Planning Update – July 2022

Source: USFS, Draft Record of Decision, SNF Revised Land Management Plan June 2022


The current schedule for national forests that are revising their plans is here:

Individual links are to Forest Service web pages.

  • On July 8, the Carson National Forest completed its review of objections and released its final revised forest plan FEIS and final ROD.  According to a news release, “The Carson worked closely with the Cibola and Santa Fe national forests to develop consistent plan components for traditional uses, including grazing, fuelwood, and acequias, to better serve the needs of tribes, community land grants, and subsistence-based rural communities.”  (Why not other consistent plan components to serve the needs of everyone else?)
  • On July 15, the Cibola National Forest completed its review of objections and released its final revised forest plan, FEIS and final ROD.  According to this article, “It covers everything from how thin they would like the forests to be and the balance of different types of trees to how they will better reduce the fuel load in areas where the forest meets homes. They also address climate change and how it has changed the conditions of the forest from fires and wind events to flooding and insect infestations. They also address grazing issues and the preservation of habitats of endangered species and the preservation of historic and culturally sensitive sites.”
  • On July 8, the Tonto National Forest reinitiated the 60-day objection period for its revised forest plan due to an incorrect website included in the original Federal Register notice in March.  “The document focuses on wildfire, recreation, the use of volunteers and other aspects that might affect policy, said Kenna Belsky of Tonto Forest.”
  • On June 14, the Sequoia and Sierra National Forests initiated the objection filing period for their revised forest plans, which will run till August 15, according to this article.


  • The Pew Charitable Trust has released reports on critical conservation areas for biodiversity, carbon storage, and climate resilience for the 17 national forests covered by the Northwest Forest Plan. These “high ecological value areas” are currently unprotected places that contain the top 10% of ecologically valuable lands within a given forest.  This analysis was previously discussed for the Ashley National Forest here.  The NFP forests have not yet initiated revision, but a Bioregional Assessment was prepared in 2020.
  • On July 13, the Bitterroot National Forest expanded the scope of a forest plan amendment beyond elk management to include old growth, coarse woody debris and snags.  According to the scoping letter (linked to this article), “Total plan revision has not yet begun for the Bitterroot National Forest, and it can be a years-long process; in the meantime, we can resolve certain long-standing problematic language regarding snags and coarse woody debris and improve our inventory of old growth forest stands by amending the current Bitterroot Forest Plan using the best current relevant science.”  This would include changing the definition of old growth, which was the subject of a recent court decision in Friends of the Clearwater v. Probert on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest next door, discussed here.
  • On June 18, the BLM and Forest Service signed an inter-governmental cooperative agreement with five Native American tribes to “coordinat(e) on land use planning and implementation, as well as the development of long-term resource management and programmatic goals” for the Bears Ears National Monument.  According to this article, the five tribes plan to submit a land management plan for Bears Ears to the BLM. The agency will then incorporate the tribes’ recommendations into its own plan, which could take up to 18 months to finalize.  (Bears Ears has been discussed a few times on this blog.)
  • The Least-Conflict Solar Siting project is a voluntary, collaborative effort that brings stakeholders together to identify areas in the Columbia Plateau region where participants “would be least likely to oppose solar energy developments.”  While federal lands are mentioned, they don’t appear to be a focus, but it seems like this could provide useful information, and maybe a model for federal land planning efforts.
  • In February, the Biden Administration initiated a new interagency working group on reforming hardrock mining laws, regulations and permitting policies in the United States, which is ongoing. One of its “fundamental principles” is:  “Like other uses of public lands, mining should be governed by comprehensive federal land-use assessments and planning.”

17 thoughts on “Planning Update – July 2022”

  1. Jon, can you elaborate on this in the first bullet about the Carson NF, (Why not other consistent plan components to serve the needs of everyone else?)

    • My rather long and broad experience with national forest planning is that there is a lot of resistance to consistent plan components. The default seems to be for each unit to roll their own, which is part of why planning is not very efficient, but I think that many issues that are common to multiple forests could be addressed by the same type and format of plan component (though the specific content might differ). I think Region 2 did try this for awhile.

      I was also involved at the other end of the scale in producing species conservation strategies that were required by higher levels of the organization (salmon/bull trout, lynx, grizzly bears), that were often seen as taking away local discretion (see also Northwest Forest Plan and the Columbia Basin project that failed in part for this reason). Have you heard the common complaint about “one size fits all” plan components?

      Various iterations of development of a new planning rule stated that one of the purposes was to achieve consistency across different units to reduce confusion by the public of having to understand very different ways of writing forest plans. I’m not seeing that it made any difference. However, there is some hope if the agency actually moves to centralized planning teams.

      • Thanks, that clarifies a lot. I wonder if there were other plan components that were consistent between the neighboring forests, but the news release just highlighted the traditional uses part since that is such a big discussion/conflict point in northern NM.

  2. Many thanks for this round-up, Jon!!!

    On a copy editing note to the Forest.. I thought we were supposed to capitalize Tribes, has that changed?

