though paid professionally, stated they volunteer their time to serve on the Liaison Panel. Furthermore, the few members paid to attend the Bankhead Liaison Panel meetings and other corresponding activities often readily engaged in activities to support the overall mission of the Liaison Panel. Paid or volunteered, the members are highly committed and dedicated to the overall purpose of the Liaison Panel. Since September 2002, it is conservatively estimated that members, including alternates contributed at least 1,738 hours to the Bankhead Liaison Panel and corresponding activities.

Recommendations:

1)      Suggest formal recognition and celebration of the efforts provided to date to the US National Forest Service. In addition, consider how the USFS staff, other agencies who are members, and paid members can continue to support overall efforts of the Liaison Panel without overextending the efforts of the volunteers.

Continuity of Philosophy

The Liaison Panel continues to aspire to develop solutions acceptable to all panel members. The Panel meetings are open to the public and the meetings provide a forum for the public to come together to learn, discuss and help resolve difficult land management issues. The Bankhead Liaison Panel continues to serve the following mission:

1)      Learn about forest service projects, plans, health and status of the Bankhead National Forest;

2)     Communicate clearly with other Liaison Panel members about each others preferences and interests; and

3)     Consider, discuss, act as a sounding board, and provide possible solutions to a variety of issues on the Bankhead National Forest.

In August 2004, the Liaison Panel revised its operating charter to include long term operating objectives from December 2003 until December 2008.

In addition, a small focus group of interested parties at the August meeting offered positive comments about the efforts of the Liaison Panel and its role as a mechanism of public involvement between the community and the US Forest Service. Several interested parties have attended Liaison Panel meetings since inception, and praised the Liaison Panel for its efforts in moving forward toward its goals in spite of the conflicts that have existed.

Recommendations

Though the Liaison Panel meetings remain open to public and public involvement has increased as a direct result of the Liaison Panel, there are several issues facing the Liaison Panel in its efforts to provide a open forum for the public to come together to learn, discuss and help resolve difficult land management issues.

1)      Interested parties would like the Liaison Panel to consider the following recommendations for improvement:

a) Expand outreach efforts;

b) Consider ways to help the public better understand the technical components of the meetings;

c) Recognize private property advocates are still suspect of the process, do not believe the Liaison Panel represents their interests and in fact is operating against their interests. Need to continue to reach out to these folks and try to include them as best as possible.

2). Other recommendations:

a) Recognize natural resource terms mean different things to different people. As a result, words intended to bridge collaboratives may not and groups may need to “unpack definitions and meanings” to order to further conversations. An example is “ecosystem management” – with roots in science as well as natural resource policy such as the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). Rural landowners may perceive words like “ecosystem management” and “sustainability” as a legal means to gain more control over their land instead of a means to bridge economic-environmental-social interests.

b) Allow interested parties who are distrustful of the Liaison Panel efforts to explain their perceptions and contribute their knowledge.

B. Continue Agency Commitment and Support for the Process

The USFS Bankhead staff remains supportive and committed to the Liaison Panel and public involvement- not simply in seeking input but in sharing perspectives, ideas, and knowledge to develop better decisions about management of the Bankhead National Forest. The willingness of the USFS to support the Bankhead Liaison Panel is very apparent it's in leadership as well technical staff support, both in time and resources. The USFS continues to provide opportunities:

 

1)      Information exchange between technical experts and the community to identify problems or issues of concern and problem-solving opportunities in the Bankhead Forest.

2)     Provides outreach to the public through the Bankhead National Forest website, newsletters, and other correspondence tools to share experiences and information related to understanding the current forest management efforts.

3)     Creates educational programs to disseminate information and increase awareness about Alabama’s National Forests, not only in what the forests provide but also in how the community can be involved in shaping the future of the forests.

4)     Provides process management to the Liaison Panel meetings, either directly or hiring a process management consultant.

5)     Facilitates networking between local communities, and other cooperative programs to gain greater integration of forest stewardship planning at the local level and offer multi-educational opportunities.

Recommendations

1)      Work with local businesses and educational facilities to improve and market educational opportunities among the local community; and to market activities within the Bankhead to visitors to area.

2)     Continue to inform the public about the activities of the Bankhead Liaison Panel including management plans using the Bankhead National Forest website, local community gathering places, radio-talk shows, churches, libraries, schools, and local newspapers.

3)     Continue to provide a meeting summary of previous discussions and/or decisions to each Liaison Panel member and interested party, and make these accessible to the members and the public (via email or the Bankhead Liaison Panel website).

