Ratified July, 2015

Background

The 1.1 million acres of National Forest in our region define our landscape and common interests—from water supply to recreation destinations and main street businesses.  The United States Forest Service (USFS) is seeking public input and review of the Management Plan for Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest. After a three-to-four year revision process, the Plan will guide how the forests are managed and how they connect to the communities of our region.  Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership members represent a diverse cross-section of key stakeholder interests, including conservation groups, wildlife/hunting/angling organizations, recreation groups, forest product businesses, cultural heritage groups, state and local governments, and others as identified. The Partnership has agreed to work collaboratively and in parallel to the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest planning process to initiate a robust public dialogue in support of this process utilizing a variety of sources including national, regional, tribal, and local/community expertise. Results will be compiled and presented as a set of recommendations to the USFS, which can be considered for future management decisions. The Partnership’s approach emphasizes public participation and information sharing in order to reach community-supported and science-based methods for forest management, interpretation, and investment.

Vision

We envision a thriving, resilient forest within its natural range of variation, able to support healthy ecosystems, wildlife populations, local economies, and traditional uses. We envision a forest with the connectivity and integrity to remain resilient in the face of the changes and challenges of the future.

Mission

The Partnership strives to create a lasting voice for innovative management and public investment in the public forests of North Carolina’s mountains for the future.

I: The Partnership

Criteria for Participation

Collaborative members agree to:

  • Focus on common interests and principles, not positions
  • Be authorized to speak for their organization, network, or point of view (if an individual representative)
  • Be able to articulate and support the legitimacy of all interests around the table
  • Adhere to agreements on concepts, plans, vision, statements, or other decisions
  • Respect the integrity of the group
  • Assist in, or support efforts, for funding needs when possible and appropriate
  • Represent their organization, if any, by signing the Partnership Charter documents or other Partnership documents.

Organizations or interested people may ask to join the Partnership if they qualify for membership based on the above criteria.  Inquiries should be made to the Leadership Team.  The Leadership Team will vote to include new members, and the full partnership shall accept new members by acclamation.

Balance

The Partnership membership will strive to reflect an equal balance of the following interests: Conservation, Cultural Heritage, Economic Development, Forest Products, Recreation, Water, and Wildlife.

Partnership Membership Roles

There are five categories of membership:

Members: Organizations, networks, or individuals that are governed by rules of conduct, meet criteria and group approval, and who participate in a formal (‘sign-off’) agreement process.

Affiliates: As above, but without a formal role (vote) in approving Partnership rules, policies, or recommendations. Affiliates may choose to sign on to Partnership agreements. Affiliates may serve on the Leadership Team, at the discretion of their interest groups.

Observers: Other organizations, experts, or individuals who are invited to attend or speak at Partnership meetings, but who do not otherwise participate.

US Forest Service Representatives:  The US Forest Service is an essential participant in the Partnership.  Although the agency cannot vote, the representatives will be afforded the same recognition by the facilitator and other participants as full Members of the Partnership.

Agency Advisors: Professionals within state, local, and federal agencies which may have limitations on their ability to participate and sign-off on recommendations to a sister agency, and/or may be called to engage directly with the Forest Service, specifically with regard to the management plan revision.  Also, professionals from universities, scientists, policy researchers and others that have specific expertise to offer to the entire group as trusted advisors. The Partnership recognizes the value of the professional and expert knowledge of both groups and encourages their attendance at meetings. These advisors will not participate in decision making, but may request the privilege of the floor at any time to provide input relevant to the subject matter being discussed.

