Return to Table of Contents
Appendix L
Excerpts From Appendix 5-K (U.S. Forest Service, 1993), “Strategy For Managing Habitat Of At-Risk Fish Species And Stocks In National Forests Within The Range Of The Northern Spotted Owl”

Rationale and Basis for Conservation Strategy

The approach we have taken in developing our recommended conservation strategy for fish differs from comparable strategies for other organisms. Reasons for this rest primarily with the unique biological requirements of, and scientific uncertainties associated with anadromous fish. Unlike other organisms whose habitat requirements may be well-defined and understood, anadromous fish occupy a range of habitats over large areas because of their life histories, environmental conditions, and interspecific interactions (Bisson et al. 1992). Over the course of its life, an individual fish may hatch in a headwater stream, rear in a lower-gradient alluvial reach, pass through an estuary on the way to the ocean, only to reoccupy many of the same habitats upon returning to spawn. The freshwater component of their life histories thus plays out over a grand scale that may span several hundred miles of river networks set within a landscape of many thousand square miles. Any conservation strategy to protect and restore fish habitat must take this scale into account.

A second factor is that the current level of scientific understanding of fish relationships does not allow us to define specific habitat requirements for fish throughout their life cycle at the watershed level. The general habitat needs of fish are well known (i.e., deep resting pools, cover, certain temperature ranges, clean gravel for spawning)(Bjornn and Reiser 1991). However, we cannot specify how these habitats and conditions should be distributed through time and space to provide for fish needs. Our understanding of fish habitat requirements is largely based on laboratory and site-specific studies that typically examine a single requirement for a singe species at one point in its life cycle at a time. In natural watersheds, however, the different species and age-classes interact with multiple habitat elements in complex ways. This interaction occurs within a landscape where the quality and distribution of habitat elements change with time in relationship to disturbance processes and land use-imposed changes on streams and riparian zones.

There is the need to address fish habitat at a broad landscape scale. In addition, there is limited knowledge about how habitat should be distributed over a watershed through time. Consequently, we have not adopted a strategy of delineating specific watersheds with explicit standards for habitat elements. Rather, we have focused our efforts on developing a landscape-wide strategy that seeks to retain, restore, and protect those processes and landforms that contribute habitat elements to streams and promote good habitat conditions for fish and other riparian organisms. We have attempted to develop a conservation strategy that is aimed at restoring and maintaining the ecological health of watersheds (Karr et al. 1986, Karr 1991, Naiman et al. 1992). At the heart of this approach is a recognition that fish and other aquatic organisms have evolved within a dynamic environment that has been constantly influenced and changed by geomorphic and ecological disturbances. Good stewardship of aquatic resources requires that land use activities not alter this disturbance regime beyond the range of conditions to which these organisms have become adapted.

The disturbance regime of watersheds in the Pacific Northwest includes both geomorphic and non-geomorphic processes. Important geomorphic processes include mass movements (i.e., debris slides, debris flows, deep-seated landslides), peak streamflows, bank erosion, dam-break floods, and ice rafting (Swanston 1991). Non-geomorphic processes include fire, windstorms, and vegetation mortality due to disease and insects. These processes influence the input rate, quantity, quality, and movement of water, sediment, nutrient and wood through streams. It is the interaction of these elements with the channel and surrounding riparian zone that determines the abundance and quality of fish habitat within watersheds. Habitat degradation occurs where a change in the character of disturbance processes,  such as in their frequency, duration, magnitude, severity, or legacy of physical structure, pushes this interaction outside the range of conditions to which fish have evolved. Most of the habitat degradation caused by human activities is due to increasing the frequency and magnitude of disturbances (i.e., landslides and debris flows {Swanston and Swanson 1976}), or decreasing the physical legacy of disturbances (e.g., by reducing the quantity or quality of large woody debris delivered to channels by landslides and debris flows {Naiman et al. 1992}).

Our strategy is to maintain as close to a “natural” disturbance as is possible within watersheds and landscapes, many of which have already been altered by human activities. We recognize that disturbances are essential to maintain good aquatic health. Typically, elements that physically create this habitat (i.e., boulders, large wood, gravel) are contributed to streams by episodic events (Naiman et al. 1992). However, the rate at which these episodic disturbances do occur, they retain all the necessary to create high quality habitat.

