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E-M:/ Forest Advocates: Federal Planning Rule changes will affect Michigan's National Forests

Enviro-Mich message from "Joshua Martin" <joshua@americanlands.org>

To: 	Michigan Forest Advcocates
From: Joshua Martin, American Lands
Date: April 3, 2003


Michigan's national forests are currently undergoing revisions to their
forest plans.  Operating thus far under old regulations, and environmental
impact statement is being prepared and the public is involved.  Many of us
on this listserve are participating in that process as part-owners of those
forests.  The federal changes proposed by the Bush Administration would
drastically alter and undermine key processes that help citizens ensure
protection of the Ottawa, Hiawatha, and Huron-Manistee national forests, and
every national forest in the country.  Please submit comments on these
individually and/or as a grassroots organization in Michigan concerned about

The Bush administration has proposed a major revision of the regulations
that guide the implementation of the National Forest Management Act (NFMA).
Comments on there regulations are due by April 7th 2003.  These regulations
would render forest plans meaningless.  The revision would remove science
and the public further from the Forest Service’s decision making process,
jettison species protections, and open the door to uncontrolled logging.

Comments are critical for counteracting this attempt to gut NFMA and to
maintain strong standards for forest protection.  Below is a sample letter
for use in formulating individual comment letters to the Forest Service.
Please also email your comments to American Lands so they can be hand
delivered to the Forest Service during an environmental community event.
Full comments written by the attorneys at Wild Law can be found on the web


USDA FS Planning Rule, Content Analysis Team
PO Box 8359,  Missoula, MT 59807
Email: planning_rule@fs.fed.us  /  Fax: (406) 329-3556

Dear Forest Service,

As an individual with an interest in how my public lands are managed, I am
filing these comments on the proposed changes to the National Forest
Management Act (NFMA) planning regulations 36 CFR Part 219.  I believe that
the proposed regulations violate several laws including the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Appeals Reform Act (ARA), and NFMA
itself.  The proposed regulations undermine the very purpose of NFMA – to
guide the Forest Service to manage the public estate in a manner that is
sustainable and in the best interests of its owners as a whole.   For these
reasons and the reasons outlined below, I believe that the proposed
regulations should be withdrawn.

The proposed regulations are largely discretionary and are written so as to
make them voluntary and unenforceable.  "Should"s appear where "must, will,
or shall"s belong.  Site-specific projects would not have to comply with the
land and resource management plans (forest plans or plans).  Interim
amendments lasting four years could be issued without public review.  The
discretionary language and loopholes are meant to address problems
implementing the current planning regulation and give forest managers more
flexibility in designing and carrying out management plans.  But, there has
been no evidence made available to the public that shows any problem in
implementing the current plans or that the new regulations would increase
administrative efficiency.  The Forest Service has neither earned nor
justified the need for the greater trust from the public that accompanies
more flexibility for the Service.

Most troubling about the proposed regulations is the fact that forest plans
would be able to be categorically excluded from environmental analysis.
This categorical exclusion (CE) of forest plans significantly limits the
ability of the public to participate in the management of the national
forests.  With the CE, there is no opportunity for administrative appeal and
there is no requirement that "all reasonable alternatives" be considered in
the development of the plans.  These limitations effectively exclude the
public from the decision making process.  CEs are accompanied by much more
cursory environmental analysis than is done for environmental assessments
(EA) or environmental impact statements (EIS), thus giving the public less
information on which to comment and the Forest Service less information on
which to base its decisions.  Since they were mandated, the forest plans
have always been the vehicle for evaluating the cumulative impact of
multiple projects that an area could be expected to endure.  This analysis
of cumulative impacts is critical to maintaining the sustainability of our
national forests and must be subjected to the rigorous environmental
analysis embodied in an EIS.  Forest Plans should not be categorically
excluded; to do so violates NEPA, NFMA, and ARA.

There was no consultation with a committee of scientists during the
formulation of the proposed regulations as there has been for every prior
rewriting.  This lack of independent scientific input epitomizes how the
Forest Service plans on conducting all of its decision making under the new
regulations.  There are no requirements for peer review, scientific advisory
boards, adaptive management, or standardized monitoring.  Species
protections will be significantly weakened with the elimination of the
requirement to monitor management indicator species (MIS) or do population
surveys.  There are no binding requirements to ensure the viability of
species or safeguards adequate to protect the habitat of MIS or threatened
and endangered species as required by NFMA.  This shunning of science in the
management of the forests will lead to the listing of ever more species as
threatened or endangered, the decline of the productivity and resiliency of
our forests, and the violation of the public trust.

The proposed plans clearly prioritize logging and natural resource
extraction over all other uses in contradiction of the will of the public
for whom these lands are held in trust.  This prioritization of logging and
the resulting deemphasis of sustainability violates the Multiple Use and
Sustained Yield Act (MUSYA), which requires that public lands are used to
"best meet the needs of the American people," and the Renewable Resources
Planning Act (RPA).  The public must be allowed to express its desires for
the use of its lands and the Forest Service is under legal obligation to
meet the public’s management goals.  For years the public has sustained its
message that it doesn’t want logging to undermine the many other resource
and ecosystem values of its land.  Any regulations that do not recognize
values such as recreation, aesthetics, water quality, species habitat, and
ecosystem integrity should not be considered.

I am also very concerned about the cumulative effect of the numerous
proposals and actions taken by the Bush Administration in the last several
months.  Together these changes in the regulations guiding forest management
would affect changes that could not be predicted or analyzed by looking at
any single proposal.  If all regulations are adopted, the total effect would
be to allow the categorical exclusion of nearly every project on our
national forests, eliminate most avenues available to the public for
weighing in on public lands management, and eliminate meaningful
consideration of the cumulative impact of multiple projects on a landscape.

Please withdraw these proposed regulation and thank you for the opportunity
to comment.

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