Appeal by the Quincy Library Group
of the Final EIS and Record of Decision
for the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act

1. This document is a Notice of Appeal filed pursuant to 36 CFR 217.

2. The Quincy Library Group corresponding secretaries are submitting this appeal on behalf of the Quincy Library Group:

Linda L. Blum
Edward C. Murphy
P.O. Box 1749
Quincy, CA 95971
(530) 283-1230 (Blum)
(530) 378-8131 (Murphy)

3. & 4. The QLG appeal is of the Record of Decision (ROD) based on the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) specified in the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act and signed August 20, 1999 by Jeff Withroe for Kathryn J. Silverman, Acting Forest Supervisor, Lassen National Forest; by Mark Madrid, Forest Supervisor, Plumas National Forest; and by Judie Tartaglia for Steven T. Eubanks, Forest Supervisor, Tahoe National Forest..

5. While QLG believes the FEIS correctly supports the decision to implement Alternative 2, QLG specifically objects to imposition of the following Mitigation attached to the ROD:

Mitigation: At the site-specific project level, defensible fuel profile zones, group selection harvest areas, and individual tree harvest areas will be designed and implemented to completely avoid suitable California spotted owl habitat, including nesting habitat and foraging habitat.

   QLG objects to imposition of the mitigation and asks for its removal from the ROD, primarily on the following grounds, further explained and amplified in section 6 below:

A. The mitigation would prevent implementation of the Pilot Project as intended by Congress and as described in the FEIS.

B. The mitigation was not adopted by lawful process, and there was no analysis or disclosure of its effects as required by NEPA.

C. Scientific literature does not support imposition of the mitigation.

D. The mitigation was adopted without adequate consideration or disclosure of the increased fire hazard to spotted owl viability if strategic fuel reduction is not permitted or is delayed in the areas affected.

E. The mitigation was adopted without consideration or disclosure of the adverse social and economic effects of prohibiting resource management activities in the areas affected.

F. It is not justified to impose this mitigation “until a new spotted owl habitat management strategy is released.”

6. The mitigation is not appropriate and should be removed for the following reasons:

A. The mitigation would prevent implementation of the Pilot Project as intended by Congress and as described in the FEIS.

   By means of the Herger-Feinstein QLG Forest Recovery Act (Act), Congress directed the Secretary “..to implement and demonstrate the effectiveness of the resource management activities described in subsection (d) and the other requirements of this section, as recommended in the Quincy Library Group-Community Stability Proposal.” The Act requires implementation of a DFPZ network, group selection silviculture, riparian area protection, and stream restoration projects, in a cost-effective manner consistent with law and the CASPO Interim Guidelines or the subsequently issued guidelines, whichever are in effect.

   The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) correctly establish that without the mitigation Alternative 2 would meet these requirements in full. However, with the mitigation such implementation cannot be achieved. This conclusion runs counter to the ROD's determination at pages 7 and 8 that imposition of the supplemental mitigation wouldn't interfere with the HFQLG pilot; but the ROD cites only acreage figures of the different timber strata types intersected by Alternative 2's DFPZ layout, and that the majority of DFPZ acres are not suitable owl habitat. When the necessary spatial relationships between habitat types are taken into consideration — as we repeatedly but unsuccessfully requested during scoping and public involvement — it becomes clear that the western two-thirds of the HFQLG area are off-limits to DFPZ construction because “suitable owl habitat” exists in small patches throughout the mixed conifer and red fir forest types. It was only after the ROD was signed that ID team members began informally telling the public that the ROD's supplemental mitigation precludes implementing the pilot project anywhere except in the eastside pine forests.

(1) By drastically restricting the forest types that could otherwise be considered for thinning in fuelbreaks and group selection harvests, the mitigation severely interferes with the multiple use mandate of the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) and the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act (MUSYA), the resource management activities required by the Act, the Community Stability aspects of the QLG Proposal, and the requirement of the Act that the specified management activities be implemented in the most cost-effective manner.

