Comments Needed on Proposed US Forest Service Planning Regulations

Posted: October 22, 1999; Action Completed February 3, 2000

Update: The extended comment period ended on February 3, 2000.  As of August 2000 the US Forest Service had not released a final version of the forest planning regulations.

This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies.

IN A NUTSHELL: The US Forest Service is seeking public comments on proposed changes to forest planning regulations based on the report of a committee of scientists. Public Comment Period has been extended to February 3, 2000. Public comment periods, which typically last from 30 days to several months, are the principal mechanism for federal agencies to receive feedback on draft rules, regulations, and policies before they are put into final form and officially promulgated.


On October 5th, the US Forest Service released its proposed regulations on managing the National Forests, citing a fundamental shift in the philosophy of the agency to integrate science and the public in the early stages of the regulatory system. The new regulations focus on four areas "to ensure that national forests are properly managed for multiple uses: The new regulations were released in the Federal Register on October 5 -- the announcement is available in text and pdf format at  Secretary Glickman said that "the proposal calls for including the public and scientists much earlier in the planning process so that we can develop a common vision for how our forests should look and function. Involving the public earlier in these efforts will also help to head off problems before they become major conflicts." The proposed changes will affect all of the national forests and grasslands. The public comment period on the proposed regulations lasts until January 4th, and geoscientists interested in this issue are encouraged to provide their input. Comments can be submitted via the web at, via email at planreg/, via fax to (406) 329-3021, and via mail at CAET-USDA, Att. Planning Rule, Forest Service, USDA, 200 East Broadway, Room 103, PO Box 7669, Missoula, Montana 59807.

In December of last year, Dan Glickman, the Secretary of Agriculture, requested an interdisciplinary group of scientists to review and evaluate the Forest Service's land use and management planning process. The interdisciplinary Committee of Scientists was dominated by ecologists -- forest, landscape, range, and animal -- and social scientists, with one exception being a forest hydrologist. AGI is concerned that the Committee of Scientists did not fully reflect the range of scientific communities affected by the proposed regulations. To help incorporate scientists into the regulation process, the USFS will be forming both regional and national Science Advisory Boards. AGI strongly urges geoscientists to submit comments on the new management regulations and advocate for the inclusion of the geosciences in these Science Advisory Boards.

The Committee of Scientists released their recommendations in the publication Sustaining the People's Lands: Recommendations for Stewardship of the National Forests and Grasslands into the Next Century. The recommendations from the Committee focused around twelve major areas:

1. making sustainability the overarching objective of National Forest stewardship

2. using ecological sustainability the foundation for stewardship

3. incorporating social and economic sustainability to help the public understand "the interconnectedness of communities and economies with sustainably managed" lands

4. considering the larger effect of National Forest and Grassland management decisions on achieving sustainability

5. building stewardship capacity and use by collaborative planning with the community

6. implementing decisions at the level of the problem or issue instead of according to administrative boundaries

7. using the Integrated Land and Resource Plan as an accumulation of planning decisions at all levels and as an administrative vehicle for planning implementation: keep decisions close to the planning area

8. making the desired future outcomes and conditions as the central reference points for planning

9. effectively using science and technology for analysis and review

10. integrating budgetary limitations into planning

11. incorporating watershed and timer supply into a sustainable management plan

12. recognizing external influences on collaborative planning and stewardship

The web address above includes the full text of the Committee of Scientists report, presentations by USFS staff, and a link for direct comment on the proposals. In hopes to improve public comment on these regulations, the Forest Service has scheduled 23 national town meetings around the country in the coming months -- a list is available on the website.

Sources: Federal Register, USFS website, Sustaining the People's Lands report, Science and Environment Policy Update, USFS press release, and USFS press meeting materials.

Alert Contributed by Margaret Baker, AGI Government Affairs

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Uploaded October 22, 1999; Action Completed February 3, 2000

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