|Endangered Old Growth Mountain Hemlock in Olympic National Forest|
Submitted to Shelton Blog by Connie Gallant :
As a resident of Quilcene for 30 years, I have seen significant changes to the Olympic National Forest — which I call my backyard. There have been programs for repairing and/or decommissioning roads long abandoned from logging activities; recreational trails established; and collaboration programs to protect salmon runs and wildlife habitat.
However, in an effort to map their management of our public lands, the U.S. Forest Service is proposing sweeping changes that will affect all the national forests for the next 30 years, including 9 million acres in Washington state. Can any of us truly envision what the next 30 years will bring?
As a user and advocate for the Olympic National Forest, I want to be assured that the Forest Service builds on science-based management for fish, wildlife and watersheds that are so important to Kitsap and Olympic peninsula residents.
The proposed changes are found in the U.S. Forest Service Planning Rule Revision for National Forest System Land Management. Unfortunately, as I understand the present proposal, the new rules will either weaken existing forest protections or fall short of the management standards our forests deserve, including:
Inadequate safeguards for fish and wildlife: Whereas rules presently in force require that the Forest Service maintain viable populations of native wildlife species, the proposed rule would abandon this mandate, and place protocols for wildlife protection in the hands of managers for each national forest, a recipe for endless community strife as well as almost inevitable habitat degradation.
Failure to specify minimum standards for watershed protection: Water supplies are seriously stressed around the globe, and this situation will only get more severe in the future. In our region, hundreds of thousands of people depend on watersheds within National Forest boundaries. This consideration alone would be sufficient to demonstrate that any weakening of forest protection rules at this time would be a serious misstep. We recommend full protection of all watersheds and rivers within the U.S. Forest Service system.
Rollback of citizen review provision: The current proposal cuts in half (from 60 to 30 days) the time allowed for citizen review and objections of final management plans. Thirty days is simply not enough time to review documents that can be hundreds of pages long — and certainly not enough time to formulate objections or recommendations.
These changes could have particularly devastating impacts on forests and human communities in our region, particularly since the new rules will not require the use of best available science. Instead, the proposed rule only requires that the responsible official takes the best available science into account — while allowing only 30 days for public comment.
Managing our forests successfully relies on strong and definitive guidance at the federal level, and also the cooperation and participation of those who use and value the forests for their livelihoods, for recreation, and for the ecosystem services that the forests provide. These elements are interdependent.
Without strong guidance from the federal government, the forests are left vulnerable to the interests of those who put immediate profits before the long-term sustainable health of the forests and, indeed, the stability of timber-dependent communities.
These proposed rules need to be modified to ensure the type of future management that places like the Dungeness River Valley, Mount Townsend, and the Quilcene watershed deserve. Let's be sure to build upon past protections during the next 30 years for the benefit of future generations. After all, it is much less expensive to protect our forests and watersheds than to restore them.
If you would like to send a comment to the Forest Service asking them to improve their forest management rules, you can do so at http://www.govcomments.com/.
Read more: http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2011/may/06/my-turn-proposed-forest-rules-would-weaken/#ixzz1LgRZmeQf