[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 177 (Thursday, September 12, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 56202-56208]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-22149]


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Notices
                                                Federal Register
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This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains documents other than rules 
or proposed rules that are applicable to the public. Notices of hearings 
and investigations, committee meetings, agency decisions and rulings, 
delegations of authority, filing of petitions and applications and agency 
statements of organization and functions are examples of documents 
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Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 177 / Thursday, September 12, 2013 / 
Notices

[[Page 56202]]



DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

RIN 0596-AC82


Ecological Restoration Policy

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of proposed directive; request for comment.

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SUMMARY: The Forest Service proposes to issue a permanent Ecological 
Restoration Policy in Forest Service Manual (FSM) 2020. The proposed 
directive would provide broad direction for restoring National Forest 
System lands and associated resources to achieve sustainable management 
and ecological integrity. This policy would recognize the adaptive 
capacity of ecosystems, the role of natural disturbances, and 
uncertainty related to climate and other environmental change. On 
September 22, 2008, the Forest Service issued an interim directive, FSM 
2020 Ecological Restoration and Resilience. The interim directive was 
reissued on March 3, 2010, a third time on August 30, 2011, and a 
fourth time on May 13, 2013, and is now proposed as permanent policy.

DATES: Comments must be received in writing by November 12, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Submit comments through the World Wide Web/Internet Web site 
http://www.regulations.gov. Alternately, submit written comments by 
addressing them to Forest Service Restoration Directive, c/o Jim 
Alegria, Forest Management Staff, USDA Forest Service, Mailstop 1103, 
1400 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20250, or by facsimile to 
202-205-1012. Please identify your written comments by including 
``Restoration Directive'' on the cover sheet or first page. Electronic 
comments are preferred. For comments sent via U.S. Postal Service, 
please do not submit duplicate electronic or facsimile comments. Please 
confine comments to the proposed directive on the Ecological 
Restoration and Resilience Policy.
    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 received on the internet at 
http://www.fs.fed.us/restoration/index.shtml.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jim Alegria, Forest Management Staff, 
USDA Forest Service, Mailstop 1103, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., 
Washington, DC 20250, 202-205-1787. Individuals who use 
telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 between 8:00 a.m. 
and 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background and Need for the Directive

    The need for ecological restoration of many areas in the National 
Forest System is widely recognized, and the Forest Service has 
conducted restoration-related activities through many resource 
management programs for decades. However, an internal agency study 
(http://www.fs.fed.us/restoration/documents/RestFramework_final_010606.pdf) identified that the concept of ecological restoration has 
not been well understood nor consistently implemented within the 
agency. The Agency believes that a foundational, comprehensive policy 
and definitions would help it to use ecological restoration more 
effectively as a tool for achieving land management objectives on 
national forests and grasslands.
    The Forest Service proposes to amend its directives by establishing 
a new title in the Forest Service Manual, FSM 2020: Ecological 
Restoration . The proposed directive would establish broad, 
foundational policy for restoration of National Forest System lands and 
resources. The intent is to provide a clear, comprehensive, and 
science-based restoration policy to guide achievement of sustainable 
management and ecological integrity under changing environmental 
conditions, such as those driven by a changing climate and increasing 
human uses.
    Restoration is the process of assisting the recovery of ecosystems 
that have been damaged, degraded, or destroyed. Ecological restoration 
re-establishes the composition, structure, and/or ecological processes 
that support sustainable aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. In order 
to identify an ecosystem in need of restoration, current conditions 
should be evaluated against: the natural range of variation as a 
reference to understand ecosystem function; the dynamic nature of 
ecosystems, associated natural and current disturbance regimes; and 
likely future environments resulting from climate change and increasing 
human uses. Although this proposal is to establish a restoration policy 
on National Forest System lands and resources, there may be some 
situations where ecosystems have been so degraded that restoration may 
not be feasible or economically possible.
    The proposed directive applies to all National Forest System's 
resource management programs. For example, this directive would apply 
when there is an objective to restore watershed condition and function, 
control invasive species, re-create natural stream channel complexity, 
improve or reestablish habitat for threatened and endangered species, 
and restore natural fire regimes.
    The Forest Service has a multiple-use mission and not all 
management activities on national forests and grasslands require a 
restoration objective. The Agency will continue to support management 
activities such as energy development, recreation use, grazing and 
timber production conducted in an ecologically sustainable manner to 
avoid the need for ecological restoration in the future. For example, 
vegetative treatments in the Wildland Urban Interface that are 
necessary to effectively reduce fire risk to communities may require a 
silvicultural treatment that would not be viewed as ecological 
restoration. Rather, the vegetative treatments would address the 
objective of reducing the risk of harm to people, property and forest 
resources due to wildfire. Water structures for range management will 
continue to be developed to sustain livestock and reduce risk to 
riparian systems. The directive would amend the Forest Service Manual 
to include a definition for the term restoration, or ecological 
restoration. The more generic term restoration has been used widely by 
the Forest Service and other agencies beginning with the National Fire 
Plan

