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AFFECTED ENVIRONMENT
AND
ENVIRONMENTAL CONSEQUENCES

Specialist Report for Chapter 3

FISH AND WILDLIFE RESOURCES

I. Introduction

The lands that comprise the pilot project contain approximately 364 vertebrate species including 224 species of birds, 84 mammal species, 26 reptiles and amphibians, and approximately 30 species of fish. Each of these species has a unique set of habitat requirements, which are discussed in detail in the California Statewide Wildlife Habitat Relationships System (Verner and Boss 1980, Airola 1980, Zeiner et al., 1988, 1990a, 1990b). Detailed discussions of the relationships between wildlife and their habitats are found in a three volume set of the California Wildlife Habitats Relationships (CWHR) System, the CWHR System habitat definitions (Mayer and Laudenslayer 1988), and the individual Forest Plans (USFS 1988, 1990, 1992).

During the last century a number of changes have occurred to wildlife habitat within the project area from natural events such as climatic changes as well as human activities such as timber harvest, mining, range, and recreational activities. These changes have benefited some species while reducing the quality of habitat for others. The Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP) provides a brief summary of historical conditions and changes that have occurred to wildlife habitats within the Sierras (SNEP, Volume II, Section III, Chapters 21-36) as well as the Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement; Managing California Spotted Owl Habitat in the Sierra Nevada National Forests of California, An Ecosystem Approach, August 1996.

The species of wildlife found within the pilot project area includes bald eagles and osprey, which are found near lakes and rivers, spotted owls and goshawks, which inhabit the denser forests, and bear, migratory birds, amphibians, and reptiles which utilize a wide variety of habitats. The area also serves as both summer and winter range for all or portions of 11 deer herds: Cow Creek, West Lassen, East Lassen, East Tehama, Bucks Mountain, Sloat, Doyle, Mooretown, Loyalton-Truckee, Downieville, and Nevada City. Each deer herd is managed under the guidance of a deer herd management plan developed cooperatively between the California Department of Fish and Game and major land management agencies, including the Forest Service. The project area is located within the Northeastern California Deer Assessment Unit (DAU 2) and Northeastern Sierra Deer Assessment Unit (DAU 3). Both of these units have been identified by the California Department of Fish and Game as the two top priority DAU's within California to attempt to reverse the decline in deer populations through habitat-based efforts (DFG 1998).

Management Direction

The Forest Service is charged with managing wildlife habitat on national forest system (NFS) lands in accordance with the requirements of the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) and its implementing regulations. NFMA regulations require that wildlife habitat be managed to maintain viable populations of existing native and desired non-native vertebrate species, and that those species be well distributed throughout the planning area. In addition, the regulations require the Forest Service to preserve and enhance the diversity of plant and animal communities, including endemic and desirable naturalized plant and animal species, so that diversity is at least as great as what would be expected in a natural forest.

Each Forest within the project area has established its own wildlife program objectives in its Forest Plan. Three wildlife objectives are shared by all three Forests: 1) maintain viable populations of existing native and desired non-native species, as required by NFMA; 2) provide habitat contributing to the recovery and maintenance of viable populations of Federally listed threatened and endangered species; and 3) improve and protect habitat for selected management emphasis or indicator species (individual Forest Land and Resource Management plans, 1988, 1990, 1992).

California Wildlife Habitats Relationships (CWHR)

As previously mentioned CWHR classes are commonly used as one tool to describe old forest conditions. Here, they are reviewed for their original purpose; describing wildlife habitat relationships. The CWHR system describes forest habitats through tree size and canopy closure (see Table 3.20). Although shrub and herbaceous layers are decidedly important wildlife habitat attributes, they are not used by the CWHR system as a means to describe habitat. Generally, the early forest successional stages (CWHR size classes 1 and 2) and the more open-canopied forests (CWHR density classes S, P, and sometimes M) will develop a shrub and herbaceous component.

Table 3.20.
CWHR Criteria

1[1]

Seedling

Brush, seedlings: not tree dominated; no tree cover

2[2]

Sapling

Dominated by 1-6" diameter breast height (dbh) trees; canopy cover >10%

3P[3]

Pole, open cover

Dominated by 6-11" dbh trees; canopy cover 10-39%

3M

Pole, moderate cover

Dominated by 6-11" dbh trees; canopy cover 40-59%

3D

Pole, dense cover

Dominated by 6-11" dbh trees: canopy cover >60%

4P

Small tree, open

Dominated by 11-24" dbh trees; canopy cover 10-39%

4M

Small tree, moderate cover

Dominated by 11-24" dbh trees; canopy cover 40-59%

4D

Small tree, dense cover

Dominated by 11-24" dbh trees; canopy cover >60%

5P[4]

Large tree, open cover

Dominated by >24" dbh trees; canopy cover 10-39%

5M

Large tree, moderate cover

Dominated by >24" dbh trees; canopy cover 40-59%

5D

Large tree, dense cover

Dominated by >24" dbh trees; canopy cover >60%

6[5]

Large tree, dense, multi-layered

A layer of 24" and larger trees over a distinct layer of 6-24" trees, total tree canopy (6" dbh and larger) exceeds 60% closure

The CWHR habitat types present within the planning area are reflective of those found throughout the Sierra Nevada mountain range. These habitats include Montane Riparian, Ponderosa Pine, Mixed Conifer, Red Fir, Eastside Pine, and Montane Hardwood (black oak woodlands in this analysis area). While numerous habitats can be described utilizing the information contained in the CWHR there are three that can be used to describe the habitats used by a majority of the terrestrial wildlife species found in the project area. These habitat types are:

Grass/forb, shrub, and early successional habitats

Based on CWHR, grass/forb, shrub, and early successional habitat is represented by CWHR 1, 2, NB, SX, HX (habitat definitions can be found in Mayer and Laudenslayer 1988). This habitat is important to a number of wildlife associates, including ground nesting birds, small mammals, several species of reptiles, deer and bats.

Open forest habitat

Early successional habitat, combined with an open forest canopy (CWHR 3, 4, 5S-P) provides a greater wildlife species richness than any other CWHR habitat stage because of its structural complexity (Beedy 1981, Kilgore 1973, Verner 1980). Rickman (personal communication) used the CWHR system to compare the importance of open-canopied vs. closed-canopied stands for wildlife species, including 29 bird species identified in SNEP which may be declining in the Sierras (Graber 1996). It was found that for 24 of the 29 declining bird species using Sierra mixed-conifer, and 23 of these 29 using eastside pine, that the highest habitat values were associated with those habitats supporting more open canopies (10-39 percent) and large trees (CWHR 5P). The dense canopy closures (>60 percent) had the lowest habitat value for reproduction within each size class of tree.

Closed-canopy late successional old forest habitat

Several wildlife species are associated with more closed-canopy forest conditions (CWHR 4M, 4D, 5M,5D and 6). SNEP identifies 17 species (Table 3.21) as being dependent on late successional old forests; 24 percent of these species are at risk (Graber 1996). Species associated with more closed-canopy old forest habitat attributes include many Sensitive wildlife species such as spotted owl, goshawk, marten, and fisher. Late successional conifer forests are important to species requiring moderated climates produced by the high, relatively closed canopy. Multiple tree layers, large snags and logs provide sites for nesting, denning, resting, roosting and foraging habitat.


Table 3.21
Seventeen species identified in SNEP as being
dependent on late successional forests

Species

Risk *

Species

Risk

Northern Goshawk

1

Brown creeper

2

Spotted Owl

1

Winter wren

2

Great Gray Owl

1

Hermit warbler

2

Fisher

1

Purple finch

2

White-Headed Woodpacker

2

Cassin's finch

2

Pileated Woodpecker

2

Evening Grosbeak

2

Red-breasted nuthatch

2

Northern Flying Squirrel

2

Pygmy nuthatch

2

W. red-backed vole

2

Vaux's swift

2

 

 

* 1 = indicates on state or federal list as endangered, threatened, or special concern either for species as a whole, or Sierran portion.

 2 = Indicates not known to be at risk.

Management Indicator Species

Management Indicator Species (MIS) have been identified by the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe national forests in their respective land and resource management plans or LRMPs. MIS are used as a means to evaluate the effects of various land management activities (Table 3.21) on a wide variety of wildlife species that would be affected. The National Forest Management Act and the Secretary of Agriculture's implementing regulations (36 CFR 219) describe five categories of species that can be represented by using MIS: 1) endangered or threatened species on State and Federal Lists, 2) species whose habitat needs make them sensitive to planned management activities, 3) game and commercial species, 4) non-game species of special interest, and 5) species that indicate trends in other species or communities. All the federally listed threatened or endangandered species and the Forest Service sensitive species that are identified in Table 3.25 are MIS species by definition, thus meeting categories 1 and 2 above. Bald eagle, spotted owl, great gray owl, goshawk, marten, and fisher serve as MIS for those species that require large tree (old forest) habitat. MIS that have been identified to meet categories 3-5 for each Forest are listed in Table 3.22. While used within this analysis to review overall effects, since not all MIS included here are not identified for each Forest, site specific analysis is expected to review effects only to those species identied within the appropriate LRMP.

Table 3.22
Management Indicator Species

SPECIES

STATUS*

HABITAT

INDICATOR

Forest Using This Species

Deer

HARVEST

early seral, shrub

Lassen Plumas Tahoe

Black Bear

HARVEST

habitat mosaic

Lassen Tahoe

Pronghorn Antelope

HARVEST

open sagebrush, meadow

Lassen

Gray Squirrel

HARVEST

oaks

Lassen Plumas Tahoe

Canada Goose

HARVEST

wetlands

Plumas

Mallard

HARVEST

wetlands

Lassen

Bufflehead

HARVEST

snags/wetlands

Lassen

Mountain Quail

HARVEST

early seral, shrub

Tahoe

Wild Turkey

HARVEST

oaks

Tahoe

Band-tailed Pigeon

HARVEST

oaks

Tahoe

Blue Grouse

HARVEST

mature forest /shrub

Tahoe

Woodpecker Group

MAINTENANCE

snags

Plumas Tahoe

Pileated Woodpecker

MAINTENANCE

mature trees/

snags

Lassen

Hairy Woodpecker

MAINTENANCE

snags

Lassen

Golden Eagle

MAINTENANCE

open forest

Tahoe Plumas

Prairie Falcon

MAINTENANCE

early seral/cliff

Plumas

Osprey

MAINTENANCE

mature forest/

open water

Lassen

Willow/Alder

Comm.

MAINTENANCE

riparian

Plumas

Trout Group

HARVEST

coldwateraquatic

Plumas Tahoe

Rainbow Trout

HARVEST

coldwateraquatic

Lassen

Largemouth Bass

HARVEST

warmwater aquatic

Plumas

 

The Importance of Old Forest Habitats

Two critical aspects of forest management were identified in SNEP in regards to old forest habitat and the continued existence of an intact and healthy forest ecosystem, especially in regards to a number of birds: 1) providing a sufficient amount and distribution of late successional forests, and 2) providing a sufficient quantity and distribution of snags and other dead wood in the forest of all ages with all degrees of canopy cover and tree densities.

The effects of fragmentation of late successional forest, which increases the ratio of forest edge to forest interior and has been implicated in the loss of bird species diversity in the eastern forests, is possibly occurring in the Sierra, although perhaps to a lesser degree than first suspected since Sierra forests naturally feature fine-scale fragmentation mosaics (Franklin and Fites-Kaufmann, SNEP Volume II, Chapter 21, 1996).

Snags, particularly large ones (>24 inches DBH), are an important wildlife habitat component of forested stands. They provide habitat for primary cavity nesters such as woodpeckers and secondary cavity nesters such as flying squirrels and some neotropical migratory birds, such as the western bluebird, violet-green swallow, and American Kestrel. Snags are also the main source of large downed woody debris. Because of past management practices, including logging, firewood cutting, road construction, and other activities, the number of large diameter snags may have declined in the project area, with a detrimental effect on associated wildlife species. By contrast, it is likely that the amount of small diameter snags has increased somewhat due to the creation of densely stocked stands and resulting mortality, with a subsequent benefit to wildlife that use small-diameter snags.

Current management of snags within the eastside and transition zones is based on adaptive management strategies developed by forest personnel from all three forests (Atencio, 1995, Bliss et al., 1996). Basically snags are managed within these zones at densities that are within the range of variability for major forest types as described in the Region 5 old growth definitions and descriptions for forest cover types as described in Appendix L of the RDEIS for the California spotted owl (1996) and applied by Fites (1996); approximately 2-4 of the largest snags/acre distributed over a landscape (such as a subwatershed).

The Methods of Analysis

The assessment of the proposed action (Alternative 2) as well as the other four alternatives relies on an approach consistent with the current state of knowledge, policies, and laws. The first part of this analysis will focus on trends in the quantity and quality of wildlife habitat and subsequent trends in selected species or species groups (TES, MIS, or others) identified in the Affected Environment section of this EIS. The ability of each alternative to successfully address the evaluative factors for these species (CWHR habitat stage, habitat components, habitat trends, etc.) reasonably indicates an alternative's ability to provide habitat that maintains self-sustaining populations of associated wildlife species. This coarse-filter approach is appropriate for the planning area level scale of this EIS. A more fine-filtered approach is still required at the project level to identify the specific effects to local wildlife species and populations.

The analysis will then consider the effects to the MIS species that are not covered under federal statute (TES species). The species identified in Table 3.22 (not including the fish and riparian habitat) will be reviewed in terms of overall changes in habitat values for the individual species. The final part to this approach is to use the biological assessment (BA) and biological evaluation (BE) process (the BA/BE is found in the project planning records located at the Plumas National Forest Supervisor's Office) which considers the effects to federally listed threatened and endangered species and species proposed for listing as well as wildlife species designated as sensitive by the Regional Forester, Pacific Southwest Region. The wildlife assessment has two aspects: 1) trends in the quality of habitat indicated by trends in habitat components (shrub/grass/forb early seral forest, open forest, and old, closed canopied forest; large/old trees, snags, logs/woody debris); 2) trends in the amount, distribution, and sustainability of key wildlife species, including TES and MIS. Changes related to these factors demonstrate the ability of each alternative to provide suitable, sustainable habitat for species within the planning area.

Analysis Summary of Effects

This section provides an overall review of the effects envisioned under each of the alternatives as well as discusssing some of the assumptions that are used in defining the effects that can logically be expected to occur.

Changes within forested stands/landscapes that occur as a result of land management activities such as logging, road building, and fire (prescribed burning or wildfire), can alter the vegetative and structural habitat components, hence changing the functionality of wildlife habitat. These habitat modifications can have the following effects: change in the amount and availability of food for wildlife; increase or decrease the amount of habitat for breeding populations; affect population density, spacing between reproductive pairs, and ease in establishing breeding territories; increase or decrease nesting and reproductive success; and affect the survival and dispersion of young.

Resource management activities, including prescribed burning can directly remove habitat components such as soil duff, snags, downed logs, lie trees and understory vegetation which ultimately reduces the number of wildlife species within a given area that are dependent on such components. Both fire and timber management practices can either set back the successional development of vegetation (create early seral habitat) by opening up forested vegetation or it can also accelerate succession by removing competing vegetation from the conifer understory (create conditions favorable for large tree development).

Species Trends Based on CWHR

To assess the potential effects of the proposed treatments (group selection, creation of DFPZs, area treatments, individual tree selection, thinning, and prescribed burning) on a wide range of species, several queries using the CWHR database system were run. The species list for the analysis area was generated using the CWHR system to identify species and their habitats that could potentially be affected by project activities. The results of the query includes a summary of effects on species that are likely be present in the area. The species identified include the TES terrestrial species, the wildlife that serve as a prey base for the TES wildlife, the species listed as MIS, and species identified in the SNEP report as definitely or likely declining in numbers. The list described here is presented in fuller detail in Appendix I. The CWHR model on which these findings are based is found in the project files. There are two important criteria key to understanding the effects presented in the models that are discussed in Appendix I. First there are three habitat ratings; Low, Moderate, and High. Within each rating is a range of numerical values. Therefore even though there may be a change in value associated with a particular event such as the construction of a DFPZ, there may not be a change in the habitat rating.

1. Thinned versus Unthinned Stands

Using the CWHR information and models, habitat values of unthinned mixed conifer stands were compared to thinned mixed conifer stands as a means to predict potential effects which may result from creation of linear DFPZ's and area treatments. This would be reflective of the proposed actions described for alternatives 2-4. The results of the comparison indicate that 247 species of wildlife will be affected with the reduction of canopy closures created by the resource management activities over the five year pilot project period. Of these, 65 species had projected declining trends in habitat values, 40 had no change in habitat values, and 142 had projected increasing trends in habitat values (Appendix I). Within the 65 species that had declining trends only one species, the northern goshawk, had a projected reduction (high to moderate) in the estimated habitat ratings class (Appendix I). Of the 142 species with projected increases in habitat value only two MIS species which had a projected increase (moderate to high) in estimated habitat ratings; mule deer and mountain quail (Appendix I).

The wildlife that commonly serve as a prey base for TES wildlife that had projected decreases in estimated habitat ratings class were Douglas squirrel and northern flying squirrel (high to moderate). The TES prey species that have projected increases in estimated habitat ratings class were golden-mantled ground squirrel, dusky-footed woodrat, yellow-pine chipmunk, deer mouse, porcupine, and quail (all moderate to high) (Appendix I).

The Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP) report listed 18 species of birds as being either definitely or likely declining in the Sierras (Graber 1996). One of the six avian species considered to be definitely declining and which had a projected increase in estimated habitat ratings class was red-breasted sapsucker (moderate to high). Two of the twelve likely declining species had a projected increase in estimated ratings class, dark-eyed junco (moderate to high) and brown-headed cowbird (low to moderate). Swainson's thrush, another species identified as likely declining in the SNEP report exhibited a decrease (moderate to low) in estimated ratings class (Appendix I).

2. Changes Due to Group Selection

The second query using the CWHR system was designed to predict changes in habitat values that may result from implementation of group selection within mixed conifer such as those described for alternatives 2-4.

The results of the query indicate that 257 species of wildlife will be affected with the reduction of canopy closures. When the results were compared to existing conditions 83 species had projected declining trends in habitat values, 38 had no change in habitat values, and 136 had increasing trends in habitat values. The four TES species that had a projected reduction in the estimated habitat ratings class were northern goshawk (high to moderate), California spotted owl, American marten, and Pacific fisher (all moderate to low) (Appendix I).

The two MIS species that had projected increases (moderate to high) in estimated habitat ratings class were hairy woodpecker and mountain quail. The one MIS species that showed a decrease in the estimated habitat ratings class was osprey (moderate to low).

The TES prey species that had projected increases in estimated habitat ratings class were golden-mantled ground squirrel, dusky-footed woodrat, and deer mouse (all moderate to high), and northern pocket gopher, montane vole, mountain pocket gopher, and brush rabbit (all low to moderate). The prey species that exhibited a projected decrease in estimated habitat ratings class were Douglas squirrel, Stellar's jay, and northern flying squirrel (all high to moderate).

One avian species considered to be definitely declining in the SNEP report (Graber 1996) and that had an increase in estimated habitat ratings class was red-breasted sapsucker (moderate to high). Three likely declining species that had a projected increase in estimated ratings class were dark-eyed junco (moderate to high), and brown-headed cowbird and house finch (both low to moderate). Four species identified as likely declining and which exhibited a projected decrease in estimated ratings class were Stellars jay (high to moderate), golden-crowned kinglet (high to moderate), and Swainson's thrush and black-headed grosbeak (both moderate to low).

Increased Disturbance

A potential indirect effect on wildlife species and habitat is the change in the level of human disturbance associated with the resource management activities. With the projected number of acres to be treated with alternatives 2-4, and to a lesser extent Alternatives 1 and 5, over a short time frame of 5 years, the level of human activity to implement actions will increase dramatically (more people planning, designing, assessing, and implementing resource management activities over 300,000 acres). This increased human activity can increase the accidental mortality of wildlife through logging and burning activities, as well as an increase in vehicular mortality. Additionally increased access provided by open roads can result in increased mortality through an increase in hunting, trapping and poaching success. These activities can also increase the indirect loss through disturbance, reduced habitat use, and lowered reproductive success.

The response to disturbance can vary depending on the species, the individual being affected, and localized species habituation to existing disturbances. Except for a few species, the precise effects of various types of disturbance on wildlife are either not known or are poorly understood. The relative risk of disturbance under each alternative is dependent on the amount of new road construction and road obliteration due to the changes in the amount and duration of a human presence within the forest. The impacts of human disturbance can be lessened through area specific mitigation measures which are based on site specific needs.

Based on the projected miles of new road construction under the various alternatives displayed within the EIS, the transportation network will increase under Alternative 1 by approximately 45 miles, under Alternatives 2 and 3 by approximately 100 miles, under Alternative 4 approximately 67 miles, and Alternative 5 will have approximately 12 miles of new road construction over the five-year period (Table 3.6). Impacts of road construction on specific habitats and potential species behavior will be analyzed at the project specific level.

Road obliteration/decommission is expected on 135 miles under Alternative 1, 300 miles under Alternatives 2 and 3, and 200 miles with Alternative 4. Approximately 37 miles of road decommissioning will occur under Alternative 5 (Table 3.6). Impacts of road obliteration/decommission on specific habitats and potenital species behavior will be analyzed at the project specific level.

Based on projected road construction, it appears that the short-term increase in road construction, and hence increased human access into new areas, will be minimal over the project area. Road obliteration under Alternatives 2-4, if implemented as planned, will result in an improvement in wildlife habitat effectiveness for long term management. Alternatives 1 and 5 will result in little improvement as planned.

All alternatives, except for Alternative 1, increase the level of human disturbance above current levels. The increased human disturbance from resource management activities over the 5-year period, and the subsequent risk to wildlife disturbance and direct mortality, will be greatest with Alternatives 2 and 3, as 60,000 acres annually are planned for treatment. Alternative 4 treats 40,000 acres annually, Alternative 5 treats 30,000-40,000 annually, and Alternative 1 treats less than the other alternatives.

There are also indirect effects on wildlife habitat if resource management activities designed to open up stands and reduce threat of stand destroying fires are not implemented. Overstocked conifer stands will continue to prevent shade intolerant species such as black oak from growing and producing mast. Species composition of forested stands, including understory grasses and shrubs, will lack divesity. The continued exclusion of fire and overstocked stands with continued mortality contributing to fuel loadings greatly increase the chance of wildfire. High severity fire events are generally large and severe in their impacts. Consequences of these fires include losing wildlife habitat that is hard to replace (late seral habitat components and spotted owl habitat), reducing soil stability, leading to erosion and watershed degradation, loss of organic soil layer and critical nutrients, and thus loss of site productivity.

Cumulative Effects

Activities on other federal, state and private lands can combine with those on National Forest lands to have a greater cumulative impact on wildlife populations and habitat than projected in the alternatives presented in the EIS. Activities on the other lands can also result in unforeseeable modification of Forest Service activities. This is particularly true in areas of mixed private and federal ownership. Private timberlands, such as Collins Pine and Sierra Pacific Industries, are common throughout and adjacent to the pilot project area, contributing to forested landscapes and wildlife habitat diversity. These lands are managed for timber growth and yield, which involves logging, thinning, burning, and road building. These management activities will continue on these lands during the life of the pilot project, but it is uncertain as to how much of this activity will occur. At the programmatic scale it is impractical to predict the foreseeable future of private land logging. Further cumulative effects analysis on wildlife habitat will be conducted at the project level.

Other forest management activities, such as recreation, special uses, minerals, range management, etc. will be ongoing as the proposed resource management activities are implemented. Many of these activities could increase risk to wildlife populations and habitat in combination with the pilot project, in terms of habitat modification and increased human activities causing disturbance. Project level BA/BE's should factor the impacts of the pilot project into every cumulative effects analysis conducted for each project activity not related to the HFQLG Act.

II. Effects To Habitat

Habitat Distribution and Fragmentation

Distribution of habitat is as important as relative amounts of habitat because of the potential risks of habitat fragmentation and the subsequent isolation of wildlife populations. Short-term, rapid change in the distribution of habitat can lead to the isolation of individuals and populations. This can make mate location, pair bonding, juvenile dispersal, colonization or recolonization of suitable habitat, and genetic interchange more difficult. Particularly vulnerable are wildlife that are habitat specialists or have limited mobility, such as spotted owls (habitat specialist) and amphibians (habitat specialists with limited mobility).

Habitat fragmentation is defined here as the breaking up of large blocks of suitable habitat into smaller blocks separated by lesser quality or unsuitable habitat. Fragmentation analysis is best completed at a watershed or multi-watershed scale at project level planning. The scale of this EIS limits the ability to predict exact distribution of habitat under each alternative. The risk of habitat fragmentation and isolation under each alternative is assessed based on the likelihood that an alternative will retain the connectivity of important habitats. Indicators of potential risks of habitat fragmentation that will result with the implementation of alternatives are: 1) changes in the amount of early seral habitat, open-canopy forest habitat, closed canopy forest habitats, and riparian habitat; 2) the potential increase in ecotones (ecotones are the areas that seperate true ecological types such as a pine forest changes to a mixed conifer forest. The area between the two types is generally a mixture of both; the ecotone); 3) the changes in landscape patterns and habitat connectivity; and 4) the changes to habitat conditions for forest interior species (such as the California spotted owl).

Shrub and Early Successional Habitat

Shrub and early successional wildlife species are those species that use CWHR habitat stages 1 and 2 to meet at least a part of their needs. Many of these species can also benefit from increases in the amount of grass, forbs, and shrubs when forested stands are opened enough to increase the amount of light and moisture, allowing for this vegetative response (CWHR stages 2P, 3P, 4P, 5P).

Resource management activities that are considered within the proposed actions are not designed to target grass/forb seral stage habitat. But under all alternatives, existing early seral vegetation, including shrub habitat could be treated under forested stands through either mastication, crushing, or underburning as part of the project. Shrubs within area treatments (Alternatives 1, 3-5) will be affected primarily by underburning; opening up a forested stand and underburning will regenerate existing shrub species. Group selection harvest within forested stands supporting shrubs will set back succession, resulting in a short lived grass/forb stage, which will eventually be replaced by shrub regeneration in each group selection treatment area. Early seral wildlife species that use mature brush should benefit from these groups until conifer regeneration dominates the site.

Within linear DFPZs, the initial impacts on shrubs will be similar, but the projected maintenance of DFPZs through underburning will accelerate fire frequency and reduce successional maturation of shrub habitat. This results in a habitat trade-off, providing continued forage for browsing animals (deer) while reducing dense, mature brush for shrub nesting species (fox sparrows, rufous sided towhees, snowshoe hares).

