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Friday, April 29, 2011 - 11:52am

Forest Land Plans Could Change

National Forest Service officials are considering changing how they manage public land.

The details go by a long name --- the Forest System Land Management Planning Rule.

It's long and complex.

But, it basically tells officials how to plan everything in the national forests -- from controlled burns and use of roads and trails -- to how to manage wildlife and what factors go into declaring areas off-limits to human activities.

Call it a plan for plans. Or a rule for rules.

And for the first time, the proposal takes into account how forest officials should plan for the effects of climate change.

It's the first major overhaul of the Forest System Land Management Planning Rule in almost 30 years.

Sarah Francisco of Southern Environmental Law Center says, with more than 800,000 acres in 25 Georgia counties under the rule's juridiction, it's critical to get right.

"Each national forest has to have a forest management plan," Francisco says. "This is the rule that tells the agency what the plans need to consider."

Fransisco says, her organization applauds most of the proposal, but also has some concerns about it, including a lack of "concrete steps" and "clear standards" that will ensure healthy forests.

But National Forest Service planner Paul Arndt in the Atlanta Regional Office says, specificity isn't exactly the rule's aim and actually would tie local hands.

"This is a national rule, so it's hard to get too specific on things," Arndt says. "There's a lot of discretion give to the forest supervisor to look at what is the current situation and what are those local needs and adjust accordingly."

You can find more details and offer your comments on the proposal by going to this National Forest Service website.

Officials are taking public comments through May 16th.

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