For many people, the Flathead National Forest is the place where you can camp, hike, ride, ski, hunt and fish, observe wildlife and flora, gather firewood and Christmas trees where timber is harvested and fires are managed. Some enjoy the developed areas, others venture deep into the wilderness and many explore the areas in between. What people may not know is how much effort goes into managing these 2.4 million acres of public lands.
Management is guided by the Forest Plan. The plan is periodically revised to reflect current conditions. The forest was well into the plan revision in 2005 when a court case found the rule under which the planning effort was happening was not legal. As such the Flathead’s plan has not been revised since 1986. Now with a new planning rule, the Flathead National Forest is beginning the first phase of a multi-year planning process to revise the Forest Plan. The intent of the planning framework is to create a responsive planning process that informs multiple use management and allows the Forest Service to adapt to changing conditions, including climate change, and improve management based on new information and monitoring. The FNF plan revision process will consist of the following three phases:
1. Assessment. The assessment rapidly evaluates existing information about relevant ecological, economic and social conditions, trends, and sustainability and their relationship to the land management plan within the context of the broader landscape.
2. Revision. The plan revision will be based on the identification of the need to change from the assessment. The plan revision will include development of a proposed plan, consideration of the environmental effects of the proposal, providing an opportunity to comment on the proposed plan, providing an opportunity to object before the proposal is approved, and, finally, approval of the plan revision.
3. Monitoring. Monitoring is continuous and provides feedback for the planning cycle by testing relevant assumptions, tracking relevant conditions over time, and measuring management effectiveness.
The Flathead National Forest
is currently working on phase I – the assessment. The Forest is anticipating completing the assessment in late fall of 2013. The assessment is not a decision-making document, but provides current information on select topics relevant to the plan area. The assessment contributes to the planning process by:
- Informing the development of plan components, including desired conditions, objectives, standards, guidelines and suitability of lands.
- Identifying and evaluating a solid base of existing information relevant to the plan revision.
- Building a common understanding of that information with the public and other interested parties before starting plan revision.
- Developing relationships with interested parties, government entities, tribes, private landowners and other partners.
- Develops an understanding of the complex topics across landscapes that are relevant to planning on the forest.
As part of this effort, the forest is hosting four field trips so the public can help identify conditions we may have overlooked. Each field trip looks at a number of topics important to the plan. In the assessment for plan development or revision, the forest identifies and evaluates existing information relevant to the plan area for an extensive list of topics.
As part of its plan revision process, the Flathead is engaging in a collaborative process that provides stakeholders with information about the FNF Plan revision, a way to comment on the substantive issues covered in the FNF Plan, and ways to participate in collaborative discussions about the most controversial topics and to engage in collective problem solving about how to develop recommendations that address multiple interests.
This collaborative process is beginning in September 2013 and more information on this is available at the forest website.
The monitoring plan will be developed as part of the forest plan and will help guide changes to the plan into the future.
How to Get Involved
The field trips, while part of the assessment, are also designed to start the public involvement process by building relationships and helping to provide some base knowledge.
At the bottom of the Plan Revision webpage on the forest website, there is a button you can click to receive any new information that is posted. Following our Face Book page is another way to stay connected and learn about plan revision activities.
The final field trip is Sept. 26.
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