(2) The mitigation effectively precludes meaningful fuel reduction and other forest health treatments on the western two-thirds of the pilot project area, thereby preventing the landscape-scale demonstration of effectiveness that is required by the Act. Citizens and communities in Shasta, Tehama, Butte, Yuba, and the western half of Plumas counties are thus excluded from participating in the landscape-scale demonstration of the effectiveness of fire protection measures associated with the strategic system of DFPZs and other resource management activities that are required by the Act. The Boards of Supervisors of these counties have adopted resolutions supporting the full funding and implementation of Alternative 2, and requested that the Forest Service coordinate the design, location, schedule, and construction of fuelbreaks with the appropriate county fire districts, fire safe councils, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and the citizens and property owners of the involved communities and counties. The value of these initiatives (and the adverse effects of thwarting them) should have been considered in the decision to adopt the mitigation, but it is apparent that no such consideration was given.

(3) In effect the mitigation substitutes for the CASPO Interim Guidelines without being “subsequently issued guidelines,” and therefore its imposition on this Pilot Project is contrary to the expressed intent of Congress and is not consistent with the Act.

B. The mitigation was not adopted by lawful process, and there was no analysis or disclosure of its effects as required by NEPA.

(1) Justification for the mitigation appears to be most clearly stated in the “August 16, 1999 Supplement to the Biological Assessment/Biological Evaluation of Herger Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Ace” (BA/BE), which says:

 In light of the recent demographic studies showing declining spotted owl populations, [Alternative 2] impacts to owl habitat could pose a serious risk to the viability of the owl in the planning area, thereby making the implementation of Alternative 2 inconsistent with the National Forest Management Act and its implementing regulations.

   The BA/BE then specifies complete avoidance of “suitable spotted owl habitat” and claims that

With this mitigation, there would be neither loss nor degradation of any nesting or foraging habitat. The number of home ranges with more than 50% suitable habitat will remain the same as the existing situation. (excerpts are from the BA/BE, copy dated August 14, 1999, first page of text.)

These assertions are not backed up with any data or analysis to support either the contention that implementation of Alternative 2 under CASPO would impose a serious risk to viability of the owl in the planning area, or that imposition of the mitigation would assure neither loss nor degradation of any nesting or foraging habitat. On the contrary,

(a) The supposed adverse effects on owl habitat reported in the FEIS are not likely to be of a kind or size that would significantly affect owl viability. Numerous studies and reports cast serious doubt on the importance to owl viability of the habitat distinctions made in the FEIS analysis or the habitat changes caused by implementation of Alternative 2 under “straight” CASPO. Other factors are much more likely to be crucial to owl viability.

The FEIS and ROD do not indicate what the adverse impacts of implementing the CASPO prescription would be, so it is impossible to weigh one set of experts' opinions (i.e., the CASPO Report, 1992) against the unspecified effects attributed to that prescription. The FEIS and ROD contain no substantial evidence to support their conclusion that application of the CASPO guidelines would negatively impact owl viability.

(b) The CASPO Technical Assessment (“CASPO Report,” 1992) and the Sierra Nevada Science Review (1998) both point especially to the “microhabitat elements” of snags, large down logs, and tree canopy layering as appearing to be the most critical determinants of habitat suitability.

The HFQLG Draft EIS acknowledged that these critical attributes do not get measured or represented directly by either the timber strata maps or the California Wildlife Habitat Relationships (CWHR) model that were used in the analysis of habitat abundance, distribution, and effects. The CASPO Interim Guidelines take direct account of these microhabitat elements in defining habitat and permitted management activities in the habitat types, while the mitigation is based on overly broad and very loose correspondences among timber types, CWHR types, the supposed relationships of these types to suitable owl habitat, and the supposed effect on owl viability if any of these many forest types are entered or modified in the course of resource management activities.

