National Forests:

Information on the Process and Data Used to revise the Chugach Forest Plan

GAO-02-855: Published: Jul 26, 2002. Publicly Released: Jul 26, 2002.

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The Chugach National Forest in Alaska is the second largest of the 155 forests in the National Forest System and stretches across an immensely varied and scenic area. The Forest Service revised the Chugach National Forest Plan in accordance with planning regulations that require the Forest Service to solicit and respond to public concerns in (1) identifying issues to be considered in revising the plans, (2) developing alternative plans for evaluation, (3) selecting a draft preferred alternative plan, and (4) adopting a final revised plan. Forest Service officials actively solicited key public concerns about revising the Chugach forest plan by distributing frequent newsletters; maintaining a Web site to allow the public access to key documents; and holding over 100 public meetings on the plan, including ones to solicit potential alternatives, and later, to discuss its draft preferred alternative plan. In developing its draft revised plan, issued in September 2000, the Forest Service obtained and analyzed a vast amount of data on various potential uses of the lands and resources within the Chugach. These data and analysis provided information for decisions on difficult and sometimes controversial trade-offs among competing forest uses, such as timber harvesting, mineral mining, commercial fishing, recreation and tourism, forest vegetation, and fish and wildlife habitats. GAO's review showed that the data and analysis that the Forest Service used to make some decisions had limitations that were not disclosed in the draft revised plan.

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