Law & Order

House Panel Urges Forest Service to Reconsider Its Planning Rule

A House Natural Resources Subcommittee held an oversight hearing on the U.S. Forest Service’s draft rule for managing the country’s 193 million acres for national forests and grasslands. Previous versions of the “Planning Rule” have been rejected by the courts in recent years. Among the organizations invited to testify at the hearing was the BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC). SEMA has partnered with BRC in opposition to the proposed "Planning Rule" on grounds that it does not adequately protect access for motorized recreation and will be a source of ongoing litigation.  

During the hearing, a number of Subcommittee members expressed concern that the proposed Planning Rule was too vague to prevent future lawsuits and incorporated undefined terms. For example, while maintaining the viability of wildlife populations has always been a requirement, critics expressed dismay that the traditional definition of “species” would be expanded beyond vertebrates to cover virtually any type of animal and plant, including slugs. Opponents, including SEMA and the BRC, do not believe the rule adequately defines how to differentiate between conflicting goals. Many in the off-road community fear the rule may be applied in a protectionist fashion rather than accommodating multiple-use activities, a stated intent.

The issue is of importance to SEMA-member companies that market products to the off-road community based on their ability to have access to Forest Service roads and trails. The Congressional panel urged the Forest Service to revise the Planning Rule so as to provide a clearer explanation of guidelines and to ensure a “full mix of recreational opportunities.” 

For more information, please contact Stuart Gosswein at