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Nation’s Forests to be Restored Under New Planning Rule

January 30, 2012

AUGUSTA, Maine - Endangered animals, outdoor recreation and the timber industry could peacefully coexist in Maine's White Mountain National Forest under new management guidelines proposed by the Obama administration.

Peter Nelson, director of the federal lands program for Defenders of Wildlife, says the first forest planning rule update in 30 years will require use of the best available science to resolve long-standing conflicts between loggers and environmentalists in the national forests.

"It values those forests for their water and watershed values, for their wildlife values, for their recreation value, and also for the value that they provide to communities and the American people."

Nelson says the new rule will allow forest managers to focus on the recovery of damaged watersheds and endangered plant and animal species, while also providing for multiple uses that include recreation and some timber cutting. He's optimistic the approach will work.

"The concept of restoration-based forestry is very appealing because it is able to provide multiple values at the same time, including the creation of wildlife habitat with traditional or innovative logging practices. So, that's something that is doable."

More than 300,000 public comments were received since the draft rule was released last year. Nelson says it's a reflection of how Americans view the national forests.

"The national forest system, at almost 200 million acres, is really one of America's most-prized assets. And because it offers so much value to so many people on so many levels, that's why people are interested in getting involved and fighting for these places. It's a healthy thing."

The Forest Service says the new guidelines will give individual forest managers more flexibility to respond to changing conditions, and should speed up the process of developing new forest management plans.

The new forest planning rule will apply to 155 national forests and grasslands in 42 states and Puerto Rico. The guidelines are expected to be finalized in about a month.

More on the new guidelines is at www.fs.fed.us.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME