The Flathead National Forest released the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the draft revised Land and Resource Management Plan (draft forest plan) in late May 2016. The draft EIS also includes the environmental consequences of the draft forest plan amendments to incorporate habitat-related management direction for grizzly bears for the Helena-Lewis and Clark, Kootenai, and Lolo National Forests.
The comment period ended on October 3, 2016 for the draft EIS, the draft revised forest plan and draft forest plan amendments. The120-day comment period resulted in over 33,000 comments. Comments help the Forest Service identify the range of issues to be addressed, and the significant concerns related to the draft forest plan, draft amendments, and draft EIS, and are assisting the interdisciplinary team in developing and recommending a preferred alternative.
The final EIS and draft record of decision is expected to be released in June 2017 and will be subject to a pre-decisional administrative review process; commonly referred to as the objection process. The Forest Service’s objection process provides an opportunity to have any unresolved concerns reviewed by the Forest Service prior to a final decision by the responsible official. Objections will be accepted only from those who have previously submitted substantive formal comments during an opportunity for public participation provided during the planning process, and attributed to the individual or entity providing them.
The purpose of the revised forest plan for the Flathead National Forest is to provide for long-term sustainability of ecosystems and desired ecosystem services. The revised forest plan describes the Forest’s distinctive roles and contributions within the broader landscape and details forest-wide, management area, and geographic area desired conditions, objectives, standards, and guidelines. The revised forest plan identifies suitable uses of National Forest System lands and estimates of the planned timber sale quantity. The revised forest plan identifies priority watersheds for restoration, and includes the evaluation of recommended wilderness areas and eligible wild and scenic rivers. The purpose and need for the forest plan amendments for the Helena-Lewis and Clark, Kootenai, and Lolo National Forests, along with the revised forest plan for the Flathead National Forest, is to ensure the adequacy of regulatory mechanisms regarding habitat protection across the national forests in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem in support of the grizzly bear.
For more information, please call Joe Krueger, Plan Revision Team Leader at 406-758-5243 or visit www.fs.usda.gov/goto/flathead/fpr.