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SOURCE: US Forest Service Press Release, May 2, 2000.
|Forest Service Proposes Management Alternatives for Sierra
Nevada National Forests
MEETING FOR PUBLIC INFORMATION AND COMMENT
June 24, 9:00 am to 1:00 pm at L.A. River Center
VALLEJO, CA May 2, 2000--USDA's Forest Service is releasing a document analyzing an array of alternative ways to manage 11 national forests in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and Modoc Plateau.
Following an extensive period of scientific study and collaboration with the public, a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is being issued this week from the agency's Sierra Nevada Framework Project office in Sacramento, Forest Service officials said. The agency is now asking for the public's help in reaching a final decision.
The Draft EIS examines the environmental effects of possible future management scenarios for the Modoc, Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe, Eldorado, Stanislaus, Sierra, Inyo and Sequoia National Forests (NF), the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and the portion of the Humboldt-Toiyabe NF in the Sierra Nevada. The EIS will not affect private land.
"This process, affecting more than 11 million acres of treasured public lands, has been underway in various forms since 1991," said Brad Powell, Pacific Southwest Regional Forester. "The issues involved are ripe for resolution, and I am very pleased to announce this significant step. I encourage the public to help us refine and improve our analysis as we move toward a final decision."
"Science will also continue to be a key part of the analysis," said Hal Salwasser, Pacific Southwest Research Station Director. "The seven action alternatives are based on the science in the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Report (SNEP) and more recent studies." (Alternative One reflects current management, which was developed before the 1996 SNEP report.)
From the eight alternatives, the Forest Service has designated two "preferred" alternatives, said Kent Connaughton, Framework Project manager. They are designated in the Draft EIS as Alternatives Six and Eight.
"Thus far, our analysis indicates the final decision will require some well-reasoned tradeoffs between fuel reduction (to reduce fire risk), and wildlife habitat protection," Connaughton said. "While Alternatives Six and Eight both reduce fuels and protect wildlife habitat, Alternative Six has more opportunity to fully implement measures to reduce the fire threat in the Sierra Nevada.
Alternative Eight limits fuel reduction until further study of the effects on wildlife habitat. We are highlighting both alternatives to give the public an opportunity to focus their input during the 90-day comment period, and help us reach the best possible final decision."
Connaughton emphasized that the agency is also open to features of other alternatives that should be considered. The Draft EIS provides a full analysis of all the alternatives.
It is important to note that all eight alternatives protect water quality and the ecosystems in and near streams, lakes and meadows. Alternatives Six and Eight rate highest in those areas. All of the alternatives protect large trees and increase the amount of old forest conditions, protect and restore lower westside hardwood forests, and provide strategies for dealing with noxious weeds. And all action alternatives improve habitat conditions for selected species, some more than others. Differences in how the alternatives benefit all of these identified problem areas are mainly a matter of strategies used to reach the goals. The degree of the benefits differs mainly in the complex areas of fuel reduction and wildlife habitat protection.
None of the alternatives provide for a regulated timber supply, meaning that the traditional measure of Allowable Sale Quantity would not apply. Timber production would be a result of improving forest health and reducing fire danger, and would result mainly from thinning stands of smaller diameter trees. Under five of the seven action alternatives, timber sale offerings on all 11 NF's would decline in varying degrees from recent levels (which are themselves significantly lower than the levels of the mid-1980's). Alternatives Six and Eight are among the five that would cause a decline.
Also, all seven action alternatives would decrease the amount of timber offered in the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Pilot Project Area, on the Lassen and Plumas NF's, and the Sierraville Ranger District of the Tahoe NF. The amount of decrease varies widely among alternatives, allowing different levels of implementation of the Pilot Project. In another area of public interest, the degree of flexibility for local FS managers varies from low to high among the alternatives.
Full details are available in the document itself, which is being mailed this week to those on the Framework Project mailing list. Others wanting a copy of the Draft EIS, or a 40-page Summary, can obtain one by writing to USDA Forest Service--CAET; Sierra Nevada Framework Project; P.O. Box 7669; Missoula, MT 59807. Copies will also be available at libraries throughout California and western Nevada. The entire Draft EIS will also be on the Internet at www.r5.fs.fed.us/sncf.
The Draft EIS Notice of Availability is scheduled for Federal Register publication on May 5. To ensure a comment period of at least 90 days, input will be accepted until a postmark date of August 11, 2000. Comments from the public, state and federal agencies, tribes, elected officials, organizations and others should be sent to the above address in Missoula. The Forest Service team there will record the comments on a database, and then quickly forward the comments to the Sierra Nevada Framework Project office in Sacramento to help make a final decision. The most useful input would provide specific comments on the analysis or the alternatives, or ways to improve the preferred alternatives or draw from other alternatives to reach a final decision. That decision, expected later this year, will amend the forest plans for the affected national forest lands.