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For more information visit the Forest Service planning rule website: www.fs.usda.gov/planningrule
On February 15, 2013, the Forest Service issued draft “directives” for updating its rules and guidance regarding land management planning for National Forests and Grasslands. The proposed directives are in draft form and currently available for public review and comment until April 29, 2013.
According to the Back Country Horsemen of America, some national forests have already begun a public process to update their Forest Plans under the new directives:
The proposed directives are intended to support consistent approaches to achieving the broad goals of the 2012 Planning Rule. A copy of the directives can be obtained at http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/planningrule/directives, at any regional Forest Service office or by calling the U.S. Forest Service at (202) 205-1449. See the Public Comment page...
The new planning rule will address current and future
needs of the National Forest System
The preferred alternative provides a framework to guide the collaborative and science-based development, amendment and revision of land management plans. This framework will promote healthy, resilient, diverse and productive national forests and grasslands with a range of social, economic and ecological benefits now and for future generations.
The planning process framework outlined in the preferred alternative consists of a three-part cycle: assessment, plan revision or amendment, and monitoring. These three phases are complementary. The intent is to allow the Forest Service to adapt management to changing conditions and encourage more frequent amendments based on new information and monitoring.
The preferred alternative strengthens the role of public involvement in the planning process and provides numerous opportunities for public participation and dialogue. It requires working with the public, partners, landowners, other government agencies, and Tribes in each phase of the planning. It also requires the best available scientific information be used to inform the planning process and be documented, while also taking into account other forms of knowledge, such as local information, national perspectives, and native knowledge.
Under the preferred alternative, an understanding of the landscape-scale context for unit-level management is required, since many management issues, such as fire, water, and wildlife, will require an understanding of what is happening both on and off NFS lands. Assessments are designed to rapidly identify and evaluate existing information and create an understanding of conditions, trends, and stressors. Utilization of these assessments will guide the development of plans.
In the face of changing environmental conditions and stressors, such as a changing climate, the preferred alternative requires plans to:
Responsible officials would take into account opportunities for landscape scale restoration, wildland fire and fire adapted landscapes as well as the various conditions that could affect the presence and function of ecological resources on the unit.
The preferred alternative also requires plans to provide for plant and animal diversity. It uses a scientifically-supported approach to providing the ecological conditions to support both species diversity and the persistence of native species on the unit. Plan components would be required for ecosystem integrity and diversity, supplemented by species-specific plan components as necessary.
Plans would include plan components to contribute to social and economic sustainability, thereby supporting vibrant communities and rural job opportunities. Planning would consider a full suite of multiple uses of a plan area, including:
Plan components would be required to provide for sustainable recreation, which can include recreation opportunities on land, water and in the air. The responsible official would consider issues such as renewable and non-renewable energy, opportunities to coordinate with neighboring land owners, habitat conditions to support hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering, and opportunities to connect people with nature. Plan components would be also required to protect cultural and historic resources and specially designated areas such as wilderness areas and wild and scenic rivers as well as the management of areas of tribal importance.
The preferred alternative creates a two-tiered strategy for monitoring at the unit level and at a broader scale. Monitoring allows responsible officials to test assumptions, track changing conditions, measure management implementation and effectiveness in achieving desired outcomes, and feed new information back to inform adaptive management. The preferred alternative also requires the Chief of the Forest Service to establish a national oversight process to ensure accountability and consistency in planning across the system.
Finally, the preferred alternative creates a pre-decisional administrative review process to provide individuals and groups with an opportunity to resolve issues before final approval of a plan, plan amendment or plan revision.
Additional information about the Planning Rule and the preferred alternative is available electronically at: http://fs.usda.gov/planningrule.
Regional Meetings were held around the country during 2011:
Northern Region (Region 1) - Missoula, MT March 22, 2011 - Billings, MT March 22, 2011 - Coeur d'Alene, MT March 22, 2011
Rocky Mountain Region (Region 2) Regional Office - Lakewood, CO March 21, 2011 - Cheyenne, WY March 24, 2011 - Rapid City, SD March 16, 2011
Intermountain Region (Region 4) - Salt Lake City, UT March 24, 2011
Pacific Southwest Region (Region 5) - Sacramento, CA March 21, 2011 - Angeles National Forest TBD - Shasta Trinity National Forest TBD
Pacific Northwest Region (Region 6) - Portland, OR March 25
Eastern Region (Region 9) Regional Office - Milwaukee, WI March 23, 2011