The Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision (FEIS and ROD) violate the Organic Act, MUSY, RPA, NFMA, NEPA, and their implementing regulations. Individual violations of these laws and regulations comprise numerous separate and cumulative violations of the Administrative Procedures Act. The FEIS and ROD also violate the Herger-Feinstein QLG Forest Recovery Act by interfering on specious grounds with implementation of the HFQLG Pilot Project required to be completed at a specified scale and pace by the Act.
The FEIS and ROD violate provisions of the Organic Act, MUSY, RPA, and NFMA by failing to consider as significant goals the production of a continuous supply of timber or favorable conditions of water flows. They do not maximize long term net public benefit in an environmentally sound manner. They do not form one integrated plan. They do not reflect the use of a systematic, interdisciplinary approach to ensure coordination and integration of planning activities for multiple-use management. The Decision instead would result in "few issue" or even "single issue" management, not multiple use management. Implementation of the Decision would not be in a manner that is sensitive to economic efficiency. The FEIS and Decision repeatedly sacrifice the economic efficiency that could be attained with multi-product sales and timber production that are fully justified under the FEIS analysis, and instead impose management options that employ more costly service contracting and increase the risk and hazard of wildfires, thus assuring the continued escalation of suppression costs and loss of high value resources. The Decision is not consistent with maintaining air quality at a level that is adequate for the protection and use of National Forest System resources. In this process the Regional Forester usurped decision making authority assigned by law to Forest Supervisors.
The FEIS and ROD violate NEPA in that significant environmental effects were not revealed to public officials and citizens before the decision was made and the information provided was not of high quality and based on accurate scientific analysis and expert agency comments. The FEIS is often not concise, clear, and to the point, and it is not supported by evidence that necessary environmental analyses were made. The actions proposed would be detrimental to the quality of the human environment, not restore and enhance it. Professional and scientific integrity were not insured, but were instead sacrificed to other agendas and motives.
The FEIS and ROD violate the Administrative Procedures Act in that key intermediate decisions and the cumulative final Decision were arbitrary and capricious, were in excess of the deciding official's statutory authority, and did not observe procedure required by law. Analyses provided to the Regional Forester by the Forest Service Inter-Disciplinary Team (ID Team) regarding projected environmental, economic, and social effects of the alternatives do not support a logical choice of alternative 8-modified (8-mod) as the alternative to be implemented. Numerous procedural violations of NFMA and NEPA regulations in the SNFPA process also constitute violations of the APA.
The FEIS and ROD violate the Herger-Feinstein QLG Forest Recovery Act in that the Decision places arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable restrictions on management activities, and these restrictions make it impossible for the Pilot Project to be implemented in the manner and at the scale and pace specified in the Act.
Spotted Owls. The CASPO Report of 1993
recommended "interim guidelines" for timber management in
Sierran national forests that would retain forest structures known to be
important to spotted owls, and aggressively reduce forest fuels to
protect the existing old growth/owl habitat from loss to severe
wildfire. The interim guidelines were substantially different from
conservation strategies recommended for the northern spotted owl in five
(1) There is no evidence to suggest that California spotted owls have suffered the dramatic decline in numbers (perhaps 60 percent) that northern spotted owls have.
The SNEP Report also highlighted the fire threat to Sierran forests and suggested five goals for national forest management:
(1) rebuilding late-successional forests,
How do the SNFPA FEIS and ROD perform in implementing the CASPO and SNEP findings and recommendations? One concept in both the CASPO and SNEP reports is active management to rebuild late successional forests and reduce the threat of lethal fire effects to large old trees and forest canopies. But the concept of active management, particularly mechanical removal of fuels, is not endorsed — indeed, is barely tolerated — by the SNFPA FEIS and ROD. In disregard of recent history the Forest Service, under influence of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has concluded that fire is not enough of a threat to owls to implement the management program originally recommended by the owl scientists. The FEIS and ROD attempt instead to finesse the problem with an untried theory of strategic fuel reduction that cannot be implemented under the rules adopted and would not do the job if it were implemented.
