Forest Plan Revision

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Page updates: August 16, 2018

Hungry Horse Reservoir from Doris Boat Launch

 

Final Environmental Impact Statement

 

The staff of the Flathead National Forest is pleased to announce the release of the final environmental impact statement (EIS) and draft record of decision for the Flathead National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (referred to as the "forest plan"). The Forest Service is concurrently amending the forest plans of the Helena, Lewis and Clark, Kootenai, and Lolo National Forests to incorporate habitat management direction for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) grizzly bear population (referred to as the "amendments"). The Flathead National Forest is proposing to incorporate the NCDE grizzly bear habitat management direction as part of its plan revision process. The Forest Service has prepared a single final environmental impact statement for its forest plan and the forest plan amendments, a draft record of decision for the revised forest plan, and a draft record of decision for the forest plan amendments.

These documents reflect extensive public participation over the past 4 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 the draft forest plan and amendments. The documents also 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. Based upon the review of all alternatives and the consideration of the effects to the ecological, social, and economic environment, alternative B modified was selected for the Flathead National Forest revised forest plan. The selected alternative is based on alternative B from the draft EIS, with modifications in response to comments, including over 33,000 comments on the draft EIS, and includes features of all alternatives considered. Alternative B modified is the result of engagement with State and local governments, other Federal agencies, and Indian tribes, as well as robust and unique public engagement efforts since 2013.

grizzly bear in willowsAdditionally, Forest Supervisors Chris Savage, Tim Garcia, and Bill Avey have released the draft record of decision and final environmental impact statement for forest plan amendments to the Helena-Lewis and Clark, Kootenai, and Lolo National Forests, which incorporate habitat management direction from the draft Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy. Alternative 2 modified from the draft EIS was selected for the forest plan amendments in response to internal and external reviews and public comments on the draft EIS.

Amendment plan components will guide future land management actions related to motorized access and secure core, developed recreation sites, vegetation management, livestock grazing, and energy and mineral development. In general, habitat conditions in the primary conservation area will be maintained at levels that occurred during the time period when the grizzly bear population was known to be growing and increasing in distribution, thus contributing to recovery of the NCDE grizzly bear population. In zone 1 and the demographic connectivity areas, plan components will be added to limit grizzly bear mortality risk and provide for population connectivity to neighboring grizzly bear recovery zones. In a portion of zone 2, a desired condition aimed at providing for genetic connectivity between the NCDE and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem will be added. A desired condition and a standard regarding food/wildlife attractant storage special order(s) will apply across the primary conservation area, zone 1 including the demographic connectivity areas, and zone 2. New forest plan monitoring items will be added to the forest plans.

Purpose of the forest plan and amendments

Middle Fork FlatheadThe proposed action is to revise the 1986 forest plan. 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/.

The existing forest plan is more than 30 years old, dramatically exceeding the 10-15 year duration of plans directed by the National Forest Management Act. Since the 1986 forest plan was 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. In particular, the plan revision addresses the following topics:

  • increasing demand for recreation opportunities and their importance in supporting local economies;
  • fire and fuels management direction that emphasizes active vegetation management near communities;
  • new analyses needed for timber production opportunities, an important historical driver for local economies;
  • conservation of wildlife and aquatic habitat, including updating grizzly bear habitat management direction and Inland Native Fish direction; and
  • new policy and public interest in identifying areas for recommended wilderness and wild and scenic rivers.

The Forest Service is also concurrently amending the forest plans of the Helena, Lewis and Clark, Kootenai, and Lolo National Forests (also referred to as "the amendment forests") to incorporate habitat management direction for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) grizzly bear population. The Flathead National Forest is proposing to incorporate the NCDE grizzly bear habitat management direction as part of its plan revision process. Additional information about the forest plan amendments is available at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/flathead/gbamend.

Documents

Read the following documents by clicking on the titles below.

Final Environmental Impact Statement

  • Volume 1 Part 1: Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Forest Plan
  • Volume 1 Part 2: Wildlife Section of the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Forest Plan
  • Volume 2: Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Forest Plan for the Flathead National Forest
  • Volume 3: Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Forest Plan Amendments to Incorporate Habitat Management Direction for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem Grizzly Bear Population on the Helena-Lewis and Clark, Kootenai, and Lolo National Forests
  • Volume 4: Appendices and Glossary

Forest Plan

Draft Records of Decision

Objection Information Requests (updated Dec. 22, 2018)

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Legal Notice of the Opportunity to Object

Biological Assessments (Forest Service) and Biological Opinions (USFWS):

Objections

The 60-day opportunity to object to the Flathead National Forest's forest plan and Regional Forester's species of conservation list, the NCDE Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy forest plan amendments for the Helena-Lewis and Clark, Kootenai, and Lolo National Forests, or the associated final environmental impact statement ended on February 12, 2018.The Forest Service objection process allows the Agency to consider public concerns early on, before a decision is made, aligning with the Forest Service's collaborative approach to forest management and increasing the likelihood of resolving ongoing concerns. As part of this process, objector(s) and the reviewing official meet for face-to-face discussions about particular objection issues.

The Forest Service received seventy-four timely objections regarding the revision of the Flathead National Forest Land Management Plan (forest plan), the associated regional forester's species of conservation concern, and/or the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem amendments for the Lolo, Helena-Lewis and Clark, and Kootenai National Forests.

Trilobite Peak fron Gooseberry Cabin Fall Colors Spotted Bear Ranger DistrictThe reviewing officers have issued their written response. The written response sets forth the reasons for the response; it is not required to be a point-by-point response. It does contain instructions to the responsible officials. The written response will be the final decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the objections.

  • Click here for the Regional Forester Leanne Marten's objection response letter for the Flathead National Forest revised forest plan and NCDE amendments.
  • Click here for the objections response on the Flathead National Forest species of conservation concern. More information about the Flathead species of conservation consern can be found on the Northern Region Species of Conservation Concern website.
  • Click here for the Reviewing Officer Response to Eligible Objections.
  • The planning record exhibits referenced in the Response to Eligible Objections can be linked to below:
    • Ake, K. (2015). Timber suitability process documentation, Flathead National Forest--GIS documentation. Kalispell, MT: USDA Forest Service, Flathead National Forest. Planning record exhibit # 00251.
    • Archer, E. and J.V. Ojala (2018). Stream Habitat Condition for Sites in the Flathead National Forest. InFish Biological Opinion (PIBO) Monitoring Program, USDA Forest Service, Logan, UT. Planning Record exhibit #00981.
    • Frament, E. (2017). Revised Flathead National Forest plan: Riparian management zones (RMZs) and timber suitability. Kalispell, MT: USDA Forest Service, Flathead National Forest. Planning record exhibit # 00641.
    • Green, P., Joy, J., Sirucek, D., Hann, W., Zack, A., & Naumann, B. (2011). Old-growth forest types of the Northern Region (1992, with errata through 2011). Missoula, MT: USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Retrieved from http://fsweb.r1.fs.fed.us/forest/inv/project/old_growth.shtml. Planning record exhibit # 00504.
    • Henderson, E. (2017). SIMPPLLE modeling for forest plan revision. Missoula, MT: USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Planning record exhibit # 00255.
    • Kuennen. R. (2014) Consideration of BASI submitted by commenters on the Flathead forest plan revision. Kalispell, MT: USDA Forest service, Flathead National Forest. Planning record exhibit # 00675.
    • Kuennen, R., Van Eimeren, P., Trechsel, H., & Shelly, S. (2017b). Revised Flathead National Forest plan: Sensitive wildlife, fish, and plant species biological evaluation--Summary of determinations. Kalispell, MT: USDA Flathead National Forest. Planning record exhibit # 00631.
    • Larson, J. (2017). Details of the IMPLAN economic impact analysis for the Flathead forest plan EIS. Missoula, MT: USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Planning record exhibit # 00566.
    • Meridian Institute. (2017). Flathead National Forest plan revision stakeholder engagement final report phase II. Dillon, CO: Meridian Institute. Planning record exhibit # 00648.
    • Moore, M. (2017). Mapping summer and winter recreation opportunity spectrum for Flathead Forest plan revision. Kalispell, MT: USDA Forest Service, Flathead National Forest. Planning record exhibit # 00556.
    • Thomas, C. (2017). Riparian management zones: Supporting literature and rationale. Missoula, MT: USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Planning record exhibit # 00647.
    • Trechsel, H. (2015). Process to develop timber suitability map for Flathead national Forest revision, final--February 2015. Kalispell, MT: USDA Forest Service, Flathead National Forest. Planning record exhibit # 00180.
    • Trechsel, H. (2017a). Documentation of changes in modeled future vegetation conditions between draft and final EIS [for forest plan revision, Flathead National Forest]. Kalispell, MT: USDA Forest Service, Flathead National Forest. Planning record exhibit # 00467.
    • Trechsel, H. (2017b). Modeled natural range of variation, existing condition, and desired condition vegetation attributes and natural disturbances: Flathead forest plan revision. Kalispell, MT: USDA Forest Service, Flathead National Forest. Planning record exhibit # 00258.
    • USDA. (1995a). Inland native fish strategy: Decision notice and finding of no significant impact and environmental assessment.USDA Forest Service, Intermountain, Northern, and Pacific Northwest Regions. Retrieved from https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsbdev3_033158.pdf. Planning record exhibit # 00365.
    • USDA. (1995b). Decision notice: Amendment to the Flathead National Forest land and resource management plan, Flathead National Forest, Montana: Amendment no. 19, allowable sale quantity and objectives and standards for grizzly bear habitat management. Kalispell, MT: USDA Forest Service, Flathead National Forest. Planning record exhibit # 00193.
    • USDA. (2014b). Travel analysis report for Flathead National Forest. Kalispell, MT: USDA Forest Service, Flathead National Forest. Retrieved from https://www.fs.usda.gov/flathead. Planning record exhibit # 00413.
    • USDA-USDI-EPA-NMFS. (2013). The Interior Columbia Basin strategy, interagency memorandum of understanding: A strategy for applying knowledge gained by the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project to the revision of land use plans and project implementation.USDA Forest Service, USDI Bureau of Land Management, USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Protection Agency, and National Marine Fisheries Service. Planning record exhibit # 00422.
    • Van Eimeren, P., & Gardner, B. (2017). 2017 Bull Trout Baseline, Flathead National Forest. Kalispell, MT: USDA Forest Service, Flathead National Forest. Planning record exhibit # 00672.

Resolution Meeting Schedule and Transcripts

The objection resolution meetings were Wednesday through Friday, April 11-13, 2018. The meetings were held at the Hilton Garden Inn, 1840 U.S. Hwy 93 in Kalispell, Montana. Click here for the final agenda.

Transcripts of the objection resolution meetings can be accessed by clicking on the date of the session: April 11, 2018, April 12, 2018, April 13, 2018.

Next steps in the objection resolution process

  • Once the reviewing officer has issued the response to the objections, and the responsible official has followed any instructions contained in the written response, the responsible official may sign the final records of decision for the forest plan and the amendments.
  • For more detailed information on the objection process, see 36 CFR 219 Part B.

Links to additional webpages, documents, and information

 

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Documents and materials associated with the Draft EIS can be found on this archive page.