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Loggers, off-roaders sue USFS over new planning rule

Groups claim agency can’t base planning on ecological sustainability

Industrial users challenge national forest planning rule.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Timber, ranching and off-road motorists are suing the U.S. Forest Service over a recently adopted national planning rule. The groups claim that the Forest Service illegally adopted ecological sustainability as a primary purpose of forest management, and that rule includes an unlawful mandate to provide ecosystem services.

Careful readers will hear the faint echoes of the paranoid black-helicopter crowd in the background, for example when the lawsuit mentions a UN-sponsored report that discusses forest ecosystem services such as carbon storage, along with “educational, aesthetic, spiritual and cultural heritage values.”

That’s all apparently a bit to touchy-feely for the hoof and chainsaw crowd, who have asked the federal District Court for Washington, D.C. to overturn the rule. Read the lawsuit here. Continue reading

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New forest planning rule may be challenged in court

The U.S. Forest Service hopes a new planning rule will help restore ecosystems and protect wildlife.

Conservation advocates want stronger protections for wildlife

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — With more than half the country’s 155 national forests operating under outdated management plans, the U.S. Forest Service is eager to start implementing a new planning rule that was finalized March 23.

But like several previous attempts to revise the existing 1082 rule, this latest version may face a legal test. Now that the rule is final, the Center for Biological Diversity is evaluating whether to pursue a courtroom challenge, said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaign director for the organization.

McKinnon said his organization is scrutinizing the rule for compliance with the National Forest Management Act and will also take a close look at the biological opinion accompanying the rule to see if meets federal standards for protecting plants and wildlife.

“This rule reflects the work of a lot of federal lawyers,” McKinnon said, referring to the perception that the rule was designed at least in part with the idea of repelling potential legal challenges. Continue reading

Forest Service close to finalizing new planning rule

Agency wants to cut red tape, speed planning process and prevent lawsuits, but conservation groups say the new rule eliminates meaningful standards for protecting wildlife

The U.S. Forest Service is entrusted with management of precious public resources like this grove of bristlecone pines on Mt. Evans.

A couple of previous Summit Voice stories:

Forest Service releases draft of new national planning rule

Commentary: This land is your land … really!

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Forest Service today took a big step toward finalizing a new rule that will determine how the agency writes management plans for 155 forests spanning 193 million acres of public land.

According to the agency, the rule will cut red tape, reduce litigation and try to deliver tronger protections for forests, water, and wildlife — all while supporting the economic vitality of rural communities.

While the Forest Service says the new planning rule bolsters environmental protection, some environmental groups were quick to point out that the rule actually weakens enforceable standards for protecting wildlife. Continue reading

Forest Service planning rule meeting on web

The U.S. Forest Service is holding meetings around the country to determine future management of national forests.

Future management of White River National Forest to be guided by outcome of current process

SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Forest Service is holding a series of meetings around the country to take input on a new rule that will determine how the agency develops management plans for individual national forests like the White River.

Those plans are critical for residents of areas like Summit County, where 80 percent of the land is managed by the Forest Service. One of the first in a series of meetings is being broadcast on the web starting at 5 p.m. Click here to watch the webcast live.

This land is your land, this land is my land …

A new rule will determine how Summit County residents will be involved when the time comes to make a new plan for the White River National Forest.

Early comments due on new national forest planning rule, with a Feb. 16 deadline. Sounds boring, but read on, this is critical for Summit County, with 80 percent national forest land that belongs to you

SUMMIT COUNTY — After federal courts thrice rejected federal initiatives to streamline the overall national forest planning process, the U.S. Forest Service is going back to the drawing board with a new, Web 2.0 initiative that includes an interactive planning blog to solicit real-time feedback.

The rule will determine how individual forests formulate their plans. At stake for Summit County residents is how they will be able to help shape the next plan for the White River National Forest. Generally, Forest Service policy requires updates every 15 years. The current version of the White River forest plan was adopted in 2002. The planning rule homepage is here.

About 80 percent of Summit County is national forest land. Critical issues include cleaning up after the pine beetle infestation and balancing recreation and natural resource conservation, including the critical need to maintain adequate wildlife habitat and water quality.

For example, during the last round of planning, the White River National Forest identified new areas to be considered for wilderness status, zoned big areas of the Tenmile Range and the mountains around Keystone for ski area development and identified some areas as wildlife movement corridors or as elk habitat.

Right now, the agency is in an early scoping phase for the new rule. Anyone can comment on what issues should be considered in the proposed rule and in the Environmental Impact Statement. The deadline for this phase is Feb. 16. Click this link to get information on how to comment. If you’re interested in participating in this process, it’s important to get involved at this first step. That will ensure you’ll be contacted about subsequent actions at every stage of the process.

The process has spurred a lively dialogue, with numerous forest planning blogs springing up around the web and offering alternate views. A New Century of Forest Planning is worth reading — especially this post — before making your own comments.

Continue reading

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