(c) Factors other than habitat interrelationships are more likely to have significant adverse effect on owl viability. The CASPO Report addressed many factors of concern, and its recommendations (that were later adopted as the CASPO interim guidelines in 1993) specifically direct changes in timber harvest practices to cure some of them. It is clear from Table 1H of the CASPO Report (attached) that absent old-growth and even-aged logging practices, the most important factor of concern is the risk of habitat loss due to large high intensity wildfires. Thinnings and fuels reductions such as those proposed by QLG are consistent with the CASPO scientists' recommended actions, as can be seen from the “Recommended actions” column of CASPO's Table 1H. This point is further addressed in paragraph 6.D below.

(2) The BA/BE asserts that modification of habitat in accordance with the CASPO Interim Guidelines would either reduce it from nesting to foraging habitat or make it unsuitable habitat entirely, and that construction of DFPZs as provided in Alternative 2 would reduce the percentage of suitable habitat in spotted owl home ranges entered to below 50 percent. The BA/BE fails to disclose that some of the QLG area home ranges overlap each other, so that an acre of DFPZ construction could be incorrectly counted as reducing habitat in more than one home range, thereby exaggerating the magnitude of the impacts. It fails to disclose that many home ranges on the west side contain suitable habitat far in excess of 50 percent yardstick derived from Bart's northern spotted owl home range analyses. The BA/BE fails to disclose that requiring a “minimum 50 percent of home range in suitable habitat” is a theoretical limit derived from one study of northern spotted owls, not California spotted owls, and that it was a study conducted on coastal Oregon landscapes, not in the northern Sierra Nevada. The BA/BE finding that the mitigation is required is not justified, because it was not based on actual conditions in the northern Sierra Nevada, and the FEIS numerical projections significantly over-state the projected reduction of nesting and foraging habitat.

(3) As noted above, the mitigation in effect substitutes for the CASPO interim guidelines, but was not adopted by lawful process to be the “subsequently issued guidelines” required by the Act. This is a “process” violation as well as a “substance” violation.

C. Imposition of the mitigation is arbitrary, capricious, and lacking in scientific basis. The supplemental mitigation violates the Adminstrative Procedure Act by failing to be supported by substantial evidence in the record that shows the mitigation is warranted or that its effects have been analyzed.

(1) The FEIS erroneously evaluates the application of CASPO interim guidelines as a negative impact on the suitability of habitat for use in nesting, foraging, and roosting by California spotted owls. The reason for the error lies, as far as we can tell from the planning files, in the agency's failure to insure the scientific integrity of a portion of its work. Conclusions reported in summaries and reviews of original scientific work were accepted at face value by the agency, rather than being evaluated for accuracy, replicability, and other commonly accepted scientific standards. No attempt was made to disclose and discuss the variety of scientific interpretations that are possible from the available data, including the fact that Framework Science Team Leader Dr. Danny Lee came to different calculated estimates of lambda than what one demographic researcher did (HFQLGFA DEIS Planning Files, ID Team Meeting of April 26, 1999).

(2) The unfounded and, we believe, mistaken notion that the continued implementation of the CASPO interim guidelines in forest stands of “select” and “other” suitable owl habitat would be detrimental to owl viability derives from what can perhaps most easily be described as a pseudo-scientific version of the parlor game “Telephone,” in which specific messages are repeated successively down a line of people. Following from the CASPO Report (1992) through the Cal Owl DEIS, RDEIS, Sierra Nevada Conservation Framework and HFQLG EIS processes, the length of the interim period and the reasons for the CASPO interim guidelines being short-term are progressively garbled messages.

