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Management rule makes forest health a priority

by Christy Chalmers, Staff Writer

A new federal forest management rule won’t affect a plan that is being updated for the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, a planner says.

The new rule makes forest health a priority and also encourages more public participation in the forest management planning process. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman announced the rule Nov. 9, effective immediately.

The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest covers much of Nevada. Carson Ranger District planners have been working on the Northern Sierra Forest Plan Amendment, which will cover 500,000 acres in Northern Nevada and California.

Forest officials held workshops throughout the summer to gather comments on the plan, which is expected to be adopted in 2001. Planner Dave Loomis said the new rule shouldn’t affect it, because existing plans will be grandfathered in and the process complies with it.

“We were aware of the concepts that would likely come out of (the new rule) and so we tried to structure it as far as that,” said Loomis. “We’ve met all the requirements of the new rule as well as the old.”

According to a Forest Service statement, the new rule applies to all future land management plan changes, except those drafted in the coming six months. In three years, the rule would apply to all Forest Service projects. Existing land and resource management plans will stay in effect.

Loomis said the Monitor-Hot Creek area in central Nevada could be one of the first affected by the new rule. An amendment for a million acres in that area is planned, Loomis said.

He said the focus of the new rule could have an effect “fairly soon.”

“I think (forest users) would see increased protection for the things they go to the forest to do,” said Loomis. “We would emphasize scenery protection and wildlife and ecosystem sustainability.”

Forest Service officials say the new rule, proposed in October 1999, is based on recommendations of a group of scientists who were chartered for the task in 1998.

“The rule calls for including the public and scientists in the long-term stewardship of our forests,” Forest Service chief Mike Dombeck said in a statement. “By engaging people earlier in Forest Service decision-making and activities and keeping them involved throughout the implementation of our work, we will be better able to resolve issues before they become major conflicts.”

To read the full text of the rule on the Internet, go to http://www.fs.fed.us/forum/nepa/rule.