[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 30 (Monday, February 14, 2011)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 8479-8528]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-2989]



[[Page 8479]]

Vol. 76

Monday,

No. 30

February 14, 2011

Part III





Department of Agriculture





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Forest Service



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36 CFR Part 219



National Forest System Land Management Planning; Proposed Rule

Federal Register / Vol. 76 , No. 30 / Monday, February 14, 2011 / 
Proposed Rules

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

36 CFR Part 219

RIN 0596-AC94


National Forest System Land Management Planning

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking; request for comment.

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SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of Agriculture is proposing a new planning 
rule to guide land and resource management planning for all units of 
the National Forest System (NFS) under the National Forest Management 
Act of 1976. The proposed rule sets forth process and content 
requirements to guide the development, amendment, and revision of land 
management plans to maintain, protect, and restore NFS lands while 
providing for sustainable multiple uses, including ecosystem services, 
so that NFS lands continuously provide ecosystem functions and 
contribute to social and economic sustainability. Planning under the 
proposed rule would be collaborative and science-based with the 
responsible official required to take the best available scientific 
information into account and provide opportunities for public 
participation throughout the planning process.
    The proposed framework consists of a three-part learning and 
planning cycle: Assessment, development/revision/amendment, and 
monitoring. The phases of the framework are complementary and are 
intended to create a feedback loop that allows the Forest Service to 
adapt management to changing conditions and to improve plans based on 
new information and monitoring. This framework is intended to move the 
Agency toward a more responsive planning process that allows the Agency 
to understand the landscape-scale context for management, adapt 
management to changing conditions, improve management based on new 
information and monitoring, and support an integrated and holistic 
approach to management that recognizes the interdependence of social, 
ecological, and economic systems.
    The Agency is requesting public comment on the proposed rule and on 
the alternatives that are described and evaluated in the accompanying 
draft environmental impact statement (DEIS). Readers are invited to 
comment on each section of the proposed rule and on how provisions in 
the DEIS alternatives compare with the proposed rule. The Agency will 
carefully consider all public comments in preparing the final rule.

DATES: Comments must be received in writing by May 16, 2011. The Agency 
will consider and place comments received after this date in the record 
only if practicable. Public meetings to discuss the proposed rule and 
draft environmental impact statement will be held throughout the 
country during the public comment period. A schedule of meeting dates 
and further information is available on the planning rule Web site at 
http://www.fs.usda.gov/planningrule.

ADDRESSES: Submit comments through the public participation portal at 
http://www.govcomments.com/. Alternatively, submit comments by 
addressing them to Forest Service Planning DEIS, c/o Bear West Company, 
132 E 500 S, Bountiful, UT 84010; or via facsimile to 801-397-1605. 
Please identify your written comments by including ``planning rule'' on 
the cover sheet or the first page. Alternatively, submit comments 
through the World Wide Web/Internet Web site http://www.regulations.gov. All comments, including names and addresses, when 
provided, are placed in the record and are available for public 
inspection and copying. The public may inspect comments at http://contentanalysisgroup.com/fsrd/.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ecosystem Management Coordination 
staff's Assistant Director for Planning Ric Rine at 202-205-1022 or 
Planning Specialist Regis Terney at 202-205-1552.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

1. Additional Documents Are Available

    The following information is available online at http://www.fs.usda.gov/planningrule: (1) This proposed rule; (2) a draft 
environmental impact statement (DEIS) analyzing the effects of the 
proposed rule and alternatives to it; (3) the Civil Rights Impact 
Analysis for this proposed rule; (4) the cost-benefit analysis for this 
proposed rule; (5) summaries of the numerous roundtables and public 
meetings held to date to engage the public in the development of the 
proposed rule, and summaries of the input received thus far from 
comments to the Notice of Intent and the public meetings; and (6) the 
Forest Service directives on land management planning developed for the 
1982 planning procedures, which may currently be used under the 
transition language of the 2000 rule. This information may also be 
obtained upon written request from the Director, Ecosystem Management 
Coordination Staff, Forest Service, USDA, Mail Stop 1104, 1400 
Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20250-1104. The final rule and 
environmental impact statement, when completed, will also be available 
on the above Web site.

2. Overview

    A new Agency planning rule is proposed to guide land managers in 
developing, amending, and revising land management plans for all units 
of the National Forest System (NFS), consisting of 155 national 
forests, 20 grasslands and 1 prairie. The new planning rule must be 
responsive to the challenges of climate change; the need for forest 
restoration and conservation, watershed protection, and wildlife 
conservation; and the need for the sustainable provision of benefits, 
services, resources, and uses of NFS lands, including ecosystem 
services and sustainable recreation. It must provide a process for 
planning that is adaptive, science-based, and collaborative with ample 
opportunities for active and effective public participation. The new 
planning rule must be clear, efficient, effective, and within the 
Agency's capability to implement on all NFS units. It must meet 
requirements under the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), as well 
as allow the Agency to meet its obligations under the Multiple-Use 
Sustained-Yield Act (MUSYA), the Endangered Species Act, and the 
Wilderness Act, as well as other legal requirements. With stability in 
planning regulations, national land management planning can regain 
momentum, and units would be able to complete timely revisions that 
guide sustainable management of NFS lands.
    The vision for the proposed rule.
    The Forest Service mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and 
productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs 
of present and future generations. The NFS consists of 193 million 
acres of national forests and grasslands. Land management plans provide 
a framework for integrated resource management on NFS units, and guide 
project and activity decisionmaking on the unit. The Forest Service 
planning rule serves as the primary tool to ensure that land management 
plans continuously provide desired ecosystem functions, contribute to 
social and economic sustainability, are rooted in the best available 
scientific information, and are developed with public input and 
participation.
    The objective of this proposed rule is to guide the collaborative 
and science-based development, amendment, and revision of land 
management plans that

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promote healthy, resilient, diverse, and productive national forests 
and grasslands. The Agency's goal is to create a planning framework 
that will guide management of NFS lands so they are ecologically 
sustainable and contribute to social and economic sustainability, with 
resilient ecosystems and watersheds, diverse plant and animal 
communities, and the capacity to provide people and communities with a 
range of social, economic, and ecological benefits now and for future 
generations. This planning framework will help the Agency to provide 
clean water, habitat for diverse fish, wildlife, and plant communities, 
and opportunities for recreational, spiritual, educational, and 
cultural sustenance.
    The rule proposes a framework for adaptive management and planning 
and reflects key themes from the public, as well as experience gained 
through the Agency's 30-year history with land management planning. The 
framework is intended to move the Agency toward a more adaptive system 
with more frequent amendments that can keep plans current between 
revisions. Plans will be revised at least every 15 years. However, 
under the proposed rule, the Agency expects plan amendments to be done 
more frequently than they are now. For example, as budgets and 
conditions on-the-ground change, the plan objectives may be amended 
every 3 to 5 years. Alternatively, if new information is learned about 
a threatened and endangered species, plan standards and guidelines may 
be updated more often. Some plans may even be amended annually to 
reflect up-to-date information.
    The proposed framework consists of a three-part learning and 
planning cycle: (1) Assessment, (2) development/revision/amendment, and 
(3) monitoring. The phases of the framework are complementary and are 
intended to create a feedback loop that allows the Forest Service to 
adapt management to changing conditions and to improve plans based on 
new information and monitoring.
    Throughout implementation of the cycle, the Forest Service would:
    (1) Assess conditions, stressors, and opportunities on the NFS unit 
within the context of the broader landscape and identify any need for 
changes to a plan;
    (2) Develop, Revise, or Amend land management plans based on the 
need for change in the plan; and
    (3) Monitor to detect changes on the unit and across the broader 
landscape, to test assumptions underlying management decisions, and to 
measure the effectiveness of management activity in achieving desired 
outcomes.
    The proposed rule would strengthen the role of public involvement 
in the planning process and provide numerous opportunities for 
meaningful public participation and dialogue. The proposed rule would 
require that the best available scientific information be taken into 
account and documented. The planning process would take into account 
other forms of knowledge, such as local information, national 
perspectives, and native knowledge. Ideas, resources, and knowledge 
should be shared with all interests, individuals, and groups throughout 
the planning process.
    The planning process also builds an understanding of the landscape-
scale context for unit-level management. Assessments, in particular, 
are designed to create an understanding of conditions, trends, and 
stressors on-and-off NFS lands in order to guide the development of 
plans to manage resources on the unit. The proposed rule has 
requirements in each phase for working with the public, partners, 
landowners, other government agencies, and Tribes and would require the 
responsible official to identify each unit's unique roles and 
contributions to the local area, region, and Nation.
    The proposed rule would include requirements for plan components. 
In the face of changing environmental conditions such as climate 
change, plans would include plan components to maintain or restore 
ecosystem and watershed health and resilience; protect key ecosystem 
elements, including water resources on the unit; and provide for plant 
and animal diversity. In doing so, responsible officials would take 
into account the various stressors or impacts that could affect the 
presence of ecological resources and their functions on the unit.
    Plans would also include plan components to contribute to social 
and economic sustainability. The proposed rule emphasizes integrated 
resource management so that all the relevant interdependent elements of 
sustainability are considered as a whole, instead of as separate 
resources or uses. Planning would consider the full suite of multiple 
uses, including ecosystem services, energy, minerals, outdoor 
recreation, range, timber, watershed, wildlife and fish, and 
wilderness, to the extent relevant to the plan area. Plan components 
would be required to provide for multiple uses, including sustainable 
recreation and ecosystem services, and protect cultural and historic 
resources and specially designated areas (such as wilderness areas and 
wild and scenic rivers). Plans would also guide the management of 
timber harvest, as required by the NFMA.
    The proposed rule would create a two-tiered strategy for monitoring 
at the unit level and at a broader scale. Monitoring would be a central 
part of both content of plans and the planning process, allowing 
responsible officials to test assumptions, track changing conditions, 
measure management implementation and effectiveness in achieving 
desired outcomes, and feed new information back into the planning cycle 
so that plans and management can be changed as needed.
    Finally, the proposed rule would create a pre-decisional 
administrative review process to provide individuals and groups with an 
opportunity to resolve issues before the approval of a plan, plan 
amendment, or plan revision.

The History of Forest Planning and the Need for a New Planning Rule

    The NFMA at 16 U.S.C. 1604 requires the Agency to have a planning 
rule developed ``under the principles of the Multiple-Use Sustained-
Yield Act of 1960, that set[s] out the process for the development and 
revision of the land management plans, and the guidelines and 
standards'' (16 U.S.C. 1604 (g)). This requirement is fulfilled through 
a planning rule, set out at Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 
219 (36 CFR Part 219), which sets requirements for land management 
planning and content of plans.
    In 1979, the Department issued the first regulations to comply with 
this statutory requirement. The 1979 regulations were superseded by the 
1982 planning rule, which has formed the basis for all existing Forest 
Service land management plans.
    In 1989, the Agency initiated a comprehensive Critique of Land 
Management Planning, which identified a number of adjustments that were 
needed to the 1982 planning rule. The Critique found that the 1982 
planning rule process was complex, had significant costs, was lengthy, 
and was cumbersome for the public to provide input. The recommendations 
in the Critique and the Agency's experiences with planning led to the 
Agency issuing an advance notice of proposed rulemaking for new 
regulations in 1991 and two proposed rules in 1995 and 1999.
    After working with a committee of scientists, the Department issued 
a final rule in 2000 to revise the 1982 regulations. The 2000 revision 
of the planning rule described a new framework for NFS planning; made 
sustainability the foundation for NFS planning and management; required 
the

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consideration of the best available scientific information during the 
planning process; and set forth requirements for implementation, 
monitoring, evaluation, amendment, and revision of land management 
plans. However, a review in the spring of 2001 found that the 2000 rule 
was costly, complex, and procedurally burdensome. The results of the 
review led the Department to issue a new planning rule in 2005 and a 
revised version again in 2008, but each of those rules was held invalid 
by a Federal District Court on procedural grounds (Citizens for Better 
Forestry v. USDA, 481 F. Supp.2d 1059 (N.D. Cal. 2007) (2005 rule); 
Citizens for Better Forestry v. USDA, 632 F. Supp.2d 968 (N.D. Cal. 
2009) (2008 rule)).
    Though committees of scientists were created for the 1979 rule and 
2000 rule, a formal committee of scientists was not formed for this 
planning rule for several reasons. The Agency believes a collaborative 
approach, involving as many interests as possible, including the 
scientific community, is best for developing the planning rule. Science 
is one source of understanding and knowledge that informs planning and 
decision-making. Much of planning also involves consideration of public 
values in land management. This proposed rule is very much a science-
based rule and establishes a strong requirement for consideration and 
use of best available scientific information in planning. The proposed 
rule is based on some of the major recommendations from the 1999 
Committee of Scientists report: Sustainability, public participation 
and collaboration, adaptive management, monitoring and evaluation, the 
role of science, and the objection process; all concepts that were 
recommendations of that report. In addition, the Agency has reached out 
to the science community in developing this proposed rule. An open, 
public meeting of invited scientists occurred in Washington, DC, March 
29-30, 2010, to create a dialogue about the latest science relevant to 
the planning rule. Additionally, scientists have been involved in the 
development and review of the proposed rule from the beginning and will 
continue to be involved throughout the rule making process.
    Because it was the last promulgated rule to take effect and not to 
have been set aside by a court, the planning rule issued in 2000 
legally governs the development, amendment, or revision of plans until 
a new planning rule is issued. On December 18, 2009, the Department 
reinstated the 2000 rule in the Code of Federal Regulations as an 
interim measure and made technical amendments to update transition 
provisions to be in effect until a new planning rule is issued (74 FR 
67062). While the 2000 planning rule replaced the 1982 rule in the Code 
of Federal Regulations, the transition section of the 2000 rule allows 
units to use the 1982 planning rule procedures for plan revisions and 
amendments until a new planning rule is issued. The Agency's 
expectation, based on experience, is that those NFS units choosing to 
amend or revise plans during the development of this new rule will 
continue to use the 1982 rule procedures until the new planning rule is 
issued.
    The 1982 planning rule procedures have guided the development, 
amendment, and revision of all existing Forest Service land management 
plans. However, since 1982 much has changed in our understanding of how 
to create and implement effective land management plans. The body of 
science that informs land management planning in areas such as 
conservation biology and ecology has advanced considerably since 1982, 
as has our understanding of the values and benefits of NFS lands, and 
the challenges and stressors that may impact resources on the unit 
(including climate change).
    Because planning under the 1982 rule is often time consuming and 
cumbersome, it has been a challenge for units to keep plans current. 
Instead of updating plans as conditions on the ground change, units 
often wait and make changes all at once during the required revision 
process every 15 years. This can result in a drawn-out, difficult, and 
costly revision process. Plans in the interim lose much of their 
utility because they no longer reflect the reality on the ground. The 
focus of land management activity has also changed. Much of the 1982 
rule focused on creating plans that would mitigate negative 
environmental impacts from resource extraction activities. The 
protective measures in the 1982 rule were important, but now the Agency 
needs plans that do more than mitigate harm. The Agency needs a 
planning process that helps units identify their unique roles in the 
broader landscape and create land management plans to guide proactive 
contributions of the unit and of management to ecological, social, and 
economic sustainability.
    The instability created by the history of the planning rule has had 
a significant negative impact on the Agency's ability to manage the NFS 
and on its relationship with the public. At the same time, the vastly 
different context for management and improved understanding of science 
and sustainability that has evolved over the past three decades creates 
an urgent need for a planning framework that allows the Agency to 
respond to new challenges and management objectives for NFS lands. The 
NFMA requires that the Agency revise land management plans ``at least 
every 15 years.'' The NFS has 127 land management plans. Currently, 68 
plans are past due for plan revision. Most plans were developed between 
1983 and 1993 and should have been revised between 1998 and 2008. The 
Agency must establish a stable planning rule that is consistent with 
the current science and creates a planning process that can incorporate 
new knowledge as science continues to evolve, allowing the Agency to 
protect, reconnect, and restore national forests and grasslands for the 
benefit of human communities and natural resources.

What the Agency Heard

    The Agency strongly believes that involving the public through a 
participatory, open, and meaningful process is the best way to develop 
this planning rule. This belief has, and continues to be, reflected in 
the unprecedented participatory process created to develop this 
proposed rule. The Agency is working to make the process accessible 
through the use of updated methods of involvement such as new media and 
has engaged in efforts to involve diverse groups and interests.
    The development of this proposed rule has been informed by the 
26,000 comments made on the Notice of Intent (NOI); a Science Forum 
with panel discussions from 21 scientists; regional and national 
roundtables held in over 35 locations and attended by over 3,000 
people; national and regional tribal roundtables; feedback from Forest 
Service employees; and over 300 comments on the planning rule blog. 
Summary reports of this input are available at: http://fs.usda.gov/planningrule. A separate summary of the tribal consultation and 
participation and of how the proposed rule reflects tribal input is in 
a special section of this preamble called ``Consultation with Indian 
tribal governments.''
    The participatory process to develop this proposed rule began with 
a new approach to the NOI. While an NOI typically involves sending out 
a detailed proposed action for comment, the Agency wanted to involve 
the public in crafting the proposed rule from its very beginning. The 
December 2009 NOI for the proposed planning rule therefore asked for 
public feedback on a set of eight principles that could be used to 
guide future land management planning. The notice resulted in a broad 
discussion of what should be in a proposed rule and led to a robust

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dialogue with the public over the course of the national, tribal, 
regional, and Web-based public meetings. This discussion has allowed 
the Agency to craft a proposed rule that more fully responds to public 
comments and concerns.
    While input from the public, Tribes, and agency employees covered a 
broad range of opinion, there were areas of consistent shared support. 
Broad support exists for a simple but effective planning process; a 
planning rule designed to persist through changing times; up-front 
collaboration in developing proposals for plan revisions; creating 
plans that focus on NFS units, but also reflect consideration of the 
landscape beyond unit boundaries; and a strong monitoring plan 
component that improves accountability and encourages a mutual learning 
process with cooperators and partners. Additional themes that arose 
during public participation included the importance of public 
involvement and working with Tribes, the importance of working with 
State and local governments and other Federal agencies in land 
management planning; the importance of providing for sustainable 
recreation; the importance of creating a rule that meets the multiple 
use mandate of MUSYA; and the need for an efficient plan amendment and 
revision process that can keep pace with changing conditions.
    There were also broad areas of disagreement that emerged from the 
collaborative process. One point of tension was how to balance the need 
for national consistency with the need for local flexibility. Some 
people want a rule that is streamlined and only includes direction on 
meeting the minimum requirements of the NFMA, so that local units have 
more flexibility in how their plan is developed and in what it needs to 
contain. At the other end of the spectrum, others want a rule that is 
highly prescriptive and includes detailed national standards and 
processes.
    Another major area of disagreement was how the planning process 
should consider and balance the multiple uses of the NFS, as well as 
local versus national and regional interests. Many people asked for a 
rule that emphasizes one resource area over another or prioritizes the 
needs of local communities over the needs and desires of people who 
live further from NFS lands. Others asked for a rule that requires 
plans to include direction for only restoration and preservation of 
ecological conditions, while others sought a rule that provides for and 
emphasizes a full array of multiple uses that contribute to social and 
economic opportunities.
    While no rule can satisfy the entire spectrum of opinion, the 
Forest Service has worked to find a balance between these different 
needs and perspectives and has developed a proposed rule that is 
practical, workable, based on science, and reflective of public and 
agency values and input. The Agency is now eager to receive public 
feedback. Readers should carefully examine and consider the information 
in this preamble and proposed rule, as well as each of the alternatives 
that are described and evaluated in the accompanying draft 
environmental impact statement (DEIS). In particular, Alternatives D 
and E explore substitute or additional rule language that reflects 
comments received by the Agency during the public engagement process 
and the comment period for the notice of intent. Suggestions explored 
and analyzed in these alternatives include different approaches to rule 
text on management of water resources and watersheds, collaboration, 
climate change adaption and mitigation, monitoring, and planning for 
services that connect people to the unit, like conservation education 
and volunteer opportunities. Based on the public's continued feedback, 
the Agency will consider substituting or adding specific provisions on 
these subjects for inclusion in the final rule.
    The Agency invites comments on each section of the proposed rule 
and on how provisions in the DEIS alternatives compare with the 
proposed rule. The Agency will carefully consider all public comments 
in preparing the final rule.

3. Section-by-Section Explanation of the Proposed Rule

    The following section-by-section descriptions are provided to 
explain the approach taken in the proposed rule to NFS land management 
planning. The proposed rule would create an adaptive framework based on 
science and public participation to guide unit-level land management 
planning for the NFS with a focus on integrated management of all 
forest resources. The overarching objective of this proposed rule is to 
move all NFS units toward social, economic, and ecological 
sustainability.

Subpart A--National Forest System Land Management Planning

Section 219.1 Purpose and Applicability
    This section states that the purpose of Subpart A is to set out the 
planning requirements for developing, amending, and revising land 
management plans for the NFS in a national planning rule. The NFMA 
requires the Agency to have a planning rule developed under the 
principles of the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 (MUSYA). The 
planning rule sets requirements for land management planning and 
content of plans and applies to all units in the NFS.
    The proposed planning rule is designed to guide the collaborative 
and science-based development, amendment, and revision of land 
management plans that would promote healthy, resilient, diverse, and 
productive national forests and grasslands. These plans would guide 
management of NFS lands so that they are ecologically sustainable and 
contribute to social and economic sustainability. Plans would guide 
management to maintain and restore resilient ecosystems and watersheds 
and diverse plant and animal communities. Plans would also guide 
management to provide people and communities with a range of social, 
economic, and ecological benefits for the present and into the future, 
including clean water; habitat for fish, wildlife, and plant 
communities; and opportunities for recreational, spiritual, 
educational, and cultural sustenance.
    The proposed rule is designed to create a collaborative and 
science-based planning process so that plans and their amendments 
reflect public values and the best available scientific information. It 
is intended to ensure that managers understand the role and 
contribution of their units and the context for management within the 
broader landscape. It is also designed to facilitate adaptation, 
creating a feedback loop to allow responsible officials to respond to 
new information and changing conditions.
    Comments from and discussions with the public as part of this rule-
making effort revealed growing concern about a variety of risks and 
stressors impacting resources, services, benefits, and uses on NFS 
lands. Issues included, for example: Climate change; insects and 
disease; recreation, timber, and shifts in other local demands and 
national market trends; population growth and other demographic shifts; 
water supply protection; and other ecosystem support services. 
Addressing these types of issues, risks, and contingencies requires a 
larger landscape perspective, information from a broader spectrum of 
sources and users, and a framework that can facilitate adaptation.
    Questions about multiple use and ecosystem services came up in the 
collaborative process for the rule.

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Multiple use management is well established in law, policy and the 
Agency mission. ``Ecosystem services'' is a term that is used today to 
describe many consumptive and non-consumptive uses, as well as 
traditional and non-traditional uses, that people associate with 
national forests. In the proposed rule we use the phrase ``multiple 
uses, including ecosystem services'' in certain places to show an 
association between the terms so both are recognized in the rule and 
within our statutory authority as part of land management planning. The 
management of the multiple uses described by the MUSYA of 1960 (outdoor 
recreation, range, timber, watershed, and wildlife and fish purposes) 
has broader application in today's context.
    The new requirements in the proposed rule should increase agency 
and unit capacity for adapting management plans to new and evolving 
information about risks, stressors, changing conditions, and management 
effectiveness. Agency intent is for responsible officials to use the 
proposed planning framework to keep plans and management activity 
current, relevant, and effective.
    This section of the proposed rule also would require the Chief of 
the Forest Service to establish procedures for planning in the Forest 
Service Directives System that provide further explanation of the 
methods to implement the requirements of the rule. The Forest Service 
Directives System is designed to contain implementation requirements 
and protocols that are more detailed than the rule and provide guidance 
and direction on how to implement the rule. Directives can be updated 
as protocols and methods evolve and improve over time.
    Some people wanted to see very detailed requirements in the rule, 
such as monitoring methods and protocols, while others emphasized the 
need to keep the rule simple so it would endure and could be 
implemented across different landscapes within the NFS. This section 
would ensure that the Agency would establish the needed detail in the 
Directives for effective implementation of the planning rule, while 
allowing rule language to remain strategic, relevant, and useful even 
as conditions change.
    Finally, this section makes clear that the proposed rule would not 
affect treaty rights or valid existing rights, and that plans must 
comply with all applicable laws and regulations. It also includes 
direction for how responsible officials must treat certain information 
that is culturally sensitive to an Indian Tribe or Tribes.
Section 219.2 Levels of Planning and Responsible Official

Levels of Planning

    Planning occurs at three levels--national strategic planning, NFS 
unit planning, and project or activity planning. Section 219.2 of the 
proposed rule describes these levels of agency planning and identifies 
specific attributes and requirements for unit-level planning. The first 
level is national strategic planning. At the second level of planning, 
land management plans are established for administrative units of the 
NFS (typically an individual forest, grassland, or prairie although in 
some instances, a plan will cover more than one forest or grassland). 
Land management plans (also called forest plans, or grassland plans), 
establish requirements and constraints for on-the-ground management 
decisions; they do not authorize projects or activities and do not 
commit the Forest Service to take any action. The proposed rule would 
provide guidance for this level of planning. The third level of 
planning includes development of on-the-ground projects and activities, 
which must be consistent with the unit's land management plan. The 
environmental effects of decisions made at the unit and project levels 
are analyzed and there are opportunities for public involvement at both 
levels.
    Some members of the public suggested the Forest Service undertake 
two additional scales of planning, one at a regional scale between 
national and unit scales and another at a finer scale such as a ranger 
district or watershed. The 1982 rule required the preparation of a 
regional guide and a planning process for the development of that 
guide. The proposed rule does not include a requirement for regional 
planning. After several years of developing and using regional guides, 
the Agency found that they added an additional and time-consuming level 
of planning that often delayed progress of unit planning. Regional 
plans also tended to remain static and did not change as new 
information or science became available. Furthermore, most major issues 
that emerged regionally, such as issues regarding lynx or grizzly 
bears, were ultimately dealt with directly in the individual unit 
plans, usually through simultaneous amendment of multiple unit plans.
    The proposed rule also does not include a requirement for finer 
scale planning (district or watershed scale) below the unit plan level. 
In many cases, units are building this kind of planning into the 
development of the management plan for the unit, with several of them 
using watersheds to organize planning. The proposed rule would allow 
for this to occur, and in Sec.  219.7, would require identification of 
priority watersheds for restoration. However, on some units, watershed 
scale planning might not be appropriate or needed, such as on small NFS 
units or on units with highly intermixed ownerships. Some units that 
are influenced by disturbance regimes that are not defined by watershed 
boundaries may choose other ecological units on which to organize 
planning. This approach is intended to allow the responsible official 
to determine how planning on the unit is best organized based on the 
resources and desired conditions on the unit.

Responsible Official

    The proposed rule identifies the unit supervisor as the responsible 
official for unit-level plans. This is a change from the 1982 rule, 
which identified the regional forester as the responsible official. 
This change is intended to facilitate and encourage active public 
participation by ensuring that the person sitting at the table during 
the planning process is the decisionmaker.
    During public participation to develop the proposed rule, the 
Agency heard from members of the public who felt that empowering the 
supervisor with decisionmaking authority would strengthen the 
collaborative process, while others preferred the current assignment of 
authority to the regional forester because of concerns that the unit 
supervisor may be more inclined to place too much of an emphasis on 
local needs and concerns without being sufficiently responsive to 
national needs or issues of regional consistency. In the proposed rule, 
the Agency tried to create a balance by ensuring that planning would 
not happen in isolation. There are a number of places in the proposed 
rule that call for coordination with other staff in the Agency, 
including the appropriate research station director. The regional 
forester and regional office planning and resource specialists would 
continue to be involved by providing an additional level of oversight, 
including reviewing draft and final products developed during the 
planning process and participating in the development of those 
products. Regional office oversight would help to provide consistency 
in interpretation and implementation of the planning rule and other 
agency planning requirements on units within the region.
    The proposed rule also specifically would allow the option for a 
higher-level official, such as a regional forester,

[[Page 8485]]

to choose to serve as the responsible official. For example, a higher-
level official could assume responsibility for decisionmaking when 
planning issues apply to multiple units.
Section 219.3 Role of Science in Planning
    This section of the proposed rule addresses the role of science in 
planning and would require that the responsible official take into 
account the best available scientific information. This requirement 
would apply throughout the planning process. The intent of this 
requirement is to ensure that the responsible official has access to 
and considers the best available scientific information in order to 
make informed decisions when developing, revising, and amending land 
management plans; that social, economic, and ecological science would 
be appropriately interpreted and applied throughout the planning 
process; and that the best available scientific information would 
increase the understanding of risks and uncertainties and improve 
assumptions made in the course of decisionmaking.
    This proposed rule emphasizes the use of science as an important 
source of information for decisionmaking with the intent that the best 
available scientific information be used to inform, but not dictate, 
decisions. The term ``taking into account'' is used because this term 
expresses that science is just one source of information for the 
responsible official and only one aspect of decisionmaking. Land 
management planning is complex and decisonmakers must consider such 
things as balancing competing values or competing ecological concerns. 
There also may be competing scientific perspectives or uncertainty in 
the science. While the appropriate interpretation and application of 
science provides the foundation for planning, the Agency recognizes 
that other forms of information, such as local and indigenous 
knowledge, public input, agency policies, results of monitoring and the 
experience of land managers must also be taken into account.
    This proposed rule imposes a duty on the responsible official to 
review the available scientific information and determine which is the 
best, that is, the most accurate, reliable, and relevant information 
for the particular matter under consideration. The responsible official 
does not have unfettered discretion in making this determination, but 
must demonstrate and document how the determination was made.
    In some circumstances, the best available scientific information 
would be that which is developed using the scientific method, which 
includes clearly stated questions, well designed investigations and 
logically analyzed results, documented clearly and subjected to peer 
review. However, in other circumstances the best available scientific 
information for the matter under consideration may be information from 
analyses of data obtained from a local area, or studies to address a 
specific question in one area. In other circumstances, the best 
available scientific information could be the result of expert opinion, 
panel consensus, or observations, as long as the responsible official 
has a reasonable basis for relying on that information. Regardless of 
the source of the information, the Office of Management and Budget 
(OMB) Information Quality Bulletin on Peer Review may apply.
    The proposed rule would require the responsible official to 
document how the best available scientific information was taken into 
account in the assessment report, the plan decision document, and the 
monitoring evaluation reports. Through this requirement, the Agency 
seeks to ensure science is considered throughout the planning process 
and decisions are well-thought-out and reasoned. This requirement would 
also provide transparency and an explanation to the public as to how 
science was used and how the responsible official arrived at important 
decisions.
    It is important to note that the Agency is already required to 
incorporate science into decisionmaking. The Agency has a longstanding 
practice of considering relevant factors and explaining the bases for 
its decisions. Including this section in the proposed rule, with its 
explicit requirements for determining and documenting the consideration 
of the information most accurate, reliable, and relevant to making 
planning decisions, will help to ensure a consistent approach across 
the National Forest System. However, this section is not intended to 
impose a higher standard for judicial review than the existing 
``arbitrary and capricious'' standard.
    The requirements of this section of the proposed rule are also 
separate from those of NEPA (40 CFR 1502.22(b)), which requires the 
responsible official to seek out missing or incomplete scientific 
information needed for an environmental impact statement, unless the 
costs of doing so are prohibitive. This section of the proposed rule 
does not change that requirement. However, the requirements proposed in 
section 219.3 apply throughout the planning process, and are focused on 
ensuring the responsible official takes into account the best 
scientific information that is already available. Thus, while an 
assessment report or monitoring evaluation report may identify gaps or 
inconsistencies in data or scientific knowledge, this rule would not 
impose the affirmative duty that the CEQ regulation applies to EISs, 
that is, to engage in new studies or develop new information, or to 
document that the costs of seeking new information are prohibitive.
    During the public participation process to create this proposed 
rule, questions were raised as to what, if anything, the rule should 
say about the role of science in decisionmaking. Some suggested that 
science should inform planning but not have a dominant or exclusive 
role in the decisions. Others wanted more structure or national 
standards. Many expressed the desire that the input of non-scientists 
be used to inform agency decisionmaking as many of the issues and 
problems have social and economic aspects that cannot be resolved 
through scientific or technical solutions. There were differing 
opinions on how science should be used to resolve differences in value 
judgments and how science and public participation should be integrated 
and weighted in the decisionmaking process. The Agency believes the 
proposed rule would strike the appropriate balance for using science as 
an integral and foundational, but not the sole, influence on planning.
    The Forest Service Directive System would contain further detail on 
how to document the consideration of science including identifying the 
sources of data such as peer reviewed articles, scientific assessments, 
or other scientific information, and when applicable, the Forest 
Services' information quality guidelines and OMB's Information Quality 
Bulletin on Peer Review. Direction about science reviews may be found 
in Forest Service Handbook 1909.12--Land Management Planning, Chapter 
40--Science and Sustainability.
Section 219.4 Requirements for Public Participation

Participation Opportunities

    The proposed rule seeks to ensure that the Forest Service provides 
meaningful opportunities for the public to participate early and 
throughout the planning process. This section lists the specific points 
during the planning process when opportunities for public participation 
would be provided. In order to meet these requirements, the responsible 
official must be proactive considering who may be interested in the 
plan, who might be affected by a

[[Page 8486]]

plan or change to a plan, and how to encourage various constituents and 
entities to engage. Additionally, the proposed rule would require the 
responsible official to use collaborative processes when possible, to 
take into account the various roles and responsibilities of 
participants and the responsibilities of the Forest Service itself, and 
to create a process that is open and accessible.
    To develop the public participation requirements of this proposed 
rule, the Forest Service used the Council on Environmental Quality 
(CEQ) publication: Collaboration in NEPA--A Handbook for NEPA 
Practitioners at: http://ceq.hss.doe.gov/ntf/Collaboration_in_NEPA_Oct_2007.pdf, (the rule definition of collaboration, at Sec.  219.19, 
references the CEQ handbook). The CEQ handbook describes a spectrum of 
engagement, including the categories of inform, consult, involve, and 
collaborate. Each of these categories is associated with a set of 
tools, from traditional activities such as notice and comment on the 
inform end of the spectrum, to consensus building or a Federal advisory 
committee on the collaborative end of the spectrum. Because 
``collaboration'' is often associated with only those activities on one 
end of the public engagement spectrum, the rule uses the term ``public 
participation'' to clarify the level of public engagement that could be 
used in the planning process. Every planning process would involve 
traditional scoping and public comment; in addition, the responsible 
official would determine the combination of additional public 
participation strategies that would best engage a diverse set of people 
and communities in the planning process.
    It is important to clarify that while this section of the rule 
commits the Agency to public participation requirements and encourages 
collaboration, the Forest Service would retain final decisionmaking 
authority and responsibility throughout the planning process.
    A successful planning process must be socially inclusive in order 
to adequately reflect the range of values, needs, and preferences of 
society, and especially those who may be affected by land management 
planning. The outcomes of public participation can include a greater 
understanding of interests underlying the issues, a shared 
understanding of the conditions on the unit and in the broader 
landscape that provide the context for planning, the development of 
alternatives that could accommodate a wide range of interests, and the 
potential development of a shared vision for the unit, as well as an 
understanding of how and why planning decisions are made. People 
expressed the desire to participate at a number of points in the 
planning process, including, but not limited to, crafting the proposed 
plan revision or plan amendment and monitoring unit progress toward 
meeting the plan desired conditions, objectives, or other plan 
components.
    The proposed rule specifically would require the responsible 
official to encourage participation by the public, Tribes, governments, 
scientists, and other individuals by sharing knowledge, ideas, and 
resources. It is also expected that the responsible official would rely 
on proactive, contemporary tools, such as the Internet, to encourage 
widespread participation.
    Because the make-up and dynamics of the communities surrounding 
each planning area differ, and because the level of interest in 
decisionmaking may vary, based on the scope and potential impact of the 
decision being contemplated, the responsible official would need the 
flexibility to select the public participation methods that would best 
meet the needs of interested people and communities. Some people wanted 
a rule that contains thorough process and method requirements detailing 
how each unit would conduct public participation. Others wanted the 
responsible official to have full discretion for how public 
participation would be conducted. The Agency is proposing a balanced 
approach that would require the responsible official to engage a 
diverse array of people and communities throughout the planning process 
but would allow flexibility in the methods.
    Many people discussed the need for the Forest Service to make a 
stronger effort to engage groups and communities that traditionally 
have been underrepresented in land management planning. This is 
reflected in the requirement that responsible officials encourage the 
participation of youth, low-income populations, and minority 
populations in the planning process and in the requirements to be 
proactive to use contemporary tools to reach out to the public and 
consider the accessibility of the process to interested groups and 
individuals. The Agency recognizes the need to engage a full range of 
interests and individuals in the planning process and the 
responsibility to promote environmental justice.

