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Congress approves new Forest Service provisions

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Changes are afoot for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) now that Congress approved the major agriculture bill. Most news stories focus on the nutrition and farm subsidies. But the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (H.R. 2642) also makes some changes for national forest operations.

Congress formally approved the bill on Tuesday, Feb. 4. President Barack Obama has pledged to sign it though it hasn't officially been presented to him yet.

You can read the congressional conference committee's explanation of the forestry changes at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/cpquery/?&dbname=cp113&sid=cp113e9oLI&refer=&r_n=hr333.113&item=&&&sel=TOC_1567447&.

And see the first story linked to below.

The bill, for instance, overrules a 2012 court decision concerning administrative review of land resource management plans. A court had ruled that USFS must produce environmental assessments or impact statements for all procedures, even minor ones. No other agency is required to. But law was evidently ambiguous.

The law also will allow USFS to contract with states “to provide forest, rangeland, and watershed restoration, management and protection services on national forest system land.”

The final bill dropped a provision that would have required a report on the condition of national forest roads and trails. But the conference report writers say they “believe this is an important issue and encourage the Forest Service to prioritize the maintenance of currently used roads.”

And the bill allows the sale of a portion of the Jefferson National Forest in Wise County, Virginia to a local cemetery. See stories linked to below for details.

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