Public involvement and participation in Forest Service decision-making is a contentious issue attended by charges and countercharges, unsubstantiated accusations and counterclaims, and value-based arguments by all entities involved. Yet, the numbers of studies to substantiate the debate is relatively minimal and tend to be sporadic, reoccurring during times of national forest management crises, which is inappropriate and shortsighted. Moreover, the studies tend to be quantitative or anecdotal in nature and have largely failed to identify or resolve the problems associated with public involvement and participation in Forest Service decision-making, as well as litigation, and yet researchers continue to advocate for comprehensive, systematic, empirical examinations without considering the possible benefits that comprehensive, systematic, qualitative research could contribute to identifying and possibly resolving such problems. Thus, a comprehensive, systematic, in-depth, qualitative analysis of public comments, administrative appeals, and legal arguments from 12 Forest Service project-level activities, and their seven associated lawsuits, on the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, was conducted. The results suggest that there is an interested and vocal minority of individuals and environmental special-interest groups that dominate project-level public involvement and participation processes on the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, and that these public involvement and participation processes work in reverse, providing incentives for post-decisional challenges and discouraging pre-decisional information-sharing, collaboration, and compromise. Therefore, the public, the academic community, the Forest Service, and Congress, must challenge the status quo and make needed changes to ensure that public involvement and participation processes are truly democratic and to reduce incentives for post-decisional challenges.