Forest Service recreation sites | New changes proposed

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We have a chance to shape the Forest Service handbook.

New changes to 36 CFR 216 from the Department of Agriculture require all new Forest Service directives to be opened for public participation. Previously, we would have never had a chance to get involved when it comes to how a Forest Service handbook is written. We now have an opportunity to shape the procedures used to manage our public lands.


The USDA Forest Service handbook details how Forest Service employees will carry out their duties to manage our public lands. Forest Service officials are required to follow these guidelines, or they can face termination. Everything from making sure bathrooms are sanitized to reconstructing Forest Service facilities is being discussed. These management changes include developed recreation sites like shooting ranges, boat ramps, lakes, campgrounds, parking areas, rental cabins, and other things like campsite hosts, stay limits, and reservation services.

Many things should be taken into consideration, and there are a lot of questions that should be answered. Could a forest service official close a developed recreation site at his or her own discretion? Could it be true that many of our recreation sites won’t meet the standards required and end up closed? Could this create an even more substantial maintenance backlog? How would this affect concession services that maintain campgrounds and other facilities?
I believe these changes are too broad in nature and should include more detailed guidance to keep recreation sites open and prevent bureaucratic abuse of power.

These changes are nationwide and only concern FSH 2309.13 – RECREATION SITE HANDBOOK.

The plan implements four National Quality Standards listed in section 52.1 of the document below. The national quality standards are designed to address public safety, risk management, and resource protection at developed recreation sites. They include four basic principles; core standards, operational standards, maintenance standards, and management standards.

According to this new directive, recreation sites should be temporarily or permanently closed until the nine core standards are met. The plan goes further into detail, suggesting that renovation and reconstruction should be a priority over closure.

The nine core standards

1. To the extent deemed practicable by the local Forest Service official, a pre-season site safety inspection is completed and documented.

2. Known high-risk conditions are minimized, mitigated, or eliminated to the extent deemed feasible and appropriate by the local Forest Service official prior to the season of managed use.

3. Utilities (such as electrical, natural gas, propane, steam, and fuel oil systems) meet applicable Federal, State, and local requirements for operation and maintenance.

4. Water, wastewater, and sewage or disposal treatment systems meet Federal, State, and local requirements for operation, maintenance, and monitoring.

5. Applicable orders are posted, and applicable laws, regulations, and orders are enforced as deemed appropriate by the local Law Enforcement and Investigations staff.

6. Visitors’ exposure to human waste to the extent practicable.

7. As deemed appropriate and practicable by the local Forest Service official, encounters with potentially threatening wildlife are minimized.

8. A current and complete operation and maintenance plan exists and is being implemented.

9. Recreational use is consistent with applicable laws and regulations pertaining to natural and cultural resource protection.

AZBCE asks that you study the document and submit your comments. It’s 57 pages long.

Your comments are requested by 8-10-2020.

Read the document HERE (PDF).

Submit your comments HERE
Kevin Allard
Author: Kevin Allard

Kevin is an American outdoorsman born and raised in rural Arizona who grew up exploring the Arizona backcountry with his father. Today, he and his son travel to the most remote regions of Arizona, scavenging for the remains of early western pioneers. As a lifelong outdoorsman, Kevin has learned to stick close to his roots while engaging in important advocacy work regarding motorized access to public lands. You can find his work in many local and nationwide publications, including The Western Journal, 4Low Magazine, and his website


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