Western Region Update: Mapping the Course 2024 and the NWFP Amendment


In December 2023, the Forest Service released a Notice of Intent to amend 128 forest plans nationwide to create a consistent approach to managing “Old growth” across the national system. While developing comments, FRA co-hosted Mapping the Course 2024 with the Western Forestry Conservation Association in Vancouver, WA, where in-person attendees had quite the experience. Two weeks after Mapping the Course, the Forest Service held a Federal Advisory Committee Meeting in Eugene to discuss the current efforts around amending the Northwest Forest Plan. Below is a recap of both of these meetings.

Mapping the Course 2024 

Mapping the Course 2024 unfolded amidst an unprecedented ice event that swept across the western region during the third week of January, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake.

Unfortunately, Mapping the Course 2024 was also a casualty of the severe weather storm, wounded but not destroyed. Originally slated to be held as an in-person event at the Heathman Lodge in Vancouver, the event quickly had to pivot and provide a hybrid format to limit the need for travel. While many attendees opted to attend the event virtually, a brave few attended in person.

On Tuesday, January 16th, while virtual attendees signed on, those in-person attendees woke up to burst pipes in the kitchen and an unheated conference room. Still, they persevered. This year’s Mapping the Course focused on various important topics impacting the timber industry, ranging from economics to regulatory issues.

Mapping the Course 2024 Presentations:  

  • Opportunities and Stressors for the North American Forest Industry

Mike Buffo, Mason, Bruce, and Girard

  • Issues, Trends, and Market Forces for the Pacific Northwest Sawmill Sector

Steve Courtney, The Beck Group

  • The Endangered Species Act at 50

Rob Gordon, The Western Caucus

  • Training CTL Operators and the Use of Simulators

Preston Green, Miller Timber

  • Federal Lands Issues: Collaborative Management with the USFS – Keys to Success and Increased Management

Matt Comisky, American Forest Resource Council

  • Updates with the National Environmental Policy Act

Lawson Fite, Schwabe

  • Mature and Old-Growth Forests: Define, Identify, Inventory

Jamie Barbour, US Forest Service

  • The Northwest Forest Plan Amendment

Annie Goode, Pacific Planning Center, USDA

  • The Oregon Private Forest Accord

Seth Barnes, Oregon Forest Industries Council

This event was an adventure, to say the least. We appreciate all the information that the presenters conveyed.

FRA Members can view the presentations HERE.

Northwest Forest Plan Federal Advisory Committee Update

The Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) Federal Advisory Committee met in Eugene to discuss the upcoming NWFP Amendment. The agency confirmed for the second time that the timeline for the amendment is still very truncated and that they are working toward having a draft Environmental Impact Statement available for public comment in early June. The Federal Advisory Committee came to the committee with more than 80 pages of draft ideas and options for the amendment. 

These draft options were developed by multiple subcommittees that concentrated on climate change, communities, tribal inclusion, fire resiliency, and old-growth. As the committee worked through these draft options, the agency and committee quickly agreed that a good deal of the recommendations were out of the scope of the narrow amendment, which resulted in the committee pushing the agency to review the current recommendations in depth and to move these recommendations into two buckets, within the scope of the NWFP amendment and outside of the current scope.  

In upcoming meetings, the committee will be discussing how the proposed Old-Growth Amendment will affect the NWFP amendment along with potential changes that will help reduce the tangle of regulations and increase the efficiency of the Forest Service to implement and treat the national forests under the NWFP to help battle climate change, increase fire resiliency, and better include traditional knowledge in the management of these forests moving forward.  

A Virtual Open House on February 8th begins at 5 pm PDT.  

Meeting link:  NWFP Virtual Open House

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Overall, 2024 is shaping up to be a busy year for FRA and our partners. The top-down old-growth amendment and the NWFP amendment are on the same timeline, with an anticipated decision in January 2025. These extremely short timelines will require the agency to work extremely fast to develop Environmental Impact Statements and engage with the public on these endeavors. FRA will continue to engage in these discussions and strive to keep our members apprised of the process.