Early seral habitat is created by design through various vegetative treatments. This seral type is also created through random events, such as wildfire, blowdown, and insect epidemics. The assumption is that over the 5-year pilot project period, these events will be minimized. As alternatives 2 through 5 are designed to reduce the threat of stand replacing catastrophic fire, the amount of early seral habitat created through wildfire will decrease under these alternatives. Alternative 1 maintains the current level of risk that a stand replacing fire will continue.

The amount of habitat available for grass/forb/shrub and early successional associates is anticipated to increase with all alternatives in all vegetation types (except riparian) over the 5-year period. All resource management activities described in the proposed actions are designed to open up forested stands through thinning and burning activities (DFPZ's, area treatments, individual tree selection) and regeneration activities (group selection).

Summary by Alternative

Alternative 1 will continue current program of thinning stands to reduce threat of fire and to meet various resource objectives, including accelerating the growth of conifers to obtain the large tree component to meet wildlife and other resource requirements. The amount of early seral habitat created with this alternative is dependent upon the objectives set for the stand and the silvicultural prescription. Not more than 125,000 acres of grass/forb/shrub habitat will be created over the five year period. This will provide for additional early seral vegetation, understory diversity, and the release of shade intolerant conifers (such as pine).

Alternatives 2, 3, and 4 could potentially modify forested stands to allow for an increase in grass/forb/shrub habitat under an open conifer overstory within linear DFPZs, thinnings,and small group openings, over the five year pilot project. The amount of vegetative response depends on the quality of the site as well as the aspect, elevation, and amount of overstory removed. With natural vegetative succession, most all of this habitat would be transitory in nature, declining with time (20+ years) as the forest advanced to a more closed canopied forest, shading out the grass/forb/shrub component. Alternatives 2 and 3 would probably produce the most grass/forb/shrub habitat due to the amount of acres treated over the five year period. Alternative 4 would probably produce less acres as fewer acres are treated under this alternative.

Alternative 5 will create few additional new acres of early seral habitat. Emphasis is placed on underburning forested stands to reduce surface fuels and ladders. Linear DFPZs and small group openings, which create the bulk of open stands allowing for grass/forb/brush growth, are not emphasized. It is suspected that understories currently dominated with slash and old brush would respond well to prescribed burning and increase the opportunity for increased grass/forb/young brush habitat. This habitat would be transitory in nature and probably would be shaded out by the residual forested stand in a much shorter time frame than with alternatives 1-4.

Open-Canopy Forest Habitat

All alternatives will lead to an increase in open-canopy forest habitat over the 5-year period (CWHR 3P, 4P, 5P) although there is a wide range in the change afforded by each alternative (Table 3.23). This increase will primarily result from an increase in the amount of 3P and 4P from 2M, 3M in all vegetative types and 4M in eastside pine. Silvicultural treatments designed to thin and remove fire/fuel ladders within all stands for all alternatives will retain reserve basal areas in the largest trees available (dominant and codominant), while removing the suppressed, intermediate, and some codominant trees. This will result in pole, mature, and some late successional forest habitat with open canopies (<40 percent canopy cover).

Table 3.23
Potential changes in open-canopy forest
(2P, 3P, 4P, 5P) for each alternative.

Alternative

 Percent Change

1

+6%

2

+13%

3

+8%

4

+7%

5

+1%

Wildlife species preferring open-canopy forest will benefit slightly more from Alternatives 2 and 3 than with alternatives 1 and 4 as more acres are treated under these alternatives with treatments designed to open up stands. Open-canopy forest created under alternatives 3 and 4 will be more beneficial to open-canopied wildlife than alternative 2, as area treatment away from roads provides more effective wildlife habitat than that created along roads ( DFPZ's). The small openings created with group selection with alternatives 2 through 4 simulate habitat conditions favored by open-canopied and forest edge species.

Alternative 5 is not designed to provide for open-canopy forest and will thus provide the least amount of open forest habitat. The use of prescribed fire will be used to open up the understory and remove some fuel ladders. Some individual tree removal thru thinning will occur and will create some open forest habitat.

Closed-Canopy Forest Habitat

All alternatives will lead to a decrease in closed-canopy forest habitat over the 5-year period (2M-D, 3M-D, 4M-D) (Table 3.24). This decrease will primarily result from an increase in the amount of 3P and 4P from 2M, 3M, and 4M from all vegetative types. Silvicultural treatments designed to thin and remove fire/fuel ladders within all stands for all alternatives, will retain reserve basal areas in the largest trees available (dominant and codominant), while removing the suppressed, intermediate and some codominant trees. This will result in pole, mature and some late successional forest habitat with relatively open canopies. Resource management activities described in the Act are not designed to increase closed-canopy forest conditions over the 5-year period.

Table 3.24
Potential changes in closed-canopy forest
(2M-D, 3M-D, 4M-D, 5M-D, 6) for each alternative.

Alternative

 Percent Change

1

-6%

2

-13%

3

-8%

4

-7%

5

-1%

Most reserve (offbase, deferred, LSOG polygons, and ALSEs ) lands for each alternative are based on one or more factors, but closed-canopy mature forest is the most overriding factor in designation of most reserve lands. Therefore, closed-canopy forest habitat will not be affected in these reserve areas. Spotted owl PACs and SOHAs are composed primarily of closed-canopy mature forest and would not be entered under any of the alternatives. In alternatives 3 and 4, the management of vegetation which is suitable for either nesting or foraging by the California spotted owl will be designed so as to prevent loss of habitat. Current nesting habitat will not be changed to foraging or unsuitable and current foraging habitat will not be changed to unsuitable habitat for the owl. Thus closed canopied forest will be maintained under these circumstances. With alternative 5, management of vegetation which is suitable for either nesting or foraging by the California Spotted Owl will be designed so as to have no reduction in the overstory canopy closure and no removal of dominant and codominant trees. This should maintain closed canopy forest conditions suitable for nesting and foraging habitat for spotted owls.

Summary By Alternative

Alternative 1 has the least amount of landbase in reserves, thus potentially modifying closed-canopy stands that might be maintained with other alternatives. Under the CASPO IGs, suitable spotted owl nesting habitat can be modified to provide suitable foraging habitat and foraging habitat can be modified to unsuitable. (The intent of the CASPO guidelines was to maintain habitat characteristics. Therefore while basic characteristics are in place, such as snags and down logs, other attributes such as multi-storied canopies or high crown closure may be absent). Less acres are treated with this alternative but a larger proportion of these acres are in closed canopied forest stands usually to allow for viable (cost effective) projects.

Alternative 2 will not enter the offbase or deferred identified in the bill and LS/OG 4 and 5 polygons (by definition closed canopy mature forest). Under the CASPO IGs, suitable spotted owl nesting habitat can be modified to provide suitable foraging habitat, and foraging habitat can be modified to unsuitable.

Alternative 3 will not enter offbase or deferred areas or LS/OG 4 and 5 polygons (by definition closed canopy mature forest). Management of vegetation which is suitable for either nesting or foraging by the California spotted owl will be designed so as to prevent loss of habitat. Current nesting habitat will not be changed to foraging or unsuitable and current foraging habitat will not be reduced to unsuitable for the owl.

Alternative 4 includes reserve lands identified for alternative 3 plus ALSEs, which are predominately closed canopy forests. Management of vegetation which is suitable for either nesting or foraging by the California Spotted Owl will be designed so as to prevent loss of habitat. Current nesting habitat will not be degraded to foraging or unsuitable and current foraging habitat will not be degraded to unsuitable.

Alternative 5 is similar to Alternative 4 but will allow for vegetative manipulation, primarily underburning within the LS/OG and ALSE reserves. Management of vegetation which is suitable for either nesting or foraging by the California spotted owl will be designed so as to have no reduction in the overstory canopy closure and no removal of dominant and codominant trees. This should maintain closed canopy forest conditions with no impact to nesting and foraging habitat.

Wildlife species preferring closed-canopied forests will benefit most from Alternative 5, as less acres are treated with treatments designed to open up stands. Alternative 5 will maintain the most closed-canopy forested habitat at the end of 5 years. The small openings created with group selection (alternatives 2-4) simulate habitat conditions favored by open-canopied and forest edge species. Most closed-canopy forest wildlife associates benefit from small gaps within the forest, but these gaps are usually the result of natural events such as insect mortality and blowdown and are very small in magnitude compared to 2 acre openings.

Riparian Habitat

The riparian "buffer" widths that are described in the SAT guidelines are designed to provide a very conservative approach to maintain stream and riparian habitat until such time that a site specific watershed analysis can be conducted. SAT interim widths are more protective and consistent in implementation than current streamside management guidelines found in Forest Plans. Application of SAT interim widths on perennial and intermittent (including ephemeral) stream channels will create and/or maintain habitat conditions suitable for the continuity of riparian and meadow habitat for species associated with these habitats, including fish and amphibians. For discussion of environmental consequences, effectiveness of current SMZ guidelines, and SNEP riparian buffers, see discussion at 3.2.2. Watershed (Soil, Water, Aquatic, and Riparian) and the discussion on riparian habitat at the end of this section.

Ecotone/Mosaic Habitat

Ecotone or mosaic associates include species that use one or more CWHR habitat stages and habitat types to meet their life needs. This is often a combination of forested conditions and early successional habitat (CWHR stages 1 & 2), along with riparian areas and meadows. Alternatives that increase the amount of edge, should in turn create improved habitat conditions for those species that prefer edge habitats.

Changes in patch size and distribution can change the amount of edge between habitats. Effects can be either beneficial or detrimental, depending on the species in question. What may be considered fragmented for one species, such as an interior closed-canopy forest species, may be viewed as unfragmented by an open-canopy forest species or ecotone associate. An increase in edge caused by smaller forest habitat patches or narrowed riparian corridors can increase the risk of predation and parasitism for forest species. On the other hand, creation of mosiac patterns can be beneficial for maintaining the distribution of ecotones.

Alternative 1, with its emphasis on thinning and fuels reduction, could create a mosaic of habitat patches and patch sizes because a range of vegetation management prescriptions could be employed under CASPO guidelines. Emphasis will be placed on thinning large areas or stands for either evenly spaced trees or for clumps of trees separated by scattered small natural openings. With larger thinning units, this alternative will likely favor species associated with larger patch sizes of moderately open-canopy forest. These thinned stands could be viewed as broad transitional ecotones between untreated stands (reserves such as PAC's and SOHA's). Riparian ecotones will be narrower with this alternative than with alternatives 2-5, which incorporate wider riparian buffer widths.

The proposed resource management activities under Alternatives 2-4 will favor species associated with smaller patch sizes. Because the objective of resource management activities is to reduce fire/fuel conditions through thinning (creation of DFPZ's and area treatments) and create a mosaic of openings through small group selection harvest, these alternatives will be most beneficial to ecotone development and edge species.

Linear DFPZs are approximately 0.25 miles wide but are limited in length by topography, terrain, and existing road systems. On average linear DFPZs generally provide more edge than area treatment DFPZs. Linear DFPZs are basically rectangles, with the edge to area ratio becoming larger when the length axis is much greater than the width axis. Area treatment DFPZs will be larger in size and may (depending on its shape) have shorter edges than linear DFPZs. But if area DFPZ's are designed to be a series of overlapping treatment areas between untreated areas, this action could maximize the amount of edge over all activities. For this reason, DFPZs and area treatments created under alternatives 2-4 maximize edge. The reduced number of acres treated with alternative 4 would result in less edge habitat being created than with alternatives 2 & 3.

The resource management activities conducted with alternative 5 would result in very little increase in edge habitat over the five year period. Mechanical treatments and prescribed burning would be designed to modify the understory vegetation without modifying the stand as a whole. Resource management activities are not designed to modify stands extensively enough to create edge.

Mosaics created with group selection will produce small openings (up to 2 acres) with abrupt edges, although basal area retention trees (to meet CASPO guides) that may be left within groups will soften these edges, as well thinning the matrix between openings. The shape of the group selection will influence the amount of edge created. There is less edge to area with a circle (index of 1), slightly more with a square (index of 1.13) and even more with a rectangle (index of 1.41) (from Hunter 1990). Alternatives 2-4 implement the same amount of group selection harvest. It is assumed that the shape and size of an individual group selection area will not vary with any of the three alternatives; placement will be determined on a site specific basis. No group selection harvest will occur within PACs and SOHAs (under all alternatives), offbase/deferred, LS/OG 4 and 5 polygons (alternatives 2-5) and ALSEs (alternatives 4-5).

Landscape Patterns and Habitat Connectivity

Alternatives that treat less acres in DFPZ, area treatment, and group selection activities and maintain the most land in reserves are assumed to be the alternatives that best maintain forested habitat connectivity for the short term life of the pilot project. In contrast to the short-term impacts, resource management activities implemented during the five year pilot project are intended to create conditions that are favorable for habitat connectivity over the long-term by reducing risk of stand destroying fires. Any alternative that would reduce the threat of large, stand replacement fires by creating conditions that would reduce fire size and intensity, will benefit forest dependent species. Large fires create large scale, high contrast, fragmentation across landscapes which removes suitable habitat, isolates habitat parcels, and creates large openings that could prevent species occupancy, emigration and immigration. Thus those alternatives most favorable to reducing the long-term threat of stand destroying fires could temper the short-term impacts.

Summary By Alternative

Alternative 1 has fewer acres of land in reserve and treats less acres anually than proposed under alternatives 2-4 during the 5-year period. This would allow for an increased amount of resource management activity within the reserves, which would potentially reduce habitat connectivity present within the reserves. This could adversely impact options for providing large scale habitat connectivity in key locations, such as forest carnivore networks designed to provide large blocks of suitable habitat. Alternative 1 will not reduce the fire threat as well as the other alternatives over the 5-year period or in the long-term, thus protecting large blocks of habitat for connectivity across the project area could be jeopardized.

Alternative 2 has less land base in reserves than Alternative 4 and treats about 12 percent of the available landbase. Alternative 2 emphasizes a linear fuelbreak strategy that reduces fire risk and hazard but maintains a higher probability for allowing stand replacement fires between fuelbreaks. Construction of linear DFPZs could result in modification of stands that could reduce connectivity of old forest habitat. DFPZs typically provide continuous, open forest cover.

Alternative 3 has less landbase in reserves than Alternative 4 and treat about 12 percent of the available landbase. Vegetation and fuels management under Alternative 3 will implement actions that reduce fire risk and fire hazard and move toward forest conditions that are less prone to stand replacement fire. Alternative 3 has the lowest risk of high severity fires due to its extensive fuels reduction proposals, through active vegetative management that implements linear DFPZ's and area treatment. Suitable spotted owl habitat will not be made unsuitable. Thus providing and protecting large blocks of forested habitat for connectivity across the project area may be better achieved with this alternative. DFPZs and area treatments will be designed and implemented to maintain connectivity in old forest habitat that is suitable owl habitat.

Alternative 4 is similar to Alternative 5 in reserve areas, but implements resource management activities over 8 percent of the available landbase. Alternative 4 is similar to Alternative 3 for vegetation and fuels management, just less acres are treated over the 5-years. Alternative 4 provides a low risk of high severity fires due to its extensive fuels reduction proposals, through active vegetative management that implements linear DFPZ's and area treatment. Suitable spotted owl habitat will not be made unsuitable. Thus providing and protecting large blocks of forested habitat for connectivity across the project area may be adequately achieved with this alternative. Linear DFPZs and area treatments will be designed and implemented to maintain connectivity in old forest habitat that is suitable owl habitat.

Alternative 5 maintains habitat conditions most similar to pre-project levels. Treatment areas will be designed and implemented to maintain connectivity in old forest habitat that is suitable owl habitat. Alternative 5 reduces the fire threat better than alternative 1 but not as well as the other alternatives over the 5-year period or in the long-term. Thus protecting large blocks of habitat for connectivity across the project area could be jeopardized.

Additional Findings Associated with Effects to Habitat

Unavoidable Adverse Affects. To meet the intent of the Act, habitat values for some wildlife species will decline regardles of the mitigations provided. This does not mean that the effects are measurable or sufficient to affect species viability. Adverse affects associated with habitat for wildlife include a loss of forage and cover (both thermal and hiding).

Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources that are irreversible. However reversing habitat trends cannot be considered immediate and must be considered a long term prospect.

Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known habitat resource commitments that can be considered irretrievable at this scale.

III. Effects To Management Indicator Species (MIS) and Neotropical Migratory Birds (NTMB)

A. MIS

Direct and Indirect Effects

As documented earlier in the introduction to this section the implementation of group selections and DFPZs will affect the (terrestrial wildlife) management indicator species that were selected for this analysis. Table 3.25 summarizes that information and indicates which species would benefit from such activities, which would experience a loss of habitat values, and which species would not see a change in the value of habitat from these two activities. In this table CWHR values for current conditions (Alternative 1) were compared with expected changes in habitat which are numerically calculated by the CWHR program. The numbers generated provide two sets of information when compared to current conditions; the comparative trend in habitat value (expressed here as the % change in habitat value) and whether there are any changes in the habitat rating (Low, Moderate, or High). Since there is a range of values within each rating habitat value can improve or decline without necessarily resulting in a change of value. Please refer to Appendix I for a fuller discussion and presentation of the CWHR models and values developed for this analysis.

Table 3.25
Changes in Habitat Ratings and Values For MIS

Species

% Change in Habitat Value

Group Selection

Changes in Habitat Rating Under

Group Selection

% Change in Habitat Value

DFPZ

Changes in Habitat Rating Under

DFPZ Treatments

Deer

+10%

Remains Moderate

+23%

From Moderate to High

Black Bear

-9%

Remains Moderate

+3%

Remains Moderate

Grey Squirrel

-45%

Remains Moderate

-9%

Remains Moderate

Mtn. Quail

+22%

From Moderate to High

+13%

From Moderate to High

Wild Turkey

+25%

Remains Moderate

+19%

Remains Moderate

Band-tailed Pigeon

-5%

Remains Moderate

 

-7%

Remains Moderate

 

Blue Grouse

-1%

Remains High

+2%

Remains High

Pileated Woodpecker

-35%

Remains Moderate

-23%

Remains Moderate

 

Hairy Woodpecker

+7%

From Moderate to High

+19%

Remains High

Golden Eagle

+9%

Remains High

+6%

Remains High

Prairie Falcon

+28%

Remains High

+5%

Remains High

Osprey

-21%

From High to Moderate

-1%

Remains High

Bufflehead

+200%

Remains Low

+200%

Remains Low

If all values less than 5% are discounted as potentially random changes that would occur with or without the proposed activities we find that there would be few negative affects to management indicator species. The value of habitat for the grey squirrel and pileated woodpecker would decline during the 5 years of implementation, although habitat ratings would remain at a moderate level. Habitat values for the osprey decline sufficiently to change the habitat rating from High to Moderate under the group selection.

The greatest adverse affect to habitat values would be due to the group selection. This is due to the acres treated that would remove conifers. In fact, grey squirrel habitat declines less than 10% and osprey habitat only 1% with the implementation of DFPZs.

Conversely the activities would seem to benefit a wide range of MIS. This is primarily because these species either prefer early to mid successional habitats or a mixture of different habitat types. This is best exemplified by the changes in value for deer habitat. While deer are considered to be an early or mid-successional species the retention of confers for hiding and thermal cover in addition to the potential increase in browse availability provides for a greater increase in habitat value in the creation of DFPZs over group selections where all the conifers are removed. Conversely both wild turkey and mountain quail fare better under the group selection as openings that provide forage (primarily grass/forb seeds) are a limiting factor and cover can be provided by shrubs as well as trees.

The bufflehead appears to do well under either treatment however this is due less to the effects of the projects and more due to its requirements for open water.

The figures provided in Table 3.25 compare current conditions with the maximum changes that would occur under the proposed actions within the five years of the pilot project. Since there will be some activities under all the alternatives the figures are not meant to be predictive of the effects of any one alternative but rather an indication of the effects of implementing two of the proposed actions. The actual changes to habitat must be considered on a project specific basis to provide an accurate assessment of effects to the specific management indicator species.

Cumulative Effects

Loss of suitable habitat for management indicator species will continue as more areas under private ownership are developed. Timber harvest on private lands will provide similar effects as those shown in Table 3.25 therefore for those species such as deer, quail, turkey, and prairie falcon, habitat values will likely continue to improve within the project area. Other species such as pileated woodpecker and osprey are likely to experience continued declines in habitat values. The full effect of these changes in values and the potential changes in habitat ratings is unknown as the actual changes cannot be predicted. However given recent practices it is likely that the changes in values occurring under the project proposals would be in concert and therefore cumulative with those occurring on other lands.

Additional Findings Associated with Effects to Habitat

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. There are no known unavoidable adverse impacts to any MIS species. The effects will be evaluated on a project level.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of wildlife resources (MIS) that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife MIS resources that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Relationship of Short-term Uses and Long-term Effects: The changes (both postive and negatively) in habitat suitability are likely to be maintained although diminish with time.

B. Neotropical Migratory Birds (NTMB)

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

Neotropical Migratory birds (NTMB) are defined as species whose breeding area includes the North American temperate zones and that migrate in many cases south of the continental United States during nonbreeding seasons (Hunter et al 1993). The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) coordinated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service indicates that certain populations of NTMB species in California have been declining over the past 26 years (1996 data). Although there appear to be multiple causes for declines, habitat fragmentation and decreases in habitat quantity and quality, caused by changes in land use, seem to be largely responsible (Sherry and Holmes 1993, Terborgh 1992).

Saab and Rich (1997) found that neotropical migrant species with decreasing population trends tend to be those which nest in shrub layers, and species with increasing population trends tend to nest in tree canopies. Within the RDEIS Managing California Spotted Owl Habitat in the Sierra Nevada National Forests of California An Ecosystem approach, a summary table of Sierran Neotropical Migratory Bird species with measurable population declines based on Breeding Bird Surveys conducted in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicates that 32 species showing population declines have some habitat association with grassland/shrubland/open forest and/or riparian.

Environmental Consequences

Based on the SNEP Report, of the 18 species of birds identified as being either definitely or likely declining in the Sierras, 12 species are neotropical migrant species. Five of these species have projected increases in habitat trends as a result of proposed actions of the pilot project (red-breasted sapsucker, American robin, chipping sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, brown-headed cowbird). These species respond favorably to the creation of openings and/or opening up the forested canopy, allowing for increased understory plant diversity. Five species have projected declines in habitat trends (band-tailed pigeon, olive-sided flycatcher, western wood peewee, golden-crowned kinglet, Swainson's trush). These species are adversely affected by converting closed forested stands to open forested stand. Two species remained stable (lesser goldfinch and black-headed grosbeak) (Appendix I).

In addition to habitat modification and its affect on neotropical migratory birds, direct effects on nesting birds can occur as a result of timber harvest and prescribed burning killing young birds in the nest that cannot fly. It is recognized that the proposed project, when implemented during the breeding season (April-September) could directly impact nesting birds. It is unknown as to what the overall effect on neotropical migrant species populations might be.

Additional Findings Associated with Effects to Habitat

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. There are no known unavoidable adverse affects to neotropical migrants.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of wildlife resources (NTMB) that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife (NTMB) resources that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Relationship of Short-term Uses and Long-term Effects: The changes (both postive and negatively) in habitat suitability are likely to be maintained although diminish with time.

IV. EFFECTS TO THREATENED, ENDANGERED, AND SENSITIVE SPECIES

A. Terrestrial Species

1. Introduction

In the planning area, 17 vertebrate species and 1 invertebrate terrestrial species listed as Federally threatened or endangered, are proposed for listing, or are Forest Service Region 5 sensitive species (Table 3.26). These species are discussed in detail in the biological assessment/biological evaluation (BA/BE). A summary of the effects analysis is presented here and includes both the status and life history of the species as well as the anticipated effects. However, since this is a summary, the BA/BE prepared for this project (on file at the Forest Supervisors Office, Plumas National Forest) should be reviewed for a complete discussion if questions arise or clarification is needed. The location within the BA/BE for both the effects analysis are provided for reference.


Table 3.26
Threatened, Endangered, Proposed, and Sensitive Terrestrial Animal Species
that Potentially Occur on the Affected Forests.

(Regional Forester, Pacific Southwest Region
 Sensitive Species List, June 8, 1998)

Species

Status

National Forest Occurrence

Terrestrial Species

 

 

BIRDS

 

 

American peregrine falcon

Endangered

Lassen Plumas Tahoe

Bald eagle

Threatened

Lassen Plumas Tahoe

Northern spotted owl

Threatened

Lassen

California spotted owl

Sensitive

Lassen Plumas Tahoe

Northern goshawk

Sensitive

Lassen Plumas Tahoe

Willow flycatcher

Sensitive

Lassen Plumas Tahoe

Great gray owl

Sensitive

Lassen Plumas Tahoe

Greater sandhill crane

Sensitive

Lassen Plumas Tahoe

Swainson's hawk

Sensitive

Lassen Plumas

 

 

 

MAMMALS

 

 

Pacific fisher

Sensitive

Lassen Plumas Tahoe

Marten

Sensitive

Lassen Plumas Tahoe

Sierra Nevada red fox

Sensitive

Lassen Plumas Tahoe

California wolverine

Sensitive

Lassen Plumas Tahoe

Pallid bat

Sensitive

Lassen Plumas Tahoe

Townsend's big eared bat

Sensitive

Lassen Plumas Tahoe

Western red bat

Sensitive

Lassen Plumas Tahoe

 

 

 

REPTILES

 

 

Northwestern pond turtle

Sensitive

Lassen Plumas Tahoe

 

 

 

INVERTEBRATES

 

 

Valley eld. longhorn beetle

Threatened

Lassen Plumas Tahoe

1. Avian Species

American Peregrine Falcon

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

The peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) is a neotropical migrant which occurs throughout the world, except on Antarctica. The American peregrine falcon subspecies (F. p. anatum) historically nested throughout North America, from the boreal forest south into Mexico (USFWS 1982). This species is found breeding, migrating, or wintering throughout most of California, except in the southeast, and active nesting sites are known along the coast north of Santa Barbara, in the Sierra Nevada, and in other mountains of northern California (Zeiner et al.1990a).

In the western Sierra Nevada, peregrines are found from the annual grassland through the lodgepole pine zones in all successional stages (Verner and Boss 1980). Nest cliffs are found up to 7,500 feet elevation, but most are below 4,500 feet (Monk et al. 1988). The peregrine falcon occurs on all three Forests affected by the proposed project. Trends indicate an increase in active peregrine eyries over the last 10 years in the planning area.

