Comment Topic Outline

Applicable law

The Notice of Intent and the Design Paper

Concerns About the Planning Process

Concerns About Content of the Plans

Concerns About Implementation

Concerns About Social and Economic Effects on Rural Communities

Relationship of this EIS to the Herger-Feinstein QLG Pilot Project and its EIS

Recommended Action

Quincy Library Group
P.O. Box 1749 Quincy, CA 95971

January 19, 1999

Steve Clausen
EIS Team Leader, USDA Forest Service
Sierra Nevada Framework Project, Room 419
801 “I” Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Mr. Clausen,

These are comments by the Quincy Library Group on the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment EIS (SNCF EIS).

We have four immediate concerns: (1) about the planning process; (2) about the likely content of the plans; (3) about Forest Service capacity and intention (or lack of same) to implement the likely content of the plans; and (4) about social and economic effects of these plans on rural communities in and around Sierra Nevada national forests. These concerns arise in the context of several laws governing national forest purposes, planning to achieve those purposes, and management of plan implementation. We also wish to comment on the relationship of the SNCF EIS to the QLG Pilot Project and its EIS.

Applicable law.

The Organic Act (1897) gives the Forest Service two primary purposes: provide favorable conditions for water flows and a continuous supply of timber.

The Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act (MUSY, 1960) added recreation, wildlife, range, watershed, and fish to the list of purposes, requiring these resources to be managed for sustained yield in perpetuity.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA, 1969) requires comprehensive analysis of proposed federal projects, consideration of the environment (including the human environment) in decision making, and disclosure of decision processes. It provides for public participation in planning, and review of decisions.

The Forest Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act (RPA, 1974) required national forests to develop 5-year assessments for long range planning and budgeting for natural resource management.

The National Forest Management Act (NFMA, 1976) amended RPA to require for each national forest unit a Land Management Plan (LMP) that would determine management systems, harvesting levels, and procedures in light of multiple use and sustained yield as provided in the MUSY Act. Such plans must form “ integrated plan for each unit of the National Forest System, incorporating in one document or one set of documents...” all of the required features. LMPs “shall be revised... from time to time when the secretary finds conditions in a unit have significantly changed...”

The Notice of Intent and the Design Paper.

The Notice of Intent (NOI) of 11/20/98, for the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment Project EIS (the EIS) identifies five problems for action in response to changed circumstances and new information resulting from the report of the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP, 1996-97), the Sierra Nevada Science Review (SNSR, 1998), and the Summary of Existing Management Direction (SEMD, 1998). This is the culmination of a process initiated in 1992 with the California Spotted Owl (CASPO) Technical Report, Interim Guidelines (1993), a Draft EIS (1995), a Revised Draft EIS (1996), and a CASPO Federal Advisory Committee (CSOFAC), 1997.

The process leading to the NOI identified a wide range of issues that meet the NFMA standard for requiring significant LMP amendment, in that they clearly show new conditions in the units that would be affected by this EIS. The NOI says the EIS will be “...part of the overall Sierra Nevada Framework for Conservation and Collaboration [SNCF],” and that it will amend the LMPs for eleven units of the National Forest System (ten National Forests and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit). A “Design Paper” was published concurrently with the NOI “that documents the agency's proposal for addressing concerns outside the scope of the proposed action.” The Design Paper was produced under direction of the same official who signed the NOI, and says the NOI should be read as a companion piece to the Design Paper.

The Design Paper sets out six criteria for inclusion of an issue in the EIS:

1. Anticipated decisions may directly affect the environment (thus must use NEPA).
2. Reports of the SNEP, SNSR, and other literature have established a scientific basis for the need to address the issue in an urgent manner.
3. Issue is a rangewide or multi-forest concern.
4. Problems are not well addressed by other Forest Service work currently ongoing or anticipated to more effectively and immediately present solutions.
5. Concerns can effectively be addressed within a one-year NEPA process.
6. The Forest Service controls an adequate land base to positively (though not necessarily completely) address the issue.

