White Paper: The Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI): The Role of Collaboration in Achieving Outcomes

4FRI White Paper Cover

Executive Summary

The first collaboratively developed Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) was finalized in April 2015. This achievement provides an opportunity to review the lessons learned during the last six years of collaboration. This white paper describes the successes, challenges, and evolution of the 4FRI collaborative process as told by the stakeholders and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) staff. This white paper examines the following conclusions.

  • Building trust takes time. The 4FRI Stakeholder Group had difficulty building trust between members, however, consensus and outcomes were still produced. With respect to the stakeholders and USFS, trust was occasionally undermined by “unseen” decision-making at the regional level. In one case, there was frustration over the inability of the USFS to provide an explanation that satisfied all stakeholders for the methods used to create a data layer describing the distribution of large young trees. This led to several members negotiating with the USFS outside the stakeholder group.

  • Collaboration is slow. At times, the stakeholder group may have slowed the USFS planning process; however, the planning time overall was shorter than the USFS EIS average. Conversely, collaboration may be one reason the project was not delayed by litigation.

  • The pace and scale of restoration treatments did not increase across the 4FRI project area. Issues beyond the stakeholder group’s control, such as private industry and contracting complications, contributed significantly to slow treatment implementation.

  • There were several factors that contributed to a successful relationship with the USFS:

    - The 4FRI stakeholders were involved in all facets of planning and felt that collaboration increased and improved over time. - The USFS demonstrated a willingness to listen to the stakeholder group and stakeholders felt their contributions were

    valued. For example, several stakeholder-developed products were included in the analysis.
    - Specific actions were taken to increase communication such as scheduling office hours for informal communication and

    posting draft documents on the public website in order to provide adequate time for document review and discussion.

  • The stakeholder group-USFS partnership experienced challenges:

    - Stakeholders had difficulty understanding the NEPA process, its complexity, and the planning timeline.
    - It was difficult for stakeholders to understand where their contributions would be most effective.
    - Stakeholders had difficulty understanding how their contributions fit into the USFS decision space given the constraints

    the NEPA process.

  • Inclusion of the stakeholder group in the objection process was deemed valuable. Stakeholders were able to actively participate in conversations with objectors on topics that had already been deliberated by the stakeholder group. This allowed the stakeholder group to provide support for collaborative decisions and best available science included in the EIS.

  • The stakeholders felt that professional facilitation was important.

  • By working with the USFS to co-sponsor public meetings and open houses public participation (beyond the stakeholder group) was improved.

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