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KNF Forest Plan complete, ready for final process

by Alan Lewis Gerstenecker
| September 24, 2013 10:06 AM

The Kootenai National Forest has completed the revised Forest Plan, Final Environmental Impact Statement and Draft Record of Decision and now are subject to a predecisional objection process.

After publication of formal notices, there will be a 60-day objection filing period followed by a 90-day objection review period. The objection process provides an opportunity for objectors and interested parties to discuss their issues with a reviewing officer from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

This revision updates the Forest Plan that was finalized and first implemented in 1987 and is intended to guide forest management on the Kootenai for the next 10 to 15 years.

The development of the revised Forest Plan spanned more than 12 years and is shaped by science, current laws and public input gathered at public meetings and open houses, as well as community-based work group sessions. These meetings identified the core values of local communities, said Kootenai National Forest Supervisor Paul Bradford.

“Completion of this plan demonstrates the tremendous commitment and great work from our communities, stakeholders and the forest planning team that ultimately produced a balanced plan,” Bradford said. “The plan will direct restoration and sustainability of natural resources while providing recreation opportunities for the public for years to come.”

Much has changed on the Kootenai since the original Forest Plan was implemented in 1987. Today, the national forest faces many challenges, including increasing demands for multiple-use and access by some, the desire for quiet recreation by others and the increased need for restoration of our forests.

Forest Planner Ellen Frament, the architect of the Revised Forest Plan, called it a cumulative document.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” Frament said. “We’ve been working on it for many years. We’ve tried to produce a plan that adheres to many desires.”

Former Kootenai National Forest Supervisor Jim Rathbun is critical of the plan because it does not allow for enough logging.

“We’re just not managing the forest like we should,” said Rathbun, who was supervisor in 1987 when the last Forest Plan was written. “There are so many resources out there in our forests, and we’re not using them. I just don’t understand it.”

Robyn King, executive director of the Yaak Valley Forest Council, said the plan was long in coming.

“We’re happy that we have a Forest Plan that we can look at. It’s been a long process. Were hopeful the timber  targets can be met while meeting all the interests.”

The revised Forest Plan lays the foundation to address the ecological and social needs of forest stakeholders, while continuing the legacy of protecting water and restoring forests that began a century ago with the Weeks Act, according to a statement from the USFS. Management direction in the Forest Plan addresses needs to: supply clean water, restore and maintain ecosystems, improve the resistance and resiliency of the forest vegetation to undesirable disturbances and potential climate change effects, offer a diversity of recreation opportunities including remote settings, and utilize best available science.

The revised Forest Plan, Final Environmental Impact Statement and Draft Record of Decision are subject to the pre-decisional objection process.

Specific information regarding eligibility to file an objection, how to become an interested party, and how to file an objection are posted on the Kootenai National Forests planning web page at http://www.fs.usda.gov/kootenai.