12 Feb 2010, 5:26pm
Federal forest policy
by admin

Contradicting Missions and the New USFS Planning Rule

Last December the US Forest Service announced their intention to create a new Planning Rule [here]. We presented some guidance, written by NAFSR Exec Dir Darrel Kenops, for drafting comments to assist the USFS in that process [here].

Now we present some excellent comments written by W.I.S.E. member Randy Shipman of Rock Springs, Wyoming. For a pdf version of Mr. Shipman’s comments, click [here].

BTW, comments must be received by February 16, 2010.


February 12, 2010
Forest Service Planning NOI
C/O Bear West Company 172 East 500 South Bountiful, UT 84010
via fspr@contentanalysisgroup.com

Reference: Federal Register/Vol.74, pp 67165-67169 – Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement to analyze and disclose potential environmental consequences associated with a National Forest System land management planning rule.


The USDA-USFS has allowed itself to gradually be placed into a contradiction of missions, in part, by purging itself of professional foresters and engineers to make way for a new grand experiment as explained by the Committee of Scientists. Today, the USFS with the aid of the Congress have provided the taxpayer an agency that:

* has not retained workforce expertise to promote and finalize rule promulgations in concert with local affected governments and sometime the public as is consistently proven through the hiring of 3rd party contractors to disseminate information to the public and the agency;

* allows confusion of purpose within its ranks as proven through inconsistent application of planning methodology and/or policy or directive that currently exists between identical forest regimes in adjacent districts or regions;

* provides excuses to the public rather than a system of accountability when USFS actions impact private, local and state real properties;

* knowingly relinquished the charge of the agency’s Organic Administration Act among others in the promulgation of the 2000 36CFR219 rule and associated rules that require consistency with the ill-conceived 36CFR294 Roadless Area Conservation rule promulgation;

* is increasingly becoming a drag on the entire U.S. economy by devastating local forest dependent community stability through internal dictatorial processes that today is purposely leaving local and state governments out of the loop and on the hook to pay for and pick up the pieces of carnage that have followed three decades of USFS attempts to be “responsive to the challenges of climate change; the need for forest restoration and conservation, watershed protection, and wildlife conservation; and the sustainable use of public lands to support vibrant communities.” No one can be entirely certain what that really means, with perhaps the exception of those individuals or organizations who professionally and constantly litigate USFS processes in order to gain easy access to federal government funds rather than address issues found in the Substantive Principles for a New Rule. But then that is a particular matter for the Congress to account.

This NOI for a new rule lists 5 sections within Substantive Principles for a New Rule and three sections within Process Principles for a New Rule, each followed by questions the Agency would like the public to address. The “public” writing this comment letter however, finds it very difficult to respond to the USFS NOI questions without first obtaining answers to a number of questions left unanswered by the Agency over the last 10 years.

Substantive Principles for a New Rule

Currently the USFS must take into account the Nov 2000 Final Environmental Impact Statement Volume 2 – Maps of Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRA) during all planning regimens or project documentation. Pertaining only to the continental U.S. and Alaska, USFS published total acreage of grasslands and forestland ~189,223,290 acres of which, 95,753,000 acres being designated IRA or other special designation areas with 93,470,290 acres comprising “all other NF System lands”.

With those splits in acreages having run the course of federal court challenges supplemented with attendant prohibitions of management practices relative to the extent of how the USFS interprets national forest historic range of variability to supposedly balance nature, how exactly does this NOI accomplish its Purpose and Need for Action as explained on page 67166-67?

Perhaps the USFS content analysis team will provide the public with answers to the following questions before determining a draft of a new planning rule for public comment:

1. Taking into consideration the above paragraphs relative to IRA and special designated lands, is it even feasible for USFS to promulgate a new planning rule incorporating an “all lands” approach to land planning?

2. The accepted definition of productivity in National Forest System land planning precludes the term “economic”; its use is solely in the sense of ecological function. How will this promote an “all lands” approach to land planning?

a. Many private forest and rangeland property owners think that the Natural Resource Conservation Service already does a very good job of promoting “all lands” in conjunction with private lands. What is the basis for duplicating or overlapping federal agency efforts?

3. By what method will USFS determine feasibility of action and accountability during “all lands” and watershed scale planning approaches when faced with the many prohibitions against any forest management practices the Agency will face concerning 95,753,000 acres of intermingled special designation lands fragmenting the whole?

a. How much of the total acreage of the National Forest System will be managed by fire?

i. And what effect will this have on climate change and carbon sequestration and newly EPA enforceable GHG limits?

b. How much of the National Forest will be managed with Wildland Fire Use (WFU)?

i. And what impacts might this bring across ever expanding areas of critical habitat “regarding ecological sustainability in terms of ecosystem and species diversity”?

ii. What conditions does USFS constitute as being “outside the Agency’s control” when speaking about WFU policy that has had no prior NEPA planning process to determine environmental consequences?

c. How much private, state and national forest will be managed with prescribed fire under the “all lands” approach?

Given USFS current management schemes resulting in uncontrollable wildfires in the western United States, what are the likely results to climate change and watershed management, ecological restoration, forest health, biomass utilization, etcetera if answers to the above questions remain outside the public domain or actions remain with arbitrary Responsible Official interpretation prior to writing this new rule?

Process Principles for a New Rule

The USFS, specifically Forest Supervisors and some interdisciplinary planning teams, are in constant flux when dealing with local and state governments and complain about those entities as roadblocks to “developing, revising and amending plans…” “[which] are efficient, transparent, and effectively engage the public.”

Trouble seems to continually brew between appointed federal officials and elected public officers or their designees when determining which entities the Agency will cooperate with and when cooperation will take place. The USFS needs either to have clear and concise rules written with accompanying policy concerning Cooperating Agency between USFS and state and local governments that all of the National Forests can consistently abide with, or discontinue the practice altogether after receiving the consent of the Congress.

Either the USFS is interested in being transparent with local elected government bodies impacted by National Forest decisions or the USFS is not interested. There is no middle ground and there should be no vacillation on the subject in the intent for new rule promulgation. Any new rule must be spelled out in such direct language as to render interpretation of the policy or rule clear to any reasonable thinking person as to whether the USFS will or will not cooperate with local and state governments.


Randy Shipman
Rock Springs, WY



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