Angeles Volunteer Association

SOURCE:  Federal Register, December 6, 2002

National Forest System Land and Resource Management Planning;
Proposed Rules

AGENCY:  Forest Service, USDA.

SUMMARY: The Forest Service is proposing changes to the National Forest
System Land and Resource Management Planning Rule adopted November 9,
2000. These proposed changes are a result of a review conducted by
Forest Service personnel at the direction of the Office of the
Secretary. The review affirmed much of the 2000 rule and the underlying
concepts of sustainability, monitoring, evaluation, collaboration, and
use of science. Although the 2000 rule was intended to simplify and
streamline the development and amendment of land and resource
management plans, the review concluded that the 2000 rule is neither
straightforward nor easy to implement. The review also found that the
2000 rule did not clarify the programmatic nature of land and resource
management planning. This proposed rule is intended to improve upon the
2000 rule by providing a planning process which is more readily
understood, is within the agency's capability to implement, is within
anticipated budgets and staffing levels, and recognizes the
programmatic nature of planning.

DATES: Comments must be received in writing by March 6, 2003. Comments
received after this date will be considered and placed in the record
only if practicable.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to: USDA FS Planning Rule, Content
Analysis Team, PO Box 8359, Missoula, MT 59807; via email to planning--; or by facsimile to Planning Rule Comments at (406) 329-
3556. All comments, including names and addresses when provided, are
placed in the record and are available for public inspection and
copying. The agency cannot confirm receipt of comments. Persons wishing
to inspect the comments need to call (801) 517-1023 to facilitate an
appointment. In addition, the Forest Service preliminary draft
directives on ecological, social, and economic sustainability, the
business model cost study done to estimate predicted costs to implement
the 2000 and proposed rules, the Civil Rights Impact Assessment, and
the cost-benefit analysis accompanying this proposed rule are expected
to be posted during the comment period on the World Wide Web/Internet
at These materials, when available, also may be
obtained from the Director, Ecosystem Management and Coordination
Staff, Forest Service, USDA, Mail Stop 1104,1400 Independence Avenue,
SW, Washington, DC 20250-1104.


Table of Contents
[webmaster's note: see Federal Register for details]


The Forest Service (the agency), an agency within the United States
Department of Agriculture (the Department), is responsible for managing
the lands and resources of the National Forest System, which include
192 million acres in 44 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
The System is composed of 155 national forests, 20 national grasslands,
1 national prairie, and other miscellaneous lands under the
jurisdiction of the Secretary of Agriculture (the Secretary).
The Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974
(88 Stat. 476 et seq.), as amended by the National Forest Management
Act of 1976 (NFMA) (90 Stat. 2949 et seq.; 16 U.S.C. 1601-1614),
requires the Secretary to promulgate regulations under the principles
of the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 that set out the
process for the development and revision of land and resource
management plans (16 U.S.C. 1604(g)). The first planning rule, adopted
in 1979, was substantially amended on September 30, 1982 (47 FR 43026),
and was amended in part on June 24, 1983 (48 FR 29122), and on
September 7, 1983 (48 FR 40383). The 1982 rule, as amended, has guided
the development, amendment, and revision of the land and resource
management plans (LRMP or plans) that are now in place for all national
forests and grasslands, including an initial plan recently completed
for the Midewin National Tall Grass Prairie that was recently added to
the National Forest System (NFS).
The Forest Service has undertaken several reviews of the planning
process implemented under the 1982 rule. The first review took place in
1989, when the Forest Service, with the assistance of the Conservation
Foundation, conducted a comprehensive review of
the planning process and published the results in a summary report,
``Synthesis of the Critique of Land Management Planning'' (1990). The
critique concluded that the agency spent too much time on planning;
that planning costs too much; and, therefore, that the Forest Service
needed a more efficient planning process. These findings are still
considered valid and are a prime consideration in the development of
this proposed rule.
Subsequently, the Forest Service published an Advance Notice of
Proposed Rulemaking (56 FR 6508; Feb. 15, 1991) regarding possible
revisions to the 1982 rule. A proposed rule was published in 1995 (60
FR 18886); however, the Secretary elected not to proceed with that
In response to suggestions from persons who commented on the 1995
proposed rule, the Secretary convened a 13-member Committee of
Scientists (Committee or COS) in late 1997 to evaluate the Forest
Service's planning process and recommend changes. In 1998, the COS held
meetings across the country to invite public participation in their
discussions. The Committee's findings were issued in a final report,
``Sustaining the People's Lands'' (March 1999). A proposed rule based
on the COS report was published on October 5, 1999 (64 FR 54074), and a
final rule was adopted on November 9, 2000 (65 FR 67514).

