2:48pm

Thu January 26, 2012
Environment

Forest Restoration, Water Key in New Forest Service Planning Rule

Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced new rules that will change how almost 200 million acres of National Forest lands are managed across the country and in Colorado.

The guidelines will set priorities for land managers overseeing the country’s 155 national forest areas. Right now each area is required to have a long-term management plan—usually hundreds of pages that dictate everything from where mountain bikers can ride to what trees can be logged.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said during a conference call with reporters that key elements of the plan would emphasize science in decision making and forest restoration.

“By focusing on restoration we think we can reduce the threat of catastrophic fires. In the western U.S. we can reduce the bark beetle infestation and other pests,” he said.

The USDA received more than 300,000 comments on draft guidelines. The intense interest underscores a long standing struggle by forest service land managers to balance industry and conservation interests since the existing rules went into effect three decades ago.

For a complete list of changes to the new Forest Planning Rule click here.