National Forest System Land and Resource Management Planning

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: The Department requests comment on a proposed rule to guide
land and resource management planning for the National Forest System.
This proposed rule describes the framework for National Forest System
planning; makes sustainability the foundation for National Forest
System planning and management; and establishes requirements for
implementation, monitoring, evaluation, amendment, and revision of land
and resource management plans. The intended effects are to simplify,
clarify and otherwise improve the planning process; to reduce
burdensome and costly procedural requirements; and to strengthen
collaborative relationships with the public and other government

DATES: Comments must be submitted in writing and received by January 4,
2000. Public meetings will be held at places and on dates yet to be
determined. Notice of the times, places, and locations will be
published in a future edition of the Federal Register.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to the CAET-USDA, Att. Planning Rule,
Forest Service, USDA, 200 East Broadway, Room 103, P.O. Box 7669,
Missoula, Montana 59807, via email at planreg/, or
FAX (406) 329-3021.


The Forest Service is responsible for managing the lands and
resources of the National Forest System which includes 192 million
acres of land in 42 states, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. The
system is composed of 155 national forests, 20 national grasslands, and
various other lands under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of
Agriculture (the Secretary). According to the Multiple-Use Sustained-
Yield Act of 1960 (MUSYA) (16 U.S.C. 528) and the National Forest
Management Act of 1976 (16 U.S.C. 1600 et seq.), the National Forest
System lands are to be managed for a variety of uses on a sustained-
yield basis to ensure a continued supply of products and services in
The National Forest Management Act (NFMA) guides land management
planning for National Forest System lands. It directs the Secretary to
develop, maintain, and, as appropriate, revise land and resource
management plans for units of the National Forest System and sets forth
the requirements for doing so. During the 23 years since enactment of
NFMA, much has been learned about land and resource management
planning. Yet, many controversial issues regarding the appropriate
short- and long-term use of national forests and grasslands remain.
While some advocates of land and resource management planning
believed it would lead to resolution of the issues associated with the
management of natural resources, it has not. Difficult issues remain
among competing interests. Land and resource management planning and
attendant decisionmaking cannot be expected to resolve all problems;
however, improved planning procedures can more fully engage the public
and lead to mutually developed landscape goals and improved public
participation in
decisionmaking. The expanded requirements for collaboration and
scientific input in the proposed new planning process will result in
expanded management choices and more fully informed decisionmaking to
ensure the long-term sustainability and health of national forests and
In March 1989, the Forest Service initiated a comprehensive review
of its land and resource management planning process. Results of the
review were published in May 1990, in a summary report entitled
``Synthesis of the Critique of Land Management Planning'' (Vol. 1),
accompanied by ten other more detailed reports. The 1990 Critique
documented lessons learned since passage of the NFMA and adoption of
initial plans under that law. The Critique provided recommendations to
improve planning and the management of national forests and grasslands
and to more effectively engage the public in addressing future natural
resource management challenges.
On February 15, 1991, the Forest Service published an Advance
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (56 FR 6508) which included preliminary
regulatory text revising the existing planning rule. Four public
informational meetings were held to explain and discuss ideas for
revising the planning procedure. Over 600 individuals and several
groups of people submitted written comments. These comments were used
