"Future Of National Forests at Center of Debate"

"By year’s end, the Obama administration will announce a new plan to manage the nation’s 155 national forests for the next 15 to 20 years.

At stake is the future of 193 million acres that are the nation’s single largest source of drinking water and are home to more than 15,000 species of plants and wildlife. The forests also attract more than 170 million Americans a year to hike, camp, hunt, fish, go boating or whitewater rafting, ride horses, ski, and drive snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles. Visitors spend an estimated $13 billion a year in communities surrounding the national forests, supporting more than 224,000 jobs.

Nearly 3 million Americans have forest-related jobs in fields ranging from forest management to outdoor recreation to the forest products industry, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Timber companies, mining companies, oil and gas developers and ranchers are taking a keen interest in the new forest plan as they seek to ensure that they will be able to continue to have access to public land for logging, mining, and grazing cattle. In 2010, about 2 billion board feet of timber was harvested from national forests, down from about 12 billion in 1980."

Erin Kelly reports for the Gannett Washington bureau July 27, 2011.

Source: Gannett, 07/29/2011