What is Forest Planning

Can you imagine trying to manage 155 very different and unique children? Well, that is what the U.S. Forest Service does with our many national forests.

Our national forests are the backbone of America’s public lands system. And creating plans for each of them takes time, money and community participation. Forest planning looks at everything from logging to protecting threatened species. Because forests transcend centuries, the plans need to be thoughtful of the next generation and the long-term needs of the community and land.

The National Forest Management Act or NFMA is the basic law that the Forest Service must follow in developing forest planning rules to manage national forests. Passed in 1976, the Act has three special features:

  • The Forest Service is required to involve the public in forest planning.
  • The Forest Service must develop and update a 10 to 15 year plan for how it would manage the land and resources in each individual national forest.
  • All management activities in the national forest must be consistent with the forest plan.

National forest planning rule

As it turns out, in the history of the Forest Service, there has only been one successful forest planning rule. While it is effective, the rule dates back to 1982, and does not address 21st century forest planning issues like sustainable recreation and climate change.

Accordingly, the Obama administration revised the 1982 rule, and after much public input, replaced it with one that addresses the current needs of our forests and surrounding communities.

Planning directives

Planning directives explain the nitty-gritty details and requirements the Forest Service must adhere to when implementing the new planning rule. While many of us will never read a planning directive, they are what guides the detailed development of forest plans and are relied on heavily by Forest Service employees and stakeholders. The directives are comprised of the Forest Service Manuals and related Forest Service Handbooks. 

National advisory committee

The Forest Service is setting up a national committee to help guide the initial implementation of the new planning rule. The committee’s official title is the “National Advisory Committee for Implementation of the National Forest System Land Management Planning Rule.” 

Helpful links

  • Michael Reinemer

    Rather than using taxpayer dollars, the program’s funds come from a small slice of royalties from oil and gas leases in publicly owned offshore waters. 

    The 2017 budget would invest $900 million for conservation and recreation projects, which is the annual amount authorized by the 1964 bill that created this popular program. However, actual funding approved by Congress has traditionally fallen far short of that amount. 

    Alan Rowsome at The Wilderness Society commented:

  • Anonymous

    “The proposed guidelines from the Bureau of Land Management governing natural gas waste are a huge step forward toward ensuring public resources on federal lands are used for Americans’ benefit, and not wasted.

    “For too long, oil and gas companies have been able to vent and flare unlimited quantities of natural gas and ignore massive leaks from outdated infrastructure. These unregulated actions have immense consequences for American taxpayers, who lose out on more than $330 million annually from gas that is not being sold.

  • Jennifer Dickson

    The 2016 Utah Public Lands Initiative (PLI) draft released by Utah Representative Rob Bishop fails to provide adequate protections for scenic public lands in the state, would undermine bedrock environmental laws and threatens to despoil key public lands.