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Praise for Charting a New Direction on National Forests

Read what stakeholders have said about the USDA's recent efforts to restore the Nation's forests through science and collaboration.

Editor's Note: Tom Tidwell is Chief of the U.S. Forest Service.

Last week, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and I announced our intent for finalizing a new planning rule to govern management of the National Forest System. The 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands are critical to President Obama’s vision of an economy built to last, providing clean air, clean water, habitat for wildlife, opportunities for healthy outdoor recreation, jobs and growth in rural communities, and a range of other benefits for all Americans.

When finalized, a new rule will replace outdated procedures that have been in place since 1982 that no longer reflect the best science, public values, or agency expertise. Land management plan revisions under the preferred alternative would cost less money and take less time, while protecting and restoring our forests, water and wildlife and supporting vibrant rural communities.

We listened to input from the public to develop the preferred course of action, included as the preferred alternative in the final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement released last week. We hosted the most collaborative and transparent rule-making process in agency history, and carefully considered more than 300,000 public comments.

Here is what some of our partners and interested members of the public have said about the preferred alternative:

"In the early 1980’s, I was a forest planner attempting to implement what was then the new planning rule. I believed it was a good rule, and for its time, it was. But the 1982 rule is out of date for today’s circumstances. Today, the Forest Service is focused on restoration, including restoring fire dependent ecosystems to a more natural condition. This new preferred alternative protects our natural resources, promotes sustainable recreation and safeguards our precious drinking water while allowing for timber harvest and facilitating restoration.

The preferred alternative modernizes the planning process. It promotes a collaborative approach where people are engaged throughout the entire process all the way to implementation. It is the outcome of extensive public engagement, including hundreds of thousands of comments and thousands of people participating in roundtable discussions around the country. When the final decision is published, the Forest Service needs an opportunity to implement a new planning rule for the benefit of the American people."

~ Dale Bosworth, Former Chief of the U.S. Forest Service

"It is vital that the Planning Rule be modernized to enrich the contribution of a local National Forest or Grassland, within the context of its statutory mandates and obligations, to natural resource conservation at the landscape level. The preferred alternative will facilitate the contribution of the individual National Forest or Grassland to statewide and regional fish and wildlife conservation objectives.

A modernized rule provides for better integration of National Forest System management with other landscape conservation initiatives such as the Migratory Bird Joint Ventures, National Fish Habitat Partnerships, and in facilitating fish, wildlife and plant adaptation response to climate change. The State Fish and Wildlife Agencies look forward to greater successful delivery of conservation on the ground through implementation of the new planning rule."

~ Gary Taylor, Legislative Director, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

“The National Forest System is a haven for Americans seeking a stronger connection with their families and nature through healthy outdoor recreational pursuits. The preferred alternative will support these sustainable recreational experiences, and will increase the involvement of the public in planning efforts.

We expect this new collaborative process to result in better, more broadly supported outcomes for these treasured public lands and their enjoyment. We look forward to working with the U.S. Forest Service on the first plan revisions carried out under a new rule when it is finalized in the near future.”

~ Kevin Colburn, National Stewardship Director, American Whitewater

“Forests cover one-third of the United States; store and filter half the nation’s water supply; provide jobs to more than a million wood products workers; absorb nearly 20% of U.S. carbon emissions; offer 650 million acres of recreational lands that generate well over $15 billion in economic activity annually; and provide habitat for thousands of species across the country. Yet our forests today face a “perfect storm” of threats, including catastrophic wildfires, outbreaks of pests and disease, poorly planned roads, increasing development, climate change, and policies that lead to gridlock rather than restoration.

A new Forest Planning Rule is sorely needed, and the preferred alternative is a positive proposal based on extensive public participation. It will allow plans to be developed more efficiently. The preferred alternative encourages restoration treatments that are needed to catch up to the problems our forests face. And it strengthens science requirements, giving science a clear role that can bring stakeholders together to strengthen long-term forest conservation. Most people born in 1982 have kids by now; it’s time for a new generation of Forest Planning, too.”

~ Laura McCarthy, Senior Forest Policy Lead, The Nature Conservancy

Tom Tidwell is Chief of the U.S. Forest Service