New updates require Forest Service directives to undergo public scoping

The Forest Service is soliciting comments for changes on how the Forest Service handbook is written.

A new rule requires the Forest Service to solicit comments for any changes made to the forest service employee handbook. When the final rule takes effect, The forest service will follow new rules while initiating new Forest Service directives. The updates to 36 CFR 216 will strengthen public input and create more transparency. The new rule mentions compliance with the Congressional Review Act explicitly.

All significant changes would require a 90-day scoping period, while insignificant changes would require a 30-day scoping period. The Forest Service must publish a Notice Of Availability in the Federal Register, and public scoping starts the day it’s published.

The Notice of Availability must contain various information regarding the following information:

  1. A link to the proposed directive on the Forest Service’s Regulations and Policies webpage. For significant guidelines, the NOA must state that the directive is considered significant by OIRA.
  2. The comment period (see sec. 31.21).
  3. Directions for submitting comments, with a link to an electronic comment form on the Comment and Analysis Response Application (CARA) platform, including digital submission via facsimile, e-mail, or via a telecommunications device for the deaf.
  4. A summary of the proposed or interim directive.
  5. Identification of any issues on which the Agency particularly seeks public comment.
  6. For interim directives, the basis for the determination that good cause exists for the interim directive to go into effect upon publication, rather than upon completion of the public notice and comment process (36 CFR 216.3, 216.4; sec. 30.3).
  7. For the Forest Service webpage only, any additional information that the responsible program staff believes may be helpful to the public.b. Information on how to track the public notice and comment process for the directive, including how to register for e-mail notification of the publication of the final directive.

    c. A description of all public notice methods.

  8. The name, e-mail address, and telephone number of a Forest Service employee to contact for more information.

Available documents 

Proposed Directive FSH 1109.12 Chapter 30
Federal Register Notice 36 CFR 216 Final Rule (2018)
Public comments received on 36 CFR 216 Final Rule (2018)
Forest Service response to public comments received on 36 CFR 216 Final Rule (2018)
FRN Proposed Directive FSH 1109.12 Chapter 30
FRN technical corrections 36 CFR 216 (2020)

CLICK HERE to submit your comments to the USDA Forest Service.

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