Despite the beautiful vistas and mountain air, revising national forest plans is no walk in the park. And the forest plan revision process for the Blue Mountains National Forests was no exception – challenges included uncertainty with USDA Forest Service planning rules and prolonged planning timelines. Not to mention the scale – it’s no small feat to conduct a planning process that includes three national forests encompassing over five million acres. And when those millions of acres include pristine water, designated wilderness, an abundance of threatened and endangered species, mineral resources, productive range and forest lands and a vast array of motorized and non-motorized recreation uses, the complexities increase exponentially. Let’s just say the facilitation tool belt we packed for this project was a heavy one.
On behalf of the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution, our team helped the Forest Service and passionate members of the public navigate polarizing topics from natural resource sustainability to economic impacts to societal concerns during public meetings on the draft environmental impact statement and draft forest plan (the project ultimately resulted in separate plans for each forest). We utilized our best practices and skill building in communication and conflict management, and successfully facilitated and documented 14 constructive public meetings with an approximate total of 1,000 participants in communities nestled in some of the most beautiful country in the Pacific Northwest.