Tribal Participation in Land Management Planning

    The proposed rule also acknowledges the Federal Government's unique 
obligations and responsibilities to Indian Tribes and Alaska Native 
Corporations in the planning process. The proposed rule recognizes the 
government-to-government relationship that creates a unique role for 
federally recognized Tribes. As required by Executive Order 13175, 
government-to-government consultation would continue throughout the 
development of plans separately, and in addition to, the process for 
public participation. The Agency also seeks to involve Tribes and 
Alaska Native Corporations throughout the planning process and the 
proposed rule would require the responsible official to encourage their 
participation in the public process. The responsible official would 
work with Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations to seek out native 
knowledge, including information about land ethics, cultural issues, 
and sacred and culturally significant sites as an additional 
opportunity for information sharing and dialog that would augment the 
consultation process.
    Several Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations are concerned about 
keeping information confidential to protect sites from vandalism. 
Responsible officials will protect confidentiality regarding 
information given by Tribes in the planning process and may enter into 
agreements to do so. Participation in a collaborative process would be 
voluntary and would supplement, not replace consultation.
    The Agency heard from Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations that 
the rule should clearly state how the rights and interests of Tribes 
and Alaska Native Corporations would be provided for in the planning 
process. The comments emphasized the obligations the Forest Service has 
to honor the exercise of treaty rights on NFS lands and the need to 
fully recognize the government-to-government relationship that exists 
between the Federal Government and federally recognized Indian Tribes. 
Requirements in this section of the proposed rule, as well as Sec.  
219.1, seek to respond to those comments.

Coordination With Other Public Planning Efforts

    Some local governments also asked that the planning rule require 
land management plans to strive for consistency with local government 
plans. The proposed rule would require that during the plan development 
or plan revision process, the responsible official would review the 
planning and land use policies of federally recognized Indian Tribes 
and of other Federal, State, and local governments and document the 
results of the review in

[[Page 8487]]

the draft EIS. The review would include assessments conducted by other 
Federal agencies, statewide forest resource assessments, community 
wildfire protection plans, or state wildlife action plans. The review 
would consider the objectives of federally recognized Indian Tribes, 
and of other Federal, State, and local governments, as expressed in 
their plans and policies, and would assess the compatibility and 
interrelated impacts of these plans and policies. The review would 
include a determination of how each Forest Service plan should address 
the impacts identified or how each plan might contribute to joint 
goals.
    Requiring land management plans to be consistent with local 
government plans; however, would not allow the flexibility needed to 
address the diverse management needs on NFS lands and could hamper the 
Agency's ability to address regional and national interests on Federal 
lands. In the event of conflict with Forest Service planning 
objectives, consideration of alternatives for resolution within the 
context of achieving NFS goals or objectives for the unit would be 
explored.
Section 219.5 Planning Framework
    This section provides an overview of a proposed new framework for 
land management planning that would require a three-part learning and 
planning cycle: assessment, development/revision/amendment, and 
monitoring. This new framework is science-based and would provide a 
blueprint for the land management process, creating a structure within 
which land managers and partners could work together to understand what 
is happening on the land, revise management plans to respond to 
existing and predicted conditions and needs, and monitor changing 
conditions and the effectiveness of management actions to provide a 
continuous feedback loop for adaptive management.
    In the assessment phase, the responsible official would conduct a 
review of conditions on the ground and in the context of the broader 
landscape, using available ecological, social, and economic data to the 
extent possible. The assessment phase would lead to the identification 
of a potential need to change the unit's plan. In the development, 
revision, or amendment phase, the responsible official would work with 
other government agencies, Tribes, and the public to use the 
information gathered in the assessment phase to shape a proposed action 
that would respond to the need for change. This process would include 
scoping and public comment in accordance with agency National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) procedures and would culminate in a 
plan decision. In the monitoring phase, the responsible official would 
implement a monitoring plan informed by the assessment and developed as 
part of the plan, revision, or amendment. This phase would give 
managers data to evaluate management actions and measure effectiveness, 
test assumptions, track changing conditions, and make adjustments to 
both projects and to the land management plan as needed.
    This framework would also guide land managers in working with the 
public and partners before, during, and after plans are written, 
offering participation opportunities to partners and interested parties 
throughout the planning process. An open and participatory approach for 
each phase of the framework is intended to ensure planning efforts are 
well understood; informed by public knowledge and opinion; and 
responsive to ecological, social, and economic conditions that may be 
impacted by management on the unit.
    The approach described in the proposed framework responds to the 
public's stated desire for participation throughout land management 
planning. The assessment phase would allow for early public 
participation--well before a proposed action--so that stakeholders 
could engage in joint fact-finding and develop a mutual understanding 
of the interconnections among social, economic, and ecological 
communities and systems. The development/revision/amendment element of 
the framework responds to the public desire to help develop and provide 
meaningful input to proposals for land management plans. The monitoring 
part of the framework responds to stakeholder's desires for a 
systematic, deliberate, monitoring approach that can inform, and be 
informed, by other monitoring efforts relevant to management on the 
unit. Both stakeholders and the Agency recognize the potential 
efficiencies of a uniform monitoring approach and hope to increase 
information sharing and learning opportunities.
    The proposed framework embraces adaptive management in planning and 
reflects key themes heard from the public, as well as experience gained 
through the Agency's 30-year history with land management planning. The 
new proposed framework is intended to establish a more responsive and 
agile process that would allow the Agency to adapt management to 
changing conditions and improves management based on new information 
and monitoring. As proposed, the framework would support a more 
integrated and holistic approach to management recognizing the 
interdependence among all parts of the ecosystem including the 
communities (biotic and human) and systems (functions and values) that 
are part of each forest.
Section 219.6 Assessments
    This section sets out both process and content requirements for 
assessments. Assessments are intended to provide a solid base of 
information and context for plan decisionmaking. The responsible 
official would have discretion to set the scale and scope of the 
assessment but would engage the public early and would encourage 
participation in the assessment process. The content of assessments 
would be used to develop new plans and plan revisions, to develop 
monitoring questions, and to provide a feedback loop. The scope and 
scale of an assessment could be comprehensive, such as those for a 
revision, or they could be narrow, such as those for an amendment 
focused on one issue.
    Responsible officials would use assessments to determine the unique 
roles and contributions of the unit within the context of the broader 
landscape as well as the need to change the plan. Assessments should 
provide useful information to the responsible official to develop plan 
components and other content for a new or revised plan, to identify 
gaps in needed information that might be filled by a monitoring 
program, to identify changing conditions that the Agency might need to 
track, or to identify assumptions that should be tested later.

Process Requirements

    This section of the proposed rule would require an assessment prior 
to plan revision or development. The responsible official would reach 
out to the public, Tribes, Alaska Native Corporations, other Federal 
agencies, States, local governments, and scientists to start the 
assessment and help identify the questions and issues to be considered. 
The responsible official would also be required to coordinate with the 
regional forester, and agency staff from State and Private Forestry, 
Research and Development, as well as other governmental and non-
governmental partners to consolidate existing information and develop 
strategies for satisfying any additional information needs. Early 
engagement with a diverse set of interests is needed to create an 
accurate depiction of the issues affecting the plan area and a solid 
base of understanding for any changes needed to the plan.

[[Page 8488]]

    This section of the proposed rule would require the responsible 
official to document the assessment in a report or set of reports. To 
bring transparency and accountability to the assessment process, the 
reports would be available to the public. The report, or set of 
reports, would be included in the planning record and document how the 
relevant best available scientific information was taken into account. 
Within the report, the responsible official would identify how a new 
plan should be proposed or identify the potential need to change an 
existing plan based on the assessment.

Content Requirements

    At a minimum, the content of assessments for revisions and new 
plans would provide information to support development of plan 
components that meet the substantive requirements of other rule 
provisions such as sustainability (Sec.  219.8), diversity (Sec.  
219.9), multiple uses (Sec.  219.10), and the timber requirements based 
on the NFMA (Sec.  219.11). In order that planners have sufficient 
information to meet the requirements set out in sections 219.8 through 
219.11, assessments would include information on existing conditions, 
trends, and stressors, both on and off the unit, which might impact 
resources or ecological, social, or economic sustainability.
    An assessment is expected to use existing information and be 
conducted rapidly in order to respond to changing conditions. Existing 
information may come from sources inside or outside the Forest Service, 
such as assessments conducted by other Federal agencies, statewide 
forest resource assessments, community wildfire protection plans, or 
state wildlife action plans. Existing information would be gathered and 
synthesized for relevant ecological, economic, and social conditions 
and trends within the context of the broader landscape. However, 
nothing in this section would restrict the responsible official from 
gathering new information to address the issues or questions for the 
assessment.

Assessments for Plan Amendments

    Because plan amendments vary in their complexity, this section 
provides a flexible approach to preparing an assessment for a plan 
amendment. Plan amendments would be based on a documented need for 
change but do not require an assessment. In some cases, the information 
from monitoring and evaluation would identify the need for change, or 
the need may arise from an unexpected proposed use such as a new permit 
application. Thus, there would be no need for an assessment. In other 
cases, the assessment would focus on an issue or question that only 
affects a portion of the plan area. In such a case, the scope of the 
assessment would be narrow and scale would be small. In other cases, 
particularly for complex issues that cross unit boundaries, the 
responsible official could conduct a more comprehensive assessment for 
an amendment.
Section 219.7 Plan Development or Plan Revision
    This section sets out requirements for how to develop a new plan or 
revise an existing plan. This section has two primary topics: (1) The 
process for developing or revising plans and (2) the plan, which 
includes plan components and other content in the plan. Plans and plan 
revisions provide direction and guidance and management for the unit as 
a whole. Plan revisions are required every 15 years under the NFMA. 
Most plans would be revised in the 15-year period. However, the 
responsible official has the discretion to determine at any time that 
conditions on a unit have changed significantly such that a plan must 
be revised. A plan revision before the 15-year requirement has been 
rare in the past, and is expected to be rare in the future.
    A plan revision is considered an entirely new plan even if it uses 
much of the same direction and guidance as the previous version.

Process Requirements

    The responsible official would begin by notifying the public of the 
start of a process to draft a proposed plan. That proposal would be 
informed by the assessment(s) that would identify the need to change 
the plan as well as information about the unique roles of the unit in 
the context of the broader landscape.
    Drafting a proposed plan with public participation is a change from 
current planning processes. Typically, the responsible official 
appoints an interdisciplinary team to draft a proposed plan and then 
publishes it for public comment. Under the proposed rule, the public 
would have opportunities to shape the proposed plan while it is being 
drafted, however, these opportunities are not intended to prejudge the 
outcome of the NEPA process. This process change responds to the desire 
expressed during the collaborative process for this proposed rule that 
the public be involved early, before proposed plans are already 
drafted.
    The process would include the preparation of an EIS with 
opportunities for consideration of alternatives during a public comment 
period. By crafting a proposed plan with public participation, it is 
expected that meaningful alternatives would be rapidly developed and 
evaluated in the EIS. The environmental analysis should be focused and 
the responsible official should reach a decision in a timely manner.
    As part of the process for developing a proposal, this section 
would require the responsible official to, at minimum, review 
information from the assessment. This includes consideration of 
conditions, trends, and stressors that affect plan components as well 
as the identification of the presence and value of resources on the 
unit. The responsible official would also assess potential wilderness 
areas, eligible wild and scenic rivers, suitability of areas for 
resource management, and the quantity of timber that can be removed in 
accordance with NFMA requirements. The proposed plan would identify 
questions for the monitoring plan and potential other content in the 
plan. These requirements are designed to form a basis for developing 
plan components and content that would meet the requirements set forth 
in this proposed rule.
    Many people have asked that the rule streamline planning; that it 
not include detailed processes and methods that may rapidly become 
outdated. By conducting an assessment using a collaborative approach 
prior to starting a new plan or plan revision and by working with the 
public to develop a proposal for a new plan or plan revision, the 
Agency expects that the actual preparation of a plan would be much less 
time consuming. These process requirements incorporate the best 
practices learned from the past 30 years of planning and the Agency 
believes these practices should be carried out in an efficient and 
effective manner.

Plan Components

    This section sets out proposed requirements for plan components. 
Every plan would contain five plan components: desired conditions, 
objectives, standards, guidelines, and suitability of areas. Plans 
could also contain goals, an optional plan component. These plan 
components are based on techniques widely accepted and practiced by 
planners, both inside and outside of government. Every plan would 
contain at least one of each of the required five plan components--
these are the central parts of a plan. Projects and activities would be 
required to be consistent with plan components.

[[Page 8489]]

Except to correct clerical errors, plan components could only be 
changed through plan amendment or revision.
    Desired conditions identify an overall vision for the unit. When 
developed during a collaborative process with the public, desired 
conditions would provide a way to identify a shared vision for a plan 
area. Other plan components would provide the strategy and guidance 
needed to achieve that vision. A desired condition is generally 
supported by objectives that identify intended, measureable progress 
toward reaching the desired condition. Taken as a whole, objectives 
lead to the development of a proactive program of work of passive or 
active management designed to achieve the desired condition.
    Standards, guidelines, and suitability (identifying lands within 
the planning area as suitable or not suitable for various uses) are 
intended to create a framework that would permit uses, projects, and 
activities that move the unit toward the desired conditions, while 
restricting uses, projects, or activities that may be inconsistent with 
achieving desired conditions.
    Standards are mandatory constraints and do not allow for deviation. 
The Agency heard from the public that many people want the rule to 
include ``default'' standards, and others want a way for responsible 
officials to ``opt-out'' of standards when they do not fit the 
situation at hand. The Agency recognizes that circumstances on the 
ground differ from place-to-place. The proposed rule would require 
guidelines that, like standards, are requirements. Guidelines are not 
intended to allow an ``opt-out,'' but they would allow the responsible 
official some flexibility in how to meet the intent of the guideline, 
recognizing that different conditions may necessitate a different 
approach. Guidelines provide a means to protect resources in different 
ways depending on those circumstances.
    Examples of a desired condition, objective, standard, and guideline 
for long leaf pine restoration are provided below.
    These examples assume that during the assessment it was determined 
that the native ecological condition for a portion of the plan area on 
a coastal plain forest should be a long leaf pine savanna. The existing 
condition has 45 percent of the area dominated by loblolly pine forest 
with closed canopy and a sparse understory. The following statement 
would describe the desired condition, usually in terms of composition, 
structure, and function for ecological types.
    Desired condition: First would be a description of the composition: 
The composition is predominately longleaf pine savanna, comprising 
approximately 75 percent of the area. There are patches of mixed pine/
hardwood primarily along streams, but these patches comprise less than 
25 percent of the total composition.
    Often a statement would follow regarding the vegetation structure: 
The forest has two distinct layers: a pure longleaf pine open canopy 
approaching 70 feet in height and a wiregrass dominated herbaceous 
layer.
    The functions or processes in this ecological type would then be 
described: This savanna structure is maintained by recurring fire on an 
average 3-year cycle. This ecological type functions as primary nesting 
and foraging habitat for red-cockaded woodpecker.
    Objective: The objective statement would be written to show the 
change from the existing condition to the desired condition: Restore 
longleaf pine on approximately 1250 to 1500 acres per year over for the 
10 years following plan approval on longleaf pine landtypes currently 
dominated by loblolly pine. Within 5 years of the restoration activity, 
the desired outcome is 150 to 250 seedlings per acre, free of 
competition.
    Standard: A standard intended to protect all existing longleaf pine 
could be written as: Retain any longleaf pine during the restoration 
activity.
    Guideline: A guideline to protect soil and water with built in 
flexibility could be written as: To avoid unacceptable risks of 
erosion, mechanical fire lines should not occur on slopes greater than 
30 percent or on the highly erosive X, Y, and Z soil types.
    In the suitability plan component, the plan would identify specific 
areas of the planning unit as being suitable or not suitable for 
certain types of uses or activities. The plans are not required to have 
suitability identified for any specific type of use or activity, with 
the exception that areas not suitable for timber production must be 
identified as required by the NFMA. Determining the suitability of a 
specific land area for a particular use or activity is usually based 
upon the desired condition for that area and the inherent capability of 
the land to support the use or activity. If the plan identifies an area 
as not suitable for a type of use or activity, such a use or activity 
may not be permitted within that area. If the plan identifies an area 
as suitable for a type of use or activity, authorization of such a use 
or activity in that area may be considered; however, site-specific 
analysis consistent with NEPA procedures and due consideration of 
relevant factors will always be needed before a specific use or 
activity can be authorized.
    For example, a plan may identify an area as suitable for motorized 
recreation trails on stable soils, but the plan also has a guideline 
limiting motorized recreation during the nesting season. Before a new 
designated motorized trail can be opened in the management area, a 
site-specific analysis would need to determine which parts of the 
project area have stable soils and are thus suitable for the motorized 
trail. Consistent with the plan, a motorized trail may then be proposed 
within the management area on stable soils with a requirement that it 
be seasonally closed during the month of the nesting season. The site-
specific analysis for the proposal would have to document consistency 
with the motorized trail suitability, the wildlife guideline, and any 
other applicable plan components.
    A goal is an optional plan component that conveys a broad statement 
of intent. Usually, goal statements are not associated with on-the-
ground conditions in contrast to desired conditions. Instead, goals 
express intentions about how processes or interactions with the public 
would be conducted under the plan. Examples of goal statements in 
current plans are:

    Provide opportunities for the local populations to develop a 
unique connection--a sense of place--to the national forest.
    Provide information about the natural and cultural environment 
to foster understanding of the uniqueness of the resources of the 
unit and to help develop ecological-based tourism.

    Goals are optional plan components because some responsible 
officials find them useful while others do not. The proposed rule would 
allow the responsible officials flexibility to choose whether to 
include goals as a plan component.
    The set of plan components must meet the substantive requirements 
for sustainability (Sec.  219.8), plant and animal diversity (Sec.  
219.9), multiple uses (Sec.  219.10), and timber requirements based on 
the NFMA (Sec.  219.11) as well as other requirements laid out in the 
plan. While all plans must contain the required five plan components 
(desired conditions, objectives, standards, guidelines, suitability of 
areas, and may contain goals), not every issue or resource contained in 
a plan would require all five plan components. Through the planning 
process, the responsible official would determine the content of plan 
components needed to

[[Page 8490]]

address specific management issues or resources.

Other Content in the Plan

    In addition to the plan components, this section would require 
other content in the plan for integrated resource management. Other 
required content differs from plan components in that an amendment or 
revision would not be required for changes to be made to reflect new 
information or changed conditions.
    This section sets out four requirements for other required content: 
The monitoring program, identification of watersheds that are a 
priority for maintenance or restoration, description of the unit's 
distinctive roles and contributions within the broader landscape, and 
information reflecting proposed and possible actions that may occur on 
the unit during the life of the plan. Other content could be included 
as needed.
    The proposed monitoring program, described in Sec.  219.12, would 
be required in every plan. A monitoring program has been included as 
other required content, but not as a plan component, so the program can 
be updated without a plan amendment. In the past, monitoring programs 
became outdated and ineffective because any changes required a plan 
amendment, which usually took a long time to complete. Since monitoring 
methods and protocols are constantly being refined, and since it may be 
important to add or change a monitoring question or indicator to be 
sure that the monitoring is effective and targeted to inform and 
improve management, it is important to have processes where changes can 
be made rapidly. Reflecting the importance that stakeholders place on 
monitoring, the proposed rule requires advanced public notice (Sec.  
219.16) of any changes to be made in the monitoring program, along with 
an opportunity for the public to provide comment on the proposed 
change.
    The proposed requirement that other required content include the 
identification of priority watersheds for maintenance or restoration is 
designed to complement the water-based sustainability requirements 
found in Sec.  219.8. The Agency realizes that areas prioritized for 
potential restoration activities could change quickly due to events 
such as wildfire, hurricanes, drought, or the onslaught of invasive 
species. Therefore, this requirement is included in this section as 
other required content rather than in Sec.  219.8 for plan components 
thus allowing an administrative change (Sec.  219.13) to be used to re-
prioritize watersheds for maintenance or restoration.
    The proposed requirement that the plan describe the unit's 
distinctive roles and contributions within the broader landscape is 
designed to ground the development of plan components in a context of 
capability and opportunity. The identification of the unit's roles and 
contributions directly supports development of desired conditions and 
objectives. The requirement should lead to each unit developing a plan 
that reflects its unique characteristics while addressing issues of 
importance for the NFS and setting priorities for management.
Section 219.8 Sustainability
    Sustainability is the fundamental principle that will guide land 
management planning. The intent is for plans to guide management so 
that NFS lands are ecologically sustainable and contribute to social 
and economic sustainability, with resilient ecosystems and watersheds, 
diverse plant and animal communities, and the capacity to provide 
people and communities with a range of social, economic, and ecological 
benefits for the present and future generations.
    The requirements of this section of the proposed rule are linked to 
the requirements in the assessment (Sec.  219.6) and monitoring 
sections (Sec.  219.12). In addition, this section provides a 
foundation for the next three sections regarding diversity of plant and 
animal communities (Sec.  219.9), multiple uses (Sec.  219.10), and 
timber requirements based on the NFMA (Sec.  219.11). Together these 
sections of the proposed rule would guide the land management planning 
process for maintaining or restoring ecological sustainability on NFS 
lands and contributing to social and economic sustainability of the 
local communities and regions and the Nation.
    The proposed requirements of this section are limited to what can 
be accomplished within the Agency's authority and the capability of the 
unit. This limitation arises from the fact that some influences on 
sustainability are outside the Agency's control, for example, climate 
change, extreme disturbance events, and urbanization on lands outside 
of or adjacent to NFS lands. Given those constraints, the Agency 
realizes it cannot guarantee sustainability. However, it can establish 
planning processes and practices that provide the best opportunity for 
maintaining or restoring sustainable ecological systems and 
contributing to social and economic sustainability.
    It is important to note that plan components themselves could not 
compel agency action or guarantee specific results. Instead, they 
provide the vision, strategy, guidance, and constraints needed to move 
the unit toward sustainability. This section must be read with these 
constraints in mind.

Ecological Sustainability

    A common theme brought up throughout the public involvement process 
was the importance of maintaining or restoring healthy, resilient 
ecosystems and the benefits that such resilient systems provide. 
Examples of such benefits include a reduced risk of catastrophic fire, 
clean abundant water, connected habitats for wide ranging species, and 
economic benefits. Those themes are reflected in the requirements of 
this section in the proposed rule.
    The proposed requirements for plan components in this section are 
based on sound ecological principles that the health of aquatic and 
terrestrial systems is interdependent, and that they are shaped by 
processes at the landscape scale. When the Agency speaks of ecological 
sustainability in this document, the Agency means to maintain or 
restore ecosystem and watershed structure, function, composition, and 
connectivity.
    The proposed rule, therefore, would require the development of plan 
components that maintain or restore the structure, function, 
composition, and connectivity of these systems as a whole and that 
maintain, protect, or restore key elements within each system. 
Management to maintain, protect, and restore ecosystems would include 
both active and passive management and require different levels of 
investment based on the difference between the desired and existing 
conditions of the system.
    In designing plan components to maintain or restore ecosystems and 
watersheds, the proposed rule would require the responsible official to 
take into account the physical (including air quality) and biological 
integration of the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems within a 
landscape. Because fire is an important ecosystem driver, the proposed 
rule would require that the responsible official would also take 
wildland fire and opportunities to restore wildland fire ecosystems 
into account. During the planning process, other potential ecosystem 
drivers, disturbance regimes, and environmental stressors, including 
climate change, would be identified, assessed, and considered when 
developing plan

[[Page 8491]]

components for ecological sustainability.
    Paragraph (a)(2) would require that the responsible official 
develop plan components to maintain, protect, or restore certain 
ecosystem elements. The first two elements would require the 
responsible official to develop plan components for aquatic and 
terrestrial areas, including lakes, streams, wetlands, forest stands, 
meadows, and other habitat types. These areas represent the individual 
elements that form a foundation for maintaining the health and 
resilience of the overall ecosystem or watershed. The third element 
would require plan components for rare aquatic and terrestrial plant 
and animal communities, which may have particular value as communities, 
consistent with the individual species and ecosystem diversity 
requirements in Sec.  219.9. Finally, plan components would be required 
to protect, maintain, and restore clean, abundant water supplies (both 
surface and groundwater sources), and soils, and productivity 
recognizing their importance as fundamental ecosystem resources and 
services.

Water

    One of the original purposes for establishing the NFS was to 
protect our Nation's water resources. Of all land uses, forested land 
provides the highest quality water. National Forest System lands 
contain 400,000 miles of streams, 3 million acres of lakes, and many 
aquifer systems that together serve as the source of drinking water for 
more residents of the United States than any other source. The Agency 
administers over 90,000 water rights in cooperation with States; 
protects and improves habitat for more than 550 rare, threatened, and 
endangered aquatic species; provides outdoor recreation to more than 
130 million visitors per year near streams, lakes, and other water 
resources; and supports access and operations for more than 200 
hydroelectric facilities. National forests alone provide 18 percent of 
the Nation's water and over half the water in the West. The Organic 
Act, Weeks Act, MUSYA, and the NFMA all discuss the protection of water 
and/or watersheds.
    Although forests are effective at maintaining hydrologic functions, 
there are areas on national forests where water resources are degraded. 
There are serious environmental and economic costs of depleting or 
damaging water resources and unsustainable water and land use practices 
pose risks to people and ecosystems. The quantity and quality of 
America's water and aquatic habitats are affected by our changing 
climate as well as by non-climate related stressors. Changing 
conditions and stressors can include changing water temperatures, 
variability in volume and timing of precipitation, and increased 
frequency and severity of floods. The requirements of this section 
recognize the importance of maintaining those watersheds and aquatic 
resources that are in good condition and restoring those that are not.
    The proposed rule would require that plans include plan components 
to maintain, protect, and restore public water supplies, groundwater, 
sole source aquifers, and source water protection areas where they 
occur on NFS lands. Source water protection areas are areas delineated 
for public water systems as part of the State or tribal source water 
assessment and protection program and may include ground water or 
surface water or both. Under section 1424(e) of the Safe Water Drinking 
Act, sole source aquifers are defined as underground water sources that 
are designated by the Environmental Protection Agency and supply at 
least 50 percent of the drinking water consumed in the area overlying 
the aquifer.
    Riparian areas are important elements of watersheds that provide 
critical transition zones linking terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. 
The proposed rule would highlight the importance of maintaining, 
protecting, or restoring riparian areas and the values such areas 
provide by requiring that plans include plan components to guide 
management with riparian areas. The proposed rule also requires that 
plans establish a default width within which those plan components 
apply. The width of such zones is usually measured from the edge of the 
water, extending outward to the adjacent upland areas, and it could be 
a standard width for all riparian areas or it could vary based on the 
type of waterbody.
    Additionally, riparian areas would be site-specifically verified 
over time, either during watershed or landscape assessments or when 
management actions are proposed that might affect riparian areas. The 
width of the actual riparian area would be based on the characteristics 
of the site and could be wider or narrower than the default width(s). 
Many NFS units already have actual riparian areas identified, while in 
some areas, for example wilderness areas, there may be no need to site-
specifically delineate riparian areas. Restoration of riparian areas 
may be accomplished through passive management or may require active 
management, particularly in areas where natural disturbance such as 
fire or flooding have been excluded or where past management has 
altered function.
    Public comment ranged between those who wanted very prescriptive 
national standards in the rule for such things as road density or 
riparian area widths and those who wanted very few requirements and 
ultimate flexibility at the unit level to determine the suite of plan 
components best suited to the unit's unique situation. The proposed 
rule reflects a balance by including requirements for plan components 
to guide management of these resources but not prescribing national 
standards that may not be ecologically appropriate or practical across 
all units. In this way, the Agency ensures that all plans will 
consistently include plan components for these critical resources while 
allowing the flexibility to design plan components that are 
ecologically appropriate to the unit.

Social and Economic Sustainability

    During the public participation process to develop this proposed 
rule, there was a divergence of opinion on whether ecological 
sustainability should take precedence over social and economic 
sustainability or if the ecological system, the social system, and the 
economic system are of equal importance. The proposed rule considers 
the ecological, social, and economic systems as interdependent systems, 
which cannot be ranked in order of importance.
    However, there is an important difference in the wording between 
the ecological and the social/economic sustainability requirements. The 
requirements for ecological sustainability would require responsible 
officials to provide plan components to maintain or restore elements of 
ecological sustainability. The requirements for social sustainability 
would require plan components to guide the unit's contribution to 
social and economic sustainability.
    The distinction between these two sets of requirements recognizes 
the Agency has more influence over the factors that impact ecological 
sustainability on NFS lands (ecological diversity, forest health, road 
system management, etc.) than it does for social and economic 
sustainability (employment, income, community well-being, culture, 
etc.). National Forest System lands can provide valuable contributions 
to economic and social sustainability, but that contribution is just 
one in a broad array of factors that influence the sustainability of 
social and economic systems. Similar to the requirements for ecological

[[Page 8492]]

sustainability, the requirements for social and economic sustainability 
reflect that NFS lands are integral parts of the larger landscape.
    Section 219.8(b) of the proposed rule would require plans to 
include plan components to guide the unit's contribution to social and 
economic sustainability. In developing these plan components, the 
responsible official would be required to take into account through the 
collaborative planning process and the results of the assessment the 
social, cultural, and economic conditions relevant to the area 
influenced by the plan; the distinctive roles and contributions of the 
unit within the broader landscape; sustainable recreational 
opportunities and uses; multiple uses, including ecosystem services, 
that contribute to local, regional, and national economies in a 
sustainable manner; and cultural and historic resources and uses.
    Several Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations requested the rule 
recognize and provide a framework for sustaining cultural services and 
benefits from national forests and grasslands, including cultural 
traditions, ways of life, and cherished spaces. Furthermore, several 
Tribes and Alaskan Native Corporations requested that sustainability be 
based on four equal aspects: Ecological, economic, social, and cultural 
sustainability. The Agency has defined sustainability as having three 
aspects since 1999: Ecological, economic, and social. Instead of adding 
a new aspect to sustainability, the Agency proposes that the planning 
rule require responsible officials to take into account cultural 
conditions when developing plan components for social and economic 
sustainability. An alternative way of dealing with this issue would be 
to require the responsible official to develop plan components for 
cultural resilience (The ability of cultural knowledge and expression 
to adapt to social, economic, and ecological change in ways that 
continue the core meanings of that knowledge and expression). The 
Agency welcomes public comment on the issue of cultural sustainability.
    Requirements for specific elements that would contribute to social 
and economic sustainability are found in Sec.  219.10 and Sec.  219.11.
Section 219.9 Diversity of Plant and Animal Communities
    The Agency is committed to the goals of the Endangered Species Act 
(ESA) and the NFMA. This section of the proposed rule demonstrates 
agency commitment to meeting the NFMA requirement to provide for 
diversity of plant and animal communities based on the capability of 
the plan area. The Agency's intent is to keep common native species 
common, contribute to the recovery of threatened and endangered 
species, conserve candidate species, and protect species of 
conservation concern.
    This section of the proposed rule addresses the diversity 
requirement by focusing on factors within agency control and using the 
best available scientific information to design a robust and achievable 
diversity standard. The proposed rule adopts a complementary ecosystem 
diversity and species conservation approach to provide for the 
diversity of plant and animal communities in the plan area and the long 
term persistence of native species. Known as a coarse-filter/fine-
filter approach, this is a well-developed concept in the scientific 
literature and has broad support from the scientific community and many 
stakeholders. The coarse-filter should provide ecological conditions 
for the long-term persistence of the vast majority of species within 
the plan area. The fine-filter would identify specific habitat needs of 
species with known conservation concerns or whose long-term persistence 
in the plan area is at risk, and for which the coarse-filter protection 
is insufficient.
    The wording in paragraph (a) for ecosystem diversity intentionally 
mirrors that found in Sec.  219.8(a)(1) for ecological sustainability, 
as they are not intended to be separate processes or requirements. The 
requirements in Sec.  219.8 (a)(1) for plan components to maintain or 
restore structure, function, composition, and connectivity of healthy 
and resilient terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and watersheds would 
also meet the requirement of this section to retain or restore 
ecosystem diversity on the unit. The requirements are restated in both 
of these sections to emphasize the link between sustainability of 
terrestrial and aquatic systems and the diversity of plant and animal 
communities.
    Specific agency policy direction for ecosystem diversity and 
species conservation using the coarse-filter/fine-filter approach, as 
well as for identifying species of conservation concern would be 
included in the Forest Service Directive System.