The NOI says the criteria for inclusion were:

1. New scientific information is available about the extent, intensity, or duration of the problem.
2. Geographic scale is broad.
3. Public perception of environmental risk, as judged by the science community, indicates action should be taken now.
4. The problem is not well addressed elsewhere.

The Design Paper also sets out five criteria for not addressing an issue in the EIS, but instead handling it in the context of other Sierra Nevada Framework processes. Issues that:

1. Do not specifically meet the criteria above.
2. Pertain to needed changes in the way the Forest Service conducts business.
3. Pertain to institutional, social, and policy changes in which the Forest Service is only one of many participants.
4. Are of great complexity and require considerable time or “ripening” for full resolution.
5. Are too urgent to wait for completion of the EIS.

Also, the NOI invites comment on the relationship of the SNCF EIS to the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act.

Concerns About the Planning Process.

QLG's major concern about the procedure outlined above is that separating some of the identified major issues from the EIS is not consistent with provisions of the Organic Act and MUSY (which require these issues to be considered as central to Forest Service purposes), or with NFMA (which requires all of these issues to be considered in “one integrated plan” incorporated in “one document or one set of documents” which is identified as the Land Management Plan), or with NEPA (which requires that “When an environmental impact statement is prepared and economic or social and natural or physical environmental effects are interrelated, then the environmental impact statement will discuss all of these effects on the human environment.”). Neither is this process consistent with the Administrative Procedures Act, which requires the decision-making official to implement and abide by all applicable law and regulations during the decision-making process.

A further concern is that the two lists of criteria for inclusion of an issue in the EIS are not well-matched, and thus introduce a note of potential confusion within the Forest Service and for members of the public who wish to analyze these documents and respond to them. It does not help to resolve this confusion when “urgency” is said to be a criterion for both inclusion and exclusion.

The claim that a particular issue is “of great complexity” or is “too urgent” is not sufficient grounds for omitting its full consideration in this EIS. If an issue is urgent, then the EIS must take full account of, and be able to accommodate, whatever quicker solution may actually be achieved. If an issue is complex, then the EIS must do the best it can with the state of knowledge that is available, then a further amendment should be considered when the state of knowledge on that issue permits improvement. Lack of complete knowledge does not justify inaction, and it certainly does not justify failure to account for all such knowledge as exists, limited as it may be, in the process of amending the LMPs.

Specifically, the five “problems identified for action” either omit or provide inadequate forum for at least the issues of vegetation management (in general, other than “old forest”), timber management, developed and dispersed recreation, range management and grazing, water yield (beyond its direct use by other elements of the riparian ecosystem), analysis and resolution of socio-economic issues, and monitoring.

All of these issues are already components of most (if not all) of the eleven National Forest units subject to the EIS, and most of them get major attention. If the proposed EIS fails to address each of these and other pertinent issues, the only justification could be that existing LMP treatment of these issues is considered to be entirely valid and already fully integrated with the issues that are listed for inclusion in the EIS. QLG doubts that such a position can be justified, and urges immediate reconsideration of the criteria for “on” or “off” the EIS list of issues, and considerable broadening of the “on” list.

Specific concerns about the legal sufficiency of this planning process are outlined below.

National Forest planning regulations “set forth a process for developing, adopting, and revising land and resource management plans for the National Forest System.... The regulations prescribe how land and resource management planning is to be conducted on National Forest System lands.” (36 CFR 219.1(a))

QLG believes that the SNCF NOI and the accompanying Draft Design Paper do not conform to the planning processes required in the regulations, and on that basis raises two major objections.

First, because the procedural violations of law that we outline below are easily challenged and overturned in court. Embarking on a course that can so easily be invalidated seems a waste of FS time and money, renders management actions that are critical to the protection of resources vulnerable to legal injunction, and causes exactly the kind of uncertainty that hinders private decision-making reliant on FS programs and outputs.

Second, lawful planning procedures require consideration of social and economic impacts that could otherwise get lost in the shuffle of the Framework, but which are vital to the people and businesses of communities in and adjacent to the national forests of the Sierra Nevada.