The 2000 Planning Rule

In response to many of the findings in the 1990 Critique of Land
Management Planning and the 1999 COS report, the Forest Service
attempted to prepare a planning rule that would provide a more
efficient planning process. The 2000 planning rule (also referred to as
the 2000 rule) changed the Forest Service planning process by: (1)
Establishing ecological, social, and economic sustainability as the
overall stewardship goal for managing the National Forest System; (2)
identifying maintenance and restoration of ecological sustainability as
the first priority for management of National Forest System lands; (3)
requiring collaboration with the general public, interested
organizations, Tribal, State and local governments, and Federal
agencies in all phases of the planning process; (4) expanding
monitoring and evaluation requirements; (5) specifying the use of
scientists and establishing detailed requirements for the application
of science in the planning process; and (6) providing a dynamic
planning framework for solving problems and addressing issues at the
appropriate scale. The 2000 rule applies not only to plan amendments
and revisions, but also to project-level planning and decisionmaking.
The general goals of the 2000 rule are laudable. A major
improvement achieved in that rule is the emphasis on sustainability,
which assists the Forest Service in providing for multiple uses over
time. The 2000 rule also promotes efficiency in that it eliminates
zero-based plan revisions as recommended in the 1990 critique, and it
removes some analytical requirements of the 1982 rule, such as the
requirements for developing benchmarks, which are no longer considered
helpful. The 2000 rule also emphasizes public involvement more than the
1982 rule. The 2000 rule gives explicit direction on the use of science
in the planning process, while the 1982 rule relied on knowledge shared
through an interdisciplinary team approach without procedural
requirements for the use of science. The 2000 rule replaces the post-
decisional administrative appeal process for challenging plans with a
pre-decisional objection process. The 2000 rule also delegates the
authority for plan decisions to the Forest, Grassland, or Prairie
Supervisor, rather than to the Regional Forester. The 2000 rule also
recognizes the plan as a dynamic document.
Despite the positive aspects of the 2000 rule, however, the number
of very detailed analytical requirements, the lack of clarity regarding
many of the requirements, the lack of flexibility, and the lack of
recognition of the limits of agency budgets and personnel led to a
reconsideration of this rule.

