SUMMARY: The Forest Service requests comment on a proposed rule to guide land and resource management planning for the 191-million acre National Forest System. This proposed rule, which would revise and streamline the existing planning rule, describes the agency's framework for National Forest System resource decisionmaking; incorporates principles of ecosystem management into resource planning; and establishes requirements for implementation, monitoring, evaluation, amendment, and revision of forest plans. The intended effect is to simplify, clarify, and otherwise improve the planning process; reduce burdensome and costly procedural requirements; and strengthen relationships with the public and other government entities. DATES: Comments must be submitted in writing and received by July 12, 1995. The agency will provide briefings to assist the public in understanding the proposed rule on April 24 at the locations and times listed under Supplementary Information. ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Director, Ecosystem Management (1920; 3 CEN), Forest Service, USDA, P.O. Box 96090, Washington, DC 20090-6090. The public may inspect comments received on this proposed rule in the Office of the Director, Third Floor, Central Wing, Auditor's Building, 14th and Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Those wishing to inspect comments are encouraged to call ahead (202-205-1034) to facilitate entry into the building. Briefings will be held at the addresses set out under Supplementary Information of this notice for proposed rulemaking. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ann Christensen, Land Management Planning Specialist (202-205-1034). SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Public Briefings and Locations The Forest Service will hold public briefings on April 24 in the following cities at the addresses and times shown: 1. Washington, DC--April 24, 1995, 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Crystal City Marriott, 1999 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington, Virginia, 22202. 2. Missoula, Montana--April 24, 1995, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., 4B's Inn and Conference Center, 3803 Brooks Street, Missoula, Montana, 59801. 3. Denver, Colorado--April 24, 1995, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Regional Auditorium, 740 Simms Street, Golden, Colorado, 80401. 4. Grand Junction, Colorado--April 24, 1995, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Grand Junction Ranger District, 764 Horizon Drive, Grand Junction, Colorado, 81506. 5. Durango, Colorado--April 24, 1995, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., San Juan Forest Supervisor's Office, 701 Camino del Camino, Durango, Colorado, 81301. 6. Chadron, Nebraska--April 24, 1995, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Nebraska National Forest Supervisor's Office, 125 N. Main Street, Chadron, Nebraska, 69337. 7. Rapid City, South Dakota--April 24, 1995, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Pactola Ranger District Office, 800 Soo San Drive, Rapid City, South Dakota, 81506. 8. Casper, Wyoming--April 24, 1995, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Holiday Inn, 300 ``F'' Street, Casper, Wyoming, 82601. 9. Albuquerque, New Mexico--April 24, 1995, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., Southwestern Regional Office, 517 Gold Avenue, S.W., Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87102. 10. Phoenix, Arizona--April 24, 1995, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., Tonto National Forest Supervisor's Office, 2234 East McDowell Road, Phoenix, Arizona, 85010. 11. Boise, Idaho--April 24, 1995, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., National Interagency Fire Center, Training Building Auditorium, 3833 Development Avenue, Boise, Idaho, 83705. 12. Salt Lake City, Utah--April 24, 1995, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Federal Building, Room 2404, 125 South State Street, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84138. 13. Sacramento, California--April 24, 1995, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Radisson Hotel Sacramento, 500 Leisure Lane, Sacramento, California, 95815. 14. Portland, Oregon--April 24, 1995, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Regional Office, Robert Duncan Plaza, 333 S.W. First Avenue, Portland, Oregon, 97208. 15. Atlanta, Georgia--April 24, 1995, 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., USDA Forest Service Southern Region Office, 1720 Peachtree Road, N.W., room 199, Atlanta, Georgia, 30367. 16. Brookfield, Wisconsin--April 24, 1995, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Brookfield Marriott Hotel, 375 South Moorland Road, Brookfield, Wisconsin, 53005. 17. Juneau, Alaska--April 24, 1995, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall, 320 Willoughby Avenue, Juneau, Alaska, 99801. Public comments will not be taken at these briefings, which will consist of video presentations prepared by the Chief's Office. As of May 1, one copy of this video material will also be available at the Chief's Office, each Regional Office, each Forest Supervisor's Office, each Research or Experiment Station, the Forest Products Laboratory, the Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry Office, and the International Institute of Tropical Forestry. The video may be borrowed by interested parties on a reservation basis by contacting their local Forest Service office or calling the telephone number listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT earlier in this notice. Background The Forest Service is responsible for managing the land and resources of the National Forest System. It is headed by the Chief of the Forest Service and includes 191 million acres of lands in 42 States, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. The National Forest System consists of 155 National Forests, 20 National Grasslands, and various other lands under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Agriculture. Under the Multiple-Use, Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 (16 U.S.C. 528) and the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (16 U.S.C. 1600), these lands are managed for a variety of uses on a sustained basis to ensure a continued supply of goods and services to the American people in perpetuity. The Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 (RPA) (88 Stat. 476 et seq.), as amended by the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (90 Stat. 2949 et seq.; 16 USC 1601-1614) (hereafter, NFMA), specifies that land and resource management plans shall be developed for units of the National Forest System. Regulations to implement NFMA are set forth at 36 CFR part 219. A forest plan has been approved for every National Forest except the Klamath, Shasta-Trinity, Mendocino, and Six Rivers National Forests, all located in California. It remains the agency's intent that these National Forests complete their plans under the requirements for forest plan development described by the existing regulation, adopted September 30, 1982 (47 FR 43026), as amended June 24, 1983 (48 FR 29122), and September 7, 1983 (48 FR 40383), and as set out in the Code of Federal Regulations as of July 1, 1993. During the 18 years since enactment of NFMA, much has been learned about planning for management of National Forest System lands. The original vision of NFMA raised many varied expectations, some of which remain unfulfilled. Although forest planning efforts to date have produced notable accomplishments in addressing forest management issues and fostering public participation in public land management, many