Who makes management decisions?

jryoung

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Hearing the constant drone that land management decisions should be made locally and not by some bureaucrat in DC got me thinking. Who actually makes the management decisions?

Certainly there are federal rules to comply with (NEPA) when making decisions, but when it comes down to particular issues or decisions I would have to imagine that most are made in some sort of collaborations between state agencies, and local federal employees.

Is this typically how it's done? Or is their significant oversight from DC that have the final say and they can filter local influence as they choose? I'd love to understand more about this especially from you folks in the know.

It got me thinking about these signs I see in Montana, I haven't seen them elsewhere (granted I haven't been in every part of elk country across the west) and it seems to be a point of cooperation of local MTFWP and the Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF. Is my assumption correct here?


 

Nameless Range

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Near where I live, the Forest Service nearly always appeals to the public for input before management decisions are finalized. These appeals are not meant to be exclusively from the local public, but largely are by default, since the public notice that the F.S. would like input on Travel Plan X, Y, and Z appears in the Helena Independent Record, but probably not the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Maybe it is per NEPA rules, but our County Commissioners are usually briefed in public meetings, and their input is noted(how much weight it carries I don't know), and recently the City of Helena and the Forest Service collaborated in executing Forest Management Plans in the Ten Mile Watershed. Compromise(that ever-dirty word) ensued.

An example of management decisions that may effect forest management in Montana that didn't include local input would be something like the Farm Bill Categorical Exclusion that opened some country up for potential "fast-tracked" timber removal, or perhaps when an area is declared a National Monument. The implementation of the former would still probably require local collaboration and input.

I have personally submitted maps and short essays in favor of, or in opposition to, certain travel plans on the Helena N.F. as well as the Beaverhead-Deerlodge, and one thing I like is that I see more and more signs like the one in your picture above. How much influence my or other contingent's input affected the implementation of those plans I don't know.

I'm not sure if MTFWP gets much say in how the Forest Service manages their land.
 

BuzzH

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I think Nameless Range pretty well nailed it.

IME, there are usually public notices put out regarding updating travel plans, MA's and so on. Anyone is invited to provide input.

The level of influence that locals, groups, other agencies have really varies. Many times, like in your sign you provided, the FWP, GF, and other groups will throw their support behind things like seasonal closures if it provides elk security, helps habitat, etc.

How much D.C. actively gets involved is largely a function of squeaky wheels...and I have an example of that happening recently on an important issue here in Wyoming. Wont share on here just yet, as the outcome is yet to be determined.
 

shoots-straight

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I've been involved in quit a few different area management plans that go on in the Bitterroot National Forest. I don't know any that aren't done with local input.

Our club asked for road restrictions during hunting season to give the elk a break on their migratory paths, back 25 years or so. Those roads are closed today during the hunting season, because of that local decision making process. It has helped the big game herds, as well as the quality of the hunt in those areas.
 

James Riley

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Back in the day the U.S. almost always posted something in the Federal Register which served as public notice, and which was followed by an opportunity to be heard. National special interest groups from all sides of every imaginable view usually have designated people to read that thing and if something piques their interest, they get involved. However, much does not seem worthy of a big push, they pick their battles, and the default goes to the locals when it comes to comment. But that is just comment. The the U.S. has to use it's best professional judgement in deciding what to do after hearing the comments.

I cannot say what really happens but as a human being it seems natural that the agency might also pick it's battles and give the grease to the squeaky wheel so long as it doesn't result in something that might get them in trouble. This is where internal agency problems can arise. The administrator can be more political or bureau-savy than the biologist, geologist, archaeologist, etc. Good science can say "X" but politics can say "Y" and "Y" usually wins if a special interest does not come in to force the "X" through administrative and/or judicial appeal.

If it's a contentious issue, then all bets are off, all parties come and they each take turns boxing the agency in the ears, it goes to an administrative process and can then be taken up to the federal courts. ;)

There are often proposals that have already been addressed in a blanket fashion by a "Programmatic EIS" so they don't get the full NEPA treatment. They are deemed to have already been covered and are part of a program. Working with the state and local governments might (?) be covered by some of these pro-forma actions.

I've been out of the loop for 15 years but that's the best of my recollection.
 
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katqanna

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Heres the Federal Register link. I have been watching the Land Management Bureau section for the BLM Durfee Hills issue every day or if a Bullwhacker notice goes up. But you can click on the other Fed divisions, Interior Dept., Fish and Wildlife Services, USGS or Forest Service.
 

RobG

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I remember in SE Idaho the local agencies would thoroughly research the topic, gather a lot of public comments, and then do what the local stock growers and politicians told them to do. The only check on this strong arm local control was the enviros suing them when the actions violated federal regulations.
 

James Riley

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I remember in SE Idaho the local agencies would thoroughly research the topic, gather a lot of public comments, and then do what the local stock growers and politicians told them to do. The only check on this strong arm local control was the enviros suing them when the actions violated federal regulations.

B.L.M. Bureau of Livestock and Mining. :D

Or BLAM!
 

