In light of the Forest Service's (FS) announcement of its "preferred alternative" to the draft Forest Planning Rule in the final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, the American Sheep Industry Association joined the Public Lands Council, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the Association of National Grasslands in sending a letter and comments to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell voicing their disappointment with the agency's preferred alternative, which reflects disregard for the concerns voiced by multiple-use stakeholders and Congress. The preferred alternative, "Modified Alternative A," is little changed from the draft proposed rule. If implemented, it will thwart multiple-use and the health of rural economies by shifting the focus to non-use and preservation on the 155 forests, 20 grasslands and one prairie that constitute the national forest system.
"The livestock industry does not believe that the FS heeded the extensive input given on the draft rule or that the agency responded to the concerns of Congress as outlined in a bipartisan letter (sent on June 3, 2011, by U.S. Reps. Greg Walden (Ore.), Mike Ross (Ark.) and 57 other representatives) and in various hearings, including a Nov. 15, 2011, full House Natural Resources Committee hearing held expressly to address the troubling aspects of the draft rule," the letter states.
"The preferred alternative, as did the proposed rule, generally focuses on and elevates ecosystem services, sustainability and preservation over multiple-use, a clear diversion from the statute that governs management of the national forests. We are primarily concerned with requirements regarding the maintenance of wildlife species 'viability,' wilderness characteristics protection provisions, the elevation of environmental uses and 'spiritual…values' over historic multiple-uses, and the establishment of a great deal of new processes that will hinder forest planning and continued multiple-use."
The final rule is scheduled to be implemented as soon as March 5.
Reprinted from Public Lands Council