controversies linger. For each National Forest, difficult resource management choices must be made among competing interests, often where there are no universally accepted answers. In such a setting, forest planning cannot be expected to revolve all differences; however, improvements in forest planning requirements and procedures can help better focus the issues and choices and lead to better, more informed decisions. This proposed rule is the culmination of a systematic and comprehensive review of forest planning rules and processes. The nature of this review and its findings were described in detail in the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published on February 15, 1991 (56 FR 6508), along with a history of forest planning and an overview of the existing planning rule. Critique of Land Management Planning Of particular note in development of this proposed rule is the Critique of Land Management Planning. The Forest Service initiated this comprehensive review of its land management planning process in March 1989. Conducted with the help of The Conservation Foundation, the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University, and others, the purpose of the Critique was to document what had been learned since passage of the National Forest Management Act and to determine how best to respond to the planning challenges of the future. The Critique involved over 3,500 people both within and outside the Forest Service. Workshops and interviews were conducted involving over 2,000 people who had participated in or had responsibilities for forest planning. These participants represented a broad cross-section of all those who were involved in planning, including members of the general public, interest groups, representatives of other agencies, elected officials, representatives of Indian tribal governments, Forest Supervisors, Regional Foresters, resource specialists, and members of interdisciplinary planning teams. Additionally, there were written comments received from 1,500 interested people. The Critique was completed in May 1990. The results of the Critique are documented in a summary report, ``Synthesis of the Critique of Land Management Planning'' (Vol. 1) and 10 other more detailed reports. In the interest of economy and brevity, the findings of the Critique and other material are not repeated here but should be considered as the foundation and background for this proposed rule. Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking An Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published on February 15, 1991 (56 FR 6508). The public comment period closed May 16, 1991. The Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking included preliminary regulatory text completely revising the existing regulation, based largely on the findings of the Critique. Four public informational meetings were held to stimulate public interest in and comment on the proposal in the Advance Notice and to assist the public in understanding the ideas presented in the Notice. Meetings were held as follows: Washington, DC, February 26, 1991; Portland, Oregon, April 8, 1991; Denver, Colorado, April 10, 1991; and Atlanta, Georgia, April 12, 1991. Altogether, approximately 50 people attended these meetings. In addition to publishing the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register, the Forest Service mailed approximately 20,000 copies to known interested parties and invited comment on the rule. Over 600 groups and individuals provided nearly 4,700 comments. Approximately 10 percent were from business and industry groups; 11 percent from Federal, State, and local government agencies; 11 percent from environmental and conservation groups; 2 percent from recreation and user groups; 1 percent from academia; 1 percent from civic organizations; 9 percent from agency employees; and the remaining 55 percent from individual citizens. As stated in the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the agency received a petition on November 1, 1990, from the National Forest Products Association and 79 other organizations ``to engage in a rulemaking to amend the regulations set out at 36 CFR Part 219 to improve the implementation of land and resource management plans (`forest plants'), provide for prompt amendment, establish specific environmental documentation requirements, and for related reasons.'' This petition for rulemaking included proposed regulatory text and the rationale for it. It represented an alternative approach to changing the NFMA planning regulation at 36 CFR Part 219. The specific recommendations in the petition, along with supplemental comments received from the National Forest Products Association during the public comment period, were considered as part of the public comment associated with the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Basic Conclusions Underlying This Proposal The proposed rule now being published rests on many of the same basic conclusions as the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which are highlighted here. 1. Many Recommendations of the Critique of Land Management Planning can and Should be Adopted by Revising the Planning Rule Although a number of specific recommendations have been used in developing this proposed rule, the following major recommendations identified by the Critique are particularly important: (a) Simplify, Clarify, and Shorten the Planning Process The Critique found that the complexity of the forest planning process was so overwhelming that few people really fully understood it. Further, the Critique found that this complexity often inhibited meaningful communication with the public and other governments, reduced agency credibility, and increased the time and cost needed to complete plans. The Critique also identified the problems associated with trying to resolve socio-political issues through a highly technical and systematic set of planning procedures. The importance of balancing technical information with the values and concerns of the public was highlighted in the Critique reports. Finally, the planning process is so lengthy and complex that the process of completing forest plans is frustrating for the public and agency employees alike. In addition, the financial expenditure required for such a lengthy and complex process has had a major impact on the agency and diverted funds and personnel from project decisionmaking and other activities. While endorsing the need to simplify, clarify, and shorten the planning process, the Forest Service also recognizes that forest planning is inherently complex due to the multitude of resources and statutory responsibilities involved. Sound, yet often complex, technical analyses serve a critical role in evaluating resource trade-offs and ensuring that resource decisions are based on the best possible information. A balance must be found between the simplicity most people desire and the complex reality of forest planning. (b) Clarify the Decision Framework The existing regulation does not precisely address the nature of forest plan decisions and the appropriate scope of environmental analysis. During development of the existing forest plans, many people believed that forest plans would make irretrievable resource commitments for all projects necessary to fully implement the goals and objectives of the plan. Confusion over the nature of forest plan decisions has been a principal source of controversy for many plans. Most of the administrative appeals of forest plans challenge whether forest plans and accompanying environmental impact statements satisfy particular requirements of NFMA, NEPA, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and other environmental laws. Forest