Doing this requires several approaches. Land-use activities need to be limited or excluded in parts of the landscape prone to geomorphic disturbances, such as mass movements or bank erosion. The distribution of land use activities, such as clearcuts or roads needs to be analyzed to ensure that peak streamflows are not being increased. Headwater riparian zones need to be protected, so that when debris slides and flows occur, they contain large wood and boulders necessary for creating habitat further downstream. Riparian zones along larger channels need protection to limit bank erosion due to trampling, grazing, and compaction, to ensure an adequate and continuous supply of large wood to channels, and to provide shade and microclimate protection.

The approach we have taken is designed to accomplish these objectives. It needs to be emphasized, however, that it will require time for this strategy to work. Because it is based on natural disturbance processes, it may require timescales or decades to over a century to accomplish all of its objectives. Significant improvements in fish habitat, however, can be expected on the timescale of 10 to 20 years. Equally important, however, is that this strategy will protect existing good habitat from degradation. This is particularly true since this approach seeks to maintain and restore good habitat over broad landscapes as opposed to individual projects or small watersheds. We believe that if this approach is conscientiously implemented and applied, it will restore currently degraded habitats.

Riparian Management Objectives

Riparian and aquatic ecosystems are physical-biological systems in or near waters that have primary values associated with water and the proximity of land to water (Gregory et al. 1991). These ecosystems include terrestrial, semi-aquatic (land/water interface), and aquatic components and habitats. To manage ecosystems, it is crucial to analyze the whole system by pulling individual system components together and then evaluating all important influences, interconnections, and interactions (Naiman et al. 1992).

Riparian and aquatic ecosystems in National Forests within the range of the northern spotted owl will be managed to achieve the following specific riparian objectives:

Maintain or restore water quality to a degree that provides for stable and productive riparian and aquatic ecosystems. Water quality parameters that apply to these ecosystems include timing and character of temperature, sediment, and nutrients.

Maintain or restore the stream channel integrity, channel processes, and sediment regime under which the riparian and aquatic ecosystems developed. Elements of the sediment regime include the timing, volume, and character of sediment input and transport.

Maintain or restore instream flows to support desired riparian and aquatic habitats, the stability and effective function of stream channels, and the ability to route flood discharges.

Maintain or restore the natural timing and variability of the water table elevation in meadows and wetlands.

Maintain or restore the diversity and productive of native and desired non-native plant communities in the riparian zone.

Maintain or restore riparian vegetation to provide an amount and distribution of large woody debris characteristic of natural aquatic and riparian ecosystems.

Maintain or restore habitat to support populations of well-distributed native and desired non-native plant, vertebrate, and invertebrate populations that contribute to the viability of riparian plant communities.

Maintain or restore riparian vegetation to provide adequate summer and winter thermal regulation within the riparian and aquatic zones.

Maintain or restore riparian vegetation to help achieve rates of surface erosion, bank erosion, and channel migration characteristics of those under which the desired communities developed.

Maintain and restore riparian and aquatic habitats necessary to foster the unique genetic fish stocks that evolved within that specific geo-climatic ecoregion.

Components of the Fish Habitat Conservation Strategy

The Fish Habitat Conservation Strategy is designed to conserve and restore habitat for at-risk stocks of anadromous salmonids and resident fish in National Forests within the range of the northern spotted owl. It rests on four critical components:

(1)  identifying a landscape-level system of watershed refugia located on lands managed by the Forest Service within the range of the northern spotted owl;
(2)  establishing Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas for individual watersheds where land-use activities are restricted to those that either directly benefit or do not adversely affect fish habitat;
(3) implementing watershed analysis as an explicit level of planning designed to evaluate geomorphic and ecological processes operating in specific watersheds, identify boundaries of Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas, and provide a blueprint for restoration measures;  and  (
4)  initiating comprehensive watershed restoration  measures on watersheds, with priority given to those having the greatest potential to provide high quality fish habitat.
Each element addresses a critical aspect for maintaining and restoring fish habitat and ecological functions in streams. They are designed to act as a comprehensive package and will not achieve desired results if implemented alone or in some limited combination.

