Cooperative Governance of Public Forests in Oregon

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David Bollier:

"For decades the timber industry in the US did great harm to forest ecosystems through the clear-cutting of forests, re-seeding with tree monocultures, and the building of roads – all with the sanction of the US Forest Service. The political and legal hostilities between environmentalists and the timber industry reached a peak in the Pacific Northwest of the US in 1991, when a federal court shut down timber operations in the entire region. In the aftermath, the US Forest Service improbably initiated a remarkable experiment in collaborative governance for the Siuslaw National Forest. As told by the film “Seeing the Forest,” [1] the government abandoned its standard bureaucratic processes, which were generally driven by congressional politics, industry lobbying and divisive public posturing, and instead convened a “watershed council” of the region’s stakeholders. Anyone who was interested could participate. The goal was to manage the forest through an informal process of open commoning, which included a strong advisory role in the allocation of funds, with the Forest Service hovering in the background as the final arbiter. It took many years, but the informal dialogues and pragmatic, consensus-based decisionmaking resulted in a significant restoration of the forest ecosystems and a radically different mindset toward forest stewardship. This history raises an urgent socio-legal challenge: How to adapt formal state law and regulation to authorize new sorts of locally empowered decisionmaking and commoning?"

More Information


* Memorandum: Reinventing Law for the Commons. A Strategy Memo for the Heinrich Böll Foundation. By David Bollier. Commons Strategies Group, 2015

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