The Coarse-Filter Approach

    Paragraph (a) of this section of the proposed rule would require 
plan components for maintaining or restoring structure, function, 
composition, and connectivity of healthy and resilient terrestrial and 
aquatic ecosystems and watersheds to maintain the diversity of native 
species. This serves as the ``coarse-filter'' aspect of the diversity 
standard. The premise behind the proposed coarse-filter approach is 
that native species evolved and adapted within the limits established 
by natural landforms, vegetation, and disturbance patterns prior to 
extensive human alteration. Maintaining or restoring the ecological 
conditions similar to those under which native species have evolved 
therefore offers the best assurance against losses of biological 
diversity and maintains habitats for the vast majority of species in an 
area, subject to factors outside of the Agency control, such as climate 
change. Climate change and related stressors could affect many species 
and may make it impossible to maintain current ecological conditions.
    Ecosystems are described in terms of their composition (vegetation 
types, rare communities, aquatic systems, riparian systems); structure 
(vertical and horizontal distribution of vegetation, stream habitat 
complexity, and riparian habitat elements); function (processes such as 
stream flows, nutrient cycling, and disturbance regimes); and the 
connection of habitats (for breeding, feeding, or movement of wildlife 
and fish within species home ranges or migration areas). Healthy 
ecosystems are indicated by the degree of ecological integrity related 
to the completeness or wholeness of their composition, structure, 
function, and connectivity. Resilience refers to the capacity of the 
system to absorb disturbance so as to retain essentially the same 
function. By working toward the goals of diverse native ecosystems with 
connected habitats that can absorb disturbance, it is expected that 
over time, management would create ecological conditions, through 
activities such as ecosystem restoration treatments, which support the 
abundance, distribution, and long-term persistence of native species 
within a plan area to provide for plant and animal diversity.

The Fine-Filter Approach

    Paragraph (b) of this section sets forth three species-specific 
requirements for plan components that would provide the basis for the 
fine-filter approach to species conservation. The intent would be to 
provide plan components that identify specific habitat needs of 
species, when those needs are not met through the coarse filter. These 
species are threatened and endangered (T&E) species, candidate species, 
and species of conservation concern.
    The first species conservation requirement in this section of the 
proposed rule is to maintain or restore

[[Page 8493]]

ecological conditions to contribute to the recovery of T&E species. 
These species are at risk of extinction and are protected under the 
ESA. The Agency proposes that its role is to provide ecological 
conditions in the plan area that would contribute to recovering these 
species across their ranges, which in many cases includes lands outside 
NFS boundaries where the Agency has no control. The responsible 
official may also contribute to other recovery actions, such as species 
reintroductions to increase species distribution.
    The second species conservation requirement proposed in this 
section of the proposed rule is to maintain or restore ecological 
conditions to conserve candidate species. These species are plants and 
animals for which the Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing 
under the ESA, but for which a listing regulation has not yet occurred. 
Under the ESA, candidate species do not receive special legal 
protections, as do threatened and endangered species. However, the 
agency would like to be proactive and take measures to ensure animal 
and plant species do not require protection under ESA. Candidate 
species are not the same as focal species (Sec.  219.12), but units may 
choose to use a candidate species as a focal species, as part of their 
monitoring program. The Agency is proposing to use its policy 
discretion to take steps to reduce the risks to candidate species from 
activities on NFS lands. These steps would include identifying specific 
ecological conditions for NFS land that would conserve candidate 
species and specifying plan components for the maintenance or 
restoration of those conditions.
    The proposed rule would represent a higher level of protection for 
candidate species than currently exists in the planning process while 
still recognizing that candidate species may not have viable 
populations. Protection requirements for candidate species may at times 
contradict the protection requirements of other species or other 
management objectives. The Agency invites public comment on how it 
should address these circumstances in this rule.
    The final species conservation requirement in this section of the 
proposed rule addresses the needs of species of conservation concern. A 
species of conservation concern is a species that is not threatened, 
endangered, or a candidate species, but is one for which the 
responsible official has determined there is evidence demonstrating 
significant concern about its capability to persist over the long term 
in the plan area. A viable population is defined in this proposed rule 
as a population of a species that continues to persist over the long-
term with sufficient distribution to be resilient and adaptable to 
stressors and likely future environmental conditions. The responsible 
official would identify, where necessary, specific ecological 
conditions needed by these species that are not provided by the coarse-
filter. The identification of species of conservation concern within 
the plan area could be based on several criteria, such as substantial 
scientific information as to the overall status of the species, the 
quantity and quality of species habitat within the plan area, and the 
potential for management activities to affect the species habitat 
within the plan area. Forest Service Directives would contain the 
criteria for selecting species of conservation concern. State lists of 
endangered, threatened, rare, endemic, or other classifications of 
species, such as those listed as threatened under State law; and other 
sources such as the Nature Serve conservation status system may be used 
to inform the selection of species of conservation concern.
    The proposed rule's requirement for species of conservation concern 
would be to maintain or restore ecological conditions to maintain 
viable populations of species of conservation concern within the plan 
area, within the Agency's authority and consistent with the inherent 
capability of the plan area. Where a viable population of a species of 
conservation concern already exists within the plan area, the 
appropriate ecological conditions needed to maintain the long-term 
persistence of that species will continue to be provided.
    At times, factors outside the control of the Agency prevent the 
Agency from being able to maintain a viable population of species of 
conservation concern within the plan area, such as when the range and 
current distribution of a species extends beyond NFS boundaries. In 
such cases, the proposed rule would require that the Agency provide 
plan components to maintain or restore ecological conditions within the 
plan area for that species, and by doing so to contribute to the extent 
practicable to a viable population across its range. Additionally, the 
responsible official would reach out beyond NFS boundaries to land 
managers who have authority where the species exists, to coordinate 
management for the benefit of a species across its range.
    Some examples of plan components used for the fine-filter approach 
to address species-specific ecological conditions could be the 
following: a desired condition statement that describes the 
composition, structure, and function of a longleaf pine ecosystem that 
will provide optimum habitat conditions for red-cockaded woodpeckers; 
an objective for acres of occupied prairie dog habitat to facilitate 
the goal of reintroducing black-footed ferrets; a standard that sets a 
maximum road density that will improve habitat conditions for the 
Canada lynx or gray wolf; or a guideline that recommends a ``no 
disturbing activities'' time period within a specified distance of a 
known bald eagle or goshawk nest site during the critical breeding 
period.

Diversity of Trees and Other Plant Species

    The intent of the ``diversity of trees and other plant species'' 
requirement in this section of the proposed rule is to address the 
specific requirements of the NFMA to preserve, where appropriate, and 
to the degree practicable, the diversity of tree species similar to 
that existing in the region controlled by the plan. The proposed rule 
would require plan components to preserve diversity of native tree and 
other plant species. Preserving the diversity of tree species native to 
the unit will also preserve other native plant species. Meeting the 
requirements for ecosystem diversity and species conservation, as 
discussed above, would meet this provision as well.

Endangered Species

    As part of the Forest Service mission, the actions needed to 
recover T&E species and maintain or restore critical habitats are a 
high priority. Under the ESA, the Forest Service is to carry out 
``programs and activities for the conservation of endangered species 
and threatened species'' (16 U.S.C. 1536 (a)(1)) and ``insure that any 
action authorized, funded or carried out by [it] is not likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or 
threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification 
of [designated critical habitat]'' (16 U.S.C. 1635 (a)(2)).
    Under the proposed rule, plans would address conservation measures 
and actions identified in recovery plans relevant to T&E species in the 
plan area. The Forest Service would continue to collaborate with the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the development and implementation 
of recovery plans for these species. The Forest Service would also 
continue to work with USFWS, NOAA, States, and other partners to 
conserve and recover

[[Page 8494]]

federally listed plant and animal species. The Agency would continue to 
restore NFS ecosystems and habitats through a number of management 
activities, including monitoring, habitat assessments, habitat 
improvements through vegetation treatments and structure installation, 
species reintroductions, development of conservation strategies, 
research, and conservation education. In addition, the Agency would 
continue to evaluate effects of proposed management actions to T&E 
species or designated critical habitat.
    The proposed rule would require the responsible official to 
explicitly recognize the recovery of T&E species as an important part 
of land management plans and provide plan components to maintain or 
restore ecological composition, structure, function, and connectivity. 
Additionally, the requirements in this section are linked to the 
proposed requirements for public participation, assessments, and 
monitoring (Sections 219.4, 219.6, and 219.12 respectively). 
Collectively these requirements are intended to have the responsible 
official work beyond the planning unit boundary to collaborate and 
cooperate with other landowners and land managers in working toward an 
all-lands approach to ecosystem and species diversity and conservation.

Providing for Diversity Within the FS Authority and the Capability of 
the Plan Area.

    This section fulfills the diversity requirement of the NFMA, which 
directs the Forest Service to ``provide for diversity of plant and 
animal communities based on the suitability and capability of the 
specific land area in order to meet multiple-use objectives, and within 
the multiple-use objectives of a land management plan adopted pursuant 
to this section, provide, where appropriate, to the degree practicable, 
for steps to be taken to preserve the diversity of tree species similar 
to that existing in the region controlled by the plan'' 
(1604(g)(3)(B)).
    The 1982 planning rule required the Forest Service to manage 
habitat to ``maintain viable populations of native and desired non-
native vertebrate species in the planning area'' (47 FR 43048; 
September 30, 1982, section 219.19). The 1982 viability standard at 
times proved to be unattainable because of factors outside the control 
of the Agency. Some factors outside the control of the Agency include: 
(1) Species ranging on and off NFS lands; (2) activities outside the 
plan area (e.g., increasing fragmentation of habitat, non- and point 
source pollution) often impact species and their habitats, both on and 
off NFS lands; (3) failure of the species to occupy suitable habitat; 
and (4) climate change and related stressors, which could impact many 
species and may make it impossible to maintain current ecological 
conditions.
    Other stressors, such as invasive species, insects, disease, 
catastrophic wildfire, floods, droughts, and changes in precipitation, 
among others, will also affect species and habitat in ways that the 
Agency cannot completely control or mitigate for.
    Additionally, it is important to note that the proposed rule is not 
limited to ``vertebrate'' species as required under the 1982 
provisions. The proposed rule would include native plants and native 
invertebrates (fungi, aquatic invertebrates, insects, plants, and 
others) for which the Agency currently has very minimal biological 
information on their life histories, status, abundance, and 
distribution. However, maintaining or restoring ecosystem diversity 
within the plan area is the best opportunity to conserve these little-
known species.
    People suggested a broad range of approaches, including reinstating 
the 1982 viability provision; protecting and maintaining healthy 
habitats, with no species specific provisions; promoting biodiversity 
and measuring it with a biodiversity index; monitoring landscape 
characteristics as proxies for a suite of species; and including both 
habitat- and species-level standards with specific population 
monitoring requirements. In addition, some people emphasized the need 
to coordinate and cooperate beyond NFS unit boundaries for purposes of 
identifying and protecting critical habitat, migration corridors, and 
other habitat elements. The Agency believes that the proposed rule 
requirements to provide for the diversity of plant and animal 
communities are practical and meet the intent of the NFMA.
Section 219.10 Multiple Uses
    The intent of this section is to provide the requirements for 
developing plans that guide management for continued and sustainable 
multiple uses, including ecosystem services, through integrated 
resource management, and in the context of the requirements of sections 
219.7-11.

Multiple Use Background

    NFS lands provide economic, social, and cultural sustenance for 
local communities; for Tribes; and for people across the Nation. 
Products and services generated on NFS lands continue to sustain 
traditional livelihoods, provide for subsistence uses, and provide new 
economic opportunities or benefits generated through sustainable 
recreation and tourism, restoration activities, ecosystem services, and 
renewable energy. National Forest System lands are also of immense 
social and cultural importance, enhancing quality of life; sustaining 
scenic, historic, and culturally important landscapes; sustaining 
traditional life ways; and providing places to engage in outdoor 
recreation, improve physical and mental health, and reconnect with the 
land.
    The MUSYA has guided NFS management since it was enacted in 1960. 
The MUSYA expanded upon the original purposes for which national 
forests may be established and administered, which were identified in 
the Organic Administration Act: ``to improve and protect the forest 
within the boundaries, or for the purpose of securing favorable 
conditions of water flows, and to furnish a continuous supply of timber 
for the use and necessities of citizens of the United States.'' (Act of 
June 4, 1897 (16 U.S.C. 475)).
    The MUSYA states that the Forest Service is to ``administer the 
renewable surface resources of the national forests for multiple use 
and sustained yield of the several products and services obtained 
therefrom.'' (16 U.S.C. 529). The MUSYA defines ``multiple use'' as 
``the management of all the various renewable surface resources of the 
national forests so that they are utilized in the combination that will 
best meet the needs of the American people; making the most judicious 
use of the land for some or all of these resources or related services 
(16 U.S.C. 531(a)). In the MUSYA, Congress declared that the national 
forests are established and shall be administered for outdoor 
recreation, range, timber, watershed, and wildlife and fish purposes 
(16 U.S.C. 528). The MUSYA also explicitly recognizes that ``the 
establishment and maintenance of areas of wilderness are consistent 
with the purposes and provisions of [this Act].'' (16 U.S.C. 529).
    The Agency believes that MUSYA anticipated changing conditions and 
needs. In particular, the Agency's understanding of what is meant by 
the ``several products and services obtained'' from the national 
forests has changed since 1960, and incorporates all values, benefits, 
products, and services the Agency now knows the NFS provides, and what 
are now more typically identified as ecosystem services. Over time, the 
Agency expects understanding will continue to evolve.

[[Page 8495]]

Integrated Resource Management.

    The responsible official would use information gathered during 
assessment and the opportunities for public participation to consider a 
wide range of resources, potential stressors, foreseeable risks, and 
opportunities to work with neighboring landowners and partners to 
develop plan components.
    The proposed rule would require the development of a set of plan 
components that provide for integrated resource management. This is a 
different approach than the 1982 rule, which focused on individual 
resources and provided detailed planning processes and guidance based 
on the type of resource. These requirements did not necessarily 
translate into integrated plan components and often led to fragmented 
management of resources within the ecosystem with each resource 
considered independently within the plan and within Agency management 
structures. In addition, the level of detail in the requirements was 
often not relevant or an appropriate fit for circumstances on an 
individual unit, resulting in Forest Service employees spending 
disproportionate time on processes that produced little value for plan 
direction and subsequent management.
    Many people expressed a desire for very prescriptive national 
requirements established for various resources or program areas. Others 
expressed a desired for a more holistic approach to management focusing 
on the system as a whole. Still others wanted to see the planning 
process become ``simpler'' and ``more elegant'' without detailed 
procedures or national prescriptive standards that might become 
outdated or might not work for all units.
    The Agency believes that an interdisciplinary process is the best 
way to achieve integration of all resource concerns, recognizing that 
ecosystems are complex communities of interconnected and interdependent 
resources and systems that function as a whole. To be effective, land 
management strategies must take into account a wide range of resource 
conditions and values and strive to achieve multiple benefits while 
managing the risk of adverse effects to interconnected systems.
    This section would require that in meeting the requirements of 
Sec.  219.8 and Sec.  219.9, and within Forest Service authority, the 
capability of the plan area and the fiscal capability of the unit, the 
plan would provide for multiple uses, including ecosystem services, 
outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, wildlife, and fish. 
Paragraph (a) identifies nine factors the responsible official would be 
required to consider when developing plan components to provide for 
multiple uses, to the extent that each factor is relevant to the plan 
area. This requirement builds on a similar requirement in Sec.  
219.7(c)(2)(ii), as well as consideration of the resources on the unit 
during the assessment phase.
    First, the responsible official would be required to consider the 
existence and relative value of the resources on the unit. The list 
included in the proposed rule is intentionally long in order to reflect 
stakeholder and agency staff comments that all relevant resources and 
stressors need to be considered during the planning process. There may 
be some uses or benefits not included in the list that could be 
considered if they arise in connection with plan development or 
revision. The Agency invites public comment on the scope of this list 
in Sec.  219.10(a)(1). In addition to the resources included on the 
list, and any others that are relevant, Sec.  219.10(a)(2) and (3) 
would direct responsible officials to consider renewable and 
nonrenewable energy and mineral resources on the unit in the context of 
the unit's contributions within the broader landscape, along with the 
sustainable management of infrastructure on the unit, such as 
recreational facilities and transportation and utility corridors.
    The proposed rule would require responsible officials to consider 
opportunities to coordinate with neighboring landowners to link open 
spaces and take into account joint management objectives where feasible 
and appropriate. The responsible official would also be required to 
consider the landscape-scale context for management as identified in 
the assessment and the land ownership and access patterns relative to 
the plan area. These requirements reflect the ``all-lands'' approach 
the Agency is taking to resource management.
    The responsible official would also be required to consider habitat 
conditions, subject to the requirements of Sec.  219.9, for wildlife, 
fish, and plants commonly enjoyed and used by the public, such as 
species that are hunted, fished, trapped, gathered, observed, or needed 
for subsistence. This requirement is intended to respond to comments 
the Agency received, particularly from Indian Tribes and State game and 
fish departments, that certain species play a special role in 
contributing to social, cultural, and economic sustainability, and that 
plans should consider habitat for those species beyond what is required 
to provide diversity. Through this provision the Agency recognizes the 
important role of NFS lands in providing the habitat for these species 
subject to the provisions of Sec. Sec.  219.8 and 219.9. This provision 
is not intended to require that units support the population goals of 
State agencies.
    Paragraphs (a)(8) and (a)(9) would require that the responsible 
official take into account reasonably foreseeable risks to ecological, 
social, and economic sustainability and the potential impacts of 
climate and other system drivers, stressors, and disturbance regimes, 
such as wildland fire, invasive species, and human-induced stressors, 
on the unit's resources. These requirements would build on the 
assessment and lead into the monitoring phases of planning and are 
intended to ensure that the responsible official has a science-based 
understanding of the context for managing resources and providing for 
multiple uses. Paragraph (a) is not intended to require an exhaustive 
analysis; rather, the responsible official would consider existing 
information (Sec.  219.6), identify gaps and uncertainties in the 
information, and move forward with reasonable assumptions that could be 
monitored over time (Sec.  219.12).

Specific Requirements for Plan Components

    This section further describes specific requirements for plan 
components for new plans or plan revisions. These requirements would be 
developed based on the set of resources considered in paragraph (a) 
that contribute to the unique role of the unit in the larger landscape.

Recreation

    The high value placed on recreation has been a common theme 
throughout the public participation process leading to the proposed 
planning rule. Many people said that the NOI ignored recreation as a 
stand-alone issue, and wanted the rule to address it separately from 
the other multiple uses. Others said that recreation should be 
considered along with, and equal to, all other multiple uses.
    Americans make over 170 million visits to national forests and 
grasslands each year. These visits provide an important contribution to 
the economic vitality of rural communities as spending by recreation 
visitors in areas surrounding national forests amounts to nearly 13 
billion dollars annually. Recreation is also a critical part of social 
sustainability, connecting people to nature, providing for outdoor 
activities that promote long-term physical and mental health, enhancing 
the American public's understanding of their natural

[[Page 8496]]

and cultural environments, and catalyzing their participation and 
stewardship of the natural world. Providing for sustainable recreation 
is one of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the Forest 
Service, and land management planning is a critical process in meeting 
this need. The proposed rule recognizes the importance of recreation as 
a multiple use, and integrates recreation concerns and provides for the 
unique needs of the recreation resource throughout the planning 
process, including in the assessment and monitoring phases.
    Section 219.8 would require the responsible official to take 
sustainable recreation opportunities and uses into account when 
developing plan components to contribute to social and economic 
sustainability. This section would go a step further, requiring that 
plan components provide for sustainable recreation, considering 
opportunities and access for a range of uses. It also calls for plans 
to identify recreational settings and desired conditions for scenic 
landscape character. The proposed rule defines sustainable recreation 
as ``the set of recreational opportunities, uses and access that, 
individually and combined, are ecologically, economically, and socially 
sustainable, allowing the responsible official to offer recreation 
opportunities now and into the future. Recreational opportunities could 
include non-motorized, motorized, developed, and dispersed recreation 
on land, water, and in the air.''
    Together, these requirements and those in sections 219.6 and 219.12 
reflect the Agency's intent that the unit would understand recreation 
roles, demands, benefits, and impacts in the assessment phase; include 
a set of plan components to provide for sustainable recreational 
opportunities, uses, and access in the plan, revision, or amendment; 
and monitor visitor use and progress toward meeting recreational 
objectives in the monitoring phase.

Cultural and Historic Resources

    The Agency recognizes the social, cultural, and economic importance 
of cultural and historic resources and uses. This section would require 
that plans would contain plan components designed to protect cultural 
and historic resources and uses. Our intent in using the word 
``protection'' is to ensure that the responsible official takes into 
account the effect a plan may have on cultural and historic values and 
provides for these resources and uses, within the context of managing 
for multiple uses. The intent is not to create a preservation mandate; 
rather, where actions might impair the resources or use, the 
responsible official would seek to avoid or minimize potential harm to 
the extent practicable. In some cases, damage may occur if necessary to 
achieve a different multiple use objective.
    We also recognize that Tribes may have areas within the national 
forest system that are of special importance to them, and our intent is 
to ensure that the responsible official recognizes those areas and 
provides appropriate management.
    Section 219.8 would also require the responsible official to take 
cultural and historic resources on the unit into account when 
developing plan components to contribute to social and economic 
sustainability. Benefits of cultural and historic sites include 
expanded knowledge and understanding of history; cultural and spiritual 
connections to our heritage; scientific data about past cultures or 
historical conditions and similar matters; and tourism that benefits 
rural economies. The Agency considers these resources very important 
for social sustainability as well as important economic contributors.

Wilderness, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and Other Designated Areas

    This section would require that plan components provide for the 
protection of designated wilderness areas and wild and scenic rivers, 
and for the protection of recommended wilderness and eligible or 
suitable wild and scenic rivers in order to protect the ecologic and 
social values and character for which they may at some point be 
included in the system(s). These requirements meet agency 
responsibilities under the Wilderness Act and the Wild and Scenic 
Rivers Act and are consistent with the recognition in the MUSYA that 
wilderness protection is a valid multiple use. Wilderness areas provide 
important places for recreation, solitude, and renewal; are refuges for 
species; and, like cultural and historic sites, can attract tourism 
that benefits rural economies.
    Some members of the public wanted the rule to include additional 
restrictions on uses within recommended wilderness areas and for 
eligible or suitable wild and scenic rivers. The Agency believes the 
requirement in the proposed rule meets the Agency's intent to ensure, 
in the case of recommended wilderness, that the types and levels of use 
allowed would maintain wilderness character and would not preclude 
future designation as wilderness, and, in the case of eligible or 
suitable wild and scenic rivers, that no modification to the free-flow, 
river-related values, or classification would be allowed which would 
preclude future designation.
    The Agency also manages other kinds of designated areas, including 
experimental forests, national heritage areas, national monuments, 
national recreational areas, national scenic trails, research natural 
areas, and scenic byways. These are areas or features within a planning 
unit with specific management direction normally established through a 
process separate from the land management planning process, including 
by statute or through a different administrative process. These areas 
can contribute in important ways to social and economic sustainability 
as well as ecologic sustainability. This section would require that 
plan components provide protection and appropriate management guidance 
for those areas, based on the purpose for which the area is 
established.
Section 219.11 Timber Requirements Based on the NFMA
    Timber is one of the multiple uses of the NFS, as recognized by the 
MUSYA and the Act of 1897, also known as the Organic Administration 
Act. The National Forest Management Act of 1976 at the time signaled a 
new direction for the planning and management of NFS lands, especially 
with regard to management of the timber resource and impacts to other 
resources. Management and use of timber harvest on NFS lands continue 
to evolve. Today, harvest of timber on NFS lands occurs for many 
different reasons, including restoration of ecological resilience, 
community protection in wildland urban interfaces, habitat restoration, 
and protection of municipal water supplies. Timber harvest also 
supports economic sustainability through the production of timber, pulp 
for paper, specialty woods for furniture, and fuel for small-scale 
renewable energy projects. Timber harvesting, whether for restoration 
or wood production objectives, also provides employment and tax revenue 
in many counties throughout the country.
    This section would meet the statutory requirements of the NFMA 
related to management of the timber resource. It includes provisions 
for identification of lands as suitable or not suitable for timber 
production. It would allow for timber harvest on lands unsuitable for 
timber production for other reasons, such as for: achieving desired 
conditions and objectives of the plan, multiple use purposes, 
sanitation, salvage, or protection of public health

[[Page 8497]]

and safety. The NFMA, along with the proposed requirements of this 
section, would provide for mitigation of the effects of timber harvest 
on other resources and multiple uses. Other sections of this proposed 
rule contain provisions that would supplement the protections of this 
section.
    The specific factors proposed in this rule for identifying lands 
not suitable for timber production are based on the NFMA requirements 
limiting timber harvest (16 U.S.C. 1604(g)(3)(E)) and agency policy. 
Lands would be suitable for timber production unless they are 
identified in the plan as not suitable, and, as required by the NFMA, 
lands not suitable for timber production must be reviewed every 10 
years to determine whether they are still not suitable. The proposed 
rule clarifies that timber harvest on lands suitable for timber 
production can also occur for other reasons, including resource 
management, restoration, or community protection.
    Paragraph (a)(1)(iv) of this section is a specific factor that 
would not allow lands to be identified as suitable for timber 
production unless technology is currently available for conducting 
timber harvest without causing irreversible damage to soil, slope, or 
other watershed conditions or substantial and permanent impairment of 
the productivity of the land. Available technology may vary from place 
to place, and could be any of the following: Horse logging, ground 
based skidding, aerial systems, or cable logging systems. This 
provision has been in place since the 1979 rule, to meet the NFMA 
obligation to consider physical factors to determine the suitability of 
lands for timber production. The factor has been effective in 
protecting watershed conditions.
    In addition, the proposed rule at paragraph (d) of this section 
would require plan components to ensure that timber will be harvested 
from NFS lands only where such harvest would not violate the NFMA 
prohibition of timber harvest that would irreversibly damage soil, 
slope or other watershed conditions (16 U.S.C. 1604(g)(3)(E)(i)). This 
prohibition applies whether the harvest is for timber production or 
other purposes, and whether or not lands were identified as suited for 
timber production.
    Some people requested the proposed rule change or add to the NFMA 
criteria for defining lands not suitable for timber harvest. The Agency 
believes that the NFMA provisions continue to provide a firm foundation 
for identifying these lands. The proposed rule includes an additional 
requirement that would prohibit timber production where it is not 
compatible with the achievement of desired conditions and objectives 
established by the plan, including those desired conditions and 
objectives designed to meet requirements for plan development or 
revision (Sec.  219.7); social, economic, and ecological sustainability 
(Sec.  219.8); plant and animal diversity (Sec.  219.9); multiple uses 
(Sec.  219.10); and timber (Sec.  219.11). Some people requested that 
additional limits be placed on the harvest of timber on lands not 
suitable for timber production. The Agency believes that the provisions 
of this section would provide a balanced approach, allowing timber 
harvest on lands not suitable for timber production if it serves as a 
tool for achieving or maintaining plan desired conditions or 
objectives. Timber harvest today is used often to achieve ecological 
conditions and other multiple use benefits for purposes other than 
timber production; therefore we have included Sec.  219.11(b)(2) in the 
proposed rule to clarify.
    Paragraph (d) sets forth limits on timber harvest, regardless of 
the reason, on all NFS lands. All plans would, at a minimum, comply 
with the limitations set forth by the NFMA (16 U.S.C. 1604(g)(3)(E) and 
(F)). These requirements would limit harvest to situations where the 
productivity of the land could be sustained and harvesting 
prescriptions are appropriately applied. These requirements are 
referenced but not repeated because the Agency believes they are 
incorporated and enhanced by the requirements for resource protection 
and plan compatibility set forth in this section of the proposed rule. 
However, paragraph (d) does reiterate that harvests must be carried out 
in a manner consistent with the protection of soil, watershed, fish, 
wildlife, recreation, and aesthetic resources.
    Paragraph (d) also includes requirements that track the NFMA at 16 
U.S.C. 1604(g)(3)(F) regarding even-aged timber harvest. These 
requirements: (1) Limit clearcutting to locations where it is 
determined to be the optimum method for regenerating the site; (2) 
require interdisciplinary review of the harvest proposal; (3) require 
cutting to be blended with the natural terrain; (4) establish maximum 
size limits of areas that may be cut; and (5) require that harvest is 
consistent with resource protections. These limits on the maximum 
opening sizes were established in the 1979 planning rules and have been 
in use under the 1982 rule. There were no issues raised about these 
default maximum size limits in the public comments on the notice of 
intent or in the collaborative round tables. The procedure for varying 
these limits is an established process and has worked effectively, 
providing a limit on opening size and public involvement with higher 
level approval for exceeding the limits.
    The Agency believes that the procedure for varying from these 
limits may be particularly justifiable in the future for ecological 
restoration, species recovery, improvement of vegetation diversity, 
mitigation of wildland fire risk, or other reasons. For example, some 
rare species are adapted to large patch sizes with similar habitat 
attributes for critical parts of their life cycle.
    Many of the specific NFMA requirements related to timber harvest 
are not reiterated in the text of the proposed rule, but are 
incorporated by reference. Some requirements are not repeated because 
they are addressed by other regulations; for example, the NEPA 
regulations direct environmental analysis and the use of 
interdisciplinary teams. Other requirements are not repeated because 
they are addressed under separate sections of the proposed rule. For 
example, the minimum harvest limitations are not repeated because Sec.  
219.8 incorporates and exceeds the requirements of the NFMA.
    Many of the NFMA provisions referenced or included in this section 
refer to project level activities. The proposed planning rule provides 
the proposed guidance for developing plans, not guidance for individual 
projects, and it is important to recognize that any individual timber 
project or activity could not provide for all aspects of social, 
economic, or ecological sustainability. However, all projects and 
activities must be consistent with the plan components developed to 
meet the requirements of sustainability, diversity, and multiple uses 
(Sec. Sec.  219.8 through 219.10), as required by Sec.  219.15.
Section 219.12 Monitoring
    Monitoring is a critical part of the proposed planning framework 
that provides a feedback loop for adaptive management and is intended 
to test assumptions underpinning management decisions, track conditions 
relevant to management of resources on the unit, and measure management 
effectiveness and progress toward achieving desired conditions and 
objectives.
    This section sets forth the proposed requirements for the 
monitoring program, including unit-level and broader-scale monitoring. 
The unit-level monitoring program would be informed by the assessment 
phase, developed

[[Page 8498]]

during plan development, plan revision, or amendment, and implemented 
after plan approval. The regional forester would develop broader-scale 
monitoring strategies while the responsible official would develop the 
unit monitoring program. Monitoring results and data would be 
documented in biennial monitoring evaluation reports, which would 
include an assessment of whether or not the new information suggests 
there is a need to change the plan or the monitoring program, or do a 
new assessment.
    In developing the monitoring program, the Agency intends for 
responsible officials to coordinate with each other, with other parts 
of the Agency, and with partners and the public. The proposed rule also 
would require that the responsible official ensure that monitoring 
efforts are integrated with relevant broader-scale monitoring 
strategies to ensure that monitoring is complementary and efficient, 
and that information is gathered at scales appropriate to the 
monitoring questions. The Agency does not intend for the requirements 
in this section to lead to an exhaustive or research-based program; 
monitoring must be targeted toward information needed to inform 
management of resources on each unit.
    The unit-level monitoring program could be changed either in a plan 
revision or amendment, or through an administrative change (Sec. Sec.  
219.6 and 219.13).

Unit-Level Monitoring

    As proposed, the unit-level monitoring program would be part of 
required other content in the plan, developed by the responsible 
official, or two or more responsible officials, during development of a 
new plan or plan revision, with input provided by the public through 
opportunities for public participation throughout the planning process. 
The unit-monitoring program sets out unit-monitoring questions and 
associated indicators, which would be designed to inform the management 
of resources on the unit.
    The responsible official would have the discretion to determine the 
scope and scale of the monitoring program that best meets the 
information needs identified through the planning process as most 
critical for informed management of resources on the unit, taking into 
account existing information and the financial and technical capacity 
of the Agency.
    This section has eight specific requirements for every unit-
monitoring program. This set of requirements is designed to link the 
monitoring program back to the assessment and plan development or 
revision phases of the planning framework and to the substantive 
content requirements set forth in other sections of the proposed rule, 
thereby creating a feedback loop for adaptive management. A range of 
monitoring techniques may be used to meet the eight specific 
requirements.
    Every monitoring program would contain one or more questions or 
indicators that address each of the following: the status of select 
watershed conditions; the status of select ecological conditions; the 
status of focal species; the status of visitor use and progress toward 
meeting recreational objectives; measurable changes on the unit related 
to climate change and other stressors on the unit; the carbon stored in 
above ground vegetation; the progress toward fulfilling the unit's 
distinctive roles and contributions to ecological, social, and economic 
conditions of the local area, region, and Nation; and finally, the 
effects of management systems to determine that they do not 
substantially and permanently impair the productivity of the land.
    Monitoring for ecological and watershed conditions is intended to 
support achievement of the sustainability and diversity requirements of 
Sec. Sec.  219.8 and 219.9, and the provisions of multiple uses 
including ecosystem services in Sec.  219.10.
    The proposed requirement that monitoring questions address the 
status of visitor use and progress toward meeting recreational 
objectives is intended to support achievement of the sustainable 
recreation requirements of Sec.  219.8 and the multiple use 
requirements of Sec.  219.10.
    Monitoring questions developed to measure changes on the unit 
related to climate change and carbon stored in above ground vegetation 
are intended to help responsible officials understand potential impacts 
to resources from climate change, as well as contributions of the unit 
to carbon storage. Currently, the Agency tracks information about 
climate change influences and carbon storage using the Forest Inventory 
and Analysis (FIA) through protocols of the Research and Development 
branch of the Forest Service. The FIA protocol has been an ongoing 
process for some time. Although they are a required part of the unit 
monitoring program, it is likely that these monitoring requirements 
would be coordinated with other agency actions on climate change, and 
would be met using a broader-scale approach.
    Monitoring questions to measure progress toward fulfilling the 
unit's distinctive roles and contributions to the ecological, social, 
and economic conditions of the local area, region, and Nation are 
intended to help the responsible official understand how resources on 
the unit would contribute to sustainability both locally and in the 
context of the broader landscape. Monitoring questions that focus on 
the plan components of desired conditions (the vision for future 
conditions) and objectives (strategy to make progress toward achieving 
desired conditions) are expected to be most useful for meeting this 
requirement.
    Monitoring to determine that management systems are not 
substantially or permanently impairing the productivity of the land is 
intended to meet the NFMA requirements.

