The U.S. Forest Service encourages citizen participation in their design of Forestry plans. Dr. Voth with students and colleagues helped citizens in the Ouachita National Forest Management Plan.
Problems and Purpose
Dr. Voth, a former professor at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, served on the forest management and planning committee for the Ouachita Forest plan. Dr. Voth, his colleagues, and his graduate assistants were able to study the planning process in the early 1990s that involved ordinary citizens that lived either in or surrounding the Ouachita National Forest in the creation of the Ouachita National Forest Management Plan.
Background History and Context
This case took place in the Ouachita Forest from 1993-2004. The Ouachita Forest encompasses 1.8 million acres in Arkansas and Oklahoma and is the oldest and largest National Forest in the South.  The researchers on the project were located in Fayetteville, Arkansas during the time of the research. The beginning stage of the process involved analysis and evaluation of the United States Department of Agriculture’s experience with public involvement. The majority of the Forest Service personnel are trained in public participation, using materials from the Institute for Participatory Management and Planning (IPMP).  The creation of the New Perspectives Advisory Committee was authorized by Congress through an appropriations bill in 1990, and was introduced by Senator Dale Bumpers. (D-AR) The New Perspectives Advisory Committee was expected to help the Forest Service respond more flexibly to public concerns while still maintaining forestry's traditional science base.  The Advisory Committee for the Ouachita National Forest was established in May 1991. Forest management is only applicable to political decision making when the Forest Service and the general public can both participate in making decisions regarding issues; therefore the public must be involved in the decision making process.  Because the committee was newly established this is the first time that this participatory method was used in Arkansas. There is precedent for citizen participation in Arkansas. Arkansas has a long history of citizen participation in governance, in 1910 Arkansas became the tenth state that made initiative and referendum part of its constitution.  Another precedent for this type of involvement with managing natural resources in Arkansas is how Arkansas Tourism Strategic Planning Sessions are open to citizens. 
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
This case was a combined effort of the USDA Forest Service and the University of Arkansas. Organizers worked together, for the advisory committee to be successful. No staff was officially hired for the team. Decisions regarding engaging participants came from previous experience of forest supervisors.  Leaders in Forest Planning were Ouchita National Forest Service Employees and members of the advisory committee. 
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The Advisory Committee for the Ouachita National Forest met approximately three times a year from 1991-2004. During these meetings, items discussed include issues suggested by the Ouachita National Forest and the Advisory Committee as well as issues identified by the public.
 To encourage citizen participation, notices of meetings were shared via multiple statewide newspapers as well as specific invitations via mail to individuals who had expressed interest in the meetings.  Organizers relied specifically on local networks and community outreach for recruiting participants, and no incentives were offered to the participants.
Methods and Tools Used
During each meeting ordinary citizens had access to all materials that were provided to members of the Advisory Committee. Most of the work of the Advisory Committee was done during the open meetings and conducted based on items placed on an agenda. Items on the agenda were determined by combined efforts of Ecosystem Management Coordinator, the Ouachita National Forest, the Chairman of the Advisory Committee and occasionally input from ordinary citizens. 
The meetings also had presentations and open discussions by all present.  The meetings provided a space for open discussion about important issues that did not become overly emotional. Deliberation also occurred during the meetings, as a tool to discuss and determine next steps for the advisory committee.
The group also held sorts of “field trips” where participants traveled to different parts of the forest to learn more about the concerns of the citizens. 
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
During the meetings the process often went as follows: Forest Service personnel would make presentations and provide status reports regarding forest updates, and other relevant news to the attendees of the meeting, which would be followed by questions and discussion by the Advisory Committee, Forest Service Personnel, and members of the general public. The meetings were always open to the public, and in certain situations members of the general public were invited to make presentations to the Advisory Committee.  Items discussed in the meetings included the purpose of the Advisory Committee, wildlife activity, public use, as well as others. Different meetings used different chosen tools/techniques such as trips, deliberation, open houses, and forums during the overarching process. All the results from the meetings were shared via multiple statewide newspapers.  The work of the Advisory Committee from the methods used during their meetings led to the final report.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The purpose of the Ouachita National Forest Advisory Committee was to improve relations between the Forest Service and the citizens taking into consideration a range of factors. The initiative had an impact on the Ouachita National Forest with the citizens' involvement in the creation of the Ouachita National Forest Management Plan. With the ultimate goal of creating the Ouachita National Forest Management Plan.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
As a way to measure the success of the Advisory Committee, members of the general public who had taken the time to participate in the meetings as well as multiple members and past members of the Advisory Committee were interviewed regarding their participation.  The results of the surveys were descriptive and not representative of the entire population.  Over 90% of participants that took part in the Ouachita National Forest Advisory Committee said afterwards that they believed the Advisory Committee was a partial or a complete success.
 Dr. Voth and his colleagues found that the Ouachita National Forest Advisory Committee was very successful. With the hard work of the members of the Advisory Committee, Forest Service Personal, and ordinary citizens, this type of success should be possible with national forests around the country.  This case shows that citizens, while possibly potentially distrustful of government organizations or apathetic regarding their environment, may actually care about the area that they live in or around and want to be able to have a say in the changes and what is happening to it.
 Forest Service- U.S. Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). USDA Forest Service - Ouachita National Forest. Forest Service National Website. Retrieved October 27, 2022, from https://www.fs.usda.gov/ouachita
 Voth, D. E., Fendley, K., & Farmer, F. L. (1994, September). A diagnosis of the Forest Service’s “social context.” Journal of Forestry, 92(9), 17-20. doi:10.1093/jof/92.9.17
 Frentz, I. C., & Voth, D. E. The Ouachita National Forestecosystem Management Advisory Committee: Providing a Forum for Constructive Dialogue Among Interests. Constructive Dialogue Among Interests, https://images.library.wisc.edu/EcoNatRes/EFacs /NAPC/NAPC15/reference/econatres.napc15.ifrentz.pdf
 Voth, D. E., Pell, B., & Fendley, K. (1997). Desired Future Conditions: Vehicles for Integrating Social and Ecological Goals and Visions?. In Integrating Social Science and Ecosystem Management: A National Challenge: Proceedings of the Conference on Integrating Social Sciences and Ecosystem Management, Helen, GA, December 12-14, 1995(Vol. 17, p. 8). US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Research Station.
 Ledbetter, C. R. (1992). Adoption of Initiative and Referendum in Arkansas: The Roles of George W. Donaghey and William Jennings Bryan. The Arkansas Historical Quarterly, 51(3), 199–223. https://doi.org/10.2307/40023097