To Achieve Biodiversity Goals, the New Forest Service Planning Rule Needs Effective Mandates for Best Available Science and Adaptive Management

Nylen, Nell Green
May 2011
Ecology Law Quarterly;2011, Vol. 38 Issue 2, p241
Academic Journal
The US. Forest Service and other federal agencies often face tough choices about how to reconcile competing congressional mandates for multiple use and environmental protection of public lands. The balance they achieve will determine the long-term health of many of our nation's ecosystems and the sustainability of the invaluable services they perform. Providing agency scientists and managers with the flexibility and systemic incentives to intelligently address the questions they face is therefore crucial. As the Forest Service actively reworks its planning rule, past failures provide valuable lessons about where improvements to biodiversity protections are needed and what forms they should take. The 2010 decision by the Ninth Circuit in Native Ecosystems Council v. Tidwell highlights some of the problems inherent in the current system, including a management indicator species mandate that lacks scientific support, front-loaded environmental analysis which fails to facilitate learning and perpetuates unsuccessful practices, and a lack of transparency in Forest Service decision making that can render the National Forest Management Act's biodiversity mandate judicially unenforceable. The new planning rule should address these deficiencies with strong requirements for native species viability, use of the best available science (including full disclosure of uncertainties), and a truly adaptive management framework based on ongoing monitoring, frequent reevaluation, and changed practices when failures occur. While the draft rule issued in Februaiy 2011 takes tentative steps in this direction, it does not achieve the meaningful, enforceable changes needed.


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