The "QLG Bill" -- What it does.

The Lassen NF, Plumas NF, and the Sierraville District of the Tahoe NF.

Neither the Pilot Project nor timber harvesting will be done in Spotted Owl Habitat Areas (SOHAs) or Protected Activity Centers (PACs).

Neither road building nor timber harvesting will be done in "Off Base" or "Deferred" areas of the QLG map.

The "Scientific Advisory Team" (SAT) guidelines shall apply to all Pilot Project activities and timber harvests during the five years of the Project. The SAT Guidelines include more streams and require wider protection zones than previous "standard" guidelines.

Must comply with the Interim Guidelines and with subsequently issued Final Guidelines, whichever is in effect.

A strategic system of defensible fuelbreaks on not less than 40,000 nor more than 60,000 acres per year. These are strips of "thinning from below" fuel reduction (see the photos of fuel reduction elsewhere in the display), each about 1/4 mile wide and containing a road for rapid fire-fighter access (and retreat if necessary). Their purpose is to limit the spread of high intensity wildfire and permit safe and effective suppression efforts against such fires.

Group Selection and Individual Tree Selection. Harvest of small groups of trees (generally to 2 acres each) and individual trees, to achieve an all-age, multi-story, fire resilient forest.

Group Selection on 0.57 percent of the Project area land each year. These small openings make possible new growth of pines, which are otherwise shaded out by today's unnatural growth of white fir and incense cedar on much land that originally grew mostly pines. Individual tree selection may also be used in the Pilot Project.

Riparian Restoration. A program of riparian management, including wide protection zones and riparian restoration projects, consistent with the SAT guidelines (see above).

Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP). Initiate the process to amend or revise the LRMPs, including consideration of one alternative that incorporates the Pilot Project and other aspects of the QLG Community Stability Proposal and makes other changes warranted by NEPA and other applicable laws.

Within 200 days of the law taking effect, the Forest Service will complete and issue a record of decision on an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Pilot Project.

Each year during the Pilot Project, after consulting with QLG, the Forest Service must report on money spent, the acres treated, the economic benefits to local communities, revenues generated, activities scheduled for the following year, and any adverse environmental effects.

After eighteen months, the Forest Service must start compiling a science-based assessment of how effective the Pilot Project is, including watershed monitoring, water release timing, water quality and quantity over the short and long term, and any adverse effects.

At the end of five years, the Forest Service must report to Congress the results of the science-based assessment described above.

Nothing exempts the Pilot Project from any Federal environmental law.

1. The bill will double logging on 2.5 million acres of National Forest. The pilot project area - the Lassen, Plumas and part of the Tahoe NFs - already have the highest cuts in California and under this legislation the cut would increase by 50-100 MMBF.

2. The Forest Service says it will take an additional $83 million to implement the "pilot project". Where will the money be found? Unless there is a specific appropriation this increase in logging will require diverting funding from other forests - most likely other California NFs.

3. Because of the large amount of road-building necessary to implement the QLG program, FS specialists predict a significant increase in erosion and sedimentation. The increased sediment will result in additional costs to Pacific Gas and Election which currently spends about $3 million per year dredging the reservoirs that catch that sediment. These costs will be passed onto rate payers.

4. The bill temporarily protects the roadless areas on the Plumas NF, however, on the Lassen NF there are a number of roadless areas that would be logged under S. 1028 and a large amount of rare Sierra Nevada Mixed Conifer Old Growth would also be at risk.

5. It is highly questionable whether the "fuelbreaks built under timber sales" proposed by the QLG and mandated in the Bill will work. The plan is to reduce forest canopy closure to 30-40%. This will let lots of light into the stands, stimulating the growth of brush and small trees. This will probably increase rather than decrease fire risk. Up to 60,000 acres of such fuelbreaks are mandated by the Bill each year. Point out to the Senator that most seasoned firefighters hate fuelbreaks because they almost never work, are poorly if ever maintained and therefore typically increase fire intensity.

