Riparian Area Protection.
Violates: NFMA 219.1(a) and 219.4(a)(1) Maximize net public benefits; 219.1(b)(10) Systematic interdisciplinary approach; 219.1(b)(13) Sensitive to economic efficiency; 219.1(b)(14) Responsive to changing social and economic demands; NEPA 1500.1(b) Information must be of high quality; 1500.2(f) Quality of human environment; 1502.8 Plain language; 1502.24 Insure professional integrity; APA Sec 706(2)(A) Arbitrary and capricious.
The FEIS fails to address significant aquatic and riparian issues.
The independent scientists in the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Report to Congress (SNEP) [Wildland Resources Center Report 39, University of California Davis,1996] provided a Summary document that reviewed their findings. The Quincy Library Group, in scoping and DEIS comments, referred to SNEP and its findings on water and riparian areas. Excerpts from the SNEP Summary (pages 3, 4 & 8) follow:
Aquatic Habitats. The aquatic/riparian systems are the most altered and impaired habitats of the Sierra.
Stream Flow. Dams and diversions throughout most of the Sierra Nevada have a 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.
Institutional Incapacities. Many Sierran ecosystem declines are due to institutional incapacities to capture and use resources from Sierran beneficiaries for investment that sustains the health and productivity of the ecosystems from which benefits derive.
Sources of Institutional Incapacities. Institutional incapacities arise from four primary sources: (1) fragmented control of ecosystem among different jurisdictions, authorities, and ownerships, (2) absence of exchange mechanisms among these entities to sustain rates of investment and cooperative actions that reflect ecosystem values, (3) detachment between those who control ecosystems and communities that depend upon and care for them, and (4) inflexibility in response to rapid changes in population, economy, and public interest. Existing institutional capacities and arrangements do not adequately support planning and management at the Sierra-wide scale for issues whose natural scales are at that level. Interwoven patterns of private and public land ownership in portions of the Sierra Nevada create conditions that impede the attainment of management objectives because of the difficulty of merging divergent goals across a landscape.
Ecosystem-Based Revenues. Water is the most valuable commodity, followed by timber, livestock, and other agricultural products, based on gross revenues. The Sierra Nevada ecosystem produces approximately $2.2 billion worth of commodities and services annually, based on estimates of direct resource values (not the total revenue produced by resource-dependent activities). Water accounts for more than 60% of that total value, followed by other commodities totaling 20%, and services also totaling 20%. Public timber and private recreation are the largest net contributors of funds to county governments both in total dollars and as a percentage of their total value. 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, and
The FEIS completely neglects a discussion on the institutional relationships regarding water, and
The FEIS does not discuss the growing role that local stream and watershed restoration efforts have assumed throughout the Sierra and particularly in the QLG counties, and
It ignores SNEP's findings about the value of water, and
The FEIS discussion on energy related issues (Vol 2, Ch.3, Part 5.9) neglects the prospective economic values and current environmental detriments of hydroelectric power to the ecosystem, and
The FEIS, published in January, 2001, fails to note the California Energy Crisis and the key role that hydroelectric plays in that issue.
Unjustified Expansion of Critical Aquatic Refuges in the FEIS.
The Final EIS takes the limited concept of Critical Aquatic Refuges (CARs) displayed in the Draft EIS and greatly expands CAR acreage and effect without proper basis, disclosure or rationale.
-- The criteria stated in the FEIS for CARs were not accurately applied when mapping the CARs adopted in the Decision.
-- CARs' area was expanded from between 495,000 to 556,000 acres in the draft to 981,000 acres in the final (a 76 percent increase). This expansion was carried out in the FEIS without adequate disclosure to the public of either the basis or analyses for the expansions.
-- Draft EIS CARs were relatively narrowly drawn to protect existing threatened species populations. In the final, opinion-based guesses at historical populations were the basis for most of the territorial designations.
-- Management activities in the CAR need Landscape/Watershed analysis in both the draft and final EIS. The final, however, (in contrast with the draft) would require that aquatic goals be considered as the basis for management activities. This constitutes an improper narrowing to single issue management on approximately 8 % of the Sierra Nevada forests, more than 30 % on some individual forests.
-- The data disclosed in the Final are inconsistent with known Threatened and Endangered species ranges.
Critical Aquatic Refuges
Definition. The FEIS calls for a system of Critical Aquatic Refuges (CARs) throughout the Sierra, amounting to just less than 1 million acres. These watersheds or subwatersheds are according to the FEIS,
"small watersheds that contain either
-- Known locations of TES species, or
-- Highly vulnerable locations of native plants/animals or
-- Localized populations of rare native aquatic or riparian dependent plant or animal species."