Component 1 – Designated Lands Providing Habitat Protection  — Refugia or designated areas providing high quality fish habitat, either currently or in the future, are a cornerstone of most species conservation strategies. Refugia are habitats or environmental factors that convey protection to biotic communities at different temporal and spatial scales. Examples of aquatic refugia range from clean gravels at the particle scale, to well vegetated floodplains and side channels at the channel reach scale, to the condition of the whole watershed at the watershed scale (Sedell et al. 1990). In a review of case histories of recovery of aquatic systems following disturbance, Yount and Niemi (1990) and Niemi et al. (1990) found considerable evidence that the existence of spatial refugia-undisturbed habitats providing a source of colonists to adjacent areas-was critical to enable recovery of degraded systems. In stream systems where disturbance was widespread and no accessible refugia remained, biological recovery was delayed or entirely precluded.

At a minimum, refugia need to be considered at a watershed scale, rather than a fragmented are of suitable habitat. Sedell et al. (1990), Moyle and Sato (1991), and Williams (1991) discus several kinds of riverine and hyporheic habitats that can act as refugia, and provide examples of how they may function in the recovery of populations from natural catastrophic and anthropogenic disturbance. Sedell et al. (1990) argue that refugia at the scale of reaches or larger tend to be more resistant and resilient to a variety of disturbances. Moyle and Sato (1991) argue that to recover species, refugia should be focused at the watershed scale. Management and restoration strategies that focus on reaches or small segments of a watershed fail to consider the connectivity of stream ecosystems. Naiman et al. (1992), Sheldon (1988), and Williams et al. (1989) noted that past attempts to recover fish populations have been unsuccessful because of the failure to approach the problem from a basin perspective.

Even a system of isolated watersheds acting as refugia may not be sufficient for a regional conservation strategy. Fish stocks at risk are distributed across the entire range of the owl forests. Over its life history, an individual fish will travel through and occupy habitats in a range of watersheds of different sizes. Poor habitat conditions at any point of this journey will reduce chances of survival. Sheldon (1988) believed that 3rd-5th order watersheds should be the cornerstone of watershed-level recovery efforts for fish in general. This is likely an appropriate minimum size range for anadromous, and resident fish.   Planning for habitat protection and restoration needs to include watersheds at the scale of about 100,000 acres (e.g., South Fork Umpqua River).

Watersheds that serve as refugia are critical for maintaining and recovering habitat at-risk stocks of salmonids and species of resident fish. These refugia should include areas that currently have good habitat as well as areas of degraded habitat. Areas presently in good condition would serve as anchors for the potential recovery of depressed fish stocks. Congressionally designated Wilderness, National Recreation Areas, and other specially designated areas currently contain high quality fish habitat in National Forests within the range of the northern spotted owl, and currently provide habitat for at-risk stocks and species. Habitat Conservation Areas identified for the northern spotted owl also contain some high quality fish habitat. However, less than 25 percent of the area of key watersheds identified by Johnson et al. (1991) were in Habitat Conservation Areas. Additionally, Habitat Conservation Area boundaries seldom encompass entire watershed boundaries and frequently do not contain an entire stream from headwaters to fish-bearing streams. Although these areas would be the anchors of a watershed refugia system, additional watersheds that currently have low quality habitat would become future sources of good habitat with the implementation of a comprehensive restoration program. (Component 4).

A network of key watersheds located in National Forests throughout the range of the northern spotted owl was identified by Johnson et al. (1991) (Figures 5-K-2 through 5-K-4). These watersheds contain at-risk fish species and stocks and either good habitat or if they have habitat that is in a degraded state, have a high restoration potential (Reeves and Sedell 1992). Forest Service fish  biologists in northern California have deleted some watersheds that were identified by Johnson et al. (1991) and added others. These changes are reflected in Figure 5-K-2. Under the Fish Habitat Conservation Strategy, key watersheds require a level II Watershed Analysis (Component 3). Key watersheds with poor quality habitat also receive priority in any restoration program (Component 4).

Establishment of a network of key watersheds is crucial for maintaining and restoring fish habitat in the National Forest within the range of the northern spotted owl. In the short-term, identification of basins with good habitat and implementation of the components of this strategy will reduce the potential of future habitat loss and degradation. These areas would not only serve as a physical refugia but also as a source of individuals for recolonization of degraded areas as they improve. They will also be critical to initiate the restoration of degraded areas because of the extensive amount of habitat that is in poor condition due to the effects of past land management activities. Key watersheds that currently contain poor habitat are believed to have the best opportunity for success.

The network of key watersheds, although crucial, will not be sufficient to assure the recovery of at-risk fish stocks. Key watersheds are important because they contain at-risk fish stocks and the best habitat or potential habitat. It is important, however,  to limit those land-use activities that are destructive to fish and associated riparian-dependent species in all National Forests,  whether in a key watershed or not. Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas must be established in all National Forests within the range of the northern spotted owl.

