More Voices on the Planning Rule: CEQ Blog and Livestock Folks

Here’s the link.

Praise for Charting a New Direction on National Forests

Posted by Tom Tidwell on February 01, 2012 at 11:00 AM EST

Editor’s Note: Tom Tidwell is Chief of the U.S. Forest Service.

Last week, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and I announced our intent for finalizing a new planning rule to govern management of the National Forest System. The 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands are critical to President Obama’s vision of an economy built to last, providing clean air, clean water, habitat for wildlife, opportunities for healthy outdoor recreation, jobs and growth in rural communities, and a range of other benefits for all Americans.

When finalized, a new rule will replace outdated procedures that have been in place since 1982 that no longer reflect the best science, public values, or agency expertise. Land management plan revisions under the preferred alternative would cost less money and take less time, while protecting and restoring our forests, water and wildlife and supporting vibrant rural communities.

We listened to input from the public to develop the preferred course of action, included as the preferred alternative in the final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement released last week. We hosted the most collaborative and transparent rule-making process in agency history, and carefully considered more than 300,000 public comments.

Here is what some of our partners and interested members of the public have said about the preferred alternative:

“In the early 1980’s, I was a forest planner attempting to implement what was then the new planning rule. I believed it was a good rule, and for its time, it was. But the 1982 rule is out of date for today’s circumstances. Today, the Forest Service is focused on restoration, including restoring fire dependent ecosystems to a more natural condition. This new preferred alternative protects our natural resources, promotes sustainable recreation and safeguards our precious drinking water while allowing for timber harvest and facilitating restoration.

The preferred alternative modernizes the planning process. It promotes a collaborative approach where people are engaged throughout the entire process all the way to implementation. It is the outcome of extensive public engagement, including hundreds of thousands of comments and thousands of people participating in roundtable discussions around the country. When the final decision is published, the Forest Service needs an opportunity to implement a new planning rule for the benefit of the American people.”

~ Dale Bosworth, Former Chief of the U.S. Forest Service

“It is vital that the Planning Rule be modernized to enrich the contribution of a local National Forest or Grassland, within the context of its statutory mandates and obligations, to natural resource conservation at the landscape level. The preferred alternative will facilitate the contribution of the individual National Forest or Grassland to statewide and regional fish and wildlife conservation objectives.

A modernized rule provides for better integration of National Forest System management with other landscape conservation initiatives such as the Migratory Bird Joint Ventures, National Fish Habitat Partnerships, and in facilitating fish, wildlife and plant adaptation response to climate change. The State Fish and Wildlife Agencies look forward to greater successful delivery of conservation on the ground through implementation of the new planning rule.”

~ Gary Taylor, Legislative Director, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

“The National Forest System is a haven for Americans seeking a stronger connection with their families and nature through healthy outdoor recreational pursuits. The preferred alternative will support these sustainable recreational experiences, and will increase the involvement of the public in planning efforts.

We expect this new collaborative process to result in better, more broadly supported outcomes for these treasured public lands and their enjoyment. We look forward to working with the U.S. Forest Service on the first plan revisions carried out under a new rule when it is finalized in the near future.”

~ Kevin Colburn, National Stewardship Director, American Whitewater

“Forests cover one-third of the United States; store and filter half the nation’s water supply; provide jobs to more than a million wood products workers; absorb nearly 20% of U.S. carbon emissions; offer 650 million acres of recreational lands that generate well over $15 billion in economic activity annually; and provide habitat for thousands of species across the country. Yet our forests today face a “perfect storm” of threats, including catastrophic wildfires, outbreaks of pests and disease, poorly planned roads, increasing development, climate change, and policies that lead to gridlock rather than restoration.

A new Forest Planning Rule is sorely needed, and the preferred alternative is a positive proposal based on extensive public participation. It will allow plans to be developed more efficiently. The preferred alternative encourages restoration treatments that are needed to catch up to the problems our forests face. And it strengthens science requirements, giving science a clear role that can bring stakeholders together to strengthen long-term forest conservation. Most people born in 1982 have kids by now; it’s time for a new generation of Forest Planning, too.”