Expectations of Partnership Members:

  • Provide one designated voting representative and one alternate (if desired). These representatives should be individuals who are passionate about public lands, rather than just a narrow focus area within them, and who are capable of collaboration.
  • Attend regular meetings, receive information and training, and complete homework assignments
  • Participate in work group activities, if applicable
  • Openly communicate progress with people or groups with whom they are affiliated
  • Present their concerns and issues, as well as those of people and groups with whom they are affiliated, at meetings
  • Engage in collaborative problem solving to address the range of interests brought to the table,
  • Pertaining to specific discussions, members agree to:
    • Disclose interests;
    • Listen fully to understand;
    • Look for ways to address not only your own interests, but those of others as well;
    • Participate, share the floor, be concise;
    • Look ahead—acknowledge the past but don’t rehash it; and
    • Be explicit and factual—ask for clarification if confused.
  • Handle, in a responsible manner, information and materials provided by USFS and other participants
  • Work civilly and collaboratively with other members and strive towards agreement
  • Comply with these Operating Procedures

Acting in Good Faith

All participants agree to act in good faith in all aspects of the Partnership’s deliberations.

The Partnership will approach its deliberations as a problem-solving body seeking to produce consensus recommendations that address, insofar as possible, the practical needs and interests of all participants. As necessary, the group will work jointly to educate and build understanding regarding members’ values and interests related to the issues, while also developing a baseline understanding of essential information and identifying zones of agreement.

Collaborative problem-solving is most successful when parties agree that their major interests have been heard, considered meaningfully, that other participants have made every effort to address their interests in any final recommendations, and that the final recommendations accurately characterize any outstanding differences.

In order to encourage the free and open exchange of ideas, views, and information prior to achieving agreement, participants agree not to use specific offers, positions, or statements made by another participant outside the process. Public discussion will focus on issues, not name-calling or personal or organizational attacks.  No member will speak for the Partnership without the agreement and prior approval of the Partnership.

No Surprises

Partnership members will make good-faith efforts to inform the full Collaborative (including Technical advisors) of any imminent or likely legal actions that are within, related to the purpose of, or that may directly impact other members of the Partnership. Based on the sensitivity surrounding legal actions, Partnership members can inform the full Collaborative of their concerns and indicate that legal action may be pursued to achieve organizational or individual goals. This notification can occur via email or other method, but it is encouraged for members to disclose concerns and the potential for legal action during a meeting of the full Collaborative.

Where Partnership members are involved in requests for administrative review of decisions (i.e. administrative appeals, protests, objections), Partnership members will notify the Leadership Team of the filing and should make good-faith efforts to inform the Partnership of concerns or issues in advance, or immediately after filing, any formal request for administrative review.

Personal Attacks

Personal attacks and prejudiced statements will not be tolerated. A member (or work group member) whose conduct is detrimental to the process may be considered for removal by the Leadership Team.

Removal

Any member may be recommended for removal from membership at a regular or special meeting called for that purpose by the consensus agreement of the Partnership members then serving. A Partnership member whose conduct is detrimental to the Partnership or who refuses to render reasonable assistance in carrying out the purpose of the Partnership may be considered for removal. Any such member proposed to be removed shall be entitled to at least a five-day notice in writing of the meeting at which such removal is to be decided and shall be entitled to appear before and be heard at such meeting.

2: Leadership Team

The Partnership will seek to work together as a whole under the umbrella of a Leadership

Team. The Leadership Team:

  • Coordinates and integrates Partnership discussions
  • Facilitates creation of options by the Partnership, packages proposals advanced by working groups and develops written agreements
  • Ratifies by consensus or a back-up form of agreement; helps sell agreements to interest groups
  • Responds to the planning process with general and policy recommendations
  • Seeks to promote new ideas and partnerships to strengthen the link between civic values and public forests
  • Will be expected to support operations, fundraising for the partnership, recruitment, and other tasks as agreed
  • Meets regularly in person or by teleconferencing to address current issues.

The Leadership Team will be made up of two people from each interest group.  Any Member may nominate an individual for the Leadership Team. The Leadership Team may also seek or propose nominations in order to fill gaps or maintain a balance of interests on the Team. Nominations will be identified as representing a specific interest, and the review and support of the nominee by the interest group will be sought before action.   At-large members may also be added to the Leadership Team.  The nominations will be reviewed by the Leadership Team and confirmed by a majority vote of the Partnership at a regular business meeting.

