The U.S. National Forest Service is now considering new rules that will determine how our National Forests are managed, including more than 9 million acres here in Washington State. While the draft rule is a good first step towards modernizing Forest Planning for the 21st century, there are some areas where the rule needs improvement. Those who recreate in National Forests may pay particular attention to the following aspects of the draft rule:
• Sustainable Recreation: The proposed rule recognizes that recreation needs greater consideration in the Forest Planning process. All forest plans must provide for sustainable recreation, defined as: “…the set of recreational opportunities, uses and access that, individually and combined, are ecologically, economically, and socially sustainable, allowing the responsible official to offer recreation opportunities now and into the future.”
• Water Quality: While the rule makes progress by approaching management from a watershed perspective, the language leaves much open to interpretation and fails to define minimum standards for riparian buffers or establish guidelines for watershed protection.
• Wildlife Management: The rules would roll back protections for fish and wildlife by allowing agencies to pick and choose which species to protect and failing to provide a measurement for managing viable and resilient populations.
• Role of Science: The proposed rule requires the responsible official to “take into account” the best available science, allowing managers to rely on inferior scientific information or opinions rather than conform to the best available information. Decisions affecting wildlife and forest management, as well as forest users need to be based on sound ecosystem or social science.
• Public Process: Throughout the proposed new rule a theme of providing local officials greater discretion appears. While the Forest Service attempts to provide more flexibility, the many non-binding subjective terms throughout the rule such as “desired conditions”, “taking into account”, and “should consider” leaves much to debate and interpretation that could result in future discord. In addition the appeal process, referred to as an “objection”, includes new barriers and procedures that limit opportunities for the public to constructively engage in management decisions.
What You Can Do
Please come to the only open house that will be held by the Forest Service in Washington State on these important proposed rules. The Forest Service scheduled more than 70 meetings around the country but excluded Washington State until local conservation leaders insisted on a local meeting. The Mountaineers will co-host a Friends of Our Forests Happy Hour before the Forest Service’s open house on March 23rd in downtown Seattle.
Please RSVP so that we can get an accurate estimate of who will be attending at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2CQKZYN
Friends of our Forests Happy Hour
When: 5-6pm Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 (before the open house and walk over after)
Where: Elephant & Castle, (1415 Fifth Avenue, Seattle)
• Discuss the basics of what’s at stake
• Meet other Forest Activists
Forest Rule Open House
When: 6-8pm, Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011,
Where: Sheraton Hotel (1400 Sixth Avenue, Seattle)
• Learn about the proposed forest management rule and how it needs to be improved to strength protections for fish, wildlife, watersheds and recreational opportunities
• Weigh in by submitting an official comment on the rule
The public is encouraged to submit written comments on the draft rule at http://www.govcomments.com. The Mountaineers will be developing comments in advance of the May 16 deadline for public comments. We welcome your thoughts, ideas, and observations on the proposed rule – contact Sarah Krueger, firstname.lastname@example.org.