According to the NOI, the decisions to be made definitely include whether or not, and how, to amend eleven national forest plans, but only “could” include “a non-significant amendment to the Regional Guides.” (NOI, page 18) This is precisely backward. If the Regional Guides indeed promulgate non-significant amendments, the result should be minor changes in forest-level management directions, standards, and guidelines, without the need for significant forest plan amendments. On the other hand, if significant forest plan changes are actually being made, they should be implemented by each of the eleven national forests through amendments adopted individually. The nature and scope of the changes being contemplated in the NOI and the Draft Design Paper cannot legitimately be called “non-significant.” The eleven forest plans should be amended individually, after the environmental analyses, mapping, and planning have taken place at the individual Forest level. This process can be driven by the new, rangewide directions and procedures first adopted in the Regional Guides, but the regional process, particularly an incomplete and fragmented process divided between the EIS and the variety of ad hoc processes described in the Design Paper, cannot substitute for the legally required integration of individual forest resource planning into properly adopted forest plans. (36 CFR 219.4(a)(3), 219.4(b)(2) and (b)(3), 219.8(a), 219.9, and 219.13)

In an attempt to determine whether the proposed actions are inherently Regional Guide or Forest Plan level decisions by their nature, we quote below those sentences from the NOI that make specific statements of the proposed action, and follow each quote with a QLG comment.

According to the NOI, the proposed action:

The NOI says that the eleven forests' fire management plans will demonstrate consistency with the Federal Wildland Fire Policy and coordinate with the California Fire Plan. But neither the Draft Design Paper nor the NOI reveal what those two documents say, and the public has no way of knowing how the Framework and EIS projects interpret them or what kinds of actions and impacts those policies imply. The same criticism must be made of the Draft Design Paper, which invokes various policies and publications but does not disclose what actions and effects are anticipated. The Draft Design Paper's and NOI's reliance upon merely referencing other policies and plans precludes our being able to alert the FS early on that we agree or disagree with the agency's assessment of the management situation. More importantly, invoking other policy statements and plans does not adequately describe the proposed action. A proposed action must be sufficiently developed that it can be described in enough detail that “the effects can be meaningfully evaluated.” (NEPA implementing regulations at 40 CFR 1508.23) In our estimation, none of the proposed action statements in the NOI rise to the level of a “proposal” ripe for NEPA processes; therefore the NOI is itself premature.

Returning to the Aquatic Conservation Strategy's list of uses to be given new standards and guidelines, for example, or to the eleven fire management plans proposal, we wonder what would be different from the existing Regional Guide and forest plan directions? Each forest plan already has a fire management element, and each contains standards and guidelines which claim to protect water quality and aquatic resource values. Having never presented monitoring data to show that the current standards and guidelines have not protected those values, the FS has not made a case for changing the current standards and guidelines. Nor has any clue been given of what the Aquatic Conservation Strategy would contain.

Concerns About Content of the Plans.

It is premature to list our concerns about content in detail, because the NOI gives little indication of management alternatives that might be proposed, and more useful comments can be given when specific alternatives and accompanying specifications are published. However, the NOI does show sufficient evidence of early Forest Service intentions to raise immediate concerns about two issues: Old Forest, and Fire and Fuels.

Old Forest. The NOI says that “The desired condition for Sierra Nevada national forests is to support old forests,” and it offers two alternatives: a Whole Forest Alternative, and a Landscape Reserve Alternative. The Whole Forest alternative would manage the entire hardwood and conifer-dominated forest for succession toward old forests. Timber harvest and other mechanical treatments would be used only to accelerate succession toward old forest conditions. The Landscape Reserve alternative would set aside old forest emphasis areas in all forest types, with no harvest or road building, and management only with prescribed fire. In other areas, harvest and other mechanical treatments would be permitted, but wherever old trees occurred they would be protected, except where they posed a safety hazard. This seems a premature and too narrow designation of the desired future condition for the entire Sierra Nevada , and it is stated in terms of “old forest,” a term not defined in the NOI or other references.

