Alaska Among First Selected to Implement New FS Planning Rule
February 01, 2012
This announcement follows Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s news last week of the agency’s intended course of action for finalizing a planning rule, included as the “preferred alternative” in the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the National Forest System Land Management Planning Rule.
“These forests will demonstrate straight out of the gate what we’ve been talking about in terms of collaboration,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “People will see that under a new rule, public engagement increases and process decreases, all while provide stronger protections for our lands and water.”
The new rule is designed to reduce time, costs and litigation by incorporating more collaboration, region-wide science and other lessons learned over the decades since the current rule was put in place in 1982. Of the 120 plans in the national forest and grassland system, 65 are currently out of date and many are over 20 years old.
U. S. Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) commented on today's announcement noting that Alaska’s Chugach National Forest is included, Begich said in a prepared statement, “It’s been a long time in the making, but if we can reduce litigation and put more money into managing resources rather than fighting in court over plans, we’ll all be better off. I support cutting costs and reducing the extraordinary length of time these plans take to produce."
“Given our long and tortured experience with the Tongass Land Management Plan, Alaska needs a process that truly balances protections for forests, water, and wildlife with support for the economic vitality of our rural communities. Hopefully the new rule will get us there, but I will be watching to see that it performs as advertised," said Begich.
“Alaskans are an opinionated bunch. I encourage folks from Southcentral to turnout and get involved when the Chugach planning process starts in the coming months,” said Begich.
Quoting today's Forest Service announcement, the preferred alternative is grounded in science and public input, and seeks to deliver stronger protections for forests, water, and wildlife while supporting the economic vitality of our rural communities. It requires providing opportunities for public involvement and collaboration throughout all stages of the planning process, as well as opportunities for Tribal consultation and coordination with state and local governments and other federal agencies.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, these eight national forests were selected because of their urgent need for plan revisions, the importance of the benefits they provide, and the strong collaborative networks already in place. They will emphasize strong science, collaboration, strengthened protections for land, wildlife and water, and opportunities for sustainable recreation and other multiple uses that support jobs and economic vitality as they begin the process to revise their plans.
The planning rule provides the framework for U.S. Forest Service land management plans for the 155 forests and 20 grasslands. USDA will issue a record of decision selecting a final planning rule no less than 30 days following publication of the PEIS in the Federal Register this Friday, February 3, 2012. Early adopter forests will begin the plan revision process in the months following a final decision.
Members of the public will have a number of opportunities to continue to be involved after a final planning rule is selected, in addition to participating in the plan revision process for the national forests announced today. The Forest Service also will be revising and issuing new directives for public notice and comment that will provide further guidance in implementing a final rule.
A new federal advisory committee for implementation of a final planning rule will provide another opportunity to collaborate in National Forest System land management planning. Interested members of the public are encouraged to seek nomination to the committee: the call for nominations was published in the Federal Register on January 5, 2012 and will close on February 21, 2012.
A final rule planning 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 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.
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