[[Page 56203]]

Cohesive Strategy adopted in 2001, and the 10-Year Comprehensive 
Strategy and Implementation Plan. The term restoration and associated 
concepts such as reforestation, resilience, and adaptation, are 
increasingly used by the Congress, media, stakeholders, general public, 
scientific community, and leaders, including the Secretary of 
Agriculture and the Chief of the Forest Service, in their public 
statements. The directive primarily serves to improve understanding of 
the term by Forest Service employees, partners, and the public, by 
clarifying the purpose behind it, as well as its scope and context. 
This improved understanding will allow the Forest Service to 
communicate ecological restoration needs more effectively at the local, 
regional, and national levels.
    The policies and ecological principles in this proposed directive 
are consistent with those in the Forest Service's 2012 Land Management 
Planning Rule (planning rule). The proposed directive would reinforce 
the use of adaptive management, scientific information, and 
collaboration in agency planning and decision-making. The Forest 
Service twice asked for public comment on the concept and definition of 
restoration in developing the planning rule, with the release of the 
Notice of Intent to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for 
a new rule (December 18, 2009) and again with release of the proposed 
rule (February 14, 2011). Some public comments stated that the term 
``restoration'' needed to be defined. Most respondents who cited the 
Forest Service definition in the FSM 2020 interim directive generally 
agreed with it. Others did not agree with the Forest Service definition 
and offered new definitions. This proposed directive would adopt the 
definition of restoration from the 2012 planning rule (April 9, 2012) 
for FSM Chapter 2020--Ecological Restoration. Definitions for other 
terms proposed for FSM 2020.-5 are from the 2012 planning rule, Agency 
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations, and other 
sources.

Interim Directive

    In 2008, the Chief of the Forest Service determined that a national 
policy on ecological restoration was needed to ensure a consistent and 
cohesive approach to restoring the ecological integrity of forest and 
grassland ecosystems. Since then, the Forest Service has been using an 
interim directive that lays out an operational definition for 
``ecological restoration.'' This interim directive has been in place 
since September 22, 2008, and was reissued on March 3, 2010. It was 
reissued a third time on August 30, 2011, and a fourth time on May 13, 
2013. The interim directive expires on November 13, 2014.

Regulatory Certification

Environmental Impact

    The proposed directive establishes broad, foundational policy for 
restoration of National Forest System lands and associated resources. 
The Agency procedure at 36 CFR 220.6(d)(2) excludes from documentation 
in an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement 
``rules, regulations, or policies to establish Service-wide 
administrative procedures, program processes, or instructions.'' This 
proposed directive constitutes a policy to establish Service-wide 
administrative procedures, program processes, or instructions 
consequently the Agency has concluded that the proposed directive falls 
within the category of actions in 36 CFR 220.6(d)(2) and that no 
extraordinary circumstances exist which would require preparation of an 
environmental assessment or environmental impact statement.

Regulatory Impact

    This proposed directive has been reviewed under USDA procedures and 
Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Planning and Review. It has been 
determined that this is not an economically significant action. This 
action would 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 action would not interfere with an action taken or planned by 
another agency. This action would 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 the management of National Forest System land, 
this proposed agency directive has been designated as significant and, 
therefore, is subject to Office of Management and Budget review under 
Executive Order 12866.
    In accordance with OMB circular A-4, ``Regulatory Analysis,'' a 
cost/benefit analysis was conducted. The analysis compared the costs 
and benefits associated with the ``no action'' alternative of not 
having an agency policy and the alternative of adopting the proposed 
ecological restoration policy. Many benefits and costs associated with 
the proposed agency policy are not quantifiable. Benefits include 
providing consistent and uniform understanding and Service-wide 
application of restoration policies, principles, and terminology; 
increasing agency effectiveness when planning and implementing 
restoration activities; and fostering better understanding and 
collaboration among interests from local to national levels. It is 
anticipated that the proposed directive would reduce costs by providing 
clear policy, definitions, and principles of ecological restoration and 
reducing ad hoc or inconsistent interpretation of terminology and 
policy.
    This directive has been reviewed in light of the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act, as amended (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.), and it has been 
determined that this action will not have a significant economic impact 
on a substantial number of small entities as defined by that Act. A 
threshold regulatory flexibility analysis is not required under the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act because this directive is broad agency 
policy that imposes no impacts or requirements on small or large 
entities. The directive will increase agency effectiveness when 
planning and implementing restoration activities at the local level.

