Denver Post Editorial – Balancing Act (Media Watch #5)

This is the first editorial I’ve seen..

Editorial: Forest blueprint is a balancing act
The management plan is the product of significant collaboration. We hope it stands the test of time.
Posted: 01/28/2012 01:00:00 AM MST

By The Denver Post

The Obama administration’s proposed blueprint for management of the nation’s 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands is a much-needed update that provides a sound guide for public land use and protection.

This broadly written document offers strong safeguards for the nation’s drinking water, about 20 percent of which comes from national forest lands, while allowing for recreational and commercial uses.

It’s a balancing act, to be sure, but one crafted with significant input from a variety of interested parties.

Harris Sherman, U.S. undersecretary for natural resources, told us the new blueprint was a consensus document, the product of 2 ½ years of work, dozens of meetings and some 300,000 comments.

It is especially important for Colorado, which is home to 14.5 million acres of national forest land.

A planning document can be an esoteric thing, so we asked Sherman for an example of how one of the proposed changes in management could play out in a Colorado national forest.

He told us the new planning approach was a flexible one that provides for feedback and retooling if, for instance, an invasive species were to appear on forest land or there was a bark beetle outbreak.

The current management rule, which dates back to 1982, is far more cumbersome and doesn’t easily allow for management changes on the fly.

Typically, forest managers wait until their management plan expires, which happens every 15 years, before modifying practices.

Each local plan takes into account multiple uses such as timber, grazing and oil and gas exploration. Recreation, in particular, is emphasized. National forest areas get 173 million visitors annually and generate some $13 billion in local economic activity annually.

Colorado’s ski area-rich White River National Forest is the nation’s busiest, with nearly 10 million annual visits. Not counting skier visits, our Arapaho-Roosevelt forest, with 6 million visits annually, is the busiest.

As local management plans are created and revised, managers are directed to protect sustainable recreation and ensure habitat conditions are right for hunting and fishing.

Furthermore, the proposed forest management rule pays special attention to restoring the nation’s forests, many of which are dense and susceptible to disease and fire.

One criticism of the rule is that it gives considerable discretion to local forest managers. However, we see value in having decisions made by people who live in a particular area and know the land well.

The proposed management rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register in a week, and could take effect this year.

To be sure, forest management rules have a contentious history of litigation. The last two proposed during the Bush administration were shot down by courts.

We hope this one, a solid approach crafted with considerable collaboration, stands the test of time.

Read more: Editorial: Forest blueprint is a balancing act – The Denver Post

Planning Rule Editorial Boxscore

1. Denver Post balanced – value in local decisions

Note from Sharon: I bolded the sentence about local managers. Perhaps the difference between our interior west press and others is that they have personal knowledge of these managers and the complex nature of the issues they deal with.

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