(a) In 1992 the CASPO scientists wrote:

Whatever interim strategy may be adopted, it should accomplish three primary objectives: (1) protect known owl nest stands (or main roost stands if nest stands are not known) from any significant degradation; (2) protect very large, old trees throughout Sierran confier forests; and (3) begin to cope with the excessive fuels problem. The duration of the interim period will depend on how quickly we can determine, with certainty, the status of the owl population in the Sierra Nevada and attain a relatively full understanding of the range of habitats in which the owls can maintain self-sustaining populations. We recommend an initial period of 5 years, although whatever period is chosen must extend well past the present drought into the next “normal” or “wet” climatic period. (CASPO Report, page 20, emphases added)

(b) By the time the Sierra Nevada Conservation Framework effort was underway in the summer of 1998, the CASPO scientists' findings and recommendations had been summarized, overviewed, and re-interpreted to the point of bearing little or no resemblence to the rationales for the CASPO guidelines in the first place. The July 1998 Science Review for the Framework explained it thus:

The California spotted owl is a Forest Service Sensitive Species in Region 5. It is known to be closely associated with older-forest attributes (large, old trees; large snags; large, downed logs). Because a recent effort failed to complete and implement a new, Regional EIS for the owl and other issues in national forests of the Sierra Nevada, the owl remains as a significant issue to be addressed in any new effort that would amend management practices in the Sierra Nevada national forests. Finally, the other two subspecies (northern spotted owl and Mexican spotted owl) have both been federally listed as threatened. Lacking a realistic effort soon to provide adequate protection for the California spotted owl, it may become federally listed as well.” (Sierra Nevada Science Review, page 25)

(c) In the BA/BE, EIS and ROD, the CASPO guidelines are characterized as inadequate and actually harmful if implemented much longer. No evidence is presented to substantiate such a conclusory characterization. The only “new” and relevant information consists of the long-term spotted owl demographic studies' results which estimate declining population trends in the mid-1990s. This “new” demographic information is documented only as personal communications between the researchers and the authors of the Sierra Nevada Science Review. Some of the information appears in internal annual reports, but none of those have been widely circulated, let alone formally published in professional scientific journals. However, no causal linkages are demonstrated in any scientific work between the CASPO guidelines and the demographic results.

(d) Where the CASPO Report and the Science Review both acknowledge that the guidelines would have to be “implemented faithfully and studied carefully” (CASPO Report, page 25, and Science Review, page 55) in order to learn what effects would occur, the EIS makes a leap of logic and fact to conclude that it is the implementation of CASPO that has caused the declining population trend. What the Science Review said is illuminating:

There is considerable anecdotal discussion about the effects of California Spotted owl (CASPO) interim management on ecological and socioeconomic conditions of Sierra Nevada national forests and communities, but no regional or rangewide evaluation has been done, and little information is available to provide a serious review at any scale.

To assess the impacts of CASPO interim guidelines requires a dedicated study assessing the extent of projects implemented under CASPO, evaluation of compliance in implementing policy, plot-based monitoring of effects on ecological conditions (spotted owls and others), and review and compilation of socioeconomic effects related to timber harvest, wildfire, road projects, etc. (Sierra Nevada Science Review, July 24, 1998, page 55)

(e) In contrast to a “dedicated study” to assess CASPO effects, the HFQLG EIS planning file contains interdisciplinary team records that indicate that by January 26, 1999, members of the EIS ID team had concluded that “Science Review identified (and FSWS) CASPO will need to change” and noted a “Concern: just moving ahead with CASPO Guidelines based on information which exists that determine that they are not adequate.” (Planning files for HFQLGFRA DEIS, Sierra Nevada Framework/Herger-Feinstein QLG Coordination Meeting Notes, January 26, 1999, Sacramento, CA)

(f) The BA/BE picks up the garbled message and twists it further: “In light of recent demographic studies showing declining spotted owl populations, such impacts to owl habitat could pose a serious risk to the viability of the owl in the planning area, thereby making the implementation of Alternative 2 inconsistent with the National Forest Management Act and its implementing regulations.” (August 16, 1999 Supplement to BA/BE, first page)

(3) The CASPO Technical Assessment Team did not assess the potential effects of implementing their prescription in suitable habitat as negatively as the FEIS does. Indeed, the CASPO scientists “believe the [CASPO-] recommended changes in traditional silvicultural practices in Sierran forests are unlikely to significantly degrade spotted owl habitat over the short-term, and they may even improve habitat in the long run.” (CASPO Report, page 25) The owl scientists did not believe applying their guidelines would be a long-lasting or significant disturbance to spotted owl use of treated stands: “We would not be surprised to find that a brief period (probably less than 5 years) elapses after logging operations before the owls resume foraging in Selected Timber Strata.” (Ibid.)