The NOI's failure to define “old forest” only adds to a considerable level of existing confusion, because at least three other descriptive schemes have been employed by scientific writers working on Sierra Nevada conservation issues in the 1990s. In 1992 the CASPO Team utilized the traditional USFS timber typing scheme to classify the mature and overmature forest habitats utilized by California spotted owls in the Sierra Nevada, and the use of timber typing as a proxy for habitat characterization was carried into the CASPO interim guidelines. The SNEP Report (1996) introduced the LSOG ranking system. Finally, there are the Old Growth Definitions / Descriptions for Forest Cover Types (1992) that were issued by then-Regional Forester Ron Stewart “for your use in forest planning and your resource management program” that pertained to eleven forest cover types in Region 5. Whatever descriptive device is adopted for the identification of old-growth forest it must be scientifically credible and defensible, but instead the NOI forces us to guess what is meant from a very limited context. As used in the NOI, “old forest” apparently refers to a larger stucture than the forest components described in SNEP as LS/OG, but there is no way to be sure what is intended or what it might imply in terms of management alternatives.

Furthermore, the range of alternatives contemplated in the NOI is far too narrow, and is inappropriately centered on one concept: that the way you get to “old forest” conditions is simply to preserve every tree that becomes “large” or “old.” We do not believe that this narrow range of management alternatives would be capable of creating and maintaining appropriate late successional, old growth, or old forest structures, starting from current conditions and resulting in a forest that would comply with the Organic Act and other applicable law while meeting the needs and wishes of the public. The NOI incorporates two fundamental mistakes in its treatment of the old forest issue:

First, it would not be appropriate to designate “old forest” as the desired condition for the whole forest, because that would fail to allow for other legally required long-term uses. Unfortunately, the Landscape Reserve Alternative, that claims to make lands available for commercial timber harvest and other uses, contains the same provision as the Whole Forest Alternative, which is that individual large old trees would be protected wherever they occurred. Both alternatives use the same underlying method, protection of any tree that is old or eventually grows old, so both alternatives have the same long-term goal: creation and protection of old forest everywhere.

Second, it is not possible to create and maintain old forest structures by the methods contemplated in the NOI. SNEP and other studies give a reasonable view for old forest structure, which is well summarized in one paragraph of the Sierra Nevada Science Review:

Diversity of pre-1850 old-forest patches appears to have been very high, both within and among patches, creating landscapes that were mosaics of high heterogeneity. Little direct information is obtainable about pre-1850 distribution or abundance of patch types within and among landscapes, but low diversity (e.g. even-age) and early seral patches certainly occurred within late-successional landscapes resulting from areas of higher intensity fire. High variability across the landscape appears to have been a combined result of fire regime and history, insect and pathogen activity, climate history, soils, Native American influence, and position on the landscape. (numerous literature citations have been omitted in the quote)

SNEP includes a diagram of the stuctural complexity and horizontal heterogeneity thought to be typical of high quality westside mixed conifer old growth forest ecosystems. (reproduced below)

SNEP LS/OG illustration

Figure 1.-- Cross-section of a typical westside mixed-conifer old growth forest ecosytem illustrating the structural complexity and spatial pattering (horizontal heterogenity) typical of high-quality (structural classes 4 and 5) old-growth forest ecosystems.

Wherever an attempt is made to recreate the old forest structures described in the SNSR and elsewhere, it will be necessary to use methods that are compatible with existing conditions as a starting point. Existing forest cannot usually be described as patches of high variability across the landscape as a result of fire regimes and fire history. Instead, current fire regimes reflect unnaturally high fuel loads in stands of relatively large homogenous structure resulting from previous management practices and fire exclusion, not frequent exposure to low intensity fire. The pre-1850 patchy structure cannot safely or reliably be recreated simply with more extensive use of prescribed fire, because current fuel regimes make it impractical to create small localized hot spots in otherwise benign fires, and no other method is mentioned in the NOI which would be capable of creating the small patches of regeneration that are a fundamental requirement for creating and maintaining an acceptable approximation of pre-1850 forest structures.

