The Agriculture Department’s Forest Service has issued a final rule that is aimed at improving the forest management planning of 155 national forests and 20 grasslands. A key part of the rule will allow the government to complete forest planning (i.e. ecological, social and economic issues) much quicker, which would provide more “certainty” to oil and natural gas producers about whether they can drill in these areas, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Dan Jiron.

He noted that it currently takes seven to 10 years to complete a 15-year management plan for forests, but the new rule would cut the timeframe down to two to three years. A comprehensive evaluation of the plan would be completed every five years to ensure that it is meeting its goals and objectives, according to the Forest Service.

The new rule neither promotes nor discourages any particular forest use, such as mineral development, timber harvest, grazing and recreation, the federal government said.

The public will have 60 days to comment on the environmental analysis aspect of the rule. Comments may be sent to Forest Service Content Analysis Team, P.O. Box 22777, Salt Lake City, UT 84122, emailed to or faxed to (801) 517-1015.

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