(4) In weighing the factors most important to owl habitat suitability, the CASPO Technical Assessment Team “focused on setting strong rules to retain stand components that are most at risk and hardest to replace” (CASPO Report, page 25), identifying reduction of losses to catastrophic wildfires as a necessary element for viability, to maintain the quality and quantity of suitable habitat well distributed throughout the owl's range. The CASPO Report recommendations for managing “Selected Timber Strata” and “Other Timber Strata” specifically include the recommendation to “[t]reat surface and ladder fuels as necessary to create a mosaic of fuel profiles that will minimize the probability of extensive, stand-destroying wildfires.” (CASPO Report, page 25) Failing to reduce the fuels buildups in suitable habitat — which would be a consequence of the ROD's supplemental mitigation — would likely result in wholesale losses of spotted owl home ranges, SOHAs, and PACs.

(5) There is a virtual avalanche of recent publications that identify large high intensity wildfire as a major threat to the sustainability of inland western forest ecosystems and the species they support. The most recent major publication on this subject is the General Accounting Office's April 1999 report, “Western National Forests: A Cohesive Strategy is Needed to Address Catastrophic Wildifre Threats” (GAO/RCED-99-65), but there are many others and all of them are virtually ignored by the EIS.

(6) Several recent and locally applicable research studies have been conducted and reported in professional scientific journals which establish through empirical methods that the fuel reductions and thinning-from-below treatments contemplated for the pilot project's DFPZ network do not significantly reduce spotted owl prey species populations. These ecological studies, conducted by Forest Service researchers Cynthia Zabel, Jeffrey Waters, Kevin McKelvey, and others, have been virtually ignored by the EIS despite the agency's obligation to make a good-faith effort to find and utilize the best available scientific information.

(7) There are no published peer-reviewed studies applicable to major forest types of the HFQLG area that prove a need to modify the fuel reduction methods that are called for by the CASPO Report and CASPO Interim Guidelines, or to stay out of suitable owl habitat entirely. The one study that appears to have had the greatest effect on the decision to impose the mitigation was conducted in quite different forest types on the Oregon coast, not the Sierra Nevada, and it involved Northern spotted owls, not California spotted owls.

D. The mitigation was adopted without adequate consideration or disclosure of the increased fire hazard to spotted owl viability if strategic fuel reduction is not permitted or is delayed in the areas affected. Adding the supplemental mitigation, without considering fire effects and other factors, fails the requirements of NEPA to “utilize a systematic, interdisciplinary approach which will insure the integrated use of the natural and social sciences and the environmental design arts in planning and decisionmaking which may have an impact on man's environment.” (40 CFR 1501.2(a) and 1507.2)

(1) The BA/BE asserts that “The number of home ranges with more than 50% suitable habitat will remain the same as the existing situation.” But within a few weeks of the signature on that document, several spotted owl home ranges in the HFQLG area were being significantly altered and/or destroyed by wildfires in the “Mount Hough Complex” fires. Only the relatively benign wind and weather during those fires prevented them from becoming truly catastrophic to humans and owls and all other forest values in a very large area that contains numerous spotted owl home ranges and a very large amount of potential owl habitat. It is clear that the BA/BE and the FEIS arbitrarily ignored the potential for wildfires to degrade and/or destroy habitat suitability for California spotted owls.

