The Forest Service is working on a new planning rule that will guide future development of land management plans for the 193 million acres within the National Forest System. The planning focus will be on such topics as wildlife protection, restoration of forests and grasslands, climate change, and watershed protection. What is unlikely to be discussed, unless raised by hunters and shooters, is how this new planning rule will protect and promote public recreation on national forests, especially hunting and shooting.
There is no requirement for the Forest Service to provide for hunting and shooting in land management plans, nor to address impacts to these activities from other land management decisions. Shooting has suffered the most from not being treated as a legitimate recreational activity on forestlands. The lack of proper and responsible planning has made shooters the loser when user conflicts occur with other recreationists, when encroaching development closes shooting areas, and when shooting areas and ranges are undersized or not maintained properly.
The current planning rule dates back to 1982. The development of a new rule provides an excellent opportunity for hunters and shooters to insist that future land management plans and decisions are in the best interests of hunters and shooters. The Forest Service is hosting a number of national roundtables through May to provide opportunities for public discussion on the development of the new planning rule. Information about these roundtables can be found on the planning rule website at www.fs.usda.gov/planningrule.
You can count on the focus of these public forums to be environmental protection, with little to no focus on the importance of forestlands and resources to sportsmen and women. What the planning rule will look like will greatly depend on the level of participation and comments the Forest Service receives from hunters and shooters. Please take a look at the planning website to see if a roundtable will be held in a location near you, and in the absence of public participation, please take the time to submit comments.