~ Laura McCarthy, Senior Forest Policy Lead, The Nature Conservancy

Livestock Groups Find US Forest Service Planning Rule Unworkable
Fri, 2012-01-27 14:33
NCBA Release

The Public Lands Council (PLC), the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) said the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service ignored concerns of industry and members of Congress, disregarded federal statute and defied logic in its preferred alternative forest planning rule, which according to a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement released by USDA on Jan. 26, 2012, will be issued as the final rule in 30 days. John Falen, PLC president and Nevada rancher, said the alternative plan is very similar to the proposed planning rule released as a draft in early 2011 that would have devastating long-term impacts on ranchers’ ability to access and responsibly manage the land and its resources.

“Rather than listening to concerns from those of us who have devoted our livelihoods to raising livestock on federal lands, the Forest Service is continuing down a path with this forest planning rule that will have long-term, chilling effects on my ability to do my job,” Falen said. “If implemented, this final rule will thwart multiple-uses and will have rippling effects on the health of rural economies by shifting the focus from multiple-use to non-use and ‘preservation’ on the 155 forests and 20 grasslands that constitute the National Forest System.”

Margaret Soulen Hinson, ASI president and Idaho producer, said ASI, PLC and NCBA are extremely disappointed that the Forest Service opted to retain the requirement to “maintain viable populations of species of conservation concern” in the preferred alternative forest plan. She said the term “maintain viable population” does not appear in federal statute and has already proven a problem under the current planning rule, as it is ill-defined and nearly impossible to achieve. Soulen Hinson said there is no scientific consensus on what level of any given population is “viable” or how it is to be managed and added that the new rule expands the provision beyond vertebrates to all species, including fungus and moss.

NCBA President and Montana cattleman Bill Donald said many aspects of the draft rule, which NCBA, PLC and ASI found unworkable and commented on, are still included in the preferred alternative planning rule. Specifically, Donald said the requirement that the agency use the “best available science” would likely incite litigation. He added that the creation of a new category of protected species, completely unrelated to Endangered Species Act called “species of conservation concern” and determined at the whim of the regional forester, will negatively impact the livestock industry’s ability to access forest lands to raise healthy animals. Donald said the modified alternative is in ways worse than the draft rule.

“It seems that the Forest Service is intent on locking-up the forest system and locking-out ranchers from land that we have responsibly managed for decades,” Donald said. “The Forest Service needs to scrap this aberration and work with multiple-use industries and members of Congress on a planning rule that truly will preserve the health and sustainability of forest lands across the country.”

Donald, Falen and Soulen Hinson said NCBA, PLC and ASI support certain aspects of the rule, such as the requirement that individuals who object to plans and plan amendments must have filed formal comments during the public comment period. They said this provision will prevent “radical environmental litigators” from purposefully abstaining from involvement until the time is right to sue.

Note from Sharon:
The strongest voices I have seen against the new rule have been this group, NRDC and Center for Biological Diversity. An unlikely combination, and for different reasons, but it’s clear that the vast majority of groups across the map, despite some concerns, are willing to give this new rule a try. This says a lot about the effort and the people who developed the rule, because I’m sure it wasn’t easy to find that middle ground.

11 thoughts on “More Voices on the Planning Rule: CEQ Blog and Livestock Folks”

  1. It’s great that “the vast majority of groups across the map, despite some concerns, are willing to give this new rule a try.” What will really matter though is whether or not those who strongly dislike the new rule are willing to litigate and whether or not they can win in court.

    Any bets on which, if any, party might be so inclined?

    There’s also the possibility that in the event of “regime change” next November, a Romney or Gingrich administration might be convinced to modify the rule.

    Since it has become politically incorrect to have a pool for predicting annual wildland fire acres, perhaps we could have a pool for when the first forest plan done under the new rule will be signed.

  2. Jim says, “…perhaps we could have a pool for when the first forest plan done under the new rule will be signed.”

    Maybe we ought to set up a pool betting for (against) survival of the rule first. Many attempts since 1982 have not survived. Why should we to be optimistic this time around?

    • I am optimistic because it is a “D” administration, and so the argument that “we need to litigate because the evil “R”s have done yet another bad thing” is gone. Who litigated 2005 and 2008?

      Although my memory is increasingly fuzzy, I think it wasn’t a court case that brought down the 2000 but rather the unworkability, as perceived by the agency and others. Perhaps others could help here.

