QLG Appeal Appendix A. 

  Washington Office Review and Interdisciplinary Team Reply.

  This appendix reproduces two documents from the Sierra Nevada Framework Administrative Record (the “Planning File”): 

  A-1.  Talking Points -- WO SNFP Review Team.  Prepared by the Review Team Leader for a meeting and conference call 8/21/2000.  (Filename: \science\final\out\Talking_Points_id1679.pdf)

  A-2.  Recommendations for the Sierra Nevada Framework:  SNCF ID Team response to the National Review Team's Report.  8/29/2000.  (Filename \science\final\out\Recommendations_for_the_Sierra_Nevada_Framework4\id1671.pdf)

QLG Comments on the two documents:

1.  The SNFPA Draft EIS contained numerous errors and omissions that the responsible Forest Service officials and specialists knew would be fatal to any Decision based on a Final EIS that did not correct those errors and omissions. 

  1-a.  According to the WO Review Team, there were “Serious problems that will most likely lead to failures in

Understandability -- important team concern.

        Defensibility -- scientific, logical, legal -- important team concern.

        Meeting public expectations.



        Others.” [Appendix A-1, pg 1]

The WO Review Team listed Findings - Areas for Improvement.

        Alternative structure.

        Overall Vision.

        Linkages to Science base -- SNEP.

        Fire and Fuels.

        Adaptive management.


        Aquatic conservation strategy.

        Species effects.

        Economic and social analysis.   [Appendix A-1, pgs 4-6]

Three options for correcting the problems were laid out, along with probable consequences of taking that option:

     Option A:  Continue -- will not be understandable or defensible.

     Option B:  Rethink and rewrite... Will be more understandable but very likely will not be fully defensible.

     Option C:  Redesign and reanalyze... This is only the minimum that would be required to have a high likelihood of surviving scientific and legal challenges.

That is, the WO Review Team stated unequivocally that only Option C would result in a viable Final EIS on which to base a Decision.  Other options are “indefensible.”

  The options for each issue were then summarized in 3 x 3 arrays of boxes:  The action options A, B, and C were described in three boxes, then for each option a box for the effort and time required (e.g. underway, minor, or major effort, the number of months or years, and whether within or outside the “deadline”), and a box for the probable effect on the Final EIS (e.g. a question mark or greater credibility and/or defensibility).

 Virtually every B and C option was said to require “major” effort, and every option C except one required a time that went beyond the “deadline.”

  The Talking Points ended with a summary of “overarching concerns” that include:

Consequences of not ensuring science quality (i.e. Challenges in court;  Appearance of a pre-ordained choice;  Lack of clear science-based direction;  Working relationships between science community and the NFS).

     Influence of politically-driven incremental deadlines -- “groupthink” leading to the premature rejection of options and inadequate documentation of non-selection rationale.

        Role of the Science Team.

        Reputation of the SNF to “take advice.”

        Involvement of the Forest planning specialists -- feasibility and adaptive management planning.

        Availability of SNF team people to rework the analysis.

        Tradeoffs involved in meeting deadline vs. ensuring quality.  (i.e. Administration opinions (existing and incoming);  Litigation;  Public expectations and opinion;  Organizational implementation -- NFS and Research;  Additional analyses -- “do-overs” and costs;  and Interagency relations.

        Sequential dependencies in the tasks of revision.  -- vision feeds dfc feeds SG feed modeling feeds effects.  How long does it take to do this job ???   [Appeal Appendix A-1, pgs 10-11]

1-b.  The SNFP ID Team agreed with the WO Team assessment of the DEIS.  “The national review team has concluded that significant improvements would need to be made before a credible, defensible decision for the Sierra Nevada could be made.  We concur.”  [Appeal Appendix A-2, pg 2]

2.  QLG Comments on Appeal Appendix A-1.

  The WO Review is reasonably comprehensive and very much to the point.  QLG fully concurs that the Draft EIS was fatally flawed and can only be fixed by an effort approximating Option C for each of the issues identified by the WO Team.

3.  QLG Comments on Appeal Appendix A-2.

The “recommendations” made by the SNCF ID Team in response to the WO Review are wholly inadequate to address the issues raised by the WO Team or to remedy the flaws identified by the WO Team.  Subsequently there was further slippage, because the ID Team's descriptions of their intended actions do not match what they actually produced in the FEIS and ROD.  In the following discussion of individual issues, we assume that meaningful implementation of Option C will almost always require implementation of Option B as well, since the WO descriptions of C imply the necessity of including the preliminary or coordinate actions described in B.

Regarding Alternative Structure [A-2, pg 3], the ID Team claims to be implementing Option A with components of B.  For Option B, the WO Team said “Develop best estimates of historical conditions at the landscape and stand level.  Use these as referenced conditions against which to judge alternatives.”  The ID Team converted this to “Historical conditions vision,” and, whatever “historical conditions vision” might mean, the FEIS fails to provide meaningful descriptions of historical conditions at the landscape and stand level, and makes few if any direct comparisons for each alternative. 

The ID Team then makes an incomprehensible statement:  “If necessary, based on public comment, develop another alternative and do a supplemental EIS. (11/00)”  How did they expect to do a supplemental EIS by November 2000?  They did develop another alternative, Mod-8, and in it they made enough changes -- without public notice or opportunity for comment -- that a supplemental EIS was legally required, but they didn't do it.

