U.S. Forest Service Releases New Forest Planning Rules

The U.S. Forest Service recently announced new forest planning rules, affecting almost 200 million acres of land, including Pennsylvania's Allegheny National Forest. But not everyone is happy with the changes. The Allegheny Front's Kate Malongowski checked in with the Allegheny Defense Project.

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MALONGOWSKI: The process of coming up with the forest rules is nothing new; it has been going on since 1982. The Forest Service calls the new guidelines collaborative and transparent with citizens, while creating stronger protections for forests, water, and wildlife. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack pointed out that the Obama administration was trying to balance competing interests of industry and conservation groups, and the new rules require tougher scientific standards in that balancing act.

But Allegheny Defense Project Forest Watch Coordinator Cathy Pedler says the new guidelines still don't address all of the issues from a draft released last year.

PEDLER: From our initial read, this planning rule is still pretty bad. It really hasn't changed too much from the draft. And there can be all the transparency in the world, but if we as citizens do not have the ability to challenge decisions that the Forest Service makes, then that transparency really isn't going to do us any good.

MALONGOWSKI: Pedler says there is too much flexibility in the language of the regulations to have complete clarity. She says removing terms like "must" and "shall" take away mandatory language that is needed.

The Allegheny Defense Project intends to send another action letter to the Forest Service listing their complaints.

For the Allegheny Front, I'm Kate Malongowski.