The U.S. Forest Service just unveiled new management rules for federal forestland that its says will allow for faster approval of forest plans and preserve jobs in timber communities.
The Forest Service also hopes that the rules – with their focus on multiple uses for the forests and cooperation between various interest groups – will hold up to lawsuits.
Vilsack, who has pledged to break through the logjam of political conflict over forest management, said the new regulation’s emphasis on science and multiple uses should allow it to stand up to likely court challenges from environmental groups or the timber industry.
”I am hopeful and confident that it will stand scrutiny,” he said.
The reaction to the plan from the timber industry and environmental groups was muted, with the environmental groups more positive.
Tom Partin, president of the American Forest Resources Council in Portland, said his organization is reviewing the plan. “We hope that ecological, social and economic objectives are given equal weight in planning,” he said in a news release. The council represents mill operators and others in the timber industry.
The environmental group Oregon Wild said the state’s public lands face unprecedented threats. “It appears the Obama administration has provided a welcome vision for America’s wildlands, wildlife, and water,” spokesman Rob Klavins said in a prepared statement. However, the plan lacks clarity and enforcability, he said.
In Washington State, State Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, has introduced a bill that would significantly streamline the permitting process for timber landowners. Orcutt wants to fold several practices that usually require an extra permit into the Forest Practices Application. These include felling of timber, clearing of culverts and removal of beavers.
State officials say they would be taking on unfunded duties with the extra rulemaking.
However, Debra Munguia, of the Washington Forest Protection Association, said these are low-complexity projects that naturally integrate fish streams with Forest Practices Applications.
Steve Stinson, who manages 1,171 acres of family forestland in Western Washington, agreed the listed tasks are standard practices.
“If I’m unplugging beaver debris from a culvert or maintaining a bridge, those are all part of everyday tree farming,” he said.