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Moving forward: Perdue announces modernization plan for U.S. Forest Service

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 In a June 12 memorandum to Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue provided direction to help modernize the blueprint moving forward for the U.S. Forest Service. 

“Under this administration, the Forest Service has sold more timber than we have in the last 22 years and made significant increases in our hazardous fuels treatments and active management of our national forests,” said Perdue. “While I am proud of our progress to promote active management, reduce hazardous fuels, work across boundaries and increase the resiliency of our nation’s forests and grasslands, I believe more can be done.” 

He continued, “I am announcing a blueprint for reforms to provide further relief from burdensome regulations, improve customer service and boost the productivity of our national forest system.”

The secretary’s direction provides four key areas of improvement for the agency’s work, including increasing the productivity of national forests and grasslands, valuing the nation’s grazing heritage and the national grasslands, increasing access to national forest system lands and expediting environmental reviews to support active management.

Memorandum

“Our mission delivery includes a whole range of values and benefits people expect from their forests and grasslands,” said Christiansen. “The secretary’s direction will help ensure we are providing healthy resilient forests and grasslands that continue to deliver on the goods and services the American people want and need, while also supporting communities, public access and fire-adapted landscapes.”

The memo read, “As Secretary of Agriculture, it is my duty to ensure our national forests and grasslands are on a path to health and productivity so they can continue to meet the needs of citizens and communities, both now and into the future.”

“It is the first priority of the Forest Service to serve the American people and work in a way that exemplify the values of shared stewardship,” Perdue said. “We need modern systems and approaches, and less complicated regulations to serve our customers and improve our delivery of the goods and services the American people want and need from the nation’s forest system.”

He continued, “The 193 million acres of public lands managed by the Forest Service provide important resources and recreational opportunities to the people of this great nation.” 

“These lands are critical for the prosperity of rural communities, sustaining jobs and livelihoods in grazing, mining, oil and gas development, recreation and forestry sectors that support our American way of life,” said Perdue. “These lands also furnish food and water that all life depends on.”

“While I am proud of the progress to promote active management, reduce hazardous fuels, work across boundaries and increase the resiliency of our nation’s forests and grasslands, I believe more can be done,” he noted. “I am announcing a blueprint for reforms to further provide relief from burdensome regulations, improve customer service and boost the productivity of our national forests and grasslands.”

Key areas 

“The American people rely on our national forests and grasslands for a variety of products and services that sustain jobs and livelihoods in rural communities, feed America and supply the clean water that sustains life,” the memorandum reads. “I am directing the Forest Service to focus resources on activities that support the productive use of these lands to deliver goods and services efficiently and effectively to meet the needs of our citizens.” 

In order to increase productivity, the Forest Service will streamline processes and identify new opportunities to increase America’s energy dominance and reduce reliance on foreign countries for critical minerals, modernize management practices and reduce regulatory burdens to promote active management on Forest Service lands to support and protect rural communities, critical watersheds and species habitat and expedite broadband development on Forest Service lands to increase internet connectivity in rural America.

“The national grasslands play a vital role in the fabric of rural communities, supporting thousands of jobs, contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to the economy and producing food for America and the entire world,” Perdue boasted. “They are managed sustainably with the help of ranching families, who pride themselves as conservationists, ensuring these lands will remain productive for generations to come.”  

According to the memo, “To this end, the Forest Service will establish forest plans that support grazing on the national grasslands, which is essential for management within the framework of governing statutes, streamline renewal of range permits and range improvements on national forests and grasslands and enhance flexibility for Forest Service employees to work with ranching families and communities.”

In an effort to increase access to National Forest lands, “The Forest Service will increase access to Forest Service lands by streamlining the permit process for recreational activities and embracing new technologies and recreation opportunities, open public access to National Forest System lands with currently limited access where feasible in cooperation with states, counties and partners and improve customer service by modernizing and simplifying forest products permitting and the Forest Service land exchange process.”

The last key area laid out in the memo involves expediting reviews to support active management. 

According to the memo, the Forest Service will set time and page limits on the completion of environmental documents, including categorical exclusions, environmental assessments and environmental impact statements, streamline policy to ensure environmental reviews focus on analysis that is required by law and regulation, work across the government to initiate the development of policies for alternative procedures to streamline consultation processes and environmental reviews and expedite compliance with State Historic Preservation Offices for vegetation management and facility and infrastructure improvements.

Callie Hanson is the editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to roundup@wylr.net.

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