A New Rule for A New Century

Planning Rule Roll Out
Washington, DC
— November 27, 2002

Thank you for joining us.

I am personally thrilled to be here today to announce the planning rule for the Forest Service that presents a new, and very much improved way of managing our forests.

As a former Forest Supervisor and forest planner, as a professional who has written and been responsible for executing plans for my entire career, I can say with a lot

of confidence, this is an important step.  The improvements we’re proposing today will help assure our National Forests and Grasslands are healthy for many, many years to come. 

The Forest Service began long-range planning nearly 30 years ago. A lot has changed since then. Technology has advanced tremendously and social values have changed. Our scientific knowledge far exceeds what we knew 30 years ago. But there’s been a fundamental problem. Without an updated planning rule, we’ve not been able to apply three decades of learning, or incorporate new technology into our decision making. It’s time to bring forest planning into the 21st Century with a simpler, more responsive planning process.

The new rule acknowledges that forests are constantly changing – our planning process must be dynamic and responsive to those changes. I’ve personally seen thousands of forest acres die from insects and disease and wildfire in a single year. When it can take an average of 6 years to write a plan, responding to threats like these can be almost impossible. The new planning rule will give forest managers access to the tools they need to prevent problems before they happen and deal with them quickly and efficiently when they do.

Perhaps the most important thing we’ve learned in the last 30 years is that what we leave on the land is more important than what we take away. The new rule offers a guiding principle that will preserve our national forests and grasslands and still provide the resources and values that Americans expect from these great lands. It is designed to ensure the biologic, social and economic harmony of our forests and grasslands.

The national forests and grasslands are for everyone.  From state, local and tribal governments to ranchers and loggers to recreationists and wildlife enthusiasts -- we know people care about the national forests. We know because they tell us, by the hundreds, everyday, on every issue.  The new rule brings everyone who is interested into the planning process at the start of the process -- so we can reach solutions together.

The new rule cuts a lot of red tape and saves 30 cents on the dollar – money that can be spent doing good work on the ground, instead of on producing documents. Over the past quarter century, the Forest Service spent a billion dollars and several hundred thousand hours on forest planning.

I’ve spent much of that time writing and putting forest plans into effect.  A few years ago, I recommended to The Committee of Scientists how we could make the process better.

We can enhance it by:

1 – Recognizing that there’s no “one plan fits all” garment to wrap around every Forest;

2 – Understanding that America’s land values have dramatically changed;

3 – Stop chiseling plans in stone – create dynamic living documents that can respond to new information and concerns;

4 – work more collaboratively with our public; and

5 – develop an appeals process that better resolves conflicts.

The 2002 rule incorporates all of this.  Why is that important?  Because I, like many others in the Forest Service who have spent most of their career working on forest planning, have been clamoring for these changes. 

This is a rule that Forest Service professionals support because we know we can implement it. What we’re recommending today is what we in the Forest Service have said for years – We want to make a positive improvement that brings together those who use our national forests and grasslands … from campers to commercial vendors. By emphasizing public concerns and scientific knowledge in a timely manner, the rule will help preserve our treasured resources and bring forest planning into the 21st century.

Before I close, I’d like to introduce the man who has led the effort to launch this new rule. This is Fred Norbury, the director of Ecosystem Management Coordination. Both of us will be happy to answer your questions.