Forest Planning

Introduction: Our Purpose and Mission



Forest ecosystems must be considered at various scales (or sizes of areas).  Broad scale and landscape scale assessments are conducted for the purpose examining ecosystem conditions and evaluating ecosystem needs.

Broad Scale Assessments

Broad scale assessments are often conducted across individual forest boundaries and in cooperation with adjacent landholders. The Planning Unit coordinates the assessment of conditions and trends across forest boundaries and reporting of those factors that will affect planning, such as those in the Southern Appalachian Assessment (SAA), Ozark/Ouachita Highland Assessment (OOHA), and the Southern Forest Resource Assessment (SFRA). Common concerns and issues are then identified to guide the planning on each Forest in the area and Forest Planning is coordinated.

Landscape Scale Assessments

Landscape scale assessments are often conducted on individual national forests or ranger districts to compare existing conditions with desired conditions from the forest land management plan, and to identify specific needs and opportunities for resource management.  An example of this type of assessment is done on the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky (see this link to Landscape Analysis).  Similar assessments were completed for watershed on the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia (see links to Watershed Assessments for 2005).  A landscape scale assessment was done to address Red-Cockaded Woodpecker habitat management on the Apalachicola National Forest in Florida.

Forest Planning

Forest Plans undergo significant amendments or major revisions in compliance with the National Forest Management Act of 1976 at least every 10-15 years.  The Forest Planning Schedule for Southern Forests displays where your national forest is in this process. Plans can also be amended or revised (using a public NEPA process) at any time to respond to changed resource conditions, social issues and values, or economic climates; or if monitoring reveals that the Plans are no longer appropriate in some way.

On June 30, 2009, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued a decision in Citizens for a Better Forestry v. United States Department of Agriculture ordering the Forest Service to cease the implementation and use of the 2008 planning rule. The Forest Service is complying with the Court’s decision.  On August 14, 2009 Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack discussed his vision for management of the nation’s forests.  As part of his speech the Secretary announced that he had asked the Forest Service to prepare a new planning rule.  A summary on the status of the planning rule and plan revision efforts in the Southern Region along with a set of questions and answers is provided at "Forest Planning Rule Status".

Environmental Analysis

All forest plans and projects affecting the environment are the subject of both public and agency analysis.  The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 governs how we administer that process.  The Planning Unit in the Regional Office oversees that process.  You can find lists of proposed projects for any national forest by visiting their internet web site and finding their Schedule of Proposed Actions (SOPA) or through the national index of SOPAs.

Legal and Regulatory Requirements

The planning unit oversees Region 8 compliance with:

  • the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) and NFMA implementation regulations (36 CFR 219);

  • the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the NEPA implementation regulations (Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Regulations);

  • and the Forest Service Appeal Regulations.


To keep our plans current and adaptable to change over time, projects and management activities designed to implement these plans are monitored and evaluated to determine how well the plans are working. The best place to view the most recent Monitoring and Evaluation Reports is on the Forests' own web sites.  Some of the Annual monitoring and evaluation reports are found here.


Administrative Appeals procedures, established by the Forest Service, help us assure that the public has a voice in national forest management, even to the point in time where direct actions are taken on the ground. Individuals can express their concerns about planned actions by appealing decisions to take those actions. Current appeals can be viewed on this site.


A growing list of documents, other than the Forest Plans (which can be found above), are requested by the public.  We will try to make the more common ones available here on this site.  If you would like to see certain documents here please send an email to the address below.

Vegetation Management Decisions

In 1989 and 1990, the Southern Region of the USDA Forest Service completed three Environmental Impact Statements which examined the environmental effects of five vegetation management methods. The Records of Decisions (ROD) for each of the EIS were implemented by amending the forest plans covered by the analysis.