National Forest Service unveils proposed forest planning management rule
On Thursday, the USDA Forest Service unveiled its proposed Forest Planning Rule which the agency says "would establish a new national framework to develop land management plans that protect water and wildlife and promote vibrant communities."
The proposed rule would update planning procedures that have been in place since 1982.
The proposed planning rule and draft environmental impact statement are available for public comment through May 16, 2011.
The Forest Service oversees 155 national forests and 20 grasslands that encompass more than 193 million acres in the National Forest System, about nine percent of the total U.S. land area.
The agency's management plans guide multiple-use management activities on these lands, including natural resource protection, resource extraction (timber, grazing, and mining), and outdoor recreation.
The Forest Service says its proposed planning rule "provides a collaborative and science-based framework for creating land management plans that would support ecological sustainability and contribute to rural job opportunities. The proposed rule includes new provisions to guide forest and watershed restoration and resilience, habitat protection, sustainable recreation, and management for multiple uses of the National Forest System, including timber."
The Forest Service says highlights of its proposed planning rule include:
- A more effective and efficient framework that would allow adaptive land management planning in the face of climate change and other stressors.
- Increased requirements for public involvement and collaboration throughout all stages of land management planning.
- Improved ability to respond to climate change and other stressors through provisions to restore and maintain healthy and resilient ecosystems.
- Increased protections for water resources and watersheds.
- More effective and proactive requirements to provide for diverse native plant and animal species.
- Provisions to guide the contributions of a National Forest or National Grassland to social and economic sustainability.
- Updated provisions for sustainable land, water and air-based recreation.
- Requirements to provide for integrated resource management of a range of multiple uses and values including outdoor recreation, range, timber, water, wildlife, wilderness, energy, mining, and ecosystem services.
- New requirements for a local and landscape-scale monitoring program that are based on the latest science.
Some environmentalists have raised concerns that the plan would water down current, centralized wildlife protections.
"They give too much discretion to individual forest supervisors" without specific directions, Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, is quoted as saying in a Washington Post article. "We don't know that they're going to protect species or not. There is no question that this is a rollback to required protection to wildlife habitat."
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the proposed rule seeks to conserve forests for the benefit of water, wildlife, recreation and the economic vitality of rural communities.
"The proposed rule will provide the tools to the Forest Service to make our forests more resilient to many threats, including pests, catastrophic fire and climate change," said Vilsack. "Healthy forests and economically strong rural communities form a solid foundation as we work to win the future for the next generation."
Public Meetings Scheduled
The Forest Service will host a national public forum to discuss the proposed rule on March 10, 2011, at the Renaissance DuPont Hotel in Washington, D.C. The meeting is open to the public and will be Web cast to allow for greater participation.
Additional public forums will be held during the comment period in all nine Forest Service regions throughout the country. (Dates are subject to changes and additions.)
- National and Regional Forums on Proposed Planning Rule and DEIS
- Schedule of national and regional forums on proposed planning rule and DEIS (pdf - 92kb)
How to Comment
Comments must be received in writing by May 16, 2011. The Forest Service will use public comments to develop a final rule.
- through the public participation portal at www.govcomments.com,
- by addressing them to Forest Service Planning DEIS, c/o Bear West Company, 132 E 500 S, Bountiful, UT 84010; or
- via fax to 801-397-1605. (Identify your written comments by including “planning rule” on the cover sheet or the first page.)
All comments, including names and addresses, when provided, are placed in the record and are available for public inspection and copying. The public may inspect comments at contentanalysisgroup.com/fsrd.
For More Information:
More information on the Forest Planning Rule is available at www.fs.usda.gov/planningrule including:
- Proposed Planning Rule, The Office of Federal Register Electronic Public Inspection Desk Copy 02/11/2011 (pdf - 655kb)
- Federal Register Notice Publication of the Proposed Rule (available 2/14)
- Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) (available 2/14)
- The Civil Rights Impact Analysis (CRIA) for this proposed rule (pdf - 1.0mb)
- The cost-benefit analysis for this proposed rule (pdf - 500kb)
- Summary of public input used to develop Proposed Rule
- Forest Service Directives for 1982 planning procedures
- Summary of Proposed Rule (pdf - 75kb)
- Press Release
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- The proposed rule, meeting information, and additional information can be found at www.fs.usda.gov/planningrule.