Obama Administration Issues Rewrite Of National Forest Rules

The Obama administration yesterday proposed a new forest planning rule that will guide the management of 155 forests, 20 grasslands and one prairie in the National Forest System, which
 makes up 193 million acres and receive
s more than 170 million visitors a year.

Earlier this month I wrote here about the administration’s decision to ban any new mining claims near the Grand Canyon for the next 20 years, a decision that protects over 1 million acres of public lands, including National Forests. Let’s hope the spirit of conservation has guided this ruling also.

From The Washington Post:

In announcing the new procedures, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said they were crafted to enhance the nation’s water supplies while maintaining woodlands for wildlife, recreation and timber operations. The lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s drinking water, according to the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the Agriculture Department.

“Restoration is the philosophy, with a focus on forest health and our water,” Vilsack told reporters in a conference call, adding that the rules require that planning decisions be “driven by sound science.”

The New Blueprint

Here’s a look at some of the main guidelines in the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, or PEIS, for the National Forest System Land Management Planning Rule released January 26:

•    Plans must include components that seek to restore and maintain forests and grasslands.

•    Plans would include requirements to maintain or restore watersheds, water resources, water quality, including clean drinking water, and the ecological integrity of riparian areas.

•    Plans would be required to provide habitat for plant and animal diversity and species conservation. These requirements are intended to keep common native species common, contribute to the recovery of threatened and endangered species, conserve proposed and candidate species, and protect species of conservation concern.

•    Plans would provide for multiple uses, including outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, wildlife and fish.

•    Plans would be required to provide opportunities for sustainable recreation, and to take into account opportunities to connect people with nature.

The guidelines, which will take effect in early March, represent the first meaningful overhaul of forest rules in 30 years. The George W. Bush administration had issued a management-planning rule for national forests in 2008, but a federal court struck it down the next year on the grounds that it did not provide adequate protection for plants and wildlife.

As a frequent visitor to National Forests and National Parks, which often sit side-by-side, I am excited to see these new rules, especially as they mention specifically outdoor recreation, and the need to connect people with nature.

The debate over how best to manage forests, especially in regions such as the Pacific Northwest, has pitted timber companies against environmentalists and some scientists for decades. So how did both sides respond to this new plan?

“Cautious Optimism” From Conservation Groups

Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, served as head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during the Clinton administration. She is not satisfied with the PEIS released today, saying, “The administration deserves credit for the genuine effort that it made to respond to public comments. Although we strongly support this historic shift in direction, we remain concerned about the adequacy of its wildlife conservation provisions and worry that the forest-planning rule makes promises that it can’t fully deliver.”

Other environmental groups also expressed some hesitation to fully embrace the proposals, particularly as regards wildlife management, but were pleased to see an emphasis on protection and restoration, rather than commodity extraction.

A Chilly Response From The Other Side

From The Washington Post:

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said the concerns that he and other lawmakers expressed about the planning rule’s impact on jobs “apparently fell on deaf ears.”

“These new Obama regulations introduce excessive layers of bureaucracy that will cost jobs, hinder proper forest management, increase litigation and add burdensome costs for Americans,” Hastings said.

Officials at the American Forest & Paper Association, which represents pulp, paper, packaging and wood products companies along with forest landowners, said they were “still reviewing” the blueprint. But the group had concerns “regarding the costly procedural requirements in the proposed rule,” said vice president and general counsel Jan Poling.

Hopefully, if the company is so concerned about the costs, they’ll stop trying to cut down our National Forest trees.

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Photo Credit: Robert Lz

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Mark Donners
Mark Donners3 years ago

Like the current Canadian government, Alaskan congressmen and politicians are completely psychotic. They must be stopped from destroying the last wilderness and northern forests of Alaska. That means a permanent roadless rule for the Tongass, the greatest northern temperate rainforest.

Isa M.
Isa M.3 years ago

They are doing this in the United States but they continue to destroy the Rainforest in South America.
They are total hypocrites and they are dangerous. This is all part of Agenda 21 to get rid of humans by first limiting where humans can go and second, where humans can live....mark my word, that is going to be the next reform....

helga g.
Helga Guillen3 years ago

What the forest and the wild life needs is not hunters, no poachers, no guns,all animals have to be protected ,non native animals and native animals deserve to live.

Hartson Doak
Hartson Doak3 years ago

Stop the Forestry Department from building the roads for the logging companies. They then pay next to nothing for the privilege to cut down our trees to make a profit for their stock holders. We get nothing for this. Then same with the grass lands. The cattle ranchers run the cows on our land and get the USDA to kill the native animals that live there to protect the cows. What is wrong with this picture? The US government is there to help the industries that pollute and rape our landscape and not the environment.

C. A.
C A.3 years ago

I wish to add that if the goal is to protect habitat for wildlife and birds, as well as to provide a peaceful camping experience for people, then the ruling that allows guns in national parks needs to be overturned!!

Portland N.

It sounds good! It is a foot in the right direction. I hope the New Blueprint works out!!!

Ian Fletcher
Ian Fletcher3 years ago

Looks ok at first sight.
More fenced reserve no human enters. No Poachers, Hunters or Arsonists thankyou!
If that means more forest guards etc, it's still worth it.

Angie V.
Angie V.3 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Marie W.
Marie W.3 years ago

Let's see if Obama walks the talk.

Susan T.
Susan T.3 years ago

"Cautiously optimistic" - me too. There is no expansion of the roadless rule here so it concerns me a bit that the "multiple uses" might be weighed heavily towards the timber and grazing operations.