This is the May Update designed to keep you abreast of developments and activities concerning the implementation of the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act, or HFQLG.

HFQLG PROGRAM OF WORK FOR 2001

The program of work developed for FY01 includes:

  1. Implementing projects planned in FY00,
  2. Coordinating HFQLG activities with Framework direction
  3. Continuing environmental analysis for FY01 resource management activities
  4. Analyzing watersheds for FY01 riparian management projects,
  5. Implementing FY01 resource management activities, and
  6. Collecting data and planning for outyear projects.

A. Implementing projects planned in FY00

Currently, there are six timber sales that have been awarded to construct approximately 6,144 acres of DFPZs (Defensible Fuels Profile Zones), 200 acres of GS (Group Selection), and 944 acres of ITS (Individual Tree Selection). Timber sales are agreement between a purchaser and the Forest Service in which the purchaser pays the Forest Service for the merchantable products removed from the sale area. Merchantable products are commonly sawlogs and chips.

Also to date, there are nine service contracts awarded to construct 9,268 acres of DFPZs. Service contracts are agreements in which the Forest Service pays the operator to perform specific activities such as cutting and piling brush with hand tools or chainsaws, crushing brush or thinning small diameter trees using mechanical equipment, or constructing fireline.

In FY00 eight of these fifteen projects were identified and analyzed under seven site-specific Environmental Assessments (EAs) in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The remaining seven projects were brought forward for implementation from pervious decisions. All projects were in compliance with the California spotted owl mitigation measure required by the HFQLG Record of Decision (ROD). All seven decisions were released by the end of FY00 and eighteen appeals of these EAs were received by the Regional Forester.

Project implementation was delayed until the appeals were decided. The Regional Forester's Appeal Decisions, affirming six decisions and reversing one, can be found at the following Website http://www.r5.fs.fed.us/appeals/appeals.htm. Subsequently, the FY00 projects are being implemented in FY01.

The reversed decision was for the FY00 HFQLG Liberty EA. A revised decision was released in February. The projects developed under this decision, Lahonton and Leftover, will be moved up into the FY01 program of work. The appeal period for the Liberty EA ended March 26 and three appeals were received. The Regional Forester is expected to issue a decision in May.

B. Coordinating HFQLG activities with Framework direction

The Regional Forester signed the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment (Framework) on January 12, 2001. The appeal period ended April 17, and the Chief of the Forest Service has received 262 appeals. The Chief has 90 days to respond to the appeals and is expected to issue decisions in mid-July.

The Framework developed a conservation strategy for the California spotted owl that replaces both the CASPO (California spotted owl) Interim Direction and the mitigation measure of the HFQLG Record of Decision.

Because the Framework affects the overall implementation of the HFQLG Pilot Project's DFPZ, GS, and ITS activities, the districts are planning projects to comply with the standards and guidelines of this new owl strategy. The new owl strategy includes canopy closure and large tree retention requirements. The ranger districts intend to carry out as much of the pilot project as possible; however, the new owl strategy will change the extent of treatments. The Group Selections currently being planned for FY 01 in non-suitable owl habitat are expected to continue without modification.

As directed by the Regional Forester, an administrative study is currently being planned that will investigate how owls and features of their habitat respond to certain silvicultural treatments. Group Selections within suitable owl habitat are expected to be one of the silvicultural treatments investigated. In February, a team of scientists led by Dr. Peter Stine from the Pacific Southwest Research Station, began development of the study, which will include portions on the HFQLG Pilot Project. The draft study plan has been sent to interested parties seeking input for the next stage of the draft.

C. Continuing environmental analysis for FY01 resource management activities

Since April, scoping was initiated for one EA, and eleven pre-decisional EAs have been released for notice and comment.

Table 1 shows the status of those projects currently being analyzed under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the proposed treatment acres associated with each. It is important to note that these are only proposals, not decisions to be implemented. The proposals and alternatives will be subjected to analysis with public involvement during the next several months. Project decisions are expected by late spring or early summer.


Table 1. FY 01 Projects under environmental analysis
Analysis Area Name Scoping Initiated EA or DEIS* Notice and Comment DFPZ Acres GS Acres ITS Acres Rx Burn Acres
Lassen National Forest
Pegleg 6/6/00 4/3/01 6,640 429 0 not determined
Lakes (EIS) 12/11/00 4/01* 7,780 1,100 460 not determined
Blacks Ridge 12/18/00 3/27/01 7,000 750 0 11,395
North Coble 3/20/01 5/01 5,600 650 0 7,870
Cone/Crater 5/01/01 6/01 3,667 819 0 not determined
Plumas National Forest
Stony Ridge 10/26/00 3/21/01 1,176 250 0 1,652
Last Chance 11/22/00 4/01 4,669 170 0 1,699
Poison 11/22/00 4/01 3,034 0 0 364
Red Clover 1/8/01 4/01 0 160 357 not determined
Upper Slate 2/12/01 4/01 1,500 0 0 1,500
Cold 2/12/01 4/01 1,600 0 0 1,062
Lower Slate 2/16/01 4/01 3,507 0 0 3,507
Waters 2/16/01 4/01 8,000 0 0 6,874
Kingsbury Rush 2/21/01 4/01 3,968 0 0 3,694
Tahoe National Forest
Liberty 6/11/99 pending appeal 981 166 1,056 not determined
Scraps 2/23/01 5/01 2,714 261 1,051 4,914
TOTAL 61,836 acres 4,755 acres 2,924 acres
*Environmental Assessment or Draft Environmental Impact Statement

