K.I.S.S. in Rule Form, Part I

Our task is to write regulations required by NFMA. Having proposed a framework in previous posts (K.I.S.S. and K.I.S.S. II), it’s time to put rubber to the road. Here’s the introductory framework. What have I missed?

36 CFR 219.1: Purpose and principles.

(a) The rules in this subpart set forth the process for revising land management plans for units of the National Forest System as required by the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974, as amended. Land management plans shall be revised when conditions in a unit have significantly changed, but no less frequently than every fifteen years.

(b) A land management plan revision shall:

(1) Decide the vegetation management and timber harvest sale program and the proportion of probable methods of tree removal timber harvest (Sec. __);

(2) Include an assessment of new information and changed circumstances since adoption of the previous land management plan or revision thereof (Sec. __);

(3) Be prepared by an interdisciplinary team (Sec. __);

(4) Be based upon inventories appropriate to inform the decisions made by the plan revision (Sec. __);

(5) Involve the public in its promulgation (Sec. __);

(6) Provide for diversity of plant and animal communities and preserve the diversity of tree species (Sec. __);

(7) Ensure that, subject to valid existing rights, all outstanding and future permits, contracts, cooperative agreements, and other instruments for occupancy and use of affected lands are consistent with the revised plan (Sec. __); and,

(78) Review previous decisions to classify lands as suited or not suited for timber production if the prior classification decision is older than ten years (Sec. __).

11 thoughts on “K.I.S.S. in Rule Form, Part I”

  1. Andy- when you lay it out like that, it seems like the Rule is about how to do 1).
    So if your forest doesn’t have a timber sale program, you would not need a plan. Am I understanding that correctly?

    So I wonder how lawyers would feel about this ..

    and I think you are elegantly dealing with the tension between Useful Things for the FS to do vis a vis planning (the kind of thing we’ve been talking about in terms of Adaptive Governance) and Things Required by NFMA.

    I expect we will be exploring that tension throughout the process of developing a new rule.

  2. Sharon,

    Yes, NFMA requires only one piece of content in a forest plan — the planned timber sale program. Everything else is either process or parameters logging must meet. But, today, although the FS still sells timber (albeit, not much), most (>50%?) of trees removed are not sold. The FS either pays to have the trees cut (e.g., stewardship contract) or burns them.

    To accommodate these changes in how logging is financed, I’ve amended (a)(1) in the post to read as follows:

    (1) Decide the vegetation management and timber harvest sale program, including the proportion of probable methods of tree removal timber harvest (Sec. __);

    As to your second point . . . all forests now have forest plans. Those plans don’t just magically disappear. They remain in place until revised. Thus, the NFMA rule I propose directs the process of plan revision — not original plan promulgation because there are no original plans left to promulgate.

    (b)(2) — the assessment of changed circumstances — is the analysis process that determines what needs to be revised in the existing plan. In other words, this isn’t “zero-based” planning that assumes everything is up for grabs all over again. Instead, the FS revises only those plan components that need revision. Examples include accommodating new wilderness designations, which would make lands ineligible to be included in the timber sale program. Or accommodating a new endangered species recovery plan or critical habitat designation, which might add parameters to logging.

  3. Reading NMFA and its history, it is clear that it was all about timber for timber’s (cutting trees for forest products) and making sure that the FS did not get carried away and do that to the exclusion of other values.

    It wasn’t about cutting for fuel treatments, or ecological restoration, or any other of a variety of purposes. strictly speaking a timber sale program is a timber sale program, not a fuels treatment program where few trees might get sold.

    It just seems odd to devote all this attention to vegetation management, when many forests have more activity in recreation or oil and gas development. I guess that concern is what must have inexorably led to the Plan that is Desirably Comprehensive but Unable to Be Completed in a Timely Manner.

  4. Andy – here are some miscellaneous thoughts.

    Doesn’t NFMA require a determination of a forest management “system”? (Sharon – it’s probably more than just timber). In today’s world, I’m wondering if that requires an integrated look at all the components of veg management: timber harvest, fuels treatment, prescribed fire, integrated pest management, special forest products, biofuels, etc.

    NFMA has a “reforest the world” orientation, which needs to be reconciled with the reality of forests shaped by disturbance processes.

