Appearing in the Flathead Beacon yesterday, was a thoughtful op-ed by Chris Ryan and Kathleen McAllister in favor of the recently completed Flathead National Forest Plan, written by a couple of folks who should know quite a bit about it . . .
The U.S. Forest Service recently completed a new management plan for the Flathead National Forest (FNF) that will guide decisions on the forest for the next 20 to 30 years or more. The plan addresses a dizzying array of management issues – including municipal watersheds, wildlife habitat, protected lands, outdoor recreation, and much more – over 2.4 million acres that cover the Mission Mountains, the Swan Range, and the Whitefish Range.
Those of us in the conservation community have focused our attention on the places the FNF plan recommends for Wilderness designation. This recommendation means the Forest Service will protect these places until either Congress designates them as Wilderness or at least until the agency completes its next FNF plan.
The FNF plan represents a vast improvement over the previous plan, which recommended around 98,000 acres for Wilderness. The new plan recommends over 190,000 acres, nearly double the previous recommendation. That increase is worth celebrating.
The plan is by no means ideal for conservationists. Wilderness-worthy lands such as Bunker and Sullivan Creeks and low-elevation, critical habitat adjacent to the Mission Mountains Wilderness did not, unfortunately, receive the Forest Service’s Wilderness recommendation. The Jewel Basin recommended Wilderness was reduced in size under the new plan, a significant loss for a landscape that would have been designated Wilderness had Reagan not pocket vetoed the 1988 Montana Wilderness Bill.
Despite the government shutdown, U.S. Forest Service supervisors last week signed a new management plan for the Flathead National Forest, along with amendments that standardize grizzly bear management for the Lolo, Kootenai and Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forests.
The plan, more than five years in the making, covers aspects of forest management from timber harvest to wilderness areas to mountain biking. Forest Supervisor Chip Weber says the groundwork for the announcement was put into place before the government shut down, and represents the culmination of years of groundwork with a variety of groups, individuals and companies.
“It provides the sideboards for how the forest will be managed for the next 15 to 20 years.”
Yay! After a long and sometimes contentious slog, the Flathead National Forest just announced that the final piece of the revised forest management plan is in place. Barring unforeseen complications, the plan — the first successful update in more than 30 years — should go into effect by mid-January.
Here’s the Missoulian’s take on the final draft of the new Flathead Forest Plan . . .
With the clock ticking on a 60-day objection window, people who play in the Flathead National Forest have a lot of homework to study.
U.S. Forest Service analysts made many changes to backcountry areas in their draft forest plan released this month. The proposal recommends a new wilderness area between Whitefish and Polebridge. It might increase mechanized access around the Jewel Basin by Bigfork, and could affect hunter access in popular elk country.
“The draft plan adopts a large part of the Whitefish Range Partnership agreement, including 80,000 acres of recommended wilderness that was never recommended before,” said Amy Robinson of Montana Wilderness Association. “And it looks like there’s more recommendation for high-intensity recreation area in the southern range than was in the last draft.”
Lots of interesting reading; lots of useful links. Recommended . . .
Montana’s grizzly bears better hope they packed their reading glasses as they settle into their winter naptime: There’s a lot of homework to finish over the Christmas holidays.
The Flathead National Forest Plan final draft, released Thursday, includes the proposed rules for managing grizzlies in four national forests that share management responsibility for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. Public comments are due in mid-February.
On Monday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put out a request for reviews of its draft criteria for habitat-based recovery of the NCDE grizzlies. That same day, it published four peer-review responses to the plan. It also announced a Jan. 3 workshop in Missoula to collect “the input of scientists, the public and interested organizations.” Written responses to the regulations are due Jan. 26.
The Flathead Beacon posted their coverage of the near-final version of the Flathead National Forest’s new forest plan and it’s the best article yet. The Whitefish Range Partnership even gets a nod . . .
Land managers hope the final product will strike an accord that balances wilderness, timber production, recreation, wildlife conservation, and other interests, but said divisions will undoubtedly prompt objections from user groups in the next two months.