in the development of a proposed rule published on April 13, 1995 (60
FR 18886).
A substantial number of public comments were received on the
proposed rule, generally expressing dissatisfaction with proposed
changes in the planning process. In part, as a result of public concern
with changes proposed, the Secretary elected not to proceed with this
In order to take a fresh look at the issues associated with land
and resource management planning and to obtain an independent
perspective, in December 1997, the Secretary of Agriculture convened a
13-member Committee of Scientists to review the Forest Service planning
process and to offer recommendations for improvements. The Committee's
charter was to ``provide scientific and technical advice to the
Secretary of Agriculture and the Chief of the Forest Service on
improvements that can be made in the National Forest System Land and
Resource Management Planning Process and to address such topics as how
to consider the following in land and resource management plans:
biological diversity, use of ecosystem assessments in land and resource
management planning, spatial and temporal scales for planning, public
participation processes, sustainable forestry, interdisciplinary
analysis, and any other issues that the Committee identifies that
should be addressed in revised planning regulations.'' USDA Under
Secretary Lyons noted at the Committee's initial meeting that the
Committee's challenge was to ``produce a set of recommendations that
will guide us in developing the next generation of forest plans.''
Following a series of meetings around the country with Forest
Service employees, representatives of tribes, state and local
governments, related federal natural resource agencies, and members of
the public, the Committee of Scientists issued a final report on March
15, 1999. The Committee recognized the extraordinary legacy that is the
National Forest System and characterized these lands as ``a grand
experiment in multiple-use management.'' The Committee concluded that,
through careful management, National Forest System lands can continue
to provide many and diverse benefits to the American people in
perpetuity. These benefits include clean air and water, productive
soils, biological diversity, a wide variety of products and services,
employment, community development opportunities, and recreation.
National Forest System lands also can provide incalculable benefits
such as beauty, inspiration, wonder, and a refuge for the renewal of
the human spirit. Finally, recognizing innovative efforts in the field,
the Committee concluded that the Forest Service, as the steward of the
people's lands, can improve its planning and decisionmaking by relying
on the concepts and principles of sustainable natural resource
stewardship, by applying the best available scientific knowledge to
management choices, and by effectively collaborating with a broad array
of citizens, other public servants, and governmental and private
Based on the Committee of Scientists' findings, the draft
regulatory text it contained, and over two decades of experience in
developing and implementing land and resource management plans, a team
of Forest Service employees, aided by an interagency steering
committee, prepared this proposed rule. The Forest Service rule writing
team was selected from different management levels within the
organization and included representation from the National Forest
System, Research, and State and Private program areas. In addition to
the Committee's report, in developing this proposed rule the team also
considered the 1990 Critique of land and resource management planning,
and the various laws, regulations, and reports influential in guiding
planning and management of the National Forest System, including, but
not limited to:
The National Forest Management Act;
The National Environmental Policy Act;
The Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act;
The Endangered Species Act;
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act;
Administrative direction in the Forest Service Manual and
The Council on Environmental Quality, ``The Cumulative Effects
The 1983 Bureau of Land Management Planning Regulations (40 CFR
Part 1600); and
The Council on Environmental Quality, ``The National Environmental
Policy Act: A Study of its Effectiveness After Twenty-five Years.''

