This is an update to a September 12 post “Do elk need trees?” The Forest punted the issue to its forest plan revision: http://helenair.com/news/natural-resources/forest-service-withdraws-controversial-big-game-standard/article_e5e22d8b-41f3-535f-94e6-58e098c86958.html
The first draft of the proposed Helena-Lewis and Clark revised forest plan punts elk security to project-level decision making. Here’s the draft guideline: “In order to influence elk distribution on NFS lands, management actions should not reduce the amount of elk security available during the archery and rifle hunting seasons over the long-term (generally ten or more years). Short-term reductions in elk security may occur when needed to achieve other resource management objectives. Elk security should be defined and applied at a scale that is informed by interagency recommendations if available, knowledge of the specific area, and the best available scientific information.”
The Forest Service is back to writing 1970s-era “plans” that left everything up to the local ranger. I foresee lots of litigation about the validity of these individual security interpretations on each project (instead of just determining if the project is consistent with the forest plan).