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USDA Proposes Improvements to Forests Management, Grasslands
USAgNet - 06/13/2019

The USDA Forest Service released proposed changes to modernize how the agency complies with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The proposed updates would not only give the Forest Service the tools and flexibility to manage the land and tackle critical challenges like wildfire, insects, and disease but also improve service to the American people. Revising the rules will improve forest conditions and make it simpler for people to use and enjoy their national forests and grasslands at lower cost to the taxpayer. The revised rules will also make it easier to maintain and repair the infrastructure people need to use and enjoy their public lands--the roads, trails, campgrounds, and other facilities.

While these proposed changes will save time and resources, they are ultimately intended to better protect people, communities and forests from catastrophic wildfire and ensure a high level of engagement with people and communities when doing related work and associated environmental analyses.

"We are committed to doing the work to protect people and infrastructure from catastrophic wildfire. With millions of acres in need of treatment, years of costly analysis and delays are not an acceptable solution -- especially when data and experience show us we can get this work done with strong environmental protection standards as well as protect communities, livelihoods and resources," said Secretary Perdue.

In 2008, the Forest Service codified its procedures for complying with NEPA in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 36 CFR 220. However, these regulations, in large part, still reflect the policies and practices established by the agency's 1992 NEPA Manual and Handbook. When these regulations were adopted in 2008, they were intended to modernize and improve management processes. The proposed rule would further modernize the agency's NEPA policy by incorporating experience from past 10 years. This experience includes input from comments on the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking from January of 2018, as well as feedback from roundtables, workshops, and input from agency experts.

The proposed update is open for public comment for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

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