It's probably proper for me to mention that I have worked for the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service, and have been a Sierra Club member in the Southwest or Northwest for much of my adult life. In the context of the Feb. 17 HCN issue featuring collaborative public grazing efforts, I should also say that I was a participant in what became known as "The Flagstaff Plan," a collaborative process that resulted in a plan for a restoration project in the Coconino National Forest that included thinning dense tree stands, restoring meadows and riparian areas, and reestablishing natural fire regimes.
I support collaborative efforts as a reasonable means toward resolution of conflict. In our case, the issues were complex, the stakeholders diverse, and passions high – probably not much different than grazing debates! After many collaborative meetings, a significant and lengthy public education effort, progress was made and the Flagstaff Plan emerged with significant support from stakeholders, and with time, even from the one-time detractors.
Essential to our success was to find a win-win solution. Not everybody gets everything they want, but if the range is less damaged, riparian zones are protected (water rights and quality are a bigger issue than ranching), and cattle get to graze – albeit at a more sustainable stocking level and timing that is appropriate for restoration of grasslands – then everybody wins. Restoration is the solution, and collaboration is the tool to enable such a solution.