Tongass Forest Plan Amendment
The Tongass National Forest will be amending the 2008 Tongass Land and Resource Management Plan (forest plan) over the next two years, with an estimated final decision in August, 2016. Check here frequently for updates on the amendment process.
November 17, 2014 - Forest Planning Update
The Tongass National Forest is working to complete the amended forest plan by August 2016. The scope of the plan amendment has a narrow focus; changes to accomplish the transition to young growth management as provided in the Secretary’s Memorandum (1044-009), and changes to make renewable energy development more permissive on the Tongass identified in the five year review of the forest plan. Changes to the forest plan are being developed under the new National Forest System land management planning rule (36 CFR 219) (2012 planning rule), and embody the provisions of the National Forest Management Act. The Tongass is the first national forest to amend a plan completed under the 1982 planning rule using the 2012 planning rule.
Based on public scoping comments received on the Notice of Intent (NOI) that was published in the Federal Register (FR) on May 27, 2014 (79 FR 30074-30075), as well as comments received on the five year review of the forest plan, four issues were identified that focus on: 1) young-growth transition; 2) renewable energy; 3) roadless areas; and 4) wildlife habitat. While many issues resulted from scoping, not all of the issues raised warrant analysis in the environmental impact statement (EIS). Issues point to environmental effects; as such, these issues will help shape the alternatives. Issues raised through scoping will be analyzed if:
Analysis of the issue is necessary to make a reasoned choice between alternatives. That is, does it relate to how the proposed action or alternatives respond to the purpose and need?
The issue is significant (an issue associated with a significant direct, indirect, or cumulative impact, or where analysis is necessary to determine the significance of impacts).
The forest planning interdisciplinary team (IDT) is in the process of further developing the issue statements, and is developing a draft “framework” for the alternatives. All of these draft alternatives are being designed to maintain the overall integrity of the forest plan’s old growth conservation strategy.
The Forest Service also received a proposed alternative from the State of Alaska on November 12, 2014, and is currently analyzing its content. The Forest Service will also consider recommendations from the Tongass Advisory Committee (TAC), which is expected early next year. TAC recommendations and advice may be used to modify the 2008 Tongass Land Management Plan through the forest plan amendment process.
The IDT is making substantial progress, and is working closely with a contractor, Tetra Tech, based in Bothell, Washington. At the invitation of the Forest Service, the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indians of Alaska, Organized Village of Saxman, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have requested cooperating agency status in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process for amending the forest plan.
Three public open houses are being planned in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan early next year as part of the public participation process. A public notice will be published in the Federal Register in December with the dates, locations and times. All notices will also be posted on-line.
For more information contact Susan Howle, Project Manager (907) 228-6340
The decision to amend the plan was informed both by the five-year review process, which included extensive public involvement, and a memorandum by the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack directing the Tongass to transition to a young growth based timber program in the next 10-15 years. The full text of the Memorandum 1044-009 “Addressing Sustainable Forestry in Southeast Alaska” can be found here.
In addition to amending the forest plan, the Tongass Advisory Committee was established through the Federal Advisory Committee Act to inform the agency’s transition to young growth forest management. The committee consists of 15 members representing a diverse and balanced range of perspectives and expertise. The committee will advise the Secretary of Agriculture, through the Chief of the Forest Service, by providing advice and recommendations for developing an ecologically, socially, and economically sustainable forest management strategy on the Tongass National Forest. Recommendations and advice may inform the modification of the 2008 Tongass Land Management Plan.
The Tongass National Forest and Alaska Region are interested in creating a robust, collaborative and public forum for innovative and creative solutions to managing the forest’s unique resources for present and future generations. Your participation in this process is critical to helping the Forest Service care for the public lands in Southeast Alaska.