6. We should not legislate pilot projects; rather legislation should result when a pilot project is successful. What will Congress say when a flood of "local consensus groups" want their ideas on forest management legislated? Will this lead to a piecemeal approach to national forest policy? Does this approach undermine the National Forest Management Act?

Help defeat S. 1028, the QLG bill from California or you might have to fight a version of the same thing at home!

 


Response to Haswell

I am very puzzled why the federal agencies do not respond to your request, and why a law is required to allow your program to proceed.

The QLG believes that the legislation is necessary to cause the FS to focus on the concepts of the QLG. While there has been support from all levels of the FS as evidenced by the $1 million in "carryover" funds in 1995 and the $4.7 million Forest Health Pilot project funds from Secretary Glickman in 1996-97, the QLG believes that there has not been adequate effort to implement the fuelbreak strategy. The local FS cite lack of staff and budget and other directives (eg. salvage, range NEPA) that prevents them from accomplishing the QLG's plan.

I am also puzzled why your original legislative language did not have specific reference to NEPA, et al. The final bill mentions these almost as an afterthought, which does not bode well for enforcement or intent, particularly given the very specific harvest targets which make up most of the language of the bill. Why did QLG not emphasize compliance with environmental laws rather than inserting them as an afterthought?

Ironically the original legislative language DID include reference to NEPA and NFMA. I was reviewing QLG documents a couple of nights ago and came across the first draft legislation. I intend to publish the many versions of the bill at some point.

The reason that this language was not continued was apparently politics. It has ALWAYS been the intent and expectation of the QLG that its plan would be implemented within all existing laws. It appears that the sponsors of the bill wanted to use this as a political bargaining chip. The QLG asked about inclusion of this language very early and were told that it is not necessary to state that specific laws would be obeyed because it is a given. They were told that if there were to be exceptions to specific laws then there would be language to the effect of "not withstanding . . . " This tactic has been a considerable source of grief to some QLG members but they seem to understand the need to use it.

I am also concerned that the timber in the QLG does not replace the ASQ in the affected regions. You know, as we all do, that this leaves the door open for flagrant abuse, and I am concerned that QLG did not take a leadership position and request this in the bill.

I am not clear on the above. Basically the QLG does not talk ASQ. They focus on acres treated. Are the QLG planned harvest levels are sustainable for the next 50-100-200 years - I looked, but did not see an analysis over this time frame in your documentation. It seems like you run a severe risk of economic dislocation with the large increases in harvest levels (2-3X?), and then the prospect of a bust.

If you are referring to the 2x harvest levels that opponents claim, they are mistaken. There are 2 QLG documents that address sustainability. First, the Community Stability Proposal calls for rotation ages of 150 years on Site 1 & Site 2 lands and 200 years on Site 3-5 lands. These rotation ages are then averaged (175 years) and applied as annual acreage treatments. The Ballpark Objectives agreement (Agreements webpage) describes this. The QLG has always avoided timber targets. However the industry representatives are always sensitive to having treatments pay for themselves. Actually everyone wants the treatments to pay for themselves but finding the balance and accomplishing this given the need to maintain large trees and limited markets is a challenge. The industry folks focus very strongly on the ratio of sawlogs to biomass in proposed treatment areas.

To shed further light on this discussion; the Friends of Plumas Wilderness who submitted the Conservationist's Alternative to the Plumas National Forest during the land management planning process provided for an annual harvest of 242 mmbf. The Plumas has harvested less than 90mmbf annually since 1993. This year the proposed harvest on the PNF is about 60 mmbf of which less than 20mmbf is green. So the claim of 2-3x the harvest level doesn't tell the whole story. If it were doubled it would still be less than half of the ASQ in the plan and about half of what the Conservationist Alternative produced. The Conservationist's Alternative is basically the same as the Community Stability Proposal which, ironically, was supported by many of the present opponents.