Federalism

    The Agency has considered this proposed directive under the 
requirements of Executive Order 13132, Federalism. The Agency has 
concluded that the proposed directive conforms with the federalism 
principles set out in this Executive order; will not impose any 
compliance costs on the States; and will not have substantial direct 
effects on the States or the relationship between the national 
government and the States, or on the distribution of power and 
responsibilities among the various levels of government. Therefore, the 
Agency has determined that no further assessment of federalism 
implications is necessary.

Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments

    Pursuant to Executive Order 13175 of November 6, 2000, 
``Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments,'' 
Tribes were invited to consult on the proposed directive prior to 
review and comment by the general public. The consultation process was 
initiated through written instructions from the Deputy Chief for the 
National Forest System to the Regional Foresters and subsequently to 
the Forest Supervisors. Upon request from Tribes, formal consultation 
was conducted by the Forest Supervisors and/or District Rangers with 
assistance from staff. Tribal comments were submitted to the

[[Page 56204]]

Washington Office staff designated as lead for this proposed policy.
    A limited number of responses were received during the course of 
the 120-day consultation period, and used in the formulation of policy 
or otherwise considered. Comments were in support of the directive. 
Some expressed the opinion that the directive did not represent any 
change from current Agency practices. One comment suggested that the 
ecological restoration policy should include identification and removal 
of stressors (often human uses) as part of any restoration activity. 
The suggestion was incorporated into the policy section at 2020.3.
    Implementation of this directive primarily occurs at the local 
level (national forest or grassland unit) through land management 
planning and project-level planning and accomplishment. When local 
actions are initiated, another level of consultation would occur among 
Tribes and forest and grassland units because it is at that more local 
level that site-specific ecological restoration goals and objectives 
are established. Also, at that level the design and effects of 
restoration activities are most effectively managed in relation to the 
Agency's tribal trust responsibilities and Indian tribal treaty rights 
to assure Tribal interests are respected.
    The proposed directive establisheses broad, foundational policy for 
ecological restoration of National Forest System (NFS) lands and 
associated resources but does not directly affect the occupancy and use 
of NFS land. The Agency has assessed the impact of this proposed 
directive on Indian Tribes through Tribal consultation and has 
determined that it does not have substantial direct or unique effects 
on one or more Indian Tribes, on the relationship between the Federal 
Government and Indian Tribes, or on the distribution of power and 
responsibilities between the Federal Government and Indian Tribes. The 
Agency has also determined that this proposed directive does not impose 
substantial direct compliance costs on Indian tribal governments or 
preempt tribal law.

No Takings Implications

    This proposed directive has been analyzed in accordance with the 
principles and criteria contained in Executive Order 12630, 
Governmental Actions and Interference with Constitutionally Protected 
Property Rights, and it has been determined that the proposed directive 
does not pose the risk of a taking of protected private property.

Civil Justice Reform

    This proposed directive has been reviewed under Executive Order 
12988 ``Civil Justice Reform.'' After adoption of this proposed 
directive, (1) All state and local laws and regulations that conflict 
with this proposed directive or that would impede full implementation 
of this directive would be preempted; (2) no retroactive effect would 
be given to this proposed directive; and (3) the proposed directive 
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), signed into law on March 22, 1995, the Agency has 
assessed the effects of this proposed directive on State, local, and 
Tribal governments and the private sector. This proposed directive does 
not compel the annual expenditure of $100 million or more by any State, 
local, or Tribal government in the aggregate or by anyone in the 
private sector. Therefore, a statement under section 202 of the act is 
not required.

Energy Effects

    This proposed directive has been reviewed under Executive Order 
13211, Actions Concerning Regulations That Significantly Affect Energy 
Supply, Distribution, or Use. It has been determined that this proposed 
directive does not constitute a significant energy action as defined in 
the Executive order.

Controlling Paperwork Burdens on the Public

    This proposed directive does not contain any additional record 
keeping or reporting requirements or other information collection 
requirements as defined in 5 CFR part 1320 that are not already 
required by law and already approved for use, and, therefore, imposes 
no additional paperwork burden on the public. Accordingly, the review 
provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et 
seq.) and its implementing regulations at 5 CFR part 1320 do not apply.

Forest Service Manual

    The Forest Service is seeking comment on the proposed policy being 
established in Forest Service Manual 2020 as follows:

Chapter 2020--Ecological Restoration

    FSM 2020 provides foundational policy when ecological restoration 
is employed to manage National Forest System lands. This directive 
reaches across all program areas and activities applicable to 
management of National Forest System lands and resources so as to 
ensure integration and coordination at all levels and within all 
organizational units.

