The Interior Department should recognize that there is not currently a level playing field when it comes to meaningful participation in often complex and prolonged federal resource and land use planning processes. Business and industry representatives, and independently wealthy or retired people, usually have ample time and money to participate in these planning processes and to develop meaningful relationships with key relevant federal officials. In stark contrast, many NGO and tribal representatives have much more limited time and money for such participation. For example, many NGOs and tribal governments have very tight or nil travel budgets. This practical difference in capacity translates into business, industry, and wealthy people having greater access and influence over federal planning processes. This difference is also one of many reasons why people have become more cynical about the federal government, and believe that the government now primary serves business, industry, and wealthy people - regardless of who is occupying The White House. So what can be done to solve this problem? First, much greater access and use of teleconference or webcast technologies should be used for meetings. This would eliminate travel costs in time and money, and also save energy and reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Second, key relevant federal officials should be more open to travelling to the NGO and tribal reps for in person meetings, rather than the opposite. Finally, the relevant agency should consider providing cash advances up front, or subsequent reimbursement of actual expenses, to pay travel costs for participating NGO and tribal reps. Those reps may need to show that their office budget is low enough to warrant this government assistance, and that "but for" that assistance their participation would be precluded. Please consider taking these steps to help level the playing field and thereby enable greater and more effective NGO and tribal participation in federal planning processes. Thank you very much for considering my comments.
Idea No. 13