National Forest Management Act Requirements

Section 6 of the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) specifies
the requirements for the regulations that guide National Forest System
planning. A synopsis of those requirements follows, along with an
identification of the sections of the proposed planning rule where the
requirements are addressed.
Section 6(d) of NFMA requires public participation in the
development, review, and revision of land management plans. In response
to this provision and the Committee's strong recommendations on
collaborative planning, the proposed rule places increased emphasis on
the cooperative development of land management plans, requiring
planners and managers to provide the opportunity and motivation for
public participation in every phase of the planning process. In
Sec. 219.2(d)(1) of the proposed rule, the goal, as written by the
Committee of Scientists, specifically speaks to meaningfully engaging
the American people in the stewardship of their national forests and
grasslands to ``build stewardship capacity.'' Sections 219.12 through
219.18 (Collaborative planning for sustainability) would establish the
requirements for public involvement including consultation and
interaction with American Indian Tribes and Alaska Natives, adjacent
landowners and interested individuals as well as establishing the
requirements for involving state and local governments
and coordinating planning with other federal agencies. The requirements
for public involvement described in these sections are a key feature in
the proposed planning rule.
Section 6(e) of NFMA requires plans to provide for: (1) The
multiple-use and sustained-yield of products and services from National
Forest System lands; and (2) the determination of forest silvicultural
systems, harvest levels and procedures, and the availability of lands
and their suitability for timber production.
The multiple-use, sustained-yield objective is embodied in the goal
at Sec. 219.2(b)(1). Sections 219.19 through 219.21 make ecological,
social, and economic sustainability the overall goal for National
Forest System management to provide for the multiple-use and sustained-
yield of the products and services derived there from. Additional
statutory requirements, including timber management systems
(Sec. 219.7), harvest levels, and availability and suitability of
lands, are incorporated in Secs. 219.26 through 219.29 (Special
Section 6(f) of NFMA lists five requirements: (1) The development
of one integrated land and resource management plan for each unit of
the National Forest System; (2) the embodiment of the plan in
appropriate written material; (3) interdisciplinary plan development;
(4) amendment of the plan as needed; and (5) revision of the plan from
time to time or at least every 15 years. The requirements of this
section are addressed in Secs. 219.3 through 219.11 which describe the
proposed planning framework, in Secs. 219.30 and 219.31 (Planning
documentation) which describe the content of a land and resource
management plan, and in Sec. 219.8 (Amendment) and Sec. 219.9
Section 6(g) of NFMA requires the development of planning
regulations that are in compliance with the Multiple-Use Sustained-
Yield Act. Section 6(g) also requires: (1) Compliance with the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); (2) guidelines for the identification
of land suitability, gathering inventory data and the identification of
resource hazards; and (3) guidelines that ensure economic and
environmental aspects of resource management; ensure maintenance of the
diversity of plant and animal species; ensure that research is
conducted; permit increases in harvest based on specific requirements;
ensure the harvest of timber based on various resource conditions;
specify silvicultural requirements; identify riparian or wetland
protection needs; and describe specific harvest systems and size
limitations for fundamental resource protection.
In Sec. 219.12 (Collaboration and cooperatively developed landscape
goals), the proposed rule addresses application of the nation's
environmental policy as described in the NEPA. Compliance with the
procedural requirements of NEPA is addressed in Secs. 219.3 through
219.11 (The framework for planning). It is important to note that the
Forest Service NEPA procedures are to guide decisionmaking procedures
described in these sections.
Land suitability and the identification of special conditions and
resource hazards are addressed in Sec. 219.26 (Identifying and
designating suitable uses) and in Sec. 219.27 (Special designations).
Inventory data collection is addressed in Secs. 219.22 through 219.25
(The contribution of science) and Sec. 219.5 (Information development
and interpretation).
The economic and environmental aspects of resource management are
addressed in Secs. 219.19 through 219.21 (Ecological, social and
economic sustainability), Sec. 219.4 (Topics of general interest or
concern) and in Sec. 219.6 (Proposed actions). The diversity of plant
and animal species, protection of riparian or wetland resources, and
research needs are addressed indirectly in Secs. 219.22 through 219.25
(The contribution of science), and directly in Secs. 219.19 through
219.21 (Ecological, social and economic sustainability). Various
requirements for the management of timber resources are addressed in
Sec. 219.28 (Determination of land suitable for timber removal) and
Sec. 219.29 (Limitation on timber removal). Fundamental natural
resource protection is highlighted in Secs. 219.3 through 219.11 (The
framework for planning) and in Secs. 219.19 through 219.21 (Ecological,
social, and economic sustainability).
Sections 6(i) and (j) of NFMA require that resource management
actions be consistent with land management plan direction and define
when plans become effective. Consistency with land and resource
management plan decisions and the date when land and resource
management plans become effective are addressed in Secs. 219.3 through
219.11 (The framework for planning) and in Sec. 219.35 (Transition).
Section 6(k) of NFMA requires the identification of lands not
suitable for timber production. Section (6)(k)(1) requires a process
for estimating long-term costs and benefits related to timber
management; and section (6)(k)(2) requires a summary of this
information in the form of an annual report. The final part of Section
6(k)(2) requires standards to ensure that trees have reached the
culmination of mean annual increment, the use of sound silvicultural
practices, and that standards do not preclude salvage or sanitation
harvest. Exceptions to these standards include consideration of other
resource uses.
The requirement for the identification of lands not suitable for
timber production is included in Sec. 219.28 (Determination of land
suitable for timber removal). The process for estimating long-term
costs and benefits related to timber management is addressed in
Sec. 219.21 (Social and economic sustainability). The requirement for a
summary of information in the form of an annual report is included in
Secs. 219.30 and 219.31 (Planning documentation). The procedures to
ensure harvest of timber within the requirements of NFMA including the
mean annual increment, the practice of sound silvicultural systems, and
direction for salvage or sanitation harvests are included in the Forest
Service Directive System.

