This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service will publish proposed changes to two regulations to implement new authorities the Forest Service received through the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018—also known as the 2018 Farm Bill—and the 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act. The legislation gives the USDA Forest Service direction and new tools to improve forest conditions, services, and safety on and around national forests and grasslands. The Forest Service is proposing several regulatory changes to use these new tools and authorities. The proposed regulations will be open for public comment for 60 days following their publication in the Federal Register.
“These new authorities help us face land management challenges by accelerating and broadening management efforts to work across boundaries” said Chief Vicki Christiansen. “These regulatory reforms represent a small part of the wealth of tools and authorities granted to us by the 2018 Farm Bill and the 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act but will undoubtedly help us in our mission to improve the value and benefits of national forests.”
The proposed changes to the two rules are as follows:
The proposed rule regarding Vegetation Management in Utility Corridors would establish options and incentives for more effective and collaborative vegetation management between the Forest Service and utilities. These utilities operate more than 3,000 transmission lines in and around national forests and grasslands. Management focus would be to remove dead and dying trees that threaten these transmission lines and power structures. Removing these hazards would reduce fire risk as well as increase the reliability of energy delivered to more than 70 million American homes.
The proposed rule regarding Communication Sites Management aims to expedite application processes for individuals and companies that want to build communication sites on national forests and grasslands. These changes would help connect rural communities as well as improve customer service to those applying for and operating under special use permits for communication sites.
Communication sites on national forests and grasslands supports more than 10,000 wireless uses. These sites support critical communications, including emergency services, railroads, utility companies, and companies that provide personal communications services as well as television and radio broadcasts.
The proposed rules can be found on the Forest Service website and in the Federal Register at https://federalregister.gov/d/2019-20741 for Vegetation Management in Utility Corridors and https://federalregister.gov/d/2019-20742 for Communication Sites Management.