Both the Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service omitted critical information from their analyses.
(1) Spotted owls in PACs and SOHAs have not been assessed or monitored in any systematic way since the adoption of the CASPO Interim guidelines in 1993; and
(2) No cause-and-effect relationship has been established between the forest management methods specified in this Decision and spotted owl population viability.
The CASPO Report said it clearly, and no established science has changed that statement of the situation:
Unfortunately, the Forest Service failed to conduct the necessary research and "obtain and keep current inventory data appropriate for planning and managing the resources" (NFMA 219.12(d)) related to California spotted owls.
If the Forest Service has valid scientific support for the proposed spotted owl management in any of the alternatives, it had an obligation to disclose it. In fact the FEIS provides no references to support these elements of the alternatives:
(1) selection of landscape-scale old forest desired conditions (FEIS Vol1, Ch2, pg8);
(2) "reserves (saving natures legacy, ecological basis of conservation" (ibid.);
(3) quantity, quality, and spatial arrangement of habitat to sustain viable populations of old forest associated species (ibid.); and
(4) rate and means used to reduce fire hazard (FEIS Vol1, Ch2, pg9).
The California spotted owl conservation strategy fails to satisfy NEPA and NFMA procedures in that it was not developed in an integrated and interdisciplinary manner, which led to mutual inconsistencies between owl habitat direction, fire and fuels objectives, and riparian standards and guidelines. Well before the Decision, several such problems were identified by the Washington Office Review Team, the hastily conducted Science Consistency Check, and numerous individual PSW and academic scientists working with the Framework staff. The unfinished state of the owl management strategy and the disarray of opinion among Forest Service staff and outside scientists on this subject is shown by numerous entries in the planning record.
Furthermore, because there was no supplemental draft EIS circulated to the public containing the spotted owl conservation strategy and other non-circulated portions of the EIS prior to adoption of the FEIS, the SNFPA ROD violates NEPA’s public disclosure and comment requirements.
In spite of redrafting and adjusting the selected alternative until the last few days before the Record of Decision was signed, the California spotted owl conservation strategy is still incoherent, incompatible with other resource directions, and violates NEPA by having not been circulated for public review and comment prior to adoption.
Fire and Fuels. Strategic fuel reduction for protection from high intensity wildfire is a pivotal issue in the FEIS, but among the action alternatives considered, the adopted alternative 8-mod is well below average in providing that fuel reduction. In projections of Wildfire Acres 8-mod makes little or no change in the current rate of loss over the whole 14 decade analysis period [Appeal Appendix B, pg 1]. For Lethal or Stand Replacement Acres Burned, 8-mod is one of only three action alternatives that would cause greater loss to lethal wildfire, as much as 1/3 more than the current loss [Appeal Appendix B, pg 2].
This increase in lethal wildfire is reflected in projections of poor performance by Alt 8-mod on Owl Nesting Habitat, Old Growth Forest, Large Trees, Very Large Trees, and Large Hardwoods [Appeal Appendix B, pgs 3 to 8].
In contrast, other alternatives (e.g. Alt 4) show early, significant, and persistent reductions in lethal fire and better results for owl habitat and old growth forest characteristics.
In fact, Alt 8-mod would not actually deliver even the dismal performance projected for it as a fuel reduction strategy, primarily for three reasons:
(1) The SNFPA fuel reduction strategy is overly-dependent on an untried theoretical concept called Strategically PLaced Area Treatments (SPLATs) that could not work as advertised, even if it were applied to the landscape according to the SPLAT specifications.
(2) The standards and guidelines specified in the Decision do not require SPLATs to meet the theoretical requirements of the strategy.
(3) In any case, those standards and guidelines would not permit enough SPLATs actually to be implemented and placed correctly on the landscape to provide adequate protection, even if the theory could work and were otherwise implemented correctly.
The ID Team and the decision maker were given ample warning by Forest Service experts and outside commenters that fuel reduction was a high priority issue and that the SPLAT strategy was not an adequate response. [See Appeal Appendices E and J for expert opinion, and F for QLG comment on the SPLAT strategy.]