Current known peregrine eyries in the planning area include seven on the Lassen National Forest, two on the Plumas National Forest, and one on the Sierraville District of the Tahoe National Forest. Six of the seven eyries located on the Lassen are located in off base or deferred land as defined in the Act.

The peregrine falcon finds medium and high habitat suitability in the following affected CWHR habitat types, particularly open to moderately closed forests: various tree sizes and open to moderately close canopies (CWHR P's and M's - prey base related) in ponderosa pine, montane hardwood, montane hardwood-conifer, mixed conifer, red fir, jeffrey pine, and eastside pine; montane riparian (1, 2S); all types of wet meadow and fresh emergent vegetation; and lacustrine (Timossi 1990). Cliffs are an essential habitat element (Ibid).

Environmental Consequences: A Summary (BA/BE; Page 26-29)

Direct and indirect effects could occur through the modification or loss of foraging habitat. The possibility exists for behaviorial disturbance to nesting peregrines from logging, road building, or other activities related to the proposed actions. Thinning and group selections may enhance foraging opportunities within foraging areas. The CWHR model shows there would be no net change to habitat values from these activities.

No specific cumulative effects were identified in the biological assessment and evaluation although small incremental changes to habitat may occur over time through a variety of activities.

Additional Findings Associated with Effects to Peregrine Falcon and its Habitat

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. There are no known unavoidable adverse affects associated with implementing the alternatives considered in this analysis.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of wildlife resources (habitat or individuals) that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources (habitat or individuals) that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. The BA/BE prepared for this analysis and on file for review determined that the project as proposed would not adversely affect the American peregrine falcon or its critical habitat.
Relationship of Short Term Uses and Long Term Effects: Due to the few adverse affects of the proposals on this species, long term effects cannot be accurately predicted or assessed.

Bald Eagle

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is found throughout most of North America and breeds or winters throughout California, except in the desert areas (Zeiner et al. 1990a, DeGraaf et al. 1991). In California, most breeding occurs in Butte, Lake, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas, Shasta, Siskiyou, and Trinity counties (Zeiner et al. 1990a). California's breeding population of bald eagles is resident yearlong in most areas where the climate is relatively mild (Jurek 1988).

Migratory individuals remain in the state through March or early April (ibid). The bald eagle occurs on all the Forests affected by the proposed project. Populations are considered to have remained stable or increased over the past ten years. In the planning area, there are 22 known bald eagle nests on the Lassen National Forest, 16 on the Plumas National Forest, and two on the Sierraville District of the Tahoe National Forest.

The Bald Eagle finds medium and high habitat suitability in the following affected CWHR habitat types: all types of Ponderosa pine, montane hardwood, mixed conifer, and eastside pine; montane riparian (all but D canopies); aspen; 4S, 4P, 5S, 5P, 5M in red fir and Jeffrey pine; all types of wet meadow and fresh emergent wetland; lacustrine; and riverine (Timossi 1990).

Environmental Consequences: A Summary ( BA/BE; Page 29-34)

There may be some modification or loss of habitat associated with the proposed activities. There may also be some behavioral disturbances to nesting eagles from logging, road building or other related activites. Any reduction in the risk of habitat loss due to wildfire would benefit this species. Activities may also help maintain or restore large, open-structured trees. The CWHR model showed a very slight increase in habitat value with the proposed activities (thinning and group selection).

Cumulative effects may be felt in those areas where both the proposed actions occur during a time when other activities (such as recreation) are occurring. There may also be small, incremental amounts of habitat loss over time.

Additional Findings Associated with Effects to the Bald Eagle and its Habitat

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. There are no known unavoidable adverse affects associated with any alternative proposed in this analysis.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources critical to the bald eagle that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known resources critical to the bald eagle that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. The BA/BE prepared for this analysis and on file for review determined that the project as proposed would not adversely affect the bald eagle or its critical habitat.
Relationship of Short Term Uses and Long Term Effects: Due to the few and limited adverse affects of the proposals on this species, long term effects cannot be accurately predicted or assessed.

Northern Spotted Owl

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

The northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) was federally listed as a threatened species in Washington, Oregon, and California on July 23, 1990, primarily due to a loss of nesting habitat. Detailed accounts of the status, distribution, and abundance of the northern spotted owl throughout its range are found in the 1987 and 1990 Fish and Wildlife Service Status Reviews (USFWS 1987, 1990); the 1989 Status Review Supplement (USFWS 1989); and the Service's biological opinion on the adoption of the preferred alternative in the FEIS (USFS 1994).

Critical Habitat for the northern spotted owl was designated on January 15, 1992. There are 6,887,000 acres of critical habitat designated in 190 individual critical habitat units (CHU) distributed across the range of the northern spotted owl on Federal lands in California, Oregon, and Washington.

On Federal lands, a majority of this species' range is managed under the umbrella document of the Record of Decision for Amendments to Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management Planning Documents Within the Range of the Northern Spotted Owl Standards and Guidelines for Management of Habitat for Late-Successional and Old-Growth Forest Related Species Within the Range of the Northern Spotted Owl (Northwest Forest Plan) (1994). A portion of this range is within the Lassen National Forest, and lies on the easternmost edge of the species' range, but is located outside the planning area. There is no critical habitat designated in the portions of the Lassen National Forest in the project area. Availability of suitable northern spotted owl habitat is limited on the Lassen National Forest.

As early as 1985, this area of connectivity was emphasized as critically important by a National Audubon Society "Blue Ribbon'' Advisory panel (as quoted in Verner et al. 1992). Northern spotted owls in this area are limited by their low numbers, low density and the high fragmentation of the habitat. This isolates populations and reduces the formation of stable demographic units. USFWS determined that local demographic stability is necessary to maintain the link between the two subspecies (draft recovery plan pg 194).

Two potential corridors (i.e. the areas west of Burney and east of the Fall River Valley) provide the best opportunity for facilitating dispersal between the northern and California spotted owls as described in the Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement Managing California Spotted Owl Habitat in the Sierra Nevada National Forests of California, An Ecosystem Approach (1996) (Cal Owl RDEIS, 1996). This area is predominately private land with NFS land insignificant in its role as a connecting corridor.

Environmental Consequences: A Summary (BA/BE; Page 49-52)

There may be some modification or loss of habitat associated with the proposed activities. There may also be some behavioral disturbances to nesting eagles from logging, road building or other related activites. Any reduction in the risk of habitat loss due to wildfire would benefit this species. Activities may also help maintain or restore large, open-structured trees. The CWHR model showed a very slight increase in habitat value with the proposed activities (thinning and group selection).

Activities on private lands may have an impact on connectivity between the California spotted owl and the northern spotted owl. This may have a cumulative effect on the owls habitat when considered with past activities that have reduced connectivity.

Additional Findings Associated with Effects to Habitat

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. There are no known unavoidable adverse affects associated with any of the alternatives considered in this analysis.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of wildlife resources that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.

Other Relevant Disclosures. The BA/BE prepared for this analysis and on file for review determined that the project as proposed would not adversely affect the Northern spotted owl or its critical habitat.

Relationship of Short Term Uses and Long Term Effects: Due to the few and limited adverse affects of the proposals on this species, long term effects cannot be accurately predicted or assessed.

California Spotted Owl

This section contains an indepth review and discussion of the effects to the California spotted owl, based on the analysis completed for the BA/BE (pages 63 - 88). The BA/BE should be reviewed for a more comprehensive analysis of the effects that are summarized here.

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

The known and estimated number of California spotted owl sites on the three Forests comes from data provided in the Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement Managing California Spotted Owl Habitat in the Sierra Nevada National Forests of California, An Ecosystem Approach (Cal Owl RDEIS) (1996), Table 3.E.1, page 3-26 and updated in 1998 with new information (DFG database, Gould 1998). The planning area supports 366 California spotted owl Protected Activity Center's (PACs) and Spotted Owl Habitat Areas (SOHAs). This is approximately 25 percent of an approximate total 1,480 PACs and SOHAs located on National Forest System (NFS) land in the Sierra Nevada.

As shown in Table 3.27, 74 percent (366 and 494) of all PAC's and SOHA's on the three Forests are located in the planning area. Approximately 77 percent of all spotted owl PAC's and SOHAs in the three Forest area occur in the westside ecological zone (381/494), 21 percent occur in the transition zone, and less than 2 percent occur in the eastside zone. Based on these numbers, as well as the reproductive success of owls in the transition zone (Blakesly, pers. comm.; Plumas National Forest Strix database), it is apparent that the presence of spotted owls within the transition zone is not an anomaly. Differences in numbers of PACs between the Forests mainly reflects a difference in transition zone acreage between Forests.

 Table 3.27.
Existing Spotted Owl Situation

Forest

Total PACs and SOHAs on Forest

Total PACs and SOHAs in pilot project

PACs and SOHAs in Westside Zone

PACs and SOHAs in Transition Zone

PACs and SOHAs in Eastside Zone

Lassen

111

111

77

26

8

Plumas

244

244

172

72

0

Tahoe

139

 11

135

4

0

S/ville Ranger District

(11)

(11)

7

4

0

Total

494

366

256

102

8

Estimates of crude density (number of owls divided by the total acreage of a given area) has been calculated for four study areas in the Sierran Province. The data gathered in the Sierran Province has shown that densities varied from a high of 0.526 owls per square mile on the Sierra National Forest to a low of 0.259 owls per square mile on the Eldorado National Forest (Verner et al. 1992). A simple crude density of owls on the Plumas National Forest, based solely on the number of PAC's and an assumption that each PAC contains a minimum of one pair, results in a conservative estimate of 0.491 owls per square mile.

Table 3.E.1. page 3-26 within the Cal Owl RDEIS suggests that 38 to 50 estimated additional owl sites could be present on the Plumas and another 21 to 32 estimated owl sites could be present on the Tahoe. This estimate was made by Forest biologists based on unsurveyed suitable habitat.

California spotted owls are currently being managed in the tri-forest area under the Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact for California Spotted Owl Sierran Province Interim Guidelines (CASPO EA) (January 1993). The standards and guidelines in the EA were developed based on information presented inThe California Spotted Owl: A Technical Assessment of its Current Status, General Technical Report PSW-GTR-133 (CASPO Report) (July, 1992). Habitat requirements for this species can be found in both the CASPO EA (Section lll, pages 1-9) and CASPO Report (Chapters 2 and 5); the CASPO EA amended the Forest Plans for the three Forests.

The CASPO IGs classify owl habitat as either selected strata or other strata. Selected strata is defined as strata preferentially selected for nesting by owls (M4G, M4N, M5G, M5N, M6, and P4G). Other strata is defined as strata utilized by owls but not preferred for nesting (P3G, P3N, P4P, M2G, M3P, M3G, M3N, M4P, R3P R3G, R3N, R4G, and R4N). Owls consistently use stands with significantly greater canopy closure, total live tree basal area, basal area of hardwoods and conifers, snag basal area, and dead and downed wood when compared with random locations within forests (Verner et al, 1992). The stand attributes that are preferred by the spotted owl, and are useful in describing suitable habitat, are summarized in Table 3.28. All selected strata designated in the CASPO Report are considered to be suitable for nesting (Verner & Robinson, 1998). In the Ponderosa pine/hardwood zone and lower, the hardwood component needs to be included in all estimates of canopy cover when assessing suitability for owls (Verner & Robinson, 1998).

Table 3.28
Spotted Owl Suitable Habitat Attributes

Stand Attribute

Nesting and Roosting

Foraging

Percent Canopy Cover[6]

70-95

50-90

Total live tree basal area[7]

185-350

180-220

Total snag basal area[8]

30-55

15-30

Basal area of large snags[9]

20-30

7-17

Downed woody debris[10]

10-15

10-15

The four nest types used regularly by the spotted owl are: (1) cavity nests placed in natural cavities resulting from decay; (2) broken-topped trees and snags; (3) platform nests placed on remnant platforms built by other species, or on debris accumulations; and (4) dwarf mistletoe brooms. Data analyzed from 124 nest sites in the Sierra indicated that nest trees averaged 45 inches DBH and more than 70 percent of all nest trees surveyed were larger than 30 inches DBH (Verner et al. 1992). Sixty-three percent of nests were in live trees and 37 percent were in snags.

Suitable foraging habitat is found in the same forest types listed above for nesting habitat. Stands considered to be suitable for foraging have at least two canopy layers, dominant and codominant trees in the canopy averaging at least 11 inches DBH, at least 40 percent canopy closure, and higher than average levels of snags and downed woody material. Generally, all 3N, 3G, 4N, 4G, 5N, 5G and 6 stands are suitable foraging habitat, with 4G and 5G stands being used for foraging significantly more than expected. In the red fir type, stands with 30 percent or greater canopy cover should be considered suitable for foraging. It is not the case that all "other strata" will be classed as suitable for foraging. For example, P4P, M2G, M3P, M4P, and R3P fail to meet either the diameter limit or the canopy cover limit typically found in suitable foraging habitat. Thus, for this analysis, these strata types are not suitable for foraging.

Current implementation of the CASPO interim guidelines in the eastside ecologic zone and transition ecologic zone (defined by Fites et al, 1996) on the three forests differ somewhat from CASPO standards and guidelines:

Eastside Zone

On the eastside of the Plumas National Forest, California spotted owls and owl habitat management has been addressed in a Biological Evaluation (BE) dated October 27, 1993 (the Eastside BE is located and available for viewing within the planning record at the Plumas National Forest Supervisor's Office) as provided for under the CASPO EA (p. III-3 through III-5). This BE concluded that not managing suitable eastside habitat for spotted owls according to the CASPO EA will not likely result in a trend toward Federal listing or loss of viability of the California spotted owl. This BE was approved by the R5 Regional Office wtih a management recommendation that the Plumas implement the requirements of the modified Cumulative Effects Analysis (CEA) process for eastside pine, as described in the CASPO IGs EA (p.lll-6 through lll-9), when owls are located. This is current management direction on the eastside zone of the Plumas National Forest and will continue for this pilot project.

The Lassen National Forest is currently implementing an eastside habitat adaptive management strategy on portions of the Eagle Lake and Hat Creek Districts that deviates from the CASPO EA interim guidelines (Atencio July 25, 1995). The Tahoe National Forest is implementing the CASPO Interim Guidelines within suitable spotted owl habitat in Eastside Pine. Deviations from the CASPO Interim Guidelines have been accomplished by utilizing review and recommendations from the CASPO Oversight Team. The deviations from CASPO have primarily been the inclusion of shaded fuelbreaks within suitable spotted owl habitat.

The RDEIS for California Spotted Owl (1996) stated that the eastside pine habitat type is considered a population sink and is not a focus for spotted owl management, and that spotted owl site protection and management is done on a site specific, rather than a landscape basis. The Plumas conducted a reevaluation of the suitability of the eastside habitat situation for the spotted owl (Chester pers. comm. 1999). This evaluation reaffirms the unsuitability of the eastside zone for spotted owl management.

Transition Zone

Assessments have been conducted regarding the status and health of vegetative, fire, insect, pathogen and wildlife habitat conditions on the Lassen, Plumas, and Sierraville District of the Tahoe National Forest (Bliss et al 1996a, Fites et al 1996). These assessments are located and available for viewing in the planning record at the Plumas National Forest Supervisor's Office. As a result of this work, an adaptive management strategy was developed in order to plan projects. The clarification letter of June 6, 1996 from the Forest Supervisors of the three forests allows for the incorporation of adaptive management if a project specific biological evaluation demonstrates that the objectives of the CASPO recommendations may be better achieved through an alternate prescription.

Adaptive management was designed to provide the required habitat attributes for California spotted owls within the range of natural variability for mixed-conifer/pine on dry sites such as south and west aspects. It was also designed for mixed-conifer/fir/pine on moist sites (north or east aspects, drainages) for low severity fire conditions (defined as <30 percent mortality post fire) (Fites et al, 1996).

Implementing adaptive management actions to reduce fire intensities, reduce the risk of stand destroying fires, and maintaining fire intervals within the normal range of variability, within the transition zone usually involves thinning from below to remove fuel ladders, reducing surface fuels, reducing snag and down log densities, and opening up canopy cover to create shaded fuelbreaks and fuel reduction zones.

Areas of Concern

The CASPO Report identified Areas of Concern (AOC) within the range and distribution of the California spotted owl. These AOCs contain marginal habitat that is limiting to the owl and are identified simply to indicate potential areas where future problems may be greatest if the owl's status were to deteriorate. Four AOC's identified in the CASPO Report are present within the planning area (CASPO Report, pp. 45-48):

Area of Concern A: This is a bottleneck in distribution between the California and the northern subspecies of the spotted owl. The interchange between these adjacent populations has been severed and additional losses could exacerbate this problem.
Area of Concern 1: In Lassen County, within the Lassen National Forest and areas adjacent to the Plumas National Forest. The reason for the concern is that the habitat in this area is discontinuous, naturally fragmented, and poor in quality due to drier conditions and lava-based soils.
Area of Concern 2: In northern Plumas County, within the Lassen National Forest. The reason for the concern is a gap in known distribution, caused by large blocks of private land, which extends in an east west band almost dissecting the owl's range.
Area of Concern 3: In Northeastern portion of the Tahoe National Forest. The reason for the concern is an area of checkerboard lands dominated by granite outcrops and red fir forests; both features guarantee low owl densities (Table 3G, CASPO Report, p48).

Statewide Population Status

Four demographic studies are currently investigating the population trend of the California spotted owl within the Sierra Nevada range. These studies provide evidence that suggests that populations may be declining in some parts of the owl's range in the Sierra Nevada. On the Lassen National Forest, data suggests that the study population experienced a 7.7 percent annual rate of decline from 1990-1998 (Blakesley and Noon 1998). Researchers feel that numbers are currently declining across the range of the owl. These changes may be resulting from shifts in prey abundance, changes in regional weather patterns, or broad-scale land management practices (Steger et al. 1998) or some other factor or combination of factors that have yet to be described.

Environmental Consequences

Direct and Indirect Effects

Analysis of alternatives on the spotted owl is based on projected changes to suitable owl habitat, fragmentation of habitat, impact to habitat attributes important to owls (large trees, snags, logs), and impact to habitat within an owl home range. The CASPO Interim Guidelines EA does not speak directly to changes that can occur to suitable owl habitat. The intent was to provide interim guidelines to retain various stand attributes found most often in older stands, as identified within the CASPO Technical Report (Verner et al 1992). Habitat was labeled as Selected strata (preferentially selected by owls for nesting) and Other strata (used but not preferentially selected for nesting). Guidelines for Selected and Other strata were designed to maintain large tree attributes, including snags and down logs. Changes can occur to selected and other strata as long as a certain amount of basal area composed of the largest trees, are retained. After stand treatment, the intent for "selected strata was to leave such stands in near a structural condition corresponding to suitable foraging habitat" (CASPO Report pg 23), and it was not the intent that other strata "should qualify structurally as suitable foraging habitat" (page 24). Thus both selected and other strata could be modified, under CASPO IGs, such that they do not provide the same functional habitat as prior to treatment, or provide unsuitable habitat.

Maintaining a threshold amount of suitable owl habitat within an owls home range to maintain some level of productivity and survivorship is stressed by Bart (1995). Bart's analysis indicates that replacement-rate reproduction depends on having somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of the landscape (or home range for a single owl pair) occupied by suitable owl habitat. This is discussed further in this report under Cumulative Effects Analysis Based on Spotted Owl Home Range.

All alternatives will maintain PACs and SOHAs through the 5-year pilot project period. Resource management activities as defined in the Act will not occur within PACs and SOHAs.

All alternatives will comply with the CASPO IGs. In addition, vegetation management activities that occur with Alternatives 3 and 4 within habitat suitable for the California spotted owl will also follow the Suitable Habitat Management Guidelines that are described in Chapter 2 of the EIS. Under these guidelines, projects that occur within nesting or foraging habitat will be designed so that habitat characteristics maintain the current level of suitability. Current nesting habitat will not be altered to foraging or unsuitable and current foraging habitat will not be altered to become unsuitable.

Under Alternative 5, vegetation treatments within suitable owl habitat are limited to prescribed burning and understory thinning that will maintain suitable spotted owl habitat where it currently occurs. This management action provides for the removal of ladder fuels in fuel treatment areas to approximately 12-15 feet from the ground surface to base of live crown over at least 90% of the surface area treated. Impacts to suitable habitat will be assessed at the site specific project level. Each project could mitigate impacts to suitable habitat through various methodologies that affect fewer acres of habitat (project design, layout, maintenance of denser canopy cover and retention of habitat elements). Impacts, to suitable habitat will be documented in a site specific biological evaluation.

Implementing resource management activities, primarily implementation of actions to create DFPZ's, group selection harvest, and thinning designed to maintain suitable owl habitat, should not result in a net decrease in suitable owl habitat for alternatives 3 and 4 over the 5-year period. Within suitable habitat, vegetation treatments, including underburning and/or clearing of small diameter fuels, are limited to those designed to address fire risk and hazard. Maintaining suitable owl habitat with each of these alternatives within mixed conifer, red fir, ponderosa pine, and associated riparian habitats will also provide significant suitable habitat overlap for three additional sensitive species that depend on late seral, closed canopied forest for life history requirements: goshawks, marten and fisher (Zeiner et al 1990; CWHR program Version 6.0, 1997).

In alternative 5, management of vegetation, including suitable owl nesting and foraging habitat, emphasizes light mechanical treatment and/or underburning, no reduction in the overstory canopy closure and no removal of dominant and codominant trees. This should maintain closed canopy forest conditions with little impact to nesting and foraging owl habitat.

Potential changes in suitable nesting and foraging habitat with each alternative through the 5-year period were analyzed for the planning area. Approximately 185,460 acres of suitable nesting habitat and 572,971 acres of suitable foraging habitat is present within the westside and transition zones. Acres are based on strata and CWHR crosswalks from each Forest's database. The eastside zone has been excluded from the habitat account. The potential amount of suitable nesting and foraging acres that could be entered with DFPZs and area treatments is displayed in Table 3.29. With resource management activities designed to maintain suitable owl habitat as suitable habitat after fuels treatment (alternatives 3 and 4), the changes, expressed as a percentage, in total suitable nesting and foraging habitat per alternative are shown in Table 3.30.

Table 3.29
Potential Acres of Suitable Owl Habitat Entered over 5-year Pilot Project Period
with implementation of DFPZ's and Area Treatment (acres).

Alternative

Potential Acres of Suitable Nesting Habitat Entered

5M,5D,

Potential Acres of Suitable Foraging Habitat Entered

4M,4D

1

12,982

40,108

2

12,791

49,148

3

20,960

67,232

4

7,959

34,905

5

22,085

60,910

Table 3.30
 Changes in Suitable Owl Habitat over 5-year Pilot Project Period
with implementation of DFPZ's and Area Treatment

Alternative

 Percent Change in Nesting

From 1998 Base

5M,5D,6

 Percent Change in Foraging

From 1998 Base

4M,4D

1

-7%

-7%

2

-7%

-8.5%

3

0%

0%

4

0%

0%

5

0%

0%

Alternative 1 has projected decreased amounts of suitable spotted owl nesting habitat within the project area with implementation of thinnings designed to accelerate growth and reduce ladder and surface fuels. This is due to the large amounts of medium/large tree, moderate to closed canopy conifer forests that will be opened up with these proposed resource management activities. Alternative 1 is likely to result in a 7 percent decline in suitable owl nesting habitat, and a 7 percent decline in foraging habitat (additional acres separate from nesting habitat).

Alternative 2 is likely to result in a 7 percent decline in suitable owl nesting habitat, and a 8.5 percent decline in foraging habitat (additional acres separate from nesting habitat). Alternatives 3, 4, and 5 will result in no direct decline in suitable spotted owl nesting or foraging habitat over the project area. Actual impacts to suitable habitat will be assessed at the project level.

Alternatives 2- 4 would create approximately 43,500 acres of group selection openings. Approximately 50 percent of group selection openings will be created within the eastside pine, ten percent in red fir and forty percent within mixed conifer (Simonson pers. comm. 1999). Since eastside pine is not considered suitable owl habitat, it is approximated that 21,375 acres of group selection would occur within the suitable owl habitat (westside/transition zone) over the 5-year pilot project period. Individual tree selection (thinnings from below) will occur primarily within the CWHR types 2P-D, and 3P-D, but could also occur within 4M and 4D. This could result in an additional 2 to 4 % of suitable habitat potentially impacted by group selection and thinning for alternative 2. In alternatives 3 and 4, silvicultural prescriptions for group selection and individual tree selection will be designed to not degrade suitable owl habitat. Alternative 5 does not emphasize group selection openings. Thinning conducted with alternative 5 would have no reduction in the overstory canopy closure and no removal of dominant and codominant trees. This should maintain closed canopy forest conditions with no impact to nesting and foraging habitat.

The reduction in the amount of suitable habitat created by resource management activities under CASPO IG should be relatively short term, with habitat recovering in most cases in 2-3 decades (J.Verner, pers comm. 1999). The long term benefits of thinning include increased tree size and development of habitat attributes important for old forest species in a shorter period of time, and reduced mortality in younger tree size classes, which in turn reduces fuel accumulations. These longer term benefits will be realized within linear DFPZs, area treatments and individual tree selection (thinning) areas. The long term benefits of small group selection include increased diversity within stands, including a mosaic of different age classes and vertical canopy heights, improved species composition, and regeneration of future forest habitat.

Habitat Fragmentation and spotted owls.

Habitat fragmentation is defined as the breaking up of large blocks of suitable habitat into smaller blocks separated by lesser quality, or unsuitable habitat. Resource management activities that increase fragmentation around spotted owl activity centers can reduce the amount of interior forest habitat and increase associated "edge effects". This can lower the quality of habitat within activity centers and possibly render the habitat unsuitable. Management activities which reduce population density by lowering habitat quality or increasing fragmentation will increase the uncertainties associated with successful dispersal and mate finding (Blakesley and Noon, 1999). Fragmentation of suitable habitat can also affect the prey base.

Since spotted owls, goshawks, fishers and marten are associated with mature forests, there is significant, although by no means complete, overlap in their distribution and habitat requirements. Based on CWHR information regarding suitable habitat descriptions for each of these species (Zeiner et al 1990; CWHR program Version 6.0, 1997), discussions on fragmentation of mature forested habitats apply to goshawk, marten and fisher.

