This charter is a living document that will continue to be developed to meet the needs of the group. For questions or suggestions about our charter, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Purpose of Charter
This charter explains the history, structure, planning, and decision-making process for members of the Feather River Stewardship Coalition.
The Feather River Stewardship Coalition (FRSC) was originally formed succeeding the Quincy Library Group, a collaborative group encompassing Plumas, Sierra, Lassen, Shasta and Butte Counties that formed in 1992 and promulgated the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act of 1998 (HFQLG). The Quincy Library Group (QLG) actively influenced landscape-scale projects on the Lassen and Plumas National Forests and the Sierraville Ranger District of the Tahoe National Forest until the act ended in 2013. With the end of the HFQLG and the promotion of the Forest Service Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Act the Plumas County Fire Safe Council anticipated the need for continued collaboration with the USDA Forest Service and other land ownership jurisdictions. Opportunity arose with the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) Act of 2009, which is intended to award funds to developing collaboratives for planning and implementation of projects. The Plumas County Fire Safe Council (PC FSC) applied to the Plumas County Resource Advisory Committee for Title II funds from the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act and received funds from the Plumas National Forest to develop a collaborative that generally focuses on Plumas County and create a plan for submission to the Forest Service for implementation should the opportunity for funding arise. The PC FSC hired an outreach coordinator in October of 2014 to assist in building a collaborative group, and in January of 2015, the PC FSC in partnership with the Plumas National Forest and UC Cooperative Extension began a county-wide schedule of public meetings to draw interested citizens, community representatives, county officials, interest groups, and private forestry representatives. In June of 2015 a small but significant group of dedicated individuals from a range of interests formed the Feather River Stewardship Coalition, with the intention of building a collaborative forest landscape restoration group that could utilize resources from not only the CFLR Act, but multiple beneficial opportunities.
3. Vision and Mission of Group
In 2015, the Coalition developed a vision, mission, and list of their intended actions.
Vision: To restore and maintain forest ecosystems, landscape processes and community vitality in the upper Feather River watershed.
Who we Are/Mission: The Feather River Stewardship Coalition (FRSC) is a diverse community of willing stakeholders working to improve the ecosystem health of private and public lands within the Feather River Watershed, the headwaters of the state water project. We work to identify solutions that facilitate productive balance among community, economy and environment.
The Coalition will:
Seek to define a process that increases the pace and scale of landscape restoration in the Feather River Watershed that fosters not only enhancement of ecological processes, but creates a level of natural fire behavior while decreasing fire severity in Wildland Urban Interface communities, as well as benefiting communities in a socio-economic aspect.
Develop clear mechanisms to facilitate understanding of land management processes and limitations across jurisdictions and land ownerships.
Work to promote interagency, cross jurisdictional restoration efforts for the benefit of the Feather River watershed and the communities within.
Recognize that local management efforts influence communities, agriculture, recreation and ecosystems far beyond the upper Feather River Watershed; the Upper Feather River is an important resource to the state of California as the headwaters of the State Water Project.
Support and initiate learning and understanding of the best available science and opportunities among the members of the Coalition while regularly seeking outside prospects with other interest groups to best serve the needs of the Feather River Watershed.
Project Purpose: The purpose of this coalition is to improve the viability and longevity of landscape management in the Feather River Watershed to the benefit of the ecosystems and coexisting communities in such a way that enhances landscape ecosystem processes, human interactions with the land, and local economies. Several efforts exist within different agencies operating in the Feather River Watershed, who act to mitigate wildfire, restore hydrologic systems, as well as promote recreation and wildlife concerns. It is recognized that the volunteer base for these efforts is at capacity. The idea of a collaborative group enables a multitude of objectives to be accomplished under the umbrella of a group that can accommodate several facets of land management while not exhausting the efforts of the people as opposed to addressing separate issues on multiple similar platforms.
The Coalition’s Goal: The goal of the Feather River Stewardship Coalition is to integrate restoration of landscape level ecological processes across jurisdictional boundaries while encouraging stewardship practices and socioeconomic development within the Feather River Watershed.
