Forest planning end-of-year update

In keeping with its long tradition, the Forest Service has provided gifts to the public of work to do over the holidays on forest plans.  (At least there’s no government shutdown to complicate the math this year.)

The Tonto National Forest on December 13 released a draft revised land management plan and draft environmental impact statement for public review and comment.   The comment period ends March 12.

Environmental groups took issue with the December 20 release of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest draft forest plan revision and environmental impact statement, writing to the forest supervisor that it effectively removes about two weeks from the 90-day comment period.

While the draft revised  Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest Plan was also scheduled to come out in December, it is now expected in February.

Meanwhile, the Bitterroot National Forest may have given up on revising its 32 year old forest plan.  It started a 30-day comment period on December 17 for a proposed plan amendment to address elk management.  (Oddly, the scoping letter indicates that they seem to think they can change elk management without the substantive requirements for other species being “directly related.”)

Happy new decade of forest planning!


3 thoughts on “Forest planning end-of-year update”

  1. I agree with those who say releasing a draft for review just before Christmas cuts down on comment time. No document should go out for review in December.

  2. And consider the BNF releasing their notice for a forest wide amendment on December 17th with a 30 day comment period. Essentially half of the comment period is eaten up by the holidays.

  3. I thought I should point out that the Gila National Forest took a different approach from the Tonto.
    “The Forest Service announced earlier this month that the plan and EIS would not be published in the Federal Register until “Jan. 24 or Jan. 31,” but it made the documents available online in late December, at which time it said that public comments could also be submitted.” Kudos to them.

    Their comments about climate change are interesting, though:
    According to the section of the plan’s introduction titled “Management Approach to Change and Uncertainty,” climate change might simply be considered out of the control of the Forest Service — and therefore hard to actually address in a Forest Plan. “By 2090, the climatic factors most important to the identity of the Gila National Forest’s ecosystems and species assemblages are projected to be well outside the range of variability that is known to support them,” the draft plan says. “This could mean a profoundly different Gila National Forest than the one described in the desired conditions statements found throughout this draft plan — regardless of any management action or inaction.”
    (I assume their desired vegetation conditions will still take into account their best guess at the future NRV, which is what is required for ecological integrity and sustainability.)

    Back on the Tonto, this article mentioned an interesting recreation issue there (in the picture caption):
    “The Tonto National Forest’s draft plan abandons an earlier proposal to bar dispersed camping along hundreds of miles of streams, including portions of the East Verde River shown here. The new rule would allow the Forest Service to regulate any use – hiking, camping, cattle grazing and others – if measurements show the stream is “impaired.” Bacteria in the water, destruction of streamside vegetation, silt and other problems could trigger the restrictions.”

    This is an example of a kind of decision that is appropriately made in a forest plan. It is not deferring decisions to the project level. Instead it is establishing criteria at the plan level so that when information is found based on site-specific analysis, specific actions would occur. While it doesn’t automatically trigger a closure order (which forest plans cannot do), it should at least trigger public notification of the finding and how the agency will respond.


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