Trump Administration rolls out modernized forest management rule
First revision in over 35 years will increase efficiency, effectiveness of active forest management
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – The Bureau of Land Management today released a final rule updating antiquated regulations governing the administration of timber sales and forest management decisions. These revisions more effectively execute the bureau’s modern watershed and landscape-level land management planning process, which will enable the BLM to make better decisions more quickly for the benefit of taxpayers and local communities.
“This process was created in the 1980s to expedite timber decisions – but just in the last few years timber sales have burned to the ground while awaiting protest resolution,” said Deputy Secretary Kate MacGregor. “The statute does not direct this process and as it is not achieving its purpose, it is time to modernize our regulations so smart and aggressive forest management can move forward.”
“Finally modernizing the BLM’s forest management regulations allows the agency to fulfull its promise to support local communities and industries while reducing fuel loads to prevent severe wildfires and restoring fire-adapted ecosystems,” said Casey Hammond, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management.
The way the BLM plans forest management projects and completes the environmental review of these projects has changed significantly since the 1980s. These new regulations will promote the public’s ability to comment earlier in the process, at the time when views and information have the greatest impact, rather than relying on protests after decisions have been made. Abuse of the protest process has delayed the BLM’s efforts to implement active forest management, with economic and at times public safety consequences.
For example, the Pickett Hog timber sale in Oregon received 29 protests before auction in September 2017 – delaying the sale by more than a year. Before the BLM could complete protest reviews and responses, a wildfire destroyed a number of sale units in July 2018. Under the new regulations, the public comments could have been addressed before the auction was held, allowing the BLM to award the sale and the purchaser to begin thinning operations before the fire took place.
This rule will become effective Jan. 17, 2021.
For more information on the BLM’s forest management activities, visit https://www.blm.gov/programs/natural-resources/forests-and-woodlands
In 2018, the BLM offered 246.2 million board feet of timber for sale, generating approximately $600 million in economic output and supporting 2,000 jobs. In addition to selling timber harvested from BLM-managed lands under the principle of sustained yield, the BLM’s forest management efforts often include fire safety and fire resilience objectives. One quarter of the 245 million acres of lands managed by the BLM are forest ecosystems, spread across 13 western states including Alaska. Through responsible forest management, the BLM ensures the health of these forest lands as well as the availability of traditional forest products.
The revisions are part of a larger national wildfire reduction strategy guided by President Trump’s Executive Order 13855 – Promoting Active Management of America’s Forests, Rangelands, and Other Federal Lands to Improve Conditions and Reduce Wildfire Risk, as well as Secretary’s Order 3372 – Reducing Wildfire Risks on Department of the Interior Land through Active Management. The two orders direct Department of the Interior (DOI) to implement policies to improve forest and rangeland management practices by reducing hazardous fuel loads, mitigating fire risk and ensuring the safety and stability of local communities through active management on forests and rangelands.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in the 11 Western states and Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In fiscal year 2018, the diverse activities authorized on BLM-managed lands generated $105 billion in economic output across the country. This economic activity supported 471,000 jobs and contributed substantial revenue to the U.S. Treasury and state governments, mostly through royalties on minerals.