USFS Begins Forest Plan Revision Process
Updated March 31, 2017
The US Forest Service (USFS) has launched the long-awaited revision of its primary guidance document for the national forests in Texas, formally known as the Land and Resource Management Plan, more generally referred to as the Forest Plan. TCA’s Forests Director, Larry Shelton, will work closely with USFS over the next three years to provide citizen input to the new Plan.
As the planning process unfolds, there will be opportunities for members of the public to comment on aspects of the new Forest Plan. TCA has drafted talking points for people commenting on the Plan, which can be found below, or as a PDF here.
NATIONAL FOREST PLAN REVISION
Special Management Areas
Texas Conservation Alliance is nominating three exceptional areas as new Special Management Areas (SMAs), to protect areas with high ecological, geologic, recreational, and/or research value. Please support these SMA nominations:
- The Piney Creek Corridor includes the portion of the watershed that is in the Davy Crockett National Forest along fifteen miles of Piney Creek. The area nominated features a mosaic of stream corridors, stands of old growth trees (100+ years) with huge specimens of oak and loblolly pine, as well as vast areas of shagbark hickory and pockets of magnolia rare in the DCNF. Its extensive riparian areas, diverse plant communities, and old growth stands have high wildlife values.
- Ashton Hill Ravines on the north side of the Sabine National Forest SNF include several hundred acres of steep ravines dominated by mature beech and white oak with a rich array of ground species including broad beech fern and several orchids. Spring-fed streams meander through the deep shade of century old hardwood forest that has experienced little disturbance in several decades. The abundance of mast and den trees provides a true haven for wildlife.
- Compartment 22 adjacent to Big Slough Wilderness in the Davy Crockett National Forest is an ecologically diverse area including extensive old growth (100+ year) slope hardwood forests, hardwood bottomlands, floodplains, creeks, and the Alligator Pond, a local landmark. Naming Compartment 22 as an SMA would provide an important buffer for Big Slough Wilderness, while protecting an area that is special in its own right.
Even-age management techniques, such as clearcutting and seed tree cuts, cause a loss of native biodiversity and have much more extensive negative impacts than uneven-age (selection) logging. Even-age logging should be used only to restore native species, such as longleaf and shortleaf pines.
Old Growth Forest
The last Forest Plan identified areas of partial old growth and future potential old growth forests. Forest stands more than 100 years of age should be retained and protected to sustain their old growth character.
Off-Road Vehicles (ORVs)
Off-road vehicle trails exist in some national forest areas. There should be no expansion of motorized vehicle use in the national forest due to ecological impacts, disturbance of wildlife, and intrusion on non-motorized recreation.
Timber cutting should not be favored over other resources which have been designated for protection on the national forests. Such resources include biodiversity, wildlife, soils, watersheds, and recreation.
Protecting endangered species such as red-cockaded woodpeckers (RCW) is an important role for national forests to play. When doing RCW management, the Forest Service should take care to protect natural hardwood stands occurring in RCW areas, and should focus on avoiding management actions on steep slopes and near streams, to avoid soil erosion and damage to water resources.
Responsible, ecologically-based fire management is an important management tool for maintaining native biodiversity. TCA supports ecologically-based fire management on the national forests.
The native vegetation along creeks and rivers is essential to protect water quality, fish and other aquatic organisms, and the abundance of wildlife that depend on healthy streams. Riparian areas need special care to protect their essential wetland functions.
If questions, contact Janice Bezanson, firstname.lastname@example.org, 512-327-4119
Protection of National Forest Lands in Texas
Texas has four national forests, the Angelina NF, Davy Crockett NF, Sabine NF, and Sam Houston NF. The first three are in central East Texas and the Sam Houston NF is just north of the Greater Houston area. The national forests provide timber, outdoor recreation, watershed protection, and opportunities for research. Some areas receive special management for endangered species such as the Red-cockaded woodpecker.
For more than forty years, Texas Conservation Alliance has focused on protecting native Texas ecosystems. As part of our campaign to protect national forest lands, TCA built the support for designation of five areas in Texas’ national forests as wilderness areas, ended clearcutting on 200,000 acres of national forest land in Texas, and has been instrumental in obtaining special protections for tens of thousands of additional acres of forest.
TCA’s forest issues consultant, Larry Shelton, is building on the work of TCA founder Ned Fritz to increase the amount of protected land in the National Forests in Texas. Larry, whose knowledge has led Forest Service personnel to routinely invite his input in the early planning stages of management actions, reviews every management prospectus, including logging, road-building, prescribed burning, development of off-road-vehicle trails, recovery from tornado and hurricane wind events, and management of southern pine beetle outbreaks, to identify areas with exceptional ecological, scenic, or geologic resources. He performs an on-the-ground assessment of resources and works with Forest Service personnel to have streams, bogs, pockets of old growth forest, special geologic features, and other rare habitats excluded from management activities or set aside as Special Management Areas (SMAs).
TCA also provides input as program-level guidelines are developed for management of Texas’ national forests. TCA participates on a Forest Service committee to recommend how recreational dollars will be spent in Texas’ national forests and on committees making decisions about management of wilderness areas.
In 2016, for the first time in 20 years, the U.S. Forest Service will begin a multi-year revision of the Land and Resource Management Plan, the primary guidance document for the national forest lands in Texas. TCA will work with Forest Service personnel to develop ecologically-based management guidelines and to nominate Special Management Areas where logging is restricted and the focus is instead on research, wildlife, and ecosystem protection and restoration. Nominating new SMAs will require Larry and TCA’s experienced volunteers and pro bono advisors to spend many hours in the field, assessing plant-animal habitats. TCA will generate comments from its broad network of individuals and organizations at each stage of the revision process.
To learn more about TCA’s work with national forests, read an entertaining interview with Larry Shelton.
Enjoy the beauty of Texas Forest Country!
Longleaf Pine Forests
Longleaf pines once covered more than 90 million acres. Today, less than 3% remain. Longleaf pine ecosystems are home to a variety of animal and plant species, some of which are endangered like the red-cockaded woodpecker. Proper management of longleafs include prescribed burning, a technique involving closely controlled fires to burn away competing plants allowing the longleaf to grow and mature. Watch TCA’s 8-minute video below and learn more about the history and the future of longleaf pines in Texas.
Learn more about longleaf pines at www.tcatexas.org/issues/forest/longleaf-pine-restoration/