New planning regs by Forest Service

Obama offers not-so-friendly to wildlife provisions?

After 40 public meetings that drew 3,000 participants and 25,000 comments, the Forest Services has issued new draft rules governing the entire national forest system. Conservation groups are focusing on what they consider to be changes to the wildlife portion that would give too much discretion to local forest supervisors about conserving and improving wildlife habitat.

National forests plan would expand local discretion over wildlife management. By Darryl Fears. Washington Post.

The fact that conservation groups are comparing the new rules unfavorably to the old rules from Ronald Reagan would seem to be telling as Reagan was no favorite of conservation groups. On the other hand as the Missoulian points out, “Forest Service looks to add recreation, wildlife, water to management principles. By Rob Chaney. Missoulian.

Maybe, the best initial comment was “The devil, or the angel, is in the details.” We will have to look more closely.

Here are the FS draft regulations. pdf




  1. Mtn Mama Avatar
    Mtn Mama

    While I am happy that the USFS is attemting to revamp regs, I am concerned that the proposed planning rule will leave too much discretion to individual Foresters. It seems that there will be no real accountability or ways to enforce wildlife sustainability standards.
    I attended one of the Forest service’s public comment sessions last summer and can tell you that the off-roaders were heavily represented and outspoken. Their thought processes about forest health and human health is apparently not science based. I had an 300lb off-roader arguing that his ATV didnt scare wildlife because “there are elk everywhere” (this is in CO).

  2. JimT Avatar

    This approach has the real potential to allow for too much fragmentation in the management of forests from one area to another, even with the inherent differences.

    I also worry this ‘discretion” will be used by the Sagebrush folks to argue for local control of federal lands…again.

    They should allow only electric ATVs….;*) Seriously, I hate those things…apologies to Save Bears, who is an exception since it is a NEED in his case. Especially harmful in Southwestern environments where the ruts can and do last for decades….

  3. Salle Avatar

    Especially harmful in Southwestern environments where the ruts can and do last for decades….

    This is also true in places in the NRM area. In many places, especially the Snake River Plain for example, the soil profile is only a few to less than an inch deep and once trampled, gouged by ATVs and the like, it may take thousands of years to recover, if ever.

    But then, most ATV riders/owners don’t care about this since most of their bitching is about getting their share of instant gratification with no regard to anything or anyone else, period. Most of the natural environment is under siege by this mindset.

  4. Tom Page Avatar
    Tom Page

    Any move that might actually lead to more action on the ground is a good thing – even if it opens up some risk for poor decision-making at the local level. Working with the feds can be extremely difficult, thanks to the bureaucracy and the paranoid litigative atmosphere that surrounds the agencies. Allowing local managers to have some latitude (and some directives for wildlife and habitat management) should enable good projects to go forward.

    If you have local conservation groups (watershed organizations, land trusts, local stewardship collaboratives) providing matching funds and administrative help, the potential for good work is increased, and hopefully you’d have good watchdogs looking out for bad projects, too.

    I’m not surprised at the lukewarm reception these amendments received from DC-based greens. Anything that moves power out of DC will be resisted by these folks.

    When it comes to decision-making in these agencies, the reality is that every choice is based on social decisions, not scientific evidence. While we can hope otherwise, don’t hold your breath.

    1. JimT Avatar

      Tom, I don’t live in DC and I am concerned about these changes, so don’t just pin it on DC folks. In these polarized times, with the resurgence of extremist views in state legislatures, I am very concerned that PUBLIC lands will be managed as if they are a fiefdom of the local area. I have done this work for too long to rely on “if you” or “hopefully”…j

      I also would strongly take issue with your characterization of the term” paranoid litigative (sic) atmosphere” when it comes to the agencies and their decisions. The history of land management in the West is largely a story of agencies kowtowing to the extractive industries at the expense of protective regulations and laws. Frankly, without the stream of successful litigation efforts over the last 3o years, the West and its landscape would be a very different, very impacted, very sterile place. So the concern with aqency behaviors is real, not illusory.

      1. Salle Avatar

        And furthermore, there are already many “watchdog” NGOs out there and they are constantly harassed, rely on donations and fundraisers and often do not have the funding base to provide matching funds etc…. and given that thee agencies are funded by taxpayers as are the NGOs so the taxpayers are paying twice for land management ~ once for the agency to do its job and second for trying to make the agency do its job the way it is supposed to. How fair is that?

