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Team leaders’ perceptions of public influence in the US Forest Service: exploring the difference between doing and using public involvement

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Individuals and public groups generally participate in public involvement events in an effort to gain influence over decisions that affect them. However, not much is known about how the process actually results in the public gaining influence over agency decisions. This paper reports the results of an online survey completed by 489 Forest Service National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) team leaders. Respondents reported how much influence they thought the public should have during the NEPA process, how much influence they thought the public generally had, and how much influence the public had on a specific NEPA process at different points in the process. Sixty per cent of the respondents believed the public should have greater influence than they do. Respondents reported that more public influence should and does happen at earlier stages in the process. Early public influence and substantive comments appear to be related to positive perceptions of the public involvement process and public relations outcomes.
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Keywords: National Environmental Policy Act; natural resources planning; public involvement

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, Virginia Tech, 304 Cheatham Hall Blacksburg, VA, USA

Publication date: February 1, 2014

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