(2) The BA/BE and ROD fail to consider and disclose the large difference in net result between very limited short term effects of entering suitable habitat for CASPO fuel reduction and the very large scale, long term effects that wildfire is certain to have on that habitat if strategic fuel reduction is not implemented. This failure to strike an appropriate balance between short term disturbance and long term potential for catastrophe apparently led the decision makers and other persons who exerted significant influence on the decision, such as personnel of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, to conclude that insufficient benefit to owl habitat would result from the short term disturbance necessary to implement fuelbreaks in accordance with the CASPO guidelines. Their conclusion was mistaken in at least two ways: First the balance was not properly struck because the fire effects conclusions asserted in the FEIS were not well founded, as explained below; and second because other environmental, social, and economic factors must be weighed in the balance, not just the effects on spotted owl habitat.

(3) Inadequate and misused fire modeling was a major cause for the inappropriate and illegal imposition of the mitigation. The Forest Service failed to insure the professional and scientific integrity of its EIS (40 CFR 1502.24) by the inappropriate use and interpretation of fire models.

(a) Although Appendix J of the FEIS (posted after the decision date on the Forest Service web site for the HFQLG Pilot Project) acknowledges that improved fire suppression safety, efficiency, and effectiveness are major goals of the strategic fuel reduction program specified in the Act, simulation methods were chosen and implemented that did not consider suppression at all.

(b) Although the FEIS states that 98 percent of acres burn in just one percent of the largest fires, and provides data to indicate that those largest fires averaged about 23,000 acres in size, simulations were arbitrarily limited to burn periods that generally resulted in fire sizes of a few hundred to a few thousand acres. The largest single fire considered by the experimenter to be significant reached 6,545 acres without treatment, and 4,901 acres when one of the fuel reduction treatments was simulated.

(c) Although two kinds of simulation were run, neither of them was capable of producing outcomes of significance. One was conducted on very small fire sizes on a landscape so artificially designed that it could represent no actual fire in any meaningful way. That is, the terrain was flat, fuel loading, wind, and weather were constant across the landscape for the entire period, and no fire suppression was considered. The other simulation was on a “real” landscape with reasonable scenarios for wind and weather, but was run only once, with a subjectively chosen fuel treatment pattern and ignition point, to an inadequate fire size, and without suppression considered.

(d) Although numerical results of the simulations and numerical projections of fire effects are reported in the FEIS, QLG was told in a meeting with the Forest Service weeks after the Record of Decision that the specific projections of effects were not based on the simulations. Instead the “numbers of acres affected” that are found in the FEIS tables in Chapter 3 were based on estimates agreed among several fire managers from QLG area national forests, because early in the process they had found the simulations to be an inadequate base for the conclusions they wished to reach. This reinforces our point (c) above, that the fire modeling was inadequate, and that the EIS report of simulation results amounted to mis-use of that information. The subjective estimates of fire effects were then given numerical form and published in the EIS without meaningful explanation of their source or the method used. Apparently there was no participation by outside fire experts in the creation of these numerical estimates, and no outside review was attempted to validate these estimates or the methods used to make them. The failure to make appropriate use of available simulation methods, but instead to rely very largely on opinion alone, was an inadequate and improper response to the need for the EIS to consider the short and long term effects of constructing the strategic system of fuelbreaks required by the Act, and to compare that strategy against strategies proposed in the other alternatives, because:

(i) A major purpose of the fuelbreak strategy specified in the Act is to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of fire suppression. The DEIS said that it is technically feasible to simulate fire behavior that takes account of suppression capability and the effect on suppression capability of various pre-suppression fuel reduction treatments, but this capability was not exercised in the simulations actually done.

(ii) The focus of the fuelbreak strategy specified in the Act is to reduce the amount of acreage burned in very large high intensity fires. It is technically feasible, with straightforward adjustment of the assumptions fed into the models that were used in the simulations done for the HFQLG EIS, to model much larger fires than were actually simulated, and thus make a meaningful comparison of the fuelbreak strategies and the strategies represented in other alternatives, but these larger fires were not simulated.

