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Meridian Institute

Meridian Team Honored for Facilitation of Forest Service Planning Rule Revision Process

Friday, May 25, 2012

At the 2012 Environmental Conflict Resolution Conference, the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution (USIECR) recognized the Meridian team, along with 17 other entities and individuals, for their support and facilitation throughout the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service National Planning Rule Revision process. Meridian served as the lead contractor assisting the U.S. Forest Service in conducting an open, collaborative process to create and implement a new regulation governing forest planning in the National Forest system. The planning rule revision was one of the flagship projects of President Obama’s Open Government Initiative.

As part of their leadership, Meridian designed, convened, and facilitated four national roundtable meetings in Washington, DC, as well as 40 regional roundtables throughout the country. These consultations were attended by many stakeholders with a wide array of interests and perspectives. Meridian also coordinated and facilitated weekly meetings among the facilitators of all these meetings, including other contractors and Forest Service staffers.

The Forest Service used the input and formal comments received from all of these meetings to develop a draft planning rule and a draft environmental impact statement (EIS), both of which were published in February 2011. Before the release of the draft planning rule and EIS, Meridian worked with the Forest Service rule-writing team to plan the next round of stakeholder engagement activities. After the release of the draft rule, Meridian facilitated a National Public Forum to share information and answer questions about the proposed planning rule. Meridian also continued its role as coordinator for a series of regional forums following a similar format. The National Forum had more than 150 participants, and the regional forums had between 10 and 125 participants. As part of this process, Meridian also facilitated a Government-to-Government Tribal Consultation in the Intermountain Region of the Forest Service and participated in a number of Tribal conference calls. Summaries of the national and regional roundtables as well as additional information about the planning rule revision can be found at http://fs.usda.gov/planningrule.
The Announcement page for USIECR offers the following description of the Environmental Collaboration and Conflict Resolution Award, as well as a description as to why the Planning Rule process was honored:

     “The Environmental Collaboration and Conflict Resolution Award (ECCR Award) recognizes exemplary and innovative environmental collaboration and conflict resolution efforts to help government, other affected entities, and members of the public arrive at a common goal or agreement in addressing conflicts and challenges related to the environment and natural resources, including matters related to energy, transportation, and land use.
     The second ECCR Award went to the USDA Forest Service National Planning Rule Revision, spearheaded by the Chief of the Forest Service, Tom Tidwell. Development of the new Planning Rule occurred through a broad and inclusive planning process that was also integrated with the activities of tribal consultation, an interagency working group, electronic tools for collaboration and public participation, and formal public comment processes required under NEPA. Many participants in the process noted that this effort set a new standard for what is possible when applying a collaborative process to a controversial issue at a national scale. The most cutting-edge or innovative aspect of the effort was the integration between formal and informal process, science and collaboration, legally required activities, and supplemental collaborative activities. The combined use of electronic tools and traditional models of collaboration also helped make the rule-making process transparent, participatory, and collaborative.”
For additional information on the 2012 ECCR Awards, please visit http://www.ecr.gov/AnnouncementsEvents/AnnouncementsEvents.aspx?Item=116.