Draft Objection Process in Federal Register- Beginning of 30 Day Comment Period

Here’s a link from the FS website.

US Forest Service proposes to streamline land management plan review process
Provides for public comment opportunity for some land management plans

WASHINGTON, Aug. 8, 2012 — The U.S. Forest Service today published in the Federal Register a proposed regulation that will improve the administrative review process for proposed projects and activities implementing land management plans. The proposed rule is posted here.

The proposed rule for an objections process will be applied to all projects and activities that implement land management plans requiring an environmental analysis or environmental impact statement. The publication of the proposed rule will provide a 30-day public comment opportunity. All comments received will be considered before a final rule is published.

“This proposal will result in better, more informed project decisions, better documentation of environmental effects of agency proposals, and reduced regulation for administrative reviews,” said US Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.

The Forest Service has used a predecisional objection process for hazardous fuel reduction projects since 2004. This year Congress directed the Forest Service to also establish a predecisional objection process for other projects in lieu of the post-decisional appeal procedures in use with those projects since 1993.

Note from Sharon: there was some talk of developing an interim final rule so that it could be used during the comment period and as the final rule would be developed. Since Congress specifically directed this in the Approps bill last year, this seemed to me like an appropriate approach. I wonder why it was decided to go with a rule that won’t be effective until after the public comment period, analysis of comments, and further development internally, added on to the unpredictably slow process of clearance. For something Congress directed fairly straightforwarldy, IMHO.

I heard through the grapevine it had something to do with lawyers and potential confusion with, and linkage to, the court order around notice and comment for CE’s. However, to me it seems that these can go down separate tracks. If I were in Congress, I would be wondering…and maybe attempt clarify Congressional thoughts on notice and comment for CE’s, if that is really the hold-up ;).

In looking around on the FS website for a “plain English” version of what’s in the proposed rule, I found this website of existing objections, which is also interesting. You can look up if there are any projects around you that use objections (HFRA projects can use them not, without the proposed rule going into effect).

If anyone knows of such a document (what I call a “plain English” version, or summary of requirements) put out by the FS, or other groups, please comment and show a link or send to my email ([email protected]) if it’s a document.

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