Background—Why We Plan
The National Forest Management Act (NFMA) of 1976 requires every national forest or grassland managed by the U.S. Forest Service to develop and maintain a Land and Resource Management Plan (often referred to as a forest plan). The forest plan is the principle long-range guidance document for each forest or grassland, providing direction for project and activity decision making. Forest plans articulate goals and objectives, the kinds of uses that are suitable for areas of a national forest, management standards and guidelines that apply to different kinds of activities, and the designation of special areas like Research Natural Areas.
Forest plans are strategic in nature and do not compel any action or authorize any use. Each time a project or activity is proposed, the national forest or grassland must ensure that the activity is consistent with plan direction and that project must undergo a separate National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis before the activity can take place. If a proposed project is not consistent with the forest plan, the project cannot proceed as proposed unless the plan is amended so that the project is consistent with the plan.
The National Forest Management Act calls for forest plans to be revised from time to time, to incorporate new information, to account for changed national policy and direction, and to address new issues and opportunities. NFMA requires that plan be revised at least every 15 years.
Status of Forest and Grassland Plans in the Southwestern Region
Forest Plans for national forests in Arizona and New Mexico were developed in the mid to late 1980s and are overdue for revision.
Across the Southwestern Region, we have several forests underway with forest plan revision. Use the links below to access individual forests and grasslands for more information about specific planning efforts
Completed plans: The Black Kettle and McClellan Creek National Grasslands and the Kiowa/Rita Blanca National Grasslands (collectively known as the Cibola National Grasslands) completed revision of its Grasslands Plan, effective in October 2012. The Kaibab National Forest completed revision of its forest plan, effective in April 2014.
Revisions underway: The Prescott, Apache-Sitgreaves, Coronado, and Coconino National Forests are all underway with forest plan revision using the 1982 Planning Rule, and have shared draft forest plans and Environmental Impact Statements with the public. Each forest is at different stage of analyzing the feedback they heard from the public and proceeding with plan finalization.
In Fall 2012, the Cibola National Forest became one of the first forests in the country to begin forest plan revision using the 2012 Planning Rule. In Fall 2013, the Carson (NM), Santa Fe (NM) and Tonto (AZ) National Forests began to revise their forest plans, also using the new Rule, while the Gila (NM) and Lincoln (NM) began in Fall 2014.
As part of revision, each of these forests will prepare an assessment of current condition, followed by a plan and environmental impact statement for public review. Each forest is at a different stage of this process. To learn more about the status of individual forest efforts and how to get involved, please visit the forest's Website.
After these ongoing revisions are complete, the entire Southwestern Region will have completed forest plan revision.
The Southwestern Region’s strategy for plan revision is to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of our resources and time. The following principles will help steer the revision planning process:
- Forest plan revisions will be developed in a collaborative environment. Collaboration with stakeholders will help create better forest plans and ultimately improve on-the-ground management.
- Forest plan revisions are strategic in nature. They provide management direction that is broad in scope and covers large geographic areas. Revised plans will set the framework for the fire treatment and ecological restoration work being conducted across the southwestern region.
- Forest plan revisions are based on the need for change. Revision efforts will focus on a few key areas of management where new information indicates the existing management direction is no longer appropriate, or where there is a need for additional direction.
- Forest Plans are adaptable—they are kept current and relevant. New information and monitoring of resource conditions will validate decisions made in the forest plans, or highlight needs for change. Plans will be amended to reflect new information and learned results.
- Forest plan revisions will be scientifically credible. We will ensure the revision efforts consider and utilize the best available science.
This guidance was developed to provide a regionally consistent approach for ongoing land management plan revision.
Plans are prepared by an interdisciplinary team, and the public is encouraged to participate throughout the planning process. Public involvement can broaden the information base, ensure that the Forest Service understands the needs, concerns, and values of the public, inform the public of planning activities, and provide an understanding of Forest Service programs and proposed actions. There will be numerous opportunities to participate in the plan revision efforts in the Southwest Region. Please visit the Forest Web sites for information on upcoming open houses, public meetings or forums.
The Southwestern Region has invested heavily over the last several years to obtain assessments to provide the information necessary to describe the current ecological, social, and economic conditions and trends for the revision of the Southwestern Region forest plans.