New Forest Planning Rule seeks to restore the nation’s forests through science and collaboration
January 26, 2012
Quoting a press release, the USDA and the Forest Service carefully considered nearly 300,000 comments received on the proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement issued last February, to develop the agency’s preferred course of action for finalizing the planning rule. This is included in the PEIS released today as USDA’s preferred alternative. A notice of availability for the PEIS will be published in the Federal Register on February 3, 2012, and the Secretary will issue a record of decision selecting a final planning rule no less than 30 days afterwards.
“The most collaborative rulemaking effort in agency history has resulted in a strong framework to restore and manage our forests and watersheds and help deliver countless benefits to the American people,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Our preferred alternative will safeguard our natural resources and provide a roadmap for getting work done on the ground that will restore our forests while providing job opportunities for local communities.”
According to the Forest Service, the preferred alternative emphasizes collaboration and strengthens the role of public involvement and dialogue throughout the planning process. It also would require the use of the best available scientific information to inform decisions.
Highlights of the preferred alternative include:
“This approach requires plans to conserve and restore watersheds and habitats while strengthening community collaboration during the development and implementation of individual plans,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “Under our preferred alternative, plan revisions would take less time, cost less money, and provide stronger protections for our lands and water. Finalizing a new rule will move us forward in managing our forests and grasslands, and will create or sustain jobs and income for local communities around the country.”
"We value the input we have received from the public throughout this process," said Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Harris Sherman. "This preferred alternative is a positive framework that will allow the Forest Service to more effectively restore our natural resources, support the economy, and adapt to changing conditions.”
The planning rule provides the framework for Forest Service land management plans for the 155 forests, 20 grasslands and 1 prairie in the National Forest System. A final rule, when selected, would update planning procedures that have been in place since 1982, creating a modern planning process that reflects the latest science and knowledge of how to create and implement effective land management plans. Revisions of the land management plans would take less time and cost less money under the preferred alternative than under the current 30-year-old procedures, while achieving better results for people and the environment.
Continuing the strong emphasis USDA and the Forest Service have placed on public engagement throughout this rule-making effort, USDA is forming a Federal Advisory Committee to advise the Secretary on implementation of the final rule. The call for nominations for this committee was published in the Federal Register on January 5, 2012 and will close on February 21, 2012.
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