Serving the Common Interest in U.S. Forest Policy: A Case Study of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act
Environmental Management, Vol. 43, pp. 396-410, 2009
15 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2011
Date Written: September 20, 2009
In the United States, the common interest often is conceived as a by-product of the pluralist, interest group driven democratic process. Special interests dominate in many political arenas. Consequently, we have lost the language, vocabulary, and ability to talk about the common interest. The way to reverse this trend is to develop and practice with new tools that allow us to articulate what we mean by the common interest in specific contexts. In this article, we leveraged the literature on procedural, substantive and pragmatic decision making to illustrate how they work together to demonstrate whether and how the common interest was served in three case studies of Healthy Forests Restoration Act implementation on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. In two of the cases we found that the common interest was mostly served, while in the third case it was not. Our results raise questions about the ability of procedural criteria or substantive criteria alone to determine effectiveness in decision making. When evaluated together they provide a more complete understanding of how the common interest is or is not served.
Keywords: democracy, forests, common interest, procedural justice, decision making, Healthy Forests Restoration Act, Arizona, wildfire, forest policy, National Environmental Policy Act
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