Focal Species and Management Indicator Species

    The proposed requirement for monitoring questions that address the 
status of focal species is linked to the requirement of Sec.  219.9 of 
the proposed rule to provide for ecosystem diversity, which describes 
the coarse filter approach for providing diversity of plant and animal 
communities. The term ``focal species'' is defined in the rule as: a 
small number of species selected for monitoring whose status is likely 
to be responsive to changes in ecological conditions and effects of 
management. Monitoring the status of focal species is one of many ways 
to gauge progress toward achieving desired conditions in the plan.
    There are several categories of species that could be used to 
inform the selection of focal species for the unit. These include 
indicator species, keystone species, ecological engineers, umbrella 
species, link species, species of concern, and others.
    Monitoring the status of selected focal species over time is 
intended to provide insight into the integrity of ecological systems on 
which those species depend and the effects of management on those 
ecological conditions (i.e., the coarse filter aspect of the diversity 
requirement). It is not expected that a focal species be selected for 
every element of ecological conditions. The proposed requirement for 
the responsible official to monitor a small number of focal species is 
intended to allow discretion to choose the number needed to properly 
assess the relevant ecological conditions across the planning area, 
within the financial and technical capabilities of the Agency.
    The choice to have the proposed rule require monitoring of focal 
species as well as select ecological and watershed conditions is a 
shift from the 1982 rule's requirement to specifically monitor

[[Page 8499]]

population trends of ``management indicator species,'' or MIS. The 
theory of MIS has been discredited since the 1982 rule. Essentially, 
monitoring the population trend of one species should not be 
extrapolated to form conclusions regarding the status and trends of 
other species. In addition, population trends for most species are 
extremely difficult to determine within the 15-year life of a plan, as 
it may take decades to establish accurate trend data, and data may be 
needed for a broader area than an individual national forest or 
grassland. Instead, the Agency expects to take advantage of recent 
technological advancements in monitoring the status of focal species, 
such as genetic sampling to estimate area occupied by species.

Broader-Scale Monitoring Strategies

    The proposed rule would require the regional forester to develop a 
broader-scale monitoring strategy for those monitoring questions that 
could best be answered at a scale broader than one unit; for example, 
detecting changes in conditions related to wide-ranging or migratory 
species or measuring stressors such as climate change.
    The proposed broader-scale monitoring strategy would be a new 
requirement for the Agency. Other options were considered, such as 
requiring only a unit-level monitoring program without any specific 
monitoring requirements. However, the Agency believes that having 
broader-scale monitoring strategies provides a way to distribute the 
monitoring workload most efficiently. Unit-level monitoring would be 
focused on answering questions directly related to the management of an 
individual plan area, and that are within the capability of the unit to 
measure. Broader-scale monitoring would look at how plans fit within 
the larger landscape, taking into account drivers and stressors 
affecting large ecosystems, multiple land ownerships, and information 
available from other branches of the Agency as well as other 
governmental and nongovernmental partners.

Coordinating Unit-Level and Broad-Scale Approaches

    The Agency recognizes that the timing of plan revisions and the 
development of broader-scale strategies needs to be coordinated. In 
some cases, a plan revision for a unit may not be scheduled for 8 or 10 
years, which would delay the development and implementation of an 
effective broader-scale strategy. To address this concern, the Agency 
proposes that within 4 years of the effective date of the rule, or as 
soon as practicable, all units would change their unit-monitoring 
program to comply with the requirements of this section.

Biennial Evaluations

    Many scientists, agency employees, and the public emphasized the 
importance of using monitoring to measure the effectiveness of plans 
and regularly evaluate monitoring results to change the plan or to 
change management activities. Others wanted to use pre-determined 
thresholds, called triggers, to initiate a change to management 
activities. These concerns are addressed by the proposed requirement 
that the responsible official conduct a biennial evaluation of the 
monitoring information and determine whether there is a need for an 
administrative correction, a plan amendment, or plan revision. The 
biennial evaluation of monitoring information is intended to provide a 
report on progress toward meeting desired conditions and other plan 
components to determine whether additional actions are necessary. The 
biennial monitoring evaluation does not need to evaluate all questions 
or indicators on a biennial basis but must focus on new data and 
results that provide new information for management.
    The Agency considered other timeframes for the evaluation, such as 
an annual evaluation or a 5-year evaluation. The Agency experience is 
that an annual evaluation is too frequent to determine trends or to 
accumulate meaningful information and the 5-year time frame is too long 
to wait in order to respond to changing conditions. Therefore, the 
Agency proposes that the monitoring evaluation would occur at a 2-year 
interval.
    The Agency also considered requiring pre-determined thresholds or 
triggers to initiate a change to management activities. The Agency 
experience is that pre-determined thresholds may be quite difficult to 
develop and therefore may take years to formulate when there is 
uncertainty regarding scientific or other information. Instead, during 
the biennial evaluation, the responsible official would decide whether 
the monitoring data indicates that a change to the plan or management 
activities is warranted. Changes to the monitoring program would also 
be considered based on the evaluation, to ensure that monitoring 
remains effective and relevant.
    The first monitoring evaluation for a plan or plan revision 
developed under this proposed rule would have to be produced no later 
than 2 years from the time of plan approval. For plan monitoring 
programs that were developed under the provisions of a prior planning 
regulation, the first monitoring evaluation would have to be produced 
no later than 2 years from any change made to meet the requirements of 
this section. The proposed rule would require all units to change their 
monitoring programs to conform to this section of the rule within 4 
years of the effective date of the rule, or as soon as practicable.
    The public notice of the availability of the monitoring evaluation 
report may be made in any way the responsible official deems 
appropriate (Sec.  219.16(c)(5)). The responsible official may post on 
the Forest Service Web site. The responsible official may postpone the 
monitoring evaluation for 1 year after providing notice to the public 
in the case of exigencies such as a natural disaster or catastrophic 
fire.
Section 219.13 Plan Amendment and Administrative Changes
    This section sets out the proposed process for changing plans 
through plan amendments or administrative changes. The requirements in 
this section are intended to facilitate rapid amendment and adjustment 
of plans. The section would allow the responsible official to use new 
information obtained from the monitoring program or other sources and 
react to changing conditions to amend or change the plan.
    Public comments emphasized the need for the Agency to have a 
framework for adaptive management. Under this proposed rule's 
framework, the Agency anticipates the availability of more complete 
information provided through the unit-monitoring program and evaluation 
reports. The framework is also expected to facilitate more 
collaboration with the public and a more efficient amendment process. 
Comments about how to change the plan ranged from a desire for a 
flexible and rapid approach to plan changes, to those who wanted more 
structure and requirements for both the process of planning and actual 
content of the plan. The Agency believes the approach taken in the 
proposed rule strikes an appropriate balance with rule requirements 
commensurate with the three methods of changing the plan described 
below.
    Plan revisions as described in Sec.  219.7 contain more 
comprehensive requirements, as the revision stage is the appropriate 
time for a comprehensive evaluation of the plan. As noted in Sec.  
219.7, plan revisions are required every 15 years. However, the 
responsible official has the discretion to determine at any time that 
conditions

[[Page 8500]]

on a unit have changed significantly such that a plan must be revised. 
A plan revision before the 15-year requirement has been rare in the 
past, and is expected to be rare in the future.
    Plan amendments incrementally change the plan as need arises. Plan 
amendments could range from project specific amendments, amendments of 
one plan component, to the amendment of multiple plan components. 
Finally, the proposed rule allows for administrative changes, which 
would allow for rapid correction of errors in the plan components and 
rapid adjustment of other content in the plan.

Plan Amendments

    The proposed rule would provide that the responsible official could 
amend plans or change the plan at any time. Plan amendments would be 
required whenever a plan component would be materially altered 
(clerical errors could be corrected by an administrative change). Plan 
amendments may change other content in the plan. The process 
requirements for plan amendments and administrative changes would be 
simpler than those for new plan development or plan revisions in order 
to allow responsible officials to keep plans current and adapt to new 
information or changed conditions.
    The proposed rule would require that for new plans or plan 
revisions responsible officials conduct an assessment and 
collaboratively develop the plan proposal prior to issuing a proposed 
plan and environmental documents, entertaining objections to the 
proposed plan, and approving the plan or plan revision. Amendments may 
include each of those steps, but the proposed rule would allow the 
responsible official to rely on a documented need to change the plan to 
propose an amendment without doing an assessment or including the 
separate process step of developing a proposal before issuing a 
proposed amendment.
    An amendment would be preceded by a documented need to change the 
plan, set out in an assessment report, monitoring evaluation report, or 
other source. For example, a monitoring evaluation report may show that 
a plan standard is not sufficiently protecting streambeds, indicating 
that a change to that standard may be needed to achieve the unit's 
objective or desired condition for riparian areas. In that case, the 
responsible official could choose to act quickly to propose an 
amendment to change that particular plan component, without doing an 
additional assessment or developing a proposal that goes further than 
the specific need to change the plan clearly indicated by the 
monitoring report.
    However, the responsible official could choose to conduct an 
assessment and take additional time to develop a proposal when the 
potential amendment is broader or more complex or requires an updated 
understanding of the landscape-scale context for management. For 
example, a monitoring evaluation report may indicate that a new 
invasive species is affecting forest health on the unit. The 
responsible official may want to conduct an assessment to synthesize 
new information about the spread of that species, how other units or 
land management agencies are dealing with the threat, what stressors 
make a resource more vulnerable to the species, how the species may be 
impacting social or economic values, or how neighboring landowners are 
approaching removal of the species. The outcome of the assessment may 
identify a need to change the plan through an amendment. The 
responsible official, consistent with the requirements for public 
participation in Sec.  219.4, would then collaboratively develop with 
the public a proposal to amend several plan components to deal with the 
invasive species.
    For plan amendments done to make a specific project or activity 
consistent with a plan, the project analysis alone would likely suffice 
to document the need to change the plan.
    All plan amendments must comply with Forest Service NEPA 
procedures. The proposed rule provides that appropriate NEPA 
documentation for an amendment could be an EIS, an environmental 
assessment (EA), or a categorical exclusion (CE) depending upon the 
scope and scale of the amendment and its likely effects.

Administrative Changes

    Administrative changes would be permitted to correct clerical 
errors to plan components, to alter content in the plan other than the 
plan components, or to achieve conformance of the plan to new statutory 
or regulatory requirements. A clerical error is an error of the 
presentation of material in the plan such as phrasing, grammar, 
typographic errors, or minor errors in data or mapping that were 
appropriately evaluated in the development of the plan, plan revision, 
or plan amendment.
    An administrative change could not otherwise be used to change plan 
components or the location in the plan area where plan components 
apply, except to conform the plan to new statutory or regulatory 
requirements. Whether an administrative change or an amendment would be 
done to conform plan components to a new statutory or regulatory 
requirement would depend upon the requirement. A requirement that would 
allow no discretion in management would call for simply an 
administrative change, as there would be no decision for the 
responsible official to make, and no reason for public input. For 
example, an addition of lands to an existing wilderness boundary would 
call for simply extending the wilderness plan components to the newly 
included lands, as there would be no reason to manage those lands 
differently from the rest of the wilderness. In contrast, designation 
of an entirely new wilderness would require a plan amendment to ensure 
appropriate public involvement in the development of plan components 
for the new wilderness area.
    Other content in the plan that could be altered with an 
administrative change, as identified in Sec.  219.7(e), includes the 
monitoring plan, the identification of watersheds that are a priority 
for maintenance or restoration, the unit's distinctive roles and 
contributions, and information about proposed or possible actions that 
may occur on the unit during the life of the plan. The plan may also 
include additional items such as other content in the plan, including 
management approaches or strategies; partnership opportunities and 
coordination activities; or criteria for priority areas or activities 
to achieve objectives of the plan.
    An example of how the responsible official may conform the plan to 
a new statutory requirement would be if a new wilderness bill becomes 
law and it adds land to an existing wilderness area. To comply with the 
law, the responsible official may modify the management area map 
contained within the plan through an administrative change. This change 
would allow the existing plan components for the existing wilderness 
area to apply to the additional land. If the responsible official 
determines an administrative change is appropriate, the responsible 
official would post notice of the administrative change on the planning 
unit's Web site.
    The proposed rule would require the responsible official to provide 
public notice before issuing an administrative change. If the change 
would be to the monitoring program, the responsible official would 
provide public notice and an opportunity for the public to comment on 
the intended change and consider public concerns and suggestions before 
making a change. Following this notification, the

[[Page 8501]]

responsible official would adjust the plan. The Agency believes that 
allowing administrative changes to other content, other than plan 
components, would help the responsible official adapt to changing 
conditions, while requiring the responsible official to notify the 
public.
Section 219.14 Decision Documents and Planning Records
    The proposed rule would require the responsible official to record 
approval of a new plan, plan revision, or amendment in a decision 
document prepared according to Forest Service NEPA procedures. This 
section describes requirements for decision documents and associated 
records for approval of plans, plan amendments, or plan revisions.

Decision Document

    Many members of the public have expressed a desire for greater 
transparency to help understand decisionmaking in the development, 
revision, and amendment of plans. The proposed rule would require the 
decision document to describe the rationale for approval of a plan. It 
further would require that the decision document include an explanation 
of how plan components meet plan requirements for sustainability and 
diversity set forth in Sec. Sec.  219.8 and 219.9. This explanation 
would allow the responsible official to say what the plan components 
are designed to do given the limits of Forest Service authority and the 
capability of the plan area. In addition the explanation would be 
required to describe how the plan applies to approved projects and 
activities (Sec.  219.15(a)), and how the best available scientific 
information was taken into account and applied (Sec.  219.3). The 
decision documents must contain research station director concurrence 
on experimental forests and ranges (Sec.  219.2(b)(4)) to ensure proper 
coordination between the Research and NFS branches for the management 
of these areas. The effective date of approval (Sec.  219.17) would 
also be required to clarify the exact date the plan action takes 
effect.
    These requirements would help provide a clearer understanding of 
the approval, the reasons for approving the plan, plan revision, or 
plan amendment and its immediate consequences in a way that is clear to 
all participants in the planning process.
    Meeting the proposed requirements for a plan development or plan 
revision would require a comprehensive discussion of each of these 
requirements with respect to the plan. For an amendment, these 
requirements would only need to be described for those plan components 
being changed by the plan amendment. For example, if a plan amendment 
does not change plan components applicable to an experimental forest or 
range, there would be no need to document the research station 
director's concurrence with the amendment. For plan development or 
revision, the decision document would also be accompanied by a final 
EIS. A plan amendment would be accompanied by appropriate NEPA 
documentation.

Planning Records

    This section also sets forth basic requirements for the responsible 
official to maintain public documents related to the plan and 
monitoring program. It would require the responsible official to ensure 
that certain key documents are readily accessible to the public online 
and through other means. The published planning documents associated 
with a plan, plan revision, or amendment are listed in paragraph (b)(1) 
of this section. These documents must be posted online. Other documents 
that support the analytical conclusions and alternatives of the 
planning process would be part of the planning record and must be 
available to the public although they would not be required to be 
online. The planning record for each plan, plan revision, or amendment 
would be required to be maintained and available to the public at the 
office that developed that plan, plan revision, or amendment.
Section 219.15 Project and Activity Consistency With the Plan
    The NFMA requires that ``resource plans and permits, contracts and 
other instruments for the use and occupancy of National Forest System 
lands shall be consistent with the land management plans'' (16 U.S.C. 
1604(i)). However, no previous planning rule provided specific criteria 
to evaluate consistency of projects or activities with the plan. Forest 
Service policy was that consistency could only be determined with 
respect to standards and guidelines, or just standards. See the 1991 
Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking 56 FR 6508, 6519-6520 (Feb. 15, 
1991) and the 1995 Proposed Rule, at 60 FR 18886, 18902, 18909 (April 
13, 1995).
    The Forest Service's position has been that a project's consistency 
with a land management plan could only be determined with respect to 
standards and guidelines, because an individual project by itself could 
almost never achieve objectives and desired conditions. Objectives and 
desired conditions are long-term aspirations whose achievement would 
depend on the cumulative effect of a number of agency actions, and 
often on factors outside the agency's control.
    We continue to believe that the consistency requirement cannot be 
interpreted to require achievement of the aspirational components of a 
plan, but we believe that we can interpret the consistency requirement, 
in a way that makes those components more meaningful in the day-to-day 
management of the unit. The proposed rule therefore would provide that 
each project must be expected to either to move the plan area toward 
desired conditions and objectives, or at least not to preclude the 
eventual achievement of desired conditions or objectives.
    This interpretation would apply to plans developed under this rule. 
Plans developed under prior rules were not developed with this 
interpretation in mind, and therefore applying this interpretation to 
projects governed by such plans would not be feasible or appropriate.
    This section would provide that projects and activities authorized 
after approval of a plan, plan revision, or plan amendment developed 
pursuant to this rule must be consistent with plan components as set 
forth in this section. Project approval documents would have to 
describe how the project or activity is consistent in order for it to 
be considered as such. The proposed rule specifies criteria to evaluate 
consistency with the plan for each plan component.
    The proposed rule states that a project or activity must contribute 
to the maintenance or attainment of one or more goals, desired 
conditions, or objectives, or must not foreclose the opportunity to 
maintain or achieve any goal, desired condition, or objective over the 
long term. Desired conditions, objectives, and/or goals are all 
expected to provide the purpose and need for most projects and 
activities; thus, most projects or activities would usually be designed 
to meet one or more of these plan components. For example, if a plan 
has an objective to construct X number of trails for recreation over Y 
years, a project to build trails would be consistent with that 
objective.
    However, even when a project is proposed for a reason other than to 
meet a desired condition, objective, or goal (for example, an 
unexpected proposed use such as a new permit application), the project 
would be consistent if and only if it does not foreclose the 
possibility of achieving any desired conditions, objectives, and goals 
of the plan. As an example, a project is

[[Page 8502]]

proposed to repair the effects of a landslide, but the plan does not 
describe desired soil conditions, or objectives for repairing 
landslides. If the repair project does not prevent achieving other 
goals, desired conditions, or objectives, the project would be 
consistent with these plan components.
    This paragraph of the proposed rule also would require projects or 
activities to comply with applicable standards. Projects or activities 
would also have to be consistent with applicable guidelines, but 
consistency may be determined in one of two ways. The project or 
activity either must comply with the applicable guidelines or must be 
designed in a way that is as effective in carrying out the intended 
contribution to the applicable goals, desired conditions, or 
objectives; avoiding or mitigating undesirable effects; or meeting 
applicable legal requirements.
    For example, a plan could contain a guideline designed to protect a 
riparian area that recommends not allowing soil-disturbing activities 
within 300 feet from the edge of a perennial stream. The responsible 
official could propose to eliminate or control invasive species of 
plants with prescribed burning, which would require a mechanical 
fireline within 200 feet of the same stream and other streams and 
wetlands. After site-specific examination, an interdisciplinary team 
might recommend that the fireline be allowed in that location, if 
sediment fences, slash, logs across slopes, and straw bales are used to 
protect water quality in the nearby stream from sediment (loose soil) 
in stormwater runoff. A responsible official may conclude that the 
project, as designed, is consistent with the guideline since its 
mitigation measures are as effective as the 300 foot recommendation in 
contributing to desired conditions for the stream system.
    For the suitability plan component, the project or activity would 
be consistent if it occurred in an area the plan has identified as 
suitable for that type of project or activity, or in an area for which 
the plan is silent with respect to the suitability of that type of 
project or activity.
    This section of the proposed rule would give the responsible 
official four options to resolve inconsistency, subject to valid 
existing rights, when it is determined that a proposed project or 
activity would be inconsistent with the plan. The project or activity 
may be modified so that it is consistent, or may be rejected, or 
terminated. Alternately, the responsible official could make a general 
amendment to the plan so the project or activity is consistent with the 
plan as amended. The responsible official could also make a project-
specific amendment contemporaneously with the approval of the project 
or activity so that it is consistent with the plan as amended.
    Project specific amendments are usually short-lived with the 
project, very localized to the project area, and have limited utility 
outside of the project activity. Project specific amendments allow 
appropriate action or a reasonable project to continue without 
unnecessary delay for a larger permanent amendment process. This 
provides a means to accommodate exceptions.
    The Agency has experienced difficulties determining how new plan 
components and content in a plan apply to existing projects and 
activities when amending or revising plans. This section would require 
(with respect to projects and activities approved before the effective 
date of the plan, plan amendment, or plan revision) that either: (1) 
The plan approval document must expressly allow such projects to go 
forward or continue, and thus deem them consistent, or (2) in the 
absence of such express provision, the authorizing instrument (permit, 
contract, etc.) approving the use, occupancy, project, or activity must 
be adjusted as soon as practicable to be consistent with the plan, plan 
amendment, or plan revision, subject to valid existing rights.
    Other types of plans may be developed for the lands or resources of 
the unit. These resource plans, such as travel management plans, wild 
and scenic river plans, etc., provide further guidance for approval of 
projects or activities; therefore, they would also be required to be 
consistent with the applicable land management plan. If such plans are 
not consistent, modifications of the resource plan must be made or 
amendments to the land management plan must be made to resolve any 
inconsistencies.
Section 219.16 Public Notifications
    The proposed rule represents a significant new investment in public 
engagement designed to involve the public early and throughout the 
planning process. The Agency is making this investment in the belief 
that public participation throughout the planning process would result 
in a more informed public, better plans, and plans that are more 
broadly accepted by the public than in the past. This section is the 
companion to Sec.  219.4, which sets forth direction for responsible 
officials to engage the public and provide opportunities for interested 
individuals, entities, and governments to participate in the planning 
process. In this section, the proposed rule sets forth requirements for 
public notification designed to ensure that information about the 
process reaches the public in a timely and accessible manner. This 
section describes when public notification is required, how it must be 
provided, and what must be included in each notice. The requirements in 
this section respond to the consensus that people want to be informed 
about the various stages of the planning process, with clear parameters 
for when and how they could get involved.
    Public notification would be required to begin preparation of an 
assessment; begin the development of a plan proposal; propose a plan, 
plan amendment, or plan revision and invite comments on the proposed 
plan, plan amendment, or plan revision and accompanying environmental 
documentation; begin the objection period for a plan, plan amendment, 
or plan revision; and announce final approval of a plan, plan revision, 
or plan amendment (Sec.  219.16(a)). Notice would also be required if a 
responsible official chose to use a new planning rule to complete a 
plan, plan revision, or plan amendment initiated under the previous 
rule; and for administrative changes, changes to the monitoring 
program, assessment reports, and monitoring evaluation reports. Notice 
and public involvement in the assessment phase and development of a 
plan proposal are especially significant additions to the requirements 
for public notice included in prior planning regulations.
    Discussions at several public meetings emphasized the importance of 
updating the way we provide notice to the public to ensure that we 
successfully reach a diverse array of people and communities and inform 
them about the process and how they could participate. Many people said 
that using only one outreach method would not reach all needed 
communities. In response, Sec.  219.16 directs responsible officials to 
use contemporary tools to provide notice to the public, and, at a 
minimum, to post all notices on the relevant Forest Service Web site. 
In addition, the proposed rule continues to require traditional forms 
of formal notice, including the Federal Register or the applicable 
newspaper of record, for assessments and approval of plans, plan 
revisions, and plan amendments. For administrative changes, changes to 
the monitoring plan, and publication of assessment or monitoring 
reports, the responsible official must post the notice online and has 
discretion in

[[Page 8503]]

determining other means of providing notice.
    Public notices required in this section of the proposed rule must 
clearly describe the action subject to notice and the nature and scope 
of the decisions to be made; identify the responsible official; 
describe when, where, and how the responsible official will provide 
opportunities for the public to participate in the planning process; 
and explain how to obtain additional information about the action being 
taken or about the planning process. These requirements respond to the 
public's desire for clarity in communications to ensure the process is 
understandable and accessible.
    This section of the proposed rule provides that ``formal 
notifications may be combined where appropriate.'' This provision would 
allow flexibility for plan amendments to have a more streamlined, 
efficient process than new plans or plan revisions, where appropriate. 
This approach is in keeping with the public's desire and the Agency's 
need for a process that allows units to quickly and efficiently adapt 
to new information and changing conditions. (See Sec.  219.13 for 
further discussion.)
    The requirements as proposed in Sec.  219.16, along with those in 
Sec.  219.4, should lead to a public participation effort that provides 
broad access and attempts to engage and meet the unique information 
needs of the public interested or affected by management on each unit.
Section 219.17 Effective Dates and Transition
    Section 219.17 of the proposed rule describes when approval of 
plans, plan revisions, or plan amendments would take effect and when 
units must begin to use the new planning regulations.
    A plan, plan amendment, or plan revision would take effect 30 days 
after plan approval is published. The NFMA (16 U.S.C. 1604(j)) requires 
the 30-day delay for plans and revisions. The proposed rule would also 
impose this delay upon amendments to be consistent with the process for 
plan development and plan revision. The only exception is for project 
specific amendments, which would take effect at the same time as the 
project(s) with which they are associated.
    When the final rule goes into effect, new plans and plan revisions 
must conform to the new planning requirements in Subpart A. There would 
be a 3-year transition window during which amendments may be initiated 
and completed using the 2000 rule or the amendments may conform to the 
new rule. After 3 years, all new plan amendments would conform to the 
new rule. This transition period for new amendments would give the 
responsible official the option to facilitate rapid amendments to plans 
developed under previous rules for a limited time, until full 
familiarity with the new rule develops. No transition period would be 
provided for new plans or plan revisions. Plan revisions are 
comprehensive and the new regulations should be applied as soon 
practicable.
    For plan activity (plan development, plan revision, or plan 
amendment) initiated before the new rule goes into effect, the 
responsible official may choose whether to complete the plan using the 
2000 rule, as it is in effect now, or conform to the requirements of 
the new rule after providing notice to the public. This would allow the 
responsible official to consider many factors and determine what is 
best for the planning process on the unit.
    After it goes into effect, the new rule will supersede all previous 
planning rules. Units with plans developed under the 1982 rule or rule 
procedures would no longer be subject to the requirements of the 1982 
rule, but would continue to be subject to any requirements included in 
their plan. Activities and projects on those units would have to meet 
the requirements of the plan. This paragraph in the proposed rule is 
needed for clarity so that all NFS units understand they are subject to 
the new planning rule for plan development, plan amendment, and plan 
revision, while still requiring NFS units to follow the plan provisions 
of their current plans.
Section 219.18 Severability
    If any part of this proposed rule is held invalid by a court, this 
section provides that the invalid part would be severed from the other 
parts of the rule, which would remain valid.
Section 219.19 Definitions
    This section sets out and defines the special terms used in this 
proposed rule.
    The Agency is about to ask for public comment on a proposed change 
to Forest Service Manual (FSM) 2020--Ecological Restoration and 
Resilience, which includes the definition of restoration. FSM 2020 
provides foundational policy for using ecological restoration to manage 
National Forest System lands in a sustainable manner. The definition 
for restoration also appears in FSM 2020. The proposed rule definition 
is based on the definition in the current FSM 2020, but is not 
identical. The current directive may be found at http://www.fs.fed.us/im/directives/fsm/2000/id_2020-2010-1.doc. If you are interested in 
restoration, we hope you also review the proposed changes to FSM 2020 
when the proposed directive is issued for public comment.
    The Forest Service Directive System consists of the Forest Service 
Manual (FSM) and the Forest Service Handbook (FSH), which contain the 
Agency's policies, practices, and procedures and serve as the primary 
basis for the internal management and control of programs and 
administrative direction to Forest Service employees. The directives 
for all Agency programs are set out on the World Wide Web/Internet at 
http://www.fs.fed.us/im/directives.

Subpart B--Pre-Decisional Administrative Review Process

Introduction to This Subpart
    The Forest Service has provided an administrative review process 
for decisions and proposals related to land management plans since they 
were first produced in the 1980s, and an appeal process by which the 
public can challenge individual project and permit decisions made by 
Forest Service responsible officials since 1906. The Forest Service has 
a long history of providing an administrative review process that has 
allowed interested individuals and organizations the opportunity to 
have unresolved concerns considered and responded to by an independent 
agency official at a level above the deciding official. This process 
has also provided for additional internal review to ensure that Forest 
Service proposals and decisions comply with applicable laws, 
regulations, and agency policy.
    Prior to the 2000 rule, the administrative review process for unit 
plan decisions provided an opportunity for a post-decisional appeal. In 
other words, at the time the plan decision was issued, the plan was 
generally put into effect. This scenario has often been problematic 
because when reviewing appeals, if a reviewing officer finds fault with 
a plan already in effect, the remedy can be costly to both the Forest 
Service and the public in terms of time and money. Such a situation can 
also damage public trust in the planning process. Interim direction is 
often put into place while the responsible official prepares further 
analysis and other appropriate corrections.
    With the promulgation of the 2000 planning regulations, and in 
subsequent regulations promulgated in 2005 and 2008, the Agency moved 
toward a pre-decisional administrative review process called an 
objection process.

[[Page 8504]]

This process allows interested individuals to voice objections and 
point out potential errors or violations of law, regulations, or agency 
policy prior to approval of a decision. An objection prompts an 
independent administrative review by an official at a level above the 
deciding official and a process for resolution of issues. This change 
was intended to provide for better decisions and efficient resolution 
of issues. The Forest Service has successfully used a similar process 
since 2004 for administrative review of hazardous fuel reduction 
projects developed pursuant to the Healthy Forests Restoration Act; 
however, there has been limited application of the objection process to 
land management plan proposals due to legal challenges to the previous 
three planning regulations.
    After a review of public comments and consideration of agency 
history regarding pre- or post-decision administrative appeal in this 
proposed rule, the objection process is proposed. This proposal is 
based on two primary considerations. First, a pre-decisional objection 
is more consistent with the collaborative nature of this proposed rule 
and encourages interested parties to bring specific concerns forward 
early in the planning process, allowing the Forest Service a chance to 
consider and respond to potential problems in a plan or decision before 
it is approved. Second, pre-decisional objections lead to a more timely 
and efficient process for developing plans, thus reducing waste of 
taxpayer and agency time and dollars spent implementing projects under 
plans subsequently found to be flawed.
    Subpart B sets forth the requirements for the objection process in 
the proposed rule, explained in detail below.
Section 219.50 Purpose and Scope
    This section states that the purpose of the subpart is to establish 
a process for pre-decisional administrative review of plans, plan 
amendments, and plan revisions.
Section 219.51 Plans, Plan Amendments, or Plan Revisions Not Subject to 
Objection
    This section identifies those plans, plan amendments, or plan 
revisions that would not be subject to the pre-decisional objection 
process under the proposed rule. Specifically, if no individual or 
organization would be eligible to file an objection based on the 
requirements in Sec.  219.53(a), then the plan proposal would not be 
subject to objection. Plans, plan amendments, or plan revisions 
proposed by the Secretary of Agriculture or the Under Secretary for 
Natural Resources and Environment would not be subject to the objection 
process of this subpart because the Department's position for all 
Forest Service administrative review processes has been that 
secretarial decisions are not subject to administrative review (the 
Agency anticipates that plans, plan amendments, or plan revisions 
proposed by the Secretary or Under Secretary would be rare 
occurrences); and if another administrative review process is used, the 
process in this subpart would not apply. Section 219.59 identifies the 
limited circumstances in which a different administrative review 
process may be used.
Section 219.52 Giving Notice of a Plan, Plan Amendment, or Plan 
Revision Subject to Objection Before Approval
    Section 219.52 provides additional information for providing the 
public notice, required by section 219.16 subpart A, that would begin 
the objection filing period. This notice serves three particular 
purposes: (1) To notify parties eligible to file objections that the 
objection filing period is commencing; (2) to notify parties eligible 
to file objections and others of the availability of planning documents 
and how to obtain those documents; and (3) to establish a publicly and 
legally verifiable start date for the objection filing period.
    Section 219.52 would require the Forest Service to make a special 
effort to ensure the public understands how the objection process in 
this subpart would be used for each plan, plan amendment, and plan 
revision. Specifically, the responsible official would be required to 
disclose the objection procedures by stating so during scoping under 
the NEPA process and in the appropriate NEPA documents. Early 
disclosure would help assure that those parties who may want to file 
objections are aware of the necessary steps to be eligible.
    The proposed rule also would require the responsible official to 
make the public notice for beginning the objection filing period 
available to those who have requested the environmental documents or 
who are eligible to file an objection. This is intended to ensure that 
the necessary information reaches those who have specifically requested 
it and those who could have a particular interest in the start of the 
objection filing period by virtue of their eligibility to file an 
objection.
    Paragraph (c) outlines the format and content of the public notice 
to ensure potential objectors have necessary procedural information, 
can find underlying documents, and understand the process, timing, and 
requirements for filing an objection.
Section 219.53 Who May File an Objection
    This section of the rule identifies eligibility requirements for 
filing an objection under this subpart. This section is written in the 
context of Sec.  219.4 in Subpart A, which expresses the Agency's 
intent to involve the public early and throughout the planning process 
in keeping with the collaborative nature of this proposed rule.
    Paragraph (a) provides that individuals and organizations who have 
submitted ``formal comments'' related to a plan, plan amendment, or 
plan revision during public participation opportunities provided in 
planning process for that decision could file an objection. ``Formal 
comments'' are defined at Sec.  219.63 as ``written comments submitted 
to, or oral comments recorded by, the responsible official or his/her 
designee during an opportunity for public participation provided during 
the planning process and attributed to the individual or organization 
providing them.'' This requirement would allow those who have engaged 
in the process in a substantive way to object to the plan decision. 
Since formal comments could be made at opportunities for public 
participation provided at any point in the planning process, the Agency 
believes it is not too high of a burden for a potential objector. The 
definition specifically would allow oral comments to be formally 
recorded in order to accommodate individuals new to the process or 
those who would prefer to submit their comments orally. At the same 
time, the requirement would include parameters for submitting formal 
comments to ensure the proposed rule would not inadvertently impose an 
unachievable burden on Forest Service officials to record every comment 
made, or written submission sent, outside of the offered participation 
opportunities. To honor the collaborative process and encourage 
participation in the numerous opportunities provided for public 
participation, this requirement would bar individuals or organizations 
who did not participate from using the objection process.
    Paragraph (a) further would require that objections must be based 
on the substance of the objector's formal comments, unless the 
objection concerns an issue that arose after the opportunities for 
formal comment.