C. Retain the compelling focus on sense of place and community

There remains within the Bankhead community a compelling sense of place concerning the Bankhead National Forest. Although community members value different things about the forest, it is important to each of them. It is this appreciation and in some cases, reverence for the forest which has motivated the strong sense of dedication and commitment in the Bankhead Liaison Panel and for achieving successful outcomes.

Several other factors have contributed to a compelling sense of place:

1)      Shared focus to problem-solve health and restoration issues on the Bankhead

National Forests;

2) Shared knowledge based that takes into account the various interests affected

by national forest management practices and policies, the legal and governance requirements, the local history and expertise, way of life and culture, as well as technical and scientific understanding;

3) Shared accomplishments such as developing recommendations for the Forest

Health and Restoration Initiative; supporting the establishment of the Center

for Forest Ecosystem Assessment to integrate science and research into the

Forest Health and Restoration Initiative; establishing active monitoring work

groups as agreed during Phase I of the project; and earnestly trying to include a larger segment of the Bankhead community to share knowledge and ideas in order to support the USFS in management of the forest; and

4) Personal Accomplishments that have resulted from participation on the

Bankhead Liaison Panel such as increasing one's ability to work with others and to achieve shared goals; to influence local change and develop one's leadership

potential; to gain technical knowledge about complex forestry issues and develop process management skills resulting from contentious though productive group interactions.

Recommendations

During Phase I of the project, short -term successes were evident partially due to the deadlines required by the USFS. During Phase II of the project, though clear short and long-term objectives have been established, these are predominantly long -term in nature (monitoring and evaluating the forest health and restoration process) and deadlines are non-existent. There is no sense of "shared" urgency. Although the Liaison Panel is working on several ongoing issues (development of trails, looting of cultural resources, planning for the rise in demand of outdoor recreational use on the Bankhead) there are no deadlines for recommendations.

1.       It is important that the USFS convey the accomplishments of the monitoring

groups and other efforts of the Liaison Panel to the Panel itself and the public. A clear understanding and recognition of the subtle as well as obvious changes that are occurring will continue building a shared sense of accomplishment.

2.      Where feasible- suggest establishing timelines and deadlines in order for the

Liaison Panel to have a better understanding of future expectations, areas for discussions, and recommendations.

D. Maintain a mechanism to support continued involvement.

Obviously, a major mechanism of continued involvement is the Bankhead Liaison Panel and the Monitoring Work Groups. Because of the Liaison Panel, local community and academic participation has increased; mutual understanding and problem solving efforts have been undertaken; and working relationships with the USFS in particular, various partners, organizations, and even individuals have improved.

Recommendations

1) Develop ongoing activities and opportunities for collaborative learning to occur where

appropriate, not only between the Bankhead Liaison Panel and the Forest Service but

also between the new members to the Bankhead Liaison Panel, the working groups, and

local organizations. Continuing to learn and communicate with each other is crucial not

only in monitoring the 5-year plan of work but for any future decisions and

recommendations, or plans of action that may need to be developed. Future topics

for discussion and recommendations were established by the USFS and the

Bankhead Liaison Panel in March of 2004.

2) Process Leadership: although a concerted effort has been made (and is still being

made) to hire a local third party facilitator, the USFS and the Liaison Panel can

explore other models of process leadership. One model might be having one USFS

staff and a member of the Liaison Panel coordinate meetings when needed or take

leadership in providing communication to the Bankhead community about respective

new worthy items.

3) Continue to build the build the capacity for the community to engage in stakeholder

natural resource processes by offering training in: collaborative problem solving,

communication, and negotiation, planning, and monitoring and evaluation, and others as

identified. Work with local Cooperative Extension and Alabama’s academic institutions

to develop a natural resource leadership development model – similar to the Natural

Resources Leadership Institute model (1994) developed at NC State University, or a

model that will allow diverse perspectives to engage in collaborative learning and apply

that learning to initiative within their communities.

E. Evaluating progress and adjusting programmatic efforts accordingly.

Information gathered from formal and informal evaluations can inform the Bankhead Forest Service, the Bankhead Liaison Panel, and any process management team about the productivity of the collaborative approach, and potential areas of improvement. Information about potential opportunities for improvement can be communicated at Bankhead Liaison Panel meetings, and incorporated into the ongoing process. Three formal evaluations have been conducted: one in December of 2002, one in October 2003, and one in August 2004. An initial project assessment was conducted in December 2002, and resulted in providing stakeholder information to the facilitation team about effective process design and management; in October 2003, the US Institute conducted an evaluation on Phase I of the project and in August 2004, the Natural Resources Leadership Institute conducted an evaluation of Phase II of the project with the Bankhead Liaison Panel and a interested parties. In addition, informal assessments occurred throughout both Phase I and Phase II of the project during Steering Committee Conference calls, Bankhead Liaison Panel meetings, and Work Group meetings. Hence measuring progress included information gathered qualitatively (primarily descriptive and interpretive) and quantitatively (numerical measurements and data analysis) regarding either project implementation and results, and process management. An outside evaluation may be prudent at some point for Phase III. This could measure subsequent outcomes and impacts, either immediate or long-term, including participant reactions that have emerged because of program participation and accomplishments.

