Final rule to restore the nation's forests through science and collaboration
WASHINGTON, Mar. 26, 2012 – On Friday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture's final Planning Rule for America's 193 million-acre National Forest System that includes stronger protections for forests, water, and wildlife while supporting the economic vitality of rural communities.
USDA and the Forest Service carefully considered more than a quarter million comments received on the proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement issued in February to develop today's final rule, which emphasizes collaboration, sound science and protections for land, water and wildlife.
The final rule strengthens the role of public involvement and dialogue throughout the planning process. It also requires the use of the best available scientific information to inform decisions.
Praise for the rule and its collaborative development has been broad-based:
Sen. Jeff Bingaman, (D-NM), Chairman, Energy & Natural Resources Committee
"The new forest planning rule is good news for our National Forest watersheds, local economies and outdoor recreational opportunities. I'm pleased that the rule provides for more public engagement and lower costs for developing strong, collaborative and science-based land management plans. After many years and many attempts to reform the National Forest planning process, I believe this is a balanced and realistic approach for moving forward."
Dale Bosworth, former Chief of the U.S. Forest Service
"This is the most collaborative Forest Service rulemaking I've ever seen. The Forest Service worked for over two years with the American public to develop a planning rule that will protect our natural resources, promote sustainable recreation and safeguard our precious drinking water, all while allowing for timber harvest and encouraging restoration. This new planning rule promotes collaboration and will continue to engage the American people throughout all stages of planning. The Forest Service can now move forward to implement a new planning rule for the benefit of future generations."
Laura McCarthy, Senior Policy Advisor, The Nature Conservancy
"The Forest Service should be complimented for producing a much needed Final Forest Planning Rule. Healthy forests support the well-being of our nation, yet more than half of the national forests are operating with out-of-date plans. We are glad the Forest Service has come out with a Final Rule that will allow new plans to be developed more efficiently. It is time to roll up our sleeves and work with the agency to update these plans."
Michael Goergen, Executive Vice President and CEO, Society of American Foresters
"The Forest Service is revising national forest plans using regulations developed in 1982 -- before the development of the McIntosh or Windows. Each attempt to modernize those regulations has been litigated, usually by both environmental and development groups. The quality of the environment cannot possibly be enhanced by using outdated rules. The new rules should be given a chance to work."
Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies
"We are pleased that the Forest Service can now begin to implement this modernized final planning rule. Through working closely and cooperatively with the respective state fish and wildlife agency, implementation of the rule will ensure sustainability of fish and wildlife resources consistent with the plan area habitat. It will also ensure that the plan area will contribute to landscape level conservation of fish, wildlife and their habitats. We support the Forest Service moving quickly to effectively implement the rule to meet these conservation objectives."
Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO, Defenders of Wildlife
"The Obama administration has made a very strong commitment to wildlife and land conservation with the release of its final forest-planning rule. The forest policy charts a new course to conserve and restore the health and integrity of these lands and waters, and now the hard work for implementing the rule begins today. Moving forward, it will be critical for the Forest Service to make this vision a reality as it issues implementation policies and begins writing forest plans. Defenders of Wildlife is committed to working with the Forest Service as it transforms its stewardship and wildlife conservation obligations to ensure that our nation's forests, wildlife and waters are protected for generations to come."
Joel Webster, director, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Center for Western Lands
"America's 193 million acres of national forest lands are vitally important for fish and wildlife and public hunting and fishing opportunities. With America's population surpassing 310 million, the significance of these lands to our outdoor traditions continues to grow – as do challenges in their management. The adaptive management approach of the new planning rule will help the agency address these challenges. Based on input from members of the public, including sportsmen, the Forest Service made specific improvements to the final rule, such as a commitment to use the best available science in making management decisions, an increased commitment to watershed conservation, added attention to commonly enjoyed fish and wildlife species and an improved approach to timber management. The next test will lie in implementation of the rule, and we will work with our sportsmen partners in development of the forthcoming planning directives that will guide how the rule is used."
Mike Anderson, Senior Resource Analyst, The Wilderness Society
"The Forest Service has produced a visionary national forest planning rule based on principles of sound science. The new planning rule takes a big step forward to a more collaborative way of restoring and protecting the magnificent rivers and wildlife habitat of our national forests. The Forest Service should be congratulated for their inclusive public involvement and responsiveness to public feedback on the rule. The agency has gone beyond the norm by reaching out and listening to thousands of people who care deeply about the national forests. Continued public participation and inclusiveness will be critical in ensuring many parts of the new rule are implemented consistent with the rule's vision."
Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club
"The Sierra Club applauds USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and the Forest Service for taking action today to protect our forests and grasslands. The new standards represent a victory for communities and families in the Western region of the country, half of whom depend on national forests for clean and safe drinking water. The finalized standards also include criteria to restore and protect the watersheds and waterways that supply about one-fifth of our nation's water – a move that's good for our families, our health and our economy. Fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing and other outdoor recreational activities generate more than $700 billion for the economy each year and support thousands of jobs."
"Outdoor Alliance and the broader human powered community is especially excited about the early adopter forests that are slated to immediately use the new rule on their forest plans. These forests, including the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest in Idaho, the Chugach National Forest in Alaska, and California's Inyo, Sequoia and Sierra National Forests have a wealth of human powered outdoor recreational resources and will benefit from a modern planning approach."
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. 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.
USDA works with state, local and Tribal governments and private landowners to conserve and protect our nation's natural resources – helping preserve our land, and clean our air and water. President Obama launched the America's Great Outdoors initiative in 2010 to foster a 21st century approach to conservation that is designed by and accomplished in partnership with the American people. During the past two years, USDA's conservation agencies — the U.S. Forest Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Farm Service Agency — have delivered technical assistance and implemented restoration practices on public and private lands. We are working to better target conservation investments: embracing locally driven conservation and entering partnerships that focus on large, landscape-scale conservation.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (toll-free customer service), (800) 877-8339 (local or federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (relay voice users).