The role of the CAR is to "preserve, enhance, restore or connect habitats for species at the local level and to ensure the viability of aquatic or riparian dependent species.
... The goal of sustaining and enhancing habitat... will guide management activities within CARs. ...Management activities within CARs would only [emphasis added] occur after a landscape condition assessment has been completed, the project is consistent with the RCOs [Riparian Conservation Objectives], and contributes to attaining ACS goals across the landscape." [FEIS V 4. App. I-52]
A similar prescription is contained elsewhere in the FEIS (V. 1, Ch.2, p.175).
"Existing activities and uses in the CARs would be evaluated during landscape and project-level analysis. Those that were found inconsistent with RCOs would be either mitigated or removed. New projects and activities in CARs would be inconsistent with RCOs [Riparian Conservation Objectives]. New activities, such as development of dams and diversions or mineral extraction , would generally not be appropriate within CARs."
Finally, the FEIS blankets the CARs with the restrictions imposed on the much narrower Riparian Conservation Areas (RCAs). These zones around water features (e.g. 300 feet on each side of perennial stream, 150 feet on each side of seasonal stream, etc.) are the highest form of riparian and aquatic protection. The FEIS states: "CARs are managed as RCAs; standards and guidelines that apply to RCAs also apply to CARs" (V.1, Ch.2, p. 175). These RCA guidelines require the broadest level of interagency review (including outside peer review) prior to management activities.
Area of CARs.
There are 63 CARs in the FEIS on the eleven national forest units. The CARs range in size from 339 acres to 64,497 acres. The largest contribution to CARs is the Plumas National Forest with 295,880 acres, followed by the Sequoia (199,280), Inyo (170,320), Modoc (123,732) and Stanislaus National Forests (92,450). The CARs total 981,834 acres. These totals are the sum of individual CARs from FEIS Appendix I, where the CARs are mapped without relationship to each other or in Sierra-wide context. Therefore the reader is not made aware of the cumulative or landscape effect of the CARs across the Sierra Nevada or within the individual forests.
The total CAR NF acreage is incorrectly defined in the FEIS narrative at 556,000 for Alternatives 2 and 8 and 839,000 acres in modified Alternative 8, the chosen narrative (FEIS, V. 1, Ch. 2-74).
Rationales for the CARs.
Various rationales are given for the establishment of any particular CAR. The narrative above ('definition') defines the CAR locales as those sites that have ' known locations of TES, highly vulnerable locations of native species and localized populations of rare native aquatic or riparian dependent plant or animal species'. This description tends to limit the establishment criteria for CARs to sites where species of concern currently exist.
The narratives for the individual CARs (FEIS Appendix I) take a significantly broader view of CAR criteria. For example, there are twelve (12) CARs on the Plumas National Forest. Yet, only three of these CARs have current populations of the TES (106 k acres or 34 % of the total on the Plumas). Only one site notes anything greater than a "small population". Five of the other CARs are predicated on "historic" occupancy by TES (111k acres). Four of the sites are named as CARs because they are "habitat included in the recovery plan," sometimes "based on historic sighting," sometimes not. (FEIS V. 4, App. I-57).
Configuration of the CARs.
The CARs were allegedly to be "small watersheds" or subwatersheds (see definition above). This implies both hydrologic continuity and compactness. The configuration of the CARs in the FEIS is not consistent with these two concepts.
For example, the largest CAR on the Plumas NF (Bucks at 54 thousand acres) was intended to "provide habitat primarily within the Bucks Lake Wilderness for a small population of mountain yellow legged frogs" [FEIS V. 4, App I-56]. The Wilderness area was established in 1984 at 21,000 acres by Congress. Yet the Bucks CAR doubles that acreage amount without any further explanation. The CAR is not primarily in the Wilderness area, but outside of it, and the CAR contains portions of four subwatersheds and so does not meet the tests for either compactness or hydrologic continuity.
The Lakes Basin CAR is 33 thousand acres on national forest lands based on "historic occupancy." While it contains the PNF portion of the Sierra crest that has many alpine lakes, this CAR also extends down thousands of feet in elevation into the Middle Fork Feather River drainage. It also contains three towns (Graeagle, Blairsden and Mohawk). There is no apparent hydrologic or habitat continuity and it is not compact.