The Proposed Planning Process

Statutory Background and Overview

Under the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of
1974, as amended by the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (NFMA),
the Secretary of Agriculture is required to ``develop, maintain, and,
as appropriate, revise land and resource management plans for units of
the National Forest System.'' 16 U.S.C. 1604(a). Land and resource
management plans, in large part, furnish overall programmatic guidance
for the management of individual national forests and grasslands and
the design of site-specific projects such as timber sales or watershed
restoration projects.
Currently, all national forests and grasslands are operating under
land and resource management plans developed under the existing forest
planning regulations. There are two ways that these plans can be
changed: revision and amendment. The NFMA requires revision of plans at
least every 15 years, and revision can also occur whenever
circumstances affecting the entire plan area or major portions of it
have changed significantly. The proposed rule will set standards for
the upcoming revision of most of the existing land and resource
management plans, which were adopted in the 1980's and early 1990's.
Amendment is a means of updating the forest plan's programmatic
direction between the periodic revisions that must occur every 15
years. The proposed rule provides for a flexible
ongoing process of investigating and responding to new information,
which can lead to either the revision or amendment of plans or the
development of appropriate site-specific projects to address changing
circumstances as they arise.

The Content of Plans

Under the proposed rule, land and resource management plans would
contain four categories of decisions (Sec. 219.7). First, they
establish desired resource conditions to achieve long-term
sustainability (which may include, but are not limited to, the desired
watershed and ecological conditions and aquatic and terrestrial habitat
characteristics). Second, the plans contain goals (statements of
intent), objectives (measurable results intended to achieve goals),
standards, and guidelines. The standards and guidelines provide
criteria for the design of site-specific projects that address such
important considerations as species and their habitat, timber harvest
guidelines, and watershed integrity. Third, plans include the
designation and identification of suitable uses within the plan area
(e.g., lands where timber production is an appropriate objective) and
designations of special areas. Finally, the plans contain monitoring
and evaluation requirements, which guide ongoing forest or grassland
The addition, removal, or modification of any of these decisions
requires either revision or amendment of the plan.


Under the proposed planning rule, a land and resource management
plan must be revised whenever circumstances affecting the entire plan
area or major portions of the plan area have changed significantly or
the plan has reached its 15-year statutory age limit (Sec. 219.9). To
begin the revision process, the responsible officials would summarize
existing information and provide for scientific review of the
effectiveness of current management, among other steps, and make this
information available for public review. The responsible officials must
then publish a Notice of Intent to revise in the Federal Register, and
provide for a second opportunity for public comment for at least 45
days regarding the scope of the proposed revision. Following any
adjustment in the scope of the revision in response to these comments,
the responsible officials must prepare a NEPA document on the proposed
revision and provide at least a 90-day public comment period.
Any person may file objections to a proposed revision within 30
days of publication of the availability of the final NEPA document
(Sec. 219.32). The responsible official must prepare a written response
to the objection by the time a decision is reached. Any final decision
to revise plans will become effective 30 days after notice of the
decision is published in the Federal Register.


In addition to revision, a land and resource management plan may
also be amended (Sec. 219.8) to add, remove, or modify one or more of
the decisions embodied in a forest plan.
Like other Forest Service actions, proposed amendments require
compliance with NEPA. As part of the NEPA process, the responsible
official must determine whether the significance of the proposed
amendment's impact on the environment, and whether an environmental
impact statement is required. The NFMA also requires that the Forest
Services determine whether amendments are significant under this
statute as well. The proposed rule simplifies this NFMA finding by
linking it to the required significance determination under NEPA. Thus,
the responsible official must make only one determination of
significance, under the well-known standards of NEPA. For significant
amendments, the preparation of an environmental impact statement and a
90-day public comment period are required. For non-significant
amendments, less detailed levels of NEPA compliance such as the
preparation of environmental assessments are appropriate. There is the
same opportunity for persons to file objections to proposed amendments
as there is for proposed revisions (Sec. 219.32). All decisions to
approve amendments become effective after the responsible official
gives notice of the proposed decision.

Site-Specific Projects

The NFMA provides that ``[r]esource plans and permits, contracts,
and other instruments for the use and occupancy of the National Forest
System lands shall be consistent with the land management plans.'' 16
U.S.C. 1604 (i). If a proposed site-specific activity is not consistent
with the land management plan, the responsible official may ``[m]odify
the proposal to make it consistent with the plan''; ``[r]eject the
proposal''; or ``[a]mend the plan to permit the proposal.'' 53 FR
26,836 (1988). However, the fact that a proposed activity is consistent
with the applicable land management plan does not mean that it will
actually go forward, or that it can be undertaken without further
scrutiny. Rather, when an individual project (such as a timber sale or
closure and obliteration of an unneeded road) is proposed, the agency
undertakes an individual study of its likely environmental effects and
renders a formal decision regarding it. The Forest Service is required
by statute to provide opportunities for public notice and comment,
along with a right of administrative appeal for all ``proposed actions
of the Forest Service concerning projects and activities implementing
land and resource management plans.''

