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A read from BRC

Postby Treasurer » Thu May 18, 2006 7:09 pm

Dear BRC Members, Supporters and Action Alert Subscribers,

This email alert is a bit long, however, I want to strongly encourage all our members and supporters to read it carefully.

Insofar as OHV and snowmobile use on federal lands is concerned, we are in the first quarter of the SUPER BOWL. The next four years will see more route designations than ever in the past, or likely to be in the future.

The game is played according the rules of the federal agency planning process and the National Environmental Policy Act. Embedded in those rules is something called "collaborative planning" and it is important for all OHV enthusiasts to understand what that means.

Please take a couple of minutes to thoroughly read this email. If you have any questions or concerns, please give me a call.

Brian Hawthorne
Public Lands Director
BlueRibbon Coalition
208-237-1008 ext 102

Dear BRC Members and Supporters,

We've received a lot of emails regarding something called the Authentic Collaboration Workshops. These workshops have been conducted in Arizona and New Mexico. One is currently underway in Sacramento, California. One is planned for Steamboat, Colorado, for this weekend. Workshops are also planned for Utah, Oregon and perhaps Montana. The workshops are hosted by some of the most litigious anti-access groups known. Groups such as the Natural Trails and Waters Coalition (a.k.a. The Wildands Center for the Prevention of Roads, or "Wildlands CPR"), the Winter Wildlands Alliance, the Colorado Mountain Club and the notorious Center for Biological Diversity.

Given the history of these groups one can reasonably question why an Off-Highway Vehicle enthusiast would attend anything associated with this crowd. As you can imagine, the emails are flying fast and furious with all sort of questions and concerns.

Here's the scoop:
The Natural Trails and Waters Coalition succeeded in obtaining a grant from the National Forest Foundation (NFF) to conduct several workshops on the subject of collaborative planning processes.

Why? Good question. Part of the reason is for organizational building. Such training programs encourage cooperation and communication amongst the numerous anti-access groups. Partly for strategic reasons (this crowd just can't help themselves, closing roads is like a religion to these people), but mostly to educate their paid staff on how to make this collaborative planning stuff work for them.

This is a wise move for these guys. Both the BLM and the FS have incorporated collaborative planning into their planning regulations. The agencies are actually required to encourage, promote and facilitate communication with stakeholders when doing land use planning. (Unfortunately, some individual offices aren't doing so well at communicating with the OHV community.)

In addition, Congress actually directed and funded the federal government to utilize Conflict Negotiation efforts to resolve environmental disputes. Congress wants to try to negotiate settlement on everything from Superfund sites to travel plans. So there is a lot of momentum behind the collaborative planning stuff, and all the staff at these anti-access groups know it.

The workshop is professional training for people who might participate in formal Collaborative Planning Process. I put that phrase in 'caps' because there is a distinction between the agency directives to utilize collaborative planning and a formal Collaborative Planning Process.

In order to get the grant, our anti-access "collaborators" had to open the doors so everyone can attend. That's why OHV users have received invitations. And many have attended previous workshops. I attended one in Albuquerque, New Mexico. BRC's Jack Welch and Sandra Mitchell will attend the workshop in Steamboat, Colorado.

The anti's also had to find a credible source for the workshop curriculum, and they have done so. The University of Virginia's Dr. Franklin Dukes is at the top of the class in this collaborative process stuff. Although he has done a lot of work for the Wilderness Society, the work itself is top quality. BRC regularly refers our members who are participating in Collaborative Planning Processes to Professor Dukes' materials!

We have been advising our members and member clubs to attend these workshops. Basically, if the anti-access staffers are going to get this training, we want all our volunteers to get it too. Besides, since the NFF is paying the bills, we should be getting our monies worth, don't you think?

Finally, we wouldn't be doing our job if we only reported good news. The truth is that "collaborative planning" is hot right now, and every politician and bureaucrat is going to tout their support for the concept. Our experience "in the trenches" has taught us that "collaborative solutions" are extremely difficult to reach. However, that does not mean that pro-access interests should ignore ANY collaborative "planning" efforts. To the contrary, we must be involved in every such effort, with the maximum representation possible.