plan appellants frequently argue that forest plans irretrievably commit the agency to individual projects but fail to provide the analysis and documentation required by these statutes. In fact, the environmental impact statements accompanying forest plans do not attempt to identify, evaluate, and decide every individual project that may be permissible during the normal 10-year period of a forest plan. It would be practically impossible to satisfy these obligations in one single set of decisions or in a single environmental impact statement. Court decisions as well as administrative appeal decisions by the Chief of the Forest Service and the Assistant Secretary of Agriculture have explained the content of forest plan decisions and the scope of environmental analysis. To avoid confusion, the existing rule should be revised accordingly. (c) Provide for an Incremental Approach to Revising Forest Plans The Critique firmly endorsed an incremental approach to forest plan revision. It was considered a key element to achieving the major recommendations of the Critique to ``Simplify, clarify, and shorten the planning process.'' In Volume 2 of the Critique report, the merits of incremental planning are addressed: Wiping the slate clean and beginning anew allows the entire universe to alternatives to be examined, unprejudiced by directions and choices that have gone before. In fact, however, change is incremental when the alternatives available are heavily influenced-- and circumscribed--by the choices made in the past. Examining the entire universe of alternatives in great detail may be both interesting and informative, but it imposes a tremendous demand for analysis that may go largely unused in the real decision process * * *. Federal regulations should be revised to permit an explicitly incremental approach to the revision of forest plans.'' (p. 61) 2. While NFMA Has Some Limitations, It Remains Basically Sound Such NFMA principles as integrated resource planning, public participation, and an interdisciplinary approach to planning continue to provide a solid foundation for agency planning efforts. The Act also provides flexibility to make needed improvements through rulemaking or agency directives. Many of the problems with forest planning are not directly associated with the provisions of NFMA. Public land management is complicated by a long series of laws and regulations enacted over many years. This has resulted in a situation once described by Federal District Court Judge Lawrence K. Karlton as a ``crazy quilt of apparently mutually incompatible statutory directives.'' (United States v. Brunskill, Civil S-82-666-LKK (E.D. Cal. Nov. 8, 1984) unpublished opinion, aff'd, 792 F.2d 9938 (9th Cir. 1986)). Thus, the controversy which often has surrounded forest planning must be viewed in light of the many requirements imposed by statutory and regulatory requirements other than the National Forest Management Act (e.g., the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act). It is often the interaction of these other laws and regulations that has increased the controversy surrounding forest planning and land use. Some of the dissatisfaction with NFMA can be traced to unrealistic expectations. One of the major findings of the Critique of Land Management Planning was the need for adjustments in the public's expectations of forest planning. Volume 2 of the report of the Critique explicitly addressed this as follows: Expectations for forest planning are high in some cases, unrealistically so. Some workshop participants expected forest planning would lead to establishment of ``reasonable and sustainable'' production goals. Others thought it would free resource allocation from politics while building a powerful case for budgets and appropriations sufficient to accomplish plan goals. And many apparently thought that forest planning would be a way to influence the political process and sway management to their purposes. Probing more deeply, we found that it was not so much the process to which people objected, but the results of that process. In retrospect, it was inevitable that this would occur. When the law was enacted, representatives of both the Sierra Club and the National Forest Products Association returned to their constituents and proclaimed victory. Obviously, both had different expectations of outcomes under the law. (p.3) 3. Many Opportunities Exist to Streamline the Existing Regulatory Text In addition to finding numerous opportunities to streamline the substantive procedural requirements for forest planning, one of the findings of the review of the existing regulation was that much could be done to simplify the regulatory text itself and to enhance its readability regardless of major substantive changes. For example, there were numerous opportunities to simplify language, shorten definitions, eliminate similar or duplicative provisions, improve structural organization, and reduce overlap with other laws, regulations, or Executive orders. In addition, language without real substance should be removed. The composite effect of such changes can be a significant reduction in the length of the regulation, an enhancement of its readability, and a positive step forward towards better understanding and simplification of forest planning. In reviewing the existing regulation, the agency also has considered the relative roles of the planning regulation at 36 CFR part 219 and the Forest Service Directive System. The review indicated that the rule is better suited for defining the purpose and desired results of planning and the minimum standards for planning than for giving detailed procedural guidelines. As a result, some streamlining has been achieved in the proposed rule by shifting detailed procedural direction to agency directives. To implement the revised regulation, the agency plans to reorganize and revise its directives related to forest planning. Subject to procedures in 36 CFR part 216, substantive revisions to planning direction in Forest Service Manual Chapter 1920 will be made available for public review and comment prior to being adopted. 4. The Solution to Some Problems With the Planning Process Are Not Within the Scope of the Planning Regulation Only about one-third of the 232 Critique recommendations concern changes that are appropriate to implement through revision of the planning regulation or issuance of related guidance through the Forest Service Directive System. The remaining two-thirds of the recommendations must be addressed through other actions or channels, such as increasing accountability for performance or improving training. In addition, even though some aspects of planning are within the scope of the regulation, the real success or failure of some endeavors will depend on the commitment and understanding of agency personnel and the public. A good example of this is public involvement. No amount of regulatory detail can guarantee effective and open communication. Certain expectations can be defined and minimum procedures established, but ultimately the success or failure of the communication between the agency and public depends upon the people involved. As a result, the agency recognizes that even though modifying the planning regulation is a major and essential step towards improving the effectiveness of forest planning, such improvements must occur in concert with other changes and commitments in order for the full potential of forest planning to be realized. In addition to the preceding four conclusions which had been addressed in the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, one additional finding has guided development of this proposed rule which were not reflected in the Advance Notice. 5. Principles of Ecosystem Management Need to be Reflected in the Planning Regulation In the decade following promulgation of the existing planning rule, the concept of ecosystem management has slowly and steadily evolved, and the agency has made clear its intention to move toward an ecosystem management approach to National Forest System management. In recent years, the agency has actively promoted implementation of ecosystem management principles within existing legal requirements. Other Federal agencies are proceeding similarly. Additionally, the spotted owl controversy in the Pacific Northwest has become a focal point for exploring ways to implement the principles of ecosystem management. The validity of an ecosystem approach was recently upheld when the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Range of the Northern Spotted Owl was sustained from programmatic challenge (SAS v. Lyons, No. C92-479WD (W.D. WA, Dec. 21, 1994)). In that decision, Judge Dwyer stated, ``Given the current condition of the forests, there is no way the agencies could comply with environmental laws without planning on an ecosystem basis'' (slip. Op. @ 32). In light of the experience in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere, there is much interest in finding ways for Federal land management agencies to better incorporate the principles of ecosystem management when conducting resource planning and decisionmaking activities. The existing NFMA planning regulation was promulgated in 1982, long before the concept of ecosystem management had begun to be widely recognized. By contrast, the proposed rule has been promulgated with recognition of the role of ecosystem management and represents a significant step toward incorporating ecosystem management into the planning process to the extent permitted by current law. While basic principles of NFMA remain sound, there are questions as to whether statutory changes may be appropriate if ecosystem management is to become a fully operational concept for the management of National Forest System lands. A related consideration is the interaction of NFMA requirements with numerous other relevant statutes, such as the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321), the endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.), or the Federal Advisory Committee Act (86 Stat. 770). Experience to date has shown that the existing ``crazy quilt'' framework of statutes creates some limitations and uncertainties regarding implementation of ecosystem management concepts. Although progress can be made within the existing legal framework, the agency believes that a review of NFMA and other relevant statutes may be appropriate before the concept of ecosystem management can be transformed from an evolving vision into a fully operational reality. Moreover, it must be recognized that ecosystem management is a continuously evolving concept. There is still much to be learned regarding how best to implement the principles of ecosystem management when fulfilling the agency's responsibilities for management of National Forest System lands. As a result, the proposed rule should not be viewed as the agency's ultimate vision for implementing ecosystem management, but rather as a transitional step for beginning to incorporate the concepts of ecosystem management into land and resource management planning procedures and to do so in a manner consistent with the requirements of NFMA. In summary, as the first generation of forest plans prepared under NFMA is coming due for revision, the Forest Service proposes a substantially streamlined planning rule that builds on 15 years of planning experience and evolving concepts of resource management. The primary outcomes anticipated from the proposed rule include: forest plans and forest planning procedures that are simpler, more understandable, and less costly; stronger relationships with the public and other government entities; the incorporation of ecosystem management principles into forest planning; and clarification of the nature of forest plan decisions and their relationship to other planning and decisionmaking processes. Comparison of Outlines of Proposed Rule to Existing Rule The following table allows comparison of the existing table of contents for 36 CFR part 219, subpart A to that in the proposed rule: ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Proposed rule Existing rule ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 219.1 Purpose and principles................ 219.1 Purpose and principles. 219.2 Definitions........................... 219.2 Scope and applicability. 219.3 Relationships with the public and 219.3 Definitions and government entities. terminology. 219.4 Sustainability of escosystems......... 219.4 Planning levels. 219.5 Framework for resource decisionmaking. 219.5 Interdisciplinary approach. 219.6 Forest plan direction................. 219.6 Public participation. 219.7 Ecosystem analysis.................... 219.7 Coordination with other public planning efforts. 219.8 Interdisciplinary teams and 219.8 Regional planning-- information needs. general procedure. 219.9 Forest plan amendments................ 219.9 Regional guide content. 219.10 Forest plan revision................. 219.10 Forest planning-- general procedure. 219.11 Forest plan implementation........... 219.11 Forest plan content. 219.12 Monitoring and evaluation............ 219.12 Forest plan process. 219.13 Statutory timber management 219.13 Forest planning-- requirements. resource integration requirements. 219.14 Special designations................. 219.14 Timber resource land suitability. 219.15 Applicability and transition......... 219.15 Vegetative management practices. 219.16 Timber resource sale schedule. 219.17 Wilderness designation. 219.18 Wilderness management. 219.19 Fish and wildlife resource. 219.20 Grazing resource. 219.21 Recreation resource. 219.22 Mineral resource. 219.23 Water and soil resource. 219.24 Cultural and historic resource. 219.25 Research natural areas. 219.26 Diversity. 219.27 Management requirements. 219.28 Research. 219.29 Transition period. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Section-by-Section Description The principal features of the proposed rule are summarized here, keyed to the proposed CFR section numbers. Section 219.1 Purpose and Principles The proposed rule would: (1) Describe the agency's framework for National Forest System resource decisionmaking; (2) incorporate principles of ecosystem management; (3) establish requirements for the implementation, monitoring, evaluation, amendment, and revision of forest plans; and (4) articulate the relationship between resource decisionmaking and compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (hereafter, NEPA). Unlike the existing rule, the proposed rule would not provide direction for development of initial forest plans, because all but four of those plans are in effect. Paragraph (b) would identify 10 principles which provide the basis for National Forest System resource decisionmaking and management. The existing rule contains 14 principles. Although the 14 original principles are basically sound in and of themselves, the agency believes the new set of principles better reflects the concepts of ecosystem management and the agency's approach to resource decisionmaking. The first principle states the agency's commitment to managing for sustainable ecosystems and the multiple benefits which they can yield. The second principle articulates a key aspect of the agency's approach to ecosystem management--that people are part of ecosystems and that meeting people's needs and desires within the capacities of natural systems is a primary role of resource decisionmaking. The third principle reflects the dynamic nature of ecosystems and that they occur at a variety of spatial scales, with the resulting need for flexible planning processes that consider ecological changes over time. The fourth principle recognizes that ecosystems often cross many ownerships and jurisdictions, making it important to coordinate planning efforts for National Forest System lands with other landowners, governments, and agencies. This principle also addresses the need to respect private property rights and the jurisdictions of other government entities. The fifth principle notes the importance of open, ongoing, and equitable public involvement. This embodies the agency's belief that such participation by all interested publics is an important and integral part of National Forest System management. The sixth principle highlights the vital role of scientists in gathering and analyzing information for resource decisionmaking. The seventh principle recognizes that a fundamental goal of managing National Forest System lands is the optimization of net public benefits, which includes consideration of both quantitative and qualitative criteria. The eighth principle emphasizes the importance of being able to efficiently adjust forest plans in response to changing conditions and new information. The ninth principle makes clear that NEPA procedures define the scope and level of analysis conducted for resource decisionmaking and the need for analysis to be commensurate with the scope and nature of decisions being made. The last principle acknowledges the uncertainty inherent in resource decisionmaking, and the need for resource decisionmaking to proceed using an adaptive approach to resource management. The 10 principles highlight the underlying concepts and assumptions upon which the remaining sections of the proposed rule are based and set out many of the principles of ecosystem management which are reflected in the proposed rule. Section 219.2 Definitions The following words are defined in the existing rule, but would not be included in the definitions provided in the proposed rule, because they are not used or do not vary in meaning from common or well- established use of the term: Base sale schedule Biological growth potential Capability Corridor Cost efficiency Diversity Even-aged management Goods and services Integrated pest management Management concern Management direction Management intensity Management practice Planning horizon Present net value Public issue Real dollar value Receipt shares Responsible line officer Sale schedule Silvicultural system Suitability Sustained-yield of products and services Timber production Uneven-aged management The following terms are not defined in the Definitions section of the existing rule, but would be defined in the proposed rule: Catastrophic event Category 1 candidate species Category 2 candidate species Chargeable timber volume Conservation agreement Culmination of mean annual increment Decision document Directive Directive System Ecosystem analysis Ecosystem management Environmental assessment Environmental impact statement Even-aged stand Forest Supervisor Guideline Infrastructure NEPA documents NEPA procedures Previous planning rule Project Proposed action Regional Forester RPA Program and Assessment Resource conditions Responsible official Species and natural community rankings Standard Station Director Sustainability of ecosystems Tribal governments The following definitions appear in the existing rule and would be modified or retained unchanged in the proposed rule: Allowable sale quantity Forested land (previously listed as ``forest land'') Goal Long-term sustained-yield timber capacity Management prescription Objective Multiple-use Plan area (previously listed as ``planning area'') Plan period (previously listed as ``planning period'') Readers of this Supplementary Information should refer to the definitions section of the proposed rule (Sec. 219.2) for definitions of terms used in this preamble. Section 219.3 Relationships With the Public and Government Entities This section focuses on building and maintaining relationships with the public and other government entities and, in conjunction with numerous provisions in other sections of the proposed rule, would substantially strengthen the role of public participation and government coordination compared to the existing rule. This emphasis responds to findings of the Land Management Planning Critique, which highlighted the critical role of ongoing and meaningful public involvement and the need to strengthen coordination with other Federal agencies and State, local and tribal governments. Although the Federal Advisory Committee Act imposes some limitations on how involvement activities can be conducted, a cornerstone of ecosystem management and this proposed rule is the recognition that the public and other agencies and governments must work closely together if resource management issues are to be addressed effectively. Although this section would specifically address public participation and government coordination, there are numerous other sections of the proposed rule that reflect the agency's recognition of the importance of people in resource management and that reflect the agency's intent to expand opportunities for public involvement in agency planning and for public comment. For example, six of the principles in proposed Sec. 219.1 highlight the role of people in managing the National Forest System (Sec. 219.1(b)(1), (2), (4)-(7)). There would be two new opportunities for public notice and comment--a 30-day comment period for some minor amendments (Sec. 219.9(c)(2)(i)) and a 30-day comment period prior to updating a monitoring and evaluation strategy (Sec. 219.12(c)(2)). In addition, three new provisions designed to provide more information to the public are proposed: (1) the requirement for an annual monitoring and evaluation report (Sec. 219.12(e)); (2) the requirement to periodically update estimated levels of goods and services and management activities (Sec. 219.11(d)(2)); and (3) the requirement to conduct and make available the results of a prerevision review when initiating the revision process (Sec. 219.10(c) and (d)). Involvement in the revision process would also be strengthened by a requirement to provide opportunities for participation in the prerevision review (Sec. 219.10(c)(2)) and in formulation of a communications strategy for the prerevision review and revision effort (Sec. 219.10(c)(2)(ii)). Finally, the proposed rule provides opportunities for involvement and coordination in monitoring and evaluation efforts (Sec. 219.12(a)(1)(x)). Separate sections in the existing rule for Public Participation (Sec. 219.6) and Coordination With Other Public Planning Efforts (Sec. 219.7), would be combined into one section in the proposed rule. Combining the two sections is not intended to diminish the distinctive roles and importance of the public and cooperating agencies and governments; rather, combining these sections allows the agency to avoid repeating the many provisions that are applicable to both the public and cooperating agencies and governments while still providing the ability to address their specific and unique needs. Proposed paragraph (a) asserts that building and maintaining relationships with the public and other Federal agencies and State, local, and tribal governments is an essential and ongoing part of National Forest System planning and management. Paragraphs (a) (1)-(5) would expand on this statement by further describing five purposes for establishing and maintaining communication with parties interested in forest planning. The first purpose is to develop a shared understanding of the variety of needs, concerns, and values held by the public. In the past, public involvement efforts have too often promoted polarization of parties and interests. The agency believes communication and understanding of needs, concerns, and values is essential if polarization is to be replaced with cooperative problem solving and a genuine desire to move towards consensus. A second purpose is to coordinate planning efforts with other Federal agencies and State, local, and tribal governments. This reflects the agency's desire to strengthen working relationships with other agencies and governments as well as an awareness of the distinct roles and jurisdictions that must be recognized during resource planning efforts. This purpose also is consistent with the emphasis in ecosystem management that all parties interested in an ecosystem work together rather than approaching resource planning efforts in isolation. The provision would encourage coordination of planning efforts between the Forest Service and other government entities. However, the Forest Service recognizes that the Federal Advisory Committee Act is an important consideration that can influence the extent to which such coordinated efforts can occur. The third purpose is to improve the information base influencing decisions and to promote a shared understanding of the validity of this information. If the public is to have confidence in resource decisions made by the agency, there must be confidence in the information used in making those decisions. The public and other agencies and governments can play an integral part in improving the information base used and in helping to assess its validity. For example, this could mean working together with the public, scientific community, and other agencies to conduct an ecoregion assessment, or development of joint data bases with other agencies. This could also involve providing more opportunities for the public to review the information being used early in the decision process so that concerns about its validity can be identified and resolved in a cooperative and ongoing manner. The fourth purpose is to strengthen the scientific basis for resource management decisions through involvement of members of the scientific community. Although the agency has always considered the scientific community as part of the public, the proposed rule would highlight the particular importance of the involvement of scientists in resource planning. This emphasis is appropriate because the concept of ecosystem management recognizes and validates the important role of science and the need to integrate scientific expertise more effectively into resource planning and management. The fifth and final purpose is to resolve conflicts associated with resource decisionmaking. The first four goals, if achieved, lay the groundwork for conflict resolution. Although the Forest Service recognizes that resource management issues are often highly controversial and consensus may not be achievable, agency involvement and coordination efforts, nevertheless, should strive to promote the kind of communication and understanding that helps diminish differences and encourages parties with varying interests to work through issues together. Paragraph (b) of proposed Sec. 219.3 would require the Forest Supervisor to maintain and periodically update a mailing list of interested individuals, organizations, scientists, and government agencies and officials. This provision is intended to assure a means by which anyone who so desires can be informed of planning activities. Proposed paragraph (c) would require the maintenance of planning records that document forest plan amendments, revisions, and monitoring and evaluation and would ensure public access to these records. This is generally comparable to Sec. 219.10(h) of the existing rule. Proposed paragraph (d) would require copies of forest plans and monitoring and evaluation strategies to be accessible to the public at designated locations and is generally comparable to Sec. 219.6(i)(3) of the existing rule. Paragraph (e) of this section would direct Regional Foresters to seek to establish a memorandum of understanding or other form of agreement to guide coordination of planning efforts when desired by State officials or affected tribal governments. Paragraph (1) (i)-(ii) set forth the content requirements for such agreements, and paragraphs (1) (iii)-(iv) indicate when Forest Supervisors may execute such agreements and when a memorandum of understanding can be jointly executed by two Regional Foresters. This new provision is intended to help strengthen communication and cooperation between the Forest Service and State and tribal governments. This provision would supplement Forest Service authority to enter into such agreements with other Federal agencies or local governments. Proposed paragraph (f) highlights the need for public involvement and government coordination procedures to conform with NEPA requirements and other applicable laws, Executive orders, or regulations. This is included as a reminder that there are numerous requirements already in place with which the agency must comply. Perhaps the two most notable are public involvement requirements associated with NEPA procedures and the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The Federal Advisory Committee Act has been increasingly recognized as having a substantial impact on how public involvement activities are to be conducted. Section 219.4 Sustainability of Ecosystems This section is the central focus of the agency's shift toward an ecosystem approach to resource management. The fundamental premise is that the principal goal of managing the National Forest System is to maintain or restore the sustainability of ecosystems and that this is essential because sustained yield of benefits for present and future generations is more likely to occur when the ecosystems from which those benefits are produced are in a sustainable condition. This section is also based on the premise that a diversity of plant and animal communities is an inherent feature of sustainable ecosystems. Therefore, this proposed regulation is premised on the assumption that maintaining or restoring the sustainability of ecosystems simultaneously meets the NFMA provision to, ``provide for diversity of plant and animal communities'' (16 U.S.C. 1604(g)(3)(B)). Seven key themes are woven throughout this section. 1. Adoption of Sustainable Ecosystems As a Goal. This proposed section explicitly establishes the maintenance or restoration of the sustainability of ecosystems as a goal and recognizes that the agency has the discretion to determine what processes and information will be used to work toward this goal. Under the proposed rule, the agency would retain the discretion to determine for each plan area which conditions are indicative of sustainable ecosystems and how the plan area could be managed to promote achievement of those conditions. There is nothing in the proposed rule that establishes a concrete standard regarding ecosystem sustainability or diversity. This discretionary, goal-oriented approach to diversity and maintenance of sustainable ecosystems is consistent with the statutory basis for forest planning and the NFMA diversity provision which has been interpreted by court rulings to be a goal within the context of multiple use. ``Diversity is not the controlling principle in forest planning, although it is an important goal to be pursued in the context of overall multiple-use objectives.'' Sierra Club v. Robertson, 845 F. Supp. 485, 502 (S.D. Ohio, 1994). The interpretation of the NFMA diversity provision as