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Risk Management in United States Forest Service: National Environmental Policy Act Planning Processes
Taylor, Caysie Alisha
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The United States Forest Service planning processes, which are driven in large part by the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), are a part of all major (and some minor) land management decisions by the agency. The outcomes of these processes are the result of multiple factors, many related to the manifold smaller incremental decisions made by agency personnel directing the processes. Through qualitative review of 21 NEPA documents and 5 case study processes in which we interviewed decision makers, team leaders, and team members, this study examines those incremental decisions and the factors that drive them. Risk emerged as a dominant lens through which agency personnel weigh and make process-related decisions. We identify the different types of risk perceived by agency actors and the risk management strategies they employ. Our interviews suggest that different actors within the agency tend to assume responsibility for responding to different forms of risk associated with particular tasks. Most time and energy appears to be focused on minimizing process-related risks, especially those caused by external entities in the form of public opposition and threats of appeal/litigation, rather than resource-related threats. We discuss the potential implications of this focus and its associated strategies on organizational and social learning within agency planning processes, on adaptive ecosystem management, and internal agency relationships and morale.
- Masters Theses