2021 Forest Plan, Final EIS and Record of Decision

The staff of the Helena – Lewis and Clark National Forest are pleased to announce the release of the final environmental impact statement (FEIS), 2021 Land Management Plan for the Helena – Lewis and Clark National Forest, and signed record of decision (ROD). These documents reflect extensive public participation over the past 6 years through collaborative working group meetings and other public input. We greatly appreciate the commitment of interested participants who have provided important contributions toward the development of these documents. The documents reflect a truly interdisciplinary team approach in the consideration of the input received, as well as of the directives associated with the 2012 planning rule.

2021 Land Management Plan

The existing 1986 forest plans are more than 30 years old, exceeding the 10-15 year duration of plans directed by the National Forest Management Act. Since the 1986 forest plans were completed, there have been changes in ecological, social, and economic conditions in the area, as well as changes in resource demands, availability of new scientific information, and promulgation of new policy, including the 2012 planning rule. These changes necessitate a plan revision to ensure that management direction is responsive to current issues and conditions.

The National Forest Management Act directs the development, amendment, and revision of land management plans to provide for the multiple use and sustained yield of the products and services on Forest Service lands, including outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, wildlife and fish, and wilderness (16 U.S.C. 1604(e)). The 2012 planning rule guides this planning using a collaborative and science-based approach to promote the economic, social, and ecological sustainability of national forests and grasslands and other administrative units of the National Forest System. For more detailed information about the 2012 planning rule, see https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/planningrule/home/.

Final Environmental Impact Statement

Alternative F, as described in the Final EIS and the accompanying Helena – Lewis and Clark National Forest Land Management Plan, has been selected as the preferred alternative. Alternative F is based on alternative B from the Draft EIS, with modifications in response to comments, and includes features of all alternatives considered. It addresses the need for change, meets the requirements of the Planning Rule, 36 CFR 219, is responsive to local government, tribal, and public engagement, and is based upon over 30 years of knowledge gained from implementation and amendment of the 1986 Forest Plans.

This alternative represents a mix of recommended wilderness areas and lands identified as suitable for timber production. It includes direction to provide for unique ecological conditions, active management of timber products and fuel reduction, recommended wilderness areas, and wild and scenic rivers. The mix of opportunities available for primitive recreation and nonmotorized recreation experiences versus less primitive and more motorized recreation experiences is consistent with current travel plans, except in the case of recommended wilderness areas.

Record of Decision

The Record of Decision (ROD) documents rationale for approving the Helena – Lewis and Clark National Forest Land Management Plan (referred to as the 2021 Plan). Based upon the review of all alternatives, alternative F provides the best mix of land and resource uses that best meet public needs while moving the Forest toward its desired conditions. The requirements of the National Forest Management Act and this alternative reflects the best overall arrangement of multiple uses while maintaining the long-term health and productivity of the land. Best available science was also considered.

When compared to the other considered alternatives, the selected alternative will:

  • Provide public benefits by supporting 2,000 jobs in the local and regional economies, a projected increase of over 400 jobs from the current plans, provides an estimated $83 million in labor income across local and regional economies.
  • Increase acres treated and produce more timber volume than the current plan.
  • Allow for greater options in managing unplanned naturally ignited wildfires as a tool to help restore ecosystems and reduce the risk future fire.
  • Improve project-level planning, and implementation efficiency, by updating outdated management direction that doesn’t address landscape level restoration needs.
  • Support shared stewardship through increased partnerships and management flexibility.

The decision represents a mix of recommended wilderness areas and lands identified as suitable for timber production. It includes provisions for unique ecological conditions, active management of timber products and fuel reduction, recommended wilderness areas, and wild and scenic rivers. The mix of opportunities available for primitive recreation and nonmotorized recreation experiences versus less primitive and more motorized recreation experiences is consistent with current travel plans, except in the case of recommended wilderness areas.

Documents

2021 Land Management Plan

The 2021 Land Management Plan includes the main body of the plan plus appendices.

2021 Land Management Plan 

  • Appendices Cover
  • Appendix A. Maps
  • Appendix B. Monitoring Program
  • Appendix C. Potential Management Approaches and Possible Actions
  • Appendix D. Vegetation Classification and Descriptions
  • Appendix E. Priority and Conservation Watersheds
  • Appendix F. Nothern Rockies Lynx Management Direction Record of Decision
  • Appendix G. Scenery Managment
  • Appendix H. Forest Plan Readers Guide

 

Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS)

FEIS Summary

The main body of the FEIS has been broken into five volumes due to its size.

  • Volume 1 includes: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, the first half of chapter 3, an index specific to Volume 1, and literature specific to Volume 1.
    • Aquatic Ecosystems and Soils; Air Quality; Fire and Fuels Terrestrial Vegetation Old Growth, Snags, and Downed Wood; Plant Species at Risk; Pollinators; Invasive Plants; Terrestrial Wildlife Diversity; Terrestrial Wildlife Species at Risk; and Elk
  • Volume 2 includes: the second half of chapter 3, an index specific to Part 2, and literature specific to Part 2 Recreation Settings, Recreation Opportunities; Recreation Special Uses; Recreation Access; Scenery; Administratively Designated Areas; Congressionally Designated Areas, Cultural, Historical, and Tribal Resources; Lands; Infrastructure; Social and Economics; Livestock Grazing; Timber and Other Forest Products; Geology, Minerals, and Energy; and Carbon and Climate. Volume 2 also includes a glossary, a list of preparers and appendices.
  • Volume 3: Appendix A: Maps
  • Volume 4:
    • Appendix B: Methodologies
    • Appendix C: Aquatic Ecosystems Best Available Scientific Information
    • Appendix D: Supplemental Species Information
    • Appendix E: Recommended Wilderness Analysis Process
    • Appendix F: Wild and Scenic River Eligibility Study Process
  • Volume 5:
    • Appendix G. Response to Comments
    • Appendix H. Terrestrial Vegetation, Wildlife, and Timber Methodologies and Results
    • Appendix I. Natural Range of Variation Analysis and Results
    • Appendix J. Climate and Carbon Supplemental Information
    • Appendix K. Potential Recreation Direct Effects

Final Record of Decision

View the Record of Decision.


Biological Assessments and Biological Opinions

Additional Supporting Documentation

GIS 

Supplemental Response to Comments

Wildlife

Last updated: March 22, 2022