Low contrast fragmentation of a continuous dense canopy closure may occur within some stands. DFPZ, area treatment, thinning, individual tree selection and group selection harvest prescriptions will create areas of lower canopy cover, and may reduce the size of existing patches of small tree, dense canopied forest. However, harvest will maintain a continuity of large trees across the landscape, even in stands with reduced canopy cover. This may reduce the contrast between suitable owl habitat and the surrounding landscape, reducing edge effects. This may allow for successful dispersal and movement of owls through areas recently harvested. According to the CASPO EA (page IV-81), within stand fragmentation of the small tree canopy (trees <20 to 30 feet) is less of a concern than large tree or old forest attribute removal because 1) historical understory densities of white fir and cedar were discontinuous; 2) this habitat component can return relatively quickly (versus large overstory layer; and 3) creating this type of fragmentation can help avoid larger scale, high contrast fragmentation of forested stands due to catastrophic wildfire. Fragmentation of the understory will modify habitat for some species, including birds, rodents, and other animals that serve as the food sources, or prey base, for owls, goshawks and forest carnivores.

All alternatives implement resource management actions that can result in an increase in low contrast fragmentation.

Alternatives 2 , 3 and 4 create linear DFPZ's that are approximately 1/4 mile wide. DFPZ's not within suitable owl habitat are characterized in this analysis as having open overstories in the canopy above open understories, with very limited vertical layering of age classes. The linear design is based on strategic placement on ridgetops and along roads, thus these fuelbreaks can cross many different habitat types, slopes and aspects. Area treatments are designed to occur on south and west aspects. Thus, habitat on north and east facing aspects may be less adversely affected by area treatments than with linear treatments.

The key to lessening impacts of fragmentation within DFPZs, area treatments, and thinnings is to maintain forest cover composed of the largest, fire resistant conifer species, while also providing structural attributes needed for prey species (snags/logs). "Partial harvests, including thinnings, single tree(s) selection, and the "thinning from below" method. . . will produce few openings. What openings are created will mimic group selection and these openings will be usually less than 2 acres . . . these openings. . . meet the definition of continuous forest cover " (CASPO EA, 1993). Alternative 5 creates no linear DFPZs.

Alternatives 2-4 create small openings (up to 2 acres in size) within larger habitat blocks using group selection harvest methods. Implementing group selection on each candidate stand will create low-moderate density openings within each stand, but with the retention of reserve basal areas to meet CASPO guidelines, some element of continuous forest cover should be provided, reducing within stand fragmentation. Creating additional edges by group selection harvest methods within unsuitable owl habitat should not have any adverse impact to spotted owl use. Conversely, creating additional edge in suitable habitat may reduce the use of foraging habitat by spotted owls and increase use by great horned owls (an effective competitor and predator of the spotted owl). Early successional edge species will benefit from the creation of additional edge within the monotypic forested stands.

The CASPO Technical Report concluded that management activities should avoid increasing the mean nearest neighbor distances between suitable owl pair sites. Blakesley and Noon (1999) suggest that future management activities should not increase the mean nearest-neighbor distance among suitable owl pair sites on the Lassen National Forest. The Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the California Owl (1996) estimated the mean nearest neighbor distance between PAC's and SOHA's within the Sierras is at approximately 1.75 miles, ranging from 1.3 miles to 2.7 miles. The average nearest neighbor distance, measured from edge of one PAC to the edge of its neighbor for all PAC's across Plumas National Forest is approximately 1.5 miles. Because PAC's and SOHA's are not directly affected by resource management activities within the planning area, there should be no change in this distance between PAC's with any alternative. A reduction in habitat quality and quantity between PACs and SOHAs, including habitat within home ranges associated with each PAC/SOHA, could reduce owl densities (Noon and Blakesley 1999), limiting successful mate finding and dispersal and increasing nearest-neighbor distance. Alternatives 1 and 2 will decrease the quantity of suitable habitat between PACs/SOHAs, possibly increasing the nearest neighbor distances. Maintaining existing suitable owl habitat with alternatives 3, 4 and 5 should not increase the mean nearest neighbor distance between owl pairs.

The "Areas Of Concern" (AOC) identified in The California Spotted Owl: A Technical Assessment of Its Current Status (CASPO Technical Report) indicate a potential for future gaps in the distribution of suitable spotted owl habitat on the affected Forests. The actions proposed in the pilot project could cause increased risks associated with the areas of concern. Implementation of resource management activities described under alternatives 1-4 may increase the amount of discontinuous habitat and habitat isolation through fragmentation within Area of Concern 1 in Lassen County. These actions could widen the gaps between habitat parcels and probably reduce the densities of owls. On the other hand, these actions could create conditions that maintain owl habitat longer due to the reduction in large fire potential.

Area of Concern 2 in northern Plumas County will not be affected as much by the alternatives as AOC 1. Most of the National Forest land is within off/base-deferred. The majority of this AOC is in private ownership.

Area of Concern 3 located on the Sierraville Ranger District will continue to be a potential for future gaps in habitat on the Tahoe National Forest. The reason for this potential gap is the uncertainty of future management direction on the extensive private inholdings and an extensive proposed DFPZ network on National Forest parcels between the private land parcels (checkerboard ownership). A combination of vegetation management activities and the continued risk of high-severity fires created on private lands, increases the risk of large block fragmentation of habitat. This risk occurs whether any of the five alternatives are implemented or not. Given trends in spotted owl habitat alone, the risk for exacerbating the future condition on the Tahoe is least for Alternatives 1, 3-5, where no linear DFPZ's are created within this AOC. However, given Alternatives 2-4 ability to reduce the risks of high-severity, stand replacing fires, these three alternatives may have a greater ability to maintain the distribution of owl habitat on the Tahoe than "doing nothing". Alternatives 1 and 5 are less effective in reducing the risk of high severity fire, and it is uncertain as to what resource management activities would occur within the red fir under these alternatives over the next five years. Within this AOC, the checkerboard pattern is primarily within red fir habitat, which is a low priority for DFPZ implementation due to fire risk. Given the mixed land ownership on the Tahoe, the distribution of the spotted owl and its habitat must be considered on a site- and project-specific basis, regardless of the alternative implemented. It will be important to consider management activities on adjacent private lands in this decision making process.

Summary of fragmentation effects:

The following briefly explains the anticipated effects and the contribution of each of the alternatives in providing habitat fragmentation for the California spotted owl.

Alternative 1

Activities conducted under current management, including area treatments through thinning, results in within stand fragmentation and changes among vegetation types within landscapes, but maintains continuous forest cover. Approximately 300 acres per year of group selection is practiced over the entire project area, thus minimizing within stand openings. Over the 5-year period, breaking up large blocks of forested habitat will be less than with those alternatives emphasizing placement of DFPZ's, area treatments and group selection over 200,000-300,000 acres. With less acres allocated to reserves, more acres are available to management activities that could increase within stand fragmentation within these areas. Under CASPO IGs, suitable owl habitat can be made unsuitable with resource management activities, thus increasing risk of habitat fragmentation. This alternative presents the greatest risk of future large gaps due to high-severity (i.e., stand replacing) fires. Forest personnel will continue to evaluate impacts of management actions within AOC's 1-3 on a site specific project or landscape analysis basis.

Alternative 2

Over the 5-year period, this alternative will create 200,000 to 300,000 acres of DFPZ. CASPO Areas of Concern 1 and 3 located on the Lassen and Sierraville respectively, will incur activities that could, in the 5-year period, enlarge gaps and further increase owl habitat discontinuity over large landscapes. Resource management activities include group selection harvest, increasing the risk of management actions creating larger amounts of unsuitable habitat, edge effect, and reducing habitat connectivity. Acres allocated to reserve status through designation of offbase/deferred and LSOG 4/5 polygons provide habitat parcels not subject to stand altering activities. Under CASPO IGs, suitable owl habitat can be made unsuitable with resource management activities, thus increasing risk of habitat fragmentation of spotted owl, goshawk, marten and fisher habitat. This alternative will create conditions that could lower the risk of creating future large gaps due to high-severity (i.e., stand replacing) fires.

Alternative 3

Over the 5-year period this alternative will create 200,000 to 300,000 acres of fuel treatment, including DFPZ's, and area treatment. Area treatments will be designed and located on priority areas to reduce fire severity (south and west aspects). These area treatments can provide a low risk of creating future large gaps due to high severity fires. CASPO Area of Concern 1, located on the Lassen, will incur activities that may enlarge gaps and further habitat and owl discontinuity over large landscapes. In Area of Concern 3, located on the Sierraville Ranger District, fragmentation effects are less with Alternative 3 than Alternative 2 because DFPZ's have been eliminated within the checkerboard ownership. Alternative 3 will implement group selection harvest over 5-years, increasing the risk of management actions creating larger amounts of edge effect, and reducing habitat connectivity. Acres allocated to reserve status through designation of offbase/deferred and LSOG 4/5 polygons provide habitat parcels not subject to stand altering activities. Suitable owl habitat will not be made unsuitable, thus decreasing potential impacts of habitat fragmentation on spotted owls, goshawks, marten and fisher. This alternative creates conditions that could provide the lowest risk of creating future large gaps due to high-severity (i.e., stand replacing) fires.

Alternative 4

This alternative will provide more reserves of large, contiguous blocks of habitat than Alternatives 1-3. Over the 5-year pilot project period, this alternative will create 125,000 acres of fuel treatment, including DFPZ's and area treatment. Area treatments will be designed and located on priority areas to reduce fire severity (south and west aspects). These area treatments can provide a low risk of creating future large gaps due to high severity fires. CASPO Area of Concern 1, located on the Lassen, will have less linear DFPZ's but will still be subject to timber harvest activities that could further exacerbate habitat discontinuity. This alternative has the same effect as Alternative 3 on Area of Concern 3 located on Sierraville Ranger District. Alternative 4 will implement group selection harvest, increasing the risk of management actions creating larger amounts of edge effect, and reducing habitat connectivity. Suitable owl habitat will not be made unsuitable, thus decreasing potential impacts of fragmentation on spotted owls, goshawks, marten and fisher. This alternative will create conditions that could lower the risk of creating future large gaps due to high-severity (i.e., stand replacing) fires.

Alternative 5

 Area treatments will be located strategically but treated primarily with light mechanical treatment and/or underburning. There would be no DFPZ's created, and group openings will not be emphasized. CASPO Area of Concern 1 could be treated to reduce fire threats through underburning and minimizing risk to further habitat discontinuity. Area Of Concern 3 on the Sierraville Ranger District, within the red fir, will probably be minimally impacted with this alternative, as fuel treatments within red fir are a low priority. Suitable owl habitat will not be made unsuitable, thus decreasing potential impacts of fragmentation on spotted owls, goshawks, marten and fisher. This alternative will create conditions that lower the risk of creating future large gaps due to high-severity (i.e., stand replacing) fires, but is less effective at removing fire risk and fire hazard as alternatives 2-4.

Change in Forest Structures (Large Trees, Snags, Logs)

1. Large Trees

All alternatives will maintain trees greater than 30" dbh because no trees greater than 30" dbh will be removed with any alternative. All alternatives have the potential of restoring the amount of large diameter trees across the landscape through thinning, meeting basal area requirements identified in CASPO, and reducing the threat of stand destroying fires. Alternatives 2- 4 create large acreages in reserve status (for life of pilot project) not subject to DFPZs, area treatments, thinnings,and group selection, with Alternative 4 resulting in more reserve land than Alternatives 2 and 3. Alternative 5 places emphasis on large tree retention and improving large tree abundance and distribution within LSOGs and AlSEs.

Thirty-inch diameter trees will only be removed if it is considered a safety hazard to operations. Road construction could also result in the removal of 30-inch trees. The greatest potential for removal of 30" trees identified as hazards will be in the alternatives that treat the largest amount of acres.

Alternative 1

Alternative 1 will treat less acres than Alternatives 2-4. Thus, less acres of hazard tree removal would occur. Current management includes the retention of reserve basal area in the largest trees on each acre treated, the amount dependent on the stands CASPO classification.

Alternative 2 and 3

Alternatives 2 and 3 will treat approximately the same amount of acres (300,000 acres) and construct the most roads. Linear DFPZ prescriptions and area treatments would require the retention of reserve basal area in the largest trees on each acre treated, the amount dependent on the stands CASPO classification. This would provide for large tree structural replacement across the landscape in all linear DFPZs and area treatments. Group selection cuts may retain trees for reserve basal area requirements identified for the stand. There may be a reduction in codominant size class of trees within group selection areas, which removes a portion of the future large tree structural replacement across the landscape. These alternatives require more landings, and road construction than alternatives 1, 4 and 5 so more hazard and large trees will be encountered and potentially removed.

Alternative 4

Alternative 4 will treat less acres (200,000) than 2 and 3 and has more exclusion areas where large trees will not be hazards to operations. Alternative 4 is expected to have the same impacts as Alternative 2 and 3 but over fewer acres. This alternative requires fewer landings and less road construction than alternatives 2 and 3 so fewer large trees should be encountered and potentially removed.

Alternative 5

This alternative includes the retention of reserve basal area in the largest trees on each acre treated, the amount dependent on the stands CASPO classification and would not remove the codominant and dominant trees in the canopy. Group selection cuts are not emphasized with this alternative. This alternative requires less landings and road construction than any of the alternatives so less large trees should be encountered and potentially removed.

2. Snags

Snag retention levels, the potential impact of harvest operations on large diameter snags, and the risk of loss of snags to fire influence the analysis of this forest attribute. All alternatives will likely show a decrease in the amount of large diameter snags within treatment areas. Their distribution however, will vary by alternative.

Alternative 1

Alternative 1 will result in a continued decline in the distribution of snags at the landscape level, primarily because the current management actions of creating area treatment Fuel Reduction Zones and Community Defense Zones, through thinning from below and applying adaptive management strategies that call for the retention of low numbers of snags on lands actively managed to reduce fuels/fire threats. Snag densities will be managed at up to 8 snags/acre within select and other strata on the westside zone and 3-4 snags per acre within the transition and eastside zones. Snag densities for the eastside/transition zone fall within the range of variability for major forest types as described in Region 5 old growth definitions/descriptions for forest cover types (USFS 1992) described in Appendix L of the Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the California Spotted Owl (1996) and applied within the eastside/ transition zone as described by Fites et al (1996) and Bliss et al (1996). Alternative 1 overall will treat less acres than alternatives 2, 3, 4, or 5. Hazard trees around landings and harvest areas will be removed for safety purposes; with less acres treated over the 5-year period, there may be less landings and temporary roads subject to hazard tree removal.

Common to Alternatives 2 - 5:

For alternatives 2 through 5, snags (up to 3 snags per acre in the eastside zone and up to 8 snags per acre in select and other strata within the westside and transition zones) that are not hazardous to operations[11] would be retained in DFPZs, area treatments, group selections, and individual tree selection (thinning) areas uecause of safety requirements, it is possible that many snags within DFPZs, area treatments, individual tree selections and group selections may be harvested and all snags within 1.5 to 2 tree heights of groups may also be removed. The matrix forested land between group openings will be managed with the intent of providing for 8 snags per acre in select and other strata within westside and transition zones and 3 snags per acre within the eastside zones. At the project specific level, location of snags within matrix lands will be identified by the interdisciplinary team in a way that will not be hazardous to operations.

Snag densities for the eastside zone are based on the range of variability for major forest types as described in Region 5 old growth definitions/descriptions for forest cover types (USFS 1992). These are described in Appendix L of the Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement (RD EIS) for the California Spotted Owl (1996) and applied within the eastside/transition zone as described by Fites et al (1996) and Bliss et al (1996).

Alternative 2 and 3

These alternatives would create DFPZ's, group selection openings, and individual tree selection cuts. These alternatives require more landings and temporary roads than alternatives 4 and 5 so more hazard trees will be encountered and removed.

Based on projected acres treated under Alternative 2, there would be an estimated 43,500 acres of group selections, approximately 33,900 acres of individual tree selections (thinning), and 200,000 to 300,000 acres of DFPZ constructed.

Based on projected acres treated with Alternative 3, there would be an estimated 43,500 acres of group selections, approximately 28,300 acres of individual tree selections (thinning), and approximately 200 000 to 300,000 acres of DFPZ and area treatments would be constructed.

Alternative 4

Alternative 4 will treat less acres than alternatives 2 and 3, will create less acres of DFPZ and area treatments than Alternatives 2 and 3; will have less landings and temporary roads, thus less hazard trees encountered; and will avoid ALSE's. Group selection harvest will be the same as Alternatives 2 and 3.

Based on projected acres treated with Alternative 4, approximately 125,000 acres of DFPZs, 43,500 acres of group selections, and approximately 31,500 acres of individual tree selections (thinning) would be initiated for an approximate total of 200,000 acres.

Alternative 5

Alternative 5 will treat less acres mechanically (thinning, logging, fuels reduction using equipment) than all alternatives. Fuel reduction using a combination of underburn and light mechanical treatment will require less landings, temporary roads, less hazard tree removal. There will be no DFPZ's. Area treatment, thinning and non-treated areas will support 3 snags per acre within eastside zone and up to 8 per acre in select and other strata within the transition and westside zones. Some snags will be removed for burning operations, but not at levels required for Alternatives 1-4. The methodology for treatment with this alternative does not require a major modification in snag densities.

Potential snag/habitat loss due to fire is greatest with alternatives that treat less acres in a manner that will reduce the threat of fire spread and intensity. Snags left in riparian management zones will probably have the least likelihood of being lost to fire, because of the moist microclimate, and snags left in ridgetop areas will probably be most susceptible to loss by fire unless prescribed fire and/or mechanical fuels treatment reduces the fuel ladder.

3. Logs

Alternative 1

Within the eastside and transition zones, Alternative 1 will maintain down log densities by retaining the largest logs at 3 per acre equivalent to 1.5 to 13 tons per acre by volume. Within the westside zone, logs will meet CASPO interim guidelines. Beginning with the largest down log (by volume) sequentially retain pieces of down wood until an average of at least 10 to 15 dry tons per acre are retained.

Alternatives 2 through 5

Alternatives 2 through 5 will also meet CASPO interim guidelines. Beginning with the largest down log (by volume) pieces of down wood are subsequently retained until an average of at least 10 to 15 dry tons per acre are retained.

Cumulative Effects Analysis Based on Spotted Owl Home Range

The following analysis considers the current status of lands within spotted owl home ranges and compares that with expected changes due to the proposed activities.

Bart (1995) describes productivity and survivorship of Northern Spotted Owl declining steadily as the proportion of suitable habitat within home ranges declines below about 80 percent. Bart's analysis indicates that replacement-rate reproduction depends on having somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of the landscape (or home range for a single owl pair) occupied by suitable owl habitat. The true minimum percentage (the threshold percentage) probably lies somewhere in the range of 30-50 percent (95 percent confidence interval). Generally, owl sites will not be expected to support replacement-rate reproduction when the amount of suitable habitat falls below the threshold percentage. Bart concludes that it should not be assumed that habitat can be reduced to the minimum level in all home ranges across the landscape without adversely affecting the population as a whole. In the absence of clear reasons why these results do not apply to CASPO as well, it is prudent to assume that they do (Verner and Robinson 1998). It is uncertain just what the threshold value is, only that it lies somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of suitable habitat, so managers need to be conservative when selecting a value that minimizes the likelihood that management will contribute to the eventual listing of California Spotted Owl as threatened or endangered.

Alternative 5 implements actions that maintain at least 50 percent of each home range in habitat that is suitable for foraging and nesting for the California spotted owl. For this analysis, owl habitat was derived from FIA plot data associated with timber strata maps from the USFS Region 5 Remote Sensing Lab. Crosswalks to CWHR types and timber strata were obtained from analysts with the Sierra Nevada Conservation Framework (SNCF), who used strata averages for the calculations. CWHR types were assigned to suitable nesting or foraging habitat based upon preliminary criteria developed for the framework. Variable size home ranges (2,000 to 8,000 acres) were developed based upon varying density of spotted owls, using preliminary analysis by the SNCF EIS team. Suitable nesting habitat is 5M, 5D, and 6 CWHR classes. Suitable foraging habitat, in addition to the types designated as nesting habitat, include 4M and 4D.

For Alternative 5, the following guidelines apply:

        In spotted owl home ranges supporting less than 50 percent suitable habitat, no reduction in suitable habitat with resource management activities is allowed.

        In spotted owl home ranges supporting more than 50 percent suitable habitat, no reduction in suitable habitat below 50 percent with resource management activities is allowed. Foraging habitat will not be modified below 50 percent canopy cover; foraging habitat between 40-50 percent canopy cover will not be modified at all. Nesting habitat will not be modified below 70 percent canopy cover and should consist of multi-layered forest vegetation. All resource management activities should be designed to maintain as much suitable habitat as possible within the home range, not viewing the 50 percent as a lower limit for allowable activities.

Owl Sites: These are home ranges based on owl sites across the project area (Table 3.31). Owl sites can consist of nesting pairs, singles, and subadults. The number of owl sites is used to be consistent with the Sierra Nevada Framework for possibly adding new owl sites. It also can represent estimated owls and allow for a more conservative owl density to analyze affects.

Table 3.31 Existing Condition - Percent Suitable Habitat within Home Ranges of Owl
Sites within Planning Area.

 Percent Home Range in

 Suitable

Habitat

Total Home Ranges within Pilot Project Boundary

Total Home Ranges within Westside Zone

Total Home Ranges within Transition Zone

Total Home Ranges within Eastside Zone*

 

<50%

125 (28%)

89 (20%)

34 (8%)

2 (>1%)

>50%

320 (72%)

237 (53%)

83 (19%)

0

TOTAL

445

326 (73%)

117 (27%)

2 (.5%)

*Unknown eastside owl site discrepancies in sites versus the number of PAC's and SOHA's. Not critical for this analysis. The figures in parentheses ( ) represent the percentage of the total number of home ranges.

Assumptions for analysis based on the above information:

        Existing home range <50 percent suitable: declines in habitat that result in less than 50 percent suitable habitat results in an increased risk of a potential decrease in owl population; likelihood of long term viability is questionable (Verner, personal communication).

        Existing home range >50 percent suitable: declines in suitable habitat that result in less than 50 percent suitable habitat results in pairs below 50 percent threshold and thus an increased risk that a potential decrease in population could occur. If habitat remains above 50 percent, it is assumed that no population change will occur (Verner, personal communication).

Currently, there are 125/445 home ranges below 50 percent suitable (28 percent) and 320/445 home ranges above 50 percent suitable (72 percent). Seventy-four percent of the home ranges >50 percent suitable habitat occur within the westside zone.

Within a study population on the Lassen National Forest, an annual rate of decline of 7.7 percent has been documented (Blakesly and Noon, 1999). In lieu of any additional information, owl declines may continue at current rates with all alternatives. Owl numbers will remain low or decline until another pulse in reproduction occurs, similar to 1992. But short term pulses such as in 1992 did not reverse the long-term decline. Land management actions that reduce habitat suitability within home ranges can accelerate population declines.

With the implementation of resource management activities designed under alternatives 3-5 to maintain suitable habitat, there is no change in the amount of suitable habitat within home ranges from the existing condition over the five year pilot project (Table 3.32).

Table 3.32
Potential Changes to Number of Owl Site Home Ranges
with 50 Percent Suitable Habitat by Alternative.

 

 Percent Suitable

Total Home Ranges within Project Boundary

Alt 1

 

Alt 2

Alt 3

Alt 4

Alt 5*

<50%

125 (28%)

151 (34%)

160 (36%)

125(28%)

125 (28%)

125 (28%)

>50%

320 (72%)

294 (66%)

285 (64%)

320 (72%)

320 (72%)

320 (72%)

Total

445

445

445

445

445

445

 The figures in parentheses ( ) represent the percentage of the total number of home ranges.

Alternative 1

Over the 5-year pilot project period, this alternative potentially results in the number of home ranges above 50 percent suitable declining from 320 to 294 (an 8 percent decline from existing). This change decreases the total number of home ranges that contain a minimum 50 percent suitable habitat (Table 3.33) from 72% to 66%. Across the landscape, spatial impacts are addressed as changes in home ranges in the westside and transition zones. Within the westside zone, Alternative 1 reduces the number of home ranges with more than 50 percent suitable habitat from 237 to 220; a decline of 7 percent. Within the transition zone, Alternative 1 reduces the number of home ranges above 50 percent suitable habitat from 83 to 74; a decline of 11 percent (BA/BE 1999; pages 82-88).

Alternative 2

 A comparison of tables 3.31 and 3.32 demonstrates that over the five year pilot project period, this alternative could result in a decline in the number of home ranges with greater than 50% suitable habitat from 320 to 285 (11%). This is an overall decline from 72% to 64% of the total home ranges containing a minimum 50 percent suitable habitat (Table 3.32). Across the landscape, spatial impacts are addressed as changes in home ranges in the westside and transition zones. Within the westside zone, Alternative 2 changes the number of home ranges with at leat 50% suitable habitat from 237 to 208; a decline of 13 percent. Within the transition zone, Alternative 2 reduces the number of home ranges with at least 50% suitable habitat from 83 to 76; a reduction of 9 percent. (BA/BE 1999; pages 82-88).

Alternatives 3 - 5

Over the 5-year pilot project period, these alternatives implement resource management activities that result in no change to suitable habitat. Thus the number of home ranges above 50 percent suitable remains at 320, resulting in 72% of total home ranges containing at a minimum 50 percent suitable habitat (Table 3.32). Across the landscape, spatial impacts are addressed as to changes in home ranges in the westside and transition zones. Within the westside zone, alternatives 3, 4 and 5 retain the number of home ranges above 50 percent suitable habitat at 237. Within the transition zone, alternatives 3, 4, and 5 retain the number of home ranges above 50 percent suitable habitat at 83 (BA/BE 199; pages 82-88).

Table 3.33
Summary of changes per alternative for Owl Site Home Ranges

 

Percent of Home Ranges with >50% Suitable Habitat

Percent of Home Ranges with <50% Suitable Habitat

Existing Condition

72%

28%

Alternative 1

66%

34%

Alternative 2

64%

36%

Alternative 3

72%

28%

Alternative 4

72%

28%

Alternative 5

72%

28%

 Home ranges associated with PAC's and SOHA's.

Approximately 27 percent of all PAC's and SOHA's in the project area occur within home ranges that contain less than 50 percent suitable habitat (98/366). Seventy-three percent of all PAC's and SOHA's contain more than 50 percent suitable habitat (268/366); 72 percent of which are within the westside zone (194/268) (Table 3.34).

Table 3.34.
Percent Suitable Habitat for Home Ranges Associated with
PAC's and SOHA's within planning area.

