The Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is currently revising many of its land management plans across the country which is often referred to as forest plans, laying an important part of the national heritage of the National Forest System by creating a big picture view of how a national forest will be managed. The first Chief of the Forest Service, believed that our national forests should be managed for the greatest good of the greatest number in the long run. In today’s count, the Forest Service manages nearly around 180 national forests, 22 national grasslands and 1 national prairie over 193 million acres.
As healthy forest ecosystems purify the air we breathe; provide clean water for our cities, homes, and irrigation; reduce the effects of drought and floods; store carbon; generate fertile soils; provide wildlife habitat and also maintains biodiversity. National forests in USA also provide a wide variety of outdoor recreational experiences from nonmotorized backcountry and wilderness experiences that provide incomparable solitude, to managed motorized experiences that provide challenge and excitement.
USA further has planning rules designed to incorporate the concepts of adaptive management, scientific basis, and public participation into forest planning, acknowledging the need for flexibility and agility during times of change, and providing a stronger commitment to involving the public throughout the planning process. It was also designed to require a holistic and integrated approach to management, recognizing that management needs for ecosystem resources are interrelated, and that management for ecological, social, and economic objectives are also interrelated. Their plan development uses the information from the assessment together with input from the public and other entities gathered through comments, collaboration, tribal consultation, and other opportunities for engagement to revise a forest plan.
It is also important to learn that ecosystem services generated from national forests can be affected by the forest plan and by other factors. In the planning process, assessments should identify and evaluate key ecosystem services within the planning area that may be influenced by the plan, and the plan must ensure the provision of ecosystem services. Ecosystem services can be thought of as current and future benefits people and communities obtain from the national forests. The very growing U.S. population benefits from, and increasingly demands, services such as fresh water; protection from drought and floods; carbon storage; recreation; and other social, economic, ecological, and cultural benefits from the national forests.