    Maybe they did have other consistent plan components but didn’t mention it in the press release..? Anyone want to check the three plans?

    I thought 30×30 now renamed America the Beautiful WAS the Admin’s biodiversity conservation strategy. Certainly the founders of ultimately “50×50 but 30×30 for now”, including EO Wilson thought so. A bit puzzling.
    “Whereas the late E.O. Wilson has estimated that protecting half of the Earth’s land and seas would be sufficient to preserve 85 percent of the planet’s species, and with it, global biodiversity;”

  3. Thank you so much for providing the link to a current Forest Plan Revisions Schedule. We regularly communicate to our members the importance in being engaged in the Forest Planning process. Would anyone be able to point me to an update of this document, The Status of Forest Management Plans ( It’s great because it has the complete list. Comparing the current Revisions Schedule, it appears the FS is still digesting the plans designated in 2018 as Under Revision, but have added one designated as Needs Revision to the this list (Black Hills). Does anyone know when/how they will decide to prioritize the remaining Needs Revision plans.

    • The Forest Service over time has posted less and less information about what we planning nerds refer to as “The Queue” – where forests are in the forest plan revision queue. I’m not surprised: when you look at all national forests, how old they are, what plans are going thru revision, and the status of the revisions…well, it’s pretty disappointing. The agency simply is not making any progress.

      So, no, I don’t think there will be any more prioritizing of forests needing revision than what you see there.

      When the 2012 rule was promulgated, we were promised that forest plan revision wouldn’t take more than 2 (and then later, 3) years. So much for that.

      • Susan, you and I and Jon were all involved in the 2012 Rule at different levels of impact. I recall the Director of EMC telling me and person X (who still works at the FS) to s”stifle” when we raised questions about “how can we tell people that the FS is going to do tons more front-end work and it’s going to go faster?”. In order to satisfy some interest groups, the 2012 Rule was designed the way it was. Then the FS tried to say why it was a great thing; but we don’t really know if that was an FS “promise” or an Admin talking point. It seems to me that the FS, as an executive branch agency, can hardly be held to (especially previous) Admin’s talking points.

        • You may be right about not holding the Forest Service accountable to prior promises or talking points. But then we shouldn’t be surprised that the public doesn’t trust the agency when they can’t deliver on their commitments (whether imposed for political reasons or not).

        • When I was designing the 2012 Rule on the development team, I was not aware of any interest groups influencing our work (and the basic design, to the extent that it would affect the length of the process, didn’t change much as it progressed through whatever political review happened).

          As far as what was “promised,” here is the language from the 2011 Proposed Rule Preamble:
          “The cost and benefit analysis ASSUMED eight management units will start plan revision annually. Therefore, approximately 120 management units will at least initiate plan revision over the next 15 years (i.e. 2012 through 2026). This analysis also assumed each management unit would take 3 years to revise a plan under the proposed rule and 5 years under the 1982 rule procedures. Given these assumptions, over a 15 year period, there would be approximately 104 plan revisions completed under the proposed rule in contrast to an estimated 88 plans revised under the 1982 rule procedures, a net increase of 16 plans revised under the proposed rule.” (Emphasis added.) I assumed that they stopped providing the public with information about how this has panned out because they didn’t want to advertise how it has panned out.

          Somewhere they made it clear that the “3 years to revise a plan” did not include the assessment phase (and it shouldn’t have included the objection phase to be comparable to the 1982 procedures). Defined that way, which basically encompasses the NEPA process, some of the completed revisions have shown it is possible to come close to the 3 years (I’m pretty sure that happened on the Francis Marion and Chugach, and I think there are others). For those that haven’t, there must be other factors, including choices in managing the process (Nez Perce-Clearwater), and changed circumstances (Sierra/Sequoia). And overall, the agency clearly hasn’t funded revision at the levels it assumed. I would say they haven’t tried very hard, which suggests they don’t think it’s very important.

          • I’m also not sure CONGRESS thinks its very important: for decades they’ve included an annual appropriations rider to exempt the agency from the 15-year revision requirement. It’s also evident that most members of Congress (including and especially the members on the relevant committees of jurisdiction) do not understand forest planning or its potential value.

            Feels to me like the agency hates planning and Congress doesn’t really care. Which is too bad, because these are the PUBLIC’S lands, and we sure DO care how they’re managed.

          • I appreciate the dialog in the thread – super informative and it does help demystify why things aren’t adding up.

            From an outsider’s perspective, it’s been hard to understand how the 2012 Planning Rule is being applied when plans expiring/set to expire are outpacing plans under development. They may not want to advertise how it’s panned out, but at a minimum, with 10 years under their belt, they may want to update public-facing materials (e.g., “A Citizen’s Guide to Forest Planning”) to clarify/reset expectations.

            Susan, I agree, we sure DO care how they’re managed ;->

  4. Not answering your question about a queue – but you can at least get notifications about current planning activities by searching Federal Register and subscribing to your search term.

    This search gets all USFS docs with keywords ‘Land Management Plan’ – you can then subscribe for notification when any new docs match your search term.

    You can also try ‘Forest Plan Revision’


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