 Percent Home Range in

 Suitable

Habitat

Total Home Ranges within Pilot Project Boundary

Total Home Ranges within Westside Zone

Total Home Ranges within Transition Zone

Total Home Ranges within Eastside Zone

 

<50%

98

62

32

4

>50%

268

 194

71

3

TOTAL

366

 256

103

7*

*one less PAC and SOHA than reported in Table 7 a result of the majority of home range within Transition Zone.


Table 3.35
Percent Suitable Habitat Within Home Ranges Associated With
PAC's and SOHA's by Alternative.

 

 Percent Suitable

Total Home Ranges within Project Boundary

Alt 1

 

Alt 2

Alt 3

Alt 4

Alt 5*

<50%

98 (37%)

124 (34%)

128 (35%)

98 (37%)

98 (37%)

98 (37%)

>50%

268 (73%)

242 (66%)

238 (65%)

268 (73%)

268 (73%)

268 (73%)

Total

366

366

366

366

366

366

Alternative 1

Over the 5-year pilot project period, this alternative has the potential to reduce the number of home ranges that have at least 50 percent suitable habitat from 268 to 242. A comparison of tables 3.35 and 3.36 shows an anticipated decline of 7 percent (73% - 66%) from existing conditions. Across the landscape, spatial impacts are addressed as to changes in home ranges within the westside and transition zones. Wihtin the westside zone, Alternative 1 reduces the number of home ranges with more than 50 percent suitable habitat from 194 to 179 (-8 percent). Within the transition zone, Alternative 1 reduces the number of home ranges with more than 50 percent suitable habitat from 71 to 63 (-11 percent) (BA/BE 1999; pages 82-88).

Alternative 2

Over the 5-year pilot project period, this alternative potentially results in the number of home ranges above 50 percent suitable declining from 268 to 238 (an 11 percent decline from existing), resulting in 65 percent of total home ranges associated with PACs and SOHAs containing at a minimum 50 percent suitable habitat (Table 3.35). Across the landscape, spatial impacts are addressed as to changes in home ranges within the westside and transition zones. Across the westside zone, alternative 2 reduces from 194 to 169 (13 percent). Across the transition zone, alternative 2 reduces from 71 to 66 (7 percent) (BA/BE 1999; pages 82-88).

Alternatives 3, 4 and 5

Over the 5-year pilot project period, these alternatives implement resource management activities are unlikely to result in a change to suitable habitat. Thus the number of home ranges above 50 percent suitable remains at 268, resulting in 73% of total home ranges containing at a minimum 50 percent suitable habitat (Table 3.36). Across the landscape, spatial impacts are addressed as to changes in home ranges within the westside and transition zones. Across the westside zone, alternatives 3, 4 and 5 retain the number of home ranges above 50 percent suitable habitat at 194. Across the transition zone, alternatives 3, 4 and 5 retain the number of home ranges above 50 percent suitable habitat at 71 (BA/BE 1999; pages 82-88).


Table 3.36
Summary of changes per alternative for PAC and SOHA home ranges

 

Percent of Home Ranges with >50% Suitable

Habitat

Percent of Home Ranges with <50% Suitable

 Habitat

Existing Condition

73%

27%

Alternative 1

66%

34%

Alternative 2

65%

35%

Alternative 3

73%

27%

Alternative 4

73%

27%

Alternative 5

73%

27%

Summary

Alternative 1

Potentially results in a 7 percent decrease in suitable owl habitat (-1.4 percent per year), an 8 percent decrease in owl sites with home ranges above 50 percent suitable habitat (-1.6 percent/year), and a 10 percent decrease in Home Ranges above 50 percent suitable habitat associated with PAC's/SOHA's (-2.0 percent /year).

Alternative 2

Alternative 2 has the potential to cause a 7 - 8.5 percent decrease in suitable owl habitat (1.4 to 1.6 percent per year) an 11 percent decrease in owl sites with home ranges above 50 percent suitable habitat (1.6 percent per year) and an 11 percent decrease in home ranges above 50 percent suitable habitat associated with PAC's and SOHA's (1.6 percent per year).

Alternatives 3, 4 and 5

These alternative are not likely to result in a decreases in suitable owl habitat during the 5 year pilot, decreases in owl sites with home ranges above 50 percent suitable habitat, or decreases in home ranges above 50 percent suitable habitat that are associated with PAC's and SOHA's.

The proposed actions under all alternatives are designed to reduce fire intensities, reduce the risk of stand destroying fires, and maintain fire intervals within the normal range of variability. Alternatives 2 through 5 provide for a strategic program that would reduce the threat of high severity, stand replacing fire that could provide long-term benefits for protecting PAC's and SOHA's, suitable spotted owl habitat, and stand attributes most important to owls. These proposed actions are consistent with the intent of the CASPO Report, i.e., to reduce the risk of stand-replacing wildfire. Based on past projects implemented over the last three years within the project area, implementing the proposed actions of the pilot project, the untreated areas will be better protected by the treated acres so that fewer acres in untreated stands will burn and fire severity may be lessened. Thus, more acres of habitat may be protected. The proposed pilot project is designed to move from an existing high fire intensity condition to a lower fire intensity condition by thinning overstocked stands, removing fire ladders and reducing surface fuels.

Effectiveness in Reducing Fire Effects

The effectiveness of each alternative for protecting spotted owl habitat from stand destroying fires and for reduced wildfire intensities, was determined based on professional fire managers expectations, supplemented by FARSITE model simulations.

Alternative 1 establishes the baseline for comparison of the action alternatives. It does not contain a comprehensive landscape strategy that emphasizes reducing the occurrence of stand destroying fires. Therefore, it is expected that the fire occurrence rate from 1970-1996 (27 years) would continue. Alternative 2 through 5 implement fire strategies that would result in some protection of owl habitat as well as reducing fire intensity within owl habitat. Alternatives 2 and 3, which create 200,000 to 300,000 acres of DFPZ, are expected to result in an estimated 7,700 to 26,900 acre reduction in loss of suitable owl habitat to stand destroying wildfires as well as reduced fire intensity within an additional 0 - 28,000 acres of suitable owl habitat depending on the location and size of each fire occurrence. Table 3.37 provides a summary of this analysis.

TABLE 3.37. Effects of Alternatives to Reduce Acres of Suitable Owl Habitat Burned

Alternative

Reduction in Acres Burned in

Suitable Owl Habitat

(over 27 years)

Acres Burned at Reduced Intensities in Suitable Owl Habitat

(over 27

 years)

1

0

0

2

7,700 - 11,500

0

3

19,200 - 26,900

25,000 - 28,000

4

7,700 - 10,800

10,000 - 11,200

5

Some reduction, amount undetermined. Possibly similar to

 Alternative 4

Some reduction, amount undetermined. Possibly similar to Alternative 4

Additional Findings

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. To implement the full range of options required in the Act and considered within alternatives 2-4 adverse effects cannot be avoided. This does not mean that the activities will cause population declines but there may be adverse affects to habitat and/or individuals for this species.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources critical to the California spotted owl that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources critical to the California spotted owl that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. The BA/BE prepared for this analysis and on file for review determined that the project as proposed under alternatives 1 & 2 are likely to lead to a trend towards federal listing or loss of viability for the California spotted owl. Alternatives 3-5 are likely to affect individuals but are not likely to cause a trend towards federal listing).
Relationship of Short Term Uses and Long Term Effects: Short term declines in suitable habitat can be regained over time. Assuming no entry after the initial treatment, stands can obtain lost attributes over time (20 years).

NORTHERN GOSHAWK

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

The known and estimated number of northern goshawk sites on the three Forests is derived from data provided from GIS overlays reflecting the goshawk territory database from each Forest (Table 3.38). For this analysis, territories are assumed to be those areas that are managed in accordance with each Forests guidelines for goshawks. These territories represent only goshawks that have been found during individual project analyses and documented within each Forests database.

Table 3.38
Northern Goshawk Status

Forest

Total Nesting Territories

Nesting Territories in Westside Zone

Nesting Territories in Transition Zone

Nesting Territories in Eastside Zone

Lassen

115

54

20

41

Plumas

76

41

19

16

Sierraville Ranger District

11

4

6

1

Total

202

99

45

58

Fifty-six percent of known goshawk territories occur within the westside ecological zone, 24 percent occur within the Eastside zone, while 19 percent occur in the transition zone.

The northern goshawk requires mature conifer and deciduous forest with large trees, snags, and downed logs, dense canopy closure for nesting. It finds high habitat suitability in the following affected CWHR habitat types: 5M, 5, 4M, 4D in ponderosa pine, Jeffrey pine, montane hardwood-conifer and eastside pine , Mixed Conifer and Montane Riparian; Aspen; and 5M, 5D in Red Fir. (Timossi 1990). It uses forests with moderately open overstories, open understories interspersed with meadows, brush patches, or other natural or artificial openings and riparian areas for foraging. It finds high habitat suitability in the following affected CWHR habitat types: 5M, 5, 4M, 4D in ponderosa pine, Jeffrey pine, montane hardwood-conifer and eastside pine , Mixed Conifer and Montane Riparian; Aspen; and 5M, 5D, in Red Fir. (Timossi 1990). Medium habitat suitability is found in the same vegetation types but more open habitats of 3M, 3D, 4P, 5P and 6.

Goshawks are managed according to the standards and guidelines in each Forest Plan, therefore management varies by Forest. Territories which are based on nest sites or presence of young or adult pairs are a minimum of 50 acres with no maximum size stipulated (USFS 1988, 1990, 1992). The Lassen National Forest has a network system designed to manage for 113 goshawk nesting territories (USFS 1992). The Plumas and Tahoe LRMP's direct each forest to provide sufficient habitat to maintain a density of at least one nest stand per 18 square miles (USFS 1988, 1990). Currently, within the entire project area goshawk nest density is one nest per 15 square miles (BA/BE 1999).

Environmental Consequences: A Summary (BA/BE page 52-63)

Analysis of alternatives on goshawk habitat is based on projected changes to suitable habitat across the project area and impact to habitat within designated nesting territories. A more in depth analysis is presented in the BA/BE that can be found in the planning record. Fragmentation of habitat and the impacts to habitat attributes important to the goshawk (large trees, snags, logs), was discussed in depth for the California spotted owl. Goshawk habitat requirements for these habitat attributes, which are displayed in the BA/BE, are similar to those needed for spotted owl. If these components are managed for spotted owl, the requirements for goshawks should be met within the westside and transition zones. Thus impacts to these components of goshawk habitat would be similar as displayed for spotted owl.

Direct Impacts to Suitable Habitat

Table 3.39 reflects the potential amount of suitable goshawk habitat that could be entered by alternatives. Alternative 3 potenitally enters the most suitable goshawk habitat.

Table 3.39
Within Project Area: DFPZ's & Area Treatments

Percentage of Suitable Habitat Potentially Entered over 5-year Pilot Project Period with
Implementation of DFPZ's and Area Treatment.

 

Alternative

WESTSIDE*

Amount Suitable Nesting Habitat 4M,4D,5M,5D

WESTSIDE*

Amount of Suitable Foraging Habitat

3M,3D,4P,5P,6

EASTSIDE

Amount Suitable Nesting Habitat 4M,4D,5M,5D

EASTSIDE

Amount of Suitable Foraging Habitat

3M,3D,4P,5P,6

1

9%

7%

7%

7%

2

8.5%

9%

11.6%

13%

3

11%

10.5%

10%

16%

4

6%

5%

0%

4%

5

10%

9%

8.5%

13%

* Includes Transition Zone

Impacts to suitable goshawk habitat are analyzed by westside/transition zone and eastside zone. In alternatives 3-5 within the westside and transition zones, suitable owl habitat will not be made unsuitable with implementation of resource management activities. Thus changes to goshawk nesting habitat within these zones by alternative will be similar to those discussed for spotted owl. There is no projected reduction in suitable nesting habitat with alternatives 3, 4, and 5 within the westside/transition zone. All alternatives project decreased the amounts of suitable foraging habitat (Table 3.40). This is due to the modification of medium/large tree, moderate to closed canopy, conifer forests that will be opened up with the proposed resource management activities.

Table 3.40
Within Westside/Transition Zone: DFPZ's & Area Treatments

Potential Acreage Changes in Suitable Habitat over 5-year Pilot Project Period with
Implementation of DFPZ's and Area Treatment.

Alternative

WESTSIDE*

Amount Suitable Nesting Habitat 4M,4D,5M,5D

WESTSIDE

% change in Nesting Habitat from 1998 Base

WESTSIDE*

Amount of Suitable Foraging** Habitat

3M,3D,4P,5P,6

 

WESTSIDE

% change in Foraging Habitat from 1998 Base

 

1998 Base

607,867

-

692,664

-

1

554,700

-9%

644,200

-7%

2

555,680

-8.5%

630,000

-9%

3

607,867

-0%

619,552

-10.5%

4

607,867

-0%

657,318

-5%

5***

607,867

-0%

630,097

-9%

* Includes Transition Zone

**Change in foraging does not reflect a decline in foraging habitat; it reflects modification from closed canopy forest foraging habitat to open canopy forested foraging habitat.

***Alternative 5 enters the amount of habitat shown, but percent change from base is less than indicated due to treatment emphasizing light treatment, retention of overstory canopy cover, and retention of dominant and codominant trees.

Within the westside/transition zone:

Alternative 1 results in a potential nine percent decline in suitable nesting habitat and a potential 7% decline in suitable foraging habitat.

Alternative 2 results in a potential 8.5 percent decline in suitable nesting habitat and a potential 9% decline in suitable foraging habitat.

Alternatives 3, 4 and 5 result in no change in suitable nesting habitat and potenital declines in foraging habitat of 10.5%, 5%, and 9% respectively (Table 3.39).

Unlike spotted owls, goshawks use habitats within the eastside zone of the project area. Thus there will be potential habitat modifications to suitable habitat (Table 3.40).

Table 3.41
Within Eastside Zone: DFPZ's & Area Treatments

Potential Acreage Changes in Suitable Habitat over 5-year Pilot Project Period with
Implementation of DFPZ's and Area Treatment.

 

Alternative

EASTSIDE

Amount Suitable Nesting Habitat 4M,4D,5M,5D

EASTSIDE

% change in Nesting Habitat from 1998 Base

EASTSIDE

Amount of Suitable Foraging* Habitat

3M,3D,4P,5P,6

 

EASTSIDE

% change in Foraging Habitat from 1998 Base

 

1998 Base

122,090

-

275,553

-

1

113,500

-7%

256,260

-7%

2

107,822

-12%

239,085

-13%

3

109,841

-10%

232,163

-16%

4

122,090

-0%

264,104

-4%

5**

111,675

-9%

239,193

-13%

*Change in foraging does not reflect a decline in foraging habitat; it reflects modification from closed canopy forest foraging habitat to open canopy forested foraging habitat.

**Alternative 5 enters the amount of habitat shown, but percent change from base is less than indicated due to treatment emphasizing light treatment, retention of overstory canopy cover, and retention of dominant and codominant trees.

Within the eastside zone:

Alternative 1 results in a potential 7% decline in suitable nesting habitat and a potential 7% decline in suitable foraging habitat.
Alternative 2 results in a potential 12% decline in suitable nesting habitat and a potential 13% decline in suitable foraging habitat.
Alternative 3 results in a potential 10% decline in suitable nesting habitat and a potential 16% decline in suitable foraging habitat.
Alternative 4 results in no decline in suitable nesting habitat and a potential 4% decline in suitable foraging habitat.
Alternative 5 results in a potential 9% decline in suitable nesting habitat and a potential 13% decline in suitable foraging habitat.

Alternatives 2-4 create 43,500 acres of group selection openings. Approximately 50 percent of group selection openings will be created within the eastside pine, ten percent in red fir and forty percent within mixed conifer (Simonson pers. comm. 1999).Group selection openings would occur within stands that support CWHR 3P-D and 4P-D. This could result in approximately 4,350 acres of suitable red fir habitat impacted by group selection openings, and approximately 39,000 acres of mixed conifer/eastside pine habitat impacted by alternative 2. Individual tree selection (thinnings from below) will occur primarily within the CWHR types 2P-D, and 3P-D, but could also occur within 4M and 4D. In alternatives 3 and 4, silvicultural prescriptions for group selection and individual tree selection will be designed to not degrade suitable owl habitat, resulting in little change in goshawk habitat. Alternative 5 does not emphasize group selection openings. Thinning conducted with alternative 5 would have no reduction in the overstory canopy closure and no removal of dominant and codominant trees. This should maintain closed canopy forest conditions with no impact to nesting and foraging habitat.

Direct Impacts to Nesting Territories

Based on the location of DFPZ's modeled for the analysis, DFPZs will potentially directly affect habitat within goshawk territories. All or portions of some territories are located within spotted owl PACs and SOHAs, which will not be directly impacted by this project.

Standards & Guidelines within each Forest LRMP will apply to goshawk territory management. The Lassen NF implements Prescription G (USFS 1992, page 4-54 through 4-55), the Tahoe NF implements Standard & Guidelines 23 (USFS 1990, page V-28). The Tahoe National Forest recently completed a management strategy that provides management guidelines for goshawks that are based on new site specific information recently published (York and Wilson, 1999) These guidelines include maintaining a 200 acre Primary Nest Core and a 300 acre Post Fledging Area. The Plumas NF implements Prescription 13 (USFS 1988). For all alternatives a site specific analysis for each project would be conducted and mitigation to reduce or eliminate impacts to goshawk nesting territories would be designed into project layout and design to remove adverse impacts to territories. Territories, as described below are the mapped areas around a known or suspected nest site, usually ranging in size from 50 to 200 acres.

Alternative 1

Alternative 1 potentially impacts no acres of goshawk territories. Modification of habitat within designated goshawk nesting territories is generally avoided to avoid adverse impacts. Each Forest LRMP Standards & Guidelines provide management direction for goshawk territories, including habitat modifications that could be conducted to achieve better habitat conditions for goshawks. A project specific biological evaluation will determine the effects of these activities. On the Sierraville Ranger District, goshawk territories will be managed as per its new goshawk management plan (York & Wilson 1999).

Alternative 2

Alternative 2 potentially enters 3,311 acres within 91 territories (36 acres/territory) with resource management activities, specifically linear DFPZs. Forest LRMP Standards & Guidelines that provide management direction for goshawk territories will be implemented. On the Sierraville Ranger District, goshawk territories will be managed as per its new goshawk management plan (York & Wilson 1999). A project specific biological evaluation will determine the effects of these activities.

Alternative 3

Alternative 3 potentially enters 2,552 acres within 88 territories (29 acres/territory) with resource management activities, specifically DFPZs and area treatment. Forest LRMP Standards & Guidelines that provide management direction for goshawk territories will be implemented. On the Sierraville Ranger District, goshawk territories will be managed as per its new goshawk management plan (York & Wilson 1999). A project specific biological evaluation will determine the effects of these activities.

Alternative 4

Alternative 4 potentially enters 1,313 acres within 43 territories (30 acres/territory) with resource management activities, specifically DFPZs and area treatment. Forest LRMP Standards & Guidelines that provide management direction for goshawk territories will be implemented.On the Sierraville Ranger District, goshawk territories will be managed as per its new goshawk management plan (York & Wilson 1999). A project specific biological evaluation will determine the effects of these activities.

Alternative 5

Alternative 5 potentially enters 1,407 acres within 88 territories (16 acres/territory) with resource management activities, specifically prescribed burning within forested stands. Forest LRMP Standards & Guidelines that provide management direction for goshawk territories will be implemented. On the Sierraville Ranger District, goshawk territories will be managed as per its new goshawk management plan (York & Wilson 1999). A project specific biological evaluation will determine the effects of these activities.

Additional Findings

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. There are no known unavoidable adverse affects associated with the alternatives considered in this analysis.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources critical to the northern goshawk that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources critical to the northern goshawk that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. The BA/BE prepared for this analysis and on file for review determined that the project as proposed may affect (northern goshawk) individuals but would not cause a trend towards federal listing.
Relationship of Short Term Uses and Long Term Effects: Changes in the forest structure associated with the alternatives may change the use patterns by this species. Those use patterns may change over time as the stands increase in density and regain other attributes, resulting in minimal long term effects.

Willow Flycatcher

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

The willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii) is a neotropical migrant which breeds in riparian and mesic upland thickets in the United States and southern Canada (AOU 1983). In California, it is a rare to locally uncommon summer resident in wet meadow and montane riparian habitats at 2000 to 8000 feet and a common spring (mid-May to early June) and fall (mid-August to early September) migrant at lower elevations, primarily in riparian habitats, throughout the State exclusive of the North Coast (Zeiner et al. 1990a). The two subspecies that occur within the project area are E. t. brewsteri, which breeds from Fresno County north and from the coast to the Sierra Nevada crest. E. t. adastus breeds east of the Sierra/Cascade axis, from Oregon into Modoc County and possibly to northern Inyo County.

Wet meadows and willow shrubs appear to be the most common habitat, but riparian deciduous shrubs along streams are also used. The willow flycatcher was once a common summer resident throughout California. However, observed declines in breeding populations have been a growing concern for over four decades and it is now limited to scattered meadows of the Sierra Nevada (Harris et al. 1988).

Most of the known breeding populations of these subspecies in California occur in isolated mountain meadows, up to 8,000 foot elevation, of the Sierra Nevada (Serena 1982, Harris et al. 1988). The two largest known populations are the Kern River population and the population in the Perazzo Meadows area on the Sierraville District, Tahoe National Forest. A large population also exists on state and national forest lands in Warner Valley near Lassen National Park. A few scattered flycatcher territories occur on the Plumas National Forest, with documented nesting only occurring in Plumas-Eureka State Park. All known breeding territories have running water present, standing pools, or saturated soils (Harris et al. 1988, Sanders and Flett 1989). Water is not necessarily present during the later stages of the breeding cycle, but is always available during the early stages of breeding and pair formation.

Willow flycatchers forage by either aerially gleaning insects from trees, shrubs, and herbaceous vegetation, or they hawk larger insects by waiting on exposed forage perches and capturing them in flight (Ettinger and King 1980, Sanders and Flett 1989). The selection of nest sites near water appears to be related to increased densities of aerial insects. Willow flycatcher nests are frequently parasitized by brown-headed cowbirds.

Environmental Consequences: A Summary ( BA/BE page 94-100).

Direct and indirect effects revolve around the loss of riparian vegetation and changes in surface and subsurface water flows. Loss of riparian vegetation would limit or eliminate potential nest sites, foraging perches, and foraging surfaces. Changes in the hydrology of an area could render formally suitable habitat unsuitable by drying areas. Changes in the hydrologic processes could also affect the insect component that supports the flycatcher.

Cumulative effects may occur if they affect individuals or communities that have been (are currently affected or will be) affected by other activities such as grazing, woodcutting, recreation, or some other disturbance. These activities may all contribute to the direct and indirect effects considered. Livestock grazing on private lands, as well as other activities that affect this species and its habitat, can further reduce the connectivity of suitable habitat.

Additional Findings

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. There are no known unavoidable adverse affects associated with any of the alternatives considered in this analysis.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources critical to the willow flycatcher that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources critical to the willow flycatcher that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. The BA/BE prepared for this analysis and on file for review determined that the project as proposed may affect (willow flycatcher) individuals but is not likely to lead to a trend towards federal listing.
Relationship of Short Term Uses and Long Term Effects: Due to the few adverse affects of the proposals on this species, long term effects cannot be accurately predicted or assessed.

Great Gray Owl

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

In the Sierra Nevada, great gray owls are found in mixed coniferous forest from 2,400 to 9,000 feet elevation where such forests occur in combination with meadows or other vegetated openings. Nesting usually occurs within 600 feet of the forest edge and adjacent open foraging habitat. Most nests are made in broken top snags (generally firs), but platforms such as old hawk nests, mistletoe infected limbs, etc. are also used. Nest trees or snags are generally greater than 21" dbh and 20 feet tall.

The California population was estimated at 60-70 birds in 1984 (Winter 1985). Sightings in Yosemite National Park and on adjacent National Forests in the Sierra Nevada indicate the current population could measure 100-200 birds (Tom Beck, pers. comm. 1992).

Historic sightings are recorded for all counties in the Cascade range in California and the Sierra Nevada as far south as Tulare County. The present known population is centered in Yosemite National Park. It includes nesting activity on the Stanislaus National Forest at five distinct locations and several recent sightings on the Sierra National Forest. Recent sightings of great gray owls have also occurred in or near the Modoc, Lassen, Tahoe, Eldorado, and Toiyabe National Forests. Recent great gray owl sightings in the planning area include an adult located 3 miles north of Nevada City (1/96), and two adults found on the Feather River Ranger District of the Plumas National Forest (8/97).

Environmental Consequences: A Summary ( BA/BE page 88-94).

Direct effects include the loss of nesting habitat or habitat components and changes in the amount of early successiona habitat utilized by its prey base. There may also be behavioral disturbance due to logging, road building, and other related activities.

Cumulative effects could occur as other activities (federal and non-federal) continue to reduce the amount of suitable habitat for this species.

Additional Findings

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. There are no known unavoidable adverse affects associated with any of the alternativeces considered in this analysis.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources critical to the great gray owl that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources critical to the great gray owl that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. The BA/BE prepared for this analysis and on file for review determined that the project as proposed may affect individuals but is not likely to lead to a trend towards federal listing.
Relationship of Short Term Uses and Long Term Effects: Due to the few adverse affects of the proposals on this species, long term effects cannot be accurately predicted or assessed.

 Greater Sandhill Crane

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

The California Central Valley population of greater sandhill crane nests from British Columbia to northeastern California and winters in the Central Valley. A total of 276 greater sandhill cranes were recorded in California during a 1988 breeding pair survey, all in six counties in northeastern California and mostly within Modoc and Lassen counties. Of these 276 pairs, 5 percent were on lands administered by the Forest Service (Littlefield and Ivey, 1994). Current estimates are approximately 30 - 50 breeding pairs on the Lassen and Modoc National Forests. Breeding pairs are limited to private lands within Plumas County.

The greater sandhill crane occurs on the Lassen, Plumas and Tahoe National Forests during the summer breeding season and during migration. It is found in medium to large wetlands and short grass valley bottoms. The Eagle Lake District, Lassen National Forest has the most habitat and the most nesting attempts of the three forest area. The Hat Creek District, Lassen National Forest has numerous wetlands on the east side and has had some nesting. The eastside of the Plumas National Forest has numerous meadows with suitable habitat and several sightings, but no documented nesting success. Within the Tahoe National Forest, a breeding population of approximately 11 pairs occur within Carman Valley and Kyburz Flats on the Sierraville District.