In contrast, the combination of fuelbreaks, group selection silviculture, and riparian protection and restoration that will be demonstrated by the HF-QLG Pilot Project is designed to minimize the loss of existing old-growth structures in large scale high-intensity fires, while initiating the regeneration of the patchy structure as well as age class and species distributions that are necessary attributes of “old forest.” The HF-QLG Pilot Project sets aside “off base” and “deferred” areas in recognition that in relatively undisturbed areas it is feasible to minimize active management of old forest structures, on the theory that they have changed little enough from pre-1850 conditions that a hope for continued survival is warranted. However, it is also necessary to recognize that on areas already subject to extensive management and fire exclusion, the appropriate on-going management must provide for a wide variety of uses, including but not restricted to the re-introduction of appropriate old forest characteristics. Success in achieving this balance will depend on surviving the hazard of high intensity fire that is largely related to the excess of fuel, immediate initiation of patch regeneration based on group selection, and long-term maintenance of the forest structure and an appropriate fuel regime with group selection and mechanical thinning. This management regime must include prescribed fire, but it cannot depend only or mainly on prescribed fire.

Unfortunately and contrary to forest planning law and regulation, the two alternatives contemplated in the NOI for achieving old forest conditions frame a very narrow choice of methods. Both of them would require preservation of all large or old trees (neither “large” nor “old” being defined), wherever they occur. Since normal silvicultural practice is to wait for trees to mature before they are harvested, and removal of immature trees is usually contemplated only for fuel reduction, release, salvage, or timber stand improvement, the result of both alternatives is to keep adding old trees to a preserved “old forest” category. Thus the net difference between the two alternatives is whether the progression toward old forest over the entire landscape is as fast as trees will grow old if “accelerated,” or only as fast as they will grow old at their normal pace. This convergence on the same end result cannot be reconciled with the Organic Act and MUSY, or with the NOI statement that lands would be available for commercial timber harvest and other uses, or with the NFMA requirement for a comprehensive range of alternatives.

Fire and Fuels. The Fire and Fuels discussion also offers two alternatives for setting priorities for fire hazard reduction. Both of them are based on prescribed fire and wildland natural fire, but one is with Focused Use of Mechanical Treatments and the other is with Extensive Use of Mechanical Treatments. With Focused Use, mechanical treatment of fuels would be restricted to the urban wildland interface and major transportation routes. With Extensive Use, mechanical means could be used to create fuelbreaks and area wide treatments only where other concerns preclude the use of prescribed fire.

Both alternatives would severely restrict the removal of fuel by mechanical methods, in the first case by limiting its use to relatively small areas, and in the second case by requiring proof for each project that the use of prescribed fire was “precluded.” These restrictions on the use of mechanical fuel reduction are not consistent with either the size and nature of the fuel problem or the need to create and sustain old forests. The plain facts are that current fuel conditions and population distributions in and around Sierra Nevada national forests will restrict the use of prescribed fire to a fraction of the required fuel reduction, primarily because of EPA air quality standards for particulates. But even if greater use of prescribed fire were possible, it cannot be used successfully as the primary method to create the patchy, multi-layered, multi-age, sustainable and renewable structure of the desired “old forest.”

A fundamental problem with “Fire and Fuel” discussions to this point has been the persistent tendency of Forest Service officials to define the issue as “fire management,” with “fuel” as a subordinate issue to be managed very largely with prescribed fire or natural wildland fire, except where over-riding circumstances “preclude” such use. This is not an appropriate view of the problem that most urgently requires attention in the SNCF EIS. Forest Land Management Plans are badly out of date and notably deficient, in that they fail to provide a feasible strategy or appropriate Standards and Guidelines for the amount and pace of fuel reduction that is required. Though it is a worthy goal to put fire back into the ecosystem for its beneficial effects, the risks of escape and air quality problems must be evaluated in terms of current and future population levels. A review of SNEP, in conjunction with public concerns raised during numerous SNCF public meetings, makes it clear that the most urgent problem that needs to be addressed through LMP amendments is the extreme hazard of the high fuel loads that exist on Sierra Nevada national forests. Fire is a major symptom of the fuel problem, and fire must be one component of a solution to the fuel problem, but fuel is the main issue to be addressed. In order to put fire and fuel issues in proper management context, we believe it is necessary to consider “Fuel Hazard” as a separate major issue in its own right. If a separate heading is not provided, then the most accurate description of the combined issue would be “Fuel Hazard and Fire,” not “Fire and Fuel.”

