Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Resource Conservation

Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Martin Nie

Commitee Members

Elizabeth Dodson, Len Broberg, Sharon Friedman


adaptive management, best available science, forest plan, guideline, monitoring, NEPA, planning, standard


University of Montana


There is longstanding conflict related to planning standards and guidelines (S & Gs) used by the U.S. Forest Service to guide and constrain National Forest System land management. The role these prescriptions have played in the past in forest management, and the role they ought to play in the future, is often disputed. However, the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) and the new 2012 NFMA planning regulations require S & Gs, so they must be included in forest plans in the future. The goal of this research was to provide a common understanding of how planning S & Gs were used in the past in order to provide recommendations for how standards, specifically, might be written and applied more effectively in the future. To understand the history and conflicts associated with S & Gs, I analyzed public comment letters from NFMA planning regulations, applicable case law, and background literature. Twenty-five forest plans, strategies and amendments were examined in order to create a typology of common standards and assess their use. This typology found three primary continuums of common standards: mandatory and discretionary, scale of application, and complexity. Several sub-categories are also described, including prioritization, threshold, process-based, management method, and mitigation. Fifteen interviews were conducted with USFS personnel, interest group representatives, and legal experts in order to supplement and validate findings. Findings reveal compelling reasons why the USFS should impose binding, enforceable standards upon itself, including bolstering legal accountability, political credibility, and organizational efficiency. Recommendations for writing standards, incorporating best available science, working within an adaptive management system, supporting recovery efforts for threatened and endangered species, and making use of suitability determinations and management area designations are also provided.



© Copyright 2013 Emily E. Schembra