In 1986 and 1987, two separate forest plans were written for the Custer and Gallatin National Forests. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), “forest plans set desired conditions, standards and guidelines for management, protection and use of the forest.” The two forests were combined in 2014 and became the Custer Gallatin National Forest. Since Jan. 2016, the Forest Service and its agency have been working on a revision process to create one comprehensive plan for both forests now that they have merged.
In the first phase of the revision process, the need to begin the assessment of the old forest plans is discovered. Then, the agency looks at the current conditions of the two forests and plans a public review based on existing concerns. Phase two of the revision process, currently in progress, is the development stage. According to the USDA, the plan states that the “need for change is due to lack of discretion for certain resources, stressors and land use” on the forest.
The third phase, known as the implementing stage, is tentatively planned to be completed by the fall of 2019. In this stage, the forest service will look to develop different methods of monitoring how the new plans are working, whether they were warranted or not and that the changes, if any, are done in conformity with the land management plan. This stage is also to observe whether the plans may need more revision following this effect. The goal is for these national forests to be maintained and preserved for their conservation and longevity. This plan will look at amendments made in the past to ensure multiple use of the resources found in the forest for long-term social and economic benefits without risking the ecosystems essential to the Custer Gallatin National Forest.
The agency has been asking for public opinion since the drafting of the new plan started. An info session for the public was held at the REI Community Room at the Bozeman REI store on Thursday, Feb. 15. The rewriting process is believed to take four years to complete, and will happen in three phases, with many opportunities for public opinion as the revision process progresses. The dates and times of these info sessions can be found at fs.usda.gov.