17 Dec 2009, 2:06pm
Federal forest policy
by admin

New USFS Planning Rule Process Announced

In March, 2007, Northern California U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton enjoined the USDA and the Forest Service from implementing the 2005 Planning Rule [here]. The Planning Rule guides the creation, amending, and revision of National Forest Land and Resource Management Plans (LMRP’s) under the National Forest Management Act (NFMA).

With no Planning Rule, the USFS cannot revise their forest plans, which are out-of-date and need revising.

Since Judge Hamilton’s decision, the USFS has been using the 2000 Planning Rule, with some amendments, but the agency cannot issue pre-decisional plans, engage in the objections process, or issue final plans under the 2005 Planning Rule.

For National Forests operating under old plans, created under the 2000 or older Planning Rules, it is business as usual. But for National Forest plans drawn up after 2005, the planning process is stalled.

Today the USFS announced [here] a process to create a new Planning Rule intended to get National Forest planning going again:

USDA News Release No. 0620.09


WASHINGTON, Dec. 17, 2009 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the USDA Forest Service is beginning an open, collaborative process to create and implement a modern planning rule to address current and future needs of the National Forest System, including restoring forests, protecting watersheds, addressing climate change, sustaining local economies, improving collaboration, and working across landscapes. The Forest Service will publish a notice of intent (NOI) in the Federal Register tomorrow, December 18, to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) to develop a new planning rule that will provide a framework for management of national forests and grasslands.

“Our National Forests and Grasslands are great natural treasures that we must conserve and restore for the benefit of future generations,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Developing a new planning rule provides the opportunity to manage national forests and grasslands for the benefit of water resources, the climate and local communities.”

The Forest Service is seeking public involvement in developing a new direction for local land managers. A 60-day comment period on the NOI will begin upon publication in the Federal Register on Friday, December 18, 2009. Comments will be used to shape the focus of the collaborative dialogue and creation of a proposed rule.

To begin the conversation, the Forest Service has included in the NOI a set of potential principles that could guide development of a new planning rule. The potential principles include an emphasis on restoration, conservation, and the improved resilience of ecosystems; watershed health; climate change response; species diversity and wildlife habitat; sustainable National Forest System lands; proactive collaboration; and working across landscapes.

The Forest Service will use state-of-the-art new media tools in conjunction with face-to-face interaction to facilitate wide public participation throughout the nation. Please visit www.fs.usda.gov/planningrule to participate in our web-based planning rule blog, and to learn more.

The 2000 planning rule, which allows the Forest Service to use provisions of the 1982 planning rule, is currently the rule that is legally in effect. As an interim measure, the Department will republish in the Federal Register the 2000 planning rule as amended in order to make it available to the public in the Code of Federal Regulations. This action will facilitate its use by forests and grasslands in the National Forest System to revise and amend plans while a new rule is being developed. …

18 Dec 2009, 9:36am
by Larry Harrell

Their new website is up and running. I’ve already posted a comment on their moderated blog. We’ll see how long it will take for them to review and moderate the comments. I think THIS is an unprecedented opportunity for us to affect public opinion and expose the preservationist’s folly of a fenced-off forest paradise.

I encourage us to send out the troops and get as many people to comment and debunk. The eco’s don’t really want to engage us in debate but, the issue can be leveraged into a grassroots movement to use science to restore our forests.

I think this is a great idea that Vilsack and the Chief has put forward but, it’s putting the cart before the horse. Until the conflicting rules, laws and policies are changed, the courts won’t allow the Forest Service to make the radical changes needed to restore our forests.

18 Dec 2009, 11:30am
by Bob Z.


What is the URL for the new website?

18 Dec 2009, 2:20pm
by Mike

It is in the news release above:


18 Dec 2009, 2:50pm
by Larry Harrell

To directly access the blog, with “unofficial comments”, go to…


I’m the first one in the entire country to comment!!

18 Dec 2009, 3:07pm
by Mike

That’s worth an attaboy, Larry.

