What if we told you that between now and 2018, there’s a portal opening for a once-in-a-generation chance to protect, improve, and enhance your outdoor experiences on almost 200 million acres of public land? We’re guessing you’d want to know more, and that when you realized that this portal held the key to protecting the banks of your local river, building better parking at your overcrowded trailhead, or creating a few new mountain biking trails, you’d be pretty amped to get involved.
Right now, the Forest Service—the folks who manage all 154 National Forests in the U.S.—is launching into what is called “Forest Planning” for a number of National Forests across the country. Forest Planning creates the blueprint for how each National Forest is managed. Among other things, it creates something like a zoning map that dictates where activities like logging happen, and where there are places that need to be set aside for values like recreation. It has a huge impact on the future of access, and it starts the process for the development of new protective designations like Wilderness, Wild & Scenic rivers, and potentially National Recreation Areas.
Here are 6 reasons why Forest Planning matters, and why it’s one of the best opportunities we have to protect the things we care about on public land:
- It’s the foundation for everything else. Forest Planning underpins pretty much any significant future conservation effort on National Forests. If you care about permanent protections like Wilderness or Wild & Scenic Rivers, Forest Planning is the headwaters for these designations. Think of it as the soil in which all future conservation efforts grow. This is because one output of Forest Plans is recommendations for these new protections.
- Access access access. Forest planning has a huge role in determining access for outdoor recreation, including where you can have human-powered adventures and who else can be there (motorized users, energy development, logging, etc.). It helps to protect the full experience of being outside, including scenery, trails, water quality, and recreational access. When outdoor recreation enthusiasts are involved in the process, we make sure that recreation is welcomed in a sustainable way.
- More control = more impact. If you haven’t noticed, Congress has not been the most efficient in recent years. It’s made it difficult to pass crucial recreation and conservation legislation to protect important places. In contrast, we have a lot of control over what happens during Forest Planning, since dialogue is the new normal in the planning process. Land managers rely on you—and the membership groups that you might be a part of—to share information about where you recreate, what you like to do, and what’s important.
- It belongs to you. You and your fellow Americans collectively own every last acre of our National Forests. You’re a stakeholder, and Forest Planning is like the once-in-a-generation board meeting that sets the course for the next 20-30 years. The Forest Service manages these places on your behalf, and it relies on you to share your input, your opinion, and your advice about how to take care of these places.
- It’s a once-in-a-generation chance. The Forest Service revises plans for each forest only every few decades, and these plans shape how local land managers take care of National Forests for years to come. So right now is a huge and timely opportunity to step in and change the big picture of how we take care of our public lands.
- It’s not that hard. Forest Planning is a hands-on way for you to make a big difference as long as you put in the time and energy to be involved throughout the (long and somewhat tedious) process. Victories go to those who show up, and the relationships you build with land managers, as a volunteer or a grasstops leader, endure.
Right now, Outdoor Alliance is working on forest planning in California, North Carolina, and Montana. If you want to stay in the loop, sign up to get involved. We do the work of following the (long and somewhat tedious) process and make sure we identify and share great opportunities to inject your voice into the planning process.