The Bush administration gets points for persistence, if not for common sense or environmental awareness. This time it’s the Forest Service’s attempt to gut forest planning.

On March 30, Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton of the Federal District Court in San Francisco struck down the Bush administration’s 2005 rule changes for forest management plans under the National Forest Management Act (NFMA).

The judge found that, in promulgating the rule, the Forest Service had broken the law by not meeting the environmental analysis requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and had not adequately involved the general public in development of individual forest management plans according to the public participation provisions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).

The National Forest Management Act (NFMA) was passed in 1976 to help ensure the sustainability of our national forests. The act required the creation of forest management plans. These plans, which must be revised every 15 years, cover the management of the more than 192 million acres of national forest.

The 2005 Bush rule exempted forest plans from filing Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) under NEPA, claiming that entire forest plans would be “categorically excluded.”

Now the Forest Service is compiling an EIS to comply with the court’s decision and revive the 2005 planning rule change.


It is important to let the Forest Service know that you object to the 2005 rewrite of the forest management planning rules.


Email your comments to:

or fax them to: (916) 456-6724

SAMPLE LETTER (please feel free to rewrite in your own words)

To: USDA Forest Service:

Please accept these scoping comments for the preparation of the environmental impact statement to analyze and disclose potential environmental consequences associated with the National Forest System land management planning rule.

The EIS should analyze the impacts on the national forests of exempting forest plans from environmental review and meaningful public input under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The Forest Service should ensure that the public has access to adequate information for the evaluation of the environmental consequences of forest plans. Given the size and complexity of most forest plans, the Forest Service should ensure that enough time is allowed for informed public comment.

The EIS should analyze the effects of eliminating resource protection standards from forest plans and the impacts of eliminating wildlife viability and monitoring requirements.

The Forest Service should consider alternatives to the 2005 planning rule that include strong standards to protect forests, waters and wildlife, and evaluate the adoption of some or all of the 1982 and 2000 regulations. Alternatives should also include requirements for forest plans to address the impacts of climate change.

Exempting forest management plans will eliminate the study or disclosure of the cumulative impact of management activities across the national forest, something usually done at the planning stage.

The agency should not make it easier for timber, oil, gas, mining and motorized recreation companies to profit from the use of public forests while eliminating the need for forest managers to assess potentially harmful impacts on water, wildlife, recreational use, old growth and roadless areas.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Your Name
Your Address

Visit the American Lands Alliance website for detailed analysis of the NFMA rule changes


Forests Forever:
Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection
John J. Berger

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places