The Forest Service is seeking public comments on changes to the Forest Service Employee handbook. These new changes will require public participation on all forest orders regarding permanent and temporary closures to hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting.
The public will now have a chance to comment on Forest Orders and shape the outcome, similar to travel management planning. A 30 day commenting period will be available 7 days after a notice of intent is published in the Federal Register. Federal land managers will now be required to collaborate with local Game and Fish, issue a notice of purpose in a local newspaper, and supply congressional leaders with an annual report on all forest orders. Emergency closure orders will not require public participation.
This new change will require land managers to consider hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting during land management plans such as resource management and travel management. Consider all Forest Service lands open to hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting unless closed by a Forest Order. That is not all. There are more to these changes then what I have mentioned here.
You must read the proposed changes by following the links at the bottom of this page. The entire document is 11 pages long and easy to read.
This is our chance to developed the procedures used by Forest Service employees that issue Forest Orders. We should focus on tightening up the requirements to close areas and clarification on how these orders will affect motorized access.
The following message is from the Forest Service.
Forest Service Handbook 5309.11, Chapter 30
30-day public comment period August 17, 2020 – September 16, 2020
Summary of Action: The USDA Forest Service is requesting public input on a directive that establishes a definition for emergency closures of areas located on national forests or grasslands to hunting, fishing, or recreational shooting. This change is part of a larger suite of updates to agency directives that would implement the John D. Dingell Jr. Act (Dingell Jr. Act).
Why Do We Need to Change This Directive? The Forest Service is updating its directives as outlined in the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act to facilitate access to hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting on national forests and grasslands. These updates include a greater role for public participation, codify the national practice on Federal lands of “open unless closed” to hunting, fishing or recreational shooting into policy, and establish a process to temporarily or permanently close areas. They also include adding a definition for emergency closures, which is needed to ensure that the Forest Service has clear and transparent guidelines for closing an area to these recreational activities.
What We Are Changing: The Forest Service will be establishing a definition for an emergency closure, so that preventative measures can be taken to minimize impacts prior to an emergency situation, such as:
• Wildfire prevention
• Prevention of imminent and potentially irreversible damage to the environment or plant/animal species.
• Increase transparency when engaging in an emergency closure
• Improve communication between the Forest Service and state fish and wildlife agencies
• Increase communication with the recreational sport shooting community and other associated user groups
• Increase public participation and further facilitate the use of the National Forest System for certain recreational uses
The Forest Service values public participation. Communications from the public regarding this project, including commenters’ names and contact information, will become part of the public record. Comments, including anonymous comments, will be accepted at any time. However, comments posted after the close of a designated comment period may not be able to be given full consideration.
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