Recommendations

1) Focus Group: a small focus group was conducted in August with local community members who have not been directly involved in participating on the Liaison Panel. Another focus group, conducted by the Liaison Panel or its Steering Committee may assist the Bankhead Forest Service, the Bankhead Liaison Panel, agencies, educators, and the community in determining how best to build the capacity of those who do not participate as frequently in collaborative processes; determine what information they would like to know and how best to provide it, including how to work more effectively with those who do not participate as frequently or directly to keep them informed; and perhaps what educational activities might be of interest and how interested parties might take on more of an active role.

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Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.

Walter Lippmann

APPENDIX A: PHASE II: BANKHEAD LIAISON PANEL EVALUATION RESULTS

I. BACKGROUND INFORMATION

1. Respondents represented the following interests:

Local business

Private landowners

Native Americans

Government agencies

Environmental organizations

Local elected officials

Cooperative Extension Service

Multi-use including hunting and recreational use -motorized and non-motorized

Concerned citizens

2. Length of time respondents participated on the Bankhead Liaison Panel:

 

Ranged from 2-5 years, with respondents averaging 4 years of participation.

3. Respondents participated in various roles as members of the Bankhead Liaison Panel. The majority of the respondents with a few exceptions participated in the following roles:

·        

a) Attendance: attend meetings. Several members stated he or she did not attend every meeting scheduled but attended when able to do so.

b) Actively participate: share in meeting discussion or subcommittee work, offer ideas, actively listen, and provide support where possible. Respondents said he or she participated in the meetings attended.

c) Subcommittee participation: participate as member steering committee, work group, direct a particular activity or both. Two respondents said they did not work outside the Bankhead Liaison Panel meetings, on either the steering committee or monitoring work groups.

d) Prepare for the Liaison Panel meetings: prepare for Liaison Panel or subcommittee meetings (read previous meeting summary or other handouts located on the website or sent via email, mail, or fax). Several respondents said he or she did not prepare for the meetings.

g) Chair/lead a committee or sub-group. Several respondents said they chair or lead a work group effort.

4. Respondents ranked in order of importance the following levels of interaction as to how the Bankhead Liaison Panel members involved each other.

a)     Members work together on complementary goals; there is coordination and some sharing of resources.

b)     Members share (or are working toward) a common vision to link diverse interests; actions are jointly created and resources, and authority and decision-making are controlled in the group.

c)     Members provide helpful resources to support each other's interests and goals; there is some joint planning and activity, and decision- making.

d)     Members interact primarily for exchanging information and communication.

5. Respondents indicated whether Liaison Panel members are volunteers or salaried

participants:

Volunteer Participant

Majority of members are volunteers. This includes members who may work for local government who state they are volunteering participatory time.

Salaried Participant

Few members are paid a salary to attend the meetings.

6. During the past 24 months respondents indicated his or her volunteer or paid hours provided to the Bankhead Liaison Panel to support its purpose and activities (note: combined hours include estimates of members who did not respond based on archival data such as meeting summaries. Hours contributed is a conservative estimate since participants are not expected to keep tally of hours). In addition, these figures do not include the hours interested parties have contributed to the Liaison Panel process by attending meetings or subcommittee activities.

 

a. Bankhead Liaison Panel meetings (does not include travel time)

Hours contributed: 852

b. Subcommittee work outside of meetings (includes steering committee phone calls; subcommittee work; and monitoring group work)

Hours contributed: 310

 

c. Preparation for meetings or activities

Hours contributed: 272

d. Other activities: hours for networking and communicating outside of meetings; presentations to other groups including one's own constituency

Hours contributed: 304

Hours Contributed to the Bankhead Liaison Panel

1,738

7. Respondents rated the extent their participation on the Bankhead Liaison Panel

impacted or influenced them as individuals in terms of the following aspects. Each

item was rated from 1 [low impact] to 5 [high impact]. Ratings fell between

3 [moderate] and 4 [moderately high] with a few outliers of 2 [moderately low]

and 5 [high impact].