Component 2 – Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas — For Forest Service streams and lands to function as refugia, special considerations need to apply to those parts of watersheds that directly contribute to creating or maintaining aquatic habitat. Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas are portions of watersheds where riparian-dependent resources receive primary emphasis and where special standards and guidelines apply. Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas encompass those portions of a watershed that are directly coupled too streams and rivers, that is, the portions of  a watershed required for maintaining hydrologic, geomorphic, and ecologic processes that directly  affect streams, stream processes, and fish habitats. Riparian Conservation Areas include not only the more common Land and Resource Management Plan – designated riparian management zones or streamside management zones adjacent to rivers, streams, springs, seeps, wetlands, and marshes but also includes primary source areas for wood and sediment such as landslides and landslide – prone slopes in headwater areas and along streams. Riparian Habitat conservation Areas generally parallel the stream network but also include other areas necessary for maintaining hydrologic, geomorphic, and ecologic processes (Figure 5-K-5). Every watershed in National Forests within the range of the northern spotted owl will have Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas.
 
Establishment of Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas will confer benefits to riparian dependent and associated species other than fish. It will enhance habitat conservation for organisms that are dependent on the transition zone between upslope and riparian areas. For example, many amphibians depend on wood created habitat in headwater streams (Bury et al. 1991, Chapter 5 this document). Improved travel and dispersal corridors for many terrestrial animals and plants and a greater connectivity of the watershed should also result from delineation of Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas.

Final boundaries of the Riparian Habitat Conservation Area in a watershed are determined by watershed analysis (Component 3). However, we have established a set of interim widths of Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas for all watersheds that will apply until the watershed analysis has been completed. The widths are designed to provide what we believe is a full measure of fish habitat and riparian protection until this analysis can be completed.

a. Interim Widths of Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas for Different Water Bodies —Interim widths of Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas vary with type of water body. They are defined as:

1) fish-bearing streams;
2) non-fish-bearing streams;
3) lakes;
4) ponds, reservoirs, and wetlands; and
5) other seasonally flowing or intermittent streams.
Streams in the last category may have little effect on fish habitat individually, but are collectively essential for maintaining processes that affect fish habitat. The last category also includes hydrologically, geomorphically, and ecologically significant area such as landslides and landslide-prone areas, springs, seeps, marshes, and wetlands.

Several factors were considered in establishing interim widths of Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas for each stream type. One was how the various geomorphic and ecologic functions provided by riparian areas change with distance from the stream and with stream size. Key riparian processes considered in developing widths included sources of input of large and small woody debris and litter, shading, and buffering streams from the effects of strong winds and other microclimatic fluctuations (Gregory et al. 1991). We also considered the roles of vegetated and undisturbed floodplains in maintaining functioning side channels (used be fish for overwintering and refugia during peak flows) and hyporheic zones (which may supply cool or nutrient-rich groundwater during summer months)(Naiman et al. 1992). Additionally, we considered the use of Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas as breeding and rearing areas and dispersion corridors for organisms other than fish (Gregory et al. 1991, Gomez 1992).

Riparian areas contain a wide range of conditions along streams, lakes, springs, and wetlands. These include wide floodplains, narrower canyon reaches, multiple stream channels, and a diverse array of species and age-classes of vegetation. Many of these features are influenced by natural and anthropogenic disturbances (Grant 1986, Naiman et al. 1992). Boundaries of riparian areas are highly variable and irregular as a result of the natural character of the landscape and the local disturbance history. This variability and irregularity must be taken into account when planning land-management activities.

Physical features of streams vary widely with stream size. Inner gorges and flood plains are common in streams in National Forests within the range of the northern spotted owl. Inner gorges consist of the steep slopes immediately adjacent to a stream or river channel or floodplain and extend to the first significant break in sloe. Widths of inner gorges on permanently flowing streams vary from 25 to 450 feet (M. Furniss, Six Rivers National Forest, personnel communication). Widths of the 100 year floodplains for permanently flowing streams vary from 50 to 800 feet in National Forests within the range of the northern spotted owl (Gregory and Ashkenas 1990).