    The section of NFMA inserted by the Church committee (i.e. the Church guidelines at (g)(2)(E) and (F)) need to be standards. You list these in your next post. I think the related general principle is that veg management needs to be balanced with other resources. Some of the standards are already in Forest Plans and won’t need to be revisited (the rule needs to define what a revision means), but some of these standards will need to be updated. For instance, the effect of veg management on watersheds needs to account for fire and other changes. Also, the reasons that clearcutting might be optimal might change.

    I’m also still wondering about the RPA connection. Does the strategic plan have a role?

  5. K.I.S.S. in Rule Form, Part 2 speaks to vegetation management more broadly than timber sales.

    As regards “forest management systems,” I think Congress was referring to silvicultural systems. The debate-of-the-day pitted even-aged against uneven-aged silviculture with each side marshaling its scientists and data.

    NFMA speaks to reforestation in two places. First, the law bars logging on land that would take more than five years to reforest. This provision (and its even-aged logging cousin at (g)(3)((F)(v)) sought to ban the practice of timber mining. The 1982 rules implemented this provision as a screening criterion in the determination of land suitable for timber production; not as a requirement that cut-over land be reforested in five years (ask Doug MacCleery if you want the full story — they’re his words).

    Second, the law establishes an “appropriate forest cover” policy and requires the FS to report to Congress “all lands” where the “objectives of land management plans indicate the need to reforest areas that have been cut-over or otherwise denuded or deforested . . . ” This provision does not require any actual reforestation and, since it is linked to forest plan objectives, the FS can accommodate ecological disturbance processes as it revises forest plans.

    So whatever happened to the RPA Program? This obituary summarizes why it appears to no longer exist. As far as I can tell, what used to be the RPA Program is now somewhere in the President’s Budget sent to Congress. Meanwhile, FIA continues the separate RPA Assessment on auto-pilot.

  6. I think the RPA requirements were subsumed by the GPRA requirements. The Forest Service has a National Strategic Plan that is intended to meet these requirements. However, planners have been reluctant to directly tie to the National Plan in their Forest Plans. What about changing the National Strategic Plan to have chapters that incorporate place based planning and the other general stuff we want a forest strategic plan to do?

    Regarding forest management “systems”, you may be correct that it refers to silviculture, but we also need to reconcile this idea with the language at (g)(3)(A) which requires the rule to specify guidelines to “insure consideration of the economic and environmental aspects of various systems of renewable resource management, including the related systems of silviculture and protection of forest resources, to provide for outdoor recreation (including wilderness), range, timber, watershed, wildlife, and fish.”

    As far as reforestation, there is also a requirement in subsection (k) for a 10-year finding, and if lands are still unsuitable, the Secretary “shall return these lands to timber production whenever he determines that conditions have changed so that they have become suitable for timber production.”

  7. I agree with Andy as I read the Wilkinson book, it was about silvicultural systems and “forest management” in the sense of what we would now call “timber management.” That is how those words were used in those days.

    I don’t understand why “forests shaped by disturbance processes” would conflict with “objectives of the lmp indicate the need to reforest”. Suppose there is a big fire and trees start to grow back but are caught by another fire. So the seed sources are all dead and it could take hundreds of years to seed in from the trees outside the fire area. It is OK for LMP objectives to hurry the establishment of tree cover, for soil protection or wildlife cover or whatever..

    Unless the idea is that “no intervention with disturbance processes is best” but that goes back to “best for whom?” and “who decides?”

    Andy- I worked on the ill-fated 1995 RPA program (never published) and my memory is the concept of the RPA strategic plan was subsumed into the FS GPRA plan. Here is a link to the current FS strategic plan.

  8. To be clear, the law leaves reforestation decisions to the Forest Service’s discretion. The FS can reforest after logging or fire, or not, as it thinks best.

    Sharon – Thanks for the link to the GPRA plan. I did a quick search on “raw logs” and “export” to see if its content matches up with RPA’s requirements (RPA requires, among other things, that the Program include recommendations that “evaluate the impact of the export and import of raw logs upon domestic timber supplies and prices.”) No hits. So, whatever else the GPRA plan is, it ain’t the RPA Program.

  9. My memory was that we worked on it for years, the new administration at the time did not like what we had come up with, and that no one from Congress seemed to care whether we did it or not. I guess that means it died a natural bureaucratic death.. “let’s stop doing it and see if anyone notices.” Perhaps you, Andy, are the first to notice!
    However, it should be noted that my memory is not what it once was.


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