2020.1--Authority

    The authority for restoring National Forest System lands derives 
from many laws enacted by Congress that define the purpose of national 
forests and grasslands. These are cited throughout the Forest Service 
Manual and Handbooks. FSM 1010 lists the most significant laws and 
provides guidance on where to obtain copies of them.
    The history of Federal policies, treaties, statutes, court 
decisions, and Presidential direction regarding Indian Tribes and 
tribal rights and interests is extensive. FSM 1563.01a through 1563.01i 
set out the legal authorities relevant to Forest Service relationships 
with Tribes.
    The President issued direction through several Executive orders 
relevant to protection of resources or restoration of ecosystem 
processes and functions. Also, numerous regulations governing the 
sustainable management and restoration of National Forest System lands 
are found in the Code of Federal Regulations under Title 36, Chapter 
II, Parts 200-299.

2020.11--Laws

    The principal statutes governing the management and restoration of 
National Forest System lands include, but are not limited to, the 
following statutes. Except where specifically stated, these statutes 
apply to all National Forest System lands and resources.
    1. Organic Administration Act (at 16 U.S.C. 475, 551). States the 
purpose of the national forests, and directs their control and 
administration to be in accord with such purpose, that is, ``[n]o 
national forest shall be established, except 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.'' 
Authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to ``make such rules and 
regulations . . . to preserve the [national] forests from 
destruction.''
    2. Weeks Act, as amended (at 16 U.S.C. 515, 552). Authorizes the 
Secretary of Agriculture to enter into agreements with States for the 
purpose of conserving forests and water supply, and to acquire 
forested, cutover, or denuded lands within the watersheds of navigable 
streams to protect the flow of these streams or for the production of

[[Page 56205]]

timber, with the consent of the State in which the land lies.
    3. Knutson-Vandenberg Act (16 U.S.C. at 576b). Specifies that the 
Secretary may require any purchaser of national forest timber to make 
deposits of money in addition to the payments for the timber, to cover 
costs incurred to the United States. These costs include planting, 
sowing with tree seeds, and cutting, destroying, or otherwise removing 
undesirable trees or other growth, on the national forest land cut over 
by the purchaser. The monies are used to improve the future stand of 
timber, or to protect and to improve the future productivity of the 
renewable resources of the forest land in such sale area.
    4. Anderson-Mansfield Reforestation and Revegetation Joint 
Resolution Act of 1949 (at 16 U.S.C. 581j and 581 j(note)). States the 
policy of the Congress to accelerate and provide a continuing basis for 
the needed reforestation and revegetation of national forest lands and 
other lands under Forest Service administration or control, for the 
purpose of obtaining stated benefits (timber, forage, watershed 
protection, and benefits to local communities) from the national 
forests.
    5. Granger-Thye Act (16 U.S.C. at 580g-h). Section 12 authorizes 
the Secretary to use a portion of grazing fees for range improvement 
projects on NFS lands. Among the specific types of projects mentioned 
are artificial revegetation, including the collection or purchase of 
necessary seed and eradication of poisonous plants and noxious weeds, 
in order to protect or improve the future productivity of the range (16 
USC 580h). Section 11 of the Act authorizes the use of funds for 
certain types of rangeland improvement projects outside of NFS lands 
under certain circumstances (16 USC 580g).
    6. Sikes Act (16 U.S.C. at 670g). Section 201 directs the Secretary 
of Agriculture, in cooperation with State agencies, to plan, develop, 
maintain, coordinate, and implement programs for the conservation and 
rehabilitation of wildlife, fish, and game species. Such programs 
include specific habitat improvement projects on public land under the 
Secretary's jurisdiction.
    7. Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 (16 U.S.C. 528-531). 
States that the National Forests are to be administered for outdoor 
recreation, range, timber, watershed, and wildlife and fish purposes, 
and adds that the establishment and maintenance of wilderness areas are 
consistent with this Act. This Act directs the Secretary to manage 
renewable surface resources of the national forests for multiple use 
and sustained yield of the several products and services obtained 
therefrom. Multiple use means the management of all the various 
renewable surface resources of the national forests in the combination 
that will best meet the needs of the American people; providing for 
periodic adjustments in use to conform to changing needs and 
conditions; and harmonious and coordinated management of the resources 
without impairment of the productivity of the land. Sustained yield of 
the several products and services means achieving and maintaining in 
perpetuity a high-level annual or regular periodic output of renewable 
resources without impairment of the productivity of the land.
    8. Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1131 et seq.). Requires the Secretary 
of Agriculture to administer certain congressionally designated 
National Forest System lands as wilderness. The Act directs the 
protection and preservation of wilderness areas in their natural state, 
primarily affected by nature and not man's actions. The Act allows 
certain management actions that would otherwise be prohibited in 
wilderness ``as necessary to meet minimum requirements for the 
administration of the area for the purpose of the Act,'' and also 
provides that ``such measures may be taken as may be necessary in the 
control of fire, insects, and diseases, subject to such conditions as 
the Secretary deems desirable.'' 16 U.S.C. 1133 (c),(d).
    9. Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (16 U.S.C. 1271-1287). Establishes 
the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, and policy for managing 
designated rivers and designating additions to the system. The Act 
prescribes for designated rivers and their immediate environments the 
protection and enhancement of their free-flowing character, water 
quality, and outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, 
fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar values. Streams 
eligible for inclusion in the system must be in free-flowing condition 
or have been restored to this condition. The Act authorizes the 
Secretary of Agriculture to plan for, protect, and manage river 
resources, and take such actions as necessary to protect rivers in 
accordance with the act, including cooperating with EPA and the 
appropriate State water pollution control agencies for the purpose of 
eliminating or diminishing the pollution of waters.
    10. National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) (16 U.S.C. 
4321 et seq.). Declares it is the policy of the Federal Government to 
encourage a ``productive and enjoyable harmony between humans and their 
environment,'' and fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements 
of present and future generations of Americans. The Act requires 
agencies proposing major federal actions significantly affecting the 
quality of the human environment to prepare a detailed statement on the 
environmental impacts of the proposed action, unavoidable adverse 
environmental impacts, alternatives to the action proposed, the 
relationship between local short-term uses of the environment and the 
maintenance and enhancement of long-term productivity, and any 
irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources which would be 
involved if the proposed action is implemented. The Act also provides 
that for any proposal which involves unresolved conflicts concerning 
alternative uses of available resources, an agency must study, develop, 
and describe appropriate alternatives to recommended courses of action.
    11. Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531-1544, as 
amended). States its purposes are to provide a means whereby the 
ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend 
may be conserved, and provide a program for the conservation of such 
endangered species and threatened species. Federal agencies are to use 
their authorities in furtherance of the purposes of the ESA by carrying 
out programs for the conservation of threatened and endangered species. 
Under the Act, ``conserve'' means to use methods and procedures 
necessary to bring any endangered or threatened species to the point at 
which the measures provided under the Endangered Species Act are no 
longer necessary. Federal agencies must also ensure that their actions 
are not likely to jeopardize threatened or endangered species or result 
in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat 
designated for them.
    12. Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 
2006 (16 U.S.C. 1855, as amended). States each Federal agency shall 
consult with the Secretary of Commerce with respect to any action 
authorized, funded, or undertaken, or proposed to be authorized, funded 
or undertaken by such agency that may adversely affect essential fish 
habitat identified under this Act. Essential fish habitats are those 
waters and substrates necessary to federally managed fish for spawning, 
breeding, feeding, or growth to maturity.
    13. Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act (RPA) of 
1974, as amended by National Forest

