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Constructing the public: the 'substantive sieve' and personal norms in US Forest Service Planning

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In fulfilling its public involvement requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) the US Forest Service sometimes favours scientific, technical or legally-based public input over comments that explicitly express the values or preferences of the public. We trace the roots of this tendency to the Council on Environmental Quality's (CEQ) NEPA regulations and to agency planning guidelines that direct agency employees to address only 'substantive' or 'significant' comments. We term this guidance and the tendency to favour certain types of public input the 'substantive sieve', and show how it may influence agency constructions of the public. We discuss the implications of our findings in the context of agency NEPA public involvement processes.
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Keywords: National Environmental Policy Act; planning; public involvement; public lands; values

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, Virginia Tech, Cheatham Hall, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA 2: Natural Resources Program, Virginia Tech National Capital Region, Falls Church, VA, USA

Publication date: April 1, 2011

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