BuzzH

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Sportsmen's groups need to be pro-active and willing to follow through with everything up to and including litigation on some of the more important issues that impact wildlife.

For whatever reason, sportsmen think the only groups that can hire attorneys and file objections to forest plans, travel management plans, etc. are "enviro's".

That line of thinking needs to change.

@james riley...how much spare time do you have that you would be willing to donate?:D:D:D
 
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RobG

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Sportsmen's groups need to be pro-active and willing to follow through with everything up to and including litigation on some of the more important issues that impact wildlife.

For whatever reason, sportsmen think the only groups that can hire attorneys and file objections to forest plans, travel management plans, etc. are "enviro's".
This is by design :D. As you know, most sportsmen groups don't want to be labeled as being sue-happy and are more than willing to let other groups take the heat for doing it.

Usually someone steps to the plate. Is there something in particular that you are thinking about?
 

James Riley

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Sportsmen's groups need to be pro-active and willing to follow through with everything up to and including litigation on some of the more important issues that impact wildlife.

For whatever reason, sportsmen think the only groups that can hire attorneys and file objections to forest plans, travel management plans, etc. are "enviro's".

That line of thinking needs to change.

@james riley...how much spare time do you have that you would be willing to donate?:D:D:D

He who represents himself has a fool for a client. :D I am so close to the issue I can't think straight or advocate properly or objectively. :W: I do join different outfits and pay dues though. :eek:
 

Ben Lamb

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Travel and Forest Planning are the most boring, mind-numbing, pedantic things citizens can do. It's also the best and many times only way to influence how your public lands are managed.

I propose we instead have cage fights. Winner decides management. It beats having to know what is happening and back it up with informed, thoughtful reasoning.

Nameless & Buzz nailed it.
 

James Riley

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This is by design :D. As you know, most sportsmen groups don't want to be labeled as being sue-happy and are more than willing to let other groups take the heat for doing it.

Usually someone steps to the plate. Is there something in particular that you are thinking about?

Correct about the design. I think the opposition does an excellent job of driving a wedge in the community between the enviros (tree-/bunny- huggers) and hunters (murderous gun freaks). :rolleyes:
 

RobG

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Correct about the design. I think the opposition does an excellent job of driving a wedge in the community between the enviros (tree-/bunny- huggers) and hunters (murderous gun freaks). :rolleyes:

Yeah, there could be more work done to educate people on the need for (at least the threat of) lawsuits to counter the local politics these agencies have to suffer. Most people have no idea how it gives them a way out... The murderous gun freaks should better appreciate the tree huggers and vice-versa even though there is abuse.
 

El Guapo

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Most local level management action decisions are made at the FS District or BLM Field Office and District level, as long as they are in line with law (NEPA, FLPMA) from the national level. Of course policy trickles down from above, whether that is national, regional, or state level, and obviously that fluctuates with the current administration.

i.e. the management direction for individual BLM Field Offices to implement travel management plans is coming from the BLM Washington office. How those plans are implemented, the "nuts and bolts" including what routes will remain open, what will close, when and where, occur at the local level (until litigated, then it is out of the agencies hands except for testimony towards the reasoning behind the decisions.) The travel management plans would have to be in compliance with the approved Resource Management Plan which was approved following NEPA review (most likely an EIS including extensive public input, both local and not). Currently Wyoming state lawmakers are pushing sustainable timber harvest as a method to address beetle-kill, sustain local mills, and mitigate hazardous fuels concerns on BLM lands. Through discussions with the Wyoming BLM state office, the push is advanced to the District and Field Office level, and, since it is compliant with the local RMP, projects (harvest units, project design features and restrictions, and prescriptions) are designed and project specific NEPA is prepared, reviewed, and authorized (which includes public input on the specific projects.) The same is true with any action on BLM managed public lands, fence construction, well development, wind farm development, prescribed burns, chemical treatments, etc.

The thing that sometimes gets lost in the translation is that the BLM and USFS are multiple use/sustained yield management agencies. It may be that the squeeky wheel gets its way, or it may be that certain proposals or management actions don't make sense under a multiple use management scenerio. It's tough to find a balance, but there are alot of people trying pretty hard to do the right thing, despite what might be or appear to be decisions that run counter to our own personal interests.
 

1_pointer

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What he said!

One last step, is that the head honcho, or one acting in their place, in the FS District or BLM Field Office is generally the authorized officer for the purposes of making the decision. Meaning it's not final until they put their John Hancock on it.
 

Nameless Range

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Here is an example of a management decision and local influence upon it.

Probably a little less than a year ago, the Helena National Forest called for comments on multiple possible scenarios when it came to their Divide Travel Plan. Some were more restrictive of motorized use, some were friendlier to it. I was in favor of the more limited plan, which still involved a few new motorized trails, but in a smarter and less destructive planning scheme when it came to the trail system.

Now local motorized use clubs are pi$$ed. This is an interesting example of local influence on management decisions, and here is the crux: Regardless of whether or not management decisions are influenced by local desires, some interests will not get as much as others and cry "mismanagement" till their face turns blue. My personal interests have fell on the winning and losing sides of public land management decisions at one time or another.
 
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