How to Give Effective Feedback to Land Managers

By Dave Schimelpfenig

Jun 17, 2015

There are many uses of public land, and they don’t always align. For example, it would be challenging for NOLS to teach wilderness skills surrounded by oil and gas development. How do managers decide what should be done with a tract of public land? Ideally, they hear from the people who use the land.

Wildflowers in the Rocky Mountains

Hikers pass in the Wind River Range of Wyoming through meadows with elephants head flower. Photo by Kyle Duba.

An Example of Multiple-Use Land Management Done Well

The Lander BLM Resource Management Plan (RMP), to which NOLS recently awarded its yearly environmental stewardship award, stands as an example for embracing multiple-use at a landscape scale that accommodates people, industry, and the environment. It is the first plan in the country to provide specific protections for core habitat of the greater sage-grouse, a species of growing conservation concern. It provides large areas for primitive recreation, areas for multi-use recreation trails, and areas for regulated energy development ...

“Multiple-use works well when there is broad acceptance of the plan, across communities and economic interests,” said Jared Oakleaf, outdoor recreation planner at the Lander BLM office. “That’s when you know that you’ve created something that puts the pieces of the multiple-use puzzle into place.”

Four Tips to Remember When Giving Feedback to Land Managers

During the planning process, Oakleaf met with NOLS courses in the field to learn what they value in the area. These meetings, and the numerous written comments he received from NOLS students, helped build awareness and justification for leaving the Sweetwater Rocks area undeveloped for primitive recreation.

As it happens, contributing to the land management process is an opportunity for NOLS students to put their leadership skills to use. A good comment has the same elements as good feedback:

  1. Be timely. Submit comments during public comment periods, before a decision has been finalized.
  2. Be specific. RMPs are complex, so direct your comments to specific areas that interest you.
  3. Be solution-oriented. Instead of saying, "No mining, not here, ever," suggest your desired alternatives.
  4. Use "I" statements. Express your connection to the place you are commenting about. You don’t have to have caught grayling salmon out of a pristine stream in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to provide comments encouraging its conservation, but if you did, your comment has added value.

Participating in the government process is good citizenship. It is people expressing their values and principles to a responsive government. We all benefit from the conservation of natural landscapes and we all have a say in what happens to them.

Wind River Range

One of the many public lands in Wyoming where NOLS operates and which we work to protect for generations to come. Photo by Brad Christensen.

Check out what else we’re doing in the NOLS Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability department by dropping us an email. We’d love to learn about how you are participating in conservation efforts. And most importantly, get outside and enjoy YOUR public land!

Adapted from the original article published in the Spring 2015 edition of The Leader.


Written By

Dave Schimelpfenig

NOLS Environmental Stewardship Coordinator

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