Southwestern Forest Plan Revisions
The forest plan revision process is your opportunity
to affect the future of our public lands.
The Southwest’s forests and grasslands encompass 22.3 million acres of land in Arizona and New Mexico, ranging from low-elevation Sonoran Desert and saguaro forests on the Tonto National Forest to alpine tundra on the Coconino National Forest. The habitats are diverse, from perennial riparian canyons to pine-oak woodlands and spruce-fir forests. These forests provide quiet recreation opportunities for those of us who love to camp and hike, but provide other direct benefits as well: They clean our air, provide watersheds for our cities and towns, and sustain diverse life forms that affect us in ways we may not even understand. No doubt, they areworth protecting, and we intend to plan for the long-term during the revision process, ensuring that future generations will enjoy these important public lands.
In 1982, the Forest Service approved rules to manage the national forests using standards and guidelines and viable wildlife population limits in forest plans that would set hard and fast limits on extractive uses. Unfortunately, industry and an industry-friendly Administration sought to undo those limits with a revision of the Planning rules in 2005. Read more about the planning rules.
Conservation groups argued that forest management should be subject to public review, that endangered species should be considered, and that there should be limits to how much of the forest can be logged, how many acres can be grazed, and how many populations of wildlife species should be maintained. Fortunately, in 2007, the courts agreed. Read the court ruling.
The Center responded to the court order by writing the Regional Forester and letting them know that we are watching for any violations of the court’s injunction. Read the letter. Arizona’s Forest Planning Coalition followed suit. Read the Coalition letter.
So… what’s next?
The Forest Service has announced that, in order to comply with the court ruling, it will go back to the drawing board and provide an EIS on the proposed rule. It asked for scoping comments until June 11, 2007 and predicted that it would have a draft out in less than a month. The Center submitted extensive scoping comments for the new rule. We’ll see how quickly the agency can turn around a draft EIS if they do their due diligence and respond to public comment… and we’ll challenge them again if they propose anything less than full protection for the wildlife habitats on public lands.