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Cooperation and greater trust on science are the keys to the new guidelines of the Obama administration in managing around 193 million acres of national forest and coping with the opposing interests of conservation and industry groups.
The guidelines, which is known as the forest planning rule, was unveiled Thursday by the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, and Forest Service Chief, Tom Tidwell. Its main objective is to protect the environment and to lessen the time needed for the approval of development projects.
The old framework, which has been subject to several legal battles, will be replaced by the new guidelines.
Both Secretary Vilsack and Chief Tidwell expressed their hopes that the new rule will generate more cooperation and less litigation. The proposal is set to be published on February 3 in the Federal Register and could go into effect within the year.
In a statement, Chief Tidwell, said, “We expect to see much less litigation because of the increased collaborative effort” in making a determination on what happens in each forest. He also stated that the reliance of the plan on the best available science in resolving some issues would be a great help.
Groups on either side of the issue gave cautionary reactions and added that they would attempt to seek modifications to the rule.