Please help us tell the Forest Service that the proposed Forest Planning Rule would severely undermine transparency and the role of the public in the decision making process. Please copy and paste the letter below (below line, bottom of page) and submit here.
The planning rule as currently proposed by the USFS lacks specificity and clarity. It fails to require the professional expertise of other Federal and State agencies whose information is critical. It allows the agency unwarranted and unnecessary latitude and lack of accountability in using “meeting other multiple use objectives” as an “escape clause” in following the clear requirements of the rule. This renders many of the sections and definitions either moot or impotent. It is especially lax with agency requirements for review, public comment and accountability in creating plan amendments. In so doing it does a disservice to both line officers and employees who must carry out activities under the rule and to the public for sufficient and required opportunities for review, comment and administrative challenges to plans and amendments. It certainly restricts and sometimes eliminates the mandated right of the public to review and administrative appeal of plan amendments and projects. Read more here.
Forest Service Planning DEI
c/o Bear West Company
132 E 500 S
Bountiful, UT 84010
re: comments on new planning rule to guide land and resource management planning for all units of the National Forest System (NFS) under the National Forest Management Act of 1976
Dear sir or madam,
The following constitute my comments on the new planning rule, and accompanying DEIS, to guide land and resource management planning for all units of the National Forest System (NFS) under the National Forest Management Act of 1976, as published in the Federal Register/Vol. 76, No. 30/Monday, February 14, 2011.
These comments reflect those submitted by the Allegheny Defense Project and Heartwood both of which are hereby incorporated by reference. Each of the subsequent comments are directed at making the proposed rule simpler, clearer and more specific planning rule, which will make subsequent forest plans and projects less contentious, less appealed and less litigated.
• This planning rule lacks the specificity and clarity that is essential for the agency to both confidently know that it is fulfilling the requirements of the rule and to be held accountable for its actions under this rule. The rule must have enforceable requirements. Requirements are only enforceable if they use mandatory language like the 1982 regulations. The regulations need to use "must" and "shall" especially regarding issues where the NFMA clearly is itself imposing mandatory requirements. The only reason for removing such mandatory language is to make these regulations and the NFMA less mandatory and enforceable than Congress intended for it to be.
• It allows the agency unwarranted and unnecessary latitude and lack of accountability in using "meeting other multiple use objectives" as an "escape clause" in following the clear requirements of the rule. This renders many of the sections and definitions either moot or impotent.
• The rule is especially lax with agency requirements for review, public comment and accountability in creating plan amendments. It restricts and sometimes eliminates the mandated right of the public to review and administrative appeal of plan amendments and projects.
• The rule fails to require that planning include an assessment by and take guidance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the state of current and proposed rare threatened and endangered species and from the Environmental Protection Agency on matters regarding soil, air and water quality as it pertains to the planning unit.
• This rule makes plan amendments possible without sufficient analysis, review or public input. A plan amendment assessment should be required and under no circumstances should a plan amendment be made concurrently with a project decision. Analysis prepared for a project or activity is clearly insufficient to serve as a documented need to change or amend a plan.
• The proposed rule removes the requirement that wildlife species be maintained "well distributed in the planning area." Without this stipulation, the Forest Service is no longer required to try to preserve the existing range of many species of concern in both projects as well as plans. It removes the US Department of Fish and Wildlife and State agencies from participating in such a determination and puts too much subjective discretion in the hands of the responsible official. In short, the proposal sanctions local extirpation.
• The planning rule allows unreasonably vast discretion for the responsible officer to allow timber harvest in areas designated unsuitable for timber harvest.
• The Rule specifies that plan components must include standards limiting the maximum size limits for areas to be cut in one harvest operation, according to geographic areas, forest types, or other suitable classifications." Yet because of subjective exceptions allowable under the rule, virtually all limits have been rescinded.
• Any situation and need that requires a plan amendment is a major condition and any actions it would allow must, therefore, be considered significant actions and, therefore, should require an EIS and full 90 day comment period, which would include a full determination and analysis of "the scope and scale of the amendment and its likely effects."
• The Planning Rule constrains public participation is unreasonably limited by very short, 30 day, non-extendable periods to comment and to file objections, while the agency can take 90 days or more to respond. In the predecisional process, the public must address a draft decision which may and, in all likelihood would undergo changes, rather than the final.
• The Planning Rule needs to be consistent with The National Heritage Preservation Act. Individuals and groups with Consulting Party status must be included in the evaluation of potential harm and the development of mitigation alternatives. Any groups with actual or potential consulting party status under NHPA need to be contacted and the responsible official should be required to engage them in the Forest Planning process. In addition, the Planning Rules should include review and analysis of the potential for Cultural Landscape designation based on patterns of human behavior that are indicative of cultural values and the relationship of a community of people with that place.
• The Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the planning rule omits consideration of ecosystem services as a significant issue.
• Throughout the DEIS document, management is considered the only method and process by which objectives are met. Nowhere is the role of dynamic change and natural succession mentioned as a natural process to achieve management goals. Because many objectives can be met in time in the absence of active management, this needs to be considered in the range of alternatives.
• Never at any of the public presentations and roundtables has the Agency accepted official comments. This serves to actually impede the public process as it creates the illusion that such public participation confers standing, scoping or public comments under NEPA.
• Of all the given alternatives, a combination of Alternatives D and E, if accompanied by all of the above mentioned changes, should be the preferred alternative.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Forest Service Planning Rule and Draft Environmental Impact Statement.