WASHINGTON, – The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a proposed rule to streamline and shorten categories of environmental review for certain restoration projects on National Forests. The proposed rule will allow the Forest Service to more efficiently implement projects related to improving water flow and the restoration of land and habitat. The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. Recreational activities on ourlands contribute $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) today began accepting public comment on a proposed change in regulations that would allow certain activities, including road obliteration, to be exempt from any public comment or analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). (This rule change would exclude Public Input and/or Public Comment) The proposed rule would allow the agency to bypass normal environmental review for projects that remove, replace or modify water control structures and remove debris and sediment after natural or human-caused events including floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. The rule would also exempt road decommissioning efforts such, as stabilizing slopes, restoring vegetation, blocking the entrance to the road, installing waterbars and removing culverts. The comment period for the proposed change in Forest Service regulations is open for 60 days and closes August 13, 2012. Comments must be received in writing and can be submitted online, by mail or via facsimile.
In a press release issued March 1, 2012, the US Forest Service said they will continue to charge recreation fees that were recently ruled illegal by a unanimous decision in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
According to Judge Gettleman, "Everyone is entitled to enter national forests without paying a cent."
The long wait is finally over. On January 26th, the U. S. Forest Service released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and indicated its "preferred alternative" in terms of a new planning rule. A 30 day comment period will soon commence before the Record of Decision becomes final.
The proposed rule clearly acknowledges the importance of outdoor recreation on Forest Service land and specifically recognizes motorized recreation as a legitimate outdoor activity. Prior releases virtually ignored recreation in general, so we are pleased that the agency now is acknowledging and highlighting this activity.
The agency is proposing the "Alternate A" option as the final rule, subject to further revision in the next month or so. This is a very complicated rule and we think the only people who will be pleased will be the lawyers who will go to court contesting certain provisions in future management plans. Concepts such a "best available science" and "sustainable recreation" are difficult to define and interpret. Major arguments will ensue and lawsuits will challenge whether any specific management plan meets such standards and more. If you care to read it on your own, here's a link to the Forest Service Planning Rule "Alternative A."
The Forest Service planning team worked hard in soliciting public input when fashioning this rule. Regrettably, we believe they have fallen short in fashioning a workable rule that streamlines the planning process. We hope we are wrong, but our fear is that federal courts will be very busy in the years to come.
A final ruling was issued this summer by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in the Mt Evans lawsuit.
October 10, 2011 -- National Conservation Easement Database Fills Gap in Conservation Planning
Filling a gaping hole in conservation planning, the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment) today announced the release of the National Conservation Easement Database (www.conservationeasement.us), the first resource to offer detailed information on nearly 18 million acres now protected by more than 80,000 easements across the United States. Until its development, land and natural resource practitioners and decision-makers lacked a single system for sharing, accessing, and managing nationwide information about conservation easements. Conservation easements are voluntary legal agreements through which landowners, public agencies, and land trusts protect essential natural resources like drinking water, wildlife habitat, and land along lakes, rivers, and streams. By bringing together easement data that was previously scattered and incomplete, the database serves conservationists, planners, and policy-makers across the country.
"For the first time," said Carlton Owen, President of the Endowment, "it will be possible to see the location, size, and purpose of conservation easements on a nationwide basis. By having all this information in a single place, the easement database will save organizations precious time and money, because each won't have to create their own system." The National Conservation Easement Database was envisioned by the Endowment and created by a team of five leading conservation groups, including the Conservation Biology Institute, Defenders of Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited, NatureServe, and The Trust for Public Land. Funded by the Endowment, this important project received generous support from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Foundation, the Knobloch Family Foundation, the Graham Foundation, and the U.S. Forest Service. Click to see the full press release.
Planning Rule: The collaborative development of a new planning rule has been in full swing since the publication of the Notice of Intent in December 2009. The Forest Service has received more than 26,000 written comments on the notice, more than 300 blog comments and hosted more than 40 public meetings throughout the country. The agency is currently finalizing the proposed rule with an expected publication date in early 2011. Upon publication, the Forest Service will offer a formal comment period and will host additional public meetings and collaborative opportunities for the public to discuss the rule.
The US Forest Service Trail Fundamentals reference materials and training documents are now available via the internet (www).
Trail Fundamentals include five key concepts that are cornerstones of Forest Service trail management: Trail Type, Trail Class, Managed Use, Designed Use, and Trail Design Parameters. Trail Fundamentals are identified for individual trails and documented as part of Trail Management Objectives (TMOs).
Trail Fundamentals are used extensively by the Forest Service. They are also used by and/or have been adapted by other agencies and national trail partners. Until recently, these references have only been available via internal Forest Service websites. They are now posted in the internet for general reference and use.
Listed below are three ways to get to the US Forest Service Trail Fundamentals webpage: Direct Link:US Forest Service Trail Fundamentals Web Address:http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/programs/trail-management/trail-fundamentals/ Navigation Route: Search for and/or navigate to the US Forest Service homepage (www.fs.fed.us) Scroll down the left column and click on National Offices and Programs. In the center screen, scroll down to National Forest System and click on Recreation, Heritage & Wilderness Resources. Click on Trail Management. Click on Trail Fundamentals. Trail partners and other agencies using these reference materials are encouraged, if applicable, to provide a link from their webpage directly to the US Forest Service Trail Fundamentals web page to ensure continued access to the most current version of this information (which is updated periodically).
Forest Service personnel should generally continue to access these materials via the agency's internal RHR Integrated Business Systems website, where additional management information is also posted.
This has nothing to do with rockhounding. It should be of concern to all of us.
Bark Beetle: Across six states of the interior West, over 17.5 million acres of forested lands are infested by bark beetles which pose a serious health and safety threat to forest visitors, residents and employees. The Forest Service is taking a strategic and science-based response to this infestation to ensure that the forests of the interior West provide healthy watersheds, stimulate local economies, are resilient to a changing climate and are restored ecologically over time.