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Report of Preliminary Assessment of DOI Public Participation Policy and Training

Prepared by Douglas Sarno and David Bidwell
The Perspectives Group, Inc.
1055 North Fairfax Street, Suite 204
Alexandria, VA 22314

This report was developed by The Perspectives Group under contract to the DOI Office of Collaborative Action and Dispute Resolution and provides preliminary results of the contractor. It is not intended to represent the views of any office of DOI. Additional information is still being sought and should be provided to the DOI Office of Collaborative Action and Dispute Resolution.

This assessment was designed to take stock of current training and guidance related to the application of public participation throughout the Department of the Interior. Information was gained by individual conversations with members of the various bureaus identified, web searches, personal experience of members of the DOI project team, and a limited review among DOI staff.

Conclusions Of Assessment
There is some good policy and a number of good resources within the Department, but only within some of the bureaus. There is virtually no training that has been designed specifically for public participation, but there are a number of courses and programs that deal with similar collaborative approaches. Based on these preliminary observations, it would seem that the understanding and application of good public participation would likely be uneven. Effective and wide-spread training on public participation appears to be needed.

DOI Needs
Policy: Most important, the DOI needs to ensure that revisions to the 1978 policy are consistent with good policies elsewhere in the Department, particularly in NPS. Ideally, the policy would not be very prescriptive, but lay out key principles and help to create a culture of participation in keeping with the Four C's.

Overview/Awareness Training:
There is a clear need for some level of overview training about the principles and characteristics of good public participation and especially when to use it and the value of public participation to the Department. This overview training can be relatively brief and it would be effective to combine it with the rollout of the new policy. This could be both an active module combined with other ongoing training and awareness as well as on-line.

Management Training:
Managers in charge of public participation programs would need specific orientation in how to mange these programs and create the most value for both the Department and the public.

Technical Staff Training:
Specific training for technical staff could be very useful to help them to understand why public participation is important to them, their role, and how to best communicate with the public.

Specialist Training:
It is important to identify the types of individuals throughout the Department who require a much more in-depth understanding of how to design and implement public participation programs with a special focus on effective meetings and effective advisory boards.

Team-Oriented Training:
One effective way to train P2 would be to have a package that can be brought directly to project teams so that all members of the team can learn together and understand their individual roles and responsibilities with regard to the public.

Policy, Guidance And Resources
Many of the bureaus have a variety of policy and guidance developed on public participation with the most extensive within the National Park Service.

Department of Interior (General)

  • Part 301, Chapter 2 (1978), “Public Participation in Decision-making.” The policy: “The Department of the Interior will offer the public meaningful opportunities for participation in
    decision-making processes leading to actions and policies which may significantly affect or interest them.” Section 2.5.B., states “In decisionmaking processes which already require public participation, officials will consider the usefulness of involving the public earlier or more frequently than mandated, or than has historically been done.” (This guidance is currently under review for updating)
  • Part 318, Chapter 5 (1998), “Public Participation in the Rulemaking Process.” This section only clarifies requirements for notification and comment periods. Most of the section discusses the legal ramifications of ex parte communication.
  • PEP-Environmental Statement Memorandum No. ESM03-4: Procedures for Implementing Public Participation and Community Based Training.
  • PEP-Environmental Statement Memorandum No. ESM03-7: Procedures for Implementing Consensus-Based Management in Agency Planning and Operations.

National Park Service
• Draft Director's Order 75A, Civic Engagement and Public Involvement ( Policy in progress, very strong foundation for good public participation.
• The Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program has a “Community Tool Box” available online ( This site provides a variety of nuts-and-bolts information for people who must plan or implement a public participation program. It doesn’t, however, provide much in terms of philosophy or why you need to involve stakeholders.
• The Cultural Management Resource Guideline (NPS-28) ( Some chapters (e.g. Chapter 3 on planning) discuss consultation with some groups and adherence to NEPA, but not much emphasis placed on involving the public.
• NPS revised its guide to FACA policy in May 2003. It provides nuts and bolts of putting a committee together but does not talk about best uses of committees or how to run a committee once established. It is available at:
• The web site for the Historic Preservation arm of NPS provides a good overview of public participation including guidance and tips. A good bibliography provides list of Interior, other agency and private sources, with a number of links.
• National Park Service and Civic Engagement is a report of a workshop held in New York, December 2001. Provides a number of short case examples.

Fish and Wildlife Service
• The Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2001 Handbook for Outreach ( is mostly a public affairs/public relations guide. Chapter 4c focuses on partnerships, but does not provide a lot of direct tools or instructions on how to create an effective partnership.
•Information on FWS Partnering Programs is available at

Bureau of Indian Affairs
• No specific BIA programs were identified. The BIA website is still unavailable, due to the Trust litigation.

Bureau of Land Management
• Information on the National Training Center’s Partnership Series is available at:

Geological Survey
• A search of the regulations governing the USGS yielded nothing on public participation or consultation.

Office of Surface Mining
• A search of OSM regulations yielded only typical requirements for notification, public comment periods, and hearings. See
• Similarly, information is available on the public consultation section of the Surface Mining Act:
• Information on how the Western Region Coordinating Center helps OSM satisfy Environmental Justice concerns for mining of Indian lands, see

Minerals Management Service
• An interesting example provided by MMS for how Environmental Justice concerns had been handled in one case:
• A brief discussion of partnerships at the agency can be found at:

Bureau of Reclamation
• The Bureau’s policy on participation, as laid out in its manual, is good. It specifically notes that participation should be open and flexible (
• The Bureau also has a “Decision Process Guidebook” online, with a chapter on public participation (
• A report from 2003, Water 2025: Preventing Crises and Conflict in the West, lists “Collaboration” as one of four key tools. This report is available at: