National Forest System Land and Resource Management Planning

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.

Full text

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
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NEPA documents
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Regional Forester
RPA Program and Assessment
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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  

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