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Pathway through the '90s.

The public is placing increasing demands on the nation's forests and rangelands-demands not only for the raw materials that provide jobs and material goods but also for protection of environmental values. Never before has a long-term view been more necessary to put the pressures of today in context.

To determine how society's needs can best be satisfied and opportunities realized requires that the Forest Service think strategically over the long term. And that is exactly what the 1990 RPA Program is designed to do.

The RPA Program that Agriculture Secretary Yeutter recommended to Congress in june maps the Forest Service's pathway through the '90s-and beyond. It is, in the words of President Bush, "a bold strategic plan for the conservation and wise use of the nation's national forests and grasslands, including assistance to state and private forestry and research."

This 1990 program, the fourth in a series going back to 1975, is significantly different from previous programs. For one thing, there are far fewer numbers. The emphasis is on direction and strategy: Here is where we want to go- and "This is what we have to do to get there." It's a beacon by which we can guide our year-to-year progress into the future.

The Secretary's program is a commitment to continued multiple use of the national forests-but multiple use with a difference. The Forest Service will round out the resource balance. Increased attention will be given to recreation, fisheries, wildlife, and protection of soil and water. The national forests and grasslands will continue to produce timber, minerals, and range forage, but with greater environmental sensitivity. When commodities cannot be produced in an environmentally sound manner and on a sustainable basis, we'll produce less and make sure we meet these two important principles.

The national forests will provide special resources and special places. We will be constantly asking ourselves, "What can the national forests do best?"

This program reinforces the Forest ServiCe's New Perspectives for Managing the National Forest System see New Perspectives" on page 48). New Perspectives commits the agency to multiple uses and sustained productivity with more sensitivity to ecological and social values.

By working through the state foresters, we will encourage multiple-resource management on small private woodlands but within the overall objectives of the landowner. Forest Service research will seek to improve our understanding of how ecosystems function and how resources can be produced in ways that are compatible with one another.

Overall, this program is a commitment to environmental quality, to meeting people's needs, to partnerships with forest users, and to carrying out the needed research that will bring Forest Service expertise to bear on serious global-resource challenges.

WHY PREPARE A PROGRAM?

One reason is that it is required by law-the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act, more commonly known as RPA. But even without RPA, the Forest Service needs to think strategically and look to the long term. In forestry we have to think in terms of decades and centuries.

The program establishes overall direction for the agency, and is built with information from other Forest Service plans-the national forests' land and resource management plans, research plans, and state forest resource plans. In turn, the program provides direction for those other plans.

THE STRATEGY

How was this program developed? First we considered an array of roles the Forest Service might play. Then we analyzed major issues-19 of them-that the Forest Service will have to help resolve.

The program calls for the Forest Service to give priority to:

* Enhancing recreation, wildlife, and fisheries resources;

* Producing commodities in ways that are environmentally acceptable;

* Improving the base of scientific knowledge about natural resources; and

* Responding to global resource issues.

What does this mean? What will we see happening in the woods? Here are a few examples:

Recreation opportunities will increase in quantity and quality; the maintenance backlog for trails and facilities would be eliminated by 2040. People-including the elderly and the physically handicapped-will have easier access to their national forests.

Wildlife habitat-especially for threatened, endangered, and sensitive species-will be improved. By 2040, recovery objectives will have been met for 202 threatened or endangered species.

Water quality will be high because of a new nonpoint-source management program. Rangelands in unsatisfactory condition would be eliminated by 2040. Riparian areas will be protected and conditions improved through new management measures. Some reduction in grazing or specific allotment may be necessary to meet these two objectives.

Growing and harvesting timber continues to be important on national forests. Timber outputs would remain at or near current levels through the 1990s, with the exception of reduction to meet specific environmental objectives, such as protection of the spotted owl and red-cockaded woodpecker. There will be some other local reductions when necessary to deal with other specific objectives-such as reduction in below-cost timber sales. It is clear, however, that uncertainty about the interplay between timber-harvest levels and environmental objectives remain. In the next century, offer levels will rise moderately, as trees planted in this century mature.

Timber-harvest levels are 15 percent less than those in existing forest plans. Over time, the acreage of the national forests clearcut will fall below the current level. The number of below-cost sales will steadily decrease. This program reflects spotted-owl-protection decisions documented in the Forest Service supplemental environmental impact statement of December 1988. The 1990 RPA Program will be updated once longer-term spotted-owl decisions are made.

For private, nonindustrial forestlands, the Forest Service, working through the state foresters and the Soil Conservation Service and Extension Service, will increase technical assistance to maintain good stewardship of the land and take advantage of timber-growing opportunities. Technical assistance to nonindustrial private forest landowners are expected to lead to about nine million acres of multi-resource plans per year by 1995 compared to four million acres in 1989.

The basic principle in dealing with private landowners is an appreciation and respect for their objectives in managing their land. We are confident from our past successes in forest-management assistance to nonindustrial private forest landowners. With careful assistance, timber production can be increased on some of those lands and so can the production of other resources.

PUTTING THE PROGRAM TO WORK

A strategic plan is not something to be put on the shelf. It will be a critical part of the Forest Service's management system. The day we released the program, I sent an electronic message to every Forest Service line officer. The message said the 1990 RPA ". . . reflects the direction and management philosophy that I believe the Forest Service should follow in the 1990s.... I encourage all line officers to carefully read the RPA documents and discuss them with their people."

And we will be monitoring progress, continually asking, "Are we going in the direction we want to go? Are we making reasonable progress toward our goals?" Each year we will report on how we're doing in the "Report of the Forest Service."

This is an ambitious program, especially in this time of federal budget deficits. The cost of implementing the program is $3 billion in 1995, about $700 million more than the cost of the Forest Service program in 1989. This is an average annual increase of about 4 percent through 1995. Because of the need to reduce backlogs and to invest in programs that ensure future forest productivity, the rise in the cost of this recommended program is steepest between now and 1995.

The Forest Service and federal government cannot do all of this alone. The partnerships we have built in the past must be expanded. The challenge cost-share programs in recreation and wildlife management have been major successes (see the Focus" section in this magazine), as have the volunteer programs. This program challenges the American people to help steward the natural resources of our nation.

I am proud of this program. It is a departure from business-as-usual. It reflects my vision and that of the Secretary of Agriculture of where Forest Service programs and management should be headed in the future. I realize that it may not be shared by everyone. It is, however, a vision that will continue to evolve and develop-through the forest plans and such initiatives as New Perspectives and Change on the Range. I invite everyone interested in the nation's forests to join with us in further shaping the vision and making it a reality.
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Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Resources Planning Act; 1990 RPA: New Era for the Nation's Forests?
Author:Robertson, F. Dale
Publication:American Forests
Date:Nov 1, 1990
Words:1386
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