Kootenai Environmental Alliance has sent a letter to the Forest Supervisor for the Idaho Panhandle National Forest (IPNF) regarding monitoring reports it has failed to issue. Under the forest plan adopted for this region’s forest, and under federal law, the forest service is required to submit annual monitoring and evaluation reports to the public. However, reports as far back as 2007 and 2008 have yet to be issued. The letter states, “It appears that the Forest Service has failed to meet the obligations required under the forest plan and federal law, and have unreasonably delayed performing a legally mandated responsibility. As representatives of the public’s interest in the proper management of our local forest resources, we are once again requesting these [monitoring] results.”
In response to an October inquiry from KEA, the Forest Service noted that the 2007 and 2008 Reports are not available “due to other priorities” but provided assurance that both reports would be issued in the spring of this year, 2010. Of course, spring has come and gone and we are still waiting for the reports.
In KEA’s letter, we point out that the monitoring report is expressly required under the several relevant sections of federal regulations, the most relevant is 36 CFR §219.11(f) which states:
(f) Annual monitoring and evaluation report. The responsible official must prepare a monitoring and evaluation report for the plan area within 6 months following the end of each fiscal year. The report must be maintained with the plan documents (§219.30(d)(5)), and include the following:
(1) A list or reference to monitoring required by the plan; and
(2) A summary of the results of monitoring and evaluation performed during the preceding fiscal year and appropriate results from previous years. The summary must include:
(i) A description of the progress toward achievement of desired conditions within the plan area; and
(ii) A description of the plan area’s contribution to the achievement of applicable outcomes of the Forest Service national strategic plan.
This is no paper exercise. Numerous collaborative efforts to address forest management issues around the region are underway, and every last one of them will depend on timely monitoring data to guide their efforts.
Having been perhaps too patient for too long, KEA has called on the Forest Service to either release the long-overdue reports or explain “the press of other priorities” that have caused the delay. We’d certainly like to know what those priorities are, and how those priorities are higher than the monitoring and reporting requirements outlined in federal law.