Magazine article American Forests

Forest Service: Breaking Down Breakers

Magazine article American Forests

Forest Service: Breaking Down Breakers

Article excerpt

The Forest Service enjoys a tradition of involving local individuals and organizations in agency decisions. "Spittin' and whittlin,'" rangers built relationships in and around forest communities as far back as the turn of the century. These early efforts laid the foundation for what we now call collaborative stewardship. But growing interest-and controversyover resource-management issues, a one-size-fits-all planning process, consolidation or closure of local offices, and a downsized organization have all taken a toll on collaborative efforts.The arrival of current chief Mike Dombeck renewed interest in combating the perception that the Forest Service doesn't listen, as well as in doing a better job at relationships and resource stewardship.

In January, Dombeck and the Forest Service's top leadership chartered a team to look at collaborative stewardship. First we wanted to model collaborative approaches and used e-mail networks to involve nearly a thousand individuals. We sent representatives to meetings held by a dozen organizations across the country and used these audiences as focus groups.

Nearly all forests reported some collaborative planning activities-strategic visioning, conflict resolution, plan and project development and implementation. Some asked for more time to collaborate-through cutting red tape in budget, personnel, and other administrative activities. Others reminded us collaborative efforts don't always have to be initiated or led by Forest Service employees. …

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