2014 Symposium: Opening Address

By: Gillian Wener

The opening presentation of the 2014 Shapiro Symposium introduced the framework and connective threads for the diverse lineup of panels dealing with this year’s theme “The Role of Planning in Federal Land Management.” Lois Schiffer, presently General Counsel for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, introduced the major statutes that impact the land management planning process.

The opening statement introduced the diversity of actors—Federal and State agencies, the courts, the public, and lawyers—in the pursuit of resource and wilderness conservation. The expanding use of ecosystem-based analysis in federal land management requires an interdisciplinary approach in order to create appropriate plans serving this goal. Additionally, Schiffer emphasizes the value of public participation, even though “a large table can be hard to maneuver.”

Schiffer describes lawyers working on these issues as having the dual function of moving decision-making through the existing regime and also helping to shape new policy. In both roles, lawyers collect and process input from contributors to facilitate action. Slow and thorough planning allows for full exploration and integration of multiple viewpoints and thus betters outcomes for people and for conservation.

A thorough approach, however, can conflict with resource and time constraints imposed by streamlining laws and regulations. In considering these conflicts, she cautions against being “penny-wise and pound-foolish.”  Periodically revisiting the larger picture of resource and wilderness conservation might reduce “tunnel-vision” and place projects into proper context.

As the panels cycle through different areas of planning in land management, the background theme of lawyer-facilitated collaboration will shape the discussions of planning’s current role and its future applications.

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