Many, many thanks to folks who write the RVCC newsletter for finding this in the voluminous Bioregional Assessment Steve posted here pp. 37-38.
This discussion touches on many topics that we talk about.
Simultaneous Plan Revision—All 19 forests and grasslands in the BioA area would complete plan revision at the same time. This approach, like the landscape-level approach used during the NWFP, would ensure consistency and compatibility among the plans and would contribute to standardizing the formats of land management plans to help develop a common understanding of management direction. Completing simultaneous plan modernization presents significant capacity and coordination challenges across 19 responsible officials and their staff; however, efficiencies might be realized if phases of the process are streamlined and expected timelines are met. If, during simultaneous plan updating, the required analyses are integrated and conditions change significantly on one national forest or grassland requiring different or additional analysis, all 19 units would likely be impacted. Finally, this strategy might present a challenge to meaningful engagement with the public in the planning process because of the amount and complexity of information and the breadth of the geographic scope.
Incremental Plan Revision—We would revise three to six land management plans at the same time based upon similar challenges and geography. As an example, we could start with five units in the southwestern BioA area based on growing departure in desired ecological conditions, vulnerability to fire cost and behavior, and dependency of local communities on benefits from national forests and grasslands. The planning effort on the next group of units would begin approximately 1 year before the process is complete on the first group, and so on until revisions for all 19 units are complete. This option would allow the Forest Service to focus on the units with the most urgent needs for modernization first and would support our ability to learn as we go, which will help us continually improve land management planning efficiencies. Budgeting and staffing needs would be extended across a longer period than under the simultaneous plan revision option but would be lower per year and therefore, potentially more sustainable. Under this approach it would take at least 12 years to complete revision on all 19 units and would maintain the outdated condition of many plans for a longer time. Ensuring consistency and compatibility between plans that are in different groups would require close coordination between planning teams as one group of plans is finalized and updating is started on the next group.
Amendment(s)—Under this option, we would complete a range-wide amendment of all or a subset the land management plans to address one or more of the topic areas identified as needing change in the BioA. For instance, this option could be used to develop up-front, standardized agreements on range-wide management for listed species such as the northern spotted owl. This method could specifically address issues like northern spotted owl habitat connectivity throughout its range and facilitate Engendered Species Act consultation on future plan revisions. Amendments could also be used to better align late-successional reserve boundaries with late-successional habitat. An amendment process, even at a large scale, would be shorter than full plan revisions, and might take only 2 years to complete. This approach would allow the Forest Service to focus on the most immediate needs within the BioA area and might be a more streamlined option for creating direction that is compatible with the various ecosystems and conditions. Opportunities for public engagement would be more focused on specific areas and issues, which might allow for more robust public involvement. A drawback to this approach is that it would not completely address the problems associated with overlapping management direction. In addition, while this approach would focus on the most urgent issues within the BioA area, it would not be a comprehensive modernization of all plans; plans would remain outdated and many important updates would not be completed.
Individual Forest Plan Revision—Historically, land management plans are revised or amended by individual national forests or grasslands. However, many of the ecological and socioeconomic conditions in the BioA area span many forests and grasslands and are therefore, best addressed at a landscape scale. Completing individual land management plan modernizations wouldn’t meet the agency’s goal of reducing the time and cost to produce efficient, effective, and high-quality land management plans to accomplish more work on the ground and be more responsive to our public.
Incremental Plan Revision and Amendment—We would begin modernization on a prioritized group of units, as in the incremental plan revision option, and simultaneously complete amendments on other units that are facing some of the same urgent issues. For instance, as a group of plans are updated to include refined and improved direction associated with the natural role of fire in frequent-fire dependent ecosystems, all other plans on units with similar ecosystems could be amended to incorporate the same language. This approach would allow for a broad-scale modernization of plan components to meet immediate needs without the complexity of updating many plans at the same time. The approach would contribute to consistent management of similar issues across the landscape as well as management that is compatible with the varied ecosystems. Potentially, this approach would contribute to more robust public involvement related to the specific issues on which amendments were focused. However, comprehensive modernization of most plans would still be delayed and amending plans rather than revising them would still result in overlapping layers of management direction.
Many of the identified opportunities for modernizing the land management plans in the BioA area cross multiple national forest and grassland boundaries. Some management opportunities on some national forests and grasslands are more urgent than others, while other
challenges experienced across several national forests and grasslands would benefit from a consistent approach. Some forests have a more urgent need for restoration activities to improve the resiliency of the landscape than others (figure 2-6). The need for management consistency arises when multiple national forests and grasslands face the same management challenge; an example is managing habitat to facilitate the recovery of the northern spotted owl across that species’ range (figure 2-7). We gain efficiencies by combining modernization efforts around similar management needs.
(In the document is this sidebar)
Combination approach—An Example
Relevant direction from the US Fish and Wildlife’s Conservation Strategy for Grizzly Bear in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem 2019 63 has been incorporated as amendments to the land management plans for the Helena, Kootenai, Lewis and Clark, and Lolo National Forests. The Flathead National Forest incorporated the relevant direction into its land management plan revision. This combination of revision and amendments ensures that habitat for this wide-ranging species is managed consistently and appropriately across all affected national forests.
I wish they had specific examples of why there is an “urgent” need to change, that might help us compare the different approaches. How urgent is urgent and why? Anyway, which would you pick and why? And how did they manage to do so many in 1990?