Our title notwithstanding, we admit from the outset that forest planning has perhaps never been “great.” Over the past four decades since the enactment of the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), which requires the U.S. Forest Service (Forest Service, USFS) to develop a set of regulatory requirements that guide the development of land and resource management plans or “forest plans,” hundreds of legal opinions from all levels of the federal judiciary have attempted to define the rights and responsibilities of forest users and managers. Often the results have been unsatisfying for all concerned. But today, the revision of forest plans using a new groundbreaking planning rule provides a rare opportunity to build agreement and shared stewardship of our national forests among diverse stakeholders. If used to their full potential, forest plans can help break the political impasse on national forest management and offer a more bottom-up, participatory, and science-informed alternative than some of the more ideological and deregulatory “forest reform” legislative proposals offered by Congress.
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