Subsequent Reviews of the 2000 Planning Rule

After adoption of the 2000 rule, the Secretary received a number of
comments from individuals, groups, and organizations expressing
concerns regarding the implementation of the 2000 rule. In addition,
lawsuits challenging promulgation of the rule were brought by a
coalition of 12 environmental groups from 7 states and by a coalition
of industry groups (Citizens for Better Forestry v. USDA, No. C-01-
0728-BZ-(N.D. Calif., filed February 16, 2001)) and (American Forest
and Paper Ass'n v. Veneman, No. 01-CV-00871 (TPJ) (D.D.C., filed April
23, 2001)). As a result of these lawsuits and concerns raised in
comments to the Secretary, the Department initiated a review of the
2000 rule focusing on its ``implementability.'' The ``NFMA Planning
Rule Review,'' completed in April 2001, concluded that many of the
concerns regarding implementability of the rule were serious and
required immediate attention.
In addition, the Forest Service developed a business analysis model
of the 2000 rule and conducted a workshop with field-level planners to
determine the implementability of the 2000 rule based on this business
model. The business model reflected business activities directly
applied from the 2000 rule and provided the basis for a systematic
evaluation of the rule for implementability.
The business model identified the following nine major categories
of planning activities and associated sections of the 2000 rule:
(1) Collaboration (primarily Sec. Sec. 219.12 through 219.18);
(2) Best Science/Science Consistency (primarily Sec. Sec. 219.22
through 219.25 with consideration of relative text in Sec. Sec. 219.11
and 219.20);
(3) Recommendations (primarily Sec. Sec. 219.3 through 219.9 with
consideration of relative text in Sec. Sec. 219.19, 219.20, 219.21,
219.26, and 219.27);
(4) Sustainability (primarily Sec. Sec. 219.19 through 219.21 with
consideration of relative text in Sec. 219.11);
(5) Developing/Revising Plan Decisions (primarily Sec. Sec. 219.6
through 219.9 and 219.11 with consideration of relative text in
Sec. Sec. 219.20, 219.26, 219.28, and 219.29);
(6) Write Plan Documentation (primarily Sec. Sec. 219.11 and
(7) Maintain the Plan (primarily Sec. 219.31);
(8) Objections and Appeals (primarily Sec. 219.32); and
(9) Miscellaneous (public notifications and selected NEPA
Within the context of the nine categories defined, the facilitated
workshop centered on answering two questions: (1) Are the business
requirements clearly understood? (2) What is the agency's perceived
ability to execute the requirements?
An important consideration in this business model analysis was that
it was conducted by planning practitioners who have current field-level
experience. They are the agency experts in a variety of resource areas,
including assessing what can reasonably be accomplished, considering
existing knowledge and information, the issues relevant to planning
areas, and local staffing and funding situations.
This review and analysis found the following:
(1) The 2000 rule has both definitions and analytical requirements
that are very complex, unclear, and, therefore, subject to inconsistent
across the agency; for example, species viability, population
monitoring, and the range of variation within the current climatic
(2) Compliance with the regulatory direction on such matters as
ecological sustainability and science consistency checks would be
difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish; and
(3) The complexity of the 2000 rule makes it difficult and
expensive to implement.
Sustainability. The planners particularly questioned whether or not
the agency could achieve the ecological, social, and economic
sustainability standards established in Sec. 219.19 of the 2000 rule.
Similar concerns were noted regarding the viability provisions for the
diversity of plant and animal communities, also in Sec. 219.19 of the
rule. The reviewers found that the ecological sustainability
requirements in the rule are not only complex, but needlessly so.
Although the 2000 rule was intended to increase the focus on ecosystem-
level analyses for addressing the diversity of plant and animal
communities and, thereby, reducing the far more costly species-by-
species approach, the means to accomplish the intent of the rule are
not clear. There was disagreement among the reviewers about the degree
of potential reduction in the species-by-species analysis burden in the
2000 rule.
The role of science. The reviewers affirmed the importance of using
the best available science in planning. However, the detailed
provisions of the 2000 rule for the use of science and scientists in
the planning process raised many concerns.
(1) Field-level planners believed the 2000 rule includes
unnecessarily detailed procedural requirements for scientific peer
reviews, broad-scale assessments, monitoring, and science advisory
(2) Moreover, these requirements do not recognize the limits of
budgets for use of science, nor does the 2000 rule clearly relate use
of science to the scope of issues in the planning process.
(3) The 2000 rule also does not recognize limitations on the
availability of scientists. The reviewers believed it to be unwise to
place such detailed requirements on the use of scientists in the rule
given the ambiguities of the rule text and the limited availability of
scientists. Although science is needed to inform the Responsible
Official, the reviewers concluded that the 2000 rule anticipates a
level of involvement by scientists that may or may not be needed
considering the planning issues or the anticipated amount of project
activities during on-the-ground implementation of the plan.
Monitoring. Reviewers identified three major issues arising from
the monitoring requirements of the 2000 rule. First, the unnecessarily
detailed requirements for monitoring and evaluation in the 2000 rule
are likely beyond the capacity of many units to perform. Second, it was
considered to be generally confusing throughout the rule to mix
programmatic and project level planning direction. Third, the
monitoring requirements in the 2000 rule are overly prescriptive and do
not provide the Responsible Official sufficient discretion to decide
how much information is needed.
Also, during development of this revised proposed planning rule, it
became apparent that monitoring should be focused on whether on-the-
ground management is achieving desired conditions identified in the
plan. This focus was not clear in the 2000 rule, as its monitoring
direction primarily required a broad array of techniques intended to
measure indicators of sustainability. This conceptual change reflects a
fundamental difference in philosophy between the 2000 rule and this
proposed rule. The 2000 rule tends to be highly prescriptive regarding
a variety of aspects of planning. This proposed rule tends to focus
more on results, rather than on techniques for achieving results. The
Responsible Official is guided by a very large body of law, regulation,
and policy that helps ensure responsible management on the ground. The
much lower amount of procedural detail in this new proposed rule
reflects the agency's assumption that the Responsible Officials will
discharge planning duties responsibly and will conduct planning within
the bounds of authority.
Transition from the 1982 to the 2000 rule. The reviewers also
identified concerns with the transition requirements of the 2000 rule.
There is a lack of clarity about how projects are to be compliant with
the 2000 rule and how the entire rule is to be used in the more limited
scope of plan amendments. Planners expressed uncertainty about how
transition to the 2000 rule would occur, particularly for site-specific
decisions. Finally, to fully implement the 2000 rule the planners felt
the relatively short transition period provided is unrealistic given
the complexities and uncertainties identified.
Having considered the reports of the review teams, the Acting
Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment requested
that the Chief of the Forest Service develop a proposed rule to revise
the 2000 rule.

Provisions and Intent of the Proposed Rule


The Forest Service is now proposing changes to the planning rule at
36 CFR part 219, adopted November 2000, to address issues and concerns
raised in the various reviews. The proposed rule retains many of the
basic concepts in the 2000 rule, namely sustainability, public
involvement and collaboration, use of science, and monitoring and
evaluation. The agency has attempted to substantially improve these
aspects of the 2000 rule by eliminating unnecessary procedural detail,
clarifying intended results, and streamlining procedural requirements
consistent with agency staffing, funding, and skill levels.
Because of the concerns identified regarding the 2000 rule and
because this proposed rule changes the 2000 rule, it is necessary to
explain exactly how and why the 2000 rule has been adjusted in this
proposal. However, the agency believes it is productive to begin this
overview with a vision of the planning process and the contents of
resource management plans. The Forest Service believes the direction of
many aspects of current planning activities and the basic concepts of
the 2000 rule are very valuable and reflect the expectations of the
American people for planning on their public lands.


The agency expects programmatic planning to be accomplished in the
following ways:

[webmaster's note: see Federal Register for complete text of this notice]

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