Recreation Groups Want Additional Meetings on the Proposed Planning Rule

A coalition of 72 recreation groups sent a letter to the Forest Service Chief last week about recreation interests not being heard by the proposed planning rule writing team and their comments not being reflected in summary documents on the planning rule website.  The coalition of primarily hunting, fishing, and off-road vehicle interests includes such groups as the National Rifle Association, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and the National Association of Forest Service Retirees. 

The groups explain that “we do not assert that outdoor recreation is, or should be, a dominant use of all national forest lands.  But it is important and relevant to note that the Congress specifically listed outdoor recreation first in the identified mandated management responsibilities of the Forest Service.  Also noteworthy is the fact that assessments of the economic contributions of the national forests since 1992 have consistently identified outdoor recreation as the leading national economic benefit of the forests.”

The groups disagreed with a conclusion in the Fourth Planning Rule Roundtable summary that the Forest Service does not really have much ability to intentionally influence local economies, but should focus instead on the land management business it knows.  “We strongly disagree with both contentions.  Decisions regarding use of national forests, and especially decisions regarding kinds and levels of recreational uses, clearly and dramatically shape the economic health of nearby communities.  And this impact must be reflected in Forest Service planning.  There is no option under NEPA to abrogate this responsibility.  If the expertise resident within the Forest Service is incapable of meeting this responsibility, it must be found and included.  By reducing recreation opportunities or by constraining or prohibiting new recreational uses – like the initial opposition of the agency to geocaching – without considering ways to develop and apply new management protocols, the agency compromises the viability of hundreds of communities near national forests.”

“We are greatly concerned by the lack of emphasis placed upon recreation in the documents associated with the proposed new Planning Rule and will not support a final rule that fails to correct this flaw.  We intend to deliver this assessment to the public and to those representing the public if no commitment to change is made by the agency.”

The groups are asking for a meeting with the Chief, and a formal working session with the planning rule team to include provisions in the rule that requires Forest Plans to actively search out strategies to provide for and manage diverse public recreation uses.

11 thoughts on “Recreation Groups Want Additional Meetings on the Proposed Planning Rule”

  1. Hmm, an interesting “Coalition for Recreation”, for sure. Conspicuously absent are groups like the National Recreation & Park Association, American Hiking Society, American Whitewater, Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, American Camp Association, International Mountain Biking Association, International Bowhunting Organization, etc.

    Instead, it looks a lot like an outgrowth of the American Recreation Coalition which has a distinct emphasis on motorized and privatized recreation.

  2. Bill-

    But the horse folks, and hunting and fishing groups are just as legitimate recreationists, aren’t they? Certainly horses trailered to a site are not conceptually different than mountain biker carried to a site.. or are they?

    These differences are all very confusing to me, who hikes, uses outfitters, horses, etc. Also, I’m not familiar with recreation terminology- e.g., ewhat do you mean by “privatized”?

    I wonder what parts of the letter those other groups would disagree with.

    • Privatized recreation usually refers to things like KOA, Disney, many RV parks and other recreation sites that are privately owned and operated. Increasingly companies such as Recreation Resource Management Inc. and CLM Services Corporation are managing “campgrounds and other recreational facilities in National Forests and state parks under long term concession agreements.” (

  3. These groups assert that “it is important and relevant to note that the Congress specifically listed outdoor recreation first in the identified mandated management responsibilities of the Forest Service.” According to authoritative accounts, Congress listed the multiple uses in alphabetical order, precisely to avoid any relative emphasis.

    The “Coalition for Recreation in the National Forests” shares the same address as the American Recreation Coalition.

    So what is ARC? It is a trade association of businesses that sell primarily motorized outdoor recreation products.

  4. Andy- thanks for that clarification. So TRCP is a hunting group and the American Horse Council deals with horses. Are there other ideas in the letter that you don’t agree with?

  5. Sharon – Needless to say, I don’t agree with the letter’s thesis. As I’ve explained often on this blog, NFMA regulates logging. The law contains no action-forcing language in regard to recreation. Thus, for example, the Forest Service makes most of its recreation-related decisions in non-NFMA plans, e.g., Access and Travel Management Plans and Recreation Facilities Plans.

  6. Ah but Andy, as much as you might like the narrow view of NFMA, that does not seem to be where the rule is going… it seems to be going the way of a more comprehensive nature. So given that, it seems to me that the question of “how do we think about recreation in a comprehensive plan?” should be on the table.

  7. If you lead a horse to water, it will drink. If you lead a bureaucracy to water, it will write a plan that requires reams of quality and quantity data, water user focus groups, and species viability assessments. Then the agency will decide that it’s not thirsty.


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