[[Page 56206]]

Management Act (NFMA) of 1976 (16 U.S.C. 1600-1614, 472a). States that 
the development and administration of the renewable resources of the 
National Forest System are to be in full accord with the concepts for 
multiple use and sustained yield of products and services as set forth 
in the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960. Establishes the policy 
of the Congress that all forested lands in the National Forest System 
be maintained in appropriate forest cover with species of trees, degree 
of stocking, rate of growth, and stand conditions designed to secure 
the maximum benefits of multiple use sustained yield management in 
accordance with land management plans. It sets forth the requirements 
for land and resource management plans for units of the National Forest 
System, including requiring guidelines to provide for the diversity of 
plant and animal communities based on the suitability and capability of 
the specific land area and within multiple use objectives.
    14. Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1251, 1254, 1323, 1324, 1329, 1342, 
1344). Amends the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972. The 
objective of the Act is to ``restore and maintain the chemical, 
physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters.'' Section 
313 emphasizes Federal agency compliance with Federal, State, and local 
substantive and procedural requirements related to the control and 
abatement of pollution to the same extent as required of 
nongovernmental entities. (33 U.S.C. 1323.)
    15. Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7401, 7418, 7470. 7472, 7474, 7475, 
7491, 7506, 7602). Section 169 A establishes a national goal to prevent 
any future, and remedy any existing, visibility impairment in certain 
wilderness areas the Forest Service manages (42 U.S.C. 7491). It also 
directs the Forest Service as a Federal land manager to protect air 
quality related values from man-made air pollution in these same areas. 
Section 118 obligates the Forest Service to comply with the Act's many 
provisions regarding abatement of air pollution to the same extent as 
any nongovernmental entity (42 U.S.C. 7418).
    16. North American Wetland Conservation Act (16 U.S.C. 4401 (note), 
4401-4413, 16 U.S.C. 669b (note)). Section 9 (U.S.C. 4408) directs 
Federal land managing agencies to cooperate with the Director of the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore, protect, and enhance the 
wetland ecosystems and other habitats for migratory birds, fish and 
wildlife within the lands and waters of each agency to the extent 
consistent with the mission of such agency and existing statutory 
authorities.
    17. Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HFRA) of 2003 (16 U.S.C. 6501-
6591). Provides processes for developing and implementing hazardous 
fuel reduction projects on certain types of ``at-risk'' National Forest 
System and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, and also provides 
other authorities and direction to help reduce hazardous fuels and 
protect, restore, and enhance healthy forest and rangeland ecosystems.
    18. Stewardship End Result Contracting Projects (16 U.S.C. 2104 
(note)). Grants the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest 
Service ten-year authority (to September 30, 2013) to enter into 
stewardship contracts or agreements to achieve agency land management 
goals and meet community needs.
    19. Tribal Forest Protection Act of 2004 (25 U.S.C. 3115a). 
Authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the 
Interior to enter into an agreement or contract with Indian tribes 
meeting certain criteria to carry out projects to protect Indian forest 
land or rangeland, including projects to restore Federal land that 
borders on or is adjacent to Indian forest land or rangeland.

