Media Advisory: April 11, 2006
Contact: Chris Kassar, Center for Biological Diversity, 520-623-5252 ext. 317
Center for Biological Diversity Hosts Successful Collaboration Workshops
Tucson, Ariz. - The Center for Biological Diversity hosted two successful workshops entitled “Advocacy through Authentic Collaboration” on March 18 in Flagstaff, Arizona and April 1 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“In 2004, the chief of the Forest Service identified unmanaged recreation, specifically off-road vehicle (ORV) use, as one of four key threats to national forest lands. In an attempt to gain control of the burgeoning number of ORV users on our public lands, the Forest Service has begun the process of travel management planning which will include the designation of off-road vehicle routes, trails and areas,” said Chris Kassar, Center wildlife biologist and ORV campaign coordinator.
Each forest in Arizona and New Mexico has begun the travel management planning process in response to new regulations concerning travel planning and off-road vehicle management issued by the Forest Service in November 2005 (for more on the rule go to www.endangeredearth.org/orv). The rule tasks forests with the job of designating routes and areas suitable for off-road vehicle use. One possible way the agency will involve the public in these decisions is through a "collaborative process," which could include a variety of users working together to advise the Forest Service on the design of a mutually acceptable system of trails, routes and roads.
“There is no doubt that it is time for agencies to step in, or off-road vehicle use will continue to damage critical habitat and pose a threat to wildlife,” said Kassar. The workshops we have hosted in the past few weeks provided an opportunity for representatives of various interests: conservationists, off-road vehicle riders, agency staff, hikers, hunters, anglers, mountain bikers and horsemen to come together to discuss collaboration and how it could be used to come up with creative solutions as this process unfolds in national forests in Arizona and New Mexico.”
The Center for Biological Diversity offered these workshops because some forests in Arizona and New Mexico may pursue collaboration to fulfill the requirement for public involvement in travel planning. “It was our hope to bring together people on all sides of the issue to learn about collaboration and how it might be used within this framework,” said Kassar. “We hope that after this workshop all participants can assess the adequacy of a collaborative process and can employ methods for ensuring that collaboration is inclusive, transparent and based on high-quality science and information. It was also a chance to bring people together to start building relationships so that a productive dialogue can begin.”
“I thought the meeting was a great first step toward hopefully what will be a collaborative process among all the users of the forests,” said Gordon Spingler, a Los Alamos, New Mexico resident and representative of the Black Feather Motorcycle Club.
Dave Henderson, Executive Director of Audubon New Mexico agreed. “The Forest Service is about to embark on an important and monumental task: defining trail and road usage by off-highway vehicles on forest lands,” said Henderson. “To accomplish this task, which has developed over decades, will require cooperation and collaboration from some of the strangest bedfellows we can imagine. The Center’s workshop on understanding best practices in collaborative problem solving was an important and necessary first step. Our public lands demand that we work hard to get it right and this was a positive first step.”
These workshops, sponsored in conjunction with the Natural Trails and Waters Coalition, were conducted by Franklin Dukes, Ph.D., Director of the University of Virginia’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation (IEN) and Karen Firehock, Master of Planning with IEN. “The new travel management planning being undertaken by the USDA Forest Service is an opportunity to bring multiple stakeholders together to develop a creative approach for protecting the environment while managing multiple uses on our nation’s forests,” said Firehock, a Senior Associate at the Institute.
Sharon Metzler, acting southwest region travel management program lead for the Forest Service, agreed. “The collaboration learning workshop sponsored by the Center and Natural Trails and Waters Coalition was worthwhile. It was designed to give participants a taste of what collaborative efforts entail and was worth my investment of a Saturday.”
Organizations that sent representatives to the Center’s collaborative workshops, included the Blue Ribbon Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, the Sierra Club, Upper Gila Watershed Alliance, New Mexico Audubon, Arizona Backcountry Horsemen, New Mexico Backcountry Horsemen, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, New Mexico State Parks, Arizona State Parks, Arizona Wilderness Coalition, AZ State Association of 4WD Clubs, Sky Islands Alliance, New Mexico Trout, Coalition for the Valle Vidal, Coconino Trail Riders, Black Feather Motorcycle Club, AZ Wildlife Federation, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, and International Mountain Biking Association.