[[Page 8505]]

Furthermore, the burden would rest with the objector to demonstrate 
compliance with the requirements for objection. This is to ensure that 
the Forest Service has the opportunity to hear and respond to potential 
problems as early as possible in the process so that new substantive 
problems are not identified at the end of the planning process when 
they could have been previously addressed.
    Paragraph (b) states that when an organization submits comments, 
eligibility to submit an objection would be conferred on that 
organization only, not on individual members of that organization. The 
Agency believes an organization is its own entity for purposes of 
submitting comments, and that it is appropriate to accord an 
organization eligibility to file objections as an organization after 
submitting comments. However, the Agency does not believe it is 
appropriate to allow individual members in that organization to file 
objections by virtue of membership in an organization that submitted 
comments. Nothing in this section would prohibit an individual member 
of an organization from submitting comments on his or her own behalf.
    Paragraph (c) clarifies that if an objection is submitted on behalf 
of a number of named individuals or organizations, each individual or 
organization listed must meet the eligibility requirements of paragraph 
(a) to be considered objectors. However, as long as at least one 
individual or organization listed meets the eligibility requirements 
and the objection is not otherwise flawed, the Forest Service must 
accept the objection. Objections rejected because they were not filed 
by an eligible individual or organization must be documented in the 
planning record, but they would not receive a response from the 
reviewing officer.
    Paragraph (d) states that Federal agencies may not file an 
objection. Other avenues, including consultations required by various 
environmental protection laws, are available to Federal agencies for 
working through concerns regarding a proposed plan, plan amendment, or 
plan revision. It is expected that Federal agencies will work 
cooperatively during the planning process.
    Paragraph (e) would allow Federal employees to file objections as 
individuals in a manner consistent with Federal conflict of interest 
requirements.
Section 219.54 Filing an Objection
    This section provides information on how to file an objection. 
Paragraph (a) would provide for an objection to be filed with the 
reviewing officer in writing and would require all objections be open 
to public inspection during the objection process.
    Paragraph (b) would provide that incorporation of documents by 
reference not be allowed, with specific exceptions listed. This 
provision would ensure the contents and substance of an objection, 
including all attachments, are readily understandable and available to 
the reviewing officer for timely completion of the objection process. 
Similarly, objectors must provide arguments and supporting 
documentation, and cannot meet the requirements of this process by 
attempting to incorporate by reference substantive materials and 
arguments. The Federal courts have taken a similar view of such 
procedural maneuvers; see Swanson v. U.S. Forest Service, 87 F.3d 339 
(9th Cir. 1996).
    Paragraph (c) provides a detailed list of information that must be 
included in an objection. The list is very similar to Department 
requirements in the objection regulations for hazardous fuel reduction 
projects authorized under the Healthy Forests Restoration Act (36 CFR 
Part 218), and the appeal regulations for projects implementing land 
management plans (36 CFR Part 215). The objection should set the stage 
for meaningful dialogue with the reviewing officer and responsible 
official. Required information would be used to focus the 
administrative review and written response of the reviewing officer. 
For example, the objection must provide the basis for a potential 
remedy to the objection by including how the proposed plan decision 
could be improved. An objector's telephone number or e-mail address 
would be part of the administrative record, considered public 
information, and available under the Freedom of Information Act.
Section 219.55 Objections Set Aside From Review
    This section sets out the proposed conditions under which the 
reviewing officer would not review an objection. The reviewing officer 
must set aside an objection without review or response on the concerns 
raised when any of the following apply: an objection is not filed 
within the objection period; the proposal is not subject to the 
objection procedures of this section; the objector did not meet the 
eligibility requirements to object (Sec.  219.53); there is 
insufficient information to review and respond; the objector has 
withdrawn the objection in writing; the objector's identity cannot be 
determined and a reasonable means of contact has not been provided; or 
the objection is illegible. The reviewing official must also set aside 
from review any issue within the objection that is not based on 
previously submitted substantive formal comments and which did not 
arise after the opportunities for formal comment. The reviewing officer 
must give written notice to the objector and the responsible official 
when an objection is set aside from review and must state the reasons 
for not reviewing the objection. If the objection is set aside from 
review for reasons of illegibility or lack of a means of contact, the 
reasons must be documented in the planning record.
Section 219.56 Objection Time Periods and Process
    This section describes the timeframes in the objection process, the 
reviewing officer's role and responsibilities, and the means of 
providing public notification of the objections filed. The provisions 
in this section are responsive to public concern that the review 
process be timely and efficient.
    The filing period for the objection would be 30 days following 
publication of the required public notice. The objector would be 
responsible for filing the objection in a timely manner. The method to 
determine timeliness would be based on indicators appropriate to the 
method of submission. For example, objections sent via the U.S. Postal 
Service must be postmarked on or before the close of the last day of 
the objection-filing period. Some members of the public have raised the 
concern that this is not enough time to review the planning 
documentation and develop an objection. However, the Agency believes 
that given the emphasis this rule places on a collaborative planning 
process and the requirements outlined earlier for public notice, a 30-
day filing period would be sufficient. Because the responsible official 
could not approve the plan, plan amendment, or plan revision until 
after the objection process, it is important to ensure that the 
submission, review, and resolution of, or response to, the objections 
occur in a timely manner. Additionally, by requesting to meet with the 
reviewing officer, objectors would have an opportunity to elaborate on 
those concerns documented in their objections.
    Paragraph (e) describes the role and responsibilities of the 
reviewing officer. The proposed rule would provide that the reviewing 
officer be a line officer at the next higher administrative level above 
the responsible official. A number of those who provided written 
comment expressed concern that agency reviewing officers could lack 
sufficient objectivity to render a fair response to

[[Page 8506]]

objections. Generally, these individuals advocated for the 
establishment and use of some form of administrative review board. 
However, we believe that the Agency's experience with review processes 
over the past century indicate that assigning the role of reviewing 
officer to a line officer at the next higher administrative level above 
the responsible official does allow for a fair and impartial review of 
concerns raised during the administrative review processes.
    For plan amendment objections only, the next higher-level line 
officer could delegate the reviewing officer authority and 
responsibility to a line officer under his or her chain of command at 
the same administrative level as the responsible official. In other 
words, if the responsible official for a plan amendment is a forest 
supervisor, the regional forester or deputy regional forester (agency 
directives assign deputy regional foresters line officer authority) 
could delegate the reviewing officer responsibilities to another forest 
supervisor. The Agency believes the option of making such a delegation 
could contribute to a more effective, and still impartial, review 
process; for example, in instances where a particular line officer at 
the same administrative level as the responsible official is more 
familiar with particular plan issues or is more readily available to 
meet with objectors. Responsibility for new plans or plan revisions 
could not be delegated.
    Paragraph (f) would require the responsible official to publish a 
notice of all objections in the applicable newspaper of record and 
online within 10 days of the close of the objection-filing period. This 
requirement would allow any person or entity that may have specific 
interest in the outcome of an objection to participate in the objection 
as an ``interested person,'' as provided in Sec.  219.57.
    Paragraph (g) would require the reviewing officer to issue a 
written response to the objector(s) within 90 days. The reviewing 
officer could extend the 90-day time frame in the event of a large 
number of objection filings or so that meaningful and productive 
discussions to resolve issues are not cut short.
Section 219.57 Resolution of Objections
    This section describes the objection resolution process. The 
objective of this administrative review process is to resolve as many 
concerns as possible prior to approval of a plan, plan amendment, or 
plan revision. Paragraph (a) would allow the reviewing officer or the 
objector to request a meeting to discuss the objection and attempt 
resolution. To maintain as much of a collaborative approach as possible 
under the circumstances of an administrative review, this section would 
require the reviewing officer to allow any other person who filed a 
request to participate in meetings to do so. Requests to participate as 
an interested person would have to be filed with the reviewing officer 
within 10 days of the publication of the notice of filed objections. 
The meetings would always be open to the public, but only the objectors 
and interested persons who filed a request to participate in the 
meeting could participate; others could attend the meetings but only to 
observe.
    Paragraph (b) would provide for a written response to the 
objection. The reviewing officer could issue a single response to 
multiple objections of the same plan, plan amendment, or plan revision. 
Whether in individual responses or a consolidated response, the 
reviewing officer's response would be limited to only those concerns 
submitted in the objection(s). Paragraph (b) also states that the 
reviewing officer's response would be the final decision of the 
Department of Agriculture on the objection.
Section 219.58 Timing of a Plan, Plan Amendment, or Plan Revision 
Decision
    This section describes when a responsible official could approve a 
plan, plan amendment, or plan revision.
    Paragraph (a) would allow a responsible official to approve a plan, 
plan revision, or plan amendment only after the reviewing officer has 
responded to all objections in writing, and Sec.  219.57(b)(1) 
specifies the response need not be point-by-point.
    Paragraph (c) provides that when no objection is filed on a plan, 
plan amendment, or plan revision within the 30-day period for filing an 
objection, the responsible official could approve the plan, plan 
amendment, or plan revision. Approval could occur on or after the 5th 
business day following the end of the objection filing period. The 5 
business day delay/buffer is to allow sufficient time for any 
objections that may have been timely filed through the U.S. Postal 
Service (i.e., postmarked before the end of the objection filing 
period) to be received by the reviewing officer. Objections that are 
timely filed but not received by the fifth business day following the 
end of the objection-filing period would not be considered.
Section 219.59 Use of Other Administrative Review Processes
    This section would allow for the use of other administrative review 
processes in lieu of the objection process in certain circumstances.
    Paragraph (a) would allow the use of the administrative review 
procedure of another Federal agency when the plan, plan amendment, or 
plan revision is part of a multi-Federal agency effort. This provision 
is proposed to minimize the confusion that could occur if multiple 
administrative review processes are used for a single joint proposal. 
It also requires that the public notice identify which administrative 
review procedure is to be used.
    Paragraph (b) provides that the objection process in this subpart 
of the proposed rule would not apply when a plan amendment decision is 
made at the same time as a project or activity decision, and is 
specifically limited to that project or activity. Instead, the 
regulations for notice, comment, and appeal of projects at 36 CFR Part 
215, or the regulations for objections to hazardous fuel reduction 
projects authorized by the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, at 36 CFR 
Part 218, would apply to the amendment as well as the project. In this 
type of mixed decision, the project decision is the dominant part so 
the administrative review process for projects is more appropriate than 
the objection process contained in this subpart of the proposed rule.
    However, paragraph (b) also would provide that the objection 
process in this subpart be used for an amendment that applies not just 
to one project or activity, but to any future project or activity for 
which it is relevant, even when the amendment is approved as a part of 
a mixed decision with a project or activity. Because the plan amendment 
would apply broadly, and not just to the project, it would be subject 
to the pre-decisional administrative review process of this subpart, 
while the project part of the decision would be subject to the 
administrative review process of either 36 CFR Part 215 or Part 218. 
Corresponding provisions for administrative reviews of the mixed 
decisions described by these two scenarios already exist in 36 CFR 
Parts 215 and 218.
Section 219.60 Secretary's Authority
    Paragraph (a) explains that no part of this proposed rule would 
restrict the Secretary's authority.
Section 219.61 Information Collection Requirements
    This section explains that the rule would contain information 
collection requirements as defined in 5 CFR Part 1320 and specifies the 
information that

[[Page 8507]]

objectors would have to supply in an objection.
Section 219.62 Definitions
    This section defines some of the commonly used terms and phrases 
used in Subpart B of the proposed rule.

4. Regulatory Certifications

Regulatory Planning and Review

    The Agency reviewed this proposed rule under U.S. Department of 
Agriculture (Department) procedures and Executive Order (E. O.) 12866 
issued September 30, 1993.
    The Agency has determined this proposed rule is not an economically 
significant rule. This proposed rule will not have an annual effect of 
$100 million or more on the economy nor adversely affect productivity, 
competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, nor State 
or local governments. This proposed rule will not interfere with an 
action taken or planned by another agency. Finally, this proposed rule 
will not alter the budgetary impact of entitlements, grants, user fees, 
or loan programs or the rights and obligations of recipients of such 
programs. However, because of the extensive interest in NFS planning 
and decisionmaking, this proposed rule has been designated as 
significant and, therefore, is subject to Office of Management and 
Budget review. An analysis was conducted to compare the costs and 
benefits of implementing the proposed rule to the baseline, which 
assumes planning pursuant to the 1982 rule procedures, as allowed by 
the transition provisions of the 2000 planning rule (36 CFR 219.35(b), 
74 FR 67073 (December 18, 2009)). This analysis is posted on the World 
Wide Web at: http://www.fs.usda/planningrule, along with other 
documents associated with this proposed rule.
    The scope of this analysis is limited to programmatic or agency 
procedural activities related to plan development, plan revision, and 
plan amendment (i.e., maintenance) of land management plans for 
management units (e.g., national forests, grasslands, prairies) within 
the NFS. Agency, or private costs or benefits associated with on-the-
ground or site-specific activities and projects are not characterized 
or projected. Potential procedural effects evaluated in the analysis 
include potential changes in agency costs and changes in overall 
planning efficiency. This analysis identifies and compares the costs 
and benefits associated with developing, maintaining, revising, and 
amending NFS land management plans under five alternatives: (A) The 
proposed NFS planning rule (proposed rule); (B) the implementation of 
1982 rule procedures under the 2000 rule (No Action); (C) the minimum 
to meet the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) and purpose and need; 
(D) a modified version of the proposed rule with an alternative 
approach to species diversity and an emphasis on watershed health; (E) 
a modified version of the proposed rule with emphasis on monitoring 
performance and collaboration. Procedural effects evaluated include 
potential changes in agency costs and changes in overall planning 
efficiency. Alternative B is the no action alternative and therefore 
the baseline for this analysis.
    The effects of the proposed rule are evaluated within the context 
of a planning framework consisting of a three-part learning and 
planning cycle: Assessment, development/revision/amendment, and 
monitoring. The cost-benefit analysis focuses on key activities related 
to this three-part planning cycle for which agency costs can be 
estimated under the 1982 rule procedures and the proposed rule. 
Differences in costs across alternatives are estimated when possible, 
but benefits are discussed qualitatively as potential changes in 
procedural or programmatic efficiency. The key activities for which 
costs were analyzed include: (1) Assessments (e.g., activities 
conducted to establish a need to change the existing plan prior to 
initiating plan revisions or plan amendments); (2) collaboration (e.g., 
collaboration and public participation activities in addition to those 
required by the NFMA and NEPA); (3) development and analysis of plan 
revision and amendment decisions (i.e., developing of alternatives to 
address the need to change the plan, analyzing and comparing the 
effects of alternatives, and finalizing and documenting plan revision 
and plan amendment decisions); (4) science support (i.e., activities 
for assuring consideration and use of the best scientific information); 
(5) monitoring (limited to those monitoring activities that support 
planning); (6) resolution of issues regarding plan revisions or plan 
amendments through the administrative processes of appeals or 
objections; and (7) minimum maintenance (i.e. minimum expenses to 
maintain a plan during non-revision years, excluding assessment, 
collaboration, and analysis/decision costs associated specifically with 
plan amendments).
    Primary sources of data used to estimate agency costs include 
recent cost-benefit analyses, business evaluations, and budget 
justifications for planning rules issued between 2000 and 2008 and 
recent historical data (1996-2009) regarding regional and unit-level 
budget allocations and paid expenditures for planning and monitoring 
activities related to planning. Agency costs are initially estimated 
for the 1982 rule procedures and then used as a baseline from which 
adjustments are made, based on explicit differences in planning 
procedures, to estimate costs for the proposed rule. Cost projections 
of the proposed rule are speculative because there are challenges 
anticipating the process costs of revising and amending plans at this 
programmatic level of analysis. The Agency will not be able to 
determine costs until the Department issues the final rule and the 
Agency implements it. Annual costs are estimated separately for years 
during which units (with regional support) are engaged in plan revision 
and the years units are engaged in plan maintenance/amendment. The 
estimated costs are then aggregated to estimate total planning costs. 
Over a 15-year planning cycle, it is assumed that management units will 
be engaged in plan revision for 3 years under the proposed rule and 5 
years under the 1982 rule procedures, implying annual plan maintenance 
or more frequent but shorter amendments will be occurring for the 
remaining 12 and 10 years respectively.
    Monitoring is assumed to occur every year, but monitoring differs 
slightly for plan revision years compared to maintenance years. Shorter 
revision periods reflect the expectation that the process for revising 
plans will be more efficient because of procedural changes described 
below (see ``Efficiency and Cost Effectiveness Impacts''). It is also 
assumed that approximately 120 management units will initiate plan 
revision over the next 15 years (i.e., 2012 through 2026). Total costs 
are assumed to cover activities directly related to planning (and 
monitoring for planning purposes) at the unit and regional office 
levels, as well as indirect or overhead (i.e., cost pools) activity for 
supporting planning activities, but do not include project-level costs. 
Costs associated with planning at the national office and research 
stations are assumed to remain relatively constant across alternatives. 
Total costs (2009 dollars ($)) are estimated for a 15-year planning 
cycle and then annualized assuming a 3 percent and 7 percent discount 
rate. Annualized costs accrued over the 15-year period reflect the 
annual flow of costs that have been adjusted to acknowledge society's 
time value of money.

[[Page 8508]]

    Due to the programmatic nature of the proposed action, the benefits 
derived from land management plans developed, revised, or amended under 
the different alternatives are not quantified. Instead, the benefits of 
the alternatives are assessed qualitatively for procedural or 
programmatic efficiency. Efficiency is a function of (1) the time and 
resources used (costs) to complete and maintain plans, and (2) the 
degree to which those plans are capable of providing direction for 
resource monitoring, management, and use/access that sustains multiple 
uses (including ecosystem services) in perpetuity and maintains long-
term health and productivity of the land for the benefit of human 
communities and natural resources, giving due consideration to relative 
values of resources (i.e., meets the objectives of the NFMA and other 
key guiding legislation).

Agency Cost Impacts

    Results of the cost analysis indicate agency costs increase for 
some key activities and decrease for others under the proposed rule and 
alternatives. However, total annual planning costs are not projected to 
be substantially different between the proposed rule and the 1982 rule 
procedures. Estimates of potential differences in planning costs are 
complicated by the unknown effects of any future Forest Service 
directives that might be developed to support the proposed rule.
    The annual average undiscounted cost to the Agency for all 
planning-related activities under the proposed rule ($102.5 million per 
year) is estimated to be $1.5 million per year lower compared to the 
1982 rule procedures ($104 million per year). Assuming a 3 percent 
discount rate, the projected annual cost for the proposed rule is 
estimated to be $102 million, while the projected annual cost for the 
1982 rule procedures is $103 million, implying a projected annual cost 
difference of only $1 million. Assuming a 7 percent discount rate for 
the same timeframe, the projected annual cost estimate for the proposed 
rule is $80 million compared to $81 million under the 1982 rule 
procedures.
    Based on the above quantitative comparison, annual average planning 
costs to the Agency are projected to be similar for the proposed rule 
and the 1982 procedures. If the Agency implements the planning rule as 
proposed, it is anticipated employee training will be needed, in large 
part due to the proposed collaborative process and reallocation of 
resources across different planning related activities. It is likely 
the cost of training will decrease gradually over time. Therefore, 
during the first 15-year period, planning costs will be slightly 
elevated and not significantly different from the no-action alternative 
as units adjust to the new planning process and build collaborative 
capacity. In subsequent 15-year periods, planning costs are likely to 
decrease as the new process becomes more established. Costs in 
subsequent planning cycles are expected to be lower than those 
estimated in this analysis for the proposed rule.
    The cost and benefit analysis assumed eight management units will 
start plan revision annually. Therefore, approximately 120 management 
units will at least initiate plan revision over the next 15 years (i.e. 
2012 through 2026). This analysis also assumed each management unit 
would take 3 years to revise a plan under the proposed rule and 5 years 
under the 1982 rule procedures. Given these assumptions, over a 15 year 
period, there would be approximately 104 plan revisions completed under 
the proposed rule in contrast to an estimated 88 plans revised under 
the 1982 rule procedures, a net increase of 16 plans revised under the 
proposed rule.

Efficiency and Cost-Effectiveness Impacts

    The numerous public meetings, forums, and roundtable discussions 
revealed growing concern about a variety of risks and stressors (e.g., 
climate change; insects and disease; recreation, timber, and shifts in 
other local demands and national market trends; population growth, and 
other demographic shifts; water supply protection and other ecosystem 
support services). Addressing these types of risks and contingencies 
requires a larger landscape perspective, information from a broad 
spectrum of sources and users, and a framework that can facilitate 
adaptation to new information. The new procedural requirements under 
the proposed rule are designed to recognize these needs. The 
requirements are intended to increase agency capacity to adapt 
management plans in response to new and evolving information about 
risks, stressors, contingencies, and management constraints as 
described in the section above. It is anticipated under the proposed 
rule that management units will be better able to keep plans updated 
and current with evolving science and public concerns without 
substantial changes in planning costs over a 15-year period. The Agency 
would be able to establish plans that are efficient and legitimate 
frameworks for managing resources that meet public demand in a 
sustainable fashion and satisfy the goals of the MUSYA and the NFMA.
    Under the proposed rule, costs are projected to be redirected 
toward collaboration, assessment, and monitoring activities and away 
from development and analysis of alternatives compared to the 1982 rule 
procedures. Costs are also redirected more toward maintenance or plan 
amendments under the proposed rule, due in part to expectations that 
less time will be needed to complete plan revisions. These effects are 
projected to occur, in part, because of broader support and resolution 
of issues at earlier stages of plan revision, achieved through 
collaboration as well as other procedural changes.
    The reallocation of efforts and costs across different phases of 
planning, and across key planning activities under the proposed rule is 
expected to improve overall planning efficiency. Shifts in emphasis and 
resources under the proposed rule are projected to improve the 
currency, reliability, and legitimacy of plans to serve as a guide for: 
(1) Reducing uncertainty by identifying and gathering new information 
about conditions, trends, risks, stressors, contingencies, 
vulnerabilities, values/needs, contributions, and management 
constraints; (2) integrating and assessing ecological, social, and 
economic information to determine if outputs and outcomes related to 
unit contributions to ecological, social, and economic conditions 
indicate a need to change the plan; and (3) responding to the need for 
change in management activities, projects, or revisions and amendments 
to plan components. Potential increases and/or reallocation of costs 
associated with assessment, analysis, and monitoring requirements for 
elements such as diversity and sustainability are expected to provide 
clearer direction for subsequent project planning. It is recognized 
project-level costs are not included in the analysis of land management 
planning costs. Details about the potential effects of specific 
procedural changes on agency costs and planning efficiency are 
described below, by activity category.
    Assessment: Slight increases in assessment costs (compared to the 
cost of doing an analysis of the management situation under the 1982 
rule procedures) are anticipated under the proposed rule. This is due 
to an increased emphasis on characterizing factors such as unit roles 
and contributions within a broader ecological and geographic context 
(landscapes), ecosystem and species

[[Page 8509]]

diversity, climate change, as well as other system drivers, risks, 
threats, and vulnerabilities, as well as the mitigating effects of 
other elements such as direction to rely on existing information and 
the removal of required prescriptive benchmark analysis. Changes in the 
assessment requirements and guidance are expected to increase planning 
efficiency and effectiveness by improving capacity to assimilate and 
integrate new information for determining a need to change the plan.
    Assessments would be conducted at landscape levels and at a 
geographic scale based on ecological, economic, or social factors 
rather than a strict adherence to administrative boundaries. This 
broader approach would enhance capacity to incorporate information 
about conditions outside of NFS boundaries.
    Risks and vulnerabilities to ecosystem elements and functions would 
be considered in assessments thereby encouraging consideration of the 
effects of long-term environmental or social/economic variability, 
events, and trends on future outputs, ecosystem services, and outcomes.
    Collaboration: Costs associated with public participation are 
projected to increase under the proposed rule due primarily to 
requirements that opportunities for collaboration be provided at all 
stages of planning. Gains in cost effectiveness may occur, in part, by 
providing responsible officials with discretion to design collaborative 
strategies that meet unit-specific needs and constraints and recognize 
local collaborative capacity. Costs for some units may be higher where 
potential barriers to collaboration are present (e.g., pre-existing 
relationships may exacerbate perceived inequities; absence of pre-
existing social networks or capacity). However, changes in guidance and 
requirements for collaboration under the proposed rule are expected to 
increase planning efficiency because of the following:
    Improved analysis and decisionmaking efficiency during latter 
stages of planning due to increases in collaborative efforts during 
early phases;
    Improved capacity to reduce uncertainty by gathering, verifying, 
and integrating information from a variety of sources, including tribal 
or other forms of knowledge and land ethics, within and beyond unit 
boundaries;
    Potential to offset or reduce agency monitoring costs as a result 
of collaboration during monitoring plan development and monitoring 
itself;
    Improved capacity for identifying and integrating ecological, 
social, and economic indicators for determining the need to change the 
plan during assessments;
    Reduced need for large numbers of plan alternatives as well as time 
needed to complete plan revisions as a consequence of broader support 
and resolution of issues achieved through collaboration during early 
phases of proposed plan development;
    Improved perceptions regarding the legitimacy of plans and the 
planning process, as well as reduced agency costs associated with 
resolving objections (or conflict) by increasing transparency, 
developing awareness of the values and expected behavior of others, and 
seeking greater consensus about values, needs, tradeoffs, and outcomes 
during earlier stages of planning; and,
    Improved expectations about building unit (and regional) capacity 
to overcome existing barriers to collaboration (e.g., absence of social 
networks or capacity; perceptions about pre-existing power 
relationships) through training and facilitation.
    Analysis and decisions (plan development, plan revision or 
amendment): Costs associated with analysis and decisions are estimated 
to decrease under the proposed rule due primarily to the effect of 
fewer prescriptive requirements (relative to 1982 rule procedures) 
regarding probable (management) actions, timber program elements, 
number and types of alternatives, evaluation of alternatives, and 
minimum management requirements. The forces affecting the cost include 
(1) increased emphasis on consideration of resource attributes and 
conditions such as sustainability, watershed health, and water supply, 
and (2) adaptation to new approaches for addressing species viability 
and diversity in the short-term (with long-term potential for gains in 
cost-effectiveness).
    The following elements associated with the proposed rule are 
expected to increase planning efficiency by facilitating plan revisions 
and amendments, expanding capacity for adaptive management, and 
improving guidance for responding to diverse determinations of a need 
to change the plan:
    The adoption of a coarse-filter/fine-filter approach for addressing 
species viability and diversity within plan components, combined with 
the recognition of land management and resource limits which constrain 
levels of achievable viability and diversity, is expected to make 
management units better able to develop plans that provide feasible or 
realistic direction for responding to species and ecosystem 
sustainability and recovery needs while meeting requirements for plant 
and animal diversity;
    A greater emphasis on ecosystem sustainability and resiliency in 
plan components is expected to increase the ability of management units 
to respond efficiently to new information regarding environmental, 
social, and economic risks and stressors, including climate change and 
market trends, that might threaten the long-term productivity and 
sustainability of forest resources and outputs;
    Refocusing the use of the term ``restoration'' to focus on recovery 
of resiliency and ecosystem functions (instead of historical reference 
points) offers greater flexibility to develop plan components (e.g., 
desired conditions) that provide more feasible and adaptable direction 
for addressing damaged ecosystems;
    Greater emphasis placed on identifying each unit's role in 
providing ecosystem services within a broader landscape or region 
should facilitate the design of management responses that recognize the 
marginal effects or contributions of ecological, social, or economic 
conditions originating from outside of the traditional unit study area 
boundaries;
    More frequent amendments expected under the proposed rule leading 
to more current plans and more focused descriptions of the need to 
change the plan to guide future subsequent plan revisions;
    Fewer ``minimum management requirements,'' with flexibility to 
adopt plan components to provide similar levels of protection afforded 
by minimum management requirements under 1982 rule procedures; and,
    Less prescriptive descriptions of timber harvests, sale schedule, 
and management practices under the proposed rule (compared to the 1982 
rule procedures) may provide greater flexibility for units to develop 
more adaptive plans capable of responding to uncertain vegetation 
management and restoration needs.
    Science support: Slight cost increases for science support may 
occur under the proposed rule due in part to more prescriptive language 
to take into account the best available scientific information when 
preparing assessment reports, plan decision documents, and monitoring 
evaluation reports. On the other hand, guidance and requirements under 
the proposed rule for taking science into account contribute to 
planning efficiency by maximizing coverage of scientific input from 
diverse sources, integrating science throughout all stages of planning, 
and taking advantage of scientific knowledge from

[[Page 8510]]

external partners and agency research stations, thereby strengthening 
the decisionmaking process.
    Resolutions: The cost effect of a shift from a post-decisional 
appeals process (under the 1982 rule procedures) to a pre-decisional 
objection period under the proposed rule is difficult to project; 
however, the anticipated success of collaboration in achieving greater 
understanding about plan components and perceptions of legitimacy and 
trust in the planning process is expected to have a beneficial effect 
on resolution activity and corresponding costs. Procedural changes 
related to collaboration are expected to provide opportunities for 
resolving potential objections or conflict at earlier stages of 
planning, thereby reducing the need for, and cost of, resolutions at 
latter stages.
    Monitoring: Relative increases in monitoring costs are anticipated 
as a consequence of a greater emphasis on broader input and 
participation in the design and implementation of monitoring, 
adjustments to new requirements for characterizing diversity and 
resiliency, and two-level (unit and broad-scale) monitoring. However, 
over time, the two-level approach to monitoring is expected to increase 
monitoring efficiencies and decrease the cost of other planning related 
activities. Under the proposed rule, the two-level approach to 
monitoring is intended to inform the unit's management and make 
progress toward desired outcomes. In addition, the monitoring program 
will be closely tied to the assessment phase of the planning framework, 
so the new information that arises through monitoring drives 
assessments to determine the need to change a plan. Unit monitoring and 
broader-scale monitoring levels are related. The two-level monitoring 
framework would effectively standardize unit-level monitoring 
requirements. The proposed rule would mobilize multi-party monitoring 
resources by working across all Forest Service branches and engage 
partners and other government agencies in its monitoring efforts to 
help reduce the cost of added monitoring requirements. There is also 
potential that collaboration would result in more cooperative 
monitoring programs with other agencies and the public. This could help 
leverage resources to accomplish additional monitoring.
    Monitoring requirements, such as coordination of broad-scale 
monitoring, as well as monitoring of ``focal species'' and select 
ecological conditions as measures for diversity, are expected to 
contribute to overall cost efficiency. Changes in guidance and 
requirements for monitoring under the proposed rule are expected to 
increase planning effectiveness by improving capacity to gather 
information and reduce uncertainty for a number of integrated 
ecological, social, and economic conditions, trends, risks, stressors, 
constraints, and values within and beyond unit boundaries. The 
following is a list of the changes.
    Monitoring under the proposed rule focuses to a greater extent on 
ecosystems, habitat diversity, and small numbers of focal species, with 
the intent that tracking overall species diversity and habitat 
sustainability will be more cost effective and reflective of unit-
specific capacities compared to the 1982 rule procedures involving 
management indicator species (MIS).
    Two-level monitoring is intended to create a more systematic and 
unified monitoring approach to detect effects of management within unit 
boundaries as well as track risks, stressors, and conditions beyond 
unit boundaries that affect, or are affected by, unit conditions and 
actions.
    Emphasis on coordination between unit- and broad-scale monitoring 
helps ensure information is complementary, is gathered at scales 
appropriate to monitoring questions, reduces redundancy, and improves 
cost-effectiveness.

Distributional Impacts

    Due to the programmatic nature of this rule, it is not feasible to 
assess distributional impacts (e.g., changes in jobs, income, or other 
measures for socio-economic conditions across demographics or economic 
sectors) in detail. In general, the proposed rule is designed to 
facilitate engagement and involvement throughout all phases of 
planning, thereby improving capacity to consider and incorporate values 
and concerns for all economic sectors and social segments affected by 
any given plan, plan revision, or amendment. The proposed rule is also 
intended to facilitate assimilation of new information about local or 
rural, as well as national, concerns and values throughout the planning 
process (i.e., continuous cycle of assessment, development/revision/
amendment, and monitoring).
    The proposed rule is more prescriptive about considering and 
facilitating restoration of damaged resources as well as improving 
resource capacity to withstand environmental risks and stressors (i.e., 
resiliency), thereby providing greater capacity for sustaining local or 
rural economic opportunities to benefit from forest resources and 
ecosystem services, including recreation/tourism and water supply/
watershed health as well as restoration based activities.