2020.12--Executive Orders

    Principal Executive orders relevant to ecological restoration are 
listed below.
    1. Executive Order 11514 issued March 5, 1970, as amended by E.O. 
11991, issued May 24, 1977. Protection and enhancement of environmental 
quality (35 FR 4247, March 7, 1970; 42 FR 26967, May 25, 1977). This 
order states that the Federal Government shall provide leadership in 
protecting and enhancing the quality of the Nation's environment to 
sustain and enrich human life. This order provides for monitoring, 
evaluation, and control on a continuing basis of the activities of each 
Federal agency so as to protect and enhance the quality of the 
environment.
    2. Executive Order 11644 issued February 8, 1972. Use of off-road 
vehicles on the public lands. (37 FR 2877, February 9, 1972). Amended 
by E.O. 11989 issued May 24, 1977 and E.O. 12608 issued September 9, 
1987. These orders require Federal agencies to develop and implement 
procedures that will ensure that the use of off-road vehicles on public 
lands will be controlled and directed so as to protect the resources of 
those lands, to promote the safety of all users of those lands, and to 
minimize conflicts among the various uses of those lands.
    3. Executive Order 11988 issued May 24, 1977. Floodplain management 
(42 FR 26951 (May 25, 1977)). This order requires that each agency 
shall provide leadership and take action to:
    a. Minimize adverse impacts associated with the occupancy and 
modification of flood plains and reduce risks of flood loss;
    b. Minimize impact of floods on human safety, health, and welfare; 
and
    c. Restore and preserve the natural and beneficial values served by 
floodplains.
    4. Executive Order 11990 issued May 24, 1977. Protection of 
wetlands. (42 FR 26961, May 25, 1977). This order requires each agency 
to take action to minimize destruction, loss, or degradation of 
wetlands and to preserve and enhance the natural and beneficial values 
of wetlands.
    5. Executive Order 13112 issued February 3, 1999. Invasive Species. 
(64 FR 6183 (February 8, 1999)). This order requires Federal agencies 
whose actions may affect the status of invasive species to, among other 
things, respond to and control populations of invasive species and 
provide for restoration of native species and habitat conditions in 
ecosystems that have been invaded by non-native invasive species.

2020.2--Objective

    The objectives of the Forest Service Ecological Restoration policy 
are to:
    1. Reestablish and retain ecological integrity of National Forest 
System ecosystems and associated resources to achieve ecological 
sustainability and provide a broad range of ecosystem services.
    2. Restore and maintain resilient ecosystems that will have greater 
capacity to withstand stressors and recover from disturbances, 
especially those under changing and uncertain environmental conditions 
and extreme weather events.

2020.3--Policy

    1. All resource management programs have a responsibility for 
ecological restoration including, but not limited to, management of 
vegetation, water, wildland fire, fish, wildlife, and recreation. 
Management activities may range from monitoring resource conditions to 
manipulating terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems to assist in their 
recovery from the impacts of human uses.
    2. Strategic plans, including the Forest Service Strategic plan, 
land and resource management plans, and area plans should include 
ecological restoration goals and objectives to re-establish ecological 
integrity and