Concerns About Implementation.

In both the NOI and the Design Paper, description of the adaptive management loop centers on planning, monitoring, and feedback to adjust the plan. As QLG pointed out in an earlier letter (Oct 3, 1998), the loop is not complete if it fails to deal with management intention and ability to implement the plan. What is the use of landscape-scale ecosystem-scope planning and monitoring, if landscape-scale ecosystem-scope implementation is not done? Without intention and ability to implement the plan, the whole planning exercise is an expensive sham.

Our general concern for the lack of attention to “implementability” as an issue is heightened by the implication in the NOI alternatives that, starting with current conditions, the structure and species distribution of “old forest” can be created and maintained entirely with prescribed fire, or that it is feasible to reduce fuel loads to acceptable levels primarily with the use of prescribed fire. SNEP reports make it clear that these are not feasible as the primary methods for arriving at the desired condition of the whole forest or the fuel within it.

Concerns About Social and Economic Effects on Rural Communities.

The narrow range of issues listed in the NOI, and the indication that "old forest" largely protected from active management is the desired future condition of the whole Sierra Nevada, and that effective fuel reduction would depend on large increases in prescribed fire, show a troubling lack of concern for the social and economic effects of the proposed actions on rural communities in and around Sierra Nevada national forests. If for no other reason, the adverse health effects of greatly increased use of prescribed fire on our growing and aging rural populations are sufficient cause to make these concerns a major issue in the EIS. But in fact there are other reasons. One justification for "non-declining even-flow" of the timber production required by the Organic Act and MUSY is to moderate the adverse effects of fluctuating supply on rural communities that are wholly or partially timber-dependent. Furthermore, in up-to-date ecosystem terms, the forest needs rural communities with healthy forest-related economic infrastructures, in order to provide the necessary expertise and work force to restore and maintain forests that are healthy, fully functional, and adequately productive of the products and amenities that federal law requires. For reasons that are both logical and requirements of law, we do not believe it is adequate to address issues of this kind only as sub-sections of other issues. It is necessary to include "cumulative socio-economic effects" as a coordinate issue in its own right.

Relationship of this EIS to the Herger-Feinstein QLG Pilot Project and its EIS.

The SNCF EIS must deal with a broad range of issues over the entire Sierra Nevada, while the QLG Pilot Project deals with a narrower range of issues, for a shorter time, in a smaller area. Some issues will be common to both, and therefore may benefit from common science and expertise. However, the stated nature of the SNCF EIS is to make significant amendments to Forest Land Management Plans, whereas the nature of the QLG Pilot Project EIS is to demonstrate the effectiveness of a defined set of management activities on a particular landbase for a relatively short time period by means of non-significant amendment. Therefore it would not be appropriate to attempt to combine results of the two efforts into one EIS or one decision, because: (1) it would be impractical to operate at both Sierra-wide and sub-Sierran scale in the same process; (2) the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act requires "an" EIS, implying one EIS, a separate EIS, for the Pilot Project; (3) the QLG Pilot Project EIS has a time-certain deadline for the record of decision (August 17, 1999) which the SNCF EIS might not meet and should not be shackled to; and (4) the larger and longer-term scope of the issues that must be dealt with in the SNCF EIS will require significant amendments to the forest land management plans, while the narrower range of issues and temporary nature of the Pilot Project will require only non-significant amendments. The proper relationship of the two efforts is mutual support with exchange and coordination of information, but scrupulous avoidance of conflict between the two processes during their planning, decision processes, and implementation. The need to avoid conflict between the two processes is clearly indicated in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Report 105-138 regarding the QLG Act:

First, the Senate Committee Report says the purpose of the Act is to conduct the Pilot Project

“ determine whether the resource management activities proposed by the Quincy Library Group are effective; and to consider the incorporation of those management activities, as appropriate, in the amendments of, or revisions to, the current land and resource management plans for these national forests.”

