EMC: Public Engagement Dispatch – August 2019

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EMC’s Public Engagement Group’s monthly dispatch brings you information about what’s happening in the world of public engagement inside and outside the Forest Service. This month’s Dispatch focuses on engaging low income and minority communities.


Email us at SM.FS.publicengage@usda.gov to let us know what other PE topics you’re interested learning about.


Featured FAQ: What are some tips to improve engagement with low income and minority communities?


The 2012 Planning Rule requires responsible officials to encourage participation by low-income and minority populations in the forest plan revision process. Below, we feature a few tips from Forest Service colleagues with extensive experience engaging these populations. For more tips and techniques, visit EMC’s Public Engagement SharePoint site.

  • Visit communities at their tables instead of ours.
  • Connect through minority professional organizations, nonprofits, and national associations.
  • Make targeted efforts to engage and communicate with underserved, low-income and minorities by using special interest media through regional and forest-level public affairs officers and liaisons such as the national association of black, Hispanic and native American journalists.
  • Coordinate with Regional Civil Rights Directors, National Tribal Liaisons and Special Emphasis Program Managers, particularly during special emphasis months and natural resource related observances including National Get Outdoors Day, and National Public Lands Day.
  • When stepping into a community for the first time, get to know the leaders of that community and build a trusting relationship with them. Those leaders can open doors for you.
  • Build a partnership, not a one-person relationship – a true strong partnership does not end when the FS point person leaves. A true partnership is bought into at multiple levels and is shared amongst FS staff.
  • Invite community members on field trips and provide transportation.


Do you have a best practice to share? Or other FAQs that are of interest to you? Contact us at SM.FS.publicengage@usda.gov.


Tools and Resources

Striving for Inclusion: Environmental Justice under the 2012 Planning Rule. Periman and Grinspoon (2014). This document provides guidance on engaging low income and minority communities in the context of the FS 2012 planning rule, including identifying minority and low-income populations in planning areas of influence, using local knowledge when conducting public involvement, and evaluating impacts to these communities.


Latino Awareness and Engagement Guidebook. This resource developed by Region 5 provides a set of tools presented in self-study modules to strengthen engagement with Latino communities in forest planning.


From the field

Engaging underserved communities through a Food Forest: The USDA Forest Service Southern Region’s Regional Office is supporting Atlanta’s first Food Forest, a collective effort of many dedicated partner organizations in Atlanta with a passion for providing access to safe greenspace, conservation education, and workforce development to underserved communities. These partners include the City of Atlanta, The Conservation Fund, Trees Atlanta, and Greening Youth Foundation among many others. Working hand-in-hand with the Browns Mill/Lakewood communities, partners are building one of the largest food forests in the country, while simultaneously transforming an abandoned property into an edible landscape. As an innovative model for engaging low income and minority communities, the project is generating widely applicable best practices and lessons-learned for use in public engagement efforts across the agency. For more information, contact Kelly Balcarczyk.


Trainings, webinars and conferences

International Association for Public Participation North America Conference. September 4-6, 2019. The upcoming IAP2 Conference next month will feature several sessions on engaging low income and minority communities, including:

  • Race Equity and Inclusion Workshop. This workshop will discuss developing effective community engagement plans with consideration of racial inequities, socio-economic disparities, and implicit biases in our communities.
  • Race, Equity, & Design Thinking and Engagement to Move Our City Forward.
  • Evaluating Public Participation to Address Historic Disenfranchisement and Empower Communities.


Community of practice news and webinar series

The Public Engagement Community of Practice monthly webinar in August featured the Atlanta Food Forest as described above. Kelly Balcarczyk, Volunteer and Service Program Manager in the Region 8 Regional Office, and partners provided an overview of their work. The webinar is available on the Public Engagement SharePoint site.


Please join us on September 17th, 2019 at 2:30pm (Eastern)/12:30pm (Mountain) for the next Public Engagement webinar. The webinar will feature highlights from the IAP2 North American Conference.


Join CoP Webinars by phone: 888-844-9904, Access Code 7561605 or on Adobe connect: https://usfs.adobeconnect.com/emcpe/.


Visit our Community of Practice SharePoint Site or contact Daniel Silvas at daniel.v.silvas@usda.gov for more information.


News from the Public Engagement Group

  • The El Yungue National Forest recently gave a webinar on its newly established vegetation monitoring citizen science program. This program was created in response to community interest and information needs of the Forest discovered during their Forest Plan Revision effort. For more information, visit the Citizen Science website.


EMC Public Engagement Group contacts

Contact the group at: SM.FS.publicengage@usda.gov, visit EMC's Public Engagement SharePoint site or connect with us individually:


Madelyn Dillon, Strategic Communication Specialist, Madelyn.dillon@usda.gov

Catherine Doyle-Capitman, Social Scientist, catherine.doyle-capitman@usda.gov

Maia Enzer, Planning and Public Engagement Advisor, maia.enzer@usda.gov

Brad Kinder, Public Engagement Specialist, bradley.kinder@usda.gov

Jasmine Napier, Planning Specialist, jasmine.s.napier@usda.gov

Deidra McGee, Program Specialist, deidra.mcgee@usda.gov

Daniel Silvas, Public Engagement Specialist, daniel.silvas@usda.gov 

Michelle Tamez, Inventory, Monitoring and Assessment Specialist, michelle.tamez@usda.gov

Sharon Timko, Public Engagement Specialist, sharon.timko@usda.gov