Because the SPLAT strategy would not work, and in any case is not proposed at a scale or pace that would be adequate, the Decision also fails to be consistent with the national Cohesive Strategy for fuel reduction. The FEIS doesn't give straight-forward numbers on the fuel reduction acreage the Cohesive Strategy requires to be treated or on the acreage proposed for treatment, but our best estimates for both numbers from partial information provided in the FEIS and the planning record show that the Decision would implement less than half the fuel reduction required by the Cohesive Strategy [details in Appeal Appendix I]. Furthermore, as noted above, the treatments actually proposed in the FEIS would not be as effective in reducing the risk and hazard of wildfire as is contemplated in the Cohesive Strategy and by the House and Senate committees that authorized funding for effective large scale fuel reduction.
Timber Management. The FEIS fails to provide a range of timber
producing alternatives in compliance with the Organic Act, other
applicable law, and NFMA regulations. California currently imports
approximately 76% of the 8 billion board feet of wood products consumed
annually by its residents. The FEIS shrugs off this fact with the
inconsequential comment, "Imported logs and lumber from Canada and
South America have been meeting the demands for wood products"
Importing this volume of wood instead of properly managing and
harvesting readily available timber and biomass resources within
California national forests has at least these significant adverse
(1) Loss of primary jobs and local economic opportunities in logging, timber processing and lumber milling.
a. Delay in implementing fuel reduction and/or curtailment of the fuel reduction program, with consequent increase in local wildfire hazards and loss of critical watersheds and wildlife habitats.
In adopting this FEIS and ROD, the Forest Service has failed to recognize that sustaining a viable industrial infrastructure is not just an economic and social issue any more, it has become a vital ecological necessity. Without a healthy and competitive industry with a capacity to remove and process the increasing volume of excess biomass that now threatens our national forests, there is no hope to accomplish the necessary fuel reductions and silvicultural treatments that will make our national forests truly safe and sustainable. And without the offsetting revenues from an economically viable timber component in the fuel reduction program, there is little hope of obtaining the continued appropriations that would be needed to pay for fuel reduction at the scale and pace specified in the national Cohesive Strategy and other policy statements. Far from being "sensitive to economic efficiency" as required by NFMA, the FEIS and ROD generate the highest costs while implementing the least effective and productive methods of fuel reduction in the alternatives considered.
Riparian Area Management. The SNEP report found that:
(1) Aquatic/riparian systems are the most altered and impaired habitats of the Sierra, and that dams and diversions throughout most of the Sierra Nevada have profoundly altered stream-flow patterns (timing and amounts of water) and water temperatures, with significant impacts to aquatic biodiversity. Native fish populations have been severely reduced or have gone locally extinct, especially at low elevations, primarily as a consequence of dams and introduction of non-native fish species.
(2) Many Sierran ecosystem declines are due to lack of institutional capacities to capture and use resources from Sierran beneficiaries for investment that sustains the health and productivity of the ecosystems from which benefits derive. This is due to fragmented control of ecosystems, absence of exchange mechanisms to sustain rates of investment and cooperative actions, detachment between those who control ecosystems and communities that depend upon and care for them, and inflexibility in response to rapid changes in population, economy, and public interest.
(3) Water is the most valuable Sierra Nevada commodity, followed by timber, livestock, and other agricultural products, based on gross revenues. Water accounts for more than 60% of that total value, followed by "other commodities" and "services," each at 20%. Around 2% of all resource values are at present reinvested into the ecosystem or local communities through taxation or revenue sharing arrangements.
The FEIS ignores most of these SNEP findings.
It fails to address the overwhelming role that dams and diversions have in altering the riparian areas, much less how to ameliorate their more negative affects. It completely neglects a discussion on the institutional relationships regarding water, and it does not discuss the growing role that local stream and watershed restoration efforts have assumed throughout the Sierra and particularly in the QLG counties. It ignores SNEP's findings about the value of water, and it fails to note the California energy crisis and the key role that hydroelectric plays in that issue.
