Is this the future of America’s national forests, or will Congress wake up before it is too late?
The Council on Environmental Quality's (CEQ) recently released draft National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) guidelines aim to improve the NEPA process and increase efficiency of environmental reviews written under NEPA. SAF's Policy Team in conjunction with SAF's Committee on Forest Policy have released their comments on CEQ's guidelines, which commends CEQ for their efforts to clarify more confusing aspects of the NEPA process, but also recommends additional aspects of NEPA that would benefit from CEQ clarification. To read SAF's full comments link to:
CEQ's Draft Guidelines can be found here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ceq/nepa_improving_efficiency_draft_guidance.pdf
New Forest Planning Rule Seeks to Restore the Nation's Forests through Science and Collaboration - USDA Forest Service News Release, January 26th
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today signaled the U.S. Department of Agriculture's intent to issue a new planning rule for America's 193-million acre National Forest System that seeks to deliver stronger protections for forests, water, and wildlife while supporting the economic vitality of our rural communities, by releasing online a Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the National Forest System Land Management Planning Rule. Today's action honors the commitment made by Secretary Vilsack in his 2009 speech on forest management, and by the President in the America's Great Outdoors Report. USDA and the Forest Service carefully considered nearly 300,000 comments received on the proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement issued last February, to develop the agency's preferred course of action for finalizing the planning rule. This is included in the PEIS released today as USDA's preferred alternative. A notice of availability for the PEIS will be published in the Federal Register on February 3, 2012, and the Secretary will issue a record of decision selecting a final planning rule no less than 30 days afterwards. To read more of this article link to:
Washington Post quotes SAF's Michael Goergen on the new Planning Rule: January 26th
SAF Comments on the Draft Planning Rule: May 13th, 2011 http://www.eforester.org/documents/comment_forestserviceplanningdeis_May13.pdf
The SAF Task Force Report "Managing Forests because Carbon Matters: Integrating Energy, Products, and Land Management Policy" is available to read online.
To read the Task Force Report link to: http://www.safnet.org/documents/JOFSupplement.pdf
To save the imperiled spotted owl, the Obama administration is moving forward with a controversial plan to shoot barred owls, a rival bird that has shoved its smaller cousin aside. The plan is the latest federal attempt to protect the northern spotted owl, the passive, one-pound bird that sparked an epic battle over logging in the Pacific Northwest two decades ago. To read more of this article link to:
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced USDA's continuing commitment to get kids outdoors and connected to the natural world around them through $1 million in cost-share funding from the U.S. Forest Service to enhance children's programs in 18 states. Vilsack will highlight the announcement later today at the Interior Department during the White House conference, Growing America's Outdoor Heritage and Economy, which emphasizes the link between conservation and strong local economies through tourism, outdoor recreation, and healthy lands, waters and wildlife. The conference has attracted boaters, hunters, anglers, farmers, ranchers, land conservationists, historic preservationists, outdoor recreationists, small business owners, local governments, tribal leaders and others from across the 50 United States to discuss ways to spur and support successful conservation projects around the nation. To read more of this article link to: http://www.fs.fed.us/news/2012/releases/03/kids.shtml
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the opportunity for producers to enroll a total of 1 million acres of land in a new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) initiative to preserve grasslands and wetlands. Vilsack will highlight the announcement later today at the Interior Department during the White House Growing America's Outdoor Heritage and Economy conference, which emphasizes the link between conservation and strong local economies through tourism, outdoor recreation, and healthy lands, waters and wildlife. The conference has attracted boaters, hunters, anglers, farmers, ranchers, land conservationists, historic preservationists, outdoor recreationists, small business owners, local governments, tribal leaders and others from across the 50 United States to discuss ways to spur and support successful conservation projects around the nation. To read more of this article link to: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2012/03/0076.xml&contentidonly=true