Right to Resign

Any Leadership Team member may resign from the Partnership at any time. If the organization resigns from the Partnership, the Leadership Team will evaluate the need to replace that stakeholder interest or organization. If the Leadership Team agrees to replace the resigning organization, the provisions in subsections on replacement of members (following) should be adhered to.

Removal, Replacement or Addition of Leadership Members

If circumstances necessitate the withdrawal of any Leadership Team member of the Partnership, the Leadership Team will replace that member by considering individuals that represent a similar constituency. The Leadership Team will consult with the withdrawing member and their constituents, whenever possible, to make this decision.

Nominations for replacement of a Partnership member should meet, as far as possible, the Partnership’s existing stakeholder balance and diversity. Nominees for new members will represent a stakeholder interest not represented currently or adequately.

3: Interest Groups and Work Groups

Interest Groups

Each identified interest group will be organized as a caucus of related Members, Affiliates, and, if agreed, Observers. Interest Groups will work to achieve agreement on interest-based proposals, discuss decisions, and review nominations.  The Groups will work with the facilitator and/or Leadership Team to portray their interests and recommendations.

Work Groups

Work groups may be formed to address specific regions, topics or issues and make recommendations to the full Partnership. The decision to form (or disband) a work group shall be made by agreement of the members present at the meeting where the proposal is made. Work group membership is voluntary. A work group chairperson will be selected by the work group membership. The work groups are not authorized to make decisions or recommendations for the Partnership as a whole. Work group meetings can be held at the convenience of participants in person or via teleconference. All Partnership members, alternates, and other work group members will be notified of all work group meetings and will be allowed to attend if they so desire. The work group chairperson will provide notification and written summaries of work group meetings.

4: Meeting Process

Facilitators and other Intermediaries

A neutral facilitator(s) will lead and coordinate the Partnership and facilitate committee and public meetings. Other intermediaries, including “shared experts” can be called upon to provide advice to the Partnership.

Facilitators will, in conjunction with the Leadership Committee:

  • Help maintain a level playing field for all participants
  • Help to clarify roles and purposes of the group
  • Assist parties with identification and prioritization of issues that need to be discussed
  • Help the Partnership develop and implement meeting agendas, group goals, tasks, and work plans
  • Keep the public and other stakeholders up to date through a publicly available website
  • Intervene, when needed, to redirect non-productive communications, enforcing behavioral ground rules and resolving conflicts
  • Help resolve impasses that develop because of technical complexity, political complications, inadequate communication, personal styles or past history
  • Assist the group in developing/modifying procedural guidelines for the group process
  • Summarize and document agreements to date and track action items
  • Coordinate and build linkages and trust among participants
  • Ensure that all issues are addressed and all parties have an opportunity to be heard
  • Distribute meeting notices and other information to members in a timely manner
  • In the absence of outside facilitation, partnership members with facilitation experience will be asked to fill this r

Meeting Structure

Meetings will be held as scheduled by the Facilitator and Partnership members. At any meeting the presence of two-thirds of the members then serving shall be necessary to constitute a quorum. Meetings will be held at convenient location(s) determined with input from the members at the prior meeting. Leadership Team, work group and interest group meetings will be held as needed (in-person or by conference call).

Agenda

Partnership meeting agenda will be drafted by the facilitator and coordinator in consultation with the Leadership Team. Agenda items should be brought to the coordinator at least one week and one day prior to the meeting to ensure that they may be accommodated within the time constraints of the meeting. If there is an agenda item that is not provided in advance, it can be proposed to be added at the beginning of the meeting if there is adequate time to cover the issue within the timeframe of the meeting. The agenda for the meeting and any information to be discussed at a Partnership meeting must be provided to the entire membership (by US Mail or e-mail) at least one week prior to the meeting. Minutes will be made available for review and approval no later than two weeks after the meeting.

