Recreation Groups Join Efforts to Challenge New USFS Planning Regulations

POCATELLO, IDAHO (August  14, 2012) — Recreation advocates yesterday joined with several other organizations in a legal challenge to new forest planning regulations promulgated by the U.S. Forest Service.

The BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) and the California Association of 4Wheel Drive Clubs (Cal 4 Wheel) joined forces with the other forest product and multiple use groups in filing a lawsuit to require the Forest Service to modify its new planning rule to avoid its devastating impacts on the health of National Forests, recreational uses of the forests and communities located nearby.

The U.S. Forest Service formally adopted new National Forest Planning rules on April 9, 2012. The new regulations shift the agency away from a jobs and ecosystem approach. Instead, the planning rule would cement the National Forests into endless litigation over single species management; an approach that even the agency admits has failed repeatedly in the last three decades.

The complaint takes the Forest Service to task for elevating species viability, ecological sustainability, and ecosystem services as mandatory national forest management objectives, above the five statutorily prescribed multiple uses: outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, and wildlife and fish purposes. It also admonishes the Forest Service for requiring recreational opportunities to fit the agency’s definition of “sustainable” in order to be allowed on national forest lands.

Greg Mumm, BRC’s Executive Director said; “The new planning rules are actually more complex, costly, and procedurally burdensome than the regulations they replace. The agency has utterly failed to meet the guidelines of President Obama’s directive calling for regulations to be cost effective, less burdensome, and more flexible.  As written, this rule will tie the hands of forest managers and allow preservationists groups to bury any active management in endless litigation.”

Mark Cave, President of Cal 4 Wheel  expressed concern that the new regulations shift the Forest Service away from multiple use/sustained yield and impose a binding requirement for “ecological sustainability,” which the agency doesn’t  define clearly. “The new rules are a recipe for analysis paralysis. It doesn’t take any clairvoyance to predict never ending challenge from the environmental community.” Cave said.

“The wood products industry tried very hard to convince the Forest Service that these new rules work against forest health and jobs, both of which are vital to rural economies.  We commented at every stage in the process.  These rules ignore the multiple use mandate given to the agency by Congress.   Instead, they focus on single species preservation,”, said Howard Hedstrom, President of Hedstrom Lumber in Grand Marais, Minnesota,  and President of the Federal Forest Resource Coalition. “Going to court against the Forest Service was the last thing on our minds when we launched this coalition last year, but with the impact on jobs that will be caused by the planning rules, we had no other choice.”

Parties in the lawsuit include: The Federal Forest Resource Coalition, Alaska Forestry Association, American Forest Resource Coalition, American Sheep Industry Association, California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, California Forestry Association, Minnesota Forest Industries, Minnesota Timber Producers Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Public Lands Council, and Resource Development Council for Alaska.

The Complaint can be found here.

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