NATIONAL FORESTS -- The U.S. Forest Service held public meetings this week in Missoula, Coeur d'Alene and Seattle to explain the details and intent of the recently proposed draft Planning Rule to be applied to 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands.
If put into law, the rule would serve as a national blueprint for how hundreds of individual forest plans -- such as the Colville and Idaho Panhandle forests -- will chart national forest management in the coming years.
The agency says the proposed forest planning rule would support ecological sustainability and provide rural jobs. It includes new provisions for habitat protection, recreation and timber and other uses.
Tom Uniack with Washington Wilderness Coalition says it should provide more protection for national forests.
However some conservation groups in Washington state say the policy fails to safeguard all fish and wildlife species and watersheds that are the source of drinking water for millions.
For example, the proposed rule specifies oversight for animals specifically listed as "species of concern" in forest management, however it seems then to overlook species of high public interest, such as elk.
Formal comments must be submitted by May 16.