An intact riparian forest in inner gorges and on 100-year floodplains is crucial for creating and maintaining habitat for fish and other riparian-dependent species (Gregory et al. 1991, Naiman et al. 1992). Riparian areas contribute wood and sediment to inner gorge areas. In smaller streams, the wood creates breaks in the channel gradient and forms pools for fish and other aquatic organisms. The wood also creates area of storage for sediment and organic material, which is a major energy source for organisms used a food by fish and other aquatic organisms (Bisson et al. 1987, Bilby and Ward 1991). Inner gorges may also be source areas of wood, sediments, and nutrients for wider floodplain areas located downstream (Gregory et al. 1991, Naiman et al. 1992).

Intact forests on floodplains are sources of large wood and provide refugia for aquatic organisms during floods (Naiman et al. 1992). Wood in these areas helps form habitat (Bisson et al. 1987), creates complexity (such as ranges of water velocities (Kaufmann 1987), and sites of material storage and nutrient processing (Bisson et al. 1987)l. Riparian vegetation in these areas may also influence the effect of flood events on the channel (Grant 1986, Sedell and Beschta 1991).Several important processes and functions that influence the stream channel occur within 200 feet of the channel. McDade et al. (1990) and Van Sickle and Gregory (1990) reported that >90 percent of the wood in streams originated in this area. Stream bank stability is achieved within a distance equivalent to 0l.5 to 1 site-potential tree height, which is generally within 200 feet of the channel (Sedel and Beschta 1991). Litter fall, nutrient retention and input (Gregory et al. 1987) and shade functions (Beschta et al. 1987) also generally occur within 100-200 feet of the channel.

Several studies (Steinblums 1997, Franklin et al. 1981, Heimann 1988, Andrus et al. 1988, Ursitti 1991, and Morman 1993) have found the basal area of conifers, which reflects the size and number of trees present, to be less in riparian area of second-growth forest than in late-successional and old-growth forests. Riparian stands in late-successional and old-growth forest contain approximately 300 feet2 per acre of basal area of conifers. This is less than the basal area of conifers found in upslope areas of the same forest (Gregory and Ashkenas 1990, Long 1987). Riparian areas in second-growth forest <80 years old generally have less than 100 feet2 per acre. Riparian areas in second-growth forest 80 to 140 years old contain slightly more than 100 feet2 of basal area of conifers.

Maintenance of riparian forest in late-successional and old-growth forest and restoration in second-growth forest will depend on regeneration rates of conifers in the future. Regeneration of conifers in the riparian zones of natural stands is dependent, at least in part, on downed large trees. Researchers at the Pacific Northwest Research Station, Corvallis, Oregon found that more than 80 percent of conifer regeneration in the riparian zones along coastal Oregon streams that they studied occurred on down logs. The role of nurse trees in forest regeneration in the Pacific Northwest is widely recognized (Harmon et al. 1986). In riparian zones, nurse trees originate within 0 to 400 feet of the active channel. Greater retention of live trees and snags in riparian stands and adjacent upslope source areas will enhance the generation of future riparian forests.

Microclimate variability within riparian zones may be influenced by the condition of upslope stands. Chen (1991) and Chen et al. (in press) found that air temperatures in old-growth Douglas-fir stands were altered by the effects of surrounding clearcuts. Air temperatures were altered from 180 to 360 feet (i.e., 1 to 2 tree heights) from the edge. Wind velocities were altered up to 5 tree heights. Raynor (1971) found velocities altered up to 8 tree heights. Fritschen et al. (1970) reported that the microclimate of young forest stands (i.e., 40 to 60 years old) was altered up to 400 feet from the edge of a cut. While all of these values were measures for upland forests, they probably reflect the edge effects of clear-cuts on the micro-climate of adjacent riparian forests. The greater the widths of Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas the more stable will be the microclimate within riparian forests.

The abundance of amphibians in Pacific Northwest forest and riparian zones is influenced by habitat conditions in riparian areas (Bury et al. 1991, Gomez 1992). Amphibians populations are generally found less than 900 feet from water sources (Nussbaum et al. 1983). Gomez (1992) found that rough-skinned newts, tailed frogs, and western redbacked salamanders were the most abundant species of herptafauna in upland and riparian areas along the Oregon Coast Range. These organisms were found up to 600 feet from streams but were most abundant within 300 feet. Many species have specific tolerance thresholds (e.g., temperature and moisture) or microhabitat requirements (e.g., snag, bark on a log, or bark on the ground) or a particular decay class of wood (refer to Chapter 5 more specific requirements of specific species). Alteration of microhabitat climate may influence the suitability of riparian conditions for riparian-dependent organisms.

