Help Support Requests to Extend Comment Deadline For Us Forest Service Planning Rule

Date: 04/26/2011

BLUERIBBON COALITION NATIONAL ACTION ALERT

IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUESTED

HELP SUPPORT REQUESTS TO EXTEND COMMENT DEADLINE FOR US FOREST SERVICE PLANNING RULE

Dear BRC Action Alert Subscriber,

BRC, along with multiple-use stakeholders, local governments and numerous recreational advocacy organizations, has asked the Department of Agriculture to provide an additional 90 days to review and comment on the Draft Planning Rule for the U.S. Forest Service.

The new planning regulations are extremely complex and include new, untested provisions for habitat planning and monitoring. In addition, the agency has, sadly, chosen to emphasize preservation over multiple use and recreation. BRC is working with a wide range of stakeholders in efforts to bring the agency back to its multiple use mandate and the groups have collectively requested an extension of the comment period. Read the letter HERE.

We need your help.

Please help us by sending a quick message to Harris Sherman, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment in support of our extension request.

In order to assist you, BRC has activated our Rapid Response Center. Simply click HERE to send your message.

Thank you in advance for your involvement. As always, please call or email with questions.

Brian Hawthorne

Public Lands Policy Director

BlueRibbon Coalition

208-237-1008 ext 102

The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible recreation, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. With members in all 50 states, BRC is focused on building enthusiast involvement with organizational efforts through membership, outreach, education, and collaboration among recreationists. 1-800-BlueRib -

www.sharetrails.org

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As a non-profit, grassroots organization funded primarily by membership dues and donations, we greatly appreciate your support. Visit http://www.sharetrails.org/make-a-difference-now to help fund our efforts to protect your trails!

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On May 2, 2011, Chief Thomas L. Tidwell sent this response to an organization requesting an extension of the deadline for comments on the National Forest System Land Management Planning Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (76 FR 8480, February 14, 2011).

“The Agency has gone to extraordinary lengths to facilitate the ability of the public to understand and comment on the proposed rule. Indeed, the Administration identified this rule as a flagship for open government for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Agency published a notice of intent to propose a new rule and prepare its accompanying environmental impact statement on December 18, 2009, and took public comment on that notice for 60 days. The proposed rule was informed by approximately 26,000 comments to the notice of intent, a science forum, regional and national roundtables held in 35 locations with over 3,000 people in attendance, national and regional tribal roundtables, 16 Tribal consultation meetings, Forest Service employee feedback, and over 300 comments posted to the planning rule blog. Throughout that process, the Agency shared a clear timeline with the public, including our intent to publish the final rule by the end of 2011.

The Agency considered all the public input, science, and agency expertise to develop the proposed rule, which was published in the Federal Register and included a 90-day comment period ending on May 16, 2011. We choose a 90-day comment period because of the importance of the proposed planning rule and the draft environmental impact statement. This is 30 days more than the Agency’s customary comment period for rulemaking generally, is in keeping with past agency practice for proposed planning rules, and is 45 days more than the review and comment period for draft environmental impact statements required by National Environmental Policy Act regulations.

The Agency has reached well beyond its normal practices to provide the public with information to assist in the public comment phase of this rulemaking. During March and April 2011, after the proposed rule was published in the Federal Register, the Forest Service hosted 29 national and regional public forums to provide stakeholders with information about the proposed rule and respond to questions. The forums were attended by almost 1,350 members of the public and reached 74 locations across the country through video and teleconferencing. The National Forum was held within 3 weeks of the opening of the comment period and video of the forum and forum materials were posted on the planning rule website. The regional forums were also held early in the comment period. While the forums were designed to assist the public in understanding the proposed rule and foster informed comments, it is not necessary for any member of the public to attend a forum to develop and submit comments. In fact, we received written public comments on the proposed rule immediately after the comment period opened.

The Forest Service has ensured that our planning rule website contains background information on the proposed rule as well as summaries of the various collaboration and public involvement activities held during the preparation of the proposed rule.

In order to proactively facilitate commenting, the Forest Service provided multiple options for members of the public to submit comments: two websites, by hard copy mail, and by facsimile.

The Forest Service has strived to provide numerous opportunities for the public to learn about this rulemaking and has provided opportunities for participation in the process, which greatly exceed any applicable legal requirements. It has been a model for openness and transparency throughout this process.

Because of the process we have used, we have decided not to extend the 90-day comment period. Extra time has been provided for comments beyond the customary practices and an unprecedented amount of information and access to agency employees to assist the public in understanding that information was provided to the public via website and public meetings. This determination is not subject to appeal.”

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Barbara Timberlake

USDA Forest Service

on detail to Ecosystem Management Coordination Staff

Phone: 202-205-0917 Fax: 202-205-1012