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SOURCE: Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region, Janurary 12, 2001
F.S. ACTS TO REDUCE SIERRAN FIRE RISK, PROTECT WILDLIFE & WATER
VALLEJO, CA Jan. 12, 2001- Under a new plan being announced today, USDA's Forest Service
(FS) will emphasize protection of wildlife, people's homes and other development near fire-prone
areas, and water quality in the national forests of the Sierra Nevada mountains and Modoc Plateau.
"Over the course of this 2-1/2 year decisionmaking process, it became increasingly clear that we
must stop declines in the numbers of California spotted owls and other species that depend on old
forests for their survival," said Pacific Southwest Regional Forester Brad Powell. "We must also
continue our program of thinning and prescribed burning, with greater emphasis near communities, to
protect the public. Thinning will emphasize the cutting of smaller trees, which carry fire across the
landscape more vigorously than the older, larger trees that we will protect for owls and other
This final decision, being released today along with the Final Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), will update the management plans for the Modoc, Lassen,
Plumas, Tahoe, Eldorado, Stanislaus, Sierra, Inyo and Sequoia National Forests (NF's), the Lake
Tahoe Basin Management Unit and the portion of the Humboldt-Toiyabe NF in the Sierra Nevada.
It does not affect private land. These guidelines will apply to a wide range of activities on 11.5 million
acres in these 11 NF's. Site-specific decisions will be made on individual projects at the forest level,
following separate environmental analyses that tier from today's decision.
Powell, the top FS official in California, noted that the agency heard from approximately 47,000
people since release of the Draft EIS last May. He said that this input from the general public,
scientists, state and federal agencies, tribes, interest groups, elected officials and others was essential
in reaching a final decision. Science developed by the FS research organization and other respected
scientists was of particular value.
"I believe that our new management direction will protect and improve habitat for species, and avoid
the need for listings as threatened or endangered," Powell said.
Specifically, Powell chose a modified version of Alternative Eight, which was one of two preferred
alternatives in the Draft EIS.
"In general, my decision reflects a cautious approach that recognizes we don't fully understand the
effects of thinning on areas that are important for wildlife," Powell said. "While we learn more about
that over the next 5-10 years, it is prudent from a scientific and budgetary standpoint to prioritize
thinning in the areas closest to human populations. This will also reduce flammable material in these
areas to the point that prescribed fire can be used safely. Meanwhile, prescribed fire will be used
more in areas further from communities, particularly in areas that emphasize protection of old forests."
These "old forest emphasis areas" will cover a network of more than 4 million acres, in addition to an
existing 2.6 million acres of protected wilderness and wild and scenic river corridors, Powell said.
The old forest areas will be managed to protect and increase old forest conditions, with an emphasis
on use of prescribed fire. Limited mechanical treatments such as thinning will be used when
Clean water is another key part of the decision. Critical areas near streams, meadows and lakes will
receive special protection, Powell said. This will provide a healthy ecosystem to support wildlife that
depend on these riparian zones, and help ensure a continuing supply of water for the public.
Additional efforts will also be made to protect areas near the dens of Pacific fishers and other small
carnivores, along with areas needed by California spotted owls, northern goshawks and great gray
Nowhere in the affected 11.5 million acres will live conifers greater than 30 inches in diameter be
cut, except where threats to human safety exist. In lands on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada,
the maximum diameter will be a 24 inches.
FS officials expect that the average annual volume from these lands will be about 191 million board
feet per year for the next five years. That will drop to 108 million board feet annually for the
following five years, after completion of the pilot project for the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library
Group (QLG) Recovery Act. These levels compare to an annual average of about 200 million board
feet over the past three years, and an annual average of about 300 million board feet over the past
10 years. The fuels treatments producing those volumes will also provide an estimated 350,000 dry
tons of chips anually over the next 10 years, suitable for biomass energy production. That compares
to 259,000 tons produced annually over the past 10 years.
"I devoted particular attention to the QLG area on the Lassen and Plumas NF's, and a portion of the
Tahoe NF," Powell said. "We were able to implement the key elements of the pilot project, while
also fulfilling our legal responsibilities to protect wildlife habitat. I believe the pilot project there can
now proceed, although at a smaller scale than originally conceived."
Returning to the overall decision, Powell said it "has its origins in efforts that began in 1992 to protect
California spotted owls, and I am very pleased to be able to announce that it has led to the more
comprehensive plan we are releasing today. As the focus now shifts to the forest level, we will
continue to provide any needed guidance and monitor implemention."
This decision is effective 30 days from publication of a legal Notice of Availability in newspapers of
record in Sacramento and Reno, which is expected within days. There is a 90-day appeal period to
the Chief of the Forest Service. Copies of the entire 1800-page EIS, or a summary and Record of
Decision only, are available for free in a printed or compact disc version by writing USDA Forest
Service-CAET; Sierra Nevada Framework Project; PO Box 7669; Missoula, MT 59807 or
e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Those already on the mailing list will receive material
automatically. Information can also be downloaded at www.r5.fs.fed.us/sncf, or obtained from local
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