Regarding Linkage to SNEP [A-2, pg 3], the ID Team claims to be implementing Option C, i.e. B plus a science consistency check.  The WO version of B is “Document references to SNEP findings in a separate chapter.  Describe rationale for adoption/non-adoption of SNEP recommendations.”  The FEIS fails to provide a separate chapter on SNEP references, and provides no significant rationale for accepting or rejecting SNEP recommendations.  The WO version of C requires the science consistency check on aquatics, economics, species, fire, old forest, and other sections of the EIS.  According to comments of the scientists involved, the so-called science consistency check of November 2000 was not conducted on a reasonably complete draft of the Final EIS (much less the draft ROD), in any case too little time was allowed for completion of a valid science check, and the questions the scientists were asked to evaluate were not sufficiently specific on subject matter to cover the issues itemized by the WO Team.

Regarding Fire and Fuels [A-2, pg 3], the ID Team claims to be implementing a modified Option C.  The WO Team said B included “Describe fuels management alternatives not considered in detail and document rationale for non-selection...” and C was to “Construct a range of fire loss reduction strategies...”  The ID Team says “We are featuring all types of fuels treatments and we are considering a range of fire loss scenarios and a range of strategies to deal with them.  Fuel management strategies are being described with their associated uncertainties and risk.  Effects analysis will clearly display those uncertainties.”  Perhaps they “considered” a range of fire loss scenarios and a range of strategies to deal with them, but if so the detailed descriptions required by the WO version of C did not make it into the Final EIS.  The FEIS also fails to document the rationale for dropping all strategies other than SPLATs in any forested areas outside the urban intermix zone.

Regarding Adaptive Management [A-2, pg 4].  The ID Team claims to be implementing a modified Option C, “Develop an adaptive management strategy, appropriate for each alternative, that addresses key elements with their associated risk and uncertainties.  The strategies identify triggers that initialize changes in management activities...”  The WO version of B included “Set up testing of fire/fuels strategies in key watersheds in each forest.”  The FEIS fails to require those fire/fuels tests, and it does not provide anything like a complete set of  “triggers that initialize changes in management activities.”

Regarding Modeling [A-2, pg 4].  The ID team claims to be implementing Option B with an expanded sensitivity analysis.  The WO team specified “Document existing assumptions and rationale and do a limited sensitivity analysis at selected finer scale.  Overview of linkages, reorganize in central place, highlight assumptions, devalue models in effects analysis, some sensitivity analysis.”  The Id Team says they will “...do a thorough job documenting assumptions, parameters and model limits.”  In fact the FEIS is practically devoid of such documentation. Assumptions, to the extent they are reported at all, are buried, not highlighted.  For most tabulations and graphs in the FEIS that are based on modeling output, it is not possible to tell with any assurance what the headings and labels actually mean, and there are obvious but unexplained inconsistencies from table to table and graph to graph.  Such an important but seemingly simple fact as whether the projected fuel treatment acres for a decade of a particular prescription are “initial” or “retreatment” cannot be determined from any combination of the FEIS tables and graphs.

Regarding Aquatic Conservation Strategy [A-2, pg 5].  The ID Team comes as close as it ever does to laying out a program in compliance with their stated option, B.  But the FEIS introduced a whole new land allocation, Critical Aquatic Reserves, without notice or opportunity for public comment.  These CARs were not designated by a process that provided consistency across the Sierra Nevada national forests, but instead the FEIS turned over mapping of the CARs to individual Forest biologists without sufficient oversight.  The result is a huge variation from CAR to CAR and from forest to forest, in terms of their compliance with criteria stated in the FEIS.

Regarding Species Effects [A-2, pg 5]. The ID Team claims to be implementing Option B with modification of the scope of the species.  Somehow this “scope of the species” is further described as relating to “controversial species.”  This is a term we haven't heard before in any science-based discussion, and we doubt it has any legitimate standing.  However, it does accurately characterize the overt politicization of the “consultations” between the Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the very few “controversial” species that have completely dominated the whole SNCF effort, the Final EIS and the Decision.  The ID Team has not “documented the rationale for selection of certain species for greater level of analysis than others,” they have simply asserted it without much of a rationale or any significant documentation. 

Regarding Economic and Social Impacts [A-2, pg 6].  The ID Team says it is doing Option A with some of C.  In fact, so little of C is actually represented in the FEIS that even the modest changes that they claim were not actually produced.  There is no real analysis of the economic and social impacts of catastrophic fire, aside from some of the direct costs and losses to the Forest Service

5.  Apparent Reason for Non-Compliance with the Washington Office Recommendations.

The sticking point was obviously the “deadline” of December 2000 for publication of the FEIS and ROD.  What was the basis for that entirely self-imposed deadline?  To the best of our knowledge, no rationale has been clearly stated, so it is necessary to infer the motive from context.  Appendix A-1 [pg 11] mentions “Tradeoffs involved in meeting deadline vs. ensuring quality” that include “Administration opinions (existing and incoming)” and “Public expectations and opinion.”  Appendix A-2 [pg 8]  mentions the “...costs of disappointment and dismay that certain stakeholders will feel if we choose to delay the decision.”

Those “reasons” ring true as hints of what really happened, but they hardly amount to a persuasive rationale for rushing the decision in defiance of professional advice from the highest level of the Forest Service.  The Regional Forester opted for speed and near-certain expensive failure, in order to placate “certain stakeholders,” when his professional and public steward obligations demanded taking the time to assure a high-quality enduring return on the huge cumulative investments made by the Forest Service and other public and private agencies in the current EIS, the previous spotted owl efforts, and SNEP.

6.  The Decision is revealed to be arbitrary and capricious.

Appendices A-1 and A-2 reveal that:

The Draft EIS was fatally flawed.

        The Final EIS did not correct the clearly identified flaws.

        Nevertheless, the Decision was rushed through to meet an arbitrary self-imposed deadline.

That sequence is a good working definition of “arbitrary and capricious” decision-making.

[ Appeal Appendices  A-1 and A-2 follow this. ]