By-the-way the Commodity Alternative selected by the Plumas National Forest provided an annual harvest of about 270 (I think). Not much more than the Amenity Alternative anyway. I fully believe that it is because of this that the industry folks approached the local environmental activists and the rest is history. This is one reason that I don't think there will be many QLGs spawned. It seems that few environmental activists approach this constructively as the Friends of Plumas Wilderness did in the 80's.

The acreage seems excessive with few harvest restrictions: in 5 years, 15% of the land will be "treated". There are no restrictions on high-grading that I could find, which means that the largest trees will go. As I read the language, and not having any maps showing the planned program, the resulting landscape seems fragmented worse that clear cuts, with roads, fire breaks, etc. really chopping up the landscape. Are there maps showing the landscape results over an extended period of time?

There absolutely are restrictions on high-grading. First of all the California Spotted Owl Interim Guidelines exclude trees 30 inches from being harvested and there are basal area distribution and canopy cover provisions. The eventual California Spotted Owl plan will also include large tree retention provisions. Second the environmental activists within the group are adamant about retaining large trees.

The QLG, including the industry folks understand that the real challenge is in the mid-diameter trees "the bump" as they call it in the 15-25 inch range. This is why the program is largely focused on thinning. The group selection prescription is intended to provide better growing conditions for the shade intolerant pines.

The QLG has a map that depicts the landbase (it won't display well on the web in its present format, I have tried it and need to work on it more) and the location of the fuelbreaks as proposed by the FS in what they call the Technical Fuels Report. If you would like to obtain a new QLG map with shaded relief they are available for $40. These are brand new maps that were just released and are printed on an electrostatic plotter. They are approximately 45" long x 36" wide.

To call the landscape fragmented and compare it to clearcuts is a gross mischaracterization. Recall that the intent of the QLG "strategies is to create a forest that will more closely mimic the historic natural landscapes of the Sierra." The QLG further describes the desired condition as "an all-age, multi-story, fire-resistant forest approximating pre- settlement conditions." Basically, the treatments are intended to open up the forest from its present overgrown condition that has resulted from many decades of fire suppression.

The "cost effective" language is bothersome, since this almost always leads to clear cuts. There is no language on rotation age, keeping fire resistant big trees, promoting habitat, riparian values, etc.

The flexibility language originated with the FS and they fully understand that clear cuts are not a part of the QLG plan. They wanted to be able to shift funds between existing accounts and needed additional flexibility to do so. The Bill is very specific about the resource management practices. These include individual tree and group selection and the thinning associated with the fuelbreaks. NO CLEAR CUTS!!!!

I already mentioned the QLG discussion on rotation age and a desired condition that provides for fire resistant trees above. The riparian protections are provided by the Scientific Advisory Teams Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas agreed to by the QLG and referenced directly in the bill. You might want to refer to the bill again.

I may have missed it, but opening up roadless areas to roading (even for fire use) dooms them forever as wilderness. Why did not QLG propose language preserving these areas as wilderness and "roadless" somehow. Also, it seems like we hardly need more aggregate road mileage, just the correct road mileage. Why was mothballing (i.e. closing to the public) of roads not considered - both existing (for fire risk reduction) and new - as is happening now on most forests?

There is NO opening up of roadless areas in the QLG plan or bill. Look at the landbase agreement in the agreements webpage. There you will note the the QLG landbase includes over 600K acres of protected lands (off base or deferred) in addition to the 101K acres of existing wilderness. The offbase and deferred area are fully available under the existing LRMPs but they are now, because of the QLG, fully respected by the FS. This is a fundamental part of the agreement and it is in the bill. Protection of offbase areas has been a very important element of the original agreement. Look at the Barkley documents in the Activities and Accomplishment web page. The QLG pressured the FS not to salvage harvest an area that had burned in a QLG deferred area. This is one of the few areas withdrawn from harvest during PL 104-19.

The forests have been closing roads and another entity (Feather River Coordinated Resources Management group, also widely recognized for its leadership, in this case watershed restoration) in our area has been focusing on the roads as a source of erosion and the need to maintain, restore or retire roads.