Initial Steps and Formation of Feather River Stewardship Coalition: During the first year, public meetings were held throughout Plumas County as well as fieldtrips to establish relationships with stakeholders and community members and to clarify goals, identify resource and socio-economic issues, and establish a dedicated membership who would represent a variety of interests. Several dedicated citizens became involved in the development of the Coalition by attending the meetings and providing insight on the process and development of a collaborative group. Since that time, the Coalition has continued to meet and discuss various landscape level plans, projects and opportunities.
Guiding Documentation: Various studies and plans exist already for the Feather River Watershed and Plumas County that will serve as a growing suite of guiding documentation. The compilation of documents being utilized include the Plumas County Community Wildfire Protection Plan, the Interregional Water Management Group Issues and Objectives for Uplands and Forest Water, and Managing Sierra Nevada Forests General Technical Reports 220 and 237. There is an abundance of studies and papers that can be located at qlg.org and featherriver.org.
4. Collaborative Planning
This section describes the process used by the Coalition to engage in dialogue and plan and select projects. The facilitator (when available) with the Steering Committee will prepare agendas prior to Coalition meetings that identify topics for discussion. The agendas reflect topics of interest to the Coalition and the overall mission and vision. Agenda items are discussed, and when warranted, subcommittees are established to conduct additional work for action items. Long-term and short-term goals are reviewed on an annual basis, and scientific information and monitoring is used to provide the best information to the Coalition in order to make informed decisions. All meetings will be publicly announced in the local media and are open to the general public, and there will be time set aside at each meeting for the general public to comment on any issues on the agenda or within the purview of the Coalition.
Joint Fact-Finding: Joint fact-finding is the process by which a diverse group of stakeholders works together to understand complex policy issues, key questions, technical data or other information necessary to address their issues and meet their needs. Joint fact-finding involves all of the key interests around a particular issue, conflict or problem. The idea is to make sure everyone is “on the same page” and has a comparable starting point or base of knowledge relevant to the Coalition’s vision/mission. Typically, the Coalition (or a sub-committee) discusses and decides on what the key questions are, how to best assemble the information, who might be needed to answer key questions (e.g. consultants, agency personnel, etc.) and how to best communicate the information to the Coalition. The idea is to arrive at credible information on which to base judgments and policy decisions. While it is up to the Coalition to decide what information might be valuable in terms of future decision-making, some of the topics or areas that the FRSC might consider for joint fact-finding are the following (but certainly not limited to this list):
Full understanding of the existing laws, authorities/decision-makers, institutions, funding mechanisms and opportunities, and processes that operate within the watershed (including those related to tribal authorities, priorities, and governing processes) that are relevant to the type of projects and programs in the vision.
Definitions, measures/indicators, and assessment of what a “healthy forest ecosystem” really is, and what it takes to sustain it. This might entail investigation of risks, analysis/monitoring methods and opportunities, as well as exploring model forest, water quality, tree, and etc. conditions in other places that might be informative.
Clear, written definitions of the important issues and interests of each of the representative members of the Coalition.
Economic analysis of the surrounding communities (including tribal lands and resources) in terms of unemployment, job potential, income levels, tax revenues, and other indicators of community economic health. This analysis could also include consideration of future projections or scenarios based ondifferent types of projects or programs (and how they are structured) such as co-generation facilities, salvage operations, timber harvest (on various scales and in various types of lands), recreational development, etc.
Other topics and areas of inquiry that the group feels it would benefit from.
Adding New Members: The Coalition will continue to encourage new members and organizations to join as a nexus for expanding on commonalities amongst groups. Organizations can join the Coalition and participate as members by accepting the FRSC charter and regular meeting attendance by any member representing the joining group. The process of adding new members and groups will follow the decision-making process outlined later in this Charter. The FRSC aims for members to generally agree with the concepts in the Charter, follow the protocols and ground rules, and make informed contributions and decisions. New members should commit to reading through past information, and understanding the directions, policies and projects that have gone on in the past.