Ongoing Process

The proposed planning rule sets out an innovative planning
framework to update land and resource management plans. The goal is to
create a planning process that enables responsible officials to amend
their plans quickly and soundly in response to new information or
changed conditions.
Formally, the proposed planning process (Appendix A) for updating
plans begins with a topic(s) of general interest or concern
(Sec. 219.4). Sources for these topics of general interest or concern
may include new Forest Service conservation initiatives, enactment of
new laws or policies, discussions among people, organizations, or
governments, etc. or information generated from a later stage of the
planning process. For example, monitoring and evaluation plays a key
role in the proposed planning process. Under the proposed rule,
information from inventory and monitoring would feed back into the
proposed planning process at various points throughout the process and
could lead to the development of a topic of general interest or
concern. Information from a broad-scale assessment or local analysis
could also lead to the development of a topic of general interest or
Once a general topic of concern arises, the responsible official
would have to determine whether the topic should receive consideration
(Sec. 219.4). In so doing, the official would consider the criteria
listed in Sec. 219.4(b). If, after using these criteria, the
responsible official determined that a topic of general interest or
concern should receive further consideration, the responsible official
would then evaluate whether adequate information existed about the
topic (Sec. 219.5). Information could come from a number of existing
sources, including existing inventories, broad-scale assessments, local
analyses, or from information voluntarily submitted from interested
parties. If obtaining
more information was desirable and could be obtained at a reasonable
cost and in a timely manner, a broad-scale assessment or local analysis
could be developed or supplemented.
Broad-scale assessments provide information regarding ecological,
economic, or social topics that are broad in geographic scale. In most
cases, they go well beyond individual national forest and grassland
boundaries. The results from assessments are not proposed actions or
decisions subject to NEPA procedures. But under the proposed rule,
their findings and conclusions could be used to inform the planning
process and/or develop new topics of general interest or concern.
Similarly, local analyses provide information that aids in the
identification of possible actions or projects on a more local scale.
Depending on the situation, broad-scale assessments and local analyses
should provide information related to ecological factors set forth in
Sec. 219.20 and/or social and economic factors set forth in
Sec. 219.21. These assessments and analyses do not make decisions, but
instead provide information which may assist in subsequent decisions.
Although the assessments and analyses will often involve extensive
public participation, persons only have legal rights to comment or
participate if the responsible officials make actual decisions
regarding revisions, amendments, or site-specific projects. If the
assessments or analyses affect actual decisions, the public will
necessarily have an opportunity to comment before actual decisions are
made. Furthermore, there is no right to judicial review of the broad-
scale assessments and local analyses, which responsible officials are
encouraged rather than legally mandated to undertake to update their
knowledge of changing conditions.
Based on consideration of the criteria in Sec. 219.4(b) and
available information in Sec. 219.5, responsible officials could
propose to revise a plan, amend it, and/or propose a site-specific
project (Sec. 219.10). In each case, they would be required to analyze
alternatives and effects of the proposal in conformance with agency
NEPA procedures. A formal NEPA process would ensue, although, a
responsible official may use the above planning process to accomplish
the NEPA scoping process. These decisions all give the public
opportunities for input, either through objections (revision or
amendment), or notice and comment and administrative appeal (site-
specific projects).
Monitoring and evaluation assess the effectiveness of the plan
(Sec. 219.11). Under the proposed rule, monitoring and evaluation would
aid in identification of new topics of general interest or concern, the
development of new assessments, and the selection process for site-
specific projects.
Although monitoring and evaluation is the last step in describing
the planning process, it does not end the planning process. Indeed, in
practice these monitoring and evaluation requirements, like the broad-
scale assessments and local analyses described above, would provide
important feedback information that would continuously link planning to
plan implementation. Under the proposed planning rule, a national
forest or grassland, like a business or other large organization, would
always be ready to respond quickly to new information or changed
Under the proposed rule, the exact planning process might be very
different on two different national forests or grasslands, depending on
the amount of monitoring and assessment information that exists, the
problems and opportunities facing the administrative units, the level
of public involvement in the planning process, etc. These differences
would enable National Forest and Grassland Supervisors to amend or
revise their land and resource management plans in ways that best match
the complex issues and conditions they face. It would also make
planning a meaningful exercise that better promotes the health of the
resources on our national forests and grasslands setting more realistic
expectations for the goods, services, and amenities the national
forests and grasslands can provide. Of course, plans would still have
to meet the broad framework goals and principles for planning and
specific requirements in the proposed rule.

