Forest Plan Background
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What are Forest Plans?
The National Forest Management Act (NFMA) of 1976 (60 KB PDF) required every national forest to develop a plan. Today, these plans provide broad direction for managing natural resources for the American people. Plans are programmatic in nature, meaning they cover a large geographic area, and their management direction is broad in scope. In addition, every forest plan must be consistent with environmental laws and regulations such as the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act.
The Prescott's revised Forest Plan has six main components:
Desired Conditions — what people want the Prescott National Forest to look like, and what they want it to provide. These conditions must contribute to ecological, social, and economic sustainability.
Objectives — descriptions of programs, projects and on-the-ground activities to achieve desired conditions.
Guidelines — rules that guide management actions, protect resources and help achieve desired conditions.
Suitability of Areas — an assessment of where uses can occur including roads, livestock grazing, timber harvest, and utility corridors.
Special Areas — an assessment of areas for special designations such as Wilderness, Research Natural Areas, Botanical Areas, or Wild and Scenic Rivers.
Monitoring — includes questions and performance measures designed to inform implementation and evaluate effectiveness.
The following paragraphs describe the general contents of each chapter in the Forest Plan.
Chapter 1 Introduction
The Introduction includes information on the needs for change, decisions made in a Forest Plan, Plan Organization, Management Approaches, and explanation of concepts to improve plan clarity. Management Approaches are not formal plan components but are predictions of methods that might be used to carry out objectives. Concept Descriptions were developed largely in response to feedback received from those who reviewed earlier plan drafts.
Chapter 2 Forestwide Desired Conditions
This is the focus of the revised Forest Plan. It includes descriptions of conditions or outcomes that we will work toward during future years. You’ll notice that the desired conditions are descriptions of desired outcomes, not methods of reaching the desired outcomes. Desired conditions are integrated among many resources on the Prescott National Forest. For instance you may find social or economic desired conditions next to descriptions of vegetation because the social/economic conditions interact with vegetation desires.
Chapter 3 Objectives
The objectives are projects and activities that are expected to be used to trend toward desired conditions over a specified time period. They are numeric, time-limited, feasible, and achievable.
Chapter 4 Standards and Guidelines
Standards and guidelines provide the side-boards and additional guidance for projects and activities in order to trend toward the desired conditions. They do not restate existing law or policy—you may notice few related to Heritage Resources, because the majority of guidance already exists in law or policy direction. They also do not include statements that recommend an analysis, inventory, or monitoring. The monitoring strategy should cover the need for those items.
Chapter 5 Management Area Direction
Management Area Direction provides guidance for recreation management that is specific to certain geographic areas. Open space concerns are addressed in the Verde Valley through a management area guideline. Originally we thought we would have only 3 management areas that coincided with the Recreation Strategy zones. Instead we sub-divided the zones to improve description of management area desired conditions.
Chapter 6 Monitoring and Evaluation
The monitoring strategy is intended to identify questions that can and should be answered with monitoring data, in order to determine our progress toward desired conditions.
Chapter 7 Suitability
Suitability refers to NFS lands which are identified as “suitable” for various uses. An area may be identified as suitable or not suitable for certain uses depending on its compatibility with desired conditions and objectives for the area. The Forest Plan suitability determinations address the use of timber production, forage production for grazing animals, and recreation opportunities.
Chapter 8 Additional Plan Direction
Additional plan direction includes direction which is not a part of the plan decisions but nevertheless must be followed to implement the plan. These include: (1) projects’ consistency with the plan, (2) changes to the plan, and (3) other vital documents which must be followed to implement the plan.