Meeting Attendance

The success of the Partnership will depend largely on consistent attendance by the members. Therefore members are expected to make a concerted effort to attend all meetings and will endeavor to attend as many of the public meetings as possible. In order to ensure that the members are adequately informed to make the best possible decisions, they need to attend at least three fourths of the Partnership meetings (both conference calls and in-person meetings) in order to be allowed to maintain their membership.

5: Decision Making

Agreement

The Partnership will endeavor to make substantive decisions or recommendations by consensus. Consensus is defined as a decision that all members can live with. Participants may support an idea fully, partially, or not at all. In the latter case, where consensus is not achieved, the reasons will be outlined and minority opinions will be shared. The Partnership will include significant minority or dissenting opinions (as defined by shared by more than three members in good standing) in recommendations, proposals, or decisions.

Votes will be conducted via thumb-raising, full support (thumb up), can live with (thumb sideways), opposition (thumb down).  Where participants vote thumb sideways they will be encouraged and provided the opportunity to explain their concerns or reservations, and these will be duly noted. When participants vote thumb down, they will be required to explain their vote and provide an alternative, as discussed below. A sideways thumb cannot be interpreted as the intent to defer or delay a decision.

Consensus agreements will be built by those present.

When Consensus Agreement is Not Possible

The Collaborative will work to accurately and respectfully understand and document the different perspectives on the relevant issue(s). A decision to attribute comments on the different perspectives shall be determined on a case-by-case basis.

If a member does not agree to the consensus recommendation they must present an alternative for discussion with the goal of reaching consensus. For the purposes of efficacy, such alternate proposals should be developed by the close of the meeting. If impossible, an extension will be granted to prepare alternate proposals by the next meeting, or by another timeframe determined by the Leadership Team.

Decision Making Informed by Absent Members

Members who need to be absent from a previously scheduled meeting may wish to write a statement concerning any issue that is scheduled to be discussed. The facilitator or any other member who is asked to do so, may state the absent member’s position to ensure that all viewpoints are considered when making a decision at a meeting.

If a member is not present during the formulation of a consensus recommendation, that member cannot subsequently block it. Skipping a meeting shall not be used as a blocking strategy. The principle is “play or pass.”

Abstention

Any Partnership member wishing to abstain from any particular work group or discussion may abstain and may request that the abstention be noted clearly in the meeting summary and in any documents prepared and submitted by the committee.

6: Speaking for the Partnership/ Media Relations

Communication with the media/press will be an important part of the process. No Partnership member will speak FOR the Partnership to the media without the agreement of the Leadership Team. Any member who chooses to speak to the media without approval of the Leadership Team must specify that he/she is not speaking on behalf of the Partnership. Partnership members may develop a specific plan for interacting with media representatives. Members will respect the timing of press releases and communicate with the press in accordance with any media strategies determined by the group.

 

7: Administrative and Financial Support

The Partnership may employ or appoint a coordinator to assist with administrative functions such as these:

  • Arrange for meeting spaces in central and accessible locations
  • Work with the Leadership Team and facilitator to devise agenda, work plans and procedures
  • Prepare and distribute meeting notices, agenda and other related materials
  • Arrange for note-taking and preparation of meeting summaries
  • Maintain Partnership and Stakeholder emailing lists
  • Update charter and operating procedures when necessary
  • Create and update the project web site or social media
  • Assist with fund raising to support the Partnership’s activities
  • Maintain the budget for the Partnership.

Partnership members will be expected to financially support the operations of the Partnership.  That may include donating funds, seeking funding opportunities, grant writing and keeping track of volunteer hours.

8: Amendments to Partnership Operating Procedures

After adoption, these Operating Procedures may be amended only by agreement of all members present at the meeting in which the amendments are presented for adoption. Members shall be given reasonable advance notice of proposed amendments.