Forest Plan Revision Overview

The Wayne National Forest is currently revising its land management plan. This is a complex, multi-year process that began in 2018. This overview will explain what forest plans are and the process to revise them.

Managing the Land for Multiple-Use

The Wayne National Forest is part of the National Forest System. National forests are public lands managed by the Forest Service, an agency housed within the United States Department of Agriculture. The Forest Service’s mission is to maintain and improve the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of current and future generations. To meet this mission, the Forest Service manages national forests—including the Wayne National Forest—for multiple uses, including forest health, forest products, recreation, minerals, wildlife and fish habitat, water resources, range, and more.

Forest Plans

The National Forest Management Act of 1976 requires each national forest to have its own land management plan, which are often referred to as “forest plans.” A forest plan is the principal document that guides the decisions of Forest Service land managers. It sets forth a vision for land management and describes the desired conditions of the national forest. It directs where and under what conditions an activity or project can proceed in a national forest, and balances social, environmental, and economic concerns. Each time a project or activity is proposed (such as the building of a new trail or a timber harvest), Forest Service land managers must ensure that the proposed action is consistent with the forest plan.

What Forest Plans Do and Don’t Do

  • Forest plans do provide the “big picture” vision for the landscape.
  • They do describe the distinctive roles and contributions of the national forest within the broader landscape.
  • And they do follow all applicable Federal laws, regulations, and policies.
  • Forest plans do not guide the allocation of budgetary or personnel resources.
  • They do not authorize any projects, activities, or site-specific prohibitions, nor do they commit the Forest Service to take action.
  • And finally, they do not repeat Federal laws and regulations.

Revising Forest Plans

Ecological and socioeconomic conditions—as well as our understanding of the science regarding land management techniques—change over time. Because of this, forest plans must be regularly revised and updated every 10 to 15 years. These revisions consider topics that were not previously addressed, new scientific research that was published since the last forest plan, and explore whether conditions in the national forest and surrounding areas have changed.

The Forest Plan Revision Process

Revising a forest plan is no small task. The Forest Service managers must follow all applicable laws, regulations, and policies; balance input and needs from a diverse array of both local and national user groups and organizations; coordinate effectively with government and Tribal partners; and set up a framework that ultimately works to sustain the health, productivity, and diversity of highly complex ecosystems on a landscape scale.

The 2012 Planning Rule

This complex process is guided by the 2012 planning rule. The 2012 planning rule gives direction to the Forest Service on how to generally go about revising a forest plan, what topics to consider during the revision process, how and when to engage members of the public, and more.  The planning rule also designates the forest supervisor as the responsible official for the process, which means the forest supervisor manages the planning process and approves the final forest plan. The regional forester of the Forest Service Eastern Region also has some responsibilities throughout the process, including identifying species of conservation concern. For additional information on forest planning, refer to A Citizens’ Guide to National Forest Planning.

Assessment, Plan Development, and Plan Implementation & Monitoring

Revising a forest plan occurs in three phases:

  1. Assessment
  2. Plan Development
  3. Plan Implementation & Monitoring

During the assessment phase, the Forest Service identifies and evaluates existing economic, social, and ecological conditions and trends of the national forest and surrounding area. The Wayne is currently in the assessment phase. To learn more and view the findings, visit our assessment page.

The plan development phase uses the information gathered during the assessment phase—together with input from the public and other entities gathered through comments, collaboration, Tribal consultation, and other opportunities for engagement—to revise the forest plan. Once the proposed forest plan has been developed, the Wayne National Forest will enter the environmental analysis and review process as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This is commonly referred to as “the NEPA process.” The Forest Service will analyze alternatives to the proposed plan and develop the plan iteratively after public comment and response. The revised forest plan, along with the final EIS, will be published along with a final record of decision that documents the final decision and the forest supervisor’s rationale for it.

Once the revised forest plan is approved, the implementation & monitoring phase begins. The revised forest plan will then begin to guide project-level decisions, like how and where to harvest timber. During implementation of the forest plan, monitoring of conditions on the ground helps determine whether the forest plan is actually achieving its intended desired conditions and objectives. Monitoring information helps managers determine whether they need to propose amending or revising the plan, a concept known as adaptive management.

Concurrent Processes

In addition to revising the forest plan, there are several other concurrent processes that take place during the revision process. The Wayne National Forest will identify lands which may be suitable for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System. The Wayne will also identify stream segments which may be suitable for inclusion in the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System. And finally, the Wayne National Forest and Forest Service Eastern Region will compile a list of species of conservation concern, which are native species not federally listed whose long-term persistence in the Wayne is of concern.

Best Available Scientific Information

The 2012 planning rule requires the use of best available scientific information to inform the forest plan revision process. Best available scientific information must be accurate, reliable, and relevant. The best available scientific information can take many forms, including peer-reviewed research articles, scientific assessments, expert opinion, and raw data from monitoring results.

While the best available scientific information informs the planning process, plan components, and other plan content, it does not dictate the final decision. There may be competing scientific perspectives and uncertainty in the available science. Forest plan decisions also reflect other relevant factors such as budget, legal authorities, traditional ecological knowledge, agency policies, public input, and the experience of land managers.

Public Participation & Collaboration

The 2012 planning rule emphasizes the importance of meaningful public participation throughout the forest plan revision process. Public participation can take several different forms, and opportunities have and will continue to occur during the entire process. Visit our Public Participation: Collaboration, Communication, and Conservations page to learn more about the guiding principles of public participation and how you can get involved, such as information about upcoming meetings and how to contact the forest plan revision team.

Getting Involved

We encourage you to get involved! Getting involved can take many different forms.

Email updates with GovDelivery are one of the easiest ways to stay up-to-date in the process.

Our Public Participation Page has information on how you can attend our virtual monthly update webinars on the first Wednesday of every month -including information on the phone number to call, and alink to the webinar.

If you have specific questions about forest plan revision you want to ask, you can email us, or call us at (740) 753-0555.

And as always, keep an eye out on our Public Participation Page for information about any upcoming public meetings!

You can also follow the Wayne National Forest on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date with all the happenings in your national forest.

Plan Revision Resources

Forest Plan Revision Public Participation

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