"Watershed restoration is not new to the Forest Service, but we now have new capabilities to assess and prioritize where resources are most needed," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.

"For the first time, we are laying out a process to allow data from local assessments to be collected, analyzed and evaluated to better understand existing conditions and the specific needs for restoration and maintenance at the national level." 

The Forest Service, as custodian of national forests and grasslands — which contain nearly 400,000 miles of streams, 3 million acres of lakes, and many aquifer systems — provides drinking water for more U.S. residents than any other entity.

The Forest Service manages habitat for more than 550 rare, threatened, and endangered aquatic species and provides water-related recreation to more than 130 million visitors each year. U.S. lakes and streams provide drinking water for one in five Americans. 

The Framework integrates well with both the proposed Land Management Planning Rule and the agency's Climate Change Scorecard. All three efforts require working with the public and partners to assess, monitor, maintain and restore the health of forests and watersheds. The Framework assists by providing key data that will help to prioritize resources.

The Forest Service expects to have national and regional Watershed Condition Classification maps posted electronically on an agency Web site early next week, with an interactive mapping tool available by the end of the month, according to agency officials.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.