I don’t know if I will have time for it, but if I do, my comments will center on proper interpretation and implementation of NFMA and NEPA. I know that’s vague — I’ll have to get specific in my comments. But the root of the hangups are in NFMA and NEPA.

However, I strongly encourage and invite everyone interested to post your comments and thoughts regarding the New Planning Rule here, for the edification of SOSF readers, and so that we might do a better job preparing our comments, when we get a round tuit.

18 Dec 2009, 4:51pm
by Bob Zybach

Larry and Mike: Thanks.

I went to the link and sure enough, Larry “Fotoware” Harrell and a guy named Mike Anderson were the only two posts online.

Warning! The system is not particularly friendly. I wrote out a submission and got a really rude bright red label in caps saying that my comment was not allowed, it was SPAM, and it had too many characters. And they blanked it out.

If they are going to be that rigid, the should provide a character count as you’re composing (do blank spaces count?); they should NOT erase your submission when they reject it; they should NOT call it SPAM in big bright red capital letters with exclamation points; and they should tell you how many characters you’re over the limit, so you can edit down to their specs (which are perfectly reasonable).

Here is what I ended up submitting for moderation:

I would like to echo the sentiments of the first two posters: 1) this is definitely a step in the right direction (but might be out of sequence); 2) assemble a planning science team ASAP.

I have participated in many planning processes at State and federal levels during the past 30 years and typically felt as if my time and comments had been mostly wasted when all the dust settled. The fact that my comments are reaching an intended audience via this blog is very reassuring.

The main problem that I have seen with Agency Science teams is that they tend to exclude key disciplines and resource management professionals; particularly those with practical experience.

I would stress the need for the following disciplines being at the core of any planning process: forest historians; fire historians (”historical ecologists”); cultural anthropologists; ethnobotanists; foresters; forest managers; prescribed fire specialists; forest restorationists; and wildfire managers.

19 Dec 2009, 8:23am
by Larry Harrell

In reading more about that blog, I’ve found that each day will have its own page and that the discussion is loosely directed. Currently, their opening topic is about collaboration. This issue is a huge sticking point right now, as eco-groups more than ever do NOT want to engage us with scientific facts. Their current tactics of “killing the messenger” and using biased peer review won’t help them in site-specific scientific debate, which is what forestry is all about. Their positions are fundamentally-opposed when it comes to forests and climate change. They continue to be “deniers” regarding the need for active forest management.

Yes, the blog is typical of government forays into the Internet. They probably do have to reject links and html and just go with pure text.

We each also need to send in official comments on this new planning rule. Since wildfires and “unstewardship” are both very bad for “climate change”, our official comments should reflect that. They cannot easily ignore scientific facts, although they will surely try.

19 Dec 2009, 10:50am
by Mike

The official pronouncements are now in the Federal Register:

Federal Register / Vol. 74, No. 242 / Friday, December 18, 2009 / Rules and Regulations / pages 67059 to 67075

USDA Forest Service
36 CFR Part 219
RIN 0596–AB86
National Forest System Land and Resource Management Planning

ACTION: Final rule.



Federal Register: December 18, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 242, Notices - page 67165 to 67169)

USDA Forest Service
National Forest System Land Management Planning

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement.

SUMMARY: The Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, is giving notice of its intent to prepare an environmental impact statement to analyze and disclose potential environmental consequences associated with a National Forest System land management planning rule.


22 Dec 2009, 8:18am
by Larry H.

Well, the Forest Service has finally posted Bob’s comment. It is pretty ridiculous to limit comments to 1000 characters, given the complexity of the issue at hand. I added another comment, touching on the comment of another poster there, who wants to reduce logging on National Forests to the bare minimum.

This new collaboration tool needs a lot more work but, I think they fear a “flood” of partisan comments from right-wing sources. Of course, they don’t fear a flood of “eco-comments”, regardless of their eco-agenda to end all timber sales.

22 Jan 2010, 9:40am
by Larry H.

There is finally some more action going on over there. It also seems that they have expanded the amount of characters in a single posting. The eco’s seem to be testing the waters to see if their rhetoric is going work. People need to know that the big eco-groups do NOT want consensus and agreement.



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