The Forest Planning Process
The U.S. Forest Service is an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture and charged with managing the 192-million acre National Forest System. The National Forest System contains approximately 34.2 million acres of designated wilderness areas and another 58.5 million acres of Inventoried Roadless Areas. The remaining 100 million acres is managed for a variety of public uses including recreation, logging, mining, and grazing.
Wilderness areas have been identified and designated by Congressional action and are set aside with strict management prohibiting entry by mechanical/mechanized means to remain in their natural state.
Inventoried Roadless Areas were identified by the Forest Service, under direction of Congress, as areas with little or no logging or mining potential or other noticeable impacts of man. Regulations require these areas to be managed to not impair their potential wilderness quality.
For all components of the National Forest System, the U. S. Forest Service (USFS) develops a long-range management plans. These plans guides how much logging to allow, whether or not to permit off highway vehicles, how wilderness and wildlife will be protected, whether to permit ski resorts, and more. Planning must follow requirements set out by environmental laws, such as the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Wilderness Act, and others.
Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the federal agencies are required to disclose and analyze the impacts of management decisions. Once developed, the Land and Resource Management Plans (sometimes referred to as Environmental Impact Statements) are the guidance used by the USFS for future decisions. At least every 15 years, the USFS revises the management plans.
As part of the plan revision process, the Forest Service will decide (1) whether to recommend additional wilderness designations, (2) how it will manage the inventoried roadless areas, and (3) review and modify regulations of other forest uses.
The Forest Service uses a multi-step process to develop the LRMPs.
* Notice of Intent
* Public Involvement
* Proposed Plan Revision
* Implement and monitor
All steps are dictated by the National Environmental Policy Act.