Many mammal populations are also dependent on riparian areas. Doyle (1986 and 1990) found that riparian areas in old-growth forest in the Cascades of Oregon were source areas for upland small mammal populations. Abundance of small mammals in coastal forest of Oregon were greatest within 300 feet of the stream, even though individuals were found up to 600 feet away (Gomez 1992). Chapter 5 of this document and USDI (1992) identify several mammal species that use or are dependent on riparian zones. Riparian corridors may also be important as dispersal, travel, and migratory routes for mammals (Gregory et al. 1991). The size (and limits on activities within) Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas should create a variety of microclimate and habitat conditions required by the large number of riparian-dependent organisms.

A riparian buffer zone is bordered by two edges; one is the stream and the other the adjacent upslope area. Each side is subjected to different sets of disturbances. If harvested, the upland side of the riparian forest is subjected to increased mortality from blowdown and increased stress resulting from more variable air temperatures and altered rates of evapotranspiration. The consequence of the latter factors is increased susceptibility to insect and disease (Geiger 1965, Caruso 1973, Ranney 1977, Wagner 1980). On the stream side, the stream can influence the microclimate of the riparian forest. The wider the stream the greater the edge effect in terms of temperature and wind exposure. Additionally, the riparian forest is influenced by flood events and natural movements of the stream channel across the floodplain. The persistence of a riparian forest area is related to its length and width, due to mortality caused on both edges.

We believe that the character of any conservation program for maintaining and restoring habitat for at-risk stocks of anadromous salmonids and species of resident fish must maintain ecosystem functions and processes to have a high probability of success. A program of this nature is necessitated by the large number of fish stocks at risk (112) and the overall poor conditions of habitat and aquatic ecosystems in National Forests in the range of the northern spotted owl. We believe that it is prudent and justified to require Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas widths to incorporate areas larger than traditional riparian management areas, at least in the interim until a watershed analysis is completed.

Maintaining the connectivity of all parts of the aquatic ecosystem is necessary for healthy watersheds and good fish habitat (Niaman et al. 1992). First and 2nd-order streams, which generally include the permanently flowing non-fish bearing streams and seasonally flowing or intermittent streams, may represent over 70 percent of the cumulative channel length in mountain watersheds in the Pacific Northwest (Benda et al. 1992). These streams are sources of water, nutrients, wood and other vegetative material for streams inhabited by fish and other aquatic organisms (Swanson et al. 1981, Benda and Zhang 1990, Bannote et al. 1980). Decoupling the stream network can result in the disruption and loss of functions and processes necessary for creating and maintaining fish habitat. The Riparian Habitat Conservation Area widths specified for the different stream and wetland types were developed to maintain connections in watersheds that are currently in good condition and to initiate recovery of the connection in degraded areas.

Based on these criteria, we identify five types of streams or water-bodies and define interim widths of Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas for each:

Fish-bearing Streams — The Riparian Habitat Conservation Area consists of the stream and the area on either side of the stream extending from the edges of the active stream channel to the top of the inner gorge, or to the outer edges of the 100-year floodplain, or to the outer edges of riparian vegetation, or to a distance equal to the height of two site-potential trees, or 300 feet horizontal distance (600 feet, including both sides of the stream channel), whichever is greatest.

The first 200 feet of the Riparian Habitat Conservation Area recognizes the adjacent land as a source of shade, large wood, detritus, and water of favorable temperature. The last 100 feet will serve to maintain microclimate and to protect the first 200 feet from fire and wind damage and help ensure that the integrity of the functional Riparian Habitat Conservation Area survives over the long-term to benefit fish habitat and riparian dependent species.

Permanently Flowing Non-fish-bearing Streams— The Riparian Habitat Conservation Area consists of the stream and the area on either side of the stream extending from the edges of the active stream channel to the top of the inner gorge or to the outer edges of the 100-year floodplain, or to the outer edges of riparian vegetation , or to a distance equal to the height of one site-potential tree, or 150 feet horizontal distance (300 feet, including both sides of the stream channel), whichever is greatest.

Lakes — The Riparian Habitat Conservation Area consists of the body of water and the area to the outer edges of the riparian vegetation, or to the extent of seasonally saturated soil, or to the extent of moderately and highly unstable areas, or to a distance equal to the height of two site-potential trees, or 300 feet horizontal distance, whichever is greatest.

