U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service today released its proposed land and resource management planning rule, which will govern the nation’s 155 national forests and 20 grasslands by emphasizing public concerns and scientific knowledge in a simpler, more responsive planning process.
“The national forests and grasslands are for everyone,” said Forest Service Associate Chief Sally Collins. “The proposed rule is designed to more effectively involve the public and to better harmonize the environmental, social and economic benefits of America’s greatest natural resource--our forests and grasslands.”
The proposed planning rule retains the basic principles from the 2000 rule, which emphasizes meaningful public involvement, sustainability, use of science, and monitoring and evaluation. In addition, the proposal provides forest managers with more flexibility to tailor analyses to the specific characteristics and challenges presented by their forests and grasslands. It also eliminates most of the procedural requirements and redundancies in the planning process, which could allow plans to be completed in a third of the time.
The proposed rule gives two options for the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (NFMA) requirement for diversity of plant and animal communities. The Forest Service plans to host a workshop on the two proposed options for the public during the comment period.
In conjunction with the release of the proposed rule, the Forest Service is issuing a comprehensive study of the costs of land and resource management planning. The study predicts the proposed 2002 planning rule will save roughly 30 percent from the 2000 rule.
“These savings can be used to address critical areas, such as wildfire prevention, watershed restoration, and recreation facility maintenance,” said Collins. “The Forest Service wants to improve its planning processes to spend its available resources doing real work on the land and not disproportionately on planning and analysis.”
The NFMA requires the development, periodic revision and amendment of forest and grassland plans. Existing plans for these lands were developed under regulations adopted in 1982. There are currently 39 revisions and numerous amendments underway pursuant to the 1982 regulations.
The proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register in December and will include a 90-day public comment period. The proposed rule and related documents are available at www.fs.fed.us/emc/nfma.