A new planning rule released today by the U.S. Forest Service should enable the federal government to better address changing environmental circumstances and utilize new information to ensure the responsible management of 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership announced today.
The national forest planning rule will guide all new land use plans for 155 national forests and 20 grasslands in 42 states, encompassing vast expanses of valuable fish and wildlife habitat and publicly accessible hunting and angling. It was developed under the auspices of the National Forest Management Act of 1976, which requires the Forest Service to formulate management plans for all of the public lands under its jurisdiction.
Agriculture Under Secretary Harris Sherman signed the final “record of decision” for the rule this morning, following the Jan. 26 release of the rule’s final environmental impact statement, a detailed analysis of what the final rule would look like.
“America’s 193 million acres of national forest lands are vitally important for fish and wildlife and public hunting and fishing opportunities,” said Joel Webster, director of the TRCP Center for Western Lands. “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,” Webster continued, “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.”
“National forests form the headwaters of many of our nation’s major river basins, provide habitat for trout and salmon and recreational opportunities for anglers, and provide clean water for communities and irrigators,” said Steve Moyer, vice president for government affairs at Trout Unlimited, a TRCP partner group. “The new forest planning rule outlines an ambitious vision for our forests and watersheds. Trout Unlimited and our partners in the hunting and angling community are committed to working with the Forest Service to ensure the rule’s success – and to upholding a crucial component of our nation’s outdoor legacy.”