Moderate Impact on My…

Understanding of community issues and assets.

Ability to design and implement action plans

Ability to evaluate progress and results.

Understanding of group processes.

Ability to communicate effectively in a group.

Sense that together we can make a difference

Leadership ability.

Ability to help group achieve its goals

 
 

Moderately High Impact on My…

Ability to help resolve group conflict

Knowledge of ways to respond to issues

Understanding of others' perspectives

Ability to work with others.

Skills to influence local policies.

Ability to help solve community problems

 

8. Some respondents provided direct comments about the greatest impact working

on the Bankhead Liaison Panel has had for them:

a)     Seeing the different perspectives people have. Some of the perspectives were

so unusual. I would not have believed how strongly these perspectives were

held unless I heard it directly.

b)     Able to understand the needs and interests of other community members

besides my own.

c)     Provides an avenue to directly work with the US Forest Service Personnel and

influence their decisions.

d)     Not much impact on me as an individual- prefer to focus on helping the Bankhead National Forest.

e)     Opportunity to converse with diverse interests.

f)     Made me aware of the complexity of the forest and community issues and the challenge the US Forest Service has to work with all parties.

g)     Increased my ability to work with others.

9. Respondents evaluated how effective he or she thought the Liaison Panel

functioned based on the following aspects. Each item was rated from 1 [low effectiveness] to 5 [high effectiveness]. Ratings fell between 3 [moderate],

4 [moderately high], and 5 [high effectiveness] with a few outliers of 2

[moderately low].

Moderate Effectiveness

Doing effective planning (assess needs/assets, set goals, develop plan

Carrying out planned actions.

Securing adequate resources so group can do its work.

Making inter-organizational linkages.

Gaining support from other organizations.

Identifying and using members’ resources.

Orienting new members.

Retiring and adding new members.

Involving volunteers.

Reviewing, reflecting, and evaluating to assure progress and results.

Celebrating progress.

 
 

Moderately High Effectiveness

Developing group operating procedures (setting up subcommittees, rules, structures).

Bringing together parties with an interest in the issue.

Listening to minority views.

Building a clear mission (members know where the group is headed).

Conducting meetings that accomplish what is necessary.

Developing capacity to sustain efforts.

Communicating progress and achievement.

Providing for training of members as appropriate.

Resolving conflict within group.

Making decisions accepted by all parties.

Communicating with external constituencies.

Facilitating compromise when needed to further progress.

Providing effective leadership.

 
 

High Effectiveness

Communicating the interests and views of all parties

Creating mutual respect, understanding and trust within the group

 

10. Respondents indicated their perceptions about the Liaison Panel as follows, using

a 5- point scale from 1 [infrequently] to 5 [all the time].

 

Most of the Time

 

I feel comfortable in the group.

My viewpoint is heard.

I am viewed as a valued member.

I am satisfied with the group’s progress.

11. Respondents listed their perceptions about the role of the Liaison Panel in

achieving results that impacted the Bankhead Forest community in general. Each

aspect was rated as either 1 [not likely to be accomplished]; 2

[plan to work on in the future]; 3 [currently working on]; and 4 [accomplished

this already].

Liaison Panel Plans to Work on

 

Realigning existing resources to support efforts of the Liaison Panel.

Influencing budget and funding decisions.

Increasing funding and grants to the community to resolve some of the community

issues.

 

Liaison Panel is Currently Working on

 

Active involvement of more residents in the issues of the national forests, including

new members.

Development of new group(s) to address the needs and issues (monitoring groups).

Development of new and improved networks and working relationships among groups, agencies, and businesses.

Increasing the ability of its members and others to work collectively and responsibly

on community issues.

Increasing overall community optimism that together a difference can be made.

Encouraging others to participate and share in the discussions.

Maintaining trust and open communication.

 

Liaison Panel accomplished…

 

Identification and inclusion of key stakeholders and interests on the Liaison Panel.

Greater public support for the national forest staff.

Increased community-wide awareness of the forest issues.

Involvement of people to work together on a community issue.

Development of new group(s) to address the needs and issues (monitoring groups).

Skill development, skills which are transferable to other group situations.