Attendance Requirements: Members should attend as many meetings as possible to stay abreast of issues and decisions. If a member misses a meeting it is his/her responsibility to read the working notes and communicate any issues or concerns. If a member does not make at least half of the meetings in any given calendar year, it will be assumed that they are no longer interested in membership or cannot make the meetings. That member will be asked if he/she wants to remain on the Coalition, so we can either find a replacement or take them off the list. The facilitator or staff will record attendance at each meeting.
6. Steering Committee
A steering committee has been regularly meeting to develop meeting agendas and meeting materials and to help manage the Group process and work flow. The Steering Committee focuses on ensuring that the process runs smoothly, agendas and items are consistent with the vision of this Coalition, and all stakeholder interests are being heard in developing meetings and considering issues and projects.
Work Groups and Technical Advisory Groups:
On a case by case basis, work groups or technical advisory groups will be assembled to develop plans and products. These groups will represent a spectrum of interests to ensure an inclusive point of view on objectives and their subsequent actions.
As with the full Coalition, work groups and technical advisory groups seek consensus in their recommendations and work products. Highlights, decisions, and action items are recorded in meeting summaries. In addition to regular progress updates, materials developed in work groups or by technical advisory groups are always presented to the full Coalition for discussion, refinement as necessary, and possible adoption. Major projects are tracked on the schedule of activities, including dates to be reviewed by the full FRSC.
7. Decision Making
The FRSC utilizes a variety of decision making approaches to make decisions and works diligently to find common ground on issues. This can mean developing and exploring various alternative solutions to a question or problem, being sure that all have understood the various options and issues and their voices have been heard, and taking the “pulse” of the Coalition in terms of their level of agreement. A “consensus” agreement does not have to mean unanimous enthusiastic support (which is can be difficult to obtain at times). The definition of consensus spans the range from strong support to; “I can live with it.”
It is useful to acknowledge that many of the Coalition’s discussions do not require formal decisions, but are exchanges of information or technical updates. The facilitator may allocate appropriate time for the item, and the Coalition engages in general discussion. Adequate time needs to be allocated for full questions and answers, and for any dialogue to ensue. If in the course of an “educational or discussion” item, a conflict, controversy, or decisional element arises, this will be scheduled as a decision item to be handled later in the agenda or at a subsequent meeting.
The third type of item (decisional) requires a decision structure for the Coalition. These are likely to be either fundamental changes to the Charter, basic operating rules, vision, etc. or major decisions on pursuing a particular project, requesting funding, pursuing a grant or other funding proposal, or addressing a substantive policy matter with an allied agency or similar activity. Changes to the charter can be proposed at any time with a minimum support of two members.
If a Coalition participant raises a decisional issue not easily resolved by consensus agreement, the FRSC can assign the issue to an existing or new work group to make a recommendation back to the broader Coalition. The facilitator and/or one of the members of the work group would then write up a description of the key issues (possibly with alternative solutions or decisions) in a brief memo. The work group then discusses and makes a recommendation to the full Coalition. All opinions are included to inform the Coalition’s decision. The Coalition may seek clarifying information before it reaches a final outcome. All outcomes are to be recorded in the meeting minutes.
If the Coalition is clearly divided and is not reaching consensus, a voting process ensues where approval of the decision resides in the FRSC members.
If members cannot attend a meeting where decisions are made, they are given an opportunity to review relevant materials, provide comments, and state whether they support the decision in advance of the meeting. Ensuring that decisions consistently reflect balanced representation and are responsive to member input is critical. In situations where members are unable to review materials in advance of a meeting, the Coalition will note conditional consensus and the facilitator will verify absent member support.
All decisions, agreements, recommendations, and reservations are documented in the meeting summary notes. It is particularly important that any “minority” or dissenting opinions are reflected in the notes and report about a particular issue, or project.
