Monday, November 14, 2011

HQ Cong. Hearing Alert - Forest Planning Rule, TMR, and Permitting Process on Docket

HQ wanted to alert its followers about the hearing tomorrow being held in Washington D.C. before the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands.

BRC News Release on Nov. 15 Hearing

As HQ understands, BRC’s Greg Mumm will be testifying on three important topics.
The new Forest Planning Rule, TMR, and excessive “cost recovery” charges and other abuses of the special use permitting process.

Nov. 14 - E&E Article on Hearing Tomorrow (A good overview)
FOREST SERVICE: House Resources panel to plumb agency's planning rules, permitting

Phil Taylor, E&E reporter

The House Natural Resources Committee tomorrow will explore a sweeping Forest Service rule that would serve as the template for managing the nation's 193 million acres of forests and grasslands.

The Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands oversight hearing will feature testimony from Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell and will also probe the agency's management of off-highway vehicle access and its issuance of special-use permits.

The agency's draft planning rule, first announced in February, will determine how the agency's 175 national forests and grasslands develop individual management plans, which govern activities from logging to recreation and the protection of endangered plants and animals (E&ENews PM, Feb. 10).

The rule aims to speed planning efforts, incorporate best available science, engage the public and ensure forests' resilience to climate change, pests and other threats, the agency has said.

But it has drawn its share of critics, including Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee, who warned it could open the door to special-interest lawsuits and would fail to ensure timber harvests will increase across the nation's millions of acres of national forests (Greenwire, May 5). Environmental groups have criticized the proposal for giving too much discretion to local forest supervisors and lacking rigid standards for protecting water and wildlife (E&ENews PM, May 16).

The agency has said it intends to finalize the rule by the end of the year.

Tomorrow's discussion will likely also address the agency's implementation of a 2005 travel management planning rule, which Tidwell has said helps ensure motor vehicle users have guaranteed places to ride in the forests.

While supporters credit the rule for preventing motor vehicles from muddying streams, harming fish and spreading weeds, many Republicans and off-highway vehicle users say it has led to the unwarranted closure of trails.

"Congressional oversight is needed regarding the agency's closure of tens of thousands of roads and trails over the last decade," said Greg Mumm, executive director of the Idaho-based BlueRibbon Coalition, a trail access coalition.

Mumm, who was invited to testify at the hearing, said OHV users initially supported the process but that in some cases it has been used to make landscape-level changes to forest plans and close large numbers of existing legal trails and authorized routes.

Some forest supervisors say travel management planning decisions are the most difficult they make.

The issue came to the fore earlier this year when Rep. Wally Herger (R-Calif.) successfully passed an amendment to a House spending bill that would have restricted the agency's implementation of the rule. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who voted for the amendment at the time, later panned the move as unnecessary (E&ENews PM, March 11).

Mumm said his group has also recently asked lawmakers to pass a bill that would streamline the agency's issuance of special-use permits, a process he called overly complex and expensive.

Tomorrow's meeting comes less than two months after the committee held a field hearing in California to hear from the Forest Service, state officials and citizens about land-use regulations, policies and actions affecting access to agency lands.

Schedule: The hearing is tomorrow at 10 a.m. in 1324 Longworth.

Witnesses: Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, others to be announced.

Last year HQ wrote a blog with an outline (Next Steps) in TMR called, Designate the $#^&^% Trail

OHV advocates should check with their local Forests to see where they are in Round Two or “Next Steps” of TMR. Some Forests have started project level trail planning – good on them. Some have not. Local clubs and riders have to get involved in Round Two of TMR. Kudos to those who are involved and a swift kick to those who are not.

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