Environmental Consequences: A Summary ( BA/BE page 103-105).

Projects derived from this analysis may contribute to loss of wetland/meadow vegetation due to changes in surface and subsurface flows. This loss of vegetation would limit potential nesting and foraging sites. Disturbance generated from the activities characterized in this analysis also have the potential to disrupt the cranes activities. This could limit foraging times and the duration they can forage.

The identified cumulative effects are those that contribute to a loss of meadow vegetation, primarily through changes in water (surface and subsurface) flows.

Additional Findings

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. There are no known unavoidable adverse affects to this species. Project designs and on-site analysis are likely to avoid adverse affects.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources critical to the sandhill crane that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources critical to the sandhill crane that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. The BA/BE prepared for this analysis and on file for review determined that the project as proposed will not affect the Greater Sandhill Crane.
Relationship of Short Term Uses and Long Term Effects: Due to the few adverse affects of the proposals on this species, long term effects cannot be accurately predicted or assessed.

Swainson's Hawk

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

Swainson's hawks are long distance migrants predominantly wintering on grasslands in South America and breeding in North America. Its distribution is now sparse and localized throughout a major portion of its range. They are considered an uncommon breeder, resident, and migrant in the California Central Valley, Klamath Basin, Northeastern Plateau, Lassen County, and Mojave Desert (Zeiner et. al. 1990).

There have been few recorded sightings of Swainson's hawks on the three-forest area. Several sightings occur on the Lassen National Forest, but nesting has not been documented. In Plumas County, Swainson's hawk sightings occur only in fall/winter migrations. Most of these sightings are in Sierra Valley. On the Plumas National Forest, there are no known nesting attempts. On the Sierraville District of the Tahoe National Forest, there are no confirmed sightings on NFS land, but the Sierra Valley contains 4-8 summer resident pairs every year (including one pair that inhabits a territory on the boundary between private and government land) and nesting was documented within 1/2 mile of national forest land as late as 1997 (Hardy 1999, pers. comm.).

The Swainson's hawk is associated closely with open grasslands containing scattered trees or shrubs for nesting and an adequate prey base. Historically, fires burned grasslands periodically, preventing the encroachment of trees. Grassland habitat suitable for Swainson's hawk occupancy probably does not exist. Red-tailed hawks are very common in all woodland habitat on the forest and probably contribute to the lack of Swainson's hawk use of the Forest.

Habitat requirements and analysis of effects are documented and further described in the project BA/BE, located within he planning record.

Environmental Consequences: A Summary (BA/BE page 100-103).

There are few identified affects associated with activities that would be generated from this analysis. There are few sightings of this species within the project area. Additionally the habitat utilized by this hawk is not a high priority for treatment.

As it is not expected that the open habitat that attracts this raptor would be affected by the activities considered, cumulative effects could not be determined with any reliability.

Additional Findings

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. There are no known unavoidable adverse affects to this species associated with any of the alternatives.
Relationship of Short Term Uses and Long Term Effects: Due to the few adverse affects of the proposals on this species, long term effects cannot be accurately predicted or assessed.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources critical to the Swainson's hawk that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources critical to the Swainson's hawk that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. The BA/BE prepared for this analysis and on file for review determined that the project as proposed will not affect the Swainson's Hawk.

B. MAMMALS

This section briefly describes the habitat, history, and status of the mammals listed in Table 3.25. A summary of the effects to the species of concern is also presented. However the BA/BE should be consulted for a fuller discussion on the species of interest as well as the effects that the alternatives are likely to have.

MESOCARNIVORES: Fisher, Marten, Sierra Nevada Red Fox, Wolverine

Introduction

The Lassen National Forest has a forest carnivore habitat network in place that consists of habitat management areas (HMAs) for marten and fishers as well as having connecting corridors between these HMAs. Nineteen HMAs are established for marten (each a minimum of 2,100 acres of suitable habitat) and 5 HMAs are established for fisher (each 9,800 acres of suitable habitat). These are keystone to the network system. This network is placed on the landscape as a habitat connection with the Plumas National Forest to the south and the Shasta -Trinity National Forest to the north. HMA and corridor specific standards and guidelines outlined in the Lassen Forest Plan (USDA 1992) guide management direction and action within this network.

Both the Plumas and Tahoe National Forests have developed forest carnivore networks across their respective Forests that consist of known sightings, large habitat management areas, and wide dispersal or connecting corridors. The network provides a continuously connected system of habitats focused on the needs of marten and fisher. The Plumas network is comprised of four components: 1) the riparian zone; 2) the old-forest zone 3) connectors, and 4) known sightings. Much of the forest carnivore network is in areas reserved from harvest (e.g., Lakes Basin, Bucks Lake Wilderness). However, there is concern for corridors between these reserves that facilitate migration to help maintain healthy populations. The Tahoe National Forest developed their network based on CWHR, SNEP Late Seral Old Growth Maps, polygon patch data, a spatial model, 1997 ortho and aerial photos. These corridors connect at the Plumas and Tahoe Forest boundaries.

The information in Table 3.42 was derived from GIS overlays of the three forest's mesocarnivores networks (all acres below are approximate).

TABLE 3.42
Approximate Mesocarnivores Corridor Acres
(Total refers to number of Network acres on forest)

Forest

Total Acres Within Forest Carnivore Network

Acres Within Westside Zone

Acres Within Transition Zone

Acres Within Eastside Zone

Lassen

100,528

64,915

30,153

5,460

Plumas

251,950

150,895

99,428

1,627

S/ville Ranger District

40,193

7,564

28,084

4,545

Total

392,671

223,374

157,665

11,632

Pacific Fisher And American Marten

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

In California, the pacific fisher most often occurs at elevations between 2000-5000 feet in the North Coast region and 4000-8000 feet in the southern Sierra Nevada (Freel 1991). Preferred habitat is characterized by dense (60-100 percent canopy cover) multi-storied, multi-species, late seral stage coniferous forests with a high number of large (>30" dbh) snags and downed logs.

The current distribution of fisher in California suggests that a once continuous distribution is now fragmented into two areas separated by a distance of approximately 250 miles, which greatly exceeds reported fisher dispersal ability. Methodologies used to detect fisher in numerous survey efforts have failed to detect this species in an area between Mt. Shasta and Yosemite National Park (Zielinski et al, 1995). This gap in distribution may be effectively isolating the southern Sierra Nevada population from the rest of the Pacific range in Northern California. There are no recent (last 10 years) confirmed sightings of fisher within the planning area, which is located within this 250 mile "gap".

In California, marten occur in the northern Sierra Nevada at elevations of 3,400 feet to 10,400 feet, averaging 6,600 feet. For the southern Sierra Nevada, the elevational range is from 4,000 feet to 13,100 feet, averaging 8,300 feet (Freel 1991).

The preferred habitat is characterized by dense (60 to 100 percent canopy), multi-storied, multi-species, late-seral, coniferous forests with a high number of large (> 24" dbh) snags and downed logs (Freel 1991). These areas are generally in close proximity to both dense riparian corridors (used as travelways), and include an interspersion of small (<1 acre) openings with good ground cover (used for foraging).

The preferred forest types include mature mesic forests of red fir, red fir/white fir mix, lodgepole pine, and Sierran mixed conifer, which correspond to timber seral stages and densities of 3, 4, and 5, G and N (Freel 1991). Forest stands dominated by Jeffrey pine do not appear to support marten on the Tahoe National Forest (Martin 1987).

Martens are present in localized areas on all three forests within the planning area. On the Plumas National Forest, 43 percent of the existing sightings of mesocarnivores (marten) occur within the transition zone (Plumas database), but only 5 of these sightings (20 percent of the transition zone sightings) are outside of the Lakes Basin-Haskell Peak area. All of these 5 sightings are unverified reports. The sightings on the westside of the Forest make up the rest of the Plumas National Forest sightings, with the majority based around Little Grass Valley Reservoir. Two sightings occurred on the eastside.

Marten sightings on the Lassen NF are primarily west of County Road A21 (north of Westwood to Bogard Station). Marten are common on the Almanor Ranger District within the high elevation red fir, while on the Eagle Lake Ranger District marten are present within the Caribou Wilderness adjacent to Lassen Volcanic National Park (LVNP). Marten have been located on the Hat Creek Ranger District primarily in the area between LVNP and the Thousand Lakes Wilderness area within the mixed conifer-fir zone. Intensive survey efforts conducted north and east of Highway 44 and east of Road A21have failed to record any marten.

Approximately 55 percent of the existing marten sightings on the Sierraville Ranger District occur southeast of the Lakes Basin-Haskell Peak area, within the Haypress Valley drainages. The Perazzo/Weber Lake area and adjacent Independence Lake area also constitute approximately 43 percent of the forest carnivore sightings. Both of these areas are outside of the transition zone. Two percent of all forest carnivore sightings occur within the transition zone on the Sierraville Ranger District. One major corridor link is the area between the Lakes Basin-Haskell Peak area and southeast to the Haypress Valley drainages.

Within the three forest area, where suitable habitat exists, mesocarnivores are assumed to be present. Habitat requirements and environmental consequences are further described in the project BA/BE on pages 111 - 132 (marten) and pages 132 149.

Environmental Consequences:

Analysis of alternatives on fisher and marten habitat is based on projected changes to suitable habitat across the project area and impact to habitat within the current forest carnivore network designed to maintain habitat continuity. Since spotted owls, goshawks, fishers and marten are associated with mature forests, there is substantial, although by no means complete, overlap in their distribution and habitat requirements. A more in depth analysis on habitat relationships for marten and fisher is presented in the BA/BE that can be found in the planning record (Plumas National Forest). Fragmentation of habitat and impacts to habitat attributes (large trees, snags, logs), was discussed in depth for the California spotted owl. Marten and fisher habitat requirements for these habitat attributes, which are displayed in the BA/BE, are similar to those needed for spotted owl. The eastside zone supports habitat suitable for Marten, and possibly fisher.

Direct Impacts to Suitable Habitat.

All alternatives can potentially decrease the amounts of suitable marten/fisher denning habitat. This is due to the large amounts of medium/large tree, moderate to closed canopy, conifer forests that could be opened up with the proposed resource management activities.

For the Sierra Nevada Framework Project potential forest carnivore strategy, three capability areas were defined and used to model habitat availability and distribution across the Sierra Nevada range for both marten and fisher. These capability areas are:

 

 

 WESTSIDE* 

EASTSIDE

1) Denning/Resting Habitat

a) >60 percent canopy cover

b) > 6 large trees/ac (24" dbh)

a) >40 percent canopy cover

b) >2 large trees/ac (24" dbh)

 

2) Forage/Travel Habitat

a) >40 percent canopy cover

b) >2 large trees/ac

 

a) >25 percent canopy cover

b) >0.5 large trees/ac

3) Unsuitable (not meeting parameters listed)

 

 

*Includes Transition Zone
Within Forest Carnivore Network

The only formalized connectivity of suitable habitat within the planning area is the forest carnivore network, which can be subject to land management alterations. This network is already fragmented by road access. Appropriate standards and guidelines found in Forest Plans regarding the management of forest carnivore networks still apply with all alternatives. The Plumas and Tahoe Plans do not have standards and guidelines specific to a forest carnivore strategy, rather they speak to individual species. While roads are expected to degrade habitat the extent of the effects of roads is not well documented. Freel (1991) cited some of the more obvious effects including individual or prey mortality but also concluded that moderate levels of traffic should not limit marten (BA/BE p. 115, 134) or fisher (Freel 1991, Zielinski et al. 1995).

Impacts to suitable marten and fisher habitat could potentially result with each alternative. Total suitable denning and foraging habitat within the carnivore network in the westside is 204,316 acres. Total suitable denning and foraging habitat within the carnivore network in the eastside is 8,701 acres. The percentage of suitable denning/resting and foraging/travel habitat within the network that could potentially be entered by resource management activities is displayed below (Table 3.43).

Table 3.43.
Within Forest Carnivore Habitat Network (Marten and Fisher)

Percentage of Suitable Habitat Potentially Entered over 5-year Pilot Project Period with
Implementation of DFPZ's and Area Treatment.

 Alternative

WESTSIDE*

Amount of

Denning/

Resting Habitat (>=60%) 4D,5D,6**

WESTSIDE*

Amount of Foraging/ Travel Habitat

(>=40%)

4M,5M

EASTSIDE

Denning/

Resting

Habitat (>40%)

4M,4D,5M,5D,6**

EASTSIDE

Forage/Travel

Habitat (>25%)

4P,5P

1

8%

8%

11%

10%

2

3%

6%

10%

15%

3

7%

5%

19%

28%

4

3%

3%

13%

19%

5***

NA

NA

NA

NA

* Includes Transition Zone.

* * Also serves as foraging/travel habitat

*** Forest Carnivore network is not entered with resource management activities with this alternative.

Alternative 1 potentially enters the greatest amount of habitat within the network of all alternatives. Alternative 3 potentially enters the greatest amount of eastside habitat within the network, primarily due to the placement of DFPZ's and area treatments across the landscape. network. Alternative 5 is designed to not enter the carnivore network.

Resource management activities within the eastside portion of the Forest Carnivore network will be constrained by the strategy outlined in the the May 1, 1998 letter from the Regional Forester: "defer management activities that significantly decrease the legacy structural elements of large diameter live trees, snags and down logs in forest carnivore habitat network areas not covered by CASPO standards..." This strategy allows for management activities that retain large structural elements but could reduce the suitability of habitat by reducing canopy cover, snags, and down logs.

Table 3.44.
Within Forest Carnivore Habitat Network (Marten and Fisher)

Projected Potential Reduction in Suitable Habitat over 5-year Pilot Project Period with
Implementation of DFPZ's and Areat Treatment (acres).

 Alternative

WESTSIDE*

Amount of

Denning/

Resting Habitat Affected

(>=60%) 4D,5D,6

WESTSIDE*

Amount of Foraging/ Travel Habitat

Affected

(>=40%)

4M,5M

EASTSIDE

Denning/

Resting

Habitat Affected (>40%)

4M,4D,5M,5D,6

EASTSIDE

Forage/Travel

Habitat Affected

(>25%)

4P,5P

1

-3,360

-12,980

-600

-320

2

-9,341

-1,171

-546

-497

3

0

0

-1,029

-894

4

0

0

-689

-609

5

NA

NA

NA

NA

Alternative 1 potentially modifies the greatest amount of suitable habitat within the forest carnivore network. Appropriate standards and guidelines found in Forest Plans regarding the management of forest carnivore networks or forest carnivores still apply with all alternatives.

Alternative 2 potentially modifies the greatest amount of suitable habitat within the forest carnivore network within the westside/transition zone. Appropriate standards and guidelines found in Forest Plans regarding the management of forest carnivore networks or forest carnivores still apply with all alternatives.

There is a consistent overlap of suitable owl habitat and forest carnivore habitat (dense forested mature stands with large trees, abundant snags and logs). Alternatives 3 and 4 are designed to maintain suitable owl habitat within the westside/transition zones. This will maintain suitable denning and foraging habitat within the carnivore network on the westside/transition zone. Alternative 3 potentially modifes the greatest amount of suitable habitat within the forest carnivore network within the eastside zone.

Alternative 5 is designed to not enter the carnivore network.

Within the Entire Project Area:

Total suitable denning and foraging habitat within the project area in the westside is 758,431 acres. Total suitable denning and foraging habitat within the project area in the eastside is 394,362 acres. The percentage of suitable denning/resting and foraging/travel habitat within the project area that could potentially be entered by resource management activities is displayed below (Table 3.45).

Table 3.45
Within Entire Project Area (Marten and Fisher): DFPZs/Area Treatment

Percentage of Suitable Habitat Potentially Entered over 5-year Pilot Project Period with
Implementation of DFPZ's and Areat Treatment.

Alternative

WESTSIDE*

Amount of Denning/

Resting Habitat

Affected

 (>=60%)

4D,5D,6

WESTSIDE*

Amount of Foraging/ Travel Habitat Affected

(>=40%)

4M,5M

EASTSIDE

Denning/Resting

Habitat Affected

(>40%)

4M,4D,5M,5D,6

EASTSIDE

Forage/Travel

Habitat Affected

(>25%)

4P,5P

1

10%

10%

10%

10%

2

8%

9%

34%

14%

3

14%

12%

10%

17%

4

5%

10%

6%

13%

5

17%

10%

9%

13%

* Includes Transition Zone

Alternative 1 potentially enters 10% of suitable habitat within both the westside zone and eastside zone.

Alternative 2 potentially enters less acres of suitable habitat on the westside, but potentially more on the eastside than all alternatives. This is due to the emphasis and placement of linear DFPZ's across the eastside. Alternative 2 has the potential to fragment high elevation red fir vegetation with linear DFPZ's located within checkerboard ownership lands on the Sierraville District. This increased fragmentation of habitat could create open forest conditions that are no longer suitable for marten, and are large enough to serve as potential barriers to movement. No DFPZ's (linear or area treatment) are proposed within this area with Alternatives 1, 3-5.

Alternative 3, with the combination of linear DFPZ's and area treatments, potentially enters the greatest amount of suitable habitat of all alternatives across the project area.

Alternative 4 potentially enters less acres of suitable habitat across the project area, as less acres of linear DFPZ and area treatment are implemented.

Alternative 5 potentially enters a similar amount of acres as alternative 3, but DFPZs are not implemented and prescribed burning is emphasized over thinning activity in area treatments.

 It is not expected that there will be any reduction in the amounts of suitable habitat within the westside and transition zones with Alternatives 3-5 (Table 3.46) because suitable owl habitat will be maintained as suitable habitat.


Table 3.46
Within Entire Project Area (Marten and Fisher): DFPZs/Area Treatment

Projected Potential Reduction in Suitable Habitat over 5-year Pilot Project Period with
Implementation of DFPZ's and Areat Treatment (acres).

Alternative

WESTSIDE*

Amount of Denning/

Resting Habitat (>=60%)

4D,5D,6

WESTSIDE*

Amount of Foraging/ Travel Habitat

(>=40%)

4M,5M

EASTSIDE

Denning/Resting

Habitat (>40%)

4M,4D,5M,5D,6

EASTSIDE

Forage/Travel

Habitat (>25%)

4P,5P

1

15,021

60,781

12,303

27,131

2

10,795

54,600

41,569

36,373

3

0

0

12,330

42,932

4

0

0

7,658

26,301

5

0

0

10,500**

35,990**

* Includes Transition Zone

** Treatment emphasizes light mechanicial treatment and/or underburning, leaving dominant and codominant trees, resulting in no change in stand strata type.

Alternative 2 results in the largest potenital decline in denning and foraging habitat within the entire project area. Alternatives 3-5 result in no projected decline in habitat within the westside/transition zones.

Alternative 2 results in the greatest projected potential decline in forest carnivore habitat within the eastside, followed by alternatives 3, 4 and 5. Implementing the strategy outlined in the May 1, 1998 letter from the Regional Forester within the eastside portion of the forest carnivore network would lessen impacts on the eastside. Based on known sightings up and down the Sierra Nevada, as well as management strategies currently being developed by the Sierra Nevada Framework Project, habitat protection and maintenance on the westside of the Sierras is integral to population persistence of fisher and marten. The importance of eastside habitat to marten and fisher population persistence is unknown.

The amount of landbase in reserves will contribute spatially to habitat suitability and connectivity for forest carnivores. Those alternatives that provide the most reserved lands, including RHCAs under SAT, in both the short term (5 years) and provide for future options after the 5-years, probably contribute to better opportunities for connectivity between suitable habitat parcels.

Alternative 1 excludes lands already identified in Forest Plans, including PAC's/SOHA's. This alternative has the least amount of reserved lands.

Alternatives 2 and 3 exclude wilderness, LSOG 4 & 5 polygons, and also sets aside for the 5-year period parcels designated as off-base/deferred, that are either included in the habitat network or provide for habitat "island" outside the network. LSOG polygons provide some isolated habitat parcels that will not have increased access developed for the next 5-years.

Alternative 4 excludes all areas excluded in Alternatives 2 and 3 and also excludes ALSEs. This alternative has the most amount of lands in a reserve status that will not be entered during the life of the project.

Alternative 5 excludes patches of old forest greater than 5 acres. This alternative allows for light mechanical treatment and burning treatments within LSOG 4 & 5 polygons and within ALSEs to promote old forest characteristics.

Alternatives 2-4 create 43,500 acres of group selection openings. Approximately 50 percent of group selection openings will be created within the eastside pine, ten percent in red fir and forty percent within mixed conifer (Simonson pers. comm. 1999). This could result in approximately 4,350 acres of suitable red fir habitat impacted by group selection openings, and approximately 39,000 acres of mixed conifer/eastside pine habitat impacted by alternative 2. Individual tree selection (thinnings from below) will occur primarily within the CWHR types 2P-D, and 3P-D, but could also occur within 4M and 4D. In alternatives 3 and 4, silvicultural prescriptions for group selection and individual tree selection will be designed to not degrade suitable owl habitat, resulting in little change in marten and fisher habitat. Alternative 5 does not emphasize group selection openings. Thinning conducted with alternative 5 would have no reduction in the overstory canopy closure and no removal of dominant and codominant trees. This should maintain closed canopy forest conditions with no impact to denning and foraging habitat.

Roads

Although the alternatives have differing levels of new road construction, all of the new roads will be high clearance and/or limited access dirt roads to provide access for vegetation or fuels management. It is possible that selected main routes may be oiled or graveled to reduce surface dust and erosion, but impacts to all resources, including marten and fisher, will have to be analyzed during a project specific EA.

Roads can disrupt habitat by fragmenting stands and removing habitat and habitat attributes. Roads also allow for increased human access into habitats, possibly affecting populations through disrupting animal behavior during critical periods (denning and winter), removing habitat, and increasing roadkills (Freel 1991).

Based on the projected miles of new road construction under the various alternatives (Table 3.6), Alternative 1 will increase the transportation network by 45 miles of new construction, Alternatives 2 and 3 will each increase the network by approximately 100 miles of new construction; Alternative 4 will increase the network by approximately 67 miles of new construction. Alternative 5 will have 12 miles of new road construction.

Road Obliteration/decommission is expected on 135 miles over the 5-year period with Alternative 1, 300 miles with Alternatives 2 and 3, 200 miles with Alternative 4 and 37 miles with Alternative 5. Alternatives 3, 4 and 5 de-emphasize active vegetation management and associated road construction in the higher elevational mixed conifer-fir and red fir forests that serve as important marten habitat. All alternatives will likely focus on the lower elevational forests and eastside pine as a primary aim is to reduce risks of high severity fires. This will likely increase new road construction within these forest types.

Current road density within the entire project area is estimated at approximately 2.6 miles/square mile. Road construction and road obliteration/decommission will not result in much change in road density. But on a site specific project level, road densities could be reduced through road closures that could enhance habitat suitability for forest carnivores.

Given these factors, road density will decline slightly overall with road obliteration/ decommissioning and other road closing activities proposed for riparian and wildlife habitat restoration in Alternatives 2-4. Alternatives 1 and 5 will more closely represent the existing condition after the 5-year period.

As part of the NEPA process, areas mapped as potentially suitable for fisher will be surveyed to the 1995 protocol standards specified in Zielinski and Kucera ("American Marten, fisher, lynx and wolverine: survey methods for their detection). Copies of suspected carnivore tracks are then sent to the PSW forest carnivore specialist for positive identification and entry into the regional database.

Each Forest will begin with the same coarse-scale model and technique to map suitable habitat for marten and fisher and refine it to reflect subregional variation in habitats and habitat use at a fine scale. The work will be in cooperation with the PSW forest carnivore specialist regarding assumptions, techniques, and implication.

Cumulative Effects:

Cumulative effects for these two forest carnivores center around the additional loss of habitat on both private and public lands. This continued loss of habitat when considered with the historic loss of habitat and individuals (through trapping) will continue to adversely affect populations. In addition to logging activities, roads continue to pose a hazard to these animals although there is no information suggesting that roads provide a hinderance to movement in suitable habitat.

Additional Findings

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. To implement the full range of options required in the Act and considered within alternatives 2-4 adverse effects to habitat cannot be avoided. This does not mean that the activities will cause population declines but there may be adverse affects to habitat and/or individuals for these species but rather recognizes that habitat suitability will be reduced.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources critical to the pacific fisher or American marten that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources critical to the pacific fisher or American marten that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. The BA/BE prepared for this analysis and on file for review determined that the project as proposed may affect individuals but is not likely to lead to a trend towards federal listing for the American marten; for the Pacific fisher, individuals would not be affected, thus not likely to lead to a trend towards listing.
Relationship of Short Term Uses and Long Term Effects: Short-term species uses of treated areas may change or these areas may be avoided. Assuming no further treatments to overstory, use patterns may change over the next 20 years to current levels.

Sierra Nevada Red Fox

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

Sierra Nevada red fox inhabit forested areas interspersed with riparian and meadow habitat, and brush fields. Preferred forest types include red fir, lodgepole pine and sub alpine fir in the higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada (Schempf and White 1977). In the northern Sierra Nevada, most records occur in fir and mixed conifer types, with a large number of sightings also in pine and lodgepole. In the southern Sierra, most sightings were in mixed conifer forests, although lodgepole pine and fir were also important (Schempf and White 1977).

As of 1977, Sierra Nevada red fox populations were thought to be at a low level or perhaps declining (Schempf and White 1977). There is little information presently available to either justify or counter that assumption. There are very few recent sightings (1980-1998) of this species within its current range. The most recent California locations center around Lassen Volcanic National Park and Lassen National Forest. Currently there are two foxes with radio collars being followed by Almanor Ranger District personnel. The information so far reveals that these individuals have very large home ranges, that they stay above 5000 feet regardless of snow depths (up to 18 feet), and that these individuals do not often interact. A third fox has been identified within this study area (Rickman, pers. comm. 1998) and a red fox was photographed near the Bogard Station on the Eagle Lake Ranger District, Lassen National Forest in the early 1990's.

Environmental Consequences: A Summary (BA/BE page 105-111)

Due to the relative rarity of this fox and that it currently is known from only a few locations on the Lassen National Forest, the direct and indirect effects are expected to be limited. One concern outlined was that these projects may improve habitat for the lowland red fox and encourage this imported species to find its way to the upper elevations where it might out-compete its native cousin. Other effects mentioned is the potential for modification or loss of habitat and disturbance that causes changes in behavior.

Cumulative effects that were considered in this analysis included a cumulative addition to roaded areas and the increase in human settelment and urban interface.

