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Prescriptive Laws, Uncertain Science, and Political Stories: Forest Management in the Sierra Nevada

Dave Owen

University of Maine - School of Law

Ecology Law Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 4, 2003

In the late 1990s, national forests in California's northern Sierra Nevada became centrally involved in two competing trends in natural resource management. One, a trend toward increased community-based resource management, produced the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Act, a law designed to govern logging and forest restoration in the Northern Sierra Nevada. The law was championed by the Quincy Library Group, a local organization that became one of the most visible examples of community-based planning. The other, a trend toward increased ecological sensitivity in forest management, produced a Forest Service plan, known colloquially as the "Sierra Nevada Framework," which purported to govern the same lands. Both plans were backed by compelling narratives, and both would apply in contexts of contested politics, demanding legal obligations, and pervasive scientific uncertainty. This article explores the interrelationships between those plans, and the related interrelationships among conflicting narratives, uncertain science, and the legal superstructure. It concludes that in such contexts of uncertainty, environmental managers will be prone to allowing narrative rather than scientific criteria to drive policy, but that taking such a course of action is problematically inconsistent with a legal structure ostensibly demanding decision-making grounded in science.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 60

Keywords: Quincy Library Group, Sierra Nevada Framework, National Forest Management Act, Endangered Species Act, Devolved Collaboration

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Date posted: August 28, 2007  

Suggested Citation

Owen, Dave, Prescriptive Laws, Uncertain Science, and Political Stories: Forest Management in the Sierra Nevada. Ecology Law Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 4, 2003. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1009261

Contact Information

Dave Owen (Contact Author)
University of Maine - School of Law ( email )
246 Deering Avenue
Portland, ME 04102
United States
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