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Forests Initiative and Healthy Forests Restoration Act
Interim Field Guide
Title IV—Insect Infestations and Related Diseases
This title focuses primarily on developing an accelerated program of basic and applied research, development, and technology transfer to combat infestations by forest-damaging insects and associated diseases. The act notes the need for cooperation with colleges and universities, State agencies, and private landowners to carry out the program. Although healthier forests should be less susceptible to wildland fire, this title emphasizes methods to prevent and suppress infestations of insects and related diseases, utilization options for infested trees, and restoration of forest ecosystems.
In Section 402 of the HFRA, applied silvicultural assessment means “any vegetative or other treatment carried out for information gathering and research purposes.” Applied silvicultural assessment includes timber harvesting, thinning, prescribed burning, pruning, and any combination of those activities. Although applied treatments—including new insect attractants—are not specifically listed, they also will be of interest. Eight specific forest-damaging insects are listed, including: southern pine beetle, mountain pine beetle, spruce bark beetle, gypsy moth, hemlock wooly adelgid, emerald ash borer, red oak borer, and white oak borer. To address other species that might become serious forest pests, the title includes the language “and such other insects as may be identified by the Secretary.” The term Secretary refers to the USDA and DOI. Both departments are covered by Title IV.
Section 403 of the HFRA establishes an accelerated program to:
These activities will be conducted under the auspices of both the Secretary of Agriculture, acting through the USDA Forest Service for NFS land, and the Secretary of the Interior, acting through appropriate offices of the U.S. Geological Survey for Federal land administered by the DOI, in cooperation with colleges; universities; Federal, State, and local agencies; and private and industrial landowners.
Section 404 provides for information gathering and research. The language provides for field studies, or applied silvicultural assessments,on Federal land that is “at risk of infestation by, or is infested with, forest-damaging insects.” Within the USDA Forest Service, the applied silvicultural assessments may be conducted under the category of administrative studies (FSM 1991), research studies (FSM 4072.3), or special pest management projects (FSM 3440; FSH 3409.11, chapter 50). All three options provide the opportunity for collaboration among USDA Forest Service Research and Development, National Forest System, and State and Private Forestry. Within the U.S. Geological Survey, the applied silvicultural assessments occur under the auspices of research studies.
Each applied silvicultural assessment should be covered by a study plan, whether the assessment is a research study, administrative study, or special pest management project. Research personnel should be involved in study plan development, in any case. Table 3 includes the references for further information on the specific types of studies.
Each silvicultural assessment authorized under this title must be peer reviewed by “scientific experts,” including non-Federal experts. Existing peer review processes may be used. Peer review is not specified under FSM 1991 for administrative studies. However, peer review is required to use HFRA authorities. Table 4 includes references for peer review of study plans for research studies.
Section 404 carries a requirement for public notice and comment and, “where significant interest is expressed,” for multiparty monitoring under Section 102(g)(5) of the HFRA. Persons using this authority must provide public notice of each proposed applied silvicultural assessment. For guidance on public notice and comment within the USDA Forest Service, refer to FSH 1909.15—Environmental Policy and Procedures Handbook, chapter 11: Conduct Scoping.
This section includes a provision for a categorical exclusion for certain applied silvicultural assessment and research treatments, with a limit of 1,000 acres for an assessment or treatment. This provision is the title’s major new authority. The assessment or research treatments may be categorically excluded from documentation in an EIS or EA under NEPA with the provisions that:
Tracking acres under this title will be a joint effort for USDA Forest Service Research and Development and the U.S. Geological Survey.
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