Additional Findings

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. There are no known unavoidable adverse affects to this species or its habitat associated with any of the alternatives.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources critical to the Sierra Nevada red fox that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources critical to the Sierra Nevada red fox that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. The BA/BE prepared for this analysis and on file for review determined that the project as proposed may affect individuals but is not likely to lead to a trend towards federal listing (page 188).
Relationship of Short Term Uses and Long Term Effects: Due to the few adverse affects of the proposals on this species, long term effects cannot be accurately predicted or assessed.

California Wolverine

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

Considered a scarce resident in California, the known habitat distribution occurs from Del Norte and Trinity counties east through Siskiyou and Shasta counties, and south through the Sierra Nevada to Tulare County (Zeiner et al. 1990). Most sightings in the North Coast mountains fall within the 1600 to 4800 feet elevational range. In the northern Sierra Nevada, most sightings fall between 4300 to 7300 feet, and in the southern Sierra Nevada, between 6400 to 10,800 feet (Zeiner et al. 1990).

Habitats used in the northern Sierra Nevada include mixed conifer, red fir, and lodgepole pine. In the southern Sierra Nevada, habitat preference includes lodgepole pine, red fir, mixed conifer, subalpine conifer, alpine dwarf-shrub, barren, and probably wet meadows, montane chaparral, and Jeffrey pine (Zeiner et al. 1990).

Wolverines are wide-ranging species. "Researchers have generally agreed that wolverine habitat is probably best defined in terms of adequate year-round food supplies in large, sparsely inhabited wilderness areas, rather than in terms of particular types of topography or plant associations" (Ruggerio et al 1994). Wolverines are generally considered a solitary species, with adults apparently associating only during the breeding season (Butts 1992).

Little is known about wolverines in the California portion of their range. No quantitative data are available for California. Despite systematic attempts to detect wolverines, no empirical evidence was obtained that wolverines were present in sampled habitats.

Environmental Consequences: A Summary (BA/BE page 149-153)

Direct and indirect effects are likely to be any one of a number of the activities that increases human access to large blocks of land. Behavioral changes may occur due to human disturbance.

Cumulative effects considered in the analysis are those that add to the human disturbance factor. This would include increases in recreational activities, increases in urban development, and other activities associated with resource use that increases with population growth.

Additional Findings

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. There are no known unavoidable adverse affects to this species.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources critical to the wolverine and its habitat that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources critical to the wolverine and its habitat that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. The BA/BE prepared for this analysis and on file for review determined that the project as proposed may affect individuals but is not likely to lead to a trend towards federal listing.
Relationship of Short Term Uses and Long Term Effects: Due to the few adverse affects of the proposals on this species, long term effects cannot be accurately predicted or assessed.

BATS

Forested habitats are important for many bat species within the planning area. Included are two species which are obligate tree roosters, the red bat (Lasiurus blossevillii) and hoary bat (L. cinereus). Forested habitats are also important for nine other species: pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus), big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), California myotis (Myotis californicus), small-footed myotis (M. ciliolabrum), long-eared myotis (M. evotis), little brown bat (M. lucifugus), fringed myotis (M. thysanodes), long-legged myotis (M. volans), and Yuma myotis (M. yumanensis). The above bat species include two Forest Service Sensitive species (red and pallid bats).

There are three species of sensitive bats and habitat within the project area. Habitat requirements and analysis of effects are documented and further described in the project BA/BE, located within he planning record.

Pallid Bat

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

This species occurs in a wide variety of habitats, including grasslands, shrublands, and woodlands to mixed conifer forests up to 6000 feet elevation. It is most common in open, dry habitats with rocky areas for roosting. It day roosts in caves, crevices, mines, and occasionally in hollow trees, crevices in oaks, and large snags. It prefers rocky outcrops, cliffs, and crevices with access to open habitats for foraging. Philpott (1997) emphasizes the importance of oak woodlands for foraging.

There are currently three records of Pallid Bat on the Plumas National Forest. Bat surveys using mist nets at selected locations on the Plumas National Forest were conducted in June and September of 1991 and again in July and August of 1992. Habitats surveyed ranged from high and low elevation mixed conifer/red fir to eastside pine and sagebrush association. The results of these survey efforts indicated the presence of at least 12 different bat species on the Forest. The Pallid bat was found along the Middle Fork Feather River near Portola (2 records) and another bat was captured at Lowe Flat north of Antelope Lake, both in 1992 (Lengas and Bumpus 1992, 1993). Pallid bats have also been found at Lake Almanor in 1996 (Armentrout, personal communication, 1999).

Western Red Bat

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

This species is usually found west of the Sierra Nevada/Cascade crest, most often below 3000 foot elevation, with migrants found outside their normal range. Roosting habitat includes forests and woodlands including mixed conifer forests. Roosts primarily in trees, less often in shrubs. Roosts are often in edge habitats adjacent to streams, fields, or urban areas. They are dependent on riparian and riparian edge habitats.

There are currently three records of Western Red Bat on the Plumas National Forest. Bat surveys using mist nets at selected locations on the Plumas National Forest were conducted in June and September, 1991 and again in July and August, 1992. The Western Red bat was found along the Middle Fork Feather River near Blairsden (1 record) and at French Creek on the Feather River Ranger District (2 records) (Lengas and Bumpus 1992, 1993).

Townsend's Big Eared Bat

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

This bat occupies a wide variety of habitats (older forest, desert, grasslands/plains, riparian, species requires caves, mines, abandoned human structures, rock crevices, and water for drinking. It forages on flying insects, specializing in moths. It usually captures prey in flight, or by gleaning from foliage of brush or trees and feeds along habitat edges. It prefers mesic (wet) habitats. It is usually found below 6000 feet but has been found up to 10,000 feet elevation. It's colonial nature places this bat at high risk with a single disturbance causing detrimental harm to potentially large populations (Philpott, 1997).

There are currently no known records of this species on the Plumas National Forest. Species distribution maps emphasize a high probability of this species occurring on the Westside of the Forest. Bat surveys using mist nets at selected locations on the Plumas National Forest were conducted in June and September, 1991 and again in July and August, 1992. The Townsend's big eared bat was not recorded (Lengas and Bumpus 1992, 1993).

Environmental Consequences: A Summary (BA/BE page 153-158)

Habitat modification is the main adverse affect facing bats from these projects. As these bats are not typically tree nesters or roosters, loss of bridge structures and the destruction of caves and the removal of abandoned buildings are a greater risk. Foraging habitat would be affected by activities that result in a loss of riparian and meadow vegetation.

Due to the scarcity of these species within the project area, cumulative effects are difficult to predict. Disturbance to roost sites from these activities when combined with other activities on private, state, and federal grounds can combine to affect local populations particularly during winter.

Additional Findings

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. There are no known unavoidable adverse affects to these species associated with any of the alternatives considered in this analysis.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources critical to the pallid, western red, and Townsend's big-eared bats that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources critical to the pallid, western red, and Townsend's big-eared bats that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. The BA/BE prepared for this analysis and on file for review determined that the project as proposed may affect individuals but is not likely to lead to a trend towards federal listing for the pallid bat and western red bat. The proposed project will not affect the Townsend's big-eared bat.
Relationship of Short-Term Uses and Long-Term Effects: Due to the few adverse affects of the proposals on this species, long term effects cannot be accurately predicted or assessed.

REPTILES

Northwestern Pond Turtle

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

The Northwestern Pond Turtle (Clemmys marmorata marmorata) is found in a wide variety of wetland habitats west of the crests of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges between the San Francisco Bay and the Puget Sound area of Washington. Although the upper elevational limit is considered to be 6,000 feet, the majority of sightings are below 3,500 feet in elevation.

On the Lassen National Forest, distribution is generally limited to large streams (Deer, Mill, and Antelope Creeks) and lakes and ponds (Finley Lake) below 3,500 feet in elevation. There are no reports of this reptile on NFS lands east of the Cascade/Sierra Nevada Crest.

On the Tahoe National Forest, all sighting locations are from the Yuba River drainage, with most observations associated with pond habitat. The Plumas National Forest has several sightings, some associated with ponds, backwater oxbows of creeks, or in slow moving water within creeks. All sightings are below 4400 feet.

Environmental Consequences: A Summary (BA/BE page 168-173)

Loss of riparian vegetation, specifically short emergent vegetation, would reduce habitat suitability for hatchlings as this provides aerial basking and foraging sites. Change in the flows of streams can also adversely affect this species. Road construction can result in direct mortality from machinery or increase traffic flows where the turtle can become the object of target practice or collection. If road banks are too steep they bcome barriers during the migrational movements of this reptile.

Loss of woody material, especially logs that serve as basking sites, can affect thermoregulation.

Cumulative effects can occur if the project activities allow cattle access to an area previously unaccessible. This puts individuals at risk and can lead to a reduction in the quality of habitat when the vegetation is grazed. Other activities such as mining, timber harvest on private lands, recreation and range developments have the potential to raise stream temperatures if the activities affect vegetation next to the water. Activities considered in this analysis have the potential to affect stream temperatures and therefore act in concert with other activities to increase water temperatures which reduces habitat suitability for this turtle.

Additional Findings

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. There are no known unavoidable adverse affects. Stream protection mitigations as well as other guides inherent in the plane provide for sufficient protection to this species and its habitat.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources critical to the northwestern pond turtle that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources critical to the northwestern pond turtle that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. The BA/BE prepared for this analysis and on file for review determined that the project as proposed may affect individuals but is not likely to lead to a trend towards federal listing.
Relationship of Short Term Uses and Long Term Effects: Due to the few adverse affects of the proposals on this species, long term effects cannot be accurately predicted or assessed.

TERRESTRIAL INVERTEBRATES

Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle

The species' range in California consists of patchy distribution from Redding south to Bakersfield, and the western Sierra Nevada foothills to eastern Coast Range foothills up to around 3000 feet in elevation. Habitat consists of elderberry shrubs and trees in a variety of habitats and plant communities, but most often in riparian, elderberry savannah, or moist valley oak woodlands. The beetle chooses elderberry plants (Sambucus spp.) that are at least1inch in diameter to lay its eggs. The larvae feed on the plant until they pupate and leave the plant to start the cycle again.

Known or potential habitat of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle (VELB) (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus) on National Forest System lands occurs in the Lake Red Bluff Recreation Area, administered by the Mendocino National Forest. Critical Habitat has been designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the central and southern Sierra Nevada, but occurs downstream of the Eldorado, Stanislaus, Sierra and Sequoia National Forests. There is no critical habitat designated within the pilot project area. There are no sightings of this species on National Forest Lands on the Lassen, Plumas, or Tahoe National Forests. However this may also be a function of few surveys within suitable habitat. Until further surveys are completed, this species is assumed to be present within unsurveyed areas of suitable habitat.

Environmental Consequences: A Summary (BA/BE page 36-38)

The risk to this species from activities considered in the project proposals appears to be low. SAT guidelines would protect the areas of suitable habitat for this species. Additionally a large portion of suitable habitat within the National Forest boundaries is not included within the project area (wilderness,. off-base, or deferred). The potential to affect this beetle is highest during prescribed burning within suitable habitat. Upstream treatment could potential affect downstream vegetation on which the beetle depends. There may be indirect effects to habitat if areas that could become suitable habitat are included within a project and initial treatments and subsquent maintenance of DFPZs or thinned areas keeps elderberry from reaching the size critical to the beetle. Consultation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service is required where there is the potential to affect this species, reducing the risk of adverse affects.

Cumulative effects could occur if activities that are proposed under this analysis combine with other activities (grazing, private land activities, and other near stream disturbances) to affect the water flows and the quality of water downstream. This would in turn affect the elderberry plant on which this beetle depends.

Additional Findings

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. There are no known unavoidable adverse affects. Stream (SAT) protection mitigations as well as other guides inherent in the plan provide for sufficient protection to this species and its habitat.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources critical to the northwestern pond turtle that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources critical to the northwestern pond turtle that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. The BA/BE prepared for this analysis and on file for review determined that the project as proposed is not likely to adversely affect this species.
Relationship of Short Term Uses and Long Term Effects: Due to the few adverse affects of the proposals on this species, long term effects cannot be accurately predicted or assessed.

V. Aquatic Resources

I. Aquatic Management Indicator Species (MIS)

This section includes discussions on three aquatic MIS, trout and trout complexes, largemouth bass, and willow-alder complexes (Table 3.21).

Two fish, trout (including rainbow trout) and largemouth bass, and riparian habitat (alder/willow) complexes were identified as management indicator species. Because they occur in such a wide range of habitats it is difficult to assess the effects that the projects derived from this analysis will have on them. Effects are, in fact, better left to site specific analysis. However within the confines of this analysis there are certain affects that can be predicted.

Trout/Rainbow Trout

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

Rainbow are the only native, non-anadromous trout that occurs in streams within the project area (outside of the Lahonton). A few streams remain limited to rainbow trout however most have either been planted with brook, german brown, or both species of trout to enhance fishing opportunities.

Trout typically prefer cooler streams with structure such as logs and large rocks. Shade is an important attribute, providing both cover and a means to maintain a lower stream temperature. Sediment in small amounts is a requirement for both spawning beds and as a nutrient source for insects which provide food for the trout however can also be detrimental as sediment can smother eggs and prevent oxygen exchange.

Environmental Consequences

Direct and Indirect Effects

It is unlikely that any of the alternatives would provide measurable effects as SAT guidelines (alternatives 2-5) and BMPs (Alternative 1) minimize impacts to the species and their habitats. However some impacts may occur as the result of riparian habitat restoration, replacement of road structures (culverts), and sedimentation deposited from roads. Alternative 1 provides the least amount of protection and therefore effects are most likely to be found under that alternative.

The removal of vegetation within the riparian areas would increase the likelihood of sedimentation to streams and reducing shade which can increase stream temperatures. The use of streams for drafting water (dust abatement) and change flow patterns.

Cumulative Effects

Grazing, recreation, use of system roads (administrative and public), all contribute effects to some degree which would cumulatively add to any impacts generated from activities considered in this analysis. Upstream activities on private lands could also be addition considerations. Due to the wide range of potential activities, this needs to be considered at the landscape or project level to accurately determine the effects.

Largemouth Bass

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

Largemouth bass are a non-native game fish that inhabit several lakes in the area such as Lake Almanor and Lake Oroville. Occassionally they will be found in large slow-moving bodies of water such as the Pit River or Sacramento River where water is warmer than spring fed streams. They can tolerate a wide range of habitats but do best in areas that provide both shallow areas with vegetation and deeper pools to avoid light.

Environmental Consequences

This species is unlikely to be affected by activities described in this analysis since they are found primarily in lake habitats.

Willow/Alder Communities

Affected Environment

Willow and alder communties are found throughout the project area. There are several different species alder and a number of species of willow. Please also refer to the discussion of riparian habitats for further discussions on this subject.

General desired conditions for riparian areas (which the willow/alder communities represent) are a healthy and vegetatively diverse with various age structures. Information on the status of riparian communities throughout the project area is relatively scarce. CALVEG data does identify riparian vegetation however this is notoriously inaccurate for planning level use. Data on specific locations is scant and generally not found in files but as anecdotal information or as notes in survey forms.

In general these communities vary from a few acres to as much as several hundred acres along major streams such as Mill or Deer creeks on the Lassen National Forest. Many of the communities, especially mountain alder, lack both age and species diversity. The health of riparian communities varies runs the gamut from very high quality habitat providing cover, a wide range of riparian species, and various age classes to those communities that have been drastically altered due to management activities and natural processes such as witnessed with the January 1997 flood.

Environmental Consequences

The effects to this community are hard to ascertain at this level of analysis. Not all affects are necessarily adverse. As described above many stands lack age and species diversity and are generally in the later successional stages for riparian communities. Some disturbance is likely to encourage a multitude of age structures and could be beneficial to the community if the disturbance is within reason and meets a pre-defined desired condition.

Effects from activities is likely to be highest in Alternative 1 where smaller stream buffer widths are required. The SAT guidelines are likely to minimize effects to these communities except in road construction, crossing repairs, and where necessary to implement riparian habitat improvement projects. Alternative 2 is likely to have effects similar to Alternative 1 based on the number of acres treated. It is difficult to assess the levels of effects to riparian communites under alternatives 3 - 5 but the effects are likely to be minimal and cannot be accurately described at an analysis level this course. Also each type of community would have to be mapped and defined before such an effort can be made with any level of confidence. Therefore the effects analysis is better accomplished at the project level where the affected riparian communities can be better described.

Cumulative effects are likely to some degree, especially where livestock utilize the area. Opening areas can "invite" both people and livestock which magnifies the level of disturbance. This can result in plant damage, soil compaction (reducing the growth potential of plants), and the introduction of non-native species that can replace the desired native flora.

II. THREATENED, ENDANGERED, AND SENSITIVE AQUATIC SPECIES

Within the planning area, 12 vertebrate species and 6 invertebrate aquatic species are listed as Federally threatened or endangered, are proposed for listing, or are Forest Service Region 5 sensitive species (Tab le 3.47). These species are discussed in detail in the biological assessment/biological evaluation (BA/BE). A summary of the effects analysis is presented here except for wildlife identified as species of concern for the proposed project. This includes both the status and life history of the species as well as the anticipated effects. However, since this is a summary, the BA/BE prepared for this project (on file at the Forest Supervisors Office, Plumas National Forest) should be reviewed for a complete discussion if questions arise or clarification is needed. The location within the BA/BE for both the effects analysis and determination are provided for reference.

Table 3.47
Threatened, Endangered, Proposed, and Sensitive Aquatic Animal Species
that Potentially Occur on the Affected Forests.

(Regional Forester, Pacific Southwest Region
 Sensitive Species List, June 8, 1998)

Aquatic Species

 

 

FISH

 

 

C.V. Spring-run Chinook Salmon

Proposed Endangered

Lassen

C.V. Fall-run Chinook Salmon

Proposed ThreatenedT

Lassen

Central Valley Steelhead

Threatened

Lassen

Lahontan cutthroat trout

Threatened

Tahoe

Hardhead

Sensitive

Lassen Plumas Tahoe

Eagle Lake Rainbow Trout

Sensitive

Lassen

Lahontan Lake Tui Chub

Sensitive

Tahoe

 

 

 

AMPHIBIANS

 

 

Caliornia red-legged frog

Threatened

Lassen Plumas Tahoe

Mountain Yellow-legged Frog

Sensitive

Lassen Plumas Tahoe

Foothill yellow-legged Frog

Sensitive

Lassen Plumas Tahoe

Cascade frog

Sensitive

Lassen

Northern Leopard Frog

Sensitive

Plumas Tahoe

 

 

 

INVERTEBRATES

 

 

Shasta crayfish

Endangered

Lassen

CA Floater freshwater mussel

Sensitive

Lassen

Great Basin rams-horn (snail)

Sensitive

Lassen Tahoe

Scalloped Juga (snail)

Sensitive

Lassen

Topaz Juga (snail)

Sensitive

Lassen

Montane peaclam

Sensitive

Lassen

 1. FISH

Anadromous Fish (Central Valley Steelhead; Spring-run chinook salmon; Fall-run chinook salmon

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

In recent years, many anadromous fish stocks have been Federally listed due to depressed or declining population levels. On a broad scale, the depressed status of many stocks can be attributed to the interaction of variable environmental factors, such as ocean conditions, and past and present management activities including; dam construction and operation, water diversions, habitat modifications, fish harvest and hatcheries. On National Forest lands, it is recognized that protection, maintenance and restoration of anadromous fish habitat are essential components to the conservation of anadromous stocks that may be at risk of extinction, including those present within the pilot project area. The interim aquatic conservation strategy (known as PACFISH) applies to federal lands in five anadromous fish-producing watersheds within the project area and was developed specifically to take prudent measures to arrest the degradation and begin the restoration of riparian and aquatic ecosystems in watersheds where anadromous fish habitat is present (or could be reestablished).

The five anadromous fish-producing watersheds within the pilot project area are located on the Lassen National Forest and include: Deer Creek, Mill Creek, Antelope Creek, Battle Creek, and Butte Creek. Unlike most other tributary streams of the Sacramento River (which have major water storage facilities that inundate or block hundreds of miles of historical anadromous habitat), habitat is still available for utilization by anadromous fish in these basins.

Within the boundary of the Lassen National Forest, the total miles of anadromous fish habitat is estimated at 25 miles for Deer Creek, 43 miles for Mill Creek and 7 miles for Antelope Creek. In Battle and Butte Creeks, the upstream limit of anadromous fish migration is downstream of the forest boundary (approximately 13 and 20 miles, respectively). All five basins are (to varying degrees) important contributors to the production of anadromous fish in the Sacramento River and some, like Deer Creek and Mill Creek especially, are critical to the recovery and perpetuation of the wild stocks of spring-run chinook chinook salmon and winter-run steelhead. Species information, habitat conditions and population status of anadromous fish within the project area are provided for in the Biological Assessment (September 2, 1997) prepared for anadromous fish on implementation of the Lassen National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (as amended).

Environmental Consequences.

Under all alternatives, interim PACFISH direction will continue to apply to the five anadromous fish-producing watersheds on the Lassen. A discussion of the programmatic effects of implementing this direction can be found in a September 2, 1997 Biological Assessment. This assessment was prepared to analyze (programmatically) the effects of implementing the LRMP (as amended by PACFISH), on Central Valley steelhead and chinook salmon (spring-run and fall-run) and, to conduct Section 7 Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). On June 4, 1998, consultation was completed with the issuance of a Biological and Conference Opinion (Opinion) by NMFS on the implementation of the LRMP. Based on the information and analysis described in the Opinion, NMFS determined that implementation of the LRMP, as amended, is "not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of listed Central Valley (CV) steelhead and proposed CV spring- and fall-run chinook salmon".

For purposes of the proposed project, consultation with the NMFS has been ongoing since the HF-QLG bill was passed. On June 11, 1999, a letter was sent to NMFS to initiate consultation and to request concurrence on the consultation process for the pilot project. Based on preliminary discussions with NMFS (and for reasons described in the letter, appendix Y), it has been concluded that ESA obligations for consultation at the programmatic level for the proposed pilot project have been met under plan level consultation completed to date. To meet ESA obligations at the project level, however, site specific assessments will be conducted and consulted on as individual projects are evaluated under the NEPA process.

Additional Findings

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. To implement the full range of options required in the Act and considered within alternatives 2-4 minor adverse effects may be unavoidable. This does not mean that the activities will cause population declines but there may be adverse affects to habitat and/or individuals for this species.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources critical to these anadromous fisheries that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources critical to the anadromous fisheries that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. No determination was made concerning these species as obligations have been met through consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Relationship of Short Term Uses and Long Term Effects: Due to the few adverse affects of the proposals on this species, long term effects cannot be accurately predicted or assessed.

Lahontan Cutthroat Trout

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

The Lahontan cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki henshawi) was listed as endangered in 1970 and reclassified in 1975 as threatened; critical habitat has not been designated (USFWS 1992). A recovery plan was released in 1995. The Lahontan cutthroat trout occurs within the planning area on the Sierraville District at Independence Lake, Independence Creek, and East Fork Creek flowing through Austin Meadows. The populations in Independence Lake and East Fork Creek are considered pure strains of the species and important for recovery. The population in Independence Creek is not considered a pure strain, as it interbreeds with rainbow trout.

In California native Lahontan habitat primarily consists of eastern Sierra high mountain meadow streams (over 6,000 feet elevation) (USFS 1993). Cover is an important habitat component (ibid). Lahontans occupy areas with overhanging banks, vegetation, or woody debris. Within stream cover (e.g., brush, aquatic vegetation, and rocks) is very important for juvenile survival (USFS 1993).

Environmental Consequences: A Summary (BA/BE page 38-42)

Additional Findings

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. There are no unavoidable adverse affects associated with any of the alternatives within this analysis.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources critical to the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources critical to the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. Current allotment management plans that govern grazing within the watersheds containing Lahontan cutthroat trout and its habitat have been developed with concurrence with the US Fish & Wildlife Service. The BA/BE prepared for the HFQLG analysis and on file for review determined that the project as proposed is not likely to adversely affect this species.

Hardhead

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

Hardhead are widely distributed in low to mid-elevations streams in the main Sacramento-San Joaquin drainage as well as the Russian River drainage. Their range extends from the Kern River, Kern County, in the south to the Pit River, Modoc County, in the north.

Hardhead distribution on the Lassen National Forest is limited. The species is known to occur in the foothill portions of Deer, Mill, and Antelope Creeks (Moyle et al 1996). In Deer and Mill Creeks, it occurs primarily downstream of the forest boundary, but also occurs in the lowest reaches of these streams within the Ishi Wilderness (Moyle 1986; Sato and Moyle 1987). Hardhead distribution in Antelope Creek has not been fully evaluated, but as of this date is not known to occur within the Forest boundary.

On the Tahoe National Forest, hardhead have been observed in the South Yuba River (Moyle and Gard 1993) and below the Forest boundary in the main fork of the Yuba River. The Sierraville District has elevations too high for hardhead (>4,700 feet). The lowest location on the District is at Carmen Valley, which is approximately 5,000 foot elevation (A. Carlson, pers. comm.).

The known distribution of hardhead on the Plumas National Forest is Butt Valley Reservoir, the North Fork of the Feather River from Lake Oroville to the confluence of the East Branch of the North Fork, East Branch of the North Fork to the confluence of Rush Creek, Spanish Creek from the confluence of Gilson Creek to the confluence of Mill Creek in American Valley, Greenhorn Creek in American Valley to the confluence of Taylor Creek, Middle Fork from Lake Oroville to the confluence of Humburg Creek near Portola. The total known distribution for the hardhead on the Plumas National Forest is 134.25 miles.

Environmental Consequences: A Summary (BA/BE page 174-180)

Current threats include widespread alteration of downstream habitats, population isolation which increases the possibility of local extinction, habitat loss from hydroelectric power development and use, and pedation by exotic species.

Additional Findings

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. There are no unavoidable adverse affects associated with any of the alternatives within this analysis.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources critical to the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources critical to the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. The BA/BE prepared for this analysis and on file for review determined that the project will not affect this species.
Relationship of Short Term Uses and Long Term Effects: Due to the few adverse affects of the proposals on this species, long term effects cannot be accurately predicted or assessed.