Today, President Obama and members of his Cabinet convened the White House Conference on Conservation to engage directly with conservation leaders from all 50 states to strengthen partnerships and identify next steps in advancing community-driven conservation and outdoor recreation initiatives that are building strong local economies and healthy lands, waters and wildlife across America. Today's conference - titled Growing America's Outdoor Heritage and Economy - is part of the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a community-based, 21st century agenda for conservation, recreation, and reconnecting Americans to the outdoors. The event brought together hundreds of boaters, hunters, anglers, farmers, ranchers, land conservationists, historic preservationists, outdoor recreationists, small business owners, local governments, tribal leaders and other key stakeholders from around the nation to meet with Obama administration officials to discuss issues surrounding conservation in urban cities and rural communities. To read more of this article link to: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2012/03/0079.xml&contentidonly=true
In a boost to financially strapped rural counties in Oregon and across the West, the Obama administration on Monday included $294 million to extend the county payments program in the next fiscal year. The line item in the 2013 budget is more important in political terms than pure economics since the White House budget is unlikely to be adopted. However, the addition of money for county payments offers a black-and-white, on paper confirmation of the administration's priorities for the coming year. That will help Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., in his battle to secure funding when Congress writes its own budget and makes the hard decisions for how money will be spent.To read more of this article link to: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2012/02/29/2014315/otter-wants-idaho-to-control-federal.html
The mountain pine beetle epidemic led Wyoming to file a motion to intervene in a lawsuit to defend an amendment to the Black Hills National Forest management plan, Gov. Matt Mead's office announced Wednesday. The forest is divided into four ranger districts, with one based in Sundance. Black Hills revised its management plan in 1997, forest Environmental Coordinator Ed Fischer said. The plan was appealed and the forest was instructed to improve information and directions regarding wildlife and plant species, Fischer said. The forest amended the 1997 plan in 2005. To read more of this article link to:
Key federal lawmakers say they're confident that Congress will renew a program this year that has become a lifeline for rural communities suffering from a decline in timber harvests on federal lands, but they can't say when or how. The uncertainty over the Secure Rural Schools program is making some local officials nervous. They would have a hard time making up the financial loss and many would have to resort to layoffs. The program compensates counties for a decline in federal timber payments resulting from environmental protections for the spotted owl, salmon and other species. To read more of this article link to:
Wilderness is politically hard to sell in North Idaho, where national forest clientele seems to love or hate the concept. Only Congress can designate wilderness. It's the highest level of federal land protection, precluding roads as well as motorized vehicles and even mechanized equipment such as bicycles and chain saws. No official wilderness has been designated in Idaho north of the Selway-Bitterroot. Yet, for decades, the U.S. Forest Service has guarded some pristine roadless areas as candidates for wilderness. To read more of this article link to:
Oregon's most abundant resource, timber, is being underutilized. This lack of productivity has hurt Oregon's economy and our rural communities. The federal government owns 60 percent of Oregon's forest land, and many in Southern Oregon understand that Washington DC does a very poor job managing our forests. Timber harvest on federal lands has declined, leading to high unemployment in rural communities. As Co-Chair of the House Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee, I have been working to advance measures that allow Oregonians to responsibly utilize our natural resources to improve our economy. While the Oregon Legislature can do little to affect federal timber policies, we can act to properly manage our state forests and put rural Oregonians back to work. To read more of this article link to:
A proposed project that includes logging, roadwork and weed spraying on national forest land north of Seeley Lake is pitting a wide-ranging array of organizations against four environmental groups that filed a lawsuit opposing the work. On Monday, organizations including the Seeley Lake fire department, the National Wildlife Federation, the Montana Wilderness Association, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Lewis and Clark, Missoula and Powell counties all filed legal briefs supporting the five-year project on 4,330 acres of the Lolo National Forest. To read more of this article link to: http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/conservationists-oppose-logging-lawsuit-in-lolo-national-forest/article_378a11e8-6254-11e1-ae6c-0019bb2963f4.html
Conservation groups on Tuesday sued the U.S. Forest Service in an effort to halt a logging project in the South Fork of the Flathead River, arguing the timber sale will jeopardize critical wildlife habitat along the scenic river corridor. Friends of the Wild Swan and the Swan View Coalition filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Missoula with the aim of stopping the Spotted Bear River logging project, which would occur on public land in the Spotted Bear Ranger District of the Flathead National Forest. To read more of this article link to:
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Disclaimer: The Society of American Foresters does not necessarily endorse the views expressed in the news items and/or links to additional information that appear in the Policy Update.