Proper Consideration of Small Entities

    The proposed rule has also been considered in light of E.O. 13272 
regarding proper consideration of small entities and the Small Business 
Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (SBREFA), which amended the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.). The Forest Service 
has determined this action will not have a significant economic impact 
on a substantial number of small entities as defined by the E.O. 13272 
and SBREFA, because the proposed rule imposes no requirements or costs 
on small entities, nor does it impose requirements or costs on specific 
types of industries or communities. In addition, the proposed rule 
provides more opportunities for small entities to collaborate with the 
Forest Service and become more involved in all phases of planning, 
thereby expanding capacity to identify and consider the needs and 
preferences of small entities. Timelier planning and management 
decisions under the proposed rule should increase opportunities for 
small entities to benefit from implementation of updated land 
management plans. Additional emphasis on ecosystem resiliency to 
facilitate restoration activities and on sustainable recreation 
opportunities should help sustain economic opportunities linked to 
local or rural communities, many of which are host to small entities. 
Therefore, a regulatory flexibility analysis is not required for this 
proposed rule.

Energy Effects

    This proposed rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 13211 
issued May 18, 2001 (E.O. 13211), ``Actions Concerning Regulations That 
Significantly Affect Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use.'' It has been 
determined that this proposed rule does not constitute a significant 
energy action as defined in E.O. 13211. This proposed rule would guide 
the development, amendment, and revision of NFS land management plans. 
These plans provide the guidance for making future project or activity 
resource management decisions. As such, these plans would address 
access requirements associated with energy exploration and development 
within the framework of multiple-use sustained-yield management of the 
surface resources of the NFS lands as required by Sec.  219.10. These 
land management plans may identify major rights-of-way corridors for 
utility transmission lines, pipelines,

[[Page 8511]]

and water canals. While these plans may consider the need for such 
facilities and may include standards and guidelines that may constrain 
energy exploration and development, they would not authorize 
construction of them; therefore, the proposed rule does not constitute 
a significant energy action within the meaning of E.O. 13211. The 
effects of the construction of such lines, pipelines, and canals are, 
of necessity, considered on a case-by-case basis as specific 
construction proposals. Consistent with E.O. 13211, direction to 
incorporate consideration of energy supply, distribution, and use in 
the planning process will be included in the Agency's administrative 
directives for carrying out the proposed rule.

Environmental Impacts

    This proposed rule establishes the administrative procedures to 
guide development, amendment, and revision of NFS land management 
plans. The Agency has prepared a draft programmatic environmental 
impact statement to analyze possible environmental effects of the 
proposed rule, present several alternatives to the proposed rule, and 
disclose the potential environmental impacts of those alternatives. The 
draft programmatic environmental impact statement is available on the 
Web at http://www.fs.usda.gov/planningrule.
    The proposed rule would require plan development, amendment, or 
revision to follow NEPA procedures. The rule requires an EIS for plan 
development and plan revisions. The rule also requires that plan 
amendments comply with Forest Service NEPA procedures. The appropriate 
NEPA documentation for an amendment may be an EIS, an EA, or a CE, 
depending upon the scope and scale of the amendment and its likely 
effects.

Controlling Paperwork Burdens on the Public

    In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 
3501 et seq.), the information collection or reporting requirements for 
the objection process were previously approved by the Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB) and assigned control number 0596-0172 for 
the objection process included in the CFR 218 objection regulation.
    The information required by subpart B of this rule is needed for an 
objector to explain the nature of the objection being made to a 
proposed land management plan, plan amendment, or plan revision. This 
proposed rule retains the objection process established in the CFR 218 
objection regulation and does not require additional information be 
provided from the public. This rule does instead give direction that is 
more detailed to both the public and Forest Service personnel on the 
timelines, requirements, and procedures of the objection process.

Federalism

    The Agency has considered this proposed rule under the requirements 
of Executive Order 13132 issued August 4, 1999 (E.O. 13132), 
``Federalism.'' The Agency has made an assessment that the proposed 
rule conforms with the Federalism principles set out in this Executive 
Order; would not impose any compliance costs on the States; and would 
not have substantial direct effects on the States, on the relationship 
between the national government and the States, nor on the distribution 
of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government. 
Therefore, the Agency concludes that this proposed rule does not have 
Federalism implications. Moreover, Sec.  219.4(a)(6) of this proposed 
rule shows sensitivity to Federalism concerns by requiring the 
responsible official provide opportunities for the participation of 
State and local governments and Indian Tribes in the planning process. 
In addition, Sec.  219.4(b) requires the responsible official to 
coordinate planning with State and local governments and Indian Tribes.
    In the spirit of E.O. 13132, the Agency provided many opportunities 
for State and local officials, including their national 
representatives, to share their ideas and concerns in developing the 
proposed regulation. The Forest Service made the December 18, 2009, NOI 
for the proposed planning rule available for comment and asked the 
public, including State and local officials, for feedback on a set of 
eight principles that could guide future land management planning. In 
addition, Forest Service regional office staff invited State and local 
government officials to participate in regional public roundtable 
meetings that occurred in 34 locations throughout the country, and 
nearly all of these meetings had representatives from county, city, 
and/or State governments present. At the request of State and county 
officials, the Rocky Mountain Region held a meeting with Wyoming State 
and county officials on April 14, 2010, in Cheyenne, WY; the Pacific 
Southwest Region held a meeting with California County officials on 
April 30, 2010.
    Agency representatives also contacted the National Association of 
Counties, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Western Governors 
Association, the National Association of State Foresters, the National 
Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers and other State and 
local government associations to encourage them to attend the four 
national roundtables held during development of the proposed 
regulation. Attendance at the national roundtables included both State 
and county government officials and representatives from national 
associations such as the National Association of Counties and the 
National Association of County Planners. Agency officials also met with 
the Association of State Fish and Wildlife Agencies on May 26, 2010, to 
obtain further input on the planning rule from the perspectives of 
State agencies.
    Based on the input received throughout all these meetings, the 
Agency determined that additional consultation was not needed with 
State and local governments for the development of this proposed rule. 
State and local governments are encouraged to continue to comment on 
this proposed rule, in the course of this rulemaking process.

Consultation With Indian Tribal Governments

    On September 23, 2010, the Deputy Chief for the National Forest 
System sent letters inviting more than 600 federally recognized Tribes 
and Alaska Native Corporations to begin consultation on the proposed 
planning rule. The Forest Service will continue to conduct government-
to-government consultation on the planning rule until the final rule is 
published. The Forest Service considers tribal consultation as an 
ongoing, iterative process that encompasses development of the proposed 
rule through the issuance of the final rule.
    The Agency held 16 consultation meetings across the country in 
November and December 2010. During these meetings, Forest Service 
leaders met with tribal and Alaska Native Corporation leaders, or their 
designees, to discuss the tribal consultation paper, which described 
how the proposed rule addressed concerns Tribes had raised during the 
collaborative sessions held earlier in the year. In addition, Forest 
Service leaders have been meeting one-on-one with tribal leaders that 
request consultation in this manner. These consultation meetings have 
strengthened the government-to-government relationship with the Tribes 
as well as improved the proposed rule.
    The Agency incorporated the input received through consultation 
into the development of this proposed rule. All comments received up 
through

[[Page 8512]]

December 13, 2010, were considered for the proposed rule; comments 
received after December 13, 2010, will be considered for the final 
rule.
    Since the NOI was issued in December 2009, the Agency has also 
engaged the Tribes in the planning rule development process through 
collaborative efforts designed to complement the government-to-
government consultation process. The Agency sent a letter to all 
federally recognized Tribes on December 18, 2009, encouraging them to 
submit comments on the NOI and inviting them to participate in national 
and regional roundtable meetings to share with the Agency what they 
want in the planning rule. The letter stated that consultation 
typically begins later in the rule development process, but also 
provided the option for Tribes to begin consultation sooner if they 
desired. While most Tribes elected to wait to consult until later in 
the rule development process, some Tribes began consultation through 
the local responsible official prior to the September 23, 2010, letter. 
Many tribal comments were also received as part of the public record on 
the NOI. The Agency analyzed these comments separately from the general 
public comments, published a report about the comments, and posted the 
report on the planning rule Web site. Additionally, many Tribes 
submitted letters as part of the collaborative process. The content of 
these letters have been considered and incorporated into the rule 
development process.
    The Agency held two national tribal roundtable conference calls to 
provide additional opportunities for Tribes and tribal associations to 
comment on the development of the proposed planning rule. More than 45 
Tribes and tribal associations participated in the First National 
Tribal Roundtable on May 3, 2010, and more than 35 Tribes and tribal 
associations participated in the Second National Tribal Roundtable on 
August 5, 2010. Transcripts and summaries of these meetings are 
available on the planning rule Web site.
    Several Forest Service regional offices held specific in-person 
tribal roundtables to discuss the planning rule. The Southwestern 
Region held tribal roundtables in Pojoaque, NM; Albuquerque, NM; 
Phoenix, AZ and Flagstaff, AZ. The Pacific Southwest Region held tribal 
roundtables in Bayside and Clovis, CA. Transcripts and summaries of 
these meetings are available on the planning rule Web site. The Eastern 
and Southern Regions of the National Forest System also invited Tribes 
to attend separate tribal meetings in association with the regional 
roundtable being held in those regions, however, no Tribes attended.
    To date, the Agency has heard from tribal leaders that the rule 
should clearly state how the special rights and interests of Tribes 
would be provided for in the planning process and show how Tribes will 
be engaged early throughout the planning process. They emphasize the 
obligation the Forest Service has to Tribes to fulfill treaty 
obligations and trust responsibilities, protect and honor reserved 
rights, and fully recognize the unique government-to-government 
relationship that exists between the federal government and Tribes. 
Tribal leaders also state that the role of science in the planning 
process must account for traditional tribal knowledge. In response to 
these concerns, the proposed rule states that plans and the planning 
process would not affect treaty rights or valid existing rights, and 
that plans must comply with all applicable laws and regulations; the 
responsible official must offer opportunities for Tribes to participate 
in collaborative plan development, along with government-to-government 
consultation; and the responsible official shall request information 
from Tribes about native knowledge, including information about land 
ethics, cultural issues, and sacred and culturally significant sites 
during the planning process.
    Language has also been added to the proposed rule at Sec.  
219.4(a)(8) to encourage federally recognized Tribes to seek 
cooperating Agency status. This provides an additional opportunity for 
Tribes to be engaged in the planning process and provides further 
avenues for Tribes to provide input during the planning process. To 
address tribal concerns regarding statutes that require consultation 
with federally recognized Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations, 
language at Sec.  219.4(a)(5) specifies that the responsible official 
shall provide the opportunity to undertake consultation with federally 
recognized Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations in accordance 
with Executive Order 13175 of November 6, 2000. Alaska Native 
Corporations also commented that they wanted their planning efforts to 
be included under requirements for coordination with other planning 
efforts. At Sec.  219.4(b)(2), for plan development or revision, the 
responsible official shall review the planning and land use policies of 
federally recognized Indian Tribes, other Federal agencies, and State 
and local governments. The results of the review would be displayed in 
the environmental impact statement for the plan.
    Tribal leaders stated that they want to see non-federally 
recognized Tribes and groups included in the consultation or planning 
process, as well as the involvement of youth. Non-federally recognized 
groups and Tribes would be able to participate in the planning process 
under the public requirements in Sec.  219.4. Per Sec.  219.4(a)(3), 
responsible officials shall encourage participation by youth, as well 
as low-income and minority populations.
    Tribes place great emphasis on protection of water resources and 
want to see the planning rule include stipulations for water 
protection. Water resources are addressed throughout this proposed 
rule, including specifically in Sec.  219.7 New plan development or 
plan revision, Sec.  219.8 Sustainability, Sec.  219.9 Diversity of 
Plant and Animal Communities, and Sec.  219.10 Multiple Uses. Tribes 
support a management approach that moves away from monoculture 
management and promotes sustainable and diverse populations of plants 
and animals. Section 219.9 of the proposed rule requires land 
management plans to contain components to maintain or restore the 
structure, function, composition, and connectivity of healthy and 
resilient terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in the plan area to 
maintain the diversity of native species.
    Many Tribes expressed concerns regarding the Agency's definition of 
native knowledge. To address these concerns, the definition of native 
knowledge in Sec.  219.19 has been expanded based on the feedback that 
we received during consultation. The new definition acknowledges that 
native knowledge is a way of knowing or understanding the world derived 
from multiple generations of indigenous peoples' interactions, 
observations, and experiences with their ecological systems, and that 
it is also place-based and culture-based knowledge in which people 
learn to live in and adapt to their own environment through 
interactions, observations, and experiences with their ecological 
system.
    The Agency also received comments from tribal leaders related to 
the protection of cultural resources. Under Sec.  219.10, the plan must 
contain plan components for a new plan or plan revision that provides 
for protection of cultural and historic resources and management of 
areas of tribal importance.
    Many Tribes have a variety of concerns regarding social, economic, 
and ecological sustainability, and suggest that the Agency specifically

[[Page 8513]]

address cultural sustainability within the proposed rule. Sec.  219.8 
in the proposed rule addresses sustainability and requires that land 
management plans include plan components to guide the unit's 
contribution to social and economic sustainability. To address concerns 
regarding cultural sustainability, proposed rule language at Sec.  
219.8 requires that these plan components take into account social, 
cultural, and economic conditions relevant to the area influenced by 
the plan and the distinctive roles and contributions within the broader 
landscape. Plan components must also take into account cultural and 
historic resources and uses.
    During the consultation meetings, the Agency heard from tribal 
leaders that confidentiality is a big concern. In order to address 
these concerns and explicitly address confidentiality, Sec.  219.1(f) 
states that the responsible official shall comply with Section 8106 of 
the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, Executive Order 13007 
of May 24, 1996, Executive Order 13175 of November 6, 2000, laws and 
other requirements with respect to disclosing or withholding under the 
Freedom of Information Act certain information regarding reburial sites 
or other information that is culturally sensitive to Indian Tribe or 
Tribes.
    The Agency has heard from tribal leaders that they want to see 
sacred sites protected. The proposed rule requires that responsible 
officials request information from Tribes about sacred sites, and 
provides for protection of cultural and historic resources and 
management of areas of tribal importance. In addition, a separate 
initiative by the USDA Office of Tribal Relations and the Forest 
Service is conducting a policy review concerning sacred sites and is 
consulting with Tribes during their effort. The Agency has informed 
Tribes of this separate initiative and how they can participate during 
the consultation meetings. Information that the Agency received during 
the proposed planning rule consultation process regarding sacred sites 
has been shared with the USDA/Forest Service initiative.
    The Forest Service received many other comments during the tribal 
consultation meetings. A number of these comments were regarding 
concerns that are outside of the scope of the national planning rule or 
that will be addressed at the local level during the development of 
land management plans. Tribes will receive responses to these comments 
via separate documents.
    Pursuant to Executive Order 13175 of November 6, 2000, 
``Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments,'' the 
Agency has assessed the impact of this proposed rule on Indian tribal 
governments and has determined that the proposed rule does not 
significantly or uniquely affect communities of Indian tribal 
governments. The proposed rule deals with the administrative procedures 
to guide the development, amendment, and revision of NFS land 
management plans and, as such, has no direct effect on the occupancy 
and use of NFS land.
    The Agency has also determined that this proposed rule does not 
impose substantial direct compliance costs on Indian tribal 
governments. This proposed rule does not mandate tribal participation 
in NFS planning. Rather, the proposed rule imposes an obligation on 
Forest Service officials to reach out early to provide Tribes an 
opportunity to consult and to work cooperatively with them throughout 
the planning process.

Takings of Private Property

    This proposed rule has been analyzed in accordance with the 
principles and criteria contained in Executive Order 12630 issued March 
15, 1988, and it has been determined that the proposed rule does not 
pose the risk of a taking of private property.

Civil Justice Reform

    This proposed rule has been reviewed under Executive Order 12988, 
``Civil Justice Reform.'' The Agency has not identified any State or 
local laws or regulations that are in conflict with this regulation or 
that would impede full implementation of this rule. Nevertheless, in 
the event that such conflicts were to be identified, the proposed rule, 
if implemented, would preempt the State or local laws or regulations 
found to be in conflict. However, in that case, (1) no retroactive 
effect would be given to this proposed rule; and (2) the Department 
would not require the use of administrative proceedings before parties 
could file suit in court challenging its provisions.

Unfunded Mandates

    Pursuant to Title II of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (2 
U.S.C. 1531-1538), the Agency has assessed the effects of this proposed 
rule on State, local, and tribal governments and the private sector. 
This proposed rule does not compel the expenditure of $100 million or 
more by any State, local, or tribal governments or anyone in the 
private sector. Therefore, a statement under section 202 of the Act is 
not required.

Environmental Justice

    The United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, 
considered impacts of the proposed rule to civil rights and/or 
environmental justice (pursuant to Executive Order 12898 (59 FR 7629, 
February 16, 1994)). If implemented as proposed, with collaborative 
outreach, public engagement and using NEPA procedures to document 
effects, this analysis concludes that no adverse civil rights or 
environmental justice impacts from the proposed planning rule are 
anticipated to the delivery of benefits or other program outcomes on a 
national level for any under-represented population or to other U.S. 
populations or communities from the adoption of the proposed planning 
rule.
    While national level impacts are not expected to be 
disproportionate, yet-to-be-identified adverse impacts may be possible 
on a regional or local level at the unit planning level. Differences in 
national level effects and regional/local level effects are the result 
of uneven distribution of minorities, low-income populations, and 
variations in regional, cultural, or traditional use, and differences 
in local access to resources. Impacts on the national forest level will 
be further examined at the local level, including NEPA analysis for 
plan development, plan revision, or plan amendment and site-specific 
projects.
    The collaboration required by the proposed rule has significant 
potential to reach and involve diverse segments of the population that 
historically have not played a large role in NFS planning and 
management. Section 219.4(a) requires that when developing 
opportunities for public participation, the responsible official shall 
take into account the discrete and diverse roles, jurisdictions, 
responsibilities, and skills of interested and affected parties as well 
as the accessibility of the process, opportunities, and information. 
The responsible official will be proactive and use contemporary tools, 
such as the internet, to engage the public, and share information in an 
open way with interested parties.
    The proposed rule includes provisions for filing an objection prior 
to the final decision if the objector has filed a formal comment 
related to a new plan, plan revision, or plan amendment. In the past, 
formal comments were required to be in writing and submitted during the 
formal comment period when developing land management plans. The 
proposed rule expands the definition of a formal comment to

[[Page 8514]]

include written or oral comments submitted or recorded during an 
opportunity for public participation provided during the local unit's 
planning process (Sec. Sec.  219.4 and 219.16).
    If implemented as proposed, there are no anticipated adverse or 
disproportionate impacts to underserved, protected groups, low income, 
or socially disadvantaged communities. The proposed rule, including 
outreach and collaboration, and the requirement for NEPA analysis are 
designed to avoid adverse or disproportionate effects; therefore, 
mitigating measures are not necessary or appropriate for adopting or 
implementing the planning rule. Requirements of Sec.  219.4 to consider 
accessibility, and encourage participation by youth, low-income 
populations, and minority populations may improve environmental justice 
outcomes. Local site-specific mitigation may occur as NFS projects and 
activities are planned and executed consistent with Forest Service and 
USDA policy.

List of Subjects in 36 CFR Part 219

    Administrative practice and procedure, Environmental impact 
statements, Indians, Intergovernmental relations, National forests, 
Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Science and technology.

    Therefore, for the reasons set forth in the preamble, the Forest 
Service proposes to revise part 219 of Title 36 of the Code of Federal 
Regulations to read as follows:

PART 219--PLANNING

Subpart A--National Forest System Land Management Planning

Sec.
219.1 Purpose and applicability.
219.2 Levels of planning and responsible officials.
219.3 Role of science in planning.
219.4 Requirements for public participation.
219.5 Planning framework.
219.6 Assessments.
219.7 New plan development or plan revision.
219.8 Sustainability.
219.9 Diversity of plant and animal communities.
219.10 Multiple Uses.
219.11 Timber requirements based on the NFMA.
219.12 Monitoring.
219.13 Plan amendment and administrative changes.
219.14 Decision documents and planning records.
219.15 Project and activity consistency with the plan.
219.16 Public notifications.
219.17 Effective dates and transition.
219.18 Severability.
219.19 Definitions.
Subpart B--Pre-Decisional Administrative Review Process
219.50 Purpose and scope.
219.51 Plans, plan amendments, or plan revisions not subject to 
objection.
219.52 Giving notice of a plan, plan amendment, or plan revision 
subject to objection before approval.
219.53 Who may file objection.
219.54 Filing objection.
219.55 Objections set aside from review.
219.56 Objection time periods and process.
219.57 Resolution of objections.
219.58 Timing of a plan, plan amendment, or plan revision decision.
219.59 Use of other administrative review processes.
219.60 Secretary's authority.
219.61 Information collection requirements.
219.62 Definitions.

    Authority:  5 U.S.C. 301; 16 U.S.C. 1604, 1613.

Subpart A--National Forest System Land Management Planning


Sec.  219.1  Purpose and applicability.

    (a) This subpart sets out the planning requirements for developing, 
amending, and revising land management plans (also referred to as 
plans) for the National Forest System (NFS), as required by the Forest 
and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974, as amended by 
the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (16 U.S.C. 1600 et seq.) 
(NFMA). This subpart also sets out the requirements for plan components 
and other content in land management plans. This part is applicable to 
all units of the NFS as defined by 16 U.S.C. 1609 or subsequent 
statute.
    (b) Consistent with the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 
(16 U.S.C. 528-531) (MUSYA), the Forest Service manages the NFS to 
sustain the multiple uses, including ecosystem services, of its 
renewable resources in perpetuity while maintaining the long-term 
health and productivity of the land. Resources are managed through a 
combination of approaches and concepts for the benefit of human 
communities and natural resources. Land management plans guide 
sustainable, integrated resource management of the resources within the 
plan area in the context of the broader landscape, giving due 
consideration to the relative values of the various resources in 
particular areas.
    (c) The objective of this part is to guide the collaborative and 
science-based development, amendment, and revision of land management 
plans that promote healthy, resilient, diverse, and productive national 
forests and grasslands. Plans will guide management of NFS lands so 
that they are ecologically sustainable and contribute to social and 
economic sustainability, with resilient ecosystems and watersheds, 
diverse plant and animal communities, and the capacity to provide 
people and communities with a range of social, economic, and ecological 
benefits for the present and into the future, including clean water; 
habitat for fish, wildlife, and plant communities; and opportunities 
for recreational, spiritual, educational, and cultural sustenance.
    (d) The Chief of the Forest Service must establish planning 
procedures for this part on plan development, plan amendment, or plan 
revision in the Forest Service Directive System in Forest Service 
Manual 1920--Land Management Planning and in Forest Service Handbook 
1909.12--Land Management Planning Handbook.
    (e) This part does not affect treaty rights or valid existing 
rights established by statute or legal instruments.
    (f) During the planning process, the responsible official shall 
comply with Section 8106 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 
2008 (25 U.S.C. 3056), Executive Order 13007 of May 24, 1996, Executive 
Order 13175 of November 6, 2000, laws, and other requirements with 
respect to disclosing or withholding under the Freedom of Information 
Act (5 U.S.C. 552) certain information regarding reburial sites or 
other information that is culturally sensitive to an Indian Tribe or 
Tribes.
    (g) Plans must comply with all applicable laws and regulations, 
including NFMA, MUSYA, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the 
Wilderness Act, and the Endangered Species Act.


Sec.  219.2  Levels of planning and responsible officials.

    Forest Service planning occurs at different organizational levels 
and geographic scales. Planning occurs at three levels--national 
strategic planning, NFS unit planning, and project or activity 
planning.
    (a) National strategic planning. The Chief of the Forest Service is 
responsible for national planning, such as preparation of the Forest 
Service strategic plan required under the Government Performance and 
Results Act of 1993 (5 U.S.C. 306; 31 U.S.C. 1115-1119; 31 U.S.C. 9703-
9704), which is integrated with the requirements of the Forest and 
Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974, as amended by the 
NFMA. The strategic plan establishes goals, objectives,

[[Page 8515]]

performance measures, and strategies for management of the NFS, as well 
as the other Forest Service mission areas: Research and Development, 
State and Private Forestry, and International Programs.
    (b) National Forest System unit planning. (1) NFS unit planning 
results in the development, revision, or amendment of a land management 
plan. A land management plan provides a framework for integrated 
resource management and for guiding project and activity decisionmaking 
on a national forest, grassland, prairie, or other administrative unit. 
A plan reflects the unit's expected distinctive roles and contributions 
to the local area, region, and Nation, and the roles for which the unit 
is best suited, considering the Agency mission, unique capabilities, 
and the resources and management of other lands in the vicinity. 
Through the adaptive planning cycle set forth in this subpart, a plan 
can be changed to reflect new information and changing conditions.
    (2) A plan does not authorize projects or activities or commit the 
Forest Service to take action. However, a plan may constrain the Agency 
from authorizing or carrying out actions, and projects and activities 
must be consistent with the plan (Sec.  219.15). A plan does not 
regulate uses by the public, but a project or activity decision that 
regulates a use by the public under Title 36, Code of Federal 
Regulations, Part 261--Prohibitions, Subpart B--Prohibitions in Areas 
Designated by Order, may be made contemporaneously with the approval of 
a plan, plan amendment, or plan revision. Plans should not repeat laws, 
regulations, or program management policies, practices, and procedures 
from the Forest Service Directive System.
    (3) The supervisor of the national forest, grassland, prairie, or 
other comparable administrative unit is the responsible official for 
development and approval of a plan, plan amendment, or plan revision 
for lands under the responsibility of the supervisor, unless a regional 
forester, the Chief, the Under Secretary, or the Secretary acts as the 
responsible official. Two or more responsible officials may undertake 
joint planning over lands under their respective jurisdictions.
    (4) A plan for a unit that contains an experimental area may not be 
approved without the concurrence of the appropriate research station 
director with respect to the direction applicable to that area, and a 
plan amendment applicable to an experimental area may not be approved 
without the concurrence of the appropriate research station director.
    (c) Project and activity planning. The supervisor or district 
ranger is the responsible official for project and activity decisions, 
unless a higher-level official acts as the responsible official. 
Requirements for project or activity planning are established in the 
Forest Service Directive System. Except as provided in the plan 
consistency requirements in Sec.  219.15, none of the requirements of 
this part apply to projects or activities.


Sec.  219.3  Role of science in planning.

    The responsible official shall take into account the best available 
scientific information throughout the planning process identified in 
this subpart. In doing so, the responsible official shall determine 
what information is the most accurate, reliable, and relevant to a 
particular decision or action. The responsible official shall document 
this consideration in every assessment report (Sec.  219.6), plan 
decision document (Sec.  219.14), and monitoring evaluation report 
(Sec.  219.12). Such documentation must:
    (a) Identify sources of data, peer reviewed articles, scientific 
assessments, or other scientific information relevant to the issues 
being considered;
    (b) Describe how the social, economic, and ecological sciences were 
identified and appropriately interpreted and applied; and
    (c) For the plan decision document, describe how scientific 
information was determined to be the most accurate, reliable, and 
relevant information available and how scientific findings or 
conclusions informed or were used to develop plan components and other 
content in the plan.


Sec.  219.4  Requirements for public participation.

    (a) Providing opportunities for participation. The responsible 
official shall engage the public--including Tribes and Alaska Native 
Corporations, other Federal agencies, State and local governments, 
individuals, and public and private organizations or entities--early 
and throughout the planning process as required by this part, using 
collaborative processes where feasible and appropriate. When developing 
opportunities for public participation, the responsible official shall 
take into account the discrete and diverse roles, jurisdictions, 
responsibilities, and skills of interested and affected parties; the 
accessibility of the process, opportunities, and information; and the 
cost, time, and available staffing. The responsible official should be 
proactive and use contemporary tools, such as the internet, to engage 
the public, and should share information in an open way with interested 
parties.
    (1) Scope, methods, and timing. The responsible official shall 
provide opportunities for participating in the assessment process; 
developing a plan proposal, including the monitoring program; 
commenting on the proposal and the disclosure of its environmental 
impacts in accompanying NEPA documents; and reviewing the results of 
monitoring information. Subject to the notification requirements in 
Sec.  219.16, the responsible official has the discretion to determine 
the scope, methods, forum, and timing of those opportunities.
    (2) Participation opportunities for individual members of the 
public and entities. The responsible official shall encourage 
participation by interested individuals and entities, including those 
interested at the local, regional, and national levels.
    (3) Participation opportunities for youth, low-income populations, 
and minority populations. The responsible official shall encourage 
participation by youth, low-income populations, and minority 
populations.
    (4) Participation opportunities for private landowners. The 
responsible official shall encourage participation by private 
landowners whose lands are in, adjacent to, or otherwise affected by, 
or whose actions may impact, future management actions in the plan 
area.
    (5) Consultation with federally recognized Indian Tribes and Alaska 
Native Corporations. The Department recognizes the Federal Government's 
trust responsibility for federally recognized Indian Tribes. The 
responsible official shall honor the government-to-government 
relationship between federally recognized Indian Tribes and the Federal 
government. The responsible official shall provide to federally 
recognized Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations the opportunity 
to undertake consultation in accordance with Executive Order 13175 of 
November 6, 2000 and 25 U.S.C. 450 note.
    (6) Participation opportunities for federally recognized Indian 
Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations. The responsible official shall 
encourage participation in the planning process by interested or 
affected federally recognized Indian Tribes or Alaska Native 
Corporations. The responsible official may participate in planning 
efforts of federally recognized Indian Tribes and Alaska Native 
Corporations, where practicable and appropriate.

[[Page 8516]]

    (7) Native knowledge, indigenous ecological knowledge, and land 
ethics. As part of tribal participation and consultation as set forth 
in paragraphs (a)(5) and (6) of this section, the responsible official 
shall request information about native knowledge, land ethics, cultural 
issues, and sacred and culturally significant sites.
    (8) Participation opportunities for other Federal agencies, 
federally recognized Tribes, States, counties, and local governments. 
The responsible official shall provide opportunities for other 
government agencies to participate in planning for NFS lands. Where 
appropriate, the responsible official shall encourage federally 
recognized Tribes, States, counties, and other local governments to 
seek cooperating agency status in the NEPA process for a plan 
development, amendment, or revision. The responsible official may 
participate in planning efforts of States, counties, local governments, 
and other Federal agencies, where practicable and appropriate.
    (b) Coordination with other public planning efforts. (1) The 
responsible official shall coordinate land management planning with the 
equivalent and related planning efforts of federally recognized Indian 
Tribes, Alaska Native Corporations, other Federal agencies, and State 
and local governments, to the extent practicable and appropriate.
    (2) For plan development or revision, the responsible official 
shall review the planning and land use policies of federally recognized 
Indian Tribes, Alaska Native Corporations, other Federal agencies, and 
State and local governments, where relevant to the plan area. The 
results of this review shall be displayed in the environmental impact 
statement for the plan (40 CFR 1502.16(c), 1506.2). The review shall 
include consideration of:
    (i) The objectives of federally recognized Indian Tribes, Alaska 
Native Corporations, other Federal agencies, and State and local 
governments, as expressed in their plans and policies;
    (ii) The compatibility and interrelated impacts of these plans and 
policies;
    (iii) Opportunities for the plan to address the impacts identified 
or contribute to joint objectives; and
    (iv) Opportunities to resolve or reduce conflicts, within the 
context of achieving the Forest Service desired conditions or 
objectives.
    (3) Nothing in this section should be read to indicate that the 
responsible official will seek to direct or control management of lands 
outside of the planning area, nor will the responsible official conform 
management to meet non-Forest Service objectives or policies.


Sec.  219.5  Planning framework.

    (a) Planning for a national forest, grassland, prairie, or other 
comparable administrative unit of the NFS is an iterative process that 
includes assessment (Sec.  219.6); developing, amending, or revising a 
plan (Sec. Sec.  219.7 and 219.13); and monitoring (Sec.  219.12). 
These three phases of the framework are complementary and may overlap. 
The intent of this framework is to create a responsive and agile 
planning process that informs integrated resource management and allows 
the Forest Service to adapt to changing conditions, including climate 
change, and improve management based on new information and monitoring.
    (1) Assessment. An assessment is the gathering and integrating of 
information relevant to the planning area from many sources and the 
analysis of that information to identify a need to change a plan or to 
inform how a new plan should be proposed (Sec.  219.6). The responsible 
official shall consider and evaluate existing and possible future 
conditions and trends of the plan area, and assess the sustainability 
of social, economic, and ecological systems within the unit, in the 
context of the broader landscape. Based on the results of an 
assessment, the responsible official may identify a preliminary need to 
change a plan and begin a plan amendment, plan revision, or new plan 
development.
    (2) Plan development, plan revision, or plan amendment. Plan 
revision (Sec.  219.7) or plan amendment (Sec.  219.13) begins with the 
identification of a preliminary need to change the existing plan. For 
newly created planning units, the need for planning arises with the 
creation of the unit, unless otherwise provided by law.
    (i) The process for developing or revising a plan includes: 
assessment, developing a proposed plan, considering the environmental 
effects of the proposal, providing an opportunity to comment on the 
proposed plan, providing an opportunity to object before the proposal 
is approved, and, finally, approving the plan or plan revision. A new 
plan or plan revision requires preparation of an environmental impact 
statement.
    (ii) The process for amending a plan includes: identifying a need 
to change the plan, developing a proposed amendment, considering the 
environmental effects of the proposal, providing an opportunity to 
comment on the proposed amendment, providing an opportunity to object 
before the proposal is approved, and, finally, approving the plan 
amendment. The appropriate NEPA documentation for an amendment may be 
an environmental impact statement (EIS), an environmental assessment 
(EA), or a categorical exclusion (CE), depending upon the scope and 
scale of the amendment and its likely effects.
    (3) Monitoring. Monitoring is continuous and provides feedback for 
the planning cycle by testing relevant assumptions, tracking relevant 
conditions over time, and measuring management effectiveness (Sec.  
219.12). The monitoring program includes unit-level and broader-scale 
monitoring. The unit-level monitoring program is informed by the 
assessment phase; developed during plan development, plan revision, or 
plan amendment; and implemented after plan approval. The regional 
forester develops broader-scale monitoring strategies. Biennial 
monitoring evaluation reports document whether a change to the plan or 
change to the monitoring program is warranted based on new information, 
whether a new assessment may be needed, or whether there is no need for 
change at that time.
    (b) Interdisciplinary team(s). The responsible official shall 
establish an interdisciplinary team or teams to prepare assessments; 
new plans, plan amendments, and plan revisions; and unit monitoring 
programs.