Critical Aquatic Refuges. The Final EIS takes the limited concept of Critical Aquatic Refuges (CARs) in the Draft EIS and greatly expands CAR acreage and effect without proper basis, disclosure or rationale. CARs were expanded 76 percent from the DEIS to the FEIS without public disclosure or a basis in analysis. The mapped CARs do not conform to the criteria specified in the FEIS and ROD. The mapping of CARs was inconsistent from forest to forest, because it was left to individual forest biologists without adequate familiarity with the concept or instruction on how to interpret and apply the criteria.
Recreation. The FEIS analysis of public demands for outdoor recreational uses is not adequately documented or easy to follow in the FEIS. There are conflicts in the information presented and in its interpretation.
One effect of the Decision is to shift the allocation of recreational opportunities away from "general use" and make it available only for Primitive and Semi-primitive Non-motorized use.
There is an obvious attempt to justify and sugar-coat this shift of recreational opportunity by statements such as "The fastest growing recreational activities... are, for the most part, low impact and nature-oriented activities" and "Californians have clear preferences for natural, undeveloped, and nature-oriented areas and parks." These claims are directly contradicted by information and other discussion in that section of the FEIS. The fastest growing uses are said to include downhill skiing, visiting historic places, sight-seeing and biking, none of which is a "primitive" or "undeveloped" use, whereas the slowest growing uses include rafting, backpacking, and primitive camping. The FEIS sets a management program in direct opposition to the actual recreation trends it claims to be supporting.
The FEIS methods of projecting recreation usage for future decades seems straightforward, but our computation of usage projected for the current decade using those methods comes out different from the FEIS numbers by about 17 percent, which means something in the FEIS analysis is a lot more obscure than it seems to be or actually should be.
There are direct inconsistencies in supposedly simple hard facts from one place to another in the FEIS discussion of recreation. For example, on one chart the 1996 total of Individual Visitor Days for "Resorts" (including group camps, lodging resorts, and recreational residences) is 4.145 million IVDs, while in another place it says "Recreation resident use accounted for 6.9 million visitors in 1996."
Finally, nothing in the Recreation section indicates a methodology or its application that would actually determine the "supply" of recreational opportunities that are feasible or are being made available by any of the Alternatives or the Decision. Historic "demands," adjusted by growth factors, are treated as if they were the available "supply" at some future date, without any showing of how that equivalency is established or justified. Most enterprises are founded on a clear understanding that supply and demand are two different things. That logic does not apply in this FEIS and ROD.
The underlying fallacy of the FEIS regarding recreation is the strong implication that recreation is going to save the Sierra Nevada, particularly the northern Sierra Nevada, from the economic devastation that would accompany the shutdown of its remaining timber and milling industry. There is nothing credible in the recreation section of the FEIS to support that theory.
1. Withdraw the ROD and remand with instructions that include:
a. Implement CASPO Interim Guidelines until a new Decision is reached.
b. Initiate fuel reduction in Urban Wildland Intermix Zones at the scale and pace of the Cohesive Strategy, and in DFPZs around communities and across the landscape in the QLG area at the scale and pace stated in the HFQLG Act. It is vital to initiate fuel reduction immediately at maximum scale and pace under the CASPO Interim Guidelines, not wait for the SNFPA process to produce new rules.
2. Issue a Supplemental EIS to correct legal deficiencies and other faults in the FEIS. This should be done as quickly as possible, but it must be done correctly.
3. Assure full implementation of the HFQLG Pilot Project. The so-called "mitigation" has expired, and it must not be resurrected. The HFQLG FEIS and ROD established a requirement for reconsideration of the mitigation when 18 months passed without new permanent Cal Owl guidelines. The 18 months have passed, and reconsideration should take place as part of this appeal process, with the CASPO Interim Guidelines established as governing the HFQLG Pilot Project until a SNFPA Supplemental EIS and new ROD are properly issued.
4. Support stewardship projects to learn more about land management and the relationship between the community and the land.
5. Issue a new Decision.