Once you are satisfied, you have the acceptance of the problem, it is time to begin identifying potential solutions. The very first step is to define the "do nothing" alternative, sometimes called the "null alternative". If you have done a good job defining the problem, you are well prepared for this step. Your effort is to articulate the results of doing nothing. What can we expect, in the future, if we fail to resolve this problem?
It is now time to reach into the tool box and describe alternative solutions to resolve the problem. An example might be using a timber harvesting activity to regenerate an old- growth, decadent forest community and reduce the fuel build-up to reduce the hazard of insect or disease infestations or the threat of wildfire. Each alternative requires a detailed description, such as, what type of harvesting technique and why, what kind and how much access will be required, what kind of time frames will be involved, etc.
After completing a list of potential solutions, you must now compare each alternative to the "do nothing" alternative. How will each individual alternative improve the future condition over the null alternative. If we cannot expect a definite improvement over doing nothing, the alternative is not a potential solution and must be dropped.
I can not emphasize enough that this step, as the previous steps, require keeping your interests informed and involved! You must also offer more than one solution. Remember there is more than one tool in the toolbox. In forestry, we all to often use the tool of clear-cutting because research tells us it will maximize wood fiber production. We must accept there are far more reasons for managing our valuable forests than simple focusing on wood fiber production per acre! You would never train a mechanic to repair an internal combustion engine and then give them a hammer to overhaul the engine. A professional forester must have the option of selecting the tool or tools that best accomplish the desired outcome.
You have now put a major effort into the people side of public decision-making. Do not take a shortcut now. The public understands and accepts that you are receiving the big salary and a responsible for making the tough decisions however, you are at the critical point of the final decision. Stay connected and give your public the opportunity to offer their suggestions and above all else, do not surprise them with an announcement of you decision in the media. You owe them the courtesy of personally let them know your conclusion before publicly announcing it.
I know this will not guarantee success, but I am confident that following this process will improve you success as a problem- solver. I wish your all the very best!