8. Outreach and Communication
The FRSC currently has a coordinator for Outreach and Communication to share information. The Group relies on this coordinator to prepare outreach material and disseminate information. An email distribution list has been developed and is used to share information with individuals and groups that are not Coalition members.
9. Meeting Protocols
The following “ground rules” are designed to keep meetings organized, professional and productive, and move items along to honor the Coalition members’ time commitment.
Electronic courtesy. Most of the participants have demanding responsibilities outside of the meeting room. We ask for your attention during the full meeting. Please turn cell phones, or any other communication item with an on/off switch to “silent.” Be comfortable. Please help yourself to refreshments or take personal breaks. Humor. Humor is welcomed, but should not be at someone else's expense. Stay focused. There are many related topics that people care about. The Group cannot address all of these. The facilitator will help the Group stay focused on the agenda, topics and deliverables. Use common conversational and social courtesy. Don't interrupt others. Use appropriate language. Don’t “roll your eyes” or use other inappropriate facial expressions if you don’t agree. Avoid third party discussions. Treat each other with respect. People are passionate about issues and in many cases have invested their careers in this work. People offer their time, expertise, insight, and resources in these discussions. Please respect the work that people do to advance the conversation and create common ground. It is important not to impart negative motives to colleagues or to assume they favor one idea or another; rather, it is better to focus on the issues and problems to be solved not the personalities or affiliations. All ideas and points have value. You may hear something you do not agree with. You are not required to defend or promote your perspective, but you are asked to share it. All ideas have value in this setting. If you believe another approach is better, offer it as a constructive alternative. Treat Differences as a Strength. Varying opinions and perspectives is exactly why the Group has formed in the first place. Recognize that some level of disagreement and conflicting or competing views is normal, expected and a strength for coming up with innovative and compelling solutions. Focus on Interests not Positions. Focusing on positions typically entails advocating fully formulated solutions to problems, often with little room for trade-offs, and often quite fixed (and sometimes antagonistic of other positions). It becomes difficult to negotiate and find common ground when people come in with opposing or conflicting positions. Alternatively, recognizing and articulating one’s interests typically means getting to the underlying needs, motivations, desires and hoped for outcomes, rather than being stuck on one particular solution, slogan or stance. Interest-based dialogue leaves room for trade-offs and finding creative common ground in a joint problem solving mode. This is often a much better way to reach agreements in a working group. Open Data and Opinions. All participants should express their views openly and directly, and provide any and all information, data, and ideas in an open, transparent way to maximize communication. Avoid editorials. Please avoid ascribing motives to or judging the actions of others. Please speak about your experiences, concerns, and suggestions. Honor time. In order to achieve meeting objectives it will be important to follow the time guidelines provided by the facilitator. Note Taking. For each meeting, the facilitator (or assistant) or a member assigned to take notes will document major discussions, decisions, agreements, recommendations, and “to do” list items in the meeting summary notes. It is particularly important that any “minority” or dissenting opinions are reflected in the notes and report about a particular issue, or project. Electronic Meeting Place. At some time in the future, the Coalition could consider whether it would use electronic meetings to reduce travel times and costs. This would have to be agreed upon by the membership (see decisional rule), but could increase participation for one or several meetings each year, especially during winter weather. 10. Schedule of Activities and Charter Amendments
The FRSC meets quarterly. At the end of each year, the Coalition evaluates its progress toward meeting the overall project goal, and at this time, may choose to amend this Charter. At the end of each year, the Coalition will renew its commitment and revisit its membership.
11. Signature for the Charter
FRSC members will use this charter to conduct business and make decisions in planning and implementing projects and activities. Coalition members are asked to approve the charter verbally, which will be recorded in the meeting summary. Members are also invited to approve the charter by signing it. Approving the charter does not always imply agreement with specific projects or activities. The Coalition will review the list of charter signatories each year to ensure it remains current. We the undersigned affirm our commitment to the Feather River Stewardship Coalition Charter.