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Forest Service Planning Rule Gets Lukewarm Reception

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Friday, March 11, 2011   

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Conservation groups are giving a lukewarm reception to the proposed planning rule that guides U.S. Forest Service policy and will affect much of Oregon when it becomes final.

The agency held a forum on Thursday in the nation's capital to discuss a draft of the rule, which some say lacks enough "teeth" to protect water quality and wildlife. Concerns were also voiced about whether the focus on monitoring and adaptive management of public land can work for an agency that has been chronically underfunded. Chris Frissell, director of science and conservation for the Pacific Rivers Council, attended the forum.

"The Pacific Northwest, under the Northwest Forest Plan, is somewhat of an exception. But prior to that, and then pretty much everywhere else, the Forest Service has had great difficulty getting any sustained monitoring program off the ground and has not been able to keep it funded. Congress just hasn't put money into those things."

Watershed management is another concern, Frissell says, because the rule does not include buffer zones to limit some activities along streams and lakes. The current rule has been in place since 1982, and has been controversial over the years. If there's one word for the new proposal, Frissell says, it's "cautious" - and people interested in the various issues affected are taking note.

"It's pretty much the full slate of issues - everything from restoration to forest fuels treatment and fire management, to timber. And in fact, a lot of the interest groups around that whole table had the same concerns, about uncertainty and vagueness in the rule and what the rule delivers for their interests."

The draft planning rule is open for public comment until mid-May, and comments can be made online. Two forums will also be held March 25 in Portland to discuss the rule, both at the Sheraton Airport Hotel.

The draft rule, including comment instructions and a related Forest Service blog, are online at www.fs.usda.gov/planningrule.


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