Another payoff from standards in forest plans

This time mandatory standards ensure that a proposed pipeline project will protect water quality:

In Bath County, the Forest Service said an access road that impacts a wild brook trout stream, Laurel Run, “is unacceptable because it parallels the stream channel with the riparian corridor for much of its length and has numerous stream crossings.”

The letter says the access road is inconsistent with forest plan standards and best management practices concerning soil and water.

Why does the Forest Service want to get rid of standards when they revise their plans?  Do they think that some mealy-mouthed desired condition of “high quality water” in a forest plan would have the same effect?  That it would be legally sufficient to claim such vague, aspirational statements meet requirements to protect at-risk species?

2 Comments

  1. Jon, excellent point as usual! The push for more management discretion often just kicks the can down the road, or worse. Another example is the new (2012) Mexican spotted owl recovery guidelines, which were written to allow more management discretion to implement forest restoration treatments. But now they don’t have any concrete descriptions of what is and isnt allowed in protected activity centers, raising the question of what is actually protected.

  2. Which gets at some other things the Forest Service doesn’t seem to think are important. Without standard limits imposed by a forest plan, each project decision will have to be built from scratch with a much wider range of alternatives, and all of that will be subject to challenge instead of relying on the forest plan. (And people ask why Forest Service projects take so long and cost so much.)

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