Eagle Lake Trout

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

The Eagle Lake rainbow trout was petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act in June of 1994. In 1995, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) found that the petition did not present substantial information to determine whether this subspecies of rainbow trout should be proposed for listing. According to the finding, the Eagle Lake trout will remain a species of concern. The Eagle Lake rainbow trout was listed as a Forest Service sensitive species on June 10, 1998. Due to dramatically low population numbers in the 1940's and 1950's, a fish trap was constructed to prevent their unsuccessful upstream migration attempts. A successful hatchery program has resulted in the widespread rearing and planting of this species, as they are quite tolerant of marginal water quality conditions. Close to 200,000 fish are planted into Eagle Lake each year to provide for a trophy trout fishery, as they achieve good size in a short time in the lake (17-18 inches and 2-3 lb.s after 1 year in the lake).

Environmental Consequences: A Summary (BA/BE page 176-180)

Direct and indirect effects may be felt through road activities, vegetation and fuels management acts, and stream restoration projects. Road activities can result in the loss of eggs and juveniles if there are stream disturbing activities. There can also be displacement of water levels during water drafting or repair to crossings. Vegetation and fuels management projects have the potential to introduce short and long-term sedimentation if ample protection is not afforded riparian areas. The loss of down logs or the snags that would eventually become logs can affect the nutrient cycles within the immediate area. Even stream restoration activities, if not properly planned can increase sedimentation.

Cumulative effects, such as additional treatments on private or state lands, can add additional sediment and act in conjunction with the activites described in this analysis to increase stream temperatures.

Additional Findings

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. There are no unavoidable adverse affects associated with any of the alternatives within this analysis.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources critical to the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources critical to the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. The BA/BE prepared for this analysis and on file for review determined that the project is will not affect this species.
Relationship of Short Term Uses and Long Term Effects: Due to the few adverse affects of the proposals on this species, long term effects cannot be accurately predicted or assessed.

Lahontan Lake Tui Chub

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

The Lahontan Lake tui chub are a cyprinid subspecies found in Lake Tahoe and Pyramid Lake (Nevada) which are connected to each other by the Truckee River and in nearby Walker Lake (Nevada). Populations of plankton-feeding chub occurring in Stampede, Boca and Prosser reservoirs may also be Lahontan Lake tui chub due to morphological similarities (Marrin and Erman 1982, Moyle et al. 1995). These three reservoirs are located on the Truckee District, just south of the planning area. No water bodies within the planning area are known to contain this species, although due to habitat connectivity, this species could occur in Weber Lake, Independence Lake, and Lake of the Woods.

Environmental Consequences: A Summary (BA/BE page 180-182)

The Lahonton tui chub is not known to occur within the pilot project area therefore there are no direct effects that would likely occur. There also are no indirect effects that can be predicted and therefore no cumulative effects can be predicted.

Additional Findings

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. There are no known unavoidable adverse affects for this species associated with any of the alternatives outlined in this analysis.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources critical to the Sierra Nevada red fox that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources critical to the Sierra Nevada red fox that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. The BA/BE prepared for this analysis and on file for review determined that the project as proposed will not affect the Lahonton Lake Tui Chub.
Relationship of Short Term Uses and Long Term Effects: Due to the few adverse affects of the proposals on this species, long term effects cannot be accurately predicted or assessed.

2. AMPHIBIANS

There are four amphibian species designated as sensitive within the planning area. All species are dependent on aquatic habitats. Habitat requirements and analysis of effects are documented and further described in the project BA/BE, located within he planning record.

California Red-legged Frog

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

The red-legged frog (Rana aurora) occurs from the Cascade-Sierra crest westward from southwestern British Columbia and Vancouver Island, south to northwestern Baja California, excluding the Central Valley and deserts of California (Altig and Dumas 1972). The California red-legged frog (R. a. draytonii) historically occurred along the coast from the vicinity of Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, California, and inland from the vicinity of Redding, California, southward to northwestern Baja California, Mexico (USFWS 1994b). Historically, the California red-legged frog was found west of the Sierra-Cascade crest at elevations below 4,500 feet elevation. It is generally found at elevations below 4,000 feet, but has been found above this (Martin 1992).

This species is highly restricted in the Sierra Nevada, and has been eliminated from 75 percent of its historic range (Jennings 1992). Habitat loss and alteration, the introduction of bullfrogs and other aquatic predators, and historic timber harvest have been implicated in the population decline (Jennings 1988, Moyle 1973). In the Sierra Nevada, the California red-legged frog is thought to occur from Shasta to Mariposa counties (Basey and Sinclear 1980), and is extremely rare or virtually extirpated in the Sierra Nevada foothills (USFWS 1994). Surveys on Forests in the Sierras have been limited and primarily incidental to surveys for other species or during habitat monitoring.

Over the past 5-years amphibian surveys have been conducted, where biologists have identified possible habitat based on elevation, gradient, existing ponds and historical references, on the Lassen National Forests. Based on the compilation of historical distribution information for the California red-legged frog, including review of museum specimens, no occurrences of this species has been documented on the Lassen National Forest (Jennings, pers. comm.; and suitable habitat for this species on the Lassen National Forest is thought to be limited (Fellers 1998).

From 1995 to present, the Plumas National Forest has conducted amphibian surveys using A Standardized Protocol for Surveying Aquatic Amphibians (Fellers and Freel 1995). Formal amphibian surveys were conducted for a land exchange in 1997 and a major breeding population of California red-legged frogs was located in the French Creek watershed. The French Creek population is one of two known breeding locations in the Sierra Nevada, the other population is located in the North Fork Weber Creek watershed in El Dorado County.

The USFWS Draft recovery plan for this species identifies the Sierra Nevada as Recovery Unit 1. This unit has low recovery potential, which means there are few existing populations, high levels of threats and in general, low habitat suitability. Within Recovery Unit 1, core areas are identified to protect known populations, suitable habitat, and connecting habitat. Core areas typically include entire watersheds. There are five identified core areas within the planning area, all are located on the Plumas National Forest, with some overlap with the Lassen. These core areas are identified as 1) North Fork Feather River, 2) Chino Creek, 3) Jack Creek, 4) South Fork Feather River and 5) Indian Creek (Yuba County).

Suitable habitat for the California red-legged frog on the Plumas and Lassen National Forests has been identified as aquatic habitat below 4,500 feet with the above listed attributes, as well as the adjacent 300 feet upslope from the aquatic habitat (USFWS 1997). The USFWS is now recommending surveys for red-legged frogs in suitable habitat below 5,500 feet (USFWS letter dated August 3, 1999, found in planning files). During winter rain events, these frogs are known to disperse almost up to 2 miles from bedding areas to non-breeding areas over upland habitats.

Environmental Consequences: A Summary (BA/BE page 42-49)

Direct effects that could occur from the alternatives within this analysis include loss of riparian vegetation (habitat loss), a decrease in the shading of aquatic systems, and a decrease of vegetation and animals from the floodplain into the streams (affecting food sources for tadpoles). There could also be changes in surface and subsurface flows which could affect this frog. Upland movements of frogs during rain events increases their vulnerability to direct mortality from resource management activities and possibly predation. There were several indirect effects that were considered including an increase in sedimentation, high volume spring flows that affect eggs, and the changes of water levels during drafing for dust abatement.

Cumulative effects could occur if similar activities are carried out within the same watershed adding to the effects of projects considered in this analysis. Additionally other activities on all lands such as recreation or grazing are occurring.

Additional Findings

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. There are no known unavoidable adverse affects for this species associated with any of the alternatives outlined in this analysis.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources critical to the Sierra Nevada red fox that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources critical to the Sierra Nevada red fox that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. The BA/BE prepared for this analysis and on file for review determined that the project as proposed is not likely to adversely affect the California Red-legged frog.
Relationship of Short Term Uses and Long Term Effects: Due to the few adverse affects of the proposals on this species, long term effects cannot be accurately predicted or assessed.

Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

The mountain yellow-legged frog has been eliminated from 50 percent of its historic range in the Sierra Nevada (Jennings 1993). Museum records indicate that mountain yellow-legged frogs were historically well distributed on the three Forests. The Plumas National Forest and the Sierraville District of the Tahoe National Forest support populations of mountain yellow-legged frog. However, the Lassen National Forest has no recent documented sightings of this species.

Mountain yellow-legged frogs occur in the Sierra Nevada from 4,500 feet to over 12,000 feet elevation (Jennings and Hayes 1994). Mountain yellow-legged frogs are seldom far from water. They prefer well illuminated, sloping banks of meadow streams, riverbanks, isolated pools, and lake borders with vegetation that is continuous to the water's edge (Martin 1992, Zeiner et al. 1988).

Suitable breeding habitat for mountain yellow-legged frogs is considered to be low gradient (up to 4 percent) perennial streams and lakes. Streams in this category generally have the potential for deep pools and undercut banks which provide the habitat requirements of this frog. In high elevations, breeding occurs between May and August as soon as the meadows and lakes are free of snow and ice. In lower elevations, breeding occurs between March and June once high water in streams subsides. Due to the adults' overwintering underwater and the tadpoles' long metamorphosis, this species is very vulnerable to introduced fish (Knapp 1994).

Foothill Yellow-Legged Frog

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

The Plumas and Lassen National Forests support populations of Foothill yellow-legged frog. The Sierraville Ranger District, Tahoe National Forest is outside the species range.

Foothill yellow-legged frogs are found in or near rocky perennial streams and rivers in a variety of habitats including riparian, mixed conifer, and wet meadow types (Stebbins 1985). Rana boylii inhabits areas with moving water but tends to avoid areas with steep gradients (Zweifel 1955). These frogs prefer partial shade, shallow riffles, and cobble sized or greater substrate (Hayes and Jennings 1988). Occasionally, this species is also found in other riparian habitats, including moderately vegetated backwaters, isolated pools, (Hayes and Jennings 1988, pers. observ.), slow moving rivers with mud substrates (Fitch 1938) and stock ponds (Tierney 1997, pers. observ.).

Little is known about the movement and dispersal of this species (Jennings and Hayes 1994). During breeding and summer, foothill yellow-legged frogs are rarely encountered far from permanent water. During the winter, frogs have been observed in abandoned rodent burrows and under logs as far as 100 meters from a stream (Zeiner et al. 1988). Recently metamorphosed frogs show a strong tendency to migrate upstream (Twitty 1967). Overwintering of larvae probably does not take place (Zweifel 1995).

Cascades frog

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

The Cascades frog occurs in the Cascades range of Washington, Oregon, and northern California. Historically, the Cascades frog was distributed in California from the Shasta-Trinity region eastward toward the Modoc Plateau and southward to the Lassen region and upper Feather River system (M. Jennings and Hayes 1994). The known elevational range of the Cascades frog in California extends from 760 feet to 8250 feet (ibid). In northern California north of the McCloud River, the Cascades frog seems to be doing well (Jennings 1994, pers. comm.). In the southern-most part of its range, however, roughly south of the McCloud River (ibid), recent research has shown that this frog is extremely rare (Fellers and Drost 1993; Jennings and Hayes 1994).

Within the project area, cascade frog has only been documented on the Lassen National Forest. Existing populations of the Cascades frog on the Lassen are known from subwatershed of the Pit River (in the area of the Northwest Forest Plan), Deer Creek and Butte Creek (EA 1995; EA 1996; Fellers 1995; Fellers 1998). Incidental observations of (lone) Cascades frogs, have also been made in two subwatershed of the North Fork Feather River (G. Smith 1998, pers. comm.; H. Brown 1998, pers. comm.), however, no other Cascades frogs were seen during formal surveys in these same drainages (Fellers 1995; Fellers 1998). Populations are also known historically within tributaries of Deer and Butte Creeks as well tributaries of the North Fork and West Branch Feather River, Mill Creek and Battle Creek (Grinnell et al. 1930; Zweifel 1955; Chico State University, museum records; Fellers and Drost 1993; Jennings 1997, pers. comm.).

The Cascades frog is a mountain frog most common in small pools adjacent to streams flowing through subalpine meadows. They also inhabit sphagnum bogs and fens, seasonally-flooded, forested swamps, small lakes, ponds, and marshy areas adjacent to streams (Leonard 1993).

Northern Leopard Frog

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

Native populations of this frog are historically reported from Modoc and Lassen counties as well as the Owens Valley in Inyo County. Frogs in the vicinity of Lake Tahoe may or may not be native. Recent sightings (1990) are few and far between.

Habitat for the Northern leopard frog includes tall-grass thickets and shelves bordering riparian zones. Emergent and submergent vegetation may be important for breeding. They are highly aquatic, occurring in or near quiet, permanent and semi-permanent water. Elevation ranges up to 7000 feet. Aquatic habitat supporting cattails and sedges, as well as weedy ponds are important for egg laying and overwintering.

Environmental Consequences: A Summary (BA/BE page 165-168)

The effects analysis considered the mountain and foothill yellow-legged frogs, cascade frog, and the northern leopard frog under one affects discussion due to similarity in habitat needs. The direct effects identified for these species from vegetation and fuels management activities include loss of riparian vegetation, a decrease in the shading of aquatic systems, a decrease in vegetation and animal input into floodplains (for tadpoles) and change in surface and subsurface waterflows, The indirect effects include a loss of future organic matter (with the loss of snags), damage to eggs during high flows, and reduction of water flows when drafting for road dust abatement.

Cumulative effects could occur is similar activities occur on other lands (such as private holdings) within the watershed. Other on-going activities such as range management and recreation can add to these affects.

Additional Findings

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. There are no known unavoidable adverse affects for this species associated with any of the alternatives outlined in this analysis.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources critical to the Sierra Nevada red fox that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources critical to the Sierra Nevada red fox that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. The BA/BE prepared for this analysis and on file for review determined that the project as proposed may affect but is not likely to lead to a trend towards federal listing for the mountain yellow-legged frog, foothill yellow-legged frog, cascade frog. The actions will not affect the northern leopard frog.
Relationship of Short Term Uses and Long Term Effects: Due to the few adverse affects of the proposals on this species, long term effects cannot be accurately predicted or assessed.

3. Aquatic Invertebrates

Six aquatic invertebrates could be present within the planning area. They are the Shasta crayfish, the California floater freshwater mussel, the Great Basin rams-horn (a snail), the scalloped Juga and the Topaz Juga (both snails), and the montane peaclam. All require aquatic habitats for survival.

Shasta Crayfish

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

The Shasta crayfish (Pascifasticus fortis) is one of only three crayfish species native to California. This species is currently only found in northeastern Shasta County, within the Pit River drainage system including tributaries of the Hat Creek and Fall River subdrainages (USFWS 1988a). Shasta crayfish are confined to spring areas within the Fall River and Hat Creek valleys. It has been found in Rising River Lake and Big Lake within close proximity to National Forest lands.

Surveys have been completed on NFS lands within the Hat Creek valley that appear to provide potential habitat. Shasta crayfish have not been located during these surveys and are presumed at this time to be absent from NFS lands. This species was listed by the USFWS as a Federally-listed endangered species in 1988; critical habitat has not been designated (USFWS 1988b).

Recovery actions are primarily based on control of the competing exotic crayfish (USFWS 1998). However, Erman (Erman et al. 1991) evaluated several potential refugia. Two of the sites that were found to be suitable are located on NFS lands in the project area. Introduction of Shasta crayfish to these refugia sites is currently not being considered in the Recovery Plan (USFWS, 1998).

Environmental Effects: A Summary (BA/BE page 34-36)

Since this species is not known to occur on National Forest lands there are no affects expected from any of the alternatives considered in this analysis.

Additional Findings

Unaviodable Adverse Affects. There are no known unavoidable adverse affects for this species associated with any of the alternatives outlined in this analysis.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources critical to the Shasta crayfish that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources critical to the Shasta Crayfish that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. The BA/BE prepared for this analysis and on file for review determined that the alternatives as presented will not affect the shasta crayfish.
Relationship of Short Term Uses and Long Term Effects: Due to the few adverse affects of the proposals on this species, long term effects cannot be accurately predicted or assessed.

California floater freshwater mussel, Great Basin rams-horn (a snail), scalloped juga and the topaz juga (both snails), montane peaclam.

Affected Environment: Life History and Status

These species are very limited in distribution and suitable habitat is not prevelant within the analysis area. Habitat requirements vary slightly but a commonality seems to be a need for cold, well-oxygenated water.

The California floater is found in lakes and slow velocity perennial streams that have good quality water. Within the areas that could be affected by the alternatives the California floater is limited to the Pit River. Although this mussel is rare throughout its range due to previous reductions in habitat there is no indication that its population is currently declining within the Pit River. However there is little data on the reproductive success of this mussel.

The Great Basin rams-horn is limited to larger lakes, slower rivers, and large spring sources with mudy substrates. This species has been extirpated from most of its former range. Although rare it is locally abundant at particular sites. The reasons for the declines include increased water temperature, declines in dissolved oxygen, water diversions and pollution, and other affects to the habitat. Within the project and analysis area the rams-horn is limited to the Pit River and its tributaries, Hat Creek and Fall River, and Eagle Lake.

The scalloped juga was historically found in the Sacramento and Pit rivers but now appears limited to widely seperate sites in the lower Pit River below the Pit River falls. Mining appears to be the main reason for extinction within the Sacramento River. In addition to its preference for large river forms, this species prefers a gravel/cobble/boulder substrate such as the edge of rapids.

The topaz juga is found in approximately 12 sites, most at the periphery of the Great Basin. However they do range into the Pit and Klamath river systems. The reason for declines in this species is similar to the other invertabrates; polluted water, damming and diversions, and increases in water temperature. The topaz juga is restricted to large springs and their outflows and prefer a stable gravel substrate.

The montane peaclam was historically found on the periphery of the Great Basin to the Klamath and Pit rivers in Oregon and California. They may have been in some of the larger lakes such Upper Klamath Lake, Owens River drainage, and Eagle Lake. Currently they are found only in larger perennial bodies of water in northeast California and south central Oregon. Within the project and analysis area they are found within the Pit River and the lower portion of the Hat Creek tributary. In addition to their preference for lakes and other slow moving bodies of water they also are sometimes found in spring pools with fine substrates.

Environmental Effects: A Summary (BA/BE page 182-188)

With the implementation of the SAT guidelines there should be no direct or indirect effects to these species. However standard LRMP direction (Alternative 1) may not be sufficient to limit effects to these species.

Additional Findings:

Unavoidable Adverse Affects. There are no known unavoidable adverse affects for these species associated with any of the alternatives outlined in this analysis.
Irreversible Commitment of Resources. There are no known commitment of resources critical to these species that cannot be reversed.
Irretrievable Commitment of Resources. There are no known wildlife resources critical to these species that would be lost due to the actions presented in this plan.
Other Relevant Disclosures. The BA/BE prepared for this analysis and on file for review determined that the alternatives as presented will not affect the California floater freshwater mussel, Great Basin rams-horn, scalloped juga and the topaz juga, and montane peaclam.
Relationship of Short Term Uses and Long Term Effects: Due to the few adverse affects of the proposals on this species, long term effects cannot be accurately predicted or assessed.

VI. Riparian Habitats

This section briefly reviews the importance of riparian habitats for both terrestrial and aquatic species and reviews the potential effects that the various activities, especially riparian restoration, may have on these habitats. The watershed section should also be reviewed for a further discussion on riparian habitats and their importance to aquatic systems.

Affected Environment

Riparian habitats are one of the most, if not the most important habitat types within the project area, in terms of the number of wildlife species and individuals within each species (SNEP Vol III page 208). A number of recent documents have reviewed the importance of riparian systems including the RDEIS: Managing California Spotted Owl Habitat in the Sierra Nevada National Forests of California (1996; Chapter 3 page 122) and the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP 1997: Vol II, Chapter 32 page 945; Volume III Chapter 1 page 1). PACFISH, which amended the Lassen National Forest LRMP for anadromous fisheries streams also describes Riparian Goals and Management Objectives for the landscape-scale (Alternatives 3 and 4; C-3).

Riparian habitats are notoriously hard to describe due to the variations in soils, hydrology, aspect, and elevation that occur in forested enviornments. This is made even more difficult if meadow environments are considered with riparian habitats. Riparian areas are considered water-dependent lands along streams and lakes where transitions occur between terrestrial and aquatic parts of a watershed (SNEP Vol. III, page 205).

Most of the Forest sensitive species (Table 3.26) either depend on or show a preference for the habitat attributes found in riparian habitats. The majority of aquatic species listed on Table 3.47 derive direct and indirect benefits from healthy riparian habitats such as providing shade (which helps maintain water temperature), providing nutrient sources through down logs, and providing structural characteristics needed for nesting (birds) or fawning (deer). The Lassen National Forest is nearing completion of a three year study of landbirds within various habitat types (Songbird Monitoring in the Lassen National Forest and Lassen Volcanic National Park: Progress Report of the 1997 Field Season). The data shows that riparian habitats had "a much higher diversity than any other habitat type or any individual transect".

Although relatively few surveys have been done, other than at the project level, there is enough information to make a few general statements about the state of riparian vegetation and the habitat attributes it provides. Many large streams such as the Feather River on the Plumas National Forest as well as Mill and Deer creeks on the Lassen appear to provide at least fair to good habitat value. That is these habitats provide, where soils and other factors allow, diverse vegetation, at least moderate amounts of large logs, healthy riparian hardwoods (alder, willow, cottonwood, or aspen), and usually multi-tiered stands. Smaller streams are harder to quantify and vary so much in habitat type and stream condition that it is difficult to accurately describe their ability to provide the attributes preferred by wildlife that depend on riparian attributes.

SNEP (Vol III pages 1-37, 201-247) reviewed the status of riparian habitats within the sierras, proposed a priority rating system for riparian areas, and suggested aquatic diversity management areas (Vol II page 1493). The Cal Owl RDEIS (1996) provided a brief overview of current conditions and the general causes of the degradation of aquatic systems but neither describe the varous vegetative habitat complexes that make up riparian habitats. Inherent in each of these documents was a need to protect riparian resources.

The decline in riparian habitats has been due to a number of factors including the direct loss of vegetative cover from timber harvest activities, grazing, and road construction. This loss is magnified by changes in stream structure and flows (see the discussion of effects in the watershed section of this document for further information). The changes in the stream channels has resulted in the influx of conifers which shade out riparian hardwoods. Additionally the drop in the water level can cause a decline in the number of plants dependent on the moist riparian regimes. This can be seen in any number of small perennial and intermittent streams within the project area where riparian hardwoods have become remnants. This is especially notable in areas where the larger conifers have been removed and numerous smaller trees have filled in the openings.

Meadows have also been affected by changes in the aquatic systems. Lowered water tables, changes in water flows, mining, grazing, and other natural and man-made disturbance have caused widespread deterioration of meadow habitats (Ratliff 1985). This includes loss of native plants and an increase of exotic forbs and grasses.

Other notable affects are found in the decline of aspen as a component of riparian ecosystems. The decline of aspen is attributed to many factors including the decline in natural fire events, grazing, and other factors (Kay 1997). A review of areas where aspen (and also cottonwood) occur such as Butt Creek and Coon Hollow Creek on the Lassen show that there are young sprouts but few reach maturity. The "adult" trees are few and are not being replaced by younger trees.

Riparian restoration has been attempted in several watersheds throughout the project area which includes coordinated efforts with private groups and public agencies that have resulted in large scale effort to restore large sections of a watershed. Most recently an initiative was approved for funding to take a cooperative approach in improving anadromous watersheds on the Lassen National Forest[12]. However most approaches are not of this magnitude. The vast majority of projects are in response to a particular problem identified during larger project analysis or as a result of field reviews. This "unorganized" approach is generally a function of funding and timing of projects within the area.

Environmental Consequences

The Riparian Management Program prepared for this analysis shows the current and projected accomplishments associated with each alternative and provides a strategy for prioritizing areas to invest efforts. This follows the convention provided in SNEP (Vol III, chapter 1) and the RD EIS. This also agrees with recent papers that discuss riparian restoration (Landers 1997, Harris and Olson 1997) that discuss the need to prioritize treatments to affectively utilize limited resources.

Under Alternative 1, riparian restoration efforts would continue although coordinated efforts would not be guarenteed. Riparian habitats would improve in small increments where treated and continue a mosaic pattern in treatments. It would treat fewer acres than the other alternatives therefore theoretically[13] result in the least improvement to habitat for wildlife species that depend on riparian and meadow habitats.

Alternatives 2-5 provide for a stratigic approach that would initially treat the areas identified as being the highest priority. The actual benefit to wildlife resources is unknown as the areas are undefined at this time however it is likely that this approach would lead to overall improvement to the entire watersheds rather than a "band-aid" approach that is currently used in many cases. There may be locally adverse affects where small areas that are in very poor condition within a low priority watershed are not treated due to higher priorities elsewhere.

Until the areas are identified the effect to wildlife species cannot be accurately predicted. Since wildlife depend on expected changes in habitat (would their be changes in the structure of the vegetation and to what extent), the location (is it currently suitable or would the improved area be suitable for species of concern), and the potential of the area to support riparian vegetation.

References (for this section only)

Goodwin, C., C. Hawkins, and J. Kershner. December 1997. Riparian Restoration in the Western United States: Overview and Perspective. Restoration Energy Vol. 5 No. 4S pp 4-14.
Harris, R. and Craig Olson. December 1997. Two Stage System for Prioritizing Riparian Restoration at the Stream Reach and Community Scales. Restoration Energy Vol. 5 No. 4S pp 34-42.
Kay, C. May 1997. Is Aspen Doomed? Journal of Forestry.
Landers, D. H. December 1997. Riparian Restoration: Current Status and the Reach to the Future. Restoration Energy Vol. 5 No. 4S, pp 113-121.
Ratliff, R. September 1985. Meadows in the Sierra Nevada of California: State of Knowledge. USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. General Technical Report PSW-84.



 

1 Multiple density classes do not exist for types 1 or 6

[2] Although Size Class 2 can be expressed by density classes S, P, M, and D, they are often combined, and the density code is left blank or expressed with an "X".

[3] As used in this analysis, the P density class includes the S class (10-24 percent cover) as well as the P class (25-39 percent cover). Projections for the combined CWHR 5 large tree open cover class indicate that greater than 90 percent of the projected acres will have a canopy cover of at least 25 percent.

 

 

[6] Mostly in canopy >30 feet high, including hardwoods

[7] Square feet per acre

3 Dead trees >15" dbh and feet tall

4 Tons per acre

 

 

[11]Hazardous trees are defined in "Guidelines for Selecting Reserve Trees" and "Guidelines for Selecting Live and/or Dead Standing Wildlife Trees USDA Forest Service. These documents are found within the planning files, Plumas National Forest.

[12]Lassen National Forest: Collaborative Stewardship within Anadromous Watersheds of Antelope, Battle, Butte, Deer, and Mill Creeks.

[13]The actual amount is unknown due to unforeseen budgets and the potential to work with cooperating agencies and private groups.