a goal rather than a concrete standard is supported by the legislative history of the Act and has been upheld to date in a number of court cases. In Sierra Club v. Espy, No. 93-5050 (5th Cir. Nov. 15, 1994) the court recognized that the Forest Service has discretion to determine how it provides for diversity. See also, Sierra Club v. Robertson, 784 F. Supp. 593, 609 (W.D. Ark. 1991); ONRC v. Lowe, 836 F. Supp. 727 (D. Ore. 1993); Glisson v. USFS (S.D. Ill. August 26, 1993); Sierra Club v. Marita, 843 F. Supp. 1526 (E.D. Wisc. 1994); Krichbaum v. Kelly, 844 F. Supp. 1107 (W.D. Va. 1994); Sierra Club v. Marita (Robertson), 845 F. Supp. 1317 (E.D. Wisc 1994); in which courts have upheld Forest Service decisions based on NFMA diversity grounds. In addition, the goal statement in paragraph (a) of proposed Sec. 219.4 is consistent with Section 4(a) of the Multiple-Use, Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 (16 U.S.C. 528) which calls for ``* * * harmonious and coordinated management of the various resources, each with the other, without impairment of the productivity of the land * * *.'' Similarly, Section 2(B) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, (16 U.S.C. 1501 et seq., hereafter, ESA), states that one of the purposes of the Act is to ``provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved * * *.'' The premise is that by maintaining or, where needed, restoring the sustainability of ecosystems, the productivity of the land will not be impaired and the ecosystems upon which plant and wildlife species depend will be functioning properly. Thus, the ecological foundation is in place from which multiple benefits can be derived over time. Without those natural systems functioning properly, the ability to provide multiple benefits would be at risk. The goal in proposed paragraph (a) also is consistent with the multiple-use mission of the National Forest System as mandated by Section 2 of the Multiple-Use, Sustained-Yield Act, which directs the Secretary to ``* * * develop and administer the renewable surface resources of the national forests for multiple-use and sustained-yield of the several products and services obtained therefrom.'' The Act specifically identifies recreation, range, timber, watershed, wildlife, and fish as values for which national forests are administered. Later, at Sec. 219.6(a), the proposed rule would make clear that forest plans address the full range of multiple-uses in an integrated manner and on a sustained-yield basis. 2. Recognition of the Relationship between Sustainable Ecosystems and Meeting the Needs of People. The goal statement of Sec. 219.4(a), which is the foundation for this proposed section, clearly links the sustainability of ecosystems to the ability to provide multiple benefits to present and future generations. As stated at Sec. 219.1(b)(2) of the proposed rule, people are considered part of ecosystems, and meeting people's needs and desires within the capacities of natural systems is a primary role of resource decisionmaking. The proposed rule is based on the premise that National Forests are managed to provide multiple benefits to people in a manner that is sustainable over time, and that those benefits which people need and desire will only be sustained when the ecosystems from which they are derived are sustained. Although proposed section Sec. 219.4 is focused on the biological and physical aspects of sustainable ecosystems, the proposed rule would make clear that forests plans address the full range of multiple-uses (Sec. 219.6(a)). In addition, proposed Sec. 219.8(c) would make clear that the social and economic effects of resource decisions must be considered when amending or revising the forest plan. Thus, the proposed rule provides a holistic approach to National Forest management by assuring that the needs of people and the capacities of natural systems in both the near and long-term are considered when making resource decisions. 3. Adoption of ``Coarse Filter/Fine Filter'' Approach. This section of the proposed rule incorporates the ``coarse filter/fine filter'' concept of conservation biology, which holds that a strategy focused on maintaining the function, composition, and structure of an ecosystem as a whole will be adequate to meet the needs of most species. In essence, most species' needs are ``caught'' by the mesh of the ``coarse filter.'' In contrast, some species have additional needs or more narrow habitat requirements that are not adequately met by focusing solely on the ecosystem as a whole. Under these circumstances, additional ``fine filter'' measures are needed to ``catch'' and support the special needs of species whose needs otherwise would have gone unmet. The proposed rule provides the ``coarse filter'' by requiring that forest plan goals and objectives address the desired composition, function, and structure of ecosystems. These three aspects are generally considered to be integral to understanding and describing sustainable natural systems. Ecosystem structure includes the distribution and pattern of ecosystem elements such as forest openings and riparian corridors at a landscape scale, and the amount and arrangement of special habitat features such as seeps, snags and down woody material at smaller scales. Ecosystem composition includes the plant and animal species which make up an ecosystem. Ecosystem function includes processes and the relationships among processes, such as nutrient cycling in a system. In many cases, these three aspects of ecosystems will be described in the forest plan for ecosystems at fairly large scales, such as for ecosystems encompassing sizable portions of the plan area. The ``coarse filter'' can be provided at a variety of spatial scales, however. For example, proposed paragraph (b)(3) would direct that forest plans are to provide for the protection of rare natural communities. In many cases, these areas provide the ``coarse filter'' even though they may only be a fraction or an acre in size. By protecting rare natural communities, many individual species that are dependent on those habitats and communities are protected, thereby exemplifying the ``coarse filter/fine filter'' concept. The ``fine filter'' safeguard is provided in the proposed rule through the requirements to protect threatened and endangered species. For example, proposed Sec. 219.4(b)(4) would require that forest plans provide for the conservation of species listed as threatened and endangered, or proposed for listing, under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). It also would make explicit that once a species is listed or proposed for listing, management activities on National Forest System lands which affect the habitat of the species must comply with the requirements of ESA. Additional ``fine filter'' protection is provided by the requirements of Option I to protect sensitive species, and the requirements of Option II to address viability of species which are addressed later in this section. 4. Clear Intent to Seek to Prevent Listing of Species Under the Endangered Species Act. This proposed rule would send a clear signal that forest plan direction should seek to prevent the need for a species being listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA addresses the conservation of species that have been listed as threatened or endangered, but does not address protection of those species for which there is evidence of a trend toward listing but which are not yet listed. Option I of the proposed rule would target and treat as sensitive those species for which there is some evidence of risk but which are not yet imperiled to the point of being listed as threatened or endangered. 