You spoke up for our forests. Is the Forest Service listening?

You might remember that The Wilderness Society and supporters like you created a comprehensive set of comments last May on the Forest Service’s proposed rule for managing 193 million acres of America’s national forests. If adopted, the planning rule would establish a new national framework to develop land management plans that protect water, wildlife and communities. Comments were collected from over 300,000 people as part of a collaborative effort between The Wilderness Society and various other environmental groups.

What has happened since then? The Forest Service is now in the process of carefully reviewing all comments to help craft the final rule, which is anticipated in late 2011.

Our comments identified ways in which the rule should be improved to protect and restore wildlife habitat, watersheds, recreational opportunities, wilderness, and other important environmental and economic values supported by national forests and grasslands.

According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the rule would provide tools to make our forests more resilient to many threats, including pests, catastrophic fires and climate change. He believes that healthy forests and economically strong rural communities form a solid foundation as we work to win the future for the next generation.

The Wilderness Society strongly supports USDA Secretary Vilsack’s management vision to restore and protect the ecological integrity of the National Forest System. While we believe the proposed rule language has positive features, the final planning rule must go further in order to ensure that it will achieve the climate change resilience, watershed protection, wildlife conservation, ecological restoration, sustainable recreation, and economic stability goals of this Administration and the Forest Service. We need a rule that moves beyond the timber-heavy practices of the past toward sustainable management that meets 21st Century challenges.

That’s what you helped us tell the agency. We hope it’s listening.