Planning

Forest Plan Revision

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Page updates: Feb. 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):

Objection Resolution

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.

Next steps

Trilobite Peak fron Gooseberry Cabin Fall Colors Spotted Bear Ranger District

  • Objections received by the reviewing officer are being reviewed to determine if they contain the necessary information. The reviewing officer will confirm receipt of the objection, and accept, partially accept, or set aside the objection in writing.
  • A 90-day objection review period commenced when the 60-day objection filing period ended. The review period may be extended at the discretion of the reviewing officer.
  • Within ten days after the close of the objection filing period the responsible official will publish a legal notice in the newspapers of record and on the Forest websites listing those people and organizations who have objected to the revised Forest Plan. This legal notice will also ask for those members of the public who wish to be considered an "interested person" to send a request to the reviewing officer. The contact information will be contained in the legal notice. There is a 10-day period to make this request.  An "interested person" is someone who has participated during the forest plan and amendments process, and who has an interest in supporting or opposing one or more issues addressed in a submitted objection. Additional information about the role of an "interested person" and how to request this status will be included in the legal notice and on this website within ten days after the close of the objection filing period.
  • One or more meetings, will be held with the objectors, reviewing officer, responsible official(s), interested persons, and forest staff during the objection reviewing period. All parties will be notified of the meeting time(s), location(s), and any necessary conferencing contact information.  These meetings are open to the public.
  • At the end of the objection reviewing period the reviewing officer will issue a written response. The written response will set forth the reasons for the response, but is not required to be a point-by-point response. It may contain instructions to the responsible official. The written response will be the final decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the objections.
  • 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.

Responsible officials

The responsible official who will approve the record of decision for the Flathead National Forest revised forest plan is Chip Weber, Forest Supervisor of the Flathead National Forest, 650 Wolfpack Way, Kalispell, MT  59901, (406) 758-5208.

The responsible officials who will approve the record of decision for the amendments are:

  • William Avey, Forest Supervisor of the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest Supervisor's Office, 2880 Skyway Drive, Helena, MT  59602, (406) 449-5201;
  • Christopher S. Savage, Forest Supervisor of the Kootenai National Forest, 31374 U.S. Highway 2, Libby, MT  59923, (406) 293-6211; and
  • Timothy Garcia, Forest Supervisor of the Lolo National Forest, 24 Fort Missoula Road, Missoula MT  59804, (406) 329-3750.

The responsible official for the species of conservation concern is Leanne Marten, Regional Forester, Northern Region, 26 Fort Missoula Road, Missoula, MT  59804.

The regional forester is the reviewing officer for the revised plan and plan amendments since the forest supervisors are the deciding officials (36 CFR 219.56(e)(2)). The Chief of the Forest Service is the reviewing officer for the species of conservation concern identification since the regional forester is the deciding official (36 CFR 219.56(e)(2)).

For further information, contact:  Project Leader Joe Krueger, 650 Wolfpack Way, Kalispell, MT  59901, (406) 758-5243.

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.