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Thirty years in the making

May 14, 2015 By Steven R. Peck

We have a new Shoshone National Forest plan, but it took awhile

Congratulations to the U.S. Forest Service and the State of Wyoming for signing a new forest-management plan last week for the Shoshone National Forest.

It only took three decades.

By definition and custom, this new plan ought to be the second one since the previous one took effect in 1986. Such is the nature of the complicated and often divisive climate of public land management now thata process that already is presumed to require 10 years has taken 20.

We're fortunate that no one appears to be raising too much objection to the plan, which isn't all that different from the one that was formulated beginning in the 1970s and had been in effect since 1986.

With consensus so hard to find on a broad plan, the standard procedure for some time now has been to "amend" the existing plans bit by bit. Considering the inertia that has characterized comprehensive forest planning, the amendment process has been crucial to allow anything to get done at all.

Day-to-day forest managers who identify important issues from the ground up have realized that waiting around for those concerns to be addressed by a full forest plan could consume the rest of their careers, so the amendment model is the path of least resistance to getting something done.

But there is a piecemeal feel to this approach when the stated policy is to have a comprehensive forest plan every decade.

In signing the plan with forest officials a few days ago, Gov. Matt Mead praised the planners and negotiators for completing the document cooperatively, saying "this is the way it's supposed to work."

True enough -- but maybe it could work just a little faster next time.

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2017-10-22

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