Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest finalizes analysis for new Land Management Plan
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: June 1, 2020

HELENA, MONT. (May 21, 2020) – Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service released the final environmental analysis documents and draft record of decision (ROD) for the revised Helena–Lewis and Clark National Forest Land Management Plan.

“This milestone is the culmination of six years of environmental analysis, public engagement, community involvement, and coordination with our partners,” said Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest Supervisor Bill Avey. “I am extremely proud of all of our staff for their hard work getting us to this point, and for members of our communities who spoke up and got involved in this plan revision process. Input from our publics was critical to finalizing this new land management plan.”

The land management plan provides direction for how the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest is to be managed in the long term. Every National Forest is required by law to have a land management plan and update it to reflect current science and changes in forest conditions and public use of the Forest. The final plan will provide nearly 400 new jobs in timber, recreation, and grazing industries and as much as $5 million in additional labor income. The plan also supports healthy watersheds that supply clean, abundant water to the downstream users and local communities, such as Helena, Montana.

“Our current land management plans were implemented in 1986. Since that time, significant changes on the Forest and in surrounding communities made it clear that revisions needed to be made,” explained Avey. “These changes include new developments in the economic landscape, growth of the surrounding communities and wildland urban interface, shifts in recreation trends, and challenges with forest conditions such as widespread tree mortality due to beetle infestation. These changes present as many opportunities as they do challenges, and the revised land management plan will guide our work to address these challenges into the future.”

The revised land management plan allows for active landscape management to support plant and wildlife conservation; and sustainable forest products, grazing, and recreation industries. It details the desired conditions, goals, objectives, standards, and guidelines that will provide the foundation for future management activities across the Forest for the next 15 years. The final plan represents a mix of lands identified as suitable for timber production and areas recommended for wilderness designation. The mix of opportunities available for primitive recreation and nonmotorized recreation experiences versus less primitive and more motorized recreation reflects the diverse input we heard from stakeholders.

The next step in the revision process is a 60-day objection period, which officially starts when the Helena Independent Record publishes the legal notice. At that time, those with legal standing to object may file an objection regarding unresolved concerns. At the end of the 60-day period, the agency will the review those concerns and seek opportunities for resolution. Once the objections are resolved, the Forest Supervisor will sign the Record of Decision. See the Forest website or the legal notice for the specific requirements for filing an objection.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement, draft Record of Decision, and other project documents are located on the Forest Plan Revision website at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/hlc/forestplanrevision. For more information, contact Deb Entwistle, Forest Plan Revision Team Lead, at (406) 449-5201.