Key Elements of Planning

The proposed planning process is built upon the fundamental
statutes that have guided national forest management for nearly a
century as well as the wealth of experience gained since the passage of
NFMA and the initiation of the land and resource management process.
The Committee of Scientists' report serves as a synthesis of this
information and provides valuable guidance in understanding the
successes and failures of forest planning to date.
The proposed rule sets forth a new collaborative, adaptable
planning process that fully engages the public and requires use of the
best available science to ensure informed decisionmaking. The process
set forth in the proposed rule creates opportunities for people,
communities, and organizations to work together to develop mutual
understanding regarding desired resource conditions and outcomes as
well as to develop multiple-use management options designed to achieve
desired resource conditions and outcomes in ways that respond to public
interests or concerns. Consistent with the 1990 Critique, as validated
by the Committee of Scientists' report, the proposed rule emphasizes
monitoring and evaluation so that managers and others can evaluate
management performance, determine if desired and/or anticipated
outcomes are achieved, and adapt as resource conditions change over
time. This emphasis is in keeping with NFMA's mandate to evaluate the
effects of management systems, based on continuous monitoring and
assessment in the field, to ensure that substantial and permanent
impairment of the productivity of the land will not result (16 U.S.C.
The proposed rule would affirm ecological, social, and economic
sustainability as the overall goal for management of National Forest
System lands. To achieve sustainability, the first priority for
management is the maintenance and restoration of ecological
sustainability to provide a sustainable flow of products, services and
other values from these lands. As the Committee of Scientists
explained, making ecological sustainability the first priority does not
mean that the agency will maximize the protection of plant and animal
species to the exclusion of human values and uses. Rather, it means
that, without ecologically sustainable systems, other uses of the lands
and their resources would be impaired (Committee of Scientists' report,
page xvi.).
The proposed rule also would simplify required planning steps to
enable responsible officials to more readily address emerging issues
than is now possible with current required planning steps. For example,
the proposed rule would clarify that, where appropriate, multiple
planning activities of one or more national forests or grasslands can
be combined among administrative boundaries. Additionally, current
requirements for detailed analyses, such as those required for
benchmark analyses, would be streamlined or eliminated. The current
regulatory criteria for determining whether a proposed amendment would
result in a significant change in a plan, triggering requirements under
section 6(f)(4) of NFMA, would be revised. Under the proposed rule, the
significance of a proposed amendment for NFMA purposes would be linked to the threshold
for significance under NEPA procedures. This will coordinate NFMA and
NEPA requirements, and eliminate confusion associated with having two
different thresholds for significance in the planning process. The
proposed rule also allows the steps in the planning framework to be
coordinated with the scoping requirements under the Forest Service NEPA
procedures when appropriate. This will reduce duplication when
preparing environmental documents associated with management of the
National Forest System.
A key element of the proposed rule is increased emphasis on
collaboration as a means to encourage broader public participation in
the planning process. The rules provide for regular and sustained
involvement of other federal natural resource agencies, tribal
governments, state and local governments, interested organizations, and
the public in a continuing process of discussion and collaboration.
The Committee of Scientists heard that many people are tired of the
demands placed on the public and the agency by the current planning
process. Many report that detailed analyses and seemingly endless
meetings have resulted in planning documents deemed obsolete before
their completion. Public concerns and events have sometimes overtaken
the Forest Service's ability to respond. In an effort to avoid this in
the future, the proposed rule provides a planning framework that
facilitates the identification and responsive resolution to emerging
problems such that plans ensure long-term sustainability and address
evolving conditions.
Under the proposed rule, improvements to management practices would
be made based upon cooperatively developed landscape goals and other
topics of general interest or concern which can emerge from a variety
of sources such as collaboration, monitoring, evaluation, broad-scale
assessments, local analyses, new laws and policies, or simply from
discussions among interested persons. The proposed planning process
would provide for consideration of identified topics of general
interest or concern, development of information as needed, and
proposals for agency action when appropriate for resolution.
Additionally, the proposed rule requires annually updated displays of
proposed, authorized, and completed actions, and annually updated 2-
year projections of anticipated outcomes, products, and services to
provide realistic estimates based upon on-the-ground analyses.
Through this collaborative approach, and by providing interested
publics with additional information regarding management direction,
outcomes, and accomplishments for each management unit, the proposed
planning process seeks to encourage the public's active involvement in
forest planning. This approach is not only consistent with the
direction provided in NFMA and other statutes guiding land and resource
management, but is also in concert with the underlying philosophy of
national forest management as reflected in guidance provided by Gifford
Pinchot in the first Forest Service administrative manual, ``Uses of
the National Forests'' (1907), in which he stated, ``National Forests
are made for and owned by the people. They should also be managed by
the people. * * * If National Forests are going to accomplish anything
worthwhile the people must know all about them and must take a very
active part in their management. What the people as a whole want will
be done. To do it, it is necessary that the people carefully consider
and plainly state just what they want and then take a very active part
in seeing that they get it.''