5. Emphasis on Strengthening Cooperation and Sharing of Professional Expertise. Another theme of the proposed rule is strengthened cooperation and coordination with other resource professionals. For example, Option I of the proposed rule utilizes the expertise of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Network of Natural Heritage Programs and Conservation Data Centers in the identification of sensitive species and natural communities. In addition, this section of Option I of the proposed rule parallels both the spirit and application of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) recently signed by the Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and other government agencies (94- SMU-058; January 25, 1994) to guide cooperation and participation in the conservation of species toward listing. Like this Memorandum of Understanding, the proposed rule (Option I) focuses on those species tending toward listing in order to preclude their designation as threatened or endangered, stresses interagency cooperation to address this goal, and recognizes the value of addressing species conservation within an ecosystem approach. 6. Focus on Habitat Rather Than Populations. Option I of the proposed rule would emphasize the management of habitat for fish and wildlife species, and not the management of populations as some would interpret the existing rule. As used in this section, habitat capability includes the quantity, quality, and distribution of habitats needed by a species. A focus on habitat capability is more appropriate than a focus on populations because there are many factors affecting populations that are not under the agency's direct control. These may include disease, predation, hunting or fishing pressures, natural cyclical changes and conditions occurring or actions being taken outside the plan area. The proposed rule would not alter the current cooperative relationship with State fish and wildlife agencies. The Forest Service role has traditionally been to provide habitat rather than manage numbers of species. States generally exercise jurisdiction over hunting and fishing on National Forest System lands. 7. Use of Best Available Information. The agency recognizes that there are many uncertainties regarding how to maintain or restore sustainable ecosystems and that scientific knowledge will always be incomplete and evolving. The terms ``sustainable,'' ``restoration,'' ``maintenance,'' or ``deteriorated ecosystem'' are all subject to varying and evolving interpretations. Furthermore, there is an infinite number of ecosystems, and realistically, planning efforts must be allowed to focus on only those ecosystem considerations of most relevance to decisionmaking. Therefore, in concert with the principle that the agency must retain discretion in its approach to maintaining or restoring sustainable ecosystems, the proposed rule (Sec. 219.4(e)) also recognizes the inevitable need to use the best available information in making the various decisions associated with approval of a forest plan. The proposed rule makes clear that there is no expectation that there will ever be a precise and universally accepted understanding or measure of what sustainable ecosystems are and the actions appropriate to maintain or restore them; rather, the expectation established by this proposed rule is that the agency will use the best information available and an adaptive management approach in its efforts to maintain or restore sustainable ecosystems and to manage the National Forest System toward that outcome. Adaptive management is considered one of the cornerstones of ecosystem management. This concept acknowledges that our understanding of ecosystems is always changing, that we learn by observing how natural systems respond to actual situations, and that we should adapt our actions accordingly. Adaptive resource management recognizes that decisions cannot always be halted until research is complete, especially since, at times, inaction can have far-reaching consequences. Proposed paragraph Sec. 219.4(e) not only would establish the use of an adaptive management approach for dealing with incomplete and changing information, but also would clearly signal that resource decisionmaking need not be halted if there is uncertainty or incomplete knowledge. In accordance with NEPA procedures (40 CFR 1502.22), decisionmaking is expected to proceed using the best information available commensurate with the decision being made, and monitoring and evaluation is to be used to assess the effects of those decisions and to identify new information which may come available. Since project decisions for the decade of the forest plan are approved incrementally during the plan period, the opportunity exits to adapt those decisions as needed to respond to new information. Options for Providing Diversity In addition to the provisions of Sec. 219.4(b)(1)-(4), this proposed rule sets out two options for providing diversity. Proposed Option I would provide for diversity by addressing sensitive species. By contrast, Option II which is basically the requirements of the current regulation would provide for diversity by addressing viability of species. Option I. Proposed Sec. 219.4(b)(5) creates a system for protection of habitat capability for sensitive species in order to prevent the need for listing the species as threatened or endangered under ESA and to preclude extirpation of the sensitive species from the plan area. Paragraph (b)(5)(i) describes how sensitive species would be identified. First, sensitive species can encompass species, subspecies, populations, or stocks of vertebrates, invertebrates, vascular plants, bryophytes, fungi, and lichens. Second, the species must be known to occur or to be likely to occur on National Forest System lands. Third, the species must meet one of the criteria described at (b)(5)(i)(A)- (C). These criteria utilize a combination of information derived from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Network of Natural Heritage Programs and Conservation Data Centers. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the Federal agency with primary responsibility for administering ESA. The Network of Natural Heritage Programs and Conservation Data Centers is generally considered to have one of the most comprehensive and accurate compilations of information on species that are imperiled in the United States. The Network consists of approximately 85 data centers, including at least one in each State. Each data center is established within a local institution, most frequently as part of a government agency responsible for natural resource management and protection, and each center functions in support of Natural Heritage Programs. The Nature Conservancy is involved in the establishment and operation of the data centers by providing technical, scientific, and administrative support and training. The Conservancy also makes available the c
National Forest System Land and Resource Management Planning
The Forest Service requests comment on a proposed rule to guide land and resource management planning for the 191-million acre National Forest System. This proposed rule, which would revise and streamline the existing planning rule, describes the agency's framework for National Forest System resource decisionmaking; incorporates principles of ecosystem management into resource planning; and establishes requirements for implementation, monitoring, evaluation, amendment, and revision of forest plans. The intended effect is to simplify, clarify, and otherwise improve the planning process; reduce burdensome and costly procedural requirements; and strengthen relationships with the public and other government entities.