Sec.  219.6  Assessments.

    Assessments may range from narrow in scope to comprehensive, 
depending on the issue or set of issues to be evaluated, and should 
consider relevant ecological, economic, and social conditions, trends, 
and sustainability within the context of the broader landscape. The 
responsible official has the discretion to determine the scope, scale, 
and timing of an assessment, subject to the requirements of this 
section.
    (a) Process for plan development or revision assessments. One or 
more assessments must be conducted for the development of a new plan or 
for a plan revision. The responsible official shall:
    (1) Notify and encourage the public and appropriate Federal 
agencies, States, local governments, other entities, and scientists to 
participate in the assessment process (Sec. Sec.  219.4 and 219.16).
    (2) Notify and encourage potentially interested or affected 
federally recognized Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations to 
participate in the assessment process (Sec. Sec.  219.4 and 219.16).

[[Page 8517]]

    (3) Coordinate with the regional forester, Agency staff from State 
and Private Forestry and Research and Development, and other 
governmental and non-governmental partners to consolidate existing 
information and leverage resources for additional information needs.
    (4) Document the assessment in a report or set of reports available 
to the public. Document in the report(s) how the relevant best 
available scientific information was taken into account (Sec.  219.3), 
and include the report(s) in the planning record (Sec.  219.14).
    (5) Identify in the report how a new plan should be proposed, or 
identify a potential need to change an existing plan, based on the 
assessment.
    (b) Content of assessments for plan development or revision. In the 
assessment(s) for plan development or revision, the responsible 
official shall:
    (1) Identify and evaluate information needed to understand and 
assess existing and potential future conditions and stressors in order 
to inform and develop required plan components and other content in the 
plan (Sec.  219.7), including plan components for sustainability (Sec.  
219.8), diversity of plant and animal communities (Sec.  219.9), 
multiple uses (Sec.  219.10), and timber requirements based on NFMA 
(Sec.  219.11).
    (2) Identify and consider relevant information contained in 
governmental or non-governmental assessments, plans, monitoring 
evaluation reports, and studies, including relevant neighboring land 
management plans. Such documents may include State forest assessments 
and strategies, the Resources Planning Act assessment, ecoregional 
assessments, non-governmental reports, State comprehensive outdoor 
recreation plans, community wildfire protection plans, and State 
wildlife action plans. Relevant private information will be considered 
if voluntarily provided.
    (3) Identify the distinctive roles and contributions of the unit 
within the context of the broader landscape, considering the roles of 
the unit in providing multiple uses, including ecosystem services, from 
the NFS lands to the local area, region, and Nation. The unit's 
distinctive roles and contributions within the broader landscape are 
those for which the unit is best suited, considering the Agency 
mission, unique capabilities, and the resources and management of other 
lands in the vicinity.
    (4) Identify potential monitoring questions or information needs to 
inform the development or modification of the unit's monitoring 
program.
    (c) Plan amendment assessments. (1) A plan amendment must be based 
on a documented need to change the plan. This documentation may be a 
new assessment; may be a monitoring report; or may be other 
documentation of new information, changed conditions, or changed 
circumstances. Where the responsible official determines that a new 
assessment is needed to inform the need for an amendment, the 
responsible official has the discretion to determine the scope, scale, 
process, and content for the assessment depending on the issue or 
issues to be addressed.
    (2) When a plan amendment is made together with, and only applies 
to, a project or activity decision, the analysis prepared for the 
project or activity may serve as the documented need to change the 
plan.


Sec.  219.7  New plan development or plan revision.

    (a) Plan revisions. A plan revision creates a new plan for the 
entire unit, whether the plan revision differs from the prior plan to a 
small or large extent. A plan must be revised at least every 15 years 
(16 U.S.C. 1604(f)(5)). However, the responsible official has the 
discretion to determine at any time that conditions on a unit have 
changed significantly such that a plan must be revised. The responsible 
official shall base development of a proposal for plan revision on the 
preliminary need for change identified through the assessment process 
required by Sec.  219.6.
    (b) New plan development. New plan development is required for new 
NFS units. The process for developing a new plan is the same as the 
process for plan revision.
    (c) Process for plan development or revision. (1) The process for 
developing or revising a plan includes: public notification and 
participation (Sec. Sec.  219.4 and 219.16), assessment (Sec.  219.6), 
developing a proposed plan, considering the environmental effects of 
the proposal, providing an opportunity to comment on the proposed plan, 
providing an opportunity to object before the proposal is approved 
(subpart B), and, finally, approving the plan or plan revision. A new 
plan or plan revision requires preparation of an environmental impact 
statement.
    (2) In developing a proposed new plan or proposed plan revision, 
the responsible official shall:
    (i) Review relevant information from the assessment phase.
    (ii) Identify the presence and consider the importance of various 
physical, biological, social, and cultural resources on the unit, with 
respect to the requirements for plan components of Sec. Sec.  219.8 
through 219.11.
    (iii) Consider conditions and trends and stressors, with respect to 
the requirements for plan components of Sec. Sec.  219.8 through 
219.11.
    (iv) Identify potential wilderness areas and consider whether to 
recommend any such areas for wilderness designation.
    (v) Identify the eligibility of rivers for inclusion in the 
National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, unless a systematic inventory 
has been previously completed and documented and there are no changed 
circumstances that warrant additional review.
    (vi) Identify the suitability of areas for the appropriate 
integration of resource management and uses, with respect to the 
requirements for plan components of Sec. Sec.  219.8 through 219.11, 
including identifying lands which are not suitable for timber 
production (Sec.  219.11).
    (vii) Identify the quantity of timber that can be removed from the 
plan area (Sec.  219.11(d)(4)).
    (viii) Identify questions and indicators for the unit monitoring 
program (Sec.  219.12).
    (ix) Identify potential other content in the plan (paragraph (e) of 
this section).
    (d) Plan components. Plan components guide future project and 
activity decisionmaking. The plan must indicate where in the plan area 
specific plan components apply. Plan components may apply to the entire 
plan area, to specific management or geographic areas, or to other 
areas as identified in the plan. Every project and activity must be 
consistent with the applicable plan components (Sec.  219.15).
    (1) Required plan components. Every plan must include the following 
plan components:
    (i) Desired conditions. A desired condition is a description of 
specific social, economic, and/or ecological characteristics of the 
plan area, or a portion of the plan area, toward which management of 
the land and resources should be directed. Desired conditions must be 
described in terms that are specific enough to allow progress toward 
their achievement to be determined, but do not include completion 
dates.
    (ii) Objectives. An objective is a concise, measurable, and time-
specific statement of a desired rate of progress toward a desired 
condition or conditions. Objectives should be based on reasonably 
foreseeable budgets.
    (iii) Standards. A standard is a mandatory constraint on project 
and activity decisionmaking, established to help achieve or maintain 
the desired condition or conditions, to avoid or

[[Page 8518]]

mitigate undesirable effects, or to meet applicable legal requirements.
    (iv) Guidelines. A guideline is a constraint on project and 
activity decisionmaking that allows for departure from its terms, so 
long as the intent of the guideline is met. (Sec.  219.15(d)(3)). 
Guidelines are established to help achieve a desired condition or 
conditions, to avoid or mitigate undesirable effects, or to meet 
applicable legal requirements.
    (v) Suitability of lands. Specific lands within a plan area may be 
identified as suitable for various multiple uses or activities based on 
the desired conditions applicable to that area. The plan may also 
identify lands within the plan area as not suitable for uses that are 
not compatible with desired conditions for those lands. Suitability 
does not need to be determined for every multiple use or activity, but 
every plan must identify those lands not suitable for timber production 
(Sec.  219.11).
    (2) Optional plan component: goals. A plan may include goals as 
plan components. Goals are broad statements of intent, other than 
desired conditions, usually related to process or interaction with the 
public. Goals are expressed in broad, general terms, and have no 
specific dates by which they are completed.
    (3) Requirements for the set of plan components. The set of plan 
components must meet the requirements set forth in this part for 
sustainability (Sec.  219.8); plant and animal diversity (Sec.  219.9), 
multiple uses (Sec.  219.10), and timber (Sec.  219.11).
    (e) Other content in the plan--(1) Other required content in the 
plan. Every plan must:
    (i) Identify watershed(s) that are a priority for maintenance or 
restoration;
    (ii) Describe the unit's distinctive roles and contributions within 
the broader landscape (Sec.  219.6(b)(3));
    (iii) Include the monitoring program required by Sec.  219.12; and
    (iv) Contain information reflecting proposed and possible actions 
that may occur on the unit during the life of the plan including the 
planned timber sale program; the expected timber harvest levels, as 
required by NFMA (16 U.S.C. 1604(f)(2)); and the proportion of probable 
methods of forest vegetation management practices expected to be used. 
Such information is not a commitment to take any action and is not a 
``proposal'' as defined by the Council on Environmental Quality 
regulations for implementing NEPA (40 CFR 1508.23, 42 U.S.C. 
4322(2)(C)).
    (2) Optional content in the plan. A plan may include additional 
items, including potential management approaches or strategies; 
partnership opportunities or coordination activities; or criteria for 
priority areas or activities to achieve objectives of the plan.


Sec.  219.8  Sustainability.

    Within Forest Service authority and consistent with the inherent 
capability of the plan area, the plan must provide for social, 
economic, and ecological sustainability, as follows:
    (a) Ecological sustainability. (1) Ecosystem plan components. The 
plan must include plan components to maintain or restore the structure, 
function, composition, and connectivity of healthy and resilient 
terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and watersheds in the plan area, 
taking into account:
    (i) Landscape-scale integration of terrestrial and aquatic 
ecosystems;
    (ii) Potential system drivers, stressors, and disturbance regimes, 
including climate change; how they might affect ecosystem and watershed 
health and resilience; and the ability of those systems on the unit to 
adapt to change;
    (iii) Air quality; and
    (iv) Wildland fire and opportunities to restore fire adapted 
ecosystems.
    (2) Ecosystem elements. The plan must include plan components to 
maintain, protect, or restore:
    (i) Aquatic elements, such as lakes, streams, wetlands, stream 
banks, and shorelines;
    (ii) Terrestrial elements, such as forest stands, grasslands, 
meadows, and other habitat types;
    (iii) Rare aquatic and terrestrial plant and animal communities, 
consistent with Sec.  219.9;
    (iv) Public water supplies, sole source aquifers, source water 
protection areas, groundwater, and other bodies of water (including 
guidance to prevent or mitigate detrimental changes in quantity, 
quality, and availability, including temperature changes, blockages of 
water courses, and deposits of sediments); and
    (v) Soils and soil productivity (including guidance to reduce soil 
erosion and sedimentation).
    (3) Riparian areas. The plan must include plan components to 
maintain, protect, or restore riparian areas. Plans must establish a 
default width for riparian areas around all lakes, perennial or 
intermittent streams, and open water wetlands, within which these plan 
components will apply. The default may be a standard width for all 
lakes, perennial or intermittent streams, and open water wetlands, or 
may vary based on ecologic or geomorphic factors, or the type of 
waterbody. The default width will apply unless the actual riparian area 
for a waterbody or a site has been delineated based on best available 
scientific information.
    (b) Social and economic sustainability. The plan must include plan 
components to guide the unit's contribution to social and economic 
sustainability, taking into account:
    (1) Social, cultural, and economic conditions relevant to the area 
influenced by the plan and the distinctive roles and contributions of 
the unit within the broader landscape;
    (2) Sustainable recreational opportunities and uses;
    (3) Multiple uses, including ecosystem services, that contribute to 
local, regional, and national economies in a sustainable manner; and
    (4) Cultural and historic resources and uses.


Sec.  219.9  Diversity of plant and animal communities.

    Within Forest Service authority and consistent with the inherent 
capability of the plan area, the plan must include plan components to 
maintain the diversity of plant and animal communities, as follows:
    (a) Ecosystem Diversity. The plan must include plan components to 
maintain or restore the structure, function, composition, and 
connectivity of healthy and resilient terrestrial and aquatic 
ecosystems and watersheds in the plan area, consistent with Sec.  
219.8(a), to maintain the diversity of native species.
    (b) Species Conservation. The plan components must provide for the 
maintenance or restoration of ecological conditions in the plan area 
to:
    (1) Contribute to the recovery of threatened and endangered 
species;
    (2) Conserve candidate species; and
    (3) Maintain viable populations of species of conservation concern 
within the plan area. Where it is beyond the authority of the Forest 
Service or the inherent capability of the plan area to do so, the plan 
components must provide for the maintenance or restoration of 
ecological conditions to contribute to the extent practicable to 
maintaining a viable population of a species within its range. When 
developing such plan components, the responsible official shall 
coordinate to the extent practicable with other Federal, State, tribal, 
and private land managers having management authority over lands where 
the population exists.
    (c) Diversity of tree and other plant species. The plan must 
include plan components to preserve, where appropriate, and to the 
degree practicable, the diversity of native tree and other native plant 
species similar to that existing in the plan area, as

[[Page 8519]]

required by NFMA (16 U.S.C. 1604(g)(3)(B)).


Sec.  219.10  Multiple uses.

    In meeting the requirements of Sec. Sec.  219.8 and 219.9, and 
within Forest Service authority, the capability of the plan area and 
the fiscal capability of the unit, the plan must provide for multiple 
uses, including ecosystem services, outdoor recreation, range, timber, 
watershed, wildlife and fish, as follows:
    (a) Integrated resource management. When developing plan components 
for integrated resource management, to the extent relevant to the plan 
area and the public participation process and the requirements of 
Sec. Sec.  219.7, 219.8, 219.9, and 219.11, the responsible official 
shall consider:
    (1) Aesthetic values, air quality, cultural and heritage resources, 
ecosystem services, fish and wildlife species, forage, geologic 
features, grazing and rangelands, habitat and habitat connectivity, 
recreational values and settings, riparian areas, scenery, soil, 
surface and subsurface water quality, timber, trails, vegetation, 
viewsheds, wilderness, and other relevant resources;
    (2) Renewable and nonrenewable energy and mineral resources;
    (3) Sustainable management of infrastructure, such as recreational 
facilities and transportation and utility corridors;
    (4) Opportunities to coordinate with neighboring landowners to link 
open spaces and take into account joint management objectives where 
feasible and appropriate;
    (5) Habitat conditions, subject to the requirements of Sec.  219.9, 
for wildlife, fish, and plants commonly enjoyed and used by the public, 
such as species that are hunted, fished, trapped, gathered, observed, 
or needed for subsistence;
    (6) The landscape-scale context for management as identified in the 
assessment;
    (7) Land ownership and access patterns relative to the plan area;
    (8) Reasonably foreseeable risks to ecological, social, and 
economic sustainability; and
    (9) Potential impacts of climate and other system drivers, 
stressors and disturbance regimes, such as wildland fire, invasive 
species, and human-induced stressors, on the unit's resources (Sec.  
219.8).
    (b) Requirements for plan components for a new plan or plan 
revision. (1) The plan components for a new plan or plan revision must 
provide for:
    (i) Sustainable recreation, considering opportunities and access 
for a range of uses. The plan should identify recreational settings and 
desired conditions for scenic landscape character.
    (ii) Protection of cultural and historic resources;
    (iii) Management of areas of tribal importance;
    (iv) Protection of wilderness areas as well as the protection of 
recommended wilderness areas to protect the ecologic and social values 
and character for which they might be added to the National Wilderness 
System;
    (v) Protection of wild and scenic rivers as well as the protection 
of those rivers eligible for inclusion in the national wild and scenic 
river system to protect the values for which they might be included in 
the system until their suitability is determined; and
    (vi) Protection and appropriate management of other designated or 
recommended areas that exist in the plan area, including research 
natural areas.
    (2) Other plan components for integrated resource management to 
provide for multiple uses that should be included as necessary.


Sec.  219.11  Timber requirements based on the NFMA.

    In meeting the requirements of Sec. Sec.  219.8 through 219.10 and 
within Forest Service authority, the capability of the plan area, and 
the fiscal capability of the unit, the plan must provide for multiple 
uses and ecosystem services, including timber, as follows:
    (a) Identification of lands as not suitable and suitable for timber 
production. (1) Lands not suitable for timber production. The 
responsible official may determine, considering physical, economic, and 
other pertinent factors, that lands are not suitable for timber 
production. On lands so designated, timber harvest, other than salvage 
sales or sales necessary to protect other multiple-use values, shall be 
prohibited for a period of 10 years. In addition, the plan must 
identify lands within the plan area as not suitable for timber 
production if any one of the following factors applies:
    (i) Statute, executive order, or regulation prohibits timber 
production on the land;
    (ii) The Secretary of Agriculture or the Chief of the Forest 
Service has withdrawn the land from timber production;
    (iii) Timber production would not be compatible with the 
achievement of desired conditions and objectives established by the 
plan for those lands;
    (iv) The technology is not currently available for conducting 
timber harvest without causing irreversible damage to soil, slope, or 
other watershed conditions or substantial and permanent impairment of 
the productivity of the land;
    (v) There is no reasonable assurance that such lands can be 
adequately restocked within 5 years after final regeneration harvest; 
or
    (vi) The land is not forest land as defined at Sec.  219.19.
    (2) Lands suitable for timber production. All lands not identified 
in the plan as not suitable for timber production are suited for timber 
production. Timber harvest on lands suitable for timber production may 
be authorized for timber production or for other multiple use purposes.
    (3) Review of lands not suitable for timber production. The 
responsible official shall review lands identified in the plan as not 
suitable for timber production at least once every 10 years as required 
by NFMA (16 U.S.C. 1604(k)), or as otherwise prescribed by law, to 
determine whether conditions have changed so that they have become 
suitable for timber production. As a result of this 10-year review, the 
plan may be amended to identify such lands as suitable for timber 
production if there has been a change in conditions.
    (b) Harvest of trees on land not suitable for timber production. 
(1) Where a plan identifies lands as not suitable for timber 
production, harvesting of trees for the purpose of timber production is 
prohibited.
    (2) The identification in a plan of lands as not suitable for 
timber production does not preclude the harvest of trees on those lands 
for other purposes (16 U.S.C. 1604(k)); in particular, timber harvest 
may be authorized as a tool to assist in achieving or maintaining one 
or more applicable desired conditions or objectives of the plan. 
Examples of using timber harvest on lands not suited for timber 
production may include improving wildlife or fish habitat, thinning to 
reduce extreme fire risk, or restoring meadow or savanna ecosystems 
where trees have invaded.
    (c) Harvest for salvage, sanitation, or public health or safety. 
Timber harvest may be approved for salvage, sanitation, or public 
health or safety, where consistent with the plan.
    (d) Limits on timber harvest on suitable and non-suitable lands. A 
plan for a unit on which timber harvest may occur must have plan 
components to:
    (1) Ensure that timber will be harvested from NFS lands only where 
such harvest would comply with the minimum limits identified in the 
NFMA (16 U.S.C. 1604(g)(3)(E) and (F)).

[[Page 8520]]

    (2) Ensure that harvest is carried out in a manner consistent with 
the protection of soil, watershed, fish, wildlife, recreation, and 
aesthetic resources.
    (3) Establish maximum size limits for areas to be cut in one 
harvest operation for administrative units that use clearcutting, seed 
tree cutting, shelterwood cutting, or other cuts designed to regenerate 
an even-aged stand of timber. Plan components must include standards 
limiting the maximum size limits for areas to be cut in one harvest 
operation, according to geographic areas, forest types, or other 
suitable classifications. This limit may be less than, but must not 
exceed, 60 acres for the Douglas-fir forest type of California, Oregon, 
and Washington; 80 acres for the southern yellow pine types of Alabama, 
Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, 
South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas; 100 acres for the hemlock-Sitka 
spruce forest type of coastal Alaska; and 40 acres for all other forest 
types except as provided in this paragraph.
    (i) Cut openings larger than those specified may be permitted where 
larger units will produce a more desirable combination of benefits. 
Specifications for exceptions shall include the particular conditions 
under which the larger size is permitted and must set a maximum size 
permitted under those conditions.
    (ii) Size limits exceeding those established in paragraphs (d)(3) 
and (d)(3)(i) of this section are permitted on an individual timber 
sale basis after 60 days public notice and review by the regional 
forester.
    (iii) The plan maximum size openings shall not apply to the size of 
areas harvested as a result of natural catastrophic conditions such as 
fire, insect and disease attack, or windstorm (16 U.S.C. 
1604(g)(3)(F)(iv)).
    (4) Limit the quantity of timber that can be removed annually in 
perpetuity on a sustained-yield basis and provide for departure from 
this limit, as provided by NFMA. The Chief of the Forest Service must 
include in the Forest Service Directive System procedures for 
estimating the quantity of timber that can be removed annually in 
perpetuity on a sustained-yield basis, and exceptions, consistent with 
16 U.S.C. 1611.
    (5) Limit the regeneration harvest of even-aged stands of trees to 
stands that generally have reached the culmination of mean annual 
increment of growth. This requirement applies only to final 
regeneration harvest of even-aged stands on lands identified as 
suitable for timber production and where timber production is the 
primary purpose for the harvest. Exceptions, set out in 16 U.S.C. 
1604(m), are permitted only if consistent with the land management 
plan. If such exceptions are anticipated, the responsible official 
should include those exceptions in the land management plan as 
standards or guidelines. The Chief of the Forest Service must include 
in the Forest Service Directive System, requirements for assuring that 
even-aged stands of trees scheduled for final regeneration harvest 
during the planning period have generally reached culmination of mean 
annual increment of growth with exceptions as permitted by the NFMA (16 
U.S.C. 1604(m)).


Sec.  219.12  Monitoring.

    (a) Unit monitoring program. (1) The responsible official shall 
develop a unit monitoring program for the plan area, and include it in 
the plan. The development of the monitoring program must be coordinated 
with the regional forester and Agency staff from State and Private 
Forestry, and Research and Development. Responsible officials for two 
or more administrative units may jointly develop their unit monitoring 
programs.
    (2) The unit monitoring program sets out the unit monitoring 
questions and associated indicators. Monitoring questions and 
associated indicators must be designed to inform the management of 
resources on the unit, including by testing relevant assumptions, 
tracking relevant changes, and measuring management effectiveness and 
progress toward achieving or maintaining desired conditions or 
objectives. Questions and indicators should be based on one or more 
desired conditions, objectives, or other plan component in the plan, 
but not every plan component needs to have a corresponding monitoring 
question.
    (3) The unit monitoring program should be coordinated and 
integrated with relevant broader-scale monitoring strategies (paragraph 
(b) of this section) to ensure that monitoring is complementary and 
efficient, and that information is gathered at scales appropriate to 
the monitoring questions.
    (4) Subject to the requirements of paragraph (a)(5) of this 
section, the responsible official has the discretion to set the scope 
and scale of the unit monitoring program, after considering:
    (i) Information needs identified through the planning process as 
most critical for informed management of resources on the unit;
    (ii) Existing best available scientific information; and
    (iii) Financial and technical capabilities of the Agency.
    (5) Each unit monitoring program must contain one or more 
monitoring questions or indicators addressing each of the following:
    (i) The status of select watershed conditions;
    (ii) The status of select ecological conditions;
    (iii) The status of focal species;
    (iv) The status of visitor use and progress toward meeting 
recreational objectives;
    (v) Measurable changes on the unit related to climate change and 
other stressors on the unit;
    (vi) The carbon stored in above ground vegetation;
    (vii) The progress toward fulfilling the unit's distinctive roles 
and contributions to ecologic, social, and economic conditions of the 
local area, region, and Nation; and
    (viii) The effects of management systems to determine that they do 
not substantially and permanently impair the productivity of the land 
(16 U.S.C. 1604(g)(3)(C)).
    (6) A range of monitoring techniques may be used to carry out the 
monitoring requirements in paragraph (a)(5) of this section.
    (7) This section does not apply to projects or activities; project 
and activity monitoring may be used to gather information, but 
monitoring is not a prerequisite for carrying out a project or 
activity.
    (b) Broader-scale monitoring strategies. (1) The regional forester 
shall develop a broader-scale monitoring strategy for unit monitoring 
questions that can best be answered at a geographic scale broader than 
one unit.
    (2) When developing a monitoring strategy, the regional forester 
shall coordinate with the relevant responsible officials, Agency staff 
from State and Private Forestry and Research and Development, partners, 
and the public. Two or more regional foresters may jointly develop 
broader-scale monitoring strategies.
    (3) Each regional forester shall ensure that the broader-scale 
monitoring strategy is within the financial and technical capabilities 
of the region and complements other ongoing monitoring efforts.
    (4) Projects and activities may be carried out under plans 
developed, amended, or revised under this part before the regional 
forester has developed a broad scale monitoring strategy.
    (c) Timing and process for developing the unit monitoring program 
and broader-scale strategies. (1) In the

[[Page 8521]]

assessment phase, the responsible official shall work with the public 
to identify potential monitoring needs relevant to inform effective 
management (Sec.  219.6).
    (2) The responsible official shall develop the unit monitoring 
program as part of the planning process for a new plan development or 
plan revision. Where a unit's monitoring program has been developed 
under the provisions of a prior planning regulation and the unit has 
not initiated plan revision, the responsible official shall change the 
unit monitoring program within 4 years of the effective date of this 
part, or as soon as practicable, to meet the requirements of this 
section.
    (3) The regional forester shall develop a broader-scale monitoring 
strategy as soon as is practicable.
    (4) The responsible official and regional forester shall ensure 
that scientists are involved in the design and evaluation of unit and 
broad scale monitoring.
    (5) To the extent practicable, appropriate, and relevant to the 
monitoring questions in the program, unit monitoring programs and 
broader-scale strategies must be designed to take into account:
    (i) Existing national and regional inventory, monitoring, and 
research programs of the Agency, including from the NFS, State and 
Private Forestry, and Research and Development, and of other 
governmental and non-governmental parties;
    (ii) Opportunities to design and carry out multi-party monitoring 
with other Forest Service units, Federal, State or local government 
agencies, scientists, partners, and members of the public; and
    (iii) Opportunities to design and carry out monitoring with 
federally recognized Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations.
    (d) Biennial evaluation of the monitoring information. (1) The 
responsible official shall conduct a biennial evaluation of new 
information gathered through the unit monitoring program and relevant 
information from the broader-scale strategy, and shall issue a written 
report of the evaluation and make it available to the public. The 
evaluation must indicate whether a change to the plan, management 
activities, or monitoring program may be warranted based on the new 
information; whether a new assessment should be conducted; or that no 
amendment, revision, or administrative change is needed.
    (i) The first monitoring evaluation for a plan or plan revision 
developed in accordance with this subpart must be completed no later 
than 2 years from the effective date of plan approval.
    (ii) Where the monitoring program developed under the provisions of 
a prior planning regulation has been changed to meet the requirements 
of paragraph (c)(2) of this section, the first monitoring evaluation 
must be completed no later than 2 years from the date the change takes 
effect.
    (iii) The monitoring evaluation report must describe how best 
available scientific information was taken into account (Sec.  219.3).
    (2) The monitoring evaluation report may be incorporated into other 
planning documents if the responsible official has initiated a plan 
revision or relevant amendment.
    (3) The monitoring evaluation report may be postponed for one year 
in case of exigencies, but notice of the postponement must be provided 
to the public prior to the date the report is due for that year (Sec.  
219.16(c)(5)).
    (4) The monitoring evaluation report is not a decision document 
representing final agency action, and is not subject to the objection 
provisions of subpart B.


Sec.  219.13  Plan amendment and administrative changes.

    (a) Plan amendment. A plan may be amended at any time. Plan 
amendments may be broad or narrow, depending on the need for change, 
and should be used to keep plans current and help units adapt to new 
information or changing conditions. The responsible official has the 
discretion to determine whether and how to amend the plan. A plan 
amendment is required for the addition, modification, or removal of one 
or more plan components or a change in how one or more plan components 
apply to all or part of the plan area.
    (b) Amendment process. The responsible official shall:
    (1) Document the need to change the plan (Sec.  219.6(c));
    (2) Provide opportunities for public participation as required in 
Sec.  219.4 and public notification as required in Sec.  219.16. The 
responsible official may combine processes and associated public 
notifications where appropriate, considering the scope and scale of the 
need to change the plan; and
    (3) Amend plans consistent with Forest Service NEPA procedures. The 
appropriate NEPA documentation for an amendment may be an EIS, an EA, 
or a CE, depending upon the scope and scale of the amendment and its 
likely effects.
    (c) Administrative changes. An administrative change is any change 
to a plan that is not a plan amendment or plan revision. Administrative 
changes include corrections of clerical errors to any part of the plan, 
including plan components; changes to other content in the plan other 
than plan components; or conformance of the plan to new statutory or 
regulatory requirements.
    (1) A change to the monitoring program may be made as part of plan 
revision or amendment, but also can be made as an administrative change 
outside of the process for plan revision or amendment. Any change to 
the monitoring program may be made only after notice to the public 
(Sec.  219.16(c)(5)) of the intended change and consideration of public 
concerns and suggestions.
    (2) All other administrative changes may be made following notice 
(Sec.  219.16(c)(5)).


Sec.  219.14  Decision documents and planning records.

    (a) Decision document. The responsible official shall record 
approval of a new plan, plan revision, or amendment in a decision 
document prepared according to Forest Service NEPA procedures (36 CFR 
220). The decision document must include:
    (1) The rationale for approval;
    (2) An explanation of how the plan components meet the 
sustainability requirements of Sec.  219.8 and the diversity 
requirements of Sec.  219.9, taking into account the limits of Forest 
Service authority and the capability of the plan area;
    (3) A statement of how the plan, plan revision or plan amendment 
applies to approved projects and activities (Sec.  219.15);
    (4) A discussion of how the best available scientific information 
was taken into account and applied in the planning process (Sec.  
219.3);
    (5) The concurrence by the appropriate research station director 
with any part of the plan applicable to any designated experimental 
forests or experimental ranges (Sec.  219.2(b)(4)); and
    (6) The effective date of the approval.
    (b) Planning records. (1) The responsible official shall keep the 
following documents readily accessible to the public by posting them 
online and through other means: Assessment reports (Sec.  219.6); plan 
decision documents (Sec.  219.14); the proposed plan, plan revision, or 
plan amendment; public notices and environmental documents associated 
with a plan; the monitoring program and monitoring evaluation reports 
(Sec.  219.12); and the plan.
    (2) The planning record includes documents that support analytical 
conclusions made and alternatives considered throughout the planning 
process. The responsible official shall

[[Page 8522]]

make the planning record available at the office where the plan, plan 
revision, or amendment was developed.


Sec.  219.15  Project and activity consistency with the plan.

    (a) Application to existing authorizations and approved projects or 
activities. Every document approving a plan, plan amendment, or plan 
revision must state whether the plan, plan amendment, or plan revision 
allows any prior approval of occupancy and use. If a plan approval 
document does not expressly allow such occupancy and use, the permit, 
contract, and other authorizing instrument for the use and occupancy 
must be made consistent with the plan, plan amendment, or plan revision 
as soon as practicable, as provided in paragraph (d) of this section, 
subject to valid existing rights.
    (b) Application to projects or activities authorized after plan 
approval. Projects and activities authorized after approval of a plan, 
plan amendment, or plan revision must be consistent with the plan as 
provided in paragraph (d) of this section.
    (c) Resolving inconsistency. When a proposed project or activity 
would not be consistent with the applicable plan components, the 
responsible official shall take one of the following steps, subject to 
valid existing rights:
    (1) Modify the proposed project or activity to make it consistent 
with the applicable plan components;
    (2) Reject the proposal or terminate the project or activity;
    (3) Amend the plan so that the project or activity will be 
consistent with the plan as amended; or
    (4) Amend the plan contemporaneously with the approval of the 
project or activity so that the project or activity will be consistent 
with the plan as amended. This amendment may be limited to apply only 
to the project or activity.
    (d) Determining consistency. A project or activity approval 
document must describe how the project or activity is consistent with 
applicable plan components developed or revised in conformance with 
this part by meeting the following criteria:
    (1) Goals, desired conditions, and objectives. The project or 
activity contributes to the maintenance or attainment of one or more 
goals, desired conditions, or objectives or does not foreclose the 
opportunity to maintain or achieve any goals, desired conditions, or 
objectives, over the long term.
    (2) Standards. The project or activity complies with applicable 
standards.
    (3) Guidelines. The project or activity:
    (i) Is designed to comply with applicable guidelines as set out in 
the plan; or
    (ii) Is designed in a way that is as effective in carrying out the 
intent of the applicable guidelines in contributing to the maintenance 
or attainment of relevant desired conditions and objectives, avoiding 
or mitigating undesirable effects, or meeting applicable legal 
requirements (Sec.  219.7(d)(1)(iv)).
    (4) Suitability. A project or activity would occur in an area:
    (i) That the plan identifies as suitable for that type of project 
or activity; or
    (ii) For which the plan is silent with respect to its suitability 
for that type of project or activity.
    (e) Consistency of resource plans within the planning unit with the 
land management plan. Any resource plans (e.g., travel management 
plans) developed by the Forest Service that apply to the resources or 
land areas within the planning unit must be consistent with the plan 
components. Resource plans developed prior to plan approval must be 
evaluated for consistency with the plan and amended if necessary.


Sec.  219.16  Public notifications.

