News from the Secretary

News from the Secretary by Larry Gabriel What do you think about the Black Hills?

Just about everyone who has been there has a definite opinion about the Black Hills. Now is time to express it.

I mention it only because "time is about up." Not only do we need to wrap up this 10-year plan, but it is almost time to start on the next one. Comments on the pending "Phase II" amendments to the 1997 Forest Plan are due by Dec. 15.

No. That's not a typo. The government is still trying to finish the "1997" 10-year plan.

I would not want you to miss another chance to get in on the "wonderful process" that Congress has created for managing federal lands.

Here is how Congress manages land: they take a pine forest that grows on a 200-year rotation; write a 10-year plan to manage it; provide for a public review, administrative appeal, and judicial review process that takes about seven-to-10 years, and then write a new 10-year plan at least once every 15 years.

You can read the U.S. Forest Service's nutshell version of the Phase II Amendments in their newsletter. That is only 12 pages long and is found at this Web link: http://www.fs.fed.us/ r2/blackhills/projects/planning/amendments/phase_II/deis_newsletter.pdf

If you want the real thing, read the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Phase II Amendment which supplements the Phase I Amendments to the revised 1997 Black Hills National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan.

That document and its appendix are only about 1,000 pages, but you should read the original plan and the related final environmental impact statement so that you will know the context of the amendments.

Oh yes, in order to fully understand Phase II amendments you really should also read the Phase I Amendments which brings the total that you should read to well over 2,000 pages of some really interesting stuff.

Congress (America's largest landlord) owns about one-fourth of the country. You can help them manage it. All you have to do is study the alternatives presented (or follow the advice of someone who has) and support the one you like.

Send your comments to the BHNF Phase II Amendment, PO Box 270990, Littleton, CO, 80127-0017, before the comment deadline.

As you can see, the size of the planning task is almost as large as the hills. Even the chief of the Forest Service has said the system is in "analysis paralysis" resulting in seemingly endless planning and little action on the ground.

However, that's no reason to give up. We people of the prairie can move mountains any time we put our minds to it. A bureaucratic mountain just takes a little longer than a real one.

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