Kristin Bail, forest supervisor of the U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina, today announced that the agency has begun the next phase of revising the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests Land and Resource Management Plan (the Forest Plan). “We’ve received a large number of comments from the public since the assessment for the Plan began in the fall of 2012, and we’re hoping that trend will continue as we move into the next phase of plan revision,” said Bail. “I encourage anyone interested in the two national forests to submit comments on the Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement by April 28, 2014.” The plan development phase officially began with publication of a Notice of Initiation, which was published in the Federal Register on Oct. 3, 2013. This next phase involves beginning the work on the Environmental Impact Statement that will accompany the development of the revised plan. The public has 45 days to comment on the Notice of Intent, the Preliminary Need for Change and the Proposed Action, which was published in the Federal Register on March 12, 2014. Comments or questions about plan revision can be sent by email to NCplanrevision@fs.fed.us. For those who prefer regular mail, written comments can be mailed to National Forests in North Carolina, Nantahala and Pisgah Plan Revision, 160 Zillicoa St. Suite A, Asheville, NC 28801. The Notice of Intent (NOI) states that the Forest Plan will be revised to address direction within the current management plan that is in need of change. The NOI includes a summary of these preliminarily identified needs for change; a more extensive Preliminary Need For Change document is available on the plan revision website. Comments submitted by the public over the past year helped the Forest Service identify these preliminary needs for change. Among many other topics, the Preliminary Need for Change recognizes the important role that the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests play in sustaining the forests of western North Carolina and supporting local economies. During this plan development phase, the Forest Service, with input from members of the public and representatives of other governmental and non-governmental organizations, will determine the management practices necessary to accomplish the desired goals, and the effects those practices may have on the land. The Forest Service will then draft the proposed revised Plan and draft Environmental Impact Statement. “We have seen stakeholders from all sides of the political spectrum come together over the past year-and-a-half to help with the assessment and identify what needs to be changed,” said Bail. “With the high level of involvement we’ve seen so far, I am optimistic that we will meet our goal of having a new Forest Plan in place by September 2016.” The Assessment Phase, the first phase of plan revision, began in Fall 2012. In 2013, the agency hosted 14 public meetings to solicit comments, opinions, data and ideas from members of the public as well as representatives of other governmental and non-governmental organizations. Approximately 800 people attended the meetings, and more than 1,000 written comments were received at these meetings, as well as by mail and email. Information gathered during the assessment phase is compiled in an Assessment Report and the need for change document. Once the Plan is completed, the monitoring phase will begin as the Plan is implemented and will continue until the next forest plan revision. Each national forest has a management plan that is updated about every 15 years. The 2012 Planning Rule guides the planning process. The rule includes protection for forests, water and wildlife, while supporting the economic vitality of rural communities. It requires the use of the best available scientific information to inform decisions. The 2012 rule strengthens the role of public involvement and dialogue throughout the planning process. More information about the plan revision process is available online at: www.fs.usda.gov/goto/nfsnc/nprevision.