Citizen Involvement in Environmental Bureaucratic Decision-making: Communicative Action in Forest Service NEPA Projects
Brody, Daniel Oren Brown
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Decisions surrounding environmental management involve inherent tradeoffs, which affect people's values and interests, often in uncertain ways. As is the case with a wide variety of social problems, there are multiple perspectives regarding environmental decision-making. These perspectives compete for influence over deciding the importance of issues, the best course of action, and even the right questions to ask. Historically, it has been difficult for the public to influence Forest Service decision-making, fueling tensions and conflicts. By applying Jürgen Habermas' theory of communicative action, which states that communication should ideally lead to the building of understanding, this study evaluates current Forest Service decision-making processes and looks to better understand the public's perspectives of these processes. This study uses case study methodology to delve into two project level Forest Service National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) decision-making processes. Combining extensive document analysis and interviews, this study gathers information to better understand the comprehensibility, truth, sincerity, and legitimacy of communication between the agency and the public. This study found that in the two Forest Service NEPA projects analyzed, the agency has begun to improve their communication, and while not fully achieving communicative action, they are certainly moving towards it. This research highlights a number of recommendations for improving Forest Service communication in order to improve relationships with the public and reduce conflict.
- Forestry