Still, although he acknowledges that land-use disputes will continue as long as public land exists, Flathead National Forest Supervisor Chip Weber said the proposed plan considered the needs of all stakeholders — tree huggers and tree cutters, hikers, horsemen, mountain bikers, snowmobilers, cabin owners, boaters, anglers, grizzlies, and nearly everyone else with a stake in the management of public lands on the Flathead National Forest.
Here’s a little bit different spin on the just-released, near-final version of the Flathead Forest’s new forest plan. There’s less discussion of the plan itself and more about the difficulties it is likely to face in the courts . . .
The U.S. Forest Service has released the draft record of decision and final environmental impact statement for the Flathead National Forest revised land and resource management plan for a 60-day objection period.
These documents mark the final steps in completing the plan, which the Forest Service expects to guide management for 10 to 15 years. As the Daily Inter Lake reported in October, it’s inching towards completion after four years and considerable controversy.
The draft environmental impact statement set out multiple courses of action for managers to pursue. Of these, Forest Supervisor Chip Weber selected alternative B. In the draft record of decision, he claimed that it “has the best mix of management areas that reflects what I heard the public wanted.”
The Hungry Horse News has an excellent overview of the near-final version of the Flathead National Forest’s new forest plan . . .
After four years of meetings, field trips and more than 33,000 public comments, Flathead National Forest Supervisor Chip Weber Thursday released the draft record of decision and final environmental impact statement for the Flathead National Forest plan.
The new plan will replace a plan that was last written and conceived in 1986, but has been amended more than two dozen times over the years.
The new plan, a modified version of alternative B that was set in the draft environmental impact statement, sets the direction for land management of the 2.4 million acre Forest for the next 10 to 15 years, Weber said during an interview with members of the press on Thursday. “This is a highly cherished land,” he said. “…One of the best functioning ecosystems in the world.”
The Flathead National Forest released the final draft of their new forest plan today, as well as the final version of a substantial pile of related environmental impact documentation. This is a big deal because the forest plan determines how the forest will be managed over at least the next 10-15 years.
Also, today (December 14, 2017) starts the clock on a 60-day “objection period.” For all practical purposes, today’s release is the final version of the forest plan, unless individuals or groups who have contributed to the planning process file a valid objection regarding “specific remaining concerns.” In other words, there’s a 60-day window to suggest technical and factual edits.
Flathead National Forest Supervisor Chip Weber has released the draft record of decision and final environmental impact statement for the Flathead National Forest revised land and resource management plan (referred to as the “forest plan”) for a 60-day objection period. The existing forest plan is more than 30 years old, dramatically exceeding the 10-15 year duration of plans directed by the National Forest Management Act. Since the 1986 forest plan was completed, there have been changes in ecological, social, and economic conditions in the area, as well as changes in resource demands, availability of new scientific information, and promulgation of new policy, including the 2012 planning rule. These changes necessitate a plan revision to ensure that management direction is responsive to current issues and conditions. In particular, the plan revision addresses the following topics:
increasing demand for recreation opportunities and their importance in supporting local economies;
fire and fuels management direction that emphasizes active vegetation management near communities;
the need for additional analyses for a number of resources, including timber production opportunities, an important historical driver for local economies;
conservation of wildlife and aquatic habitat, including updating grizzly bear habitat management direction and Inland Native Fish direction; and
new policy and public interest in identifying areas for recommended wilderness and wild and scenic rivers.
According to this note from Chip Weber, Flathead National Forest Supervisor, the next step in the forest plan revision is going to take just a little longer. They are still on track to wind the whole thing up in early 2018, though . . .
I would like to update you on the status of the final environmental impact statement for the revised forest plan and the draft records of decision. In addition to addressing the effects of the Flathead National Forest revised forest plan, the final environmental impact statement includes discussion of the environmental consequences of the forest plan amendments to incorporate habitat-related management direction for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem grizzly bear population on the Helena-Lewis and Clark, Kootenai, and Lolo National Forests.