Planning

Planning is an important part of stewarding the National Forest System. Planning is done at a variety of levels, from local to national and in between. Planning helps the Forest Service stewards maintain and improve the health, diversity, and productivity of the national forests for present and future generations. It also helps the Forest Service stewards meet expectations and mandates given to them by Congress and the Executive Branch.

Forest Plans

An important planning document that helps guide stewardship at the Wayne National Forest is the land and resource management plan, which is often referred to as a “forest plan.” The Wayne National Forest is currently managed under the 2006 forest plan. The National Forest Management Act of 1976 requires that each national forest has its own forest plan.

A forest plan is the principal document that guides the decisions of Forest Service stewards. It sets forth a vision for land management and describes the desired conditions of the national forest. It provides a framework for developing future activities or projects by designating broad goals and objectives that activities or projects can be planned around. Plan components provide specific direction or limitations on future actions. Although there are always different opinions about how a national forest should be managed, the forest plan balances social, environmental, and economic concerns. In a nutshell, forest plans help inform the planning of discrete projects, and these discrete projects are then implemented to actually carry out stewardship actions on-the-ground.

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.

National Environmental Policy Act

An important part of planning and subsequent implementation of stewardship activities is the National Environmental Policy Act, often simply referred to as “NEPA.” The National Environmental Policy Act’s basic policy is to assure that all branches of government give proper consideration to the environment prior to undertaking any major federal action that significantly affects the environment, while also providing an opportunity for the public to be involved in the federal agency decision making process. To learn more about the NEPA process and you, see A Citizen’s Guide to the NEPA.

Scientific Information

Another important component of planning is using best available scientific information to help inform decisions. 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 helps inform planning, it does not dictate the final decision. Decisions also reflect other relevant factors such as budget, legal authorities, traditional ecological knowledge, Agency policies, public input, and the experience of land managers.

Forest Plan Assessment

In April of 2018, the Wayne National Forest began a forest plan assessment as part of a process to revise the 2006 forest plan. The findings of this assessment were then released in July of 2020. Based on the assessment, the forest supervisor determined that the current 2006 forest plan already meets many of the needs and objectives of the Wayne National Forest and the public. While there were also gaps or areas of misalignment identified, it was concluded that these could be addressed through various means and did not require full-scale plan revision. Consequently, the forest supervisor announced on January 27, 2021, that the Wayne National Forest will not be revising its forest plan at this time.

The work completed for the assessment has been a worthwhile investment and broadened the Forest Service’s view of current and changing conditions across the Wayne National Forest and landscape. This information is being used for projects and initiatives across the national forest.

Documents

Assessment Reports:

Current Forest Plan