(iii) It is proper to employ expert opinion in the interpretation of simulation results, but those simulations need to account for fire suppression and the effect of each strategy on very large fires, and the expert opinion must be broadly based and adequately reviewed. It was not proper, as in this case, to ignore established and available methods of simulation, and depend on opinion, especially when the only opinion sought was that of local Forest Service personnel, without participation or review by other experts readily available within the Forest Service and from other organizations and agencies.

(iv) Highly respected fire experts have published scientific papers supporting the fuelbreak concept, specifically the fuelbreak strategy proposed by QLG, as the best first step in a comprehensive fuel reduction strategy. But from the EIS and its planning file, and from the ROD, it is clear that these readily available experts were not consulted, nor were their published opinions reflected in the EIS and ROD. Forest Service scientists at the Pacific Southwest Research Station have published, in the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Report and elsewhere, evaluations of different landscape-scale approaches to fire and fuels management (see, for example, Weatherspoon and Skinner, SNEP Vol II chapter 56, quoted by QLG in its Comments on the DEIS). The EIS is required to disclose and discuss “all major points of view on the environmental impacts of the alternatives” (40 CFR 1502.9(a) and (b))

 

(e) Some of the numerical values for fire effects published in the Draft EIS showed relatively small differences among the various kinds of fuel reduction treatments in the different alternatives. Considering the highly subjective methods apparently used to establish these numerical estimates, no reliance could legitimately be placed on those results.

(f) Other numerical values regarding fire effects are difficult to credit in any way. For example, Table 3.46 of the FEIS (page 3-105) asserts that there would be zero “Acres burned at reduced intensity in suitable California spotted owl habitat (over 27 years)” as a result of implementing Alternative 2 under the straight CASPO guidelines. This is not a credible statement, given that in five years under Alternative 2 more than 60,000 acres of “suitable” forest types would have received fuel reduction treatments under CASPO restrictions. It is not reasonable to assume that in 27 years none of the treated acres would burn and that none of those burned acres would respond favorably to the fuel reduction treatments by burning at reduced intensity.

(g) In the Final EIS, the fuel treatment prescriptions for Alternatives 3 and 4 were drastically changed, to permit much less thinning of the forest canopy. No analysis was reported which would show the change in fire effects that must be expected from such changes in fuel reduction prescription. Indeed, instead of accounting for the increased susceptibility to crown fire that a dense canopy implies, the FEIS simply repeated DEIS numbers, thereby asserting that there would be no change in fire effects.

(h) When the mitigation was imposed on Alternative 2, no analysis was done or reported that would account for the inevitable change in fire effects, probably an increase in susceptibility of owl habitat to fire damage due to the prohibition of all thinning in suitable owl habitat. Only adverse effects were assumed and asserted. No potential for beneficial effects (or loss due to foregoing beneficial effects) was considered or disclosed.

E. The mitigation was adopted without consideration or disclosure of the adverse social and economic effects of prohibiting resource management activities in the areas affected.

(1) Restriction of the forest types that could be thinned or considered for group selection harvest would have severe adverse impact on the social and economic benefits that require consideration under NFMA, MUSYA, and the HFQLG Act. This impact is quantified in part in Appendix C, “DFPZ Simulations,” of the Final EIS. Three prominent timber strata were selected for analysis: E3N, M3N, and R3N, which are east-side pine, mixed conifer, and red fir, all of them in the size class of small sawtimber, moderately stocked. Under the mitigation, only the E3N type would be available for DFPZ construction or group selection harvest. However, the simulation results show that in E3N stands “the initial treatment ... is not a timber sale opportunity,” whereas in the mixed conifer types such treatments would produce viable timber sales if such treatment could be done instead of being prohibited by the mitigation.

(2) The adverse effects of prohibiting DFPZ construction and group selection harvest in major west side timber types would include:

(a) Direct loss of employment and other economic activity due to reduced volume of timber produced.

