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News and information about environmental and land management action involving federal agencies

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U.S. Forest Service, BLM, USFWS, NPS, Energy, EPA
John Stewart

Final Forest Planning Rule Released

The USDA and the Forest Service carefully considered over a quarter million comments received on the proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement issued in February to develop today’s final rule, which emphasizes collaboration, sound science and protections for land, water and wildlife.

The final rule strengthens the role of public involvement and dialogue throughout the planning process. It also requires the use of the best available scientific information to inform decisions.

“We are ready to start a new era of planning that takes less time, costs less money, and provides stronger protections for our lands and water”, said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.  “This new rule will bring 21st century thinking to a process that is sorely needed to protect and preserve our 193 million acres of amazing forests and grasslands.”

Land management plans under the final rule will include:

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John Stewart

USDA Forest Service Continues Discounts at Campgrounds

The Forest Service had proposed changes to discounts provided to holders of Golden Age and Golden Access Passports and Senior and Access Passes.  Under the proposal, discounts at concession-operated campgrounds would have changed from the current 50 percent to 10 percent. After considering many public comments, the Chief determined the proposed changes are not the best way to address growing challenges regarding services provided by private businesses at Forest Service recreation facilities.

"Each year more than 175 million people enjoy recreational opportunities on National Forests and Grasslands, and that includes more than 15 million visits to our campgrounds," said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.  "Particularly in these difficult economic times, it is very important to maintain affordable access to our National Forests and Grasslands, giving people easy ways to recreate and find respite in the great outdoors."  

The Chief's decision leaves in place a 50 percent discount at campgrounds run by private concessions for holders of Golden Age and Golden Access Passports and Interagency Senior and Access Passes. Concessioners are not required to accept passes at day use sites.  Seniors age 62 and older pay a one-time $10 fee for the Senior Pass. Lifetime Access Passes for people with disabilities are free.  

The Forest Service conducted a 60-day public notice and comment period on the proposed changes. More than 4,000 comments were received.

The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.  The agency manages 193 million acres of National Forest System land, provides stewardship assistance to non-federal forest landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.  For more information, visit: www.fs.fed.us

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John Stewart

Inyo NF Travel Management Plan Released

“From the start, this project has been about balancing the various needs for motorized recreation opportunities with the need to protect natural and cultural resources,” said Upchurch.  “I believe my decision strikes the best balance in providing motorized access with the protection of these critical resources.”

As described in the Record of Decision the Selected Alternative will restrict public motorized use to designated National Forest Transportation System (NFTS) roads, trails, and areas.  It will add to the system:

•    850 miles of high-clearance native surface roads as high-clearance roads open to all vehicles,
•    122 miles of motorized trails open to all trail vehicles,
•    20 miles of ATV trails,
•    15 miles of motorcycle trails.

The Selected Alternative includes limited changes to existing NFTS roads, including changes in vehicle class, and identifies mitigation efforts that must be completed prior to designating certain routes for motor vehicle use.

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John Stewart

Interim directive for inventoried roadless areas issued

The U.S. Forest Service, with jurisdiction over the National Forests and Grasslands, makes decisions about what projects can take place on those lands. In simultaneously upholding and overturning the 2001 Clinton roadless rule, the courts have created confusion and made it difficult for the U.S. Forest Service to do its job. The directive will ensure that USDA can carefully consider activities in these inventoried roadless areas while long term roadless policy is developed and relevant court cases move forward.

This interim directive changes procedural requirements for Forest Service projects in inventoried roadless areas. It does not prevent the Secretary from either approving projects that he believes are in the interest of forest stewardship or prohibiting projects he believes are not. The Secretary will work closely with the US Forest Service to implement this interim directive.

This interim directive does not affect roadless areas on National Forest System lands in Idaho - Idaho is exempt from this interim directive. Idaho developed its own roadless rule through the Administrative Procedures Act. That rule already prescribes how decisions with respect to forest management and road building in roadless areas in Idaho are to be made.

This interim directive will last for one year and can be renewed for an additional year.

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John Stewart

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Says Western Sage-Grouse Not a Sub-species

The Service was petitioned by the Institute for Wildlife Protection seeking ESA protection for the western sage grouse, which occurs in northern California, eastern Oregon, eastern Washington and possibly parts of Idaho. The Service concluded in 2003 that the western sage grouse is neither a distinct population segment nor a valid subspecies of the greater sage grouse, and therefore was not eligible for protection under the ESA. The Service’s decision was sent back to the agency by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for further consideration of whether the western sage grouse may be a subspecies. The court upheld the Service’s determination that the western sage grouse is not a distinct population segment of the greater sage grouse.

Today’s announcement is included in the Service’s decision that the listing of greater sage-grouse is warranted for ESA protection but is precluded by higher listing priorities. The greater sage-grouse will be placed on the candidate list for future action, meaning the species would not receive statutory protection under the ESA and states would continue to be responsible for managing the bird. The Service also determined that the Bi-State population of greater sage-grouse, found in California and Nevada and formerly known as the Mono Basin population, meets the necessary criteria for recognition as a Distinct Population Segment under the ESA, and that adding this population to the federal list of threatened and endangered species is warranted. However, listing the Bi-State DPS of the greater sage-grouse at this time is precluded by the need to list candidate species with that have a higher priority need for protection under the ESA. It will be placed on the list of candidate species.  The Service will review the status of the Bi-State DPS and the greater sage-grouse annually, as it does with all candidates for listing, and will propose them for listing when funding and workload permit.

The finding on greater sage-grouse incorporates the birds referenced in the petition to list a western subspecies, which will therefore be included on the list of candidate species.

The greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) is a large, ground-dwelling bird, measuring up to 30 inches in length, is two feet tall and weighs between two to seven pounds.  It has a long, pointed tail with legs feathered to the base of the toes and fleshy yellow combs over the eyes.  In addition to the mottled brown, black and white plumage typical of the species, males sport a white ruff around their necks.  The sage-grouse is found from 4,000 feet to over 9,000 feet in elevation.  It is an omnivore, eating soft plants (primarily sagebrush) and insects.

Greater sage-grouse are found in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, eastern California, Nevada, Utah, western Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. They occupy approximately 56 percent of their historical range.

For more information regarding today’s findings, please visit the Service’s web site at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/birds/sagegrouse.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

 

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