    The following public notification requirements apply to plan 
development, amendment, or revision. Formal notifications may be 
combined where appropriate.
    (a) When formal public notification is required. Public 
notification must be provided at the following times:
    (1) To begin the preparation of an assessment for a plan or plan 
revision, or, when appropriate, a plan amendment;
    (2) To initiate the development of a proposed plan or plan 
revision, or, when appropriate, a plan amendment;
    (3) To invite comments on a proposed plan, plan revision, or plan 
amendment, and associated environmental analysis. For a new plan, plan 
revision, or a plan amendment for which a draft environmental impact 
statement is prepared, the comment period is at least 90 days. For an 
amendment for which a draft environmental impact statement is not 
prepared, the comment period is at least 30 days;
    (4) To begin the objection period for a plan, plan amendment, or 
plan revision before approval (Sec.  219.52);
    (5) To approve a final plan, plan amendment, or plan revision; or
    (6) To announce and describe how a plan, plan amendment, or plan 
revision process initiated under the provisions of a previous planning 
regulation will be conformed to meet the provisions of this part, when 
appropriate under Sec.  219.17(b)(3).
    (b) When a plan amendment is approved in a decision document 
approving a project or activity and the amendment applies only to the 
project or activity, the notification requirements of 36 CFR part 215 
or part 218, subpart A, applies instead of this section.
    (c) How public notice is provided. The responsible official should 
use contemporary tools to provide notice to the public. At a minimum, 
all public notifications required by this part must be posted online, 
and:
    (1) When the Chief, the Under Secretary, or the Secretary is the 
responsible official, notice must be published in the Federal Register;
    (2) For a new plan or plan revision, when an official other than 
the Chief, the Under Secretary, or the Secretary is the responsible 
official, notice must be published in the Federal Register and the 
applicable newspaper(s) of record;
    (3) For a plan amendment when an official other than the Chief, the 
Under Secretary, or the Secretary is the responsible official, notices 
must be published in the newspaper(s) of record. Notification in the 
Federal Register may also be required by Forest Service NEPA 
procedures;
    (4) If a plan, plan revision or plan amendment applies to two or 
more units, notices must be published in the Federal Register and the 
newspaper(s) of record for the applicable units; and
    (5) Public notice of administrative changes, changes to the 
monitoring program, plan amendment assessments, or other documented 
need for amendment, monitoring evaluation reports, or other notices not 
listed in paragraph (a) of this section, may be made in any way the 
responsible official deems appropriate.
    (d) Content of public notices. Public notices required by this 
section must clearly describe the action subject to notice and the 
nature and scope of the decisions to be made; identify the responsible 
official; describe when, where, and how the responsible official will 
provide opportunities for the public to participate in the planning 
process; and explain how to obtain additional information.


Sec.  219.17  Effective dates and transition.

    (a) Effective dates. A plan, plan amendment, or plan revision is 
effective 30 days after publication of notice of its approval, except 
when a plan amendment applies to only one project or activity. In those 
instances the amendment and project are implemented concurrently, in 
accordance with administrative review

[[Page 8523]]

regulations at 36 CFR part 215 and 36 CFR part 218.
    (b) Plan amendment and plan revision transition. For the purposes 
of this section, initiation means that the Agency has issued a notice 
of intent or other notice announcing the beginning of the process to 
develop a proposed plan, plan amendment, or plan revision.
    (1) Initiating plan development and plan revisions. Plan 
development and plan revisions initiated after the effective date of 
this part must conform to the requirements of this part.
    (2) Initiating plan amendments. With respect to plans approved or 
revised under a prior planning regulation, a 3-year transition period 
for plan amendments begins on the effective date of this part. During 
the transition period, plan amendments may be initiated under the 
provisions of the prior planning regulation, or may conform to the 
requirements of this part. Plan amendments initiated after the 
transition period must conform to the requirements of this part.
    (3) Plan development, plan amendments, or plan revisions initiated 
before this part. For plan development, plan amendments, or plan 
revisions that were initiated before the effective date of this part, 
the responsible official may complete the plan, plan revision, or plan 
amendment in conformance with the provisions of the prior planning 
regulation, or may conform the plan, plan amendment, or plan revision 
to the requirements of this part. When the responsible official chooses 
to conform an ongoing planning process to this part, public notice must 
be made (Sec.  219.16(a)(6)).
    (c) Plans developed, amended, or revised under a prior planning 
regulation. This part supersedes any prior planning regulation. For 
units with plans developed, amended, or revised using the provisions of 
a prior planning regulation, no obligations remain from any prior 
planning regulation, except those that are specifically included in the 
plan.


Sec.  219.18  Severability.

    In the event that any specific provision of this part is deemed by 
a court to be invalid, the remaining provisions shall remain in effect.


Sec.  219.19  Definitions.

    Definitions of the special terms used in this subpart are set out 
as follows.
    Alaska native corporation. One of the regional, urban, and village 
native corporations formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement 
Act of 1971.
    Assessment. A synthesis of information in support of land 
management planning to determine whether a change to the plan is 
needed. Assessments are not decisionmaking documents but provide 
current information on select issues. An assessment report on the need 
to change the plan may range from a many page broad scale comprehensive 
report to a one-page report, depending on the scope and scale of issues 
driving the need to change.
    Collaboration. A structured manner in which a collection of people 
with diverse interests share knowledge, ideas, and resources while 
working together in an inclusive and cooperative manner toward a common 
purpose. Collaboration, in the context of this part, falls within the 
full spectrum of public engagement described in the Council on 
Environmental Quality's publication: Collaboration in NEPA--A Handbook 
for NEPA Practitioners. The Forest Service retains decisionmaking 
authority and responsibility for all decisions throughout the process.
    Connectivity. Pertaining to the extent to which conditions exist or 
should be provided between separate national forest or grassland areas 
to ensure habitat for breeding, feeding, or movement of wildlife and 
fish within their home range or migration areas.
    Conservation. The protection, preservation, management, or 
restoration of natural environments and ecological communities.
    Culmination of mean annual increment of growth. See mean annual 
increment of growth.
    Designated areas. Areas or features within a planning unit with 
specific management direction that are normally established through a 
process separate from the land management planning process. 
Designations may be made by statute or by an administrative process of 
the Federal executive branch. The Forest Service Directive System 
contains policy for recognition and establishment of designations. 
Designated areas include experimental forests, national heritage areas, 
national monuments, national recreational areas, national scenic 
trails, research natural areas, scenic byways, wild and scenic rivers, 
wilderness areas, and wilderness study areas.
    Disturbance. Any relatively discrete event in time that disrupts 
ecosystem, watershed, community, or species population structure and/or 
function and changes resources, substrate availability, or the physical 
environment.
    Ecological conditions. The biological and physical environment that 
can affect diversity of plant and animal communities and the productive 
capacity of ecological systems. Examples of ecological conditions 
include the abundance and distribution of aquatic and terrestrial 
habitats, connectivity, roads and other structural developments, human 
uses, and invasive species.
    Ecological system. See ecosystem.
    Economic system. The system of production, distribution, and 
consumption of goods and services including consideration of jobs and 
income.
    Ecosystem. A spatially explicit, relatively homogeneous unit of the 
Earth that includes all interacting organisms and elements of the 
abiotic environment within its boundaries. An ecosystem is commonly 
described in terms of its:
    (1) Composition. Major vegetation types, rare communities, aquatic 
systems, and riparian systems.
    (2) Structure. Vertical and horizontal distribution of vegetation, 
stream habitat complexity, and riparian habitat elements.
    (3) Function. Ecological processes such as stream flows, nutrient 
cycling, and disturbance regimes.
    (4) Connectivity. Habitats that exist for breeding, feeding, or 
movement of wildlife and fish within species home ranges or migration 
areas.
    Ecosystem diversity. The variety and relative extent of ecosystem 
types, including their composition, structure, and processes.
    Ecosystem services. Benefits people obtain from ecosystems, 
including:
    (1) Provisioning services, such as clean air and fresh water, as 
well as energy, fuel, forage, fiber, and minerals;
    (2) Regulating services, such as long term storage of carbon; 
climate regulation; water filtration, purification, and storage; soil 
stabilization; flood control; and disease regulation;
    (3) Supporting services, such as pollination, seed dispersal, soil 
formation, and nutrient cycling; and
    (4) Cultural services, such as educational, aesthetic, spiritual, 
and cultural heritage values, as well as recreational experiences and 
tourism opportunities.
    Environmental assessment (EA). See definition in Sec.  219.62.
    Environmental document. Includes an environmental assessment, 
environmental impact statement, finding of no significant impact, 
categorical exclusion, and notice of intent to prepare an environmental 
impact statement.
    Environmental impact statement. See definition in Sec.  219.62.
    Even-aged stand. A stand of trees composed of a single age class.

[[Page 8524]]

    Federally recognized Indian Tribe. An Indian or Alaska Native 
Tribe, band, nation, pueblo, village, or community that the Secretary 
of the Interior acknowledges to exist as an Indian Tribe under the 
Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act of 1994, 25 U.S.C. 479a.
    Focal species. A small number of species selected for monitoring 
whose status is likely to be responsive to changes in ecological 
conditions and effects of management. Monitoring the status of focal 
species is one of many ways to gauge progress toward achieving desired 
conditions in the plan.
    Forest land. Land at least 10 percent occupied by forest trees of 
any size or formerly having had such tree cover and not currently 
developed for non-forest uses. Lands developed for non-forest use 
include areas for crops; improved pasture; residential or 
administrative areas; improved roads of any width and adjoining road 
clearing; and power line clearings of any width.
    Geographic area. A spatially contiguous land area identified within 
the planning unit. A geographic area may overlap with a management 
area.
    Health(y). The degree of ecological integrity that is related to 
the completeness or wholeness of the composition, structure, and 
function of native ecosystems existing within the inherent capability 
of the land.
    Landscape. A spatial mosaic of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, 
landforms, and plant communities across a defined area irrespective of 
ownership or other artificial boundaries and repeated in similar form 
throughout.
    Landscape character. A combination of physical, biological, and 
cultural images that gives an area its visual and cultural identity and 
helps to define a ``sense of place.'' Landscape character provides a 
frame of reference from which to determine scenic attractiveness and to 
measure scenic integrity.
    Management area. A land area identified within the planning unit 
that has the same set of applicable plan components. A management area 
does not have to be spatially contiguous.
    Mean annual increment of growth and culmination of mean annual 
increment of growth. Mean annual increment of growth is the total 
increment of increase of volume of a stand (standing crop plus 
thinnings) up to a given age divided by that age. Culmination of mean 
annual increment of growth is the age in the growth cycle of an even-
aged stand at which the average annual rate of increase of volume is at 
a maximum. In land management plans, mean annual increment is expressed 
in cubic measure and is based on the expected growth of stands, 
according to intensities and utilization guidelines in the plan.
    Monitoring. A systematic process of collecting information over 
time and space to evaluate effects of actions or changes in conditions 
or relationships.
    Multiple use. The management of all the various renewable surface 
resources of the NFS so they are used in the combination that will best 
meet the needs of the American people: Making the most judicious use of 
the land for some or all of these resources or related services over 
areas large enough to provide sufficient latitude for periodic 
adjustments in the use to conform to changing needs and conditions; 
recognizing that some lands will be used for less than all of the 
resources; and providing for harmonious and coordinated management of 
the various resources, each with the other, without impairment of the 
productivity of the land, with consideration being given to the 
relative values of the various resources, and not necessarily the 
combination of uses that will give the greatest dollar return or the 
greatest unit output, consistent with the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield 
Act of 1960 (16 U.S.C. 528-531). Ecosystem services are included as 
part of all the various renewable surface resources of the NFS.
    National Forest System. See definition in Sec.  219.62.
    Native knowledge. A way of knowing or understanding the world, 
including traditional ecological and social knowledge of the 
environment derived from multiple generations of indigenous peoples' 
interactions, observations, and experiences with their ecological 
systems. Native knowledge is place-based and culture-based knowledge in 
which people learn to live in and adapt to their own environment 
through interactions, observations, and experiences with their 
ecological system. This knowledge is generally not solely gained, 
developed by, or retained by individuals, but is rather accumulated 
over successive generations and is expressed through oral traditions, 
ceremonies, stories, dances, songs, art, and other means within a 
cultural context.
    Newspaper(s) of record. See definition in Sec.  219.62.
    Objection. See definition in Sec.  219.62.
    Online. See definition in Sec.  219.62.
    Participation. Activities that include a wide range of public 
involvement tools and processes, such as collaboration, public 
meetings, open houses, workshops, and comment periods.
    Plan or land management plan. A document or set of documents that 
describe management direction for an administrative unit of the NFS.
    Plan area. The National Forest System lands covered by a plan.
    Plant and animal communities. A naturally occurring assemblage of 
plant and animal species living within a defined area or habitat.
    Potential wilderness areas. All areas within the National Forest 
System lands that satisfy the definition of wilderness found in section 
2(c) of the 1964 Wilderness Act. Inventory criteria are listed in 
Forest Service Handbook 1909.12--Land Management Planning Handbook, 
Chapter 70--Wilderness Evaluation.
    Productivity. The capacity of National Forest System lands and 
their ecological systems to provide the various renewable resources in 
certain amounts in perpetuity. For the purposes of this subpart, 
productivity is an ecological, not an economic, term.
    Project. An organized effort to achieve an outcome on NFS lands 
identified by location, tasks, outputs, effects, times, and 
responsibilities for execution.
    Recreational setting. The surroundings or the environment for the 
recreational activities. The Forest Service uses the recreational 
opportunity spectrum that defines six recreational opportunity classes 
that provide different settings for recreational use: primitive, semi-
primitive nonmotorized, semi-primitive motorized, roaded natural, 
rural, and urban.
    Resilience. The capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and 
reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially 
the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks.
    Responsible official. See definition in Sec.  219.62.
    Restoration. The process of assisting the recovery of resilience 
and the capacity of a system to adapt to change if the environment 
where the system exists has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed. 
Ecological restoration focuses on reestablishing ecosystem functions by 
modifying or managing the composition, structure, arrangement, and 
processes necessary to make terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems 
sustainable, and resilient under current and future conditions.
    Riparian Areas. Geographically delineable areas with distinctive 
resource values and characteristics that are comprised of the aquatic 
and riparian ecosystems.
    Risk. A combination of the likelihood that a negative outcome will 
occur and the severity of the subsequent negative consequences.

[[Page 8525]]

    Sole source aquifer. A porous geologic formation, usually 
consisting of sand and gravel, that holds ground water, and designated 
by the Environmental Protection Agency because it supplies at least 50 
percent of the drinking water consumed in the area overlying the 
aquifer, and where contamination would present both a significant 
public health hazard and an economic hardship in the high cost of 
replacing the contaminated water.
    Source water protection areas. The area delineated by a State or 
Tribe for a public water system (PWS) or including numerous PWSs, 
whether the source is ground water or surface water or both, as part of 
a State or tribal source water assessment and protection program (SWAP) 
approved by Environmental Protection Agency under section 1453 of the 
Safe Drinking Water Act.
    Species of conservation concern. Species other than federally 
listed threatened or endangered species or candidate species, for which 
the responsible official has determined that there is evidence 
demonstrating significant concern about its capability to persist over 
the long-term in the plan area.
    Sustainability. Capability of meeting the needs of the present 
generation without compromising the ability of future generations to 
meet their needs.
    Sustainable recreation. The set of recreational opportunities, uses 
and access that, individually and combined, are ecologically, 
economically, and socially sustainable, allowing the responsible 
official to offer recreation opportunities now and into the future. 
Recreational opportunities can include non-motorized, motorized, 
developed, and dispersed recreation on land, water, and air.
    System drivers. Natural or human-induced factors that directly or 
indirectly cause a change in an ecosystem, such as climate change, 
habitat change, or non-native invasive species, human population 
change, economic activity, or technology.
    Timber harvest. The removal of trees for wood fiber use and other 
multiple-use purposes.
    Timber production. The purposeful growing, tending, harvesting, and 
regeneration of regulated crops of trees to be cut into logs, bolts, or 
other round sections for industrial or consumer use.
    Viable population. A population of a species that continues to 
persist over the long term with sufficient distribution to be resilient 
and adaptable to stressors and likely future environments.
    Watershed. A region or land area drained by a single stream, river, 
or drainage network; a drainage basin.
    Watershed condition. The state of a watershed based on physical and 
biogeochemical characteristics and processes.
    Wild and scenic river. A river designated by Congress as part of 
the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System that was established in the 
Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 (16 U.S.C. 1271 (note), 1271-1287).
    Wilderness. Any area of land designated by Congress as part of the 
National Wilderness Preservation System that was established in the 
Wilderness Act of 1964 (16 U.S.C. 1131-1136).

Subpart B--Pre-Decisional Administrative Review Process


Sec.  219.50  Purpose and scope.

    This subpart establishes a pre-decisional administrative review 
(hereinafter referred to as objection) process for plans, plan 
amendments, or plan revisions. This process gives an individual or 
organization an opportunity for an independent Forest Service review 
and resolution of issues before the approval of a plan, plan amendment, 
or plan revision. This subpart identifies who may file objections to a 
plan, plan amendment, or plan revision; the responsibilities of the 
participants in an objection; and the procedures that apply to the 
review of the objection.


Sec.  219.51  Plans, plan amendments, or plan revisions not subject to 
objection.

    (a) A plan, plan amendment, or plan revision is not subject to 
objection when the responsible official receives no formal comments 
(Sec.  219.62) on that proposal during the opportunities for public 
comment (Sec.  219.53(a)).
    (b) Plans, plan amendments, or plan revisions proposed by the 
Secretary of Agriculture or the Under Secretary for Natural Resources 
and Environment, are not subject to the procedures set forth in this 
section. A decision by the Secretary or Under Secretary constitutes the 
final administrative determination of the Department of Agriculture.
    (c) A plan, plan amendment, or plan revision is not subject to 
objection under this subpart if another administrative review process 
is used consistent with Sec.  219.59.
    (d) When a plan, plan amendment, or plan revision is not subject to 
objection under this subpart, the responsible official shall include an 
explanation with the signed decision document.


Sec.  219.52  Giving notice of a plan, plan amendment, or plan revision 
subject to objection before approval.

    (a) The responsible official shall disclose during the NEPA scoping 
process and in the appropriate NEPA documents that the proposed plan, 
plan amendment, or plan revision is subject to the objection procedures 
in this subpart. This disclosure is in addition to the public notice 
that begins the objection filing period, as required at Sec.  219.16.
    (b) The responsible official shall make available the public notice 
for beginning of the objection period for a plan, plan amendment, or 
plan revision (Sec.  219.16(a)(4)) to those who have requested the 
environmental documents or are eligible to file an objection consistent 
with Sec.  219.53.
    (c) The content of the public notice for beginning of the objection 
period for a plan, plan amendment, or plan revision before approval 
(Sec.  219.16(a)(4)) must:
    (1) Inform the public of the availability of the plan, plan 
amendment, or plan revision, the appropriate final environmental 
documents, the draft plan decision document, and any relevant 
assessment or monitoring evaluation report; the commencement of the 30-
day objection period under 36 CFR part 219 subpart B; and the process 
for objecting.
    (2) Include the name of the plan, plan amendment, or plan revision 
and the name and title of the responsible official, and instructions on 
how to obtain a copy of the appropriate final environmental documents; 
the draft plan decision document; and the plan, plan amendment, or plan 
revision.
    (3) Include the name and address of the reviewing officer with whom 
an objection is to be filed. The notice must specify a street, postal, 
fax, and e-mail address; the acceptable format(s) for objections filed 
electronically; and the reviewing officer's office business hours for 
those filing hand-delivered objections.
    (4) Include a statement that objections will be accepted only from 
those who have previously submitted formal comments specific to the 
proposed plan, plan amendment, or plan revision during any opportunity 
for public comment as provided in subpart A.
    (5) Include a statement that the publication date of the public 
notice in the applicable newspaper of record (or the Federal Register, 
if the responsible official is the Chief or the Secretary) is the 
exclusive means for calculating the time to file an objection (Sec.  
219.56).
    (6) Include a statement that an objection, including attachments, 
must

[[Page 8526]]

be filed with the appropriate reviewing officer (Sec.  219.62) within 
30 days of the date of publication of the public notice for the 
objection process.
    (7) Include a statement describing the minimum content requirements 
of an objection (Sec.  219.54(c)).


Sec.  219.53  Who may file an objection.

    (a) Individuals and organizations who have submitted substantive 
formal comments related to a plan, plan amendment, or plan revision 
during the opportunities for public comment as provided in subpart A 
during the planning process for that decision may file an objection. 
Objections must be based on previously submitted substantive formal 
comments unless the objection concerns an issue that arose after the 
opportunities for formal comment. The burden is on the objector to 
demonstrate compliance with requirements for objection. Objections from 
individuals or organizations that do not meet the requirements of this 
paragraph must not be accepted; however, objections not accepted must 
be documented in the planning record.
    (b) Formal comments received from an authorized representative(s) 
of an organization are considered those of the organization only. 
Individual members of that organization do not meet objection 
eligibility requirements solely based on membership in an organization. 
A member or an individual must submit formal comments independently to 
be eligible to file an objection in an individual capacity.
    (c) When an objection lists multiple individuals or organizations, 
each individual or organization must meet the requirements of paragraph 
(a) of this section. Individuals or organizations listed on an 
objection that do not meet eligibility requirements must not be 
considered objectors, although an objection must be accepted (if not 
otherwise set aside for review under Sec.  219.55) if at least one 
listed individual or organization meets the eligibility requirements.
    (d) Federal agencies may not file objections.
    (e) Federal employees who otherwise meet the requirements of this 
subpart for filing objections in a non-official capacity must comply 
with Federal conflict of interest statutes at 18 U.S.C. 202-209 and 
with employee ethics requirements at 5 CFR part 2635. Specifically, 
employees must not be on official duty nor use government property or 
equipment in the preparation or filing of an objection. Further, 
employees must not include information unavailable to the public, such 
as Federal agency documents that are exempt from disclosure under the 
Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552 (b)).


Sec.  219.54  Filing an objection.

    (a) Objections must be filed with the reviewing officer in writing. 
All objections must be open to public inspection during the objection 
process.
    (b) Including documents by reference is not allowed, except for the 
following list of items that may be referenced by including the name, 
date, page number (where applicable), and relevant section of the cited 
document. All other documents, web links to those documents, or both 
must be included with the objection.
    (1) All or any part of a Federal law or regulation.
    (2) Forest Service Directive System documents and land management 
plans.
    (3) Documents referenced by the Forest Service in the planning 
documentation related to the proposal subject to objection.
    (4) Formal comments previously provided to the Forest Service by 
the objector during the proposed plan, plan amendment, or plan revision 
comment period.
    (c) At a minimum, an objection must include the following:
    (1) The objector's name and address (Sec.  219.62), along with a 
telephone number or e-mail address if available;
    (2) Signature or other verification of authorship upon request (a 
scanned signature for electronic mail may be filed with the objection);
    (3) Identification of the lead objector, when multiple names are 
listed on an objection (Sec.  219.62). Verification of the identity of 
the lead objector if requested;
    (4) The name of the plan, plan amendment, or plan revision being 
objected to, and the name and title of the responsible official;
    (5) A statement of the issues and/or the parts of the plan, plan 
amendment, or plan revision to which the objection applies;
    (6) A concise statement explaining the objection and suggesting how 
the proposed plan decision may be improved. If applicable, the objector 
should identify how the objector believes that the plan, plan 
amendment, or plan revision is inconsistent with law, regulation, or 
policy; and
    (7) A statement that demonstrates the link between prior formal 
comments attributed to the objector and the content of the objection, 
unless the objection concerns an issue that arose after the 
opportunities for formal comment (Sec.  219.53(a)).


Sec.  219.55  Objections set aside from review.

    (a) The reviewing officer must set aside and not review an 
objection when one or more of the following applies:
    (1) Objections are not filed in a timely manner (Sec.  219.56);
    (2) The proposed plan, plan amendment, or plan revision is not 
subject to the objection procedures of this subpart pursuant to 
Sec. Sec.  219.51 and 219.59;
    (3) The individual or organization did not submit formal comments 
(Sec.  219.53) during scoping or other opportunities for public comment 
on the proposed decision (Sec.  219.16);
    (4) None of the issues included in the objection is based on 
previously submitted substantive formal comments unless one or more of 
those issues arose after the opportunities for formal comment;
    (5) The objection does not provide sufficient information as 
required by Sec.  219.54(c);
    (6) The objector withdraws the objection in writing;
    (7) The objector's identity is not provided or cannot be determined 
from the signature (written or electronically scanned), and a 
reasonable means of contact is not provided (Sec.  219.54(c)); or
    (8) The objection is illegible for any reason and a legible copy 
cannot easily be obtained.
    (b) When an objection includes an issue that is not based on 
previously submitted substantive formal comments and did not arise 
after the opportunities for formal comment, that issue will be set 
aside and not reviewed. Other issues raised in the objection that meet 
the requirements of this subpart will be reviewed.
    (c) The reviewing officer must give written notice to the objector 
and the responsible official when an objection is set aside from review 
and must state the reasons for not reviewing the objection. If the 
objection is set aside from review for reasons of illegibility or lack 
of a means of contact, the reasons must be documented in the planning 
record.


Sec.  219.56  Objection time periods and process.

    (a) Time to file an objection. Written objections, including any 
attachments, must be filed within 30 days following the publication 
date of the public notice for a plan, plan amendment, or plan revision 
before approval (Sec. Sec.  219.16 and 219.52). It is the 
responsibility of the objector to ensure that the reviewing officer 
receives the objection in a timely manner.
    (b) Computation of time periods. (1) All time periods are computed 
using calendar days, including Saturdays,

[[Page 8527]]

Sundays, and Federal holidays in the time zone of the reviewing 
officer. However, when the time period expires on a Saturday, Sunday, 
or Federal holiday, the time is extended to the end of the next Federal 
working day (11:59 p.m. for objections filed by electronic means such 
as e-mail or facsimile machine).
    (2) The day after publication of the public notice for a plan, plan 
amendment, or plan revision before approval (Sec. Sec.  219.16 and 
219.52), is the first day of the objection filing period.
    (3) The publication date of the public notice for a plan, plan 
amendment, or plan revision before approval (Sec. Sec.  219.16 and 
219.52), is the exclusive means for calculating the time to file an 
objection. Objectors must not rely on dates or timeframe information 
provided by any other source.
    (c) Evidence of timely filing. The objector is responsible for 
filing the objection in a timely manner. Timeliness must be determined 
by one of the following indicators:
    (1) The date of the U.S. Postal Service postmark for an objection 
received before the close of the fifth business day after the objection 
filing date;
    (2) The electronically generated delivery date and time for e-mail 
and facsimiles;
    (3) The shipping date for delivery by private carrier for an 
objection received before the close of the fifth business day after the 
objection filing date; or
    (4) The official agency date stamp showing receipt of hand 
delivery.
    (d) Extensions. Time extensions for filing are not permitted except 
as provided at paragraph (b)(1) of this section.
    (e) Reviewing officer role and responsibilities. The reviewing 
officer is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) or Forest 
Service official having the delegated authority and responsibility to 
review an objection filed under this subpart. The reviewing officer is 
a line officer at the next higher administrative level above the 
responsible official; except that for a plan amendment, that next 
higher-level line officer may delegate their reviewing officer 
authority and responsibility to a line officer at the same 
administrative level as the responsible official. Any delegation of 
reviewing officer responsibilities must be made prior to the public 
notification of an objection filing period (Sec.  219.52).
    (f) Notice of objections filed. Within 10 days after the close of 
the objection period, the responsible official shall publish a notice 
of all objections in the applicable newspaper of record and post the 
notice online.
    (g) Response to objections. The reviewing officer must issue a 
written response to the objector(s) concerning their objection(s) 
within 90 days of the end of the objection-filing period. The reviewing 
officer has the discretion to extend the time when it is determined to 
be necessary to provide adequate response to objections or to 
participate in discussions with the parties. The reviewing officer must 
notify all parties (lead objectors and interested persons) in writing 
of any extensions.


Sec.  219.57  Resolution of objections.

    (a) Meetings. Prior to the issuance of the reviewing officer's 
written response, either the reviewing officer or the objector may 
request to meet to discuss issues raised in the objection and potential 
resolution. The reviewing officer must allow other interested persons 
to participate in such meetings. An interested person must file a 
request to participate in an objection within 10 days after publication 
of the notice of objection by the responsible official (Sec.  
219.56(f)). The responsible official shall be a participant in all 
meetings involving the reviewing officer, objectors, and interested 
persons. During meetings with objectors and interested persons, the 
reviewing officer may choose to use alternative dispute resolution 
methods to resolve objections. All meetings are open to observation by 
the public.
    (b) Response to objections. (1) The reviewing officer must render a 
written response to the objection(s) within 90 days of the close of the 
objection-filing period, unless the allowable time is extended as 
provided at Sec.  219.56(g). A written response must set forth the 
reasons for the response but need not be a point-by-point response, and 
may contain instructions to the responsible official. In cases 
involving more than one objection to a plan, plan amendment, or plan 
revision, the reviewing officer may consolidate objections and issue 
one or more responses. The response must be sent to the objecting 
party(ies) by certified mail, return receipt requested, and posted 
online.
    (2) The reviewing officer's review of and response to the 
objection(s) is limited to only those issues and concerns submitted in 
the objection(s).
    (3) The response of the reviewing officer will be the final 
decision of the Department of Agriculture on the objection.


Sec.  219.58  Timing of a plan, plan amendment, or plan revision 
decision.

    (a) The responsible official may not issue a decision document 
concerning a plan, plan amendment, or plan revision subject to the 
provisions of this subpart until the reviewing officer has responded in 
writing to all objections.
    (b) A decision by the responsible official approving a plan, plan 
amendment, or plan revision must be consistent with the reviewing 
officer's response to objections.
    (c) When no objection is filed within the 30-day time period, the 
reviewing officer must notify the responsible official. The responsible 
official's approval of the plan, plan amendment, or plan revision in a 
plan decision document consistent with Sec.  219.14, may occur on, but 
not before, the fifth business day following the end of the objection-
filing period.


Sec.  219.59  Use of other administrative review processes.

    (a) Where the Forest Service is a participant in a multi-Federal 
agency effort that would otherwise be subject to objection under this 
subpart, the reviewing officer may waive the objection procedures of 
this subpart and instead adopt the administrative review procedure of 
another participating Federal agency. As a condition of such a waiver, 
the responsible official for the Forest Service must have agreement 
with the responsible official of the other agency or agencies that a 
joint agency response will be provided to those who file for 
administrative review of the multi-agency effort. When such an 
agreement is reached, the responsible official for the Forest Service 
shall ensure public notice required in Sec.  219.52 sets forth which 
administrative review procedure is to be used.
    (b) When a plan amendment is approved in a decision document 
approving a project or activity and the amendment applies only to the 
project or activity, the administrative review process of 36 CFR part 
215 or part 218, subpart A, applies instead of the objection process 
established in this subpart. When a plan amendment applies to all 
future projects or activities, the objection process established in 
this subpart applies only to the plan amendment decision; the review 
process of 36 CFR part 215 or part 218 would apply to the project or 
activity part of the decision.


Sec.  219.60  Secretary's authority.

    Nothing in this subpart restricts the Secretary of Agriculture from 
exercising any statutory authority regarding the protection, 
management, or administration of NFS lands.

[[Page 8528]]

Sec.  219.61  Information collection requirements.

    This subpart specifies the information that objectors must give in 
an objection to a plan, plan amendment, or plan revision (Sec.  
219.54(c)). As such, these rules contain information collection 
requirements as defined in 5 CFR part 1320 and have been approved by 
Office of Management and Budget and assigned control number 0596-0158.


Sec.  219.62  Definitions.

    Definitions of the special terms used in this subpart are set out 
as follows.
    Address. An individual's or organization's current mailing address 
used for postal service or other delivery services. An e-mail address 
is not sufficient.
    Decision memo. A concise written record of the responsible 
official's decision to implement an action that is categorically 
excluded from further analysis and documentation in an environmental 
impact statement (EIS) or environmental assessment (EA), where the 
action is one of a category of actions which do not individually or 
cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment, and 
does not give rise to extraordinary circumstances in which a normally 
excluded action may have a significant environmental effect.
    Environmental assessment (EA). A public document that provides 
sufficient evidence and analysis for determining whether to prepare an 
environmental impact statement (EIS) or a finding of no significant 
impact (FONSI), aids an agency's compliance with the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when no EIS is necessary, and 
facilitates preparation of a statement when one is necessary (40 CFR 
1508.9; FSH 1909.15, Chapter 40).
    Environmental impact statement (EIS). A detailed written statement 
as required by section 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy 
Act (NEPA) of 1969 (40 CFR 1508.11; 36 CFR part 220).
    Formal comments. Written comments submitted to, or oral comments 
recorded by, the responsible official or his designee during an 
opportunity for public participation provided during the planning 
process (Sec. Sec.  219.4 and 219.16), and attributed to the individual 
or organization providing them.
    Lead objector. For an objection submitted with multiple 
individuals, multiple organizations, or combination of individuals and 
organizations listed, the individual or organization identified to 
represent all other objectors for the purposes of communication, 
written or otherwise, regarding the objection.
    Line officer. A Forest Service official who serves in a direct line 
of command from the Chief.
    Name. The first and last name of an individual or the name of an 
organization. An electronic username is insufficient for identification 
of an individual or organization.
    National Forest System. The National Forest System includes 
national forests, national grasslands, and the National Tall Grass 
Prairie.
    Newspaper(s) of record. The newspaper of record is the principal 
newspapers of general circulation annually identified and published in 
the Federal Register by each regional forester to be used for 
publishing notices as required by 36 CFR 215.5. The newspaper(s) of 
record for projects in a plan area is (are) the newspaper(s) of record 
for notices related to planning.
    Objection. The written document filed with a reviewing officer by 
an individual or organization seeking pre-decisional administrative 
review of a plan, plan amendment, or plan revision.
    Objection period. The 30-calendar-day period following publication 
of a public notice in the applicable newspaper of record (or the 
Federal Register, if the responsible official is the Chief or the 
Secretary) of the availability of the appropriate environmental 
documents and draft decision document, including a plan, plan 
amendment, or plan revision during which an objection may be filed with 
the reviewing officer.
    Objection process. Those procedures established for pre-decisional 
administrative review of a plan, plan amendment, or plan revision.
    Objector. An individual or organization who meets the requirements 
of Sec.  219.53, and files an objection that meets the requirements of 
Sec. Sec.  219.54 and 219.56.
    Online. Refers to the appropriate Forest Service Web site or future 
electronic equivalent.
    Responsible official. The official with the authority and 
responsibility to oversee the planning process and to approve a plan, 
plan amendment, and plan revision.
    Reviewing officer. The USDA or Forest Service official having the 
delegated authority and responsibility to review an objection filed 
under this subpart.

    Dated: February 7, 2011.
Harris D. Sherman,
Under Secretary, NRE.
[FR Doc. 2011-2989 Filed 2-11-11; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-11-P