Such a determination cannot be made unless the Pilot Project actually implements the management activities required by the Act in the quantities specified for the full term intended. The required consideration of these management activities for incorporation into amendments or revisions to the LMPs cannot be done unless the Act is implemented and the required monitoring and assessments are actully produced.

Second, under “Background and Need for Legislation,” the committee report says

Implementation of the pilot project will also be the subject of congressional oversight and review to assess the success of the project, as well as any broader implications for improved federal land management.

And in “Additional Views” included in the committee report, Senator Bumpers referred to at least 35 other groups across the country that are working on similar proposals, and said that

“Congress should ensure that other such projects not proceed until it carefully evaluates the results of the Quincy Library Group proposal.”

If full and timely implementation of the Pilot Project is not provided for, or becomes entangled in program- or project-level disputes because of conflicts in the guidelines or jurisdictions of the two Records of Decision, the clearly expressed intent of Congress to oversee the project and review its results cannot be realized.

In order to avoid such entanglement or conflict, QLG strongly recommends that each alternative in the SNCF EIS be designed to support a decision that would allow for unimpeded implementation of the Pilot Project according to the terms of the Pilot Project EIS on the affected landbase for the term of the Pilot Project. One feasible way to avoid having the SNCF process interfere with implementation of the Pilot Project would be for the SNCF Record of Decision to specify that the HFQLG ROD is adopted and becomes the SNCF ROD for the management activities and other components of the Pilot Project on the affected landbase for the term of the Pilot Project. Components of the SNCF ROD that are clearly not in potential conflict with the HFQLG ROD could be implemented immediately and in parallel with the Pilot Project.

Recommended Action.

QLG urgently requests the Forest Service to:

(1) Reconsider the criteria for inclusion of issues in the EIS. The five chosen issues do not adequately represent the range that applicable law requires to be addressed by the planning process for Forest Land Management Plans, and they fail to respond to the priority of issues raised by the public during the SNCF Public Meetings.

(2) Reconsider the definition of desired future condition, within the NEPA process and before it is adopted. This is too important a matter to have been decided before the NOI was even published.

(3) Make the range of alternatives much broader, and address the appropriate percentage of each seral stage across the landscape for establishing, restoring, and maintaining old forest conditions. Allow for a wider range of silvicultural treatments and other methods for managing old forest.

(4) Assure that alternatives do not discourage or interfere with full implementation of the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act in the three national forests affected. Each alternative in the SNCF EIS should be designed to support a decision that would allow for unimpeded implementation of the Pilot Project according to the terms of the Pilot Project EIS on the affected landbase for the term of the Pilot Project. The SNCF Record of Decision should specify that the HFQLG ROD is adopted and becomes the SNCF ROD for the management activities and other components of the Pilot Project on the affected landbase for the term of the Pilot Project.

(5) Separate “Fire” from “Fuels” as issues to be addressed. Reconsider the suggested alternatives for Fire and/or Fuels management in light of the necessity for very large-scale fuel reduction, the advantage of employing the most effective early pattern for fuel reduction, existing and likely increased limits on the use of prescribed fire, and the probable need to give priority to the use of the available prescribed fire for purposes other than routine fuel reduction. If separation of these issues is not provided, then the most appropriate title is “Fuel Hazard and Fire.”

(6) Include, as an essential element in the adaptive management loop, full consideration to whether a planned activity can and will be implemented as planned.

(7) Add "Cumulative Social and Economic Effects on Rural Communities in and near National Forests" as an issue equivalent to the original five issues listed in the NOI and to other issues that may be added according to recommendation (1) above.


/s/                       /s/
Linda L. Blum              Edward C. Murphy

Corresponding Secretaries

Enclosed: QLG Comments on the Herger-Feinstein QLG Pilot Project EIS.


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