Washington, DC…The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has proposed directives on groundwater protection and water quality best management practices on national forest lands that will update the way national forests manage their lands. This week, two separate proposals were released that establish new practices and procedures for monitoring, analyzing, and protecting water on forests and grasslands managed by the USFS. While neither proposal directly establishes mandates on rural communities, both will affect how future travel management plans and forest plan amendments are approached, and how people are allowed to use the forests. A greater focus on water quality and groundwater management has already been adopted in the updated National Forest Land Management Planning Rule (adopted in 2012), and this is one more step to tightening standards on USFS lands with respect to water management.
The USFS is currently taking comments on both proposals. Comments on the Best Management Practices (BMP) proposal are due by July 7, 2014, while comments on the groundwater directives must be filed by August 4, 2014. There is also a planned webinar on both proposals tentatively set for May 20, 2014, although it has not yet been officially noticed. Information on both proposals, as well as links to the Federal Register notices, can be accessed here.