Fixing the Rule: An Adaptive Governance Roadmap
If adaptive governance, i.e. adaptive management applied to public lands, might help move beyond ongoing forest wars, how might the Draft NFMA Rule (pdf) be improved toward adaptive governance? This post outlines my ideas for improving the rule. Ultimately, I’d like to see us vet this proposal when more fully developed, against the Forest Service’s Draft Planning Rule, Andy Stahl’s KISS Rule, and any other proposals that may be floating about. But before I put pen to paper, I’d like to get feedback on my ideas. Here is how I propose to “fix” the rule:
- No matter what NFMA rule is put in play, it needs to be written by lawyers. Court challenges will not cease no matter what rule is in force.
- I like the idea of adaptive governance, but also believe that adaptive management as applied to public problems is the same thing. I do not have a strong preference for which words, “adaptive governance” or “adaptive management” are used to described the process. I will use “adaptive management” here. There are many pathways that might be taken to adopt an adaptive governance approach to management. It may be that embedding adaptive governance into the NFMA rule is not the best path forward. I’m willing to listen to other possible pathways, and even alternatives to any adaptive governance pathway. But I still believe that the Draft Planning rule fails as adaptive management, and can not provide a useful path forward.
Reframing/Rewriting the NFMA Rule
- Rewrite the “Purpose and Applicability” (219.1) (and also the “Summary” and “Overview” in the Federal Register run-up to the rule) to include reasons for a move away from narrowly framed forest planning and toward broader public engagement to address forest management’s wicked problems. Include a discussion of decision containers [See, this note] and how the public needs to help natural resource managers frame discussions/resolutions, including scope and scale. Allow wicked problem discussions/resolutions to well-up to appropriately sized containers so that people don’t have to grapple with policy at local scales, where such does not makes sense. Include “all lands” decision-making where and when appropriate, allowing for responsible officials to include but not be limited to Forest Service officials.
- Define adaptive management, then do a near “global replace” of “planning” with “adaptive management.” A beginning point for a definition of adaptive management might be:
[Adaptive Management]: linking a broad range of actors at multiple scales to deal with the interrelated dynamics of resources and ecosystems, management systems and social systems, as well as uncertainty, unpredictability, and surprise. Adaptive governance focuses on experimentation and learning, and it brings together research on institutions and organizations for collaboration, collective action, and conﬂict resolution in relation to natural resource and ecosystem management. The essential role of individuals needs to be recognized in this context (e.g., leadership, trust building, vision, and meaning); their social relations (e.g., actor groups, knowledge systems, social memory) and social networks serve as the web that tie together the adaptive governance system. It has cross-level and cross-scale activities and includes governmental policies that frame creativity.
From “Adaptive Governance of Social-Ecological Systems”, Carl Folke, Thomas Hahn, Per Olsson, and Jon Norberg, Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour. 2005. 30:441-473 (pdf)
- Keep “forest plan,” but define as suggested by the Clinton era Committee of Scientists: “A loose-leaf notebook that contains all of the policy directions, strategies, and implementation proposals from decisions that have been made at all levels of the planning process. It is the official repository of decisions big and small that have been made and reviewed in the strategic and landscape-level planning processes.”
- Keep the tie to the FS Strategic Plan, but add more responsibility at the Chief’s office to make sure that adaptive management is real—a cultural change, more than just words—and something that “the Forest Service does”, not something delegated to a single staff group like “planning” or “ecosystem management.” In short, position most responsibility for RPA/NFMA to the Chief and/or Secretary of Agriculture.
- Replace “three levels of planning” (219.2) with “multiple levels of adaptive management assessment, monitoring, and decision-making.” Make sure that “all lands” assessment, monitoring, and decision-making, done in concert with appropriate collaborators is the logical choice when such makes sense. [See, Why Three Planning Levels?]
- Keep the idea of “standards and guidelines” (219.7) but make the development and revision of both “situational” at appropriate scope and scale. The idea is that most would be developed at levels other than a “national forest.” Still, forest supervisors would be charged to show how such standards apply to decisions they make. Similarly for assessment and monitoring information, as well as for policy decisions and legal authorities.
- Add the idea of a “forest niche,” that would be reviewed publicly at, say, five-year intervals. [See, A Forest Service for the 21st Century Who Are We? to better understand niche idea for the Forest Service as a whole.]
- Abandon the idea of “desired conditions,” instead allow for simple “scenario planning” that would embrace the idea of emergent unfolding future as opposed to managing toward a desired future. Note that this idea interfaces with the idea of “niches” above and does not preclude working toward betterment. It just moves the “betterment” debate into the policy arena and away form the land planning arena. [See: Whose Desire? What Future? Why?]
- For specific requirements of NFMA law, craft wording to require the WO (and it’s bevy of legal counselors) to find means to comply with said requirements as expeditiously as possible at scale and scope as close to “national” as possible. For example, the requirement for an Allowable Sale Quantity might be set nationally at zero, with provision that all timber volume flowing from the national forests be determined via adaptive management and in the context of, say “ecosystem stewardship contracting,” or equivalent internal process.
I still intend to work up a complete rewrite of what I’ll call a “Draft NFMA Rule” soon. But I would like your feedback on these ideas now.
I have been chatting with a friend about the “Pre-Decisional Administrative Review Process” (219.50-59). We believe that if collaboration were much improved and allowed for multi-scale adaptive governance, the whole idea of “pre-decisional review” makes no sense, and perchance neither does any “appeal process.”
may probably won’t include language relative to the “species diversity” provisions from NFMA. That will no doubt be the most fought-over part of the rule. Still, I maintain that the adaptive management fight is equally important. In my framing, species diversity is one of the items that the WO and its bevy of legal counselors ought to deal with. In all such “dealing” I believe that such policy review/policy revision ought to begin early, even perchance predating the adoption of a NFMA rule. Why the Forest Service runs so much of its policy development through “NFMA forest planning” remains a mystery to me.