If any BRC member or member club would like to receive the materials and info that will be presented at this workshop, we'd be happy to send it to you. Just blast Ric Foster, BRC's Public Lands Assistant (man... we gotta get a better title for Ric) an email at:

What's BRC's position on formal Collaborative Planning Processes?
Thanks for asking. If one judged by recent events, the chances for actually finding a negotiated settlement on the inevitable conflict over vehicle-based recreation on public lands is virtually nonexistent.

Even though we advise attending the collaborative planning workshop, BRC has little confidence that the anti-access crowd will ever agree to a reasonable solution.

I just received a copy of an appeal filed by nearly all of Colorado's major anti-access groups on the Bangs Canyon travel plan in Grand Junction, Colorado. You should know that the Grand Junction Office of the Bureau of Land Management aggressively pursued all of the collaborative planning directives in their planning regulations. It seemed to be working when OHV representatives, representatives from the anti-access groups and the agency reached a "hand shake" agreement on the key issue. I guess the foundation funded attorneys think they can get more of what they want from a judge.

That appeal is sitting on top of the lawsuit the Winter Wildlands Alliance filed after the Wasatch Cache National Forest implemented a winter recreation plan. The FS settled out of court, agreeing to do more analysis on a plan that was a result of a mediation and arbitration process. It's outrageous.

That lawsuit is sitting on top of the Center for Biological Diversity's recent Notice of Intent to sue the BLM in order to close 10 million acres in the California desert. It seems like all the Wilderness in the world just won't be enough.

Those are just the top three in a very high stack of environmental litigation sitting on my desk right now. It seems they won't be happy until they eliminate all OHV use on public lands. Indeed, one employee of the ultra-radical "Wildlands CPR" informed me their mission was to "reform ORV use so it doesn't require the use of motors." Nice.

So why does BRC recommend attending those workshops?
Thanks again for asking ;-)
It may surprise you to learn that we not only encourage our members to attend the workshops, but we also encourage carefully considering participating in any formal Collaborative Planning Process.

The training you'll get at the workshop is valuable stuff, even if you never plan to participate in any formal process. Importantly, if a formal Collaborative Planning Process is formed correctly, it can provide benefits for the recreation community. Don't necessarily dismiss these formal processes even if you know for sure the greenies will litigate.

BRC has a tool called "Collaboration Checkboxes." A well-conceived collaborative process should include a "check" for each of these. If any are missing, we still advise considering participating, but with caution.

Here is our Collaboration Checkboxes:
1. All stakeholders at the table in proper representation
Every stakeholder group who has an interest in the planning process should be participating.
2. Professional facilitator
A formal process should hire the services of a professional facilitator, who is selected from the roster of the National Environmental Conflict Resolution Advisory Committee, not "forced" upon the participants.
3. The "product" of the process should be clearly identified at the beginning
Whatever it is the process is going to produce should be clearly identified at the very beginning of the process (eg an alternative to be considered by the land management agency during their public NEPA analysis).
4. The "decision process" must be identified at the beginning
Whatever process used for formal decision-making, i.e. majority vote, consensus, majority/minority report, etc should be agreed to at the very beginning of the process and adhered to throughout.
5. Agency must clearly state how it will utilize the "product"
The federal land management agency must clearly state how it intends to use the "product" of any formal Collaborative Planning Process at the very beginning.

If you've got a mind to do a bit more reading on this important subject, check out the articles in the June, 2005 edition of the BlueRibbon Magazine:



Thanks so much for reading through this way-too-long email.

Again, this is a very important issue so if you have any questions or concerns please don't hesitate to contact us.

Brian Hawthorne
208-237-1008 ext 102

Ric Foster
208-237-1008 ext 107
Steve N.
Treasurer NEA4WDC
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