Ponds, Reservoirs, and Wetlands Greater Than One Acre — The Riparian Habitat Conservation Area consists of the body of water (the maximum pool elevation of reservoirs) or wetland and the area to the outer edges of the riparian vegetation, or to the extent of seasonally saturated soil, or to the extent of moderately and highly unstable areas, or to a distance equal to the height of one site-potential tree, or 150 feet horizontal distance, whichever is greatest.

Seasonally Flowing or Intermittent Streams, Wetlands Less Than One Acre, Landslides, and Landslide-prone Areas — This category applies to riparian ecosystems with high variability in size and site-specific characteristics. The Riparian Habitat Conservation Area consists of the stream channel or wetland and the area from the edges of the stream channel or wetland to the top of the inner gorge, or to the outer edges of the riparian vegetation, or to the extent of landslides or landslide-prone areas, or to a distance equal to the height of one site-potential tree, or 100 feet horizontal distance (200 feet, including both sides of the channel),  whichever is greatest.

We believe that the interim widths of the Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas will provide protection for riparian forests and maintain ecological functions and processes necessary for the creation and maintenance of habitat for fish and other-riparian dependent organisms. Existing data could be used to argue for wider Riparian Habitat Conservation Area widths, at least in certain stream categories. However, the interim widths will fully protect ecologically important areas within a watershed, such as flood plains. Interim Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas will also be able to survive some mortality in the short-run and still maintain its ecological integrity.

We emphasize that Riparian Habitat Conservation Area widths are applied to all streams in National Forests within the range of the northern spotted owl until a watershed analysis has been completed. If watershed analysis finds that because of the characteristics of a given site, narrower or wider Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas would provide the better function that the interim Riparian Habitat Conservation Area, then the Riparian Habitat Conservation Area width could be changed, and any allowable management activities would be adjusted to reflect these new Riparian Habitat Conservation Area dimensions.

A conceptual example of a Riparian Habitat Conservation Area is shown in Figure 5-K5. This watershed is characterized by a stream drainage network that consists of a major fish-bearing stream, several fish-bearing tributaries, and some non-fish-bearing intermittent tributaries. The watershed also contains a marshy area near the watershed outlet, a large, inactive landslide, and many landslide-prone areas in steep terrain near the watershed boundary. The Riparian Habitat Conservation Area extends around and includes all these features.

b. Standards and Guidelines for Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas — Developing prescriptions for improving anadromous fish habitats includes formulating standards and guidelines that address the types of management activities that are allowed in Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas. In general, these standards and guidelines prohibit activities in Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas that are not designed specifically to improve the structure and function of the Riparian Habitat Conservation Area and benefit fish habitat. Management activities in Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas must contribute to improving or maintaining watershed and aquatic habitat conditions described in the Riparian Management Objectives. When activities are found to detract from meeting the Riparian Management Objectives, those activities will be modified, rescheduled, or discontinued. Further, for areas where riparian conditions are presently degraded, management activities must be designed to improve habitat conditions.

The standards and guidelines that follow are not all-inclusive. Water shed and riparian area management on lands managed by the Forest Service is guided by a variety of direction, including Best Management Practices, Land and Resource Management Plans, Forest Service manuals and handbooks, and other plans and directives. For the lands contained within the Riparian Habitat Conservation Area, these standards and guidelines supersede other direction, unless the conflicting standard or direction affords greater protection to riparian and fish habitat values and better foster attainment of the Riparian Management Objectives.

Timber Management

TM-1. Prohibit scheduled timber harvest, including fuelwood cutting, in Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas. Allow unscheduled harvest only as described in TM-2 and TM-3.

TM-2. Where catastrophic events such as fire, flooding, volcanic eruptions, severe winds, or insect or disease damage result in degraded riparian conditions, allow unscheduled timber harvest (salvage and fuelwood cutting) to attain Riparian Management Objectives. Remove salvage trees only when site-specific analysis by an interdisciplinary team determines that present and future woody debris needs are met and other Riparian Management Objectives are not adversely affected.

TM-3. Design silvicultural prescriptions for Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas and allow unscheduled harvest to control stocking, reestablish and culture stands, and acquire desired vegetation characteristics needed to attain Riparian Management Objectives.

Roads Management
RF-1. Keep road and landing construction in Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas to a minimum. No new roads or landing will be constructed in Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas until watershed, transportation, and geotechnical analyses are completed. Appropriate standards for road construction, maintenance, and operations will be developed from this analysis to ensure that Riparian Management Objectives are met. Valley bottom and mid-slope road locations may be used only when this analysis indicates that roads can be constructed and maintained in these locations and meet Riparian Management Objectives.

