Why process is important even if
it takes longer than first planned
PLP … For years the Public Land Partnership has been the regional table of trust for local citizens from varying stakeholder groups concerned about the management of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison Forests. People from San Miguel, Ouray, Montrose and Delta counties would come together monthly to talk about important issues with elected officials, ranchers, miners, motorized recreationalists, enviros, state and federal agency folks and any interested citizens … In the past, PLP was an incubator of ideas that turned into projects – some of them winning national awards. Of late, the crowds have been smaller, but the discussions continue to tackle divisive and important issues … Folks last week were just getting their hands around the Forest Service’s new Planning Rule proposal from different perspectives – not just what our friends were saying, but from those with very different agendas ... I got an earful in DC this past March from high-level Forest Service staff about what was intended with the changes in the planning rule process -- of how the Forest Service wants to operate in making plans to manage public forests. And I attended a National Planning session in DC with rollout explanations by various Forest Service officials and Q&As after each talk. I was impressed with the focus on collaboration with local governments built into the new rule … Coming home I learned from Commissioner Joan May and some of my enviro friends that there was widespread ecological concern that the rules were too vague and didn’t have specific standards embedded in the draft language, to ensure protection for ecosystem values… And at a PLP meeting in April, I heard from my industry friends that given all the new emphasis on establishing species viability (as directed by the court in tossing out the previous planning rule revisions in 2005 and 2008) and extending special protections, it would appear that the Forest Service would have even less capacity than the insufficient job they were currently doing protecting forest health from wildfire and beetle threats, providing for a viable timber industry (particularly in our Western states), and balancing all these new mandated levels of planning with declining budgets … I was just beginning to assimilate all those various perspectives and working to try and find a balance point that would best address all those concerns while moving the Forest Service proposal forward. I’d started private conversations with enviros and industry folks. We were drafting letters and starting to share issues. But like so many processes, when government is involved, it takes at least twice as long as you think to get a good representative cross-section of the citizenry educated and involved. A 90-day May 16th deadline was rapidly approaching and even I, directly involved in public land management on national, state and local levels, had just begun to assimilate and start to sort through, not just the data and documents, but the varied perspectives and issues of the many stakeholder groups affected. A number of entities and individuals asked for an extension of the new Planning Rule comment deadline (including San Miguel County) – to give us the time needed to wrestle with a very important change in the way the Forest Service operates. But the Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell denied the request for an extension … It’s a shame. The Forest Service wants to collaborate. But when you take the time to really learn the issue, read the voluminous documents (draft rules, explanations, environmental impact statement), and start to form coalitions to address the issues from all sides, the Forest Service shifts from partner to police. Sorry. Time’s up. Enough public comment. It took us over a year to write up the new rules, but now you only get three months to review and comment … It’s unfortunate. Instead of giving citizens a chance to make meaningful comment, the Forest Service is pushing ahead with the direction they clearly want to go, more than they care how the public fares moving along in high speed turtle style … The Forest Service may be a disappointment, but you should consider coming to the June 2 Public Lands Partnership’s annual meeting in Montrose’s Friendship Hall (over behind the Coffee Trader). Our regional group will be looking to the future, and how PLP can help stimulate discussion among diverse constituents to find common solutions to public lands issues in our backyard.
SCHOOLING … For those of us critical of public schools (in spite of all the good they do), it’s amazing to see that two of the children, for whom concerned parents created our own private schools in Norwood and Ridgway, have gone on to graduate summa cum laude at Ft. Lewis College in Durango – Ruby Siegel and Rio Coyotl … For me it validates the worth of doing more for one’s children then simply trundling them off into a deeply flawed public school system. Worth the money (paying private tuition as well as public taxes), worth the time, worth the effort.
SAWPIT SHEEP… Ah, sometimes email communication doesn’t save newspapers from mistakes. I sent a correction into the Watch after doing some further investigation about the critters at Sawpit. While they looked like Mountain Goats – short horns, white bodies – they were actually a herd of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis canadensis). Goats have pure white bodies, not the brownish white of sheep. However, somehow the correction didn’t make it into print … I also sent in a correction that only two of Ouray County commissioners couldn’t attend the annual CCI meet in Vail – but somehow the wrong info still got into print … We make every effort at accuracy, whether columnist or reporter, but sometimes systems fail us … I got a comment on the sheep/goat mistake on line, and when I tried to reply, the website wouldn’t accept my password … Some weeks are like that.
THE TALKING GOURD
Oops, You Lose
I walk a mile
out the Orvis front door
before I realize
whose shoes are whose
after your unclosed eyes
as I laced up the wrong boots
& chatted you goodbye