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.
One of the major items announced at the recent North Fork Interlocal meeting was the impending first public release of the proposed revision to the Flathead Forest plan on March 6. This will be followed by a public meeting on March 17 . . .
The Flathead National Forest is expected to release the proposed action for a new Forest Plan early next month.
The target date for publication is March 6, Forest officials told North Fork residents last week during a North Fork Interlocal Agreement meeting.
The first public meeting on the Forest Plan is scheduled for March 17 in Kalispell. Forest officials will take public comments for 45 days and then release a draft document with different alternatives in 2015. The final plan is expected to be completed in late 2016.
The Hungry Horse News covers the start of the collaborative planning phase of the Flathead Forest’s forest plan revision . . .
There were loggers and snowmobilers, environmentalists and motorcyclists, biologists and backcountry horsemen, all in one room, all looking for a stake in the future of the Flathead National Forest.
Over the course of the next six months, these diverse groups will sit down together in collaborative meetings to craft their vision of a new Forest Plan. More than 100 people attended the first meeting.
The collaborative meetings are just the start of the planning process. After the groups finish their efforts in May, the plan will go through a regular environmental review process starting next fall, with public scoping and public comments. A draft environmental impact statement is expected by June 2015. If all goes according to schedule, the Flathead Forest will have a new plan completed by September 2016.
The Missoulian takes on the thankless task of summarizing the new Forest Service planning rule . . .
The U.S. Forest Service’s recently released planning rule could turn the agency into a more efficient decisionmaker or create a department of perpetual planning, depending on who you listen to.
“We are ready to start a new era of planning that takes less time, costs less money and provides stronger protections for our lands and water,” Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said in an email announcing the final version of the rule. “This new rule will bring 21st century thinking to a process that is sorely needed to protect and preserve our 193 million acres of amazing forests and grasslands.”
Critics have been equally expansive. Andy Stahl of the Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics predicted the process “would die of its own weight.”
“Anyone who thinks this rule will make forest plans quicker to develop is naive,” Stahl said . . .
Here’s a pretty useful write-up on the proposed new national forest planning rule. Or, for those of you who like to read source documents, the official U.S. Forest Service press release and a link to the (take a deep breath) “Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the National Forest System Land Management Planning Rule” can be found online at the Forest Service web site . . .
A proposed planning rule for managing national forests puts new emphasis on watershed health and recreation, but also strives to keep loggers in the woods, U.S. Forest Service officials said Thursday.
The national rule will guide local forest supervisors when they make their more specific forest management plans. Those plans govern where trees can be cut, the kinds of wildlife to watch out for, activities allowed in campgrounds and the backcountry, and how people can challenge forest decisions.