July 1, 2000
Framework for Preserving the Ecosystem
Environmental Impact Statement
In 1992, the USDA Forest Service
Pacific Southwest Region (PSW) initiated a Sierra Nevada-wide planning effort
in response to a 1991 technical report on the declining status of the California
spotted owl. Interim guidelines for protecting owl habitat were adopted in
January 1993. The Forest Service subsequently began developing a long-term
management plan for owl habitat and other issues. A draft environmental impact
statement (EIS) for this work was released in 1995. A revised draft EIS was
scheduled for release in 1996.
However, release of new scientific information in the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP) report influenced the withdrawal of the revised draft EIS. The Secretary of Agriculture empanelled a Federal Advisory Committee (FAC) to review and advise on the EIS and SNEP report. The committee concluded that the revised draft EIS was inadequate in its current form as either an owl or ecosystem management planning document. The FAC report offered recommendations for addressing inconsistencies with new scientific information, identified shortcomings in some key elements of the analysis process, and stressed the need for more collaborative planning.
The interim guidelines for spotted owl habitat management, the reports of the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project, and the report by the Federal Advisory Committee are available through The Sierra Neavada Science Update. In January 1998, in response to the FAC report and other information, the Forest Service and the PSW Research Station initiated a collaborative effort to incorporate new information into management of Sierra Nevada National Forests.
This effort, known as the Sierra Nevada Framework for Conservation and Collaboration, incorporates the latest scientific information into national forest management through broad public and intergovernmental participation in natural resource planning. The Framework includes the Sequoia, Sierra, Stanislaus, Eldorado, Inyo, Tahoe, Plumas, Lassen and Modoc National Forests, and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. In addition, Region 5 (PSW) is working with personnel from the Humboldt-Toiyabe NF in Region 4 to ensure coordination and compatibility of management across administrative boundaries.
Along with the emphasis on the latest science, the PSW Region and the PSW Research Station are paying particular attention to improving their coordination with and among tribes, county governments, and state and federal agencies. The Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is one of several activities included in the Sierra Nevada Framework for Conservation and Collaboration. Related efforts are exploring better ways of working together on near-term projects and longer-term programs with an emphasis on improved relationships and procedures to encourage better collaboration.
One such effort is the work of Forest Service personnel and staff from some of the 35 state and federal agencies, and representatives of county government who are members of the California Biodiversity Council. This interagency group is providing advice and ideas on resource management and on improving public involvement and interagency coordination throughout the Sierra Nevada. To provide a foundation for the Sierra Nevada Framework for Conservation and Collaboration, a team of scientists from the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, produced the Sierra Nevada Science Review in July 1998.
The Science Review summarizes new scientific information with specific attention to issues of urgent priority at the range-wide scale of the Sierra Nevada. A companion document, the Summary of Existing Management Direction was released in August 1998. This document summarizes existing management direction on Sierra Nevada national forests as it relates to issues brought forward in the Science Review.
Both reports are available on this website. In an effort unprecedented in Region 5 (PSW), the Forest Service involved interested public in the process to update forest plans before developing a proposed action and initiating a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) planning process.
One effort by the Forest Service to provide more information and to hear people's issues and concerns is this website, which included an electronic forum for public input. Between August 1998 and January 1999, over 60 public meetings and workshops were held across California, involving some 1,500 people. About 3,300 people sent in comments. Special efforts were made to involve American Indian tribes in a government-to-government relationship, including consultation and tribal summits. Ideas from these various workshops and other activities helped the Forest Service develop a proposed action for updating forest plans, and is influencing the development of the alternatives and the draft EIS. Informal contacts and outreach continues as the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is developed.
The amendment effort is focused on five problem areas: old forest ecosystems; riparian, aquatic, and meadow ecosystems; fire & fuels; noxious weeds; and lower westside hardwood forests. A draft EIS that outlines alternatives for addressing these problems is posted elsewhere on this site . Publication of the draft EIS will be followed by a public comment period ending August 11, 2000. Public comment will help shape the final EIS and Record of Decision. In contrast to its broad geographic scale, this project relies on local line officers (Forest Supervisors and District Rangers) being the key point of contact with tribal representatives, county supervisors, forest users and interest groups. Participants are building relationships that will enhance coordination and collaboration on projects to implement plan amendments. Emphasis on public communication and collaborative involvement, and the integration of the best science available will continue throughout the process.
Sequoia National Monument
from the Regional Forester
Letter to the Editor
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