[[Page 56207]]

maintain the adaptive capacity of ecosystems. Goals and objectives must 
be established within the framework defined by laws; Indian treaties 
and Tribal values and desires; regulations; public values and desires; 
natural range of variation (NRV); current and likely future ecological 
capabilities; a range of climate and other environmental change 
projections; the best available scientific information; and technical 
and economic feasibility to achieve desired conditions for National 
Forest System lands. Guidance and procedures for assessing ecological 
integrity and establishing goals and objectives for ecological 
restoration are included in Forest Service Handbook 1909.12, chapter 
40. The directives for implementing the 2012 Land and Resource 
Management Planning Rule are being revised to include direction for 
ecological restoration consistent with the new planning rule.
    3. Ecological restoration activities should be planned, authorized, 
implemented, monitored, and evaluated within the context of the NRV, 
current and desired conditions, and the potential for future changes in 
environmental conditions due to climate change and human uses. Some 
ecosystems may be damaged to such an extent that restoration may not be 
ecologically or economically possible. Where an environment has been 
irreversibly altered, restoration goals and activities will need to be 
adjusted accordingly to management ecosystems so that they are 
sustainable.
    4. Where appropriate, ecological restoration should be integrated 
into resource management programs and projects to achieve complementary 
or synergistic results. Primary elements of an integrated approach are 
identification and elimination or reduction of stressors that degrade 
or impair ecological integrity. An integrated approach includes, where 
appropriate, taking actions that ensure long-term resilience even 
though there may be localized short-term adverse effects.
    5. Resource managers shall consider collaboration across ownerships 
and jurisdictions to develop and achieve landscape-scale restoration 
objectives. Collaboration must include public involvement and 
consultation with Indian Tribes to effectively achieve restoration 
objectives.
    6. Within existing authorities, revenue from commercial uses of 
natural resources may be used to help fund restoration activities.
    7. Adaptive management, monitoring, and evaluation are essential 
for effectively achieving ecological restoration goals.

2020.4--Responsibility

2020.41--Chief

    The Chief:
    1. Retains overall authority over and responsibility for 
establishing national policy for ecological restoration of disturbed 
sites and degraded ecosystems.
    2. Promotes cooperation and coordination between the Forest Service 
and other Federal agencies; State, Tribal and local governments; 
industry; partners; and the public for the development of restoration 
objectives.
    3. Provides leadership across deputy areas to ensure the 
application of restoration, climate change, and risk management science 
is integrated into all Forest Service program areas.

2020.42--Deputy Chief for National Forest System (NFS)

    The Deputy Chief, NFS, is delegated the authority and 
responsibility for restoration of NFS lands in conformance with 
applicable Federal law, regulation, and policy. The Deputy Chief 
provides coordination across NFS program areas to ensure integrated and 
complementary program delivery. Authorities not delegated in the 
following sections to the regional foresters, forest and grassland 
supervisors, and district rangers are reserved to the Deputy Chief, 
NFS.

2020.43--Washington Office Staff Directors

    All Washington Office staff directors are delegated authority by 
the Chief and deputy chiefs to plan, develop, administer, monitor, and 
evaluate assigned programs. In carrying out this authority as it 
relates to strategic planning, staff directors shall be responsible for 
developing, executing, monitoring, reporting, and overseeing their 
program and activity areas incorporating, where appropriate, specific 
integrated ecological restoration policies and principles consistent 
with the authorities described in detail in their specific program 
titles, chapters, and sections of the Forest Service Manual.

2020.44--Regional Forester

    Regional foresters are responsible for:
    1. Establishing regional policy for ecological restoration 
consistent with national policy.
    2. Establishing direction and policy to ensure ecological 
restoration is integrated into regional programs and land management 
plans.
    3. Coordinating with counterparts in other Federal agencies; State, 
county, and Tribal governments; private industry; and the public when 
developing and implementing ecological restoration programs and 
activities.
    4. Delegating to forest and national grassland supervisors the 
authority to restore National Forest System lands.

2020.45--Forest and Grassland Supervisors

    Forest and Grassland supervisors are responsible for:
    1. Implementing forest and grassland programs consistent with 
national and regional policy for ecological restoration.
    2. Ensuring ecological restoration is considered and integrated, as 
appropriate, into forest and grassland programs and the land management 
plan.
    3. Coordinating with counterparts in other Federal agencies; State, 
county, and Tribal governments; private industry; and the public when 
planning and implementing ecological restoration programs.

2020.46--District Ranger

    District rangers are responsible for development and approval of 
ecological restoration projects and to ensure they are consistent with 
national, regional, and forest policies.

