What makes it work & What are the problems?
When a group of individuals come together with a common deep commitment to a place and community, incredible
things can happen.
These bullets are intended to describe some of the factors of success and barriers of the Applegate
Partnership. These observations are collected from many people, recognizing such a compilation is neither
all-inclusive or perfectly recorded.
What makes it work?
- Participants were asked to come with a willingness to solve-problems, "checking their agendas at the
- Vision & objectives are clear (written down) & used in tough times.
- Focus & action is directed initially to the "common ground"--what we can agree on. (Time, trust, some
successes are needed before tackling the hot issues.) Common ground is found more easily in the field
than in meeting rooms.
- Leadership, access to information & responsibility is shared equally. Roles are clear.
- The roles of visionaries, facilitators, implementers are not all tied up into one person. There are a
number of people who fill these roles.
- Many of the principle players have experience in change movements--they came in from the beginning
expecting to make changes.
- Facilitation and conflict resolution training was especially needed in the beginning (and still is from
time to time).
- Time (lots of it!) is needed to gain understanding, develop relationships, & build trust.
- All key players are at the table. Or at least as many as possible including timber industry (small
& large, workers & owners), environmentalists, farmers, ranchers, residents, schools, and agencies.
Both land management agencies (Bureau of Land Management (BLM) & Forest Service (FS)) were active
participants from the beginning. Each of the many participants gets something out of the effort, e.g.,
timber sales have shifted from clear-cuts to selective thinning. Timber sales are intended to be
ecologically appropriate, economically viable, and socially acceptable.
- Over the last several years the Partnership has diversified beyond forestry issues to link the social with
the biophysical. We have learned that the community's health is tied to the health of the forests,
water, fish, etc. Diversification has also made the groups less vulnerable to changes (policies,
funding, momentum) in other agencies or group.
- The Applegate River Watershed Council (subcommittee of the Applegate Partnership) has been highly
effective in facilitating private land owners working together on watershed restoration as well as increasing
integrated work with federal and state agencies.
- The Partnership continues to be a vehicle for increasing learning and skills of community members.
- The group serves as catalyst to numerous other groups across the Applegate. These network among
themselves (e.g., Applegate River Watershed Council, Community Forum, Strategic Plan Steering Committee,
- The Applegate Partnership is a great resource for information and has become a forum for working out
problems that other agencies or groups have failed to address. Residents know that the it gets things
done, not just talk.
- Agency "bridges" help to increase communication and move on opportunities between communities and
agencies. Bridge people can communicate the concerns of one group in language another group can
- Strong commitment on part of some agency units to genuinely engage communities in planning (e.g., BLM
Ashland Resource Area Manager Rich Drehobl's motto, "We'll meet with anyone, anywhere, anytime, about almost
- Six years and the Applegate Partnership is still going meeting almost weekly!
- Significant blows occurred but did not stop the group:
- Local environmental group (Headwaters) withdrew from the board. The Partnership tries to ensure
interests are voiced by local environmentalists with ties to the group.
- Federal Advisory Committee Act interpretation forced agency board members to withdraw. Agency staff
continue to actively participate but avoid "soliciting" advice from the group as a whole (rather
individual ideas are sought) & opportunity is made available to all interested people.
- "Salvage Ride" passed by Congress. Local agencies did not change the methods or timing of timber
sale projects and thus did not break down trust any further.
Obstacles & challenges:
Organization & participants:
- Some success needed to happen early on. Funding and organizational skills were a problem in the
beginning for the Partnership.
- An all volunteer board is tough. Many people are surprised that there are no paid staff.
This creates a lot of work for a few folks & burnout is real.
- Lots of work ends up on a few individual's shoulders. In the past more work needs to shared.
- More community involvement is needed (though "community lethargy" is a common problem).
- Perception by some residents that the Partnership is a means of funding people. Many people do not
understand or value the work being done.
- Overall skills represented on the board is weaker now than in the beginning. There are fewer
facilitators, leaders, 'movers & shakers." How can we replace some of these leaders?
- It has been difficult to get as many timber industry, farming, and ranching participants in the last
- Incorporating new players is problematic because of lack of history and commitment to vision.
- Diversity of participants is still not great enough for some people. 'There's lots of middle
ground." Some feel alienated by bureaucracy, think the AP is "too close to the agencies," and see 'group
- Four meetings per month is a major commitment for many.
- No structure exists for welcoming new people coming to meetings.
- Technical language and jargon are often used and may not be understood by newcomers.
- Better facilitation of meetings is needed. The professional facilitators were effective in the
first several years. Facilitation now varies a great deal among volunteers and more skills are needed
(through training, etc.) Some meetings do not feel respectful or safe and tend to discourage participation by
Relationship with agencies:
- High expectations are raised quickly, and in some cases these have not been met (some expectations could
not be met. Little understanding exists about the mitigation and compromises made by he agencies on the
way to getting a final product. Communities expect agencies to quickly produce flawless projects and
for staff to be much more accessible and responsive. Agencies expect community members to be move from
an adversarial role to one of shared problem-solving. Many people think the agencies are not changing
- There are widely differing viewpoints about public involvement. What is legally required?
What is adequate or desirable?
- Some community members promote goals or carry agendas that are unattainable by federal agencies.
The constraints agencies work under are often not understood.
- Agency culture limits innovation. Within each agency are widely disparate personalities-some of whom
are well-versed in sharing power and others less so. Some units have highly successful public outreach
efforts; others have not been as successful. Inability to make fundamental policy changes (e.g.,
organizational changes in structures, contracting to local people, developing innovative stewardship
contracts, etc.) has been a source of frustration.
- Limited agency funding for the vast watershed restoration work needed create a high level of
- Confusion and mistrust about timber volumes (how they are made & effects on projects, funding, and
organizations) further complicate the issues surrounding ecosystem management.
- Many community members want to see more action by agencies in monitoring and watershed restoration
- Complexity of ecosystem issues (social & biophysical) make it difficult to gain understanding and
agreement. There's a great need for "bridge" people--those who can communicate the concerns of one
group to another and facilitate collaboration (between communities, managers, and scientists.)
- In some cases, conflict has occurred when an agency unit tried to "fast-track" projects before first
- Despite significant changes in managing federal lands over the last 5 years, there is still a lot of
distrust among some working with the agencies.
- Lots of folks are waiting for mistakes to happen. And they will.
- When crisis occurs, there's a powerful tendency is to resort to old adversarial roles.
- Engaging national interests in local efforts has been especially difficult. Numerous efforts have
failed. There is increased tension occurring nationwide between national environmental groups and local
grass-roots partnerships and that fallout is felt in the Partnership.
- Unincorporated communities don't have political clout to secure funding for projects.
- More work is needed understanding what is meant by collaboration, how to collaborate, and practicing it.
The honeymoon period for the Partnership is past-now we are working at maintaining, nurturing, and
further developing this relationship.
- Sometimes having a national fame hinders progress.
This is about US (not THEY) and WE what want for our community.
Su Rolle, Interagency Liaison for the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service 541-770-2248,