May 25, 2010

Special Areas; State-Specific Inventoried Roadless Area Management

Proposed Rule
Summary

Score: 28 / 60

Additional details
Agency
Department of Agriculture
Regulatory Identification Number
0596-AC74
Agency Name
Department of Agriculture
Rule Publication Date
07/25/2008
Dollar Year
Not Reported by Agency

RULE SUMMARY

On April 11, 2007, Governor of Colorado Ritter submitted a petition under the provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. 553(e)) and Agriculture Department regulation (7 CFR 1.28) to promulgate regulations, in cooperation with the State, for the management of inventoried roadless areas within the State of Colorado. After review and recommendation by the Roadless Area Conservation National Advisory Committee, the Secretary accepted the Governor’s petition and initiated a proposed rulemaking for inventoried roadless areas in Colorado. The proposed rulemaking would manage Colorado’s inventoried roadless areas by prohibiting road building and tree cutting, with some exceptions, on 4.1 million acres of inventoried roadless areas in Colorado. The 4.1 million acres reflect the most updated IRA boundaries for Colorado, which incorporate planning rule revisions since 2001 on several Colorado national forests. Inventoried roadless areas that are allocated to ski area special uses (approximately 10,000 acres) would also be removed from roadless designation. Road construction and reconstruction plus timber harvesting would be prohibited in inventoried roadless areas, with some exceptions, on the Arapaho-Roosevelt, Grand Mesa-Uncompahgre, Gunnison, Manti-La Sal, Pike-San Isabel, Rio Grande, Routt, San Juan, and White River National Forests in Colorado. Exceptions to the prohibitions would be allowed for certain health, safety, valid existing rights, resource protection, and ecological management needs. Web site: http://roadless.fs.fed.us

METHODOLOGY

There are twelve criteria within our evaluation within three broad categories: Openness, Analysis and Use. For each criterion, the evaluators assign a score ranging from 0 (no useful content) to 5 (comprehensive analysis with potential best practices). Thus, each analysis has the opportunity to earn between 0 and 60 points.

Criterion Score

Openness

1. How easily were the RIA , the proposed rule, and any supplementary materials found online?
The RIA can be found in an appending documents section on regulations.gov using the RIN or using a keyword search (four clicks). The rule but not the RIA could be found on the USDA website.
3/5
2. How verifiable are the data used in the analysis?
Most data sources are provided but some data sources are just mentioned generally. For instance, the "Data Sources" section of this RIA claims that the results discussed in this report are "often based on analyses presented in the DEIS... as well as separate resources Specialist Reports" Although the RIA claims that this technique avoids the burden of reproducing analyses already presented in other supporting documentation, direct citation are more helpful than "examples of data sources cited in specialist reports" (48). Sources for all data are always given (if somewhat vaguely at times) but not always linked or easily verifiable.
2/5
3. How verifiable are the models and assumptions used in the analysis?
The analysis cites some publications and analyses that justify its assumptions but not all aspects are bolstered by citations. For instance, in the "Methods and Assumptions" section, the DEIS for the proposed rule is cited, but no further breakdown is mentioned.
3/5
4. Was the analysis comprehensible to an informed layperson?
It is easy to get lost in the details of this analysis. For instance, the distinction between "creation of potential opportunities" and "projection of reasonably foreseeable activities" is confusing (6). While the RIA is not heavy on technical jargon, it is highly repetitive and, while the results are clear, too many loose ends are left untied. An economist and layman could both understand the analysis, but it is impossible for either to see how the agency arrived at its decision to adopt the proposed rule.
3/5

