EVALUATING AND IMPLEMENTING ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT WITHIN THE INTERIOR COLUMBIA RIVER BASIN
"In developing personal trust and a working relationships, it is important to work with the person, not the title."
Shortly after the Charter for the Eastside Ecosystem Management Project was signed, a letter was sent to nine Native American Tribes, within the area of the Eastside Environmental Impact Statement (eastern Oregon and Washington east of the crest of the Cascade mountains), inviting them to take part in the development of the document.
Seven of the nine Tribes were represented in a meeting at the project office in Walla Walla, Washington the end of March. At that meeting, the Tribes began discussions of their concerns and values with John Lowe, Regional Forester and Dean Bibles, former BLM State Director, the deciding officials for the EIS. These can be found in a summary of all issues and concerns gathered from all meetings the Eastside Project held between February and April.
Since that time, contact has been made with a total of 11 Native American Tribes affected by the Eastside Environmental Impact Statement. In addition, a contract has been awarded to interview Tribal Elders to help develop a Native American perspective of uses and customs so that the effects of present and future activities can be more accurately evaluated.
Richard Hanes, Tribal Coordinator for the Oregon State Office of the BLM has joined the project staff to assist the Science Integration Team in the collection of information from and about Native Americans. Hanes specializes in Tribal issues and holds a Doctorate in Anthropology from the University of Oregon. He has spent most of his federal career working with Native American issues ranging from impacts of power line corridors and military proposals in the Great Basin, to traditional resource use concerns and archaeological site protection issues in the Northwest.
Ralph Perkins, Tribal Liaison, setting up consultation between the deciding officials and the governing bodies of the affected Tribes. Perkins has been assigned to the project since the early stages to develop two-way working relationships with the Tribes and serve as their contact directly with the Eastside Project. Perkins has been involved with bringing the Tribes into the National Forest planning process in his previous positions with the Forest Service.
Through Perkins and Hanes, the Eastside Project is reaching out to the Native Americans in Idaho and Montana to coordinate with all of the Tribes that are affected by the Scientific Assessment of the Interior Columbia River Basin. An additional eight Tribes should be contacted by the end of July.
During the most recent Science Integration Team (SIT) meeting week (June 13-17, 1994), staff co-leaders from each science area reported progress and updates since the May SIT meeting.
SPATIAL ANALYSIS: The Spatial Staff (Geographic Information Systems or GIS) is working on a data release policy and procedures. These may be developed by July SIT meeting. They are also progressing on data themes and may have some map layers to view for next meeting.
SOCIAL SCIENCE: The Social Science Staff is cooperating with researchers who are developing an attitude survey to go to randomly selected individuals both within and outside of the Columbia River Basin. In addition, there will be a national sampling. Individuals on the Eastside Ecosystem Management Project mailing list will also be surveyed.
ECONOMICS: The Economics Staff is working on special forest products (such as mushrooms and other edibles, pine boughs for decorative wreaths, and bear grass for baskets) and the level of data to be collected and analyzed. A report on special forest products has been completed.
LANDSCAPE ECOLOGY: The Landscape Ecology Staff is looking at the scales of landscape assessment and how they are tiered to each other. For instance, the vegetation characterization is a mid-scale assessment looking at the rate, magnitude, and character of change and how vegetation has changed as a result of fire, wildlife grazing, etc. AQUATIC AND RIPARIAN: The Aquatic and Riparian (water-based plants and animals) Staff report that contracts addressing fire effects on streams and stream organisms, preparation of state fish data bases, and distribution and relationships of aquatic mollusks have been awarded. Analysis has not yet begun.
TERRESTRIAL: The Terrestrial (land-based plants and animals) Staff reported on a detailed work plan. They described the species groupings and data sets that are being considered. Species range maps are being initiated and panels of experts will participate in this process. In addition, there was an introductory workshop on a simulation modeling tool the team is using to assist in integrating information. The software package is called STELLA (Systems Thinking Experimental Learning Laboratory). The model will illustrate linkages and relationships among resource areas.
In addition, the Science Integration Team hosted staff members who had worked on the Eastside Forest Ecosystem Health Assessment (sometimes refered to as the Everett Report) and the Blue Mountains Assessment. These briefings shared insights and knowledge gained during the process and production of their reports.
Between May 23 and June 2, the Eastside Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Team was on the road visiting 15 communities in Oregon and Washington conducting formal scoping workshops. The meetings were attended by approximately 760 people. The workshops began with the EIS Team updating attendees on the status of the EIS, then answering questions about the EIS, and then collecting issues participants felt needed to be addressed in the EIS. The EIS Team was pleased and appreciative of the turnouts at the workshops.
One of the questions asked at the workshops was "What are you going to do with the comments we give you?" That's a fair question since people invested time and energy to attend the workshops. The answer is that once the scoping period ends on July 2, the EIS Team will do a "content analysis" of ALL the comments received.
What is a "content analysis"? A content analysis is the process where the comments from the public are thoroughly reviewed, and issues the public feels need to be addressed are recorded. For the Eastside Project, the plan is to enter each issue into a data base which will be used for tracking issues throughout the Project.
What other sources of public input are you going to use besides the workshop flip chart notes? In addition to the workshop notes, the EIS Team will do a content analysis on notes from the public sessions that the EIS and Science Integration Teams have held in Walla Walla to raise issues, and from the numerous scoping letters the team has received during the scoping period as well as those received earlier in the Project.
In what format and when will your content analysis be available? The EIS Team envisions making the information from the content analysis available in a number of ways. First, all of the un-edited workshop flip chart notes will be available in Walla Walla because we have had a number of requests asking what people from other geographic locations said.
The second method will be a complete list of issues from all sources. The list will also indicate whether or not the issue will be addressed by alternatives in the EIS, whether it will be used as part of the EIS process, or if it is beyond the scope of this EIS analysis.
Finally, a report will be prepared that summarizes the comments submitted to the team and which will be carried forward in the EIS process. This report will be available sometime in August at each of the Project Information Centers located throughout Oregon and Washington. The report and the complete listing will also be available through the Project's electronic library.
What are some of the things you heard at the workshops? It would be impossible to list here all of the things the EIS Team heard at the workshops. However, the following is a sampling of some of the comments the team heard:
There were many questions on what impact this plan would have on private lands, both from a physical as well as a regulatory point of view.
Some people expressed concern for the dwindling salmon runs and stated they felt current land management practices contribute to the decline.
Others expressed concern about the loss of natural resource related jobs and questioned how rural communities were going to survive. Many people attending the workshops wondered how the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service management plans would be changed, especially at the local level.
Some people questioned whether or not timber harvesting and livestock grazing are appropriate on public lands.
A number of people wondered how the Eastside EIS could develop any meaningful guidance when it covered such a large scale.
Many people living in rural areas preferred that decisions be made by local elected officials, while others said more involvement by citizens beyond Oregon and Washington is needed because the lands and resources are owned by all citizens and some issues are national in scope.
And, many people expressed fear of what this process might do to them, resentment that they have not been listened to in the past, and frustration that this process won't listen to them either.
However, there was hope that this process could be different, and that even though people did not always like or agree to what was being said, they encouraged the team to come back and continue the dialog.
In addition to the Eastside Project Electronic Library and local Project Information Centers, people interested in the Eastside Project can now call a newly established toll-free number to obtain general project information and upcoming project meetings and events. Those interested in this type of information may call 1-800-599-8926 24-hours a day.