The Forestry Source - March 2012 - (Page 1)
News for forest resource professionals published by the Society of American Foresters
March 2012 • Vol. 17, No. 3
Tidwell: New Forest Planning Rule Highlights Collaboration, Efficiency Chief Says Forest Plan Development Will Cost Less and Take Less Time
By Steve Wilent om Tidwell’s 33 years with the US Forest Service makes him ideally qualified to lead the agency’s effort to craft a new national forest planning rule. He has served as a firefighter, a district ranger and forest supervisor, deputy regional forester for the Pacific Southwest Region, and regional forester for the Northern Region. In addition, he worked as a legislative affairs specialist in the Washington office, where he helped draft the National Fire Plan, the 2001 roadless area conservation rule, and the Secure Rural Schools County Payments Act. I spoke at length with Tidwell as the finishing touches were being made to the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for National Forest System Land Management Planning, which was released in January (see companion article on this page). He has been intimately involved in shaping the new rule and strongly believes that it will result in a more efficient planning process and fewer appeals and lawsuits than have plans written under previous planning rules. What follows is the transcript of a portion of our conversation.
The Forestry Source: What lessons have you learned from your experience with the 1982 and subsequent rule iterations that have shaped what will become known as the 2012 planning rule? Tidwell: We’ve been at this since the early 1990s, when we recognized that we
needed to have a different framework for planning than what came out of the 1982 rule. Our efforts to revise the rule back then didn’t really go anywhere. Our second effort is what produced the 2000 rule, which is in place, but which no forest or grassland has even tried to use, because of the amount of analysis that’s required—it actually requires more process, more analysis, and is more time consuming to use than the 1982 rule. And that’s what led to the 2005 and 2008 versions, which were efforts to develop frameworks for planning that had much less process, much less required analysis, so that a forest plan revision could be done in a much shorter period of time. The problem with the 2005 and 2008 rules is that we never had a chance to try to use them, because they were quickly enjoined by the courts, which found that we had not met an adequate level of National Environmental Policy Act [NEPA] analysis and because of some APA [Administrative Procedure Act] and ESA [Endangered Species Act] issues. We’ve learned a few things from those past efforts. First, we need to have a rule that we can implement—if nothing else, that’s essential. The second thing is that we cannot do enough to reach out to our interested public, to really understand what they want to see from a forest plan. So, we took a different approach to this rule-making effort. Normally, we would put out a proposed rule and ask for comments, but this time around we didn’t do
The US Forest Service held several public forums across the country in 2011 to help people understand the draft national forest planning rule.
that. We put out a series of questions and asked the public what they want to see in forest-plan revisions. We also had an extensive series of roundtables here in Washington, DC, and across the country, so we could sit down and really have a dialog with thousands of people to help inform their thinking about the planning process, but also for us to have a better understanding of what they wanted to see. Much of what came out of that is what’s in the pro-
posed rule and in the draft environmental impact statement [EIS]. This is a rule that reflects not only the requirements of existing law, such as the National Forest Management Act [NFMA], but that also reflects what the public wants to see us do through planning. We had 300,000 comments on our proposed rule and had countless meetings to make sure that we understood the comments that people submit(See “Tidwell” page 4)
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US Forest Service to Finalize New Planning Rule This Month
In New Jersey, prevention, not suppression, is key to winning battle against the pine beetle. According to consulting forester and SAF member Bob Williams, CF, preventative forest management is the solution to controling the spread of the southern pine beetle in the Garden State. Page 8. GIS for Foresters: visualizing the harvest. Spatial phenomena can be mapped not only to better visualize the assertions that are made by foresters, but also to expose fascinating trends in the network topology of the harvest. Page 14.
n the 33 years since the first national forest land and resource management plans were published, as mandated by the National Forest Management Act of 1976, nothing the US Forest Service has done has drawn more disagreement and debate than its regulations for writing such plans. Several attempts to revise a plan-
ning rule produced in 1982 have proven unworkable or been invalidated by federal courts. This year the agency will adopt a new forest planning rule that it hopes will stand the test of time. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell has said on numerous occasions that the new rule is designed to allow comprehensive forest planning with
Sierra National Forest
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3 6 13 15 16 19 Editor’s Notebook Industry News Society Affairs Field Tech Leadership Guide Classifieds
The Sierra National Forest is one of eight forests preselected to use a new forest-planning rule in revising their existing plans. Scott Armentrout, supervisor of the Sierra, said maintaining good working relationships with stakeholders such as Craig Thomas, executive director of Sierra Forest Legacy (left), shown here with Sierra silviculturist Romiro Rojas discussing the age of trees near a Pacific Fisher den, will be an important part of the plan-revision process.
“less process and that costs less, with the same or higher level of protections” (see the in-depth interview with Chief Tidwell on this page). Since the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for National Forest System Land Management Planning was released in January, criticism has been relatively muted. The agency will release a Record of Decision this month that establishes the PEIS’s “Modified Alternative A,” perhaps with a few minor changes, as the new planning rule (see www.fs.usda.gov/planningrule). For most observers outside the agency, the most contentious issue is the new rule’s “complementary ecosystem and species-specific approach to maintaining the diversity of plant and animal communities and the persistence of native species in the plan area.” Mike Anderson, a senior resource analyst with The Wilderness Society, says protections in Modified Alternative A (the Preferred Alternative, or PA) for individual species is weak. “At the species-specific level, the PA rule states that ‘if the responsible official determines that the [ecosystem-level] plan components … are insufficient to provide the ecological conditions necessary’ to (See “Planning Rule” page 5)
US Forest Service.
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The Forestry Source - March 2012
The Forestry Source - March 2012
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