      So if there were R’s next time, they could possibly modify the rule, but they might well wait until the early adopters had some time under their belts. To me the FACA committee is the greatest part because it enables some adaptation to things that don’t and do work, without re-partisanizing the issue. Plans and planning rules, and perhaps all of life, are not managed in the best way through a partisan lens. In my opinion.

      • It’s easy to forget because everyone is using its transition provisions back to the 1982 rule, but the 2000 rule is the one that’s legally in effect. Correct?

        • I believe so. We use the “transition provisions of the 2000” which are the provisions of the 1982, so for shorthand many of us just say “the ongoing plans are under the 1982 rule”. We really should say “provisions” every time to be accurate.

          Hopefully, we should only have to say this for less than 30 more days…

  3. Also, the quality of the plan and the length of time it takes, to me, is a function of a) the rule, b) the directives, c) the management of the process by the forest and the region, d) the behavior of stakeholders and cooperators. Please feel free to add other variables. My point being “producing good plans” is the objective and a rule is only a piece of the action.

  4. I’m not going to bet on whether or not there is litigation. But, if there is a suit, I nominate the Center for Biological Diversity as “Most Likely to Sue.” And I don’t think they care if it’s the Rs or the Ds doing the rule-writing.

    • I agree with your point about CBD, R’s and D’s.

      Here’s a quote from the Bevington book p. 179 about CBD’s strategies. (about spotted owl litigation)

      As Suckling explained, ” At the end of the day , the event that secured the victory was a negotiation . The suit shut everything down. The suit forced the negotiation. But you know, no judge ever said the timber harvest must decline by 94%. All the judges every say is “Forest Service, your decision was bad, render a new decision.” That’s all they’re empowered to do. In the short term, they can issue an injunction. If you want permanent policy change, you can’t do that through the courts. So what happens is that the courts give you the muscle and the courts create the social crisis. Then you’ve got to negotiate a long term solution. I think that that’s one of the areas the Center has actually been consistently misunderstood. I think our greatest skill is to be able to negotiate very powerful settlements that we could never ultimately get through the court system.”


    I’m definitely noticing the efforts to apply the new Rule to the Sierra and Sequoia National Forests. Since there is only one mill in all of southern California, there is a need to keep the Sierra Forest Products mill in business. Both Forests have continuously under-performed in supplying sustainable amounts of timber, in the form of thinning projects. Also impacting those forests is the extremely long round trip hauls to the mill and back. Both the Angeles and the San Bernardino National Forests are 5 hours away, one way.

  6. One issue that no one is talking is; How can the Planning Rule’s intent be implemented without “expanding government”? Will Congress knowingly act to add more government employees to implement the labor-intensive projects which the Rule seeks to accomplish? Where will the new skilled labor force come from?!? With so many units already cut to the bone, and buyouts and retirements looming, the sheer acreage cannot be covered without more skilled people. The use of temps hired off the street represents “Federal McForestry”, with a never-ending revolving door of people who can’t perform up to the high standards of today’s modern plans and ultra-specific requirements.

    Anyone have a solution for this key issue, which could stop so many projects, in the face of expanded monitoring and “ground-truthing”? Does “putting America to work” exclude expanding government?!??

  7. Well, it appears that there is ZERO demand for Sale Administrators and Harvest Inspectors, despite having projects with large acreages. There are 3 SA jobs, nationwide, and it appears that the Harvest Inspector positions have maybe been deemed unnecessary and been abolished. Another possibility might be lumping Harvest Inspectors into Timber Sale Prep jobs, so they can underpay highly-qualified candidates, at the GS-5 rates. One other possibility is that only “Professional Foresters” are being considered for these jobs, as well.

    Sale Administration jobs are good examples of duties that are difficult, variable and unglamorous. Not everyone likes to butt heads with loggers, walk through the “moon dust” of dry and disturbed skid trails, and working long hours for 5 and 6 days per week. Extensive skillful documentation and creative agreements are also required to properly control purchasers and their contractors. I’m hoping that maybe they are adjusting the job announcements for those positions but, it appears that the Forest Service doesn’t want or need new people to do these jobs, anymore. I guess I have to accept that my skills are no longer needed by the Forest Service, for now.


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