(b) Indirect adverse impact on other employment and economic activity, with associated social problems due to unemployment and other loss of economic opportunity.

(c) Reduced forest reserve revenues to county governments for road and school funding.

(d) Increased federal costs due to the need for a greater proportion of the early work to be done by service contracts instead of a mix of service contracts and timber sales.

(e) Increased federal costs due to the need for early work to be almost entirely to the east side, then later to shift the center of effort back to the west side, assuming new permanent rules would eventually permit adequate west side operations. At the very least, this persistent imbalance in location of the major effort would compromise the ability of the Forest Service to deploy its workforce efficiently and it would involve extra costs for transportation and temporary assignments.

(3) None of the above effects, or any other potential social or economic effects of the mitigation, were considered and disclosed in the FEIS or ROD, as required by NFMA, NEPA, and their implementing regulations.

F. It is not justified to impose this mitigation “until a new spotted owl habitat management strategy is released.”

(1) The Sierra Nevada Framework process has been delayed several times and is not at all certain to produce the permanent guidelines within a reasonable time.

(2) If the Sierra Nevada Framework does produce permanent guidelines, then:

(a) if the delay is short, there would be no harm in implementing the straight CASPO guidelines for that period, because in that case relatively few acres could be so treated, and

(b) if the delay is long, or the permanent guidelines become permanently stalled, it is not appropriate to impose on this Pilot Project the revised guidelines effectively established in the mitigation, because:

(i) Imposing the mitigation would amount to a premature pre-emptive decision that properly must be reached at regional level and is now in process through the Sierra Nevada Conservation Framework EIS.

(ii) It would subject the HFQLG Pilot Project to guidelines not applicable anyplace else in the region, thus tending to invalidate the applicability of results obtained from the demonstration and monitoring required by the Act.

(iii) As noted earlier, it would prevent implementation of the Pilot Project as intended and specified by Congress in the Act. Neither full implementation nor cost-effective implementation could be achieved. No valid demonstration of the fuelbreak strategy could be conducted at landscape scale.

(iv) It would prevent achievement of the Community Stability benefits specified in the Act and the QLG Community Stability Proposal. Even relatively short delays in initiating a fully balanced implementation of the Pilot Project would have great adverse effects on key forest-related businesses in the area, and destroy components of local infrastructure that are essential to successful long-term sustainability of these forests, no matter what resource management strategy is finally adopted.

7. Relief Requested: QLG seeks immediate removal of the mitigation from the ROD, based on consideration of the points raised above and a re-evaluation of the potential to employ a strategic system of defensible fuelbreaks (DFPZs) to reduce the probability and hazard of very large high-intensity wildfires on California spotted owl habitat. Such re-evaluation should include adequate modeling and analysis that considers the potential size, intensity, and duration of very large fires, as well as the effect of improved suppression efficiency and effectiveness that would be the probable result of having a strategic system of fuelbreaks in place before a large fire occurs. An explanation of this strategy and the effects to be expected from its implementation is provided in Forest Service documentation of the Pilot Project EIS for the first time in the version of Appendix J that was posted on the HFQLG Pilot Project web site several weeks after the ROD signature date.

Considering the time-critical nature of the adverse impacts of the mitigation, especially the adverse effects on social and economic well-being in the affected area, QLG requests the quickest possible action in processing this appeal and removing the mitigation.

QLG specifically does NOT seek a stay of implementation or a remand for reconsideration of the entire EIS, but only removal of the mitigation quoted above, which was published for the first time in the Record of Decision. QLG urgently requests the Forest Service to begin implementation of the Pilot Project as quickly as possible, in all ways and on all areas where it can begin while the above identified deficiencies in the ROD are being corrected.

Respectfully submitted on behalf of the Quincy Library Group,

 

Linda L. Blum Edward C. Murphy

Corresponding Secretaries

January ,(, /),(