Letter from Rainbow Legaliaison 2/21/93

United States Department of Agriculture
P.O. Box 96090
Washington, D.C. 200900-6090

Reply To: 1010

Date: Feb. 23, 1993

Mr. William Thomas
P.O. Box 27217
Washington, D.C. 20038

Dear Mr. Thomas:

Your letter to Chief Robertson has been referred to my office for reply. We regret that you feel that denial of a draft copy of the group use proposed rule is inconsistent with the Chief's agreement to work with the Rainbow Family Legaliaison group in a positive and cooperative way. We believe you have misunderstood any statement the Chief may have made at the August 1988 meeting about when public review of the proposed rule could occur. We also have not changed our "mind about acting with an attitude of positive cooperation."

Our Regulatory Officer Marian Connolly has stayed in frequent telephone contact with various members of the Legaliaison group and other members of the Rainbow Family since 1989. She has been forthcoming in explaining the status of the drafting effort, the rationale for our intended approach, and the clearance and approval process for rulemakings. She has listened carefully to the views expressed during these calls. She also has consistently made clear that Family members would have opportunity to review the proposal after it cleared the Department and the Office of Management and Budget and was published in the Federal Register. To the best of her recollection, no one has previously asserted that the Family could review a draft of the proposed rule prior to its approval by the Administration and publication in the Federal Register.

The Forest Service conservatively estimates that it issued about 2,800 permits for group events in 1992 alone. The uses ranged from expressive and religious gatherings to motorcycle rallies, fishing contests, and music festivals. The size of the permitted events ranged from less than 25 people to many thousands. We estimate that over 660,000 persons were involved in group events under permit in 1992. These 1,800 groups and the 660,000 people will be as interested in the revision of the group use permits as members of the Rainbow Family. These numbers make it impracticable to try to give these groups direct notice of the availability of a draft for review, and, to be equitable, we would need to do so if we were to make a draft available to Rainbow Family representatives. Otherwise, the other potentially effected groups could argue that the Family had an unfair opportunity to influence the development of the rule. Moreover, to make a draft available prior to publication wold be redundant of the rulemaking process itself. The point of publishing a proposed rule is to invite and receive comments on the proposal which the agency will consider in adoption of a final rule.

The absence of uniform rules to guide forest officers in working with the wide variety of groups who wish to use National Forest System lands has created problems of inconsistency in working with the public. After years of work to construct a regulation that meets the tests of various court rulings, we believe we have a sound approach that it is time to give the public an opportunity to express their views. Our goal is to have a proposal published in time to allow us to adopt final rules to guide group uses this summer, the time of year when we receive the heaviest public use.

This was the basis of obtaining an exemption from President Bush's regulatory moratorium.

Under Executive Order 12291, we must submit rules to OMB for review prior to publication. Until we receive OMB concurrence and submit the document to the Office of the Federal Register, we are not permitted to release the proposal because to do so would impede the Administration's internal deliberations and decisionmaking. This is not a Forest Service policy, but one that applies to all Federal agencies. Therefore, for this reason alone, we are unable to comply with your request for a draft copy of the proposed rule.

As you know, you are on the mailing list to receive a copy of the proposed rule upon publication in the Federal Register. This will give you ample notice and the opportunity to submit your written comments on the rule, and we encourage you to do so.


J. Lamar Beasley
Deputy Chief

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