Forest Plan FAQs


What is a Forest Plan and why does it matter?

  • It is a comprehensive document that guides forest management, use, and protection for a period of 10-15 years
  • It aims to balance multiple-uses and the restoration and maintenance of forest and water ecosystems
  • It identifies areas that may be suitable for special designations such as research natural areas, wild and scenic rivers, and wilderness
  • Once approved, all subsequent proposals and projects must comply with the Forest Plan


 Why are we revising our Forest Plan?

  • The forest and surrounding areas have witnessed significant environmental, social, and economic changes since the current plan was published in 1987
  • We will follow the “2012 Planning Rule” which includes new policy and analytical requirements, enhances public participation, and incorporates the best available science
  • This is an opportunity to incorporate new science, knowledge, and public input


What broad topics will the assessment evaluate?

  1. Terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, as well as watersheds
  2. Air, soil, and water resources and quality
  3. System drivers (including natural changes in vegetation communities and precipitation patterns), system stressors (including wildland fire, invasive species, and climate change), and the ability of the Forest to adapt to change.
  4. Carbon stocks (the amount of carbon the Forest can store or release)
  5. Wildlife species that are at risk, including threatened and endangered species
  6. Social, cultural, and economic conditions
  7. Benefits that people obtain from the Forest
  8. Multiple uses such as recreation, range, timber, watershed, fish, and wildlife
  9. Recreation settings and opportunities, access, and scenic character
  10. Renewable and nonrenewable energy, as well as mineral resources
  11. Infrastructure such as roads, recreational facilities, and utility corridors
  12. Areas of importance to Native American tribes
  13. Cultural and historic resources
  14. Land status and ownership, land use, and access patterns
  15. Existing specially designated areas such as Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers, as well as opportunities for additional designted areas

FAQ about the Process for Inventorying and Evaluating of Lands that may be Suitable Wilderness

What if the land could be rehabilitated to have wilderness character in the future?

We are looking at what is on the ground now, and how the area is managed currently.  We are not looking at hypotheticals in the lens of the evaluation process; hypothetical situations could be considered in analysis, in terms of effects or impacts and reasonably for-seeable actions

What is considered in the different steps of the process?

In inventory, we look at a limited number of criteria—the size of an area, certain roads, and substantially noticeable improvements.  In evaluation, we look at a broader set of criteria—naturalness, opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation, unique features, size, and manageability.  In analysis, we look at the benefits and impacts of recommending an area as wilderness.  In recommendation, the Responsible Official (Forest Supervisor) may or may not recommend areas as potential wilderness to Congress as part of the final Forest Plan decision.  In summary, the inventory and evaluation steps ask if an area can be managed as wilderness, whereas the analysis step asks if an area should be managed as wilderness.

What happens to an area that has been recommended as wilderness in the final Forest Plan decision until the time it is designated by Congress?  Couldn’t that take years for Congress to consider designating it?

If any areas are recommended to Congress as wilderness through the final Forest Plan decision, those areas must be managed to maintain their wilderness characteristics at the time of recommendation.  This means that the final Forest Plan will also include plan components to help the Forest maintain the wilderness characteristics the area was found to contain.

Is grazing allowed in wilderness?

Yes, if grazing was established in the area prior to designation of the area as a wilderness area.  Motorized and mechanized maintenance of supporting facilities (existing prior to designation) is permissible.

Is mining allowed in wilderness?

Yes, but only if valid rights were established prior to designation of the area as wilderness.  Removal of common variety minerals (sand, gravel, stone, etc) is not allowed, however.

Can search and rescue occur in wilderness?

Yes, the Forest Supervisor can authorize use of motorized or mechanical equipment for emergencies, including in the following situations: fire suppression, health and safety, law enforcement involving serious crime, removal of deceased persons, or aircraft accidents.

How is fire treated in wilderness?

Fires caused by lightning are allowed to follow their natural role in wilderness.  Risks and consequences of wildfires in wilderness can be reduced. Two types of prescribed fires may be approved for use in wilderness, those ignited by lightning and allowed to burn or prescribed fires ignited by qualified Forest Service personnel.