2020.5--Definitions

    Adaptive capacity. The ability of ecosystems to respond, cope or 
adapt to disturbances and stressors, including environmental change, to 
maintain options for future generations. Adaptation includes, but is 
not limited to, maintaining primary productivity and basic ecological 
functions such as hydrologic and nutrient cycling. Adaption occurs 
primarily by organisms altering their interactions with the physical 
environment and other organisms. As applied to ecological systems, 
adaptive capacity is determined by:
    1. Genetic diversity within species in ecosystems, allowing for 
selection of individuals with traits adapted to changing environmental 
conditions.
    2. Biodiversity within the ecosystem, both in terms of species 
richness and relative abundance, which contributes to functional 
redundancies.
    3. The heterogeneity and integrity of ecosystems occurring as 
mosaics within broader-scaled landscapes or biomes, making it more 
likely that some areas will escape disturbance and serve as source 
areas for re-colonization.

[[Page 56208]]

    Adaptive management. A system of management practices based on 
clearly identified intended outcomes and monitoring to determine if 
management actions are meeting those outcomes, and, if not, to 
facilitate management changes that will best ensure that those outcomes 
are met or re-evaluated. Adaptive management stems from the recognition 
that knowledge about natural resource systems is sometimes uncertain.
    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.
    Disturbance regime. A description of the characteristic types of 
disturbance on a given landscape; the frequency, severity, and size 
distribution of these characteristic disturbance types; and their 
interactions.
    Ecological restoration. See Restoration.
    Ecological Integrity. The quality or condition of an ecosystem when 
its dominant ecological characteristics (for example, composition, 
structure, function, connectivity, and species composition and 
diversity) occur within the NRV and can withstand and recover from most 
perturbations imposed by natural environmental dynamics or human 
influence.
    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. The biological elements within the different 
levels of biological organizations, from genes and species to 
communities and ecosystems.
    (2) Structure. The organization and physical arrangement of 
biological elements such as snags and down woody debris, vertical and 
horizontal distribution of vegetation, stream habitat complexity, 
landscape pattern, and connectivity.
    (3) Function. Ecological processes, such as energy flow; nutrient 
cycling and retention; soil development and retention; predation and 
herbivory; and natural disturbances such as wind, fire, and floods.
    (4) Connectivity. Ecological conditions that exist at several 
spatial and temporal scales that provide landscape linkages that permit 
the exchange of flow, sediments, and nutrients; the daily and seasonal 
movements of animals within home ranges; the dispersal and genetic 
interchange between populations; and the long distance range shifts of 
species, such as in response to climate change.
    Ecosystem services. Benefits people obtain from ecosystems, 
including:
    Provisioning services--such as clean air and fresh water, as well 
as energy, fuel, forage, fiber, and minerals;
    Regulating services--such as long-term storage of carbon; climate 
regulation; water filtration, purification, and storage;soil 
stabilization; flood control, and disease regulation;
    Supporting services--such as pollination, seed dispersal, soil 
formation, and nutrient cycling; and
    Cultural services--such as educational, aesthetic, spiritual, and 
cultural heritage values, recreational experiences, and tourism 
opportunities.
    Landscape. A defined area irrespective of ownership or other 
artificial boundaries, such as a spatial mosaic of terrestrial and 
aquatic ecosystems, landforms, and plant communities, repeated in 
similar form throughout such a defined area.
    Natural range of variation (NRV). Spatial and temporal variation in 
ecosystem characteristics under historic disturbance regimes during a 
reference period. The reference period considered should be 
sufficiently long to include the full range of variation produced by 
dominant natural disturbance regimes, often several centuries, for such 
disturbances as fire and flooding and should also include short-term 
variation and cycles in climate. ``Natural range of variation'' (NRV) 
is a term used synonymously with historic range of variation or range 
of natural variation. The NRV is a tool for assessing ecological 
integrity, and does not necessarily constitute a management target or 
desired condition. The NRV can help identify key structural, 
functional, compositional, and connectivity characteristics, for which 
plan components may be important for either maintenance or restoration 
of such ecological conditions.
    Resilience. The capability of an ecosystem to endure disturbances 
and retain its structure and functions; the capacity of an ecosystem, 
which is subject to disturbance or change, to reorganize and renew 
itself.
    Restoration. The process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem 
that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed. Ecological restoration 
focuses on reestablishing the composition, structure, pattern, and 
ecological processes necessary to facilitate terrestrial and aquatic 
ecosystem sustainability, resilience, and health under current and 
future conditions.
    Stressors. Factors that may directly or indirectly degrade or 
impair ecosystem composition, ecosystem structure or ecological 
processes in a manner that may impair its ecological integrity, such as 
an invasive species, loss of connectivity, or the disruption of a 
natural disturbance regime.
    Sustainability. The capability to meet the needs of the present 
generation without compromising the ability of future generations to 
meet their needs. Ecological sustainability refers to the capability of 
ecosystems to maintain ecological integrity.

    Dated: September 6, 2013.
Thomas L. Tidwell,
Chief, Forest Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-22149 Filed 9-11-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-11-P