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Meridian Institute

Forest Service Planning Rule

External Project Site: www.fs.usda.gov/planningrule
Related: Environment and Natural Resources

Meridian Institute served as the lead contractor assisting the US 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. The US Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution helped the Forest Service to initiate and plan the early stages of the process and managed the funding and contracting.

In 2010, Meridian designed, convened, and facilitated four large, high-profile “national roundtable” meetings in Washington, DC, at which stakeholders discussed and provided input to the Forest Service regarding the content of a new planning rule. Each meeting involved between 75 and 110 participants representing a wide array of interests and perspectives, as well as additional individuals who viewed the proceedings via live video stream. Meridian also helped the Forest Service to coordinate 40 “regional roundtables” throughout the country in April 2010, as well as additional meetings specifically for Tribe members, including meetings in the Rocky Mountain and Intermountain regions of the US Forest Service. Meridian 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, both of which were published in February 2011.

Before the release of the draft planning rule and draft environmental impact statement, Meridian worked with the Forest Service rule writing team to plan the next round of stakeholder engagement activities (which would occur after the draft rule was released), as well as longer-term strategies for collaboration and stakeholder engagement as the final rule is implemented.

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.

With information from these events and from formal comments, the Forest Service finalized the new national planning rule in May 2012. The final national planning rule, summaries of the national and regional roundtables, and additional information about the planning rule revision can be found at http://fs.usda.gov/planningrule.

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