RF-2. Require that all roads on lands managed by the Forest Service, including those operated by others, are maintained and operated in a manner consistent with the planned uses and with meeting Riparian Management Objectives.

RF-3. Inventory and evaluate all existing roads in Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas. Through an interdisciplinary team review process, determine the influence of each road upon the Riparian Management Objectives. Roads that are found to pose a substantial risk to riparian conditions will be improved or obliterated. Priority will based on the potential impact to riparian resources, the ecological value of the riparian resources affected, and the need to each road. Roads not need for future management activities will be closed, obliterated, and stabilized. All obliteration work will meet Riparian Management Objectives and provide for adequate long-term drainage and stability.

RF-4. Inventory and evaluate all existing culverts and stream crossings to identify those that present a risk to meeting Riparian Management Objectives. Culverts and stream crossings found to pose a substantial risk to riparian conditions will be improved to accommodate at least a 100-year flood, including associated bedload and debris. Priorities for upgrading will be based on the potential impact and the ecological values of the riparian resources affected. New stream crossings will be designed and constructed to accommodate at least the 100-year flood, including associated bedload and debris. Crossings will be constructed and maintained to prevent diversion of stream flow out of the channel and down the road in case of crossing failure. In locations found to have a high potential for failure, the roadway surface and fills will be hardened to further lessen the chance of roadway failure or severe erosion should the crossing over-top.

RF-5. Locate design, construct, maintain and operate roads to minimize disruption to natural hydrologic flow paths. This includes road-related activities that would divert streamflow and/or interrupt surface or subsurface flow paths.

RF-6. Apply design construction, and maintenance procedures to limit sediment delivery to streams from the road surface. Outsloping of the roadway surface is preferred unless outsloping would increase sediment delivery to streams or where outsloping is infeasible. Route road drainage away from potentially unstable channels and hillslopes.

RF-7. Construct, reconstruct, and maintain all road crossings of existing and historic fish-bearing streams to provide for fish passage.

RF-8. Develop and carry out a Road Management Plan that will meet the Riparian Management Objectives. As a minimum, this plan shall include provisions for the following activities:

RF-9. Designate sites to be used as water drafting locations during project-level analysis, or as part of road maintenance for fire management planning. Do not locate drafting sites where instream flows could become limiting to aquatic organisms. During periods of low flow, examine the drafting site and decide if water can continue to be extracted from that site. Design, construct, and maintain water drafting sites so they will not destabilize stream channels or contribute sediment to streams.

RF-10. Prohibit sidecasting of loose material in Riparian Habitat Conservation
Areas during construction or maintenance activities.

Grazing Management
GM-1. Promptly adjust grazing practices to eliminate adverse effects of domestic and wild ungulates on riparian resources. If adjusting practices is not effective, eliminate grazing until it is shown that grazing can be reestablished and still attain the Riparian Management Objectives. Establish vegetation reference areas to measure potential site productivity and stream channel morphology that would exist without grazing, and to monitor the status of the ecosystem. Vegetation reference areas are to be located in areas representative of the vegetative community and stream channel types to be managed. Reference areas may include exclusion plots, larger exclosure, or sites with a low disturbance history. In addition to reference areas, conduct systematic monitoring of vegetation status using standardized procedures to determine the effects of grazing on riparian ecosystems and the ability to attain the Riparian Management Objectives.

GM-2. Locate new livestock management and handling facilities outside Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas. For existing livestock management and handling facilities inside the Riparian Habitat Conservation Area that are essential to proper management, apply standards that assure that Riparian Management Objectives are met. Where these objectives cannot be met, require relocation of livestock management and/or handling facilities.

Recreation Management
RM-1. Develop recreation facilities, including trails, within Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas only when such development is compatible with the attainment of Riparian Management Objectives.

RM-2. Monitor the impacts of dispersed or developed recreation in Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas. When Riparian Management Objectives are not being met, reduce impacts through education, use limits, more intensive maintenance, facility modification, and/or area closures. For example, harassment of fish during spawning or low water can be reduced by closing access roads or campgrounds during critical periods, or education or users.

RM-3. Coordinate with state agencies to eliminate non-native fish stocking, over fishing, and poaching.

Minerals Management
MM-1. For operations in Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas, ensure that adequate reclamