The U.S. Department of Agriculture today released a final proposed rule to protect national forests from threats including climate change, while promoting job growth in rural areas.
The planning rule aims to increase protection for the 193 million acres (78 million hectares) of forests and grassland supervised by the U.S. Forest Service, the USDA said in a statement. The government will also require that the best available scientific data be used in making plans for land and water resources. Local information would also have to be taken into account.
The rule “will provide the tools to the Forest Service to make our forests more resilient to many threats, including pests, catastrophic fire and climate change,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters on a conference call.
While the USDA looks to seek further protection for plants and animals, Vilsack said the rule does not favor any one special interest. He said the “full suite” of multiple uses would be considered, including grazing, timber, energy and mineral interests.
The plan is open for public comment until May 16. The Forest Service is an agency of the USDA.
Bart Semcer, the senior representative of the Sierra Club in Washington, said the rule appears to be a “step in the right direction.”
“We’re pleased to see that are taking a look at climate change,” Semcer said in a telephone interview. “We’re looking forward to working with the agency to make the rule as strong as possible.”