Emphasis on Science in Planning

Another key element in the proposed planning process is renewed
emphasis on the use of science in planning and the role of scientists
in the decisionmaking process. The proposed rule requires use of the
best available science to improve the ability of people, communities,
and organizations to work together to develop mutual understandings
about desired resource conditions and outcomes as well as to develop
multiple-use management options that respond to public interests or
concerns in the context of best available information and analysis.
The rule would incorporate science and scientists in the planning
and decisionmaking process in a number of ways.
First, the rule recognizes the lessons learned in recent years in
the development and analysis of scientific information as it affects
natural resource management on a regional basis. The use of regional
ecosystem assessment, as a basis for understanding the scientific,
ecological, social, and economic issues affecting resource conditions
and trends has proved extremely valuable as a means of generating
baseline data for use in planning and decisionmaking.
In addition, as efforts continue to adopt the principle of adaptive
management to guide natural resource stewardship, greater emphasis
needs to be placed on evaluating resource conditions and monitoring
trends over time. Consistent with the 1990 Critique as validated by the
Committee of Scientists' report, the proposed rule emphasizes
monitoring and evaluation so that management can be adapted as
conditions change over time. This emphasis is in keeping with NFMA's
direction to ensure research on evaluation of the effects of each
management system, based on continuous monitoring and assessment in the
field, to the end that it will not produce substantial and permanent
impairment of the productivity of the land (16 U.S.C. 1604(g)(3)(C)).
As noted by the Committee, ``Monitoring is a key component of planning
* * *. Monitoring procedures need to be incorporated into planning
procedures and should be designed to be part of the information used to
inform decisions. Adaptive management and learning are not possible
without effective monitoring of actual consequences from management
Finally, the proposed planning process provides for the
establishment of science advisory boards to improve access for
decisionmakers and planners to current scientific information and
analysis. The role of these science boards, and of scientists in the
planning process, in general, is emphasized by the following
observation of the Committee of Scientists, ``To ensure public trust
and support innovation, scientific and technical review processes need
to become essential elements of management and stewardship. * * * The
more that conservation strategies and management actions are based on
scientific findings and analysis, the greater the need for an ongoing
process to ensure that the most current and complete scientific and
technical knowledge is used.''

Learning and Improving Planning

In summary, the proposed planning process provides for a
continuous, collaborative approach to planning based upon best
available scientific information and analysis and the concepts of
ecological, social, and economic sustainability. This new and improved
approach to planning is consistent with the statutory foundations for
national forest and grassland management, experiences learned over the
course of two decades of land and resource management planning under
the NFMA, and the recommendations of the Committee of Scientists.
The proposed planning process is built upon the learning and
innovation that has occurred and continues to occur among
decisionmakers, scientists, and collaborators, as observed by the
Committee of Scientists. Thus, the proposed process is not a
``cookbook'' for making decisions, but a process that encourages
learning and the evolution of new ideas that will improve the planning
process over time.
(Source: Federal Register, October 5, 1999- excerpt)

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