Analysis

5. How well does the analysis identify the desired outcomes and demonstrate that the regulation will achieve them?
3/5
Does the analysis clearly identify ultimate outcomes that affect citizens’ quality of life?
The analysis repeatedly notes that NFS lands "provide a variety of goods and services to the American public" (141). Also, since there is a desire for the Colorado Roadless Rule to retain many of the key provisions from the existing 2001 rule, the proposed rule is supposed to maintain existing rights and permitted uses, provide reasonable access to publicly and privately owned property and facilities, maintain the ability to respond to emergency situations and major threats to human life and property, protect human health and safety, prevent irreparable resource damage, protect wildlife and habitat, especially for threatened, endangered, or sensitive species, and protect roadless characteristics and values like "scenic integrity" (27), species preservation, and other alleged public goods.
4/5
Does the analysis identify how these outcomes are to be measured?
Benefits are divided into financial and "other" which includes non-quantifiable benefits to individuals. Financial benefits are to forest governing agencies and measured in dollars. The roadless opportunity spectrum measures others (what can you do in an area—camp, fish, hunt, etc.) as well as permitting and activity observations; these are proxies for actual benefits, but they are measures of outcomes.
3/5
Does the analysis provide a coherent and testable theory showing how the regulation will produce the desired outcomes?
First the RIA claims that all existing congressionally designated acres were removed from the roadless areas for all alternatives, which "provides a consistent framework upon which to compare the consequences of each alternative." In general; however, the RIA stresses that the proposed rule "indirectly affects the provision of those commodities and services... by altering the circumstances under which road construction and reconstruction (roading), as well as tree-cutting, are permitted in roadless areas on NFS lands in Colorado." In other words, move or build or don't build roads, and the opportunities to use areas changes; same for tree-cutting and mining activities.
4/5
Does the analysis present credible empirical support for the theory?
The RIA does not present empirical support for how similar roadless area management regulations have effectively increased the quality of life for citizens in any of these ways. Even when describing the existing 2001 rule, the analysis lists its key provisions in bullet points, not taking the time to analyze the outcomes any further. Though descriptions of the existing 2001 rule are clear in each benefit analysis section, the analysis would be improved if citations were made explicit and the scope of past roadless management experiences described was more broad.
1/5
Does the analysis adequately assess uncertainty about the outcomes?
The RIA mentions that the use of the "national forests (NFs) and grasslands for both commodities and amenity services varies over time in response to changing market conditions, consumer preferences, and other factors," thereby suggesting that the size of the welfare improvements this regulation offers may change. It does not discuss how these changes might affect results.
3/5
6. How well does the analysis identify and demonstrate the existence of a market failure or other systemic problem the regulation is supposed to solve?
2/5
Does the analysis identify a market failure or other systemic problem?
A public-good argument of forest activities/denizens is made, but it's not critically evaluated. Private forests are not mentioned, nor the possibility that the problem is public ownership and lack of property rights rather than a lack of desire to protect forests. But given the public good, the rule does contrast public good versus private use well.
2/5
Does the analysis outline a coherent and testable theory that explains why the problem (associated with the outcome above) is systemic rather than anecdotal?
The argument is that public goods would be better protected while still allowing other beneficial uses in some specific areas—basically, better management is proposed. It's systemic because it's currently already under government management.
3/5
Does the analysis present credible empirical support for the theory?
Support comes by way of comparing this rule with the outcomes and management requirements of the 2001 rule. There is not much in the way of data, but given that the old rule applies system-wide, one might infer the new rule addresses a systemic problem.
2/5
Does the analysis adequately assess uncertainty about the existence or size of the problem?
The analysis lacks uncertainty analysis throughout.
1/5
7. How well does the analysis assess the effectiveness of alternative approaches?
4/5
Does the analysis enumerate other alternatives to address the problem?
Three options are considered, including the proposed rule and the old rule.
4/5
Is the range of alternatives considered narrow (e.g., some exemptions to a regulation) or broad (e.g., performance-based regulation vs. command and control, market mechanisms, nonbinding guidance, information disclosure, addressing any government failures that caused the original problem)?
The three options are: the status quo (2001 rule), the proposed rule, and a land management plans alternative. The first two are similar, while the third differs primarily in that it does not prohibit roading in a roadless area.
3/5
Does the analysis evaluate how alternative approaches would affect the amount of the outcome achieved?
The outcomes of all three approaches are quantified as much as possible and discussed where not quantifiable.
4/5
Does the analysis adequately address the baseline? That is, what the state of the world is likely to be in the absence of federal intervention not just now but in the future?
The baseline is simple and well-known—the results of the old rule's management system.
4/5
8. How well does the analysis assess costs and benefits?
3/5
Does the analysis identify and quantify incremental costs of all alternatives considered?
Given the options listed, costs are well-considered.
4/5
Does the analysis identify all expenditures likely to arise as a result of the regulation?
Government expenditures are well identified; private expenditures changes on land use are not discussed.
3/5
Does the analysis identify how the regulation would likely affect the prices of goods and services?
Mining costs/natural resource goods are considered; goods and services like skiing, recreational activities, etc. seem missing.
2/5
Does the analysis examine costs that stem from changes in human behavior as consumers and producers respond to the regulation?
This seems to be the heart of the rule, as consumer preference and producer (miners/oil/etc.) activities are thoroughly discussed.
5/5
If costs are uncertain, does the analysis present a range of estimates and/or perform a sensitivity analysis?
Uncertainty is mentioned but no sensitivity analyses is done.
1/5
Does the analysis identify the alternative that maximizes net benefits?
Given USDA calculations, the proposed rule appears to maximize net benefits; however, this is very hard to determine from both the RIA and the rule itself. Table 3 in the rule gives our best clue, where it appears the sum of positive and negative economic impacts from the proposed rule is greatest for the proposed rule. The score is below 3 because of the difficulty of finding a comparison of the net benefits.
2/5
Does the analysis identify the cost-effectiveness of each alternative considered?
The analysis does not address this topic.
0/5
Does the analysis identify all parties who would bear costs and assess the incidence of costs?
Distribution analysis mentions most parties affected for the alternatives considered.
3/5
Does the analysis identify all parties who would receive benefits and assess the incidence of benefits?
Distribution analysis mentions most parties affected for the alternatives considered.
3/5

Use

9. Does the proposed rule or the RIA present evidence that the agency used the analysis?
The agency acknowledges the RIA and includes several charts that chronicle its main cost and benefit results but makes no explicit claim that it was used. The proposed rule does not appear to maximize net benefits according to RIA calculations, though, which may indicate the rule did not rely on the RIA.
1/5
10. Did the agency maximize net benefits or explain why it chose another alternative?
The RIA calculates net benefits for multiple alternatives, but does not maximize net benefits among the alternatives considered. The agency also does not explain why it chose the proposed rule.
1/5
11. Does the proposed rule establish measures and goals that can be used to track the regulation's results in the future?
The RIA mentions that the proposed rule is "programmatic in nature and intended to guide future development of proposed actions in roadless areas" by providing greater management flexibility under certain circumstances to address unique and local land management challenges. Since the rule involves a management program, it is presumably trackable, but this is not made explicit.
2/5
12. Did the agency indicate what data it will use to assess the regulation's performance in the future and establish provisions for doing so?
The preamble and RIA suggest that the agency has some of the data that will be needed to assess some of the regulation's performance, but the agency makes no commmitment to do this.
1/5
 
Total 28 / 60