 

12. Respondents provided the following statements about their perceptions on the greatest impact the Bankhead Liaison Panel has had on the community to date:

a)     To let the general public see that there are people in the community, such as the Liaison Panel that are highly involved in community issues; that the Liaison Panel can serve as a watchdog and advocate for community concerns.

b)     Increased public involvement.

c)     Providing information to the public, other organizations, and the local community.

d)     To keep people informed on issues affecting the Bankhead National Forest and to give them a means to stay or become involved.

e)     Develop consensus on the Bankhead National Forest Health and Restoration Initiative

f)     Neutral zone for discussion of issues in non-confrontational setting.

g)     Brought various interests together to comment on the Alabama National Forest management plan revisions and to plan the Bankhead National Forest Health and Restoration project.

h)     Provided a mechanism to build trust between the community and the US Forest Service.

 

13. Respondents provided the following comments about how to improve the Bankhead

Liaison Panel's effectiveness:

a)     Not exactly sure but believe the Liaison Panel will become more important the longer it exists.

b)     Have more meetings.

c)     Close it to the public or make it a legal entity.

d)     List clearer next objectives as needed by the US Forest Service.

e)     Provide more expertise testimony and information and more expectations of policy decision-making.

f)     Minimize the number of subjects dealt with at one time (i.e., if its rec use, stick to rec use for several meetings rather than vary the topic).

14. Respondents provided the following comments about the facilitator's major contribution to this group:

a)     Kept order, kept Liaison Panel and work groups on track toward our goals.

b)     Assisted Liaison Panel and work groups to resolve or manage issues and concerns.

c)     Kept group on point and progressing to a resolution on a specific issue.

d)     Kept the process coordinated; provided peace keeping; record keeping; and invaluable in so many ways.

e)     Process management.

f)     Assisted group in development of ground rules and charter.

g)     Focused on topic and meeting process.

h)     Ensured diverse opinions were heard.

i)       Organization of meetings and agendas.

j)      Brought tranquility to a volatile situation.

k)     Kept panel on target to meet stated goals.

15. Respondents provided the following comments as to how the facilitator or group

leader could improve the effectiveness of the Liaison Panel in the future;

a)     Nothing. Facilitators did a great job and set a high standard for someone to follow and work toward.

b)     Nothing. It would be hard to find anyone or a group that would be much better or more effective!

c)     Establish clear objectives and deadlines to drive toward a needed product (as defined by the US Forest Service) in a timely and efficient manner.

d)     Streamline meetings to limit subjects at hand- otherwise extraneous discussion occurs, diverting interests and prolongs desired outcomes.

e)     Continue the good work- when group is getting out control- remind them of the ground rules.

f)     Nothing.

INTERESTED PARTY FOCUS GROUP

Members of the public who attended the August meeting were asked to provide their general perceptions and insights about the effectiveness of the Liaison Panel and areas of improvement. The responses included the following:

General Perceptions

 

Meetings are more organized and planned though remain technical during discussions so difficult for the public to follow and understand at times.

Even if conflict exists - group moves forward and works on goals.

The Liaison Panel provides a "set aside time" to focus on various interests, to learn about various interests, and speak about those interests.

Efforts and accomplishments of Liaison Panel can have far reaching impacts on the community.

Serves as a forum for discussion and learning about the Bankhead National Forest, a fantastic mechanism for public involvement.

Provides an interface between the public and the USFS.

Monitoring Groups are a great way to learn about various issues and serve as

mechanisms to engage others not directly involved on the Liaison Panel.

 

Areas for Improvement

 

Need more outreach and awareness in the community as others are not aware of the Liaison Panel and its efforts.

Increase media attention on the Liaison Panel meetings.

Use recreational sites within the forest to post notification about upcoming s meetings and encourage public involvement.

Meetings seem to be about procedural issues

Help the public to better understand the technical components of the meetings.

Use the listserv to contact a wider range of interested parties or inform them about the ongoing process.

Some citizens are still suspect of the process, do not believe the Liaison Panel represents their interests and in fact is operating against their interests. Need to continue to reach out to these folks and try to include them as best as possible.

 

References:

§     Gray,G., Enzer, M., & Kusel, J. (2001). Understanding Community-Based Forest Ecosystem Management. Food Products Press. Binghamton, NY.

§     Wondolleck, J. and Yaffe, S. (2000). Making Collaboration Work. Lessons from Innovation in Natural Resource Management. Island Press. Washington, DC.

§     Wondolleck, J. and Yaffe, S. (1997;2001). Sustaining the Success of Collaborative Partnerships: Revisiting the Building Bridges Cases. School of Natural Resources and the Environment. Ann Harbor, MI.

[1] According to Gray, et al, in Europe “ecosystem management” is referred to a highly technical scientific approach to resource management; outside of Europe – “bioregional and integrated conversation” may be terms used to mean the same thing (2001, p.37).





https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/alabama/about-forest/districts/?cid=stelprdb5155016