In order to define proposed actions, required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for implementing projects, it is necessary to collect site-specific data and conduct analysis. Often, it takes up to two years from the start of project planning and environmental analysis before contracts can be awarded. The activities associated with implementing projects include field reconnaissance such as wildlife, archeological, and plant surveys; NEPA planning and compliance for release of decision documents; field preparation such as designating boundaries, designating vegetation (brush or trees) to be removed, and designating buffers around streams and meadows; and contract preparation, advertisement and award. These activities must be completed for each timber sale or service contract before implementation of the project can take place.

D. Analyzing watersheds for FY01 riparian management projects

It is necessary to analyze watersheds prior to NEPA analysis that implements the HFQLG riparian management projects. Ten watersheds are expected to be analyzed in FY01. Site-specific environmental analyses are planned for thirteen riparian management projects in FY01. In addition to these planning efforts, eighteen projects with analyses completed in previous years are scheduled for implementation in FY01. Final FY01 funding will determine whether the projects listed in Table 2 are completed.


Table 2. FY01 Riparian Management Projects
Projects with NEPA Decisions ready to implement Projects ready for NEPA analysis Projects within watersheds to be analyzed
LASSEN
Prattville; Jonesville; Deer Creek; Mill Creek; Antelope Creek; Big Jacks; and Susan River
Yellow Creek.
PLUMAS
Thompson Creek; Upper Stone Dairy Creek; Robinson Meadow II; and Red Clover Road Red Clover Creek; Clarks Creek; Stone Dairy Creek; Siegfried and Jordon Creeks; Lost Creek; Antelope Creek; Kinzie Ravine; Slate Creek; Granite Basin; and Little Grass Valley Reservoir Last Chance Creek; Frenchman Creek; Lost Creek; Antelope Creek; Kinzie Ravine; Slate Creek; Granite Basin; and Little Grass Valley Reservoir
TAHOE
Carmen Valley Meadow; Scraps Riparian; Little Truckee Road; Davies Creek; Davies Creek Road Merrill Creek; Merrill Creek Road Borda and Smith Neck Borda Watershed and Smith Neck Watershed

E. Updating the Implementation Plan

The HFQLG Implementation Plan is a working document and subject to frequent updates based on funding and project planning. Because final budget allocations have not been made, and the pending release of the Administrative Study plan, the revision of the HFQLG Implementation Plan has been postponed. The current version, which is based on full funding and does not yet incorporate the new California owl strategy identified in the Framework, can be found at the HFQLG Website www.fs.fed.us/r5/hfqlg/ under Current Activities. Questions about this plan should be directed to Assistant Project Manager Phil Tuma (530-283-7721).

F. Implementing FY01 resource management activities

Table 3 shows a list projects with environmental analysis complete and decisions made. These projects are expected to be implemented on the ground this 2001 field season.

Table 3. FY01 Projects with Decisions
Projects to be implemented in FY01 DFPZ Acres GS Acres ITSAcres Rx Burn Acres
West Dusty 600 0 0
Misc. SAI 400 0 0
Bidwell 350 0 0
Grays 750 300 0
Harvey 1,200 0 0
Logan 785 0 0
Southside 450 0 0
Dotta 2 200 0 0
Spike Buck 2 Same as Rx Burn Acres 0 0 1300

G. Collecting data and planning for outyear projects

As stated previously, it is necessary to collect site-specific data and conduct NEPA analysis prior to project implementation. Eighteen FY02 projects will be initiated in FY01, covering approximately 41,000 acres of resource management activities. Specific treatments and associated acres for outyear projects can be found in the HFQLG Implementation Plan. Changes in this plan for FY02 are likely if the Administrative Study is implemented.

HFQLG PILOT PROJECT MONITORING PLAN

Details of this plan are available from Monitoring Team Leader Wayne Johannson (530-283-7881).

ANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS

The HFQLG Act requires the Secretary of Agriculture to annually submit a status report to Congress. The report covering Fiscal Year 2000 has been sent to Washington, DC. Questions about the Report to Congress should be directed to Assistant Project Manager Phil Tuma (530-283-7721).

LITIGATION

The Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CATs) lawsuit continues. A hearing took place April 12 before Judge Lawrence Karlton. The purpose of the hearing was for both sides to orally present their positions to the judge, and for the judge to ask questions of the parties. The judge had received all briefs in advance. At the beginning of the hearing, Judge Karlton commented that he was still early in his decision making process. He concluded the hearing by noting that the case was even more complicated than he originally thought. He has the case under advisement, but did not indicate when he expected to rule.

CATs, the plaintiff, sued the Forest Service alleging that the HFQLG Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision violated the National Enivronmental Policy Act, the National Forest Management Act, and the HFQLG Act itself. The plaintiff's primary concern is that the FEIS did not address the need for future maintenance of DFPZs.

Where to get more information: