Politics today generally uses the term collaboration with positive meanings, such as “willingness to get along” or “working toward the overall good with others.” But it can also have negative connotations. “Collusion” or “fraternization” comes to mind.

Collaboration can also lead to a result where “voices of the few drown out voices of the many.” It’s this latter principle (I believe) that has resulted from the Forest Service’s 2012 planning rule, a set of guidelines and practices whereby the Forest Service is mandated to collaborate with the public to increase citizen involvement. No matter how well-intended, some environmental organizations and user groups have figured out how to manipulate the system, drowning out voices of the individual only to magnify the voice of their own self interest.

By doing so, they compromise early on in the process, short-circuiting the full potential of debate and dialogue, abandoning the best available science, and directing much of the public’s attention to the collaborative’s version of reality away from other alternatives. Recently, guest columnists provided several rationales stating why the state Legislature needs to take a thoughtful approach in protecting our wilderness study areas. The reasons given were sound with one exception, seeking compromise through collaborative dialogue.

We should have dialogue, but that dialogue needs to be in terms of utilizing the best available science, achieving the goal of ecological integrity for public lands. The best outcome is not necessarily from a collaborator who stands to benefit from their actions. There’s a difference. The public needs to become engaged and be influenced by their own self-research and truth, not just by what a collaborative wants them to hear. The public citizenry needs to think for themselves and not simply blindly follow a select few who have the louder voice.

Clinton Nagel

Bozeman