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Tue, Aug. 04

Forest Service seeks input on proposed rules, NEPA

The Forest Service is providing public notice and opportunity for comments on proposed rules for National Forest System land management planning and the Forest Service's NEPA procedures. Both proposals have 60-day comment periods.

"The proposed rules create better ways for the Forest Service to protect the environment in an efficient and inclusive manner," said Chief Gail Kimbell. "The first rule improves land management plans by making them more adaptable to changing conditions and the desires of the American people. It ensures that the public continues to be involved in our land management planning processes and the disclosure of our environmental performance continues to be improved."

The first rulemaking is the result of a March 30 court order that enjoined the USDA from implementing and using its 2005 planning rule until the public is allowed to comment on it. Officials have prepared the proposed rule, explanatory text of the rule and a draft environmental impact statement to meet the court order. The rule, now referred to as the 2007 planning rule, is essentially the same as the enjoined 2005 planning rule. The draft environmental impact statement includes five alternatives. These alternatives are the proposed action (essentially the 2005 rule), the 2000 planning rule, the 1982 planning rule and two modifications of the 2005 planning rule.

Key elements of the rule include a strengthened science role in land management planning, assurance that the public has access to planning information and is heard throughout the process, an assessment of environmental conditions and trends and the requirement that proposed desired conditions be sustainable.

The second proposed rule moves the Forest Service's NEPA implementing procedures from the Forest Service Directive System to the Code of Federal Regulations, allowing for more public collaboration and responsiveness to new information and ideas. This updates our procedures and makes them consistent with other agencies and reflects guidance from the Council on Environmental Quality.

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