History of Forest Planning

The National Forest Management Act (NFMA) is an amendment of the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 (RPA). This Act establishes standards for how the Forest Service manages the national forests, requires the development of land management plans for national forests and grasslands, and directs the Forest Service to develop regular reports on the status and trends of the Nation’s renewable resources on all forest and rangelands.  See the following timeline for key events in the implementation of NFMA since it became law in 1976 to present.

Timeline of Notable Events Related to Applying NFMA

  • 1976 – Congress amended the RPA by enacting The National Forest Management Act of 1976 (NFMA) [NOTE: The current version in US Code contains all Congressional amendments since 1976 LINK]

  • 1979 – First planning regulations (rule) for NFMA

  • 1982 – Revised NFMA planning regulations developed (containing procedures under which all plans have been completed)

  • 1983 – First Forest Plans completed under NFMA

  • 1989 – Forest Service initiated comprehensive review of its land management planning process to identify lessons learned and opportunities for improvement  

  • 1990 – Results of comprehensive review published (See Critique of Forest Planning, Volumes 1 -- 11)

  • 1993 – First revision of a Forest Plan completed

  • 1995 – Last initial Forest Plan completed – all units (that existed in 1976) now covered with a Plan

  • 1997 – Secretary of Agriculture organized 13-member Committee of Scientists to recommend ways the Forest Service could better manage national forests and national grasslands

  • 1999 – Committee of Scientists released report

  • 2000 – Forest Service published the 2000 Planning Rule in Federal Register

  • 2000 – 2001 – In response to the lawsuits and negative feedback, The Department of Agriculture initiated a review of the 2000 Planning Rule focused on implementation. Review found rule to be seriously flawed.

  • 2002 – Forest Service, concerned about the cost of implementing the 2000 Planning Rule, proposes revising planning regulations and publishes the 2002 Proposed Planning Rule in Federal Register

  • 2003 – Forest Service held workshop to address options for fulfilling NFMA language about providing for diversity of plants and animals (Diversity Options Workshop)

  • 2004 – Forest Service published Interpretive Rule in Federal Register to clarify that while a new rule is being developed, 1982 rule procedures can still be used for the revision and amendment of forest plans

  • 2005 – Forest Service published the 2005 Planning Rule in Federal Register

  • 2008 – Forest Service issued the 2008 Planning Rule and an Environmental Impact Statement analyzing the environmental impacts of the rule

  • 2009 – US District Court for the District of Northern California overturns the 2008 NFMA Planning Rule (Decision).  As an interim measure, Forest Service returned to the transition provisions of the 2000 rule which allow continued use of 1982 rule procedures for revisions and amendments

  • 2009 – Secretary of Agriculture announced effort to revise Forest Service Planning Rule

  • 2009 – Status of Forest Plans nationally: 54 Plans have been revised, 37 Plan revisions under way, 33 Plan revisions not started, 2 new units with plans still current

  • 2009 – Forest Service issued a Notice of Intent to prepare an environmental impact statement for a new planning rule, starting a new planning rule revision effort.  As an interim measure, the Department republishes the 2000 rule as amended  in the Federal Register in order to make it available to the public in the Code of Federal Regulations

  • 2011 – Forest service released a proposed planning rule and draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for public comment on February 10, 2011.  Comments were accepted through May 16, 2011.

  • 2012 – Forest Service published the 2012 Planning Rule in Federal Register on April 9, 2012