NATIONAL FOREST MANAGEMENT ACT OF 1976
16 U.S.C. 1600-1614, August 17, 1974, as amended 1976, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1988 and 1990.

Overview. The National Forest Management Act reorganized, expanded and otherwise amended the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974, which called for the management of renewable resources on national forest lands. The National Forest Management Act requires the Secretary of Agriculture to assess forest lands, develop a management program based on multiple-use, sustained-yield principles, and implement a resource management plan for each unit of the National Forest System. It is the primary statute governing the administration of national forests.

Findings/Policy. The Act contains numerous Congressional findings pertaining to the management of national forests, including:   it is in the public interest for the Forest Service to assess the nation's public and private renewable resources and develop a national renewable resource program; to serve the national interest, the development of the renewable resource program must include a thorough analysis of environmental and economic impacts, coordination of multiple-use and sustained-yield, and public participation; the Forest Service has the responsibility and opportunity to assure a national natural resource conservation posture that will meet our citizens' needs in perpetuity; the knowledge derived from coordinated public and private research programs will promote a sound technical and ecological base for the effective management, use and protection of the nation's renewable resources. 1600.

Selected Definitions. Renewable resources:  involves those matters within the scope of responsibilities and authorities of the Forest Service on August 17, 1974 and on the date of enactment of any supplemental or amending legislation thereto. 1610.

Renewable Resource Assessment. The Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary) is required to prepare a Renewable Resource Assessment and to update the assessment every ten years. The Act specifies the broad inventory and policy information the assessment must contain. The Secretary must provide opportunity for public involvement and must consult with other interested governmental agencies. As part of the assessment, the Secretary must develop and maintain a comprehensive inventory of all National Forest System lands and renewable resources. The inventory must be kept current and must identify new and emerging resources and values.

The policy of Congress is that all forested lands in the National Forest System are to be maintained for the maximum benefits of multiple-use, sustained-yield management. The Secretary must identify all lands in the national forest system that require reforestation and treatment. This information must be transmitted to Congress annually along with an estimate of the funds needed to replant and otherwise treat all lands being cut over. The Secretary also must submit an annual report to Congress on the amounts, types, and use of herbicides and pesticides used on national forest lands.

Congress authorized $200,000,000 to be appropriated annually to meet the requirements of the Act, for reforesting and treating lands in the National Forest system. 1601 and 1603.

Renewable Resource Program. The Secretary must develop a Renewable Resource Program for protection, management and development of the National Forest System, for cooperative Forest Service programs and for research. The program must be developed in accordance with the principles contained in the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. The Act lists specific types of information that the Secretary must include in the program. The Act specifies a deadline of December 31, 1975 for the initial program and obligates the Secretary periodically to update the program for at least four fiscal decades. 1602.

Resource Management Plans. The Act requires the Secretary to develop and implement resource management plans for each unit of the National Forest System. In doing so, the Secretary must:   use an interdisciplinary approach; coordinate with state and local resource management efforts; provide for public participation; provide for multiple-use and sustained-yield of products and services. The Secretary must revise the management plans whenever significant changes occur in a unit and must update the plans at least once every 15 years. The Secretary must make all plans available to the public at convenient locations.

To the extent feasible, the Secretary must identify lands within the management areas that are not suited for timber production, considering physical, economic and other pertinent factors. Timber harvesting is prohibited on the lands for a ten-year period. The status of these lands must be reviewed at least every ten years, and they must be returned to timber production once conditions have changed so that they are suitable for timber harvesting.

The Act requires the Secretary to promulgate an extensive list of regulations regarding the development and revision of management plans. Several of these required regulations address wildlife resources and environmental protection. For example, the Secretary must specify procedures to ensure management plans are in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. Also, the Secretary must specify guidelines for developing management plans that:   ensure consideration of both economic and environmental factors; provide for wildlife and fish; provide for the diversity of plant and animal communities; ensure timber harvesting will occur only where water quality and fish habitat are adequately protected from serious detriment; ensure clearcutting and other harvesting will occur only where it may be done in a manner consistent with the protection of soil, watersheds, fish, wildlife, recreation, aesthetic resources and regeneration of the timber resource.

The Secretary must appoint a committee of scientists who are not employees of the Forest Service to aid in promulgation of the required regulations. The views of the committee must be included in the public information supplied when regulations are proposed. 1604.

Assistance to the States. The Secretary may use the information gathered under the Act to assist states and other organizations in planning for the protection, use and management of renewable resources on non-federal lands. 1605.

Budget Requests for Forest Service Activities. Each time the Secretary updates the Renewable Resource Assessment and Program, the President must submit this information to Congress along with a detailed statement of policy regarding Forest Service activities. The statement of policy is to support budget requests for the five- or ten-year program period beginning during the term of the Congress. The President must carry out Forest Service programs in accordance with that policy, unless Congress disapproves it.

The Secretary must prepare an annual evaluation report on the accomplishments of the Renewable Resource Program and how those accomplishments relate to the goals of the Renewable Resource Assessment. The evaluation must assess the balance between economic factors and environmental quality factors, such as aesthetics, public access, wildlife habitat, and recreational and wilderness use. The report also must contain an estimate of the long-term costs and benefits of the Program. 2604 and 1606.

Reforestation Trust Fund. The Act establishes the Reforestation Trust Fund to finance reforestation and timber stand improvements on National Forest lands. The Secretary of the Treasury must transfer to the trust fund the monies received from the collection of certain tariffs, up to a maximum amount of $30,000,000 per fiscal year. The Secretary of the Treasury also must submit an annual report to Congress on the operations and financial condition of the fund. 1606(a).

Multiple-Use and Sustained-Yield. The Secretary of Agriculture must assure that the development and administration of National Forest System renewable resources are in full accord with the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960. Congress set the year 2000 as the target year for when all backlogs of reforestation treatments must be reduced to a current basis and the major portion of multiple-use, sustained-yield management procedures must be operating on an environmentally sound basis. 1607.

National Forest Transportation System. The Act declares that a transportation system must be installed to meet anticipated needs on an economical and environmentally sound basis. Any road constructed on National Forest System land in connection with a timber contract or other permit or lease must be designed with the goal of reestablishing vegetative cover on the roadway and other areas disturbed by construction of the road. Vegetative cover must be reestablished, through artificial or natural means, within ten years after termination of the contract, permit or lease, unless it is later determined that the road is needed as part of the National Forest transportation system. 1608.

National Forest System. The Act declares that the National Forest System consists of units of federally owned forest, range and related lands throughout the U.S. and its territories, united into one integral system for the long-term benefit of present and future generations. The system includes:   all national forest lands reserved from the U.S. public domain; all national forest lands acquired through purchase, exchange, donation or other means; the national grasslands and land utilization projects administered under Title III of the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act; other lands, waters or interests therein which are administered by the Forest Service or are designated for administration through the Forest Service as a part of the system. 1609.

Timber. The Secretary must generally limit the sale of timber from each national forest to a quantity less than or equal to an amount that can be removed annually from the forest, in perpetuity, on a sustained-yield basis. The Act allows deviations from this general limitation where the deviation is consistent with multiple-use objectives and is made with public participation. 1611.

Public Participation. The Secretary must establish, by regulation, procedures to give other government agencies and the public adequate notice and opportunity to comment upon proposed Forest Service activities. The Secretary may establish and consult advisory boards as necessary to carry out the Act. 1612.

Regulations. The Secretary must prescribe necessary regulations to carry out the provisions of the Act. 1613.


Chapter 4 - Statute Summaries
Federal Wildlife & Related Laws Handbook