        And, litigation is one of the only tools available to make agencies do what they are supposed to do rather than acquiesce to extractive industries.

        I agree with JimT on all of his comment plus…

      2. Tom Page Avatar
        Tom Page

        Some observations:

        1) Litigation has been a powerful tool for more than thirty years, I agree. However, it is becoming less and less successful (victories in the courts aren’t necessarily turning into changes on the ground) as it becomes more and more expensive. The threat of litigation has made it difficult to do good projects as well as bad ones.

        2) Litigation is a defensive measure and therefore has limited utility. Yes, the history of the federal agencies wilting under the pressure of Wilkinson’s “Lords of Yesterday” is well-documented. My concern is that litigation isn’t fixing the problems – it’s perpetuating the status quo, which isn’t good.

        2) State Legislatures don’t control the forest, much as they’d like to. This fear that local wannabe dictators will drive forest decisions has not mirrored my own experiences in Colorado, Montana and Idaho.

        3) I’ve been doing this work for a long time too, Jim. Consistently, the best projects are locally driven, not a result of some DC mandate. Not every project works out the way we think it will, but it’s better than doing nothing, which is what’s happening more and more.

        4) I’ve been in federal offices about once a week for the last year – it’s most definitely a paranoid atmosphere that makes doing anything extremely difficult.

        5) I didn’t think litigative was a word…but I couldn’t come up with something better – litigious?

        6) Good local NGO’s with quality staff can and do come up with matching funds. I worked as an NGO staffer for 10 years. TU, TNC, DU and local land trusts and other orgs regularly contribute to projects – even here in the barren conservation funding grounds of Idaho. To use the excuse that NGO’s are underfunded and harassed is not an acceptable reason for inaction.

        7) NGO’s aren’t funded by taxpayers (an involuntary payment). They’re funded by donations. Not a valid argument to say that we pay twice for land management.

  5. DB Avatar

    I don’t think we can be unhappy with Susan Rainville’s recent decision on the Payette NF to severly restrict domestic sheep grazing in bighorn habitat. I think forest supervisors are listening to reason and coming up with sound, science-based decisions, and are being allowed to do so by the regions and WO.

    1. Doryfun Avatar

      DB – I agree with you on this. I actually helped provide some of the original
      grassroots bighorn sheep information that went into some of that science-based descison making process.

  6. Doryfun Avatar

    While there never is an ideal world to live in, what with all the back and forth between dominionists./exploiters and conservationist/environmentalist, it seems to me that when an opportunity arises to give more discretion to local forest supervisors about conserving and improving wildlife habitat, that would be a good thing.
    I am currently on a North Central Resource Advisory Committee, representing one segment of Industry (Outfitting/Guiding), amidst a multi-interest group, made up of three main categories. They are Industry/Recreation, Environment, and Elected officals. Basically, RAC was set up as a local community collaboratin with federal land managers in recommneding what Title 11 Projects get approved that will benefit resources on federal lands.
    When various projects are being submitted for evaluation in our group, it is interesting to hear from locals that know the area, because it brings to light special concerns not known by outsiders unfamiliar with the area. Often problems arise, only known by those living close to the area, that can have a huge impact as to how something might get managed, or not. What gets approved or not.
    This seems like a reasonable process to me, as frustrating as it sometimes is, when things don’t go as I see favor with.
    As a river guide myself, if I want to know something about a river not in my area, I call people who know the river to find out pertinent information about running that river. It makes good sense to talk with those who speak from a vernacular of persepctive. Changes sometimes take place (side canyon blowouts, new rapids, etc) that happen after guide books have been writen. Up to date information by locals is the best source to consult, in my opinion.
    While it might be fun to play god for a day, unfortunately, in the real world I live in a community, so must pay attention to needs other than my own. In that sence, collaboration amist people who intimately know their community seems like a good thing.

  7. Doryfun Avatar

    By keeping locals in the dark long enough, it is much easier to get run over by the mega-loads of industry, rendering people in their path collateral road-kill along their way to the Tar Sands If it wasn’t for courageous people living along highway 12, whom eventually discovered the preparations by the exploiters, long after decisions were made by those in power touched by the tentacles from far away places, we would have been hoodwinked without at least getting the license of those who ran over us.
    The story in Egypt, and getting back to people on the ground, closest to the problems of the day, represents yet another good example of the power given back to a more local influence. All people get tired of getting run over by elite powers from afar.

  8. bigsky777 Avatar

    How do we submit comments regarding this to the FS?


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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