The U.S. Forest Service has released a final environmental impact statement for its new management plan for the nation's public forests.
The new Forest Planning Rule will guide the management of America's 193-million acres of national forest lands, and provide the framework for local forest managers to develop their own forest-specific management plans.
The Forest Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture received almost 300,000 comments on the proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement issued last February.
According the USDA, the proposed plan "emphasizes collaboration and strengthens the role of public involvement and dialogue throughout the planning process." It would also require the use of the "best available science" in decision-making.
Here are some highlights of the Forest Service's "preferred alternative" for forest management:
- Plans must include components that seek to restore and maintain forests and grasslands.
- Plans would include requirements to maintain or restore watersheds, water resources, water quality including clean drinking water, and the ecological integrity of riparian areas.
- Plans would be required to provide habitat for plant and animal diversity and species conservation. These requirements are intended to keep common native species common, contribute to the recovery of threatened and endangered species, conserve proposed and candidate species, and protect species of conservation concern.
- Plans would provide for multiple uses, including outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, wildlife and fish.
- Plans would be required to provide opportunities for sustainable recreation, and to take into account opportunities to connect people with nature.
- Opportunities for public involvement and collaboration would be required throughout all stages of the planning process. The preferred alternative would provide opportunities for Tribal consultation and coordination with state and local governments and other federal agencies, and includes requirements for outreach to traditionally underrepresented communities.
- Plans require the use of the best available scientific information to inform the planning process and documentation of how science was used in the plan.
- The planning framework provides a more efficient and adaptive process for land management planning, allowing the Forest Service to respond to changing conditions.
Missouri's Mark Twain National Forest covers 1.5 million acres in the southern and central parts of the state.