Rep. Walden et al. on the Planning Rule

This story, with the letter, is linked here
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Walden Leads Forest Planning Rule Foes: Sees Good Chance of More Long Legal Battles

– Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said Friday he is leading a bipartisan chorus of House members in protesting the Obama administration’s national forest planning rule, saying it will lead to more litigation that will divert limited agency resources from badly needed job creation in rural communities.

On Feb. 14, the U.S. Forest Service issued its proposed “National Forest System Land Management Planning Rule.” The rule will govern the planning process for establishing management plans for the nation’s national forests and national grasslands.

This is the fourth attempt to implement a new planning rule since 2000. This proposed rule would have far reaching impacts on permitting processes and the current multiple-use standard for National Forest System lands. “This will place additional burdens on multiple use industries, including grazing, timber, recreation, and resource development,” Walden said in a news release.

Walden and Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), organized a bipartisan letter signed by 60 members to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to tell him that this new rule fails to avoid the pitfalls that have put the Forest Service in seemingly endless litigation for the last three decades. Taken together, the signers of the letter represent 77.7 percent of the nation’s 193 million acres of federal forest land.

“The proposed rule moves the agency further away from a simple, concise rule that can be understood by both agency personnel and the public and implemented with a minimum amount of contention among stakeholder groups,” the lawmakers wrote. “By adding more process requirements and introducing new technical terms, you are increasing the likelihood that like previous attempts at reform, the proposed rule will be tied up in courts for years.”

“We foresee limited federal dollars available for U.S. Forest Service operations being consumed by these processes to the detriment of the health of our federal forests and continuation of multiple uses of our federal resources,” the lawmakers wrote. “This, in turn, will reduce the number of jobs in our already distressed rural communities and further limit the amount of American wood and fiber available to aid our economic recovery.”

The lawmakers also noted in the letter that the rule will shift significant costs onto already burdened taxpayers in the form of legal fees and settlements.

On January 18, President Obama issued an executive order that requires agencies to assure that the costs of a rule are justified by the benefits achieved and that the regulations impose the least burden on society.

“We do not believe that the proposed rule complies with the President’s executive order,” the bipartisan group of lawmakers concluded.

They then asked the Forest Service chief to redraft the rule to make it “simpler and less encumbered with process,” and pointed out that it’s possible to meet the goals of the agency without bogging it down and further separating the public lands from the many taxpayers that depend on them for sustainable clean air, clean water, recreation, harvesting of fish and wildlife, grazing, and timber production.

4 Comments

  1. With everyone trashing the new rule (who has commented in support of it?), I wonder if the Obama administration will get the message? So far, the administration has appeared happy to oversee the public involvement process, while leaving the actual rule-making up to Forest Service WO planners. Left to their own devices, the planners have merrily led the agency down the primrose path of guaranteeing planners’ jobs forever with endless additional processes.

    I suppose I should send Rep. Walden a link to the K.I.S.S. rule.

    • Why not? Planning rules make strange..er… bedfellows.
      I don’t think it’s a desire for process, so much as the desire to make everyone happy. Which they won’t be. What Greek myth does writing planning rules remind you of?

      Hint:

      • Indeed.

        But knowing that everyone is going to be unhappy anyway, why not do so at small, rather than large, expense? The cynic answers that the greater the cost of planning, the greater the budget planners can justify, which means job security for planners, administrators, and the like.

        The thing is, everyone, and I mean everyone, who has ever studied or practiced the art of governance knows this bureaucratic behavioral fact. The difference between the current administration and some of its long-ago predecessors, is that these folks either don’t know or want to spend more regardless of the outcome.

  2. We need more Greg Waldens in Congress! Heck, we need more Greg Waldens in Oregon. However it is to be worded, the heavy lifting needs to take place in Congress. Providing additional job security for the environmental industry and its lawyers is not what is needed at this time — rural jobs, actively managed forestlands and wildfires, and increased beauty, safety, and access to our nation’s forests are all far more important to almost all of us.

    How to have local decision-making opportunities? Let a professional forester do their job without having to hire a lawyer at every turn? Encourage regular landscape-scale prescribed burns in lieu of chaotic decisions made during the course of an out-of-control (by definition) wild fire?

    Those are the types of questions I am hoping Congress begins to address some day. Walden is right. This isn’t a good time to fund more “planning” or testing some new “rule” in the courts. There is a lot of work needing to be done, most of it is profitable and sends money to treasuries, and numerous existing plans and common sense can already identify hundreds of needed starting points.

    It is time to go out in the woods and begin doing something positive; the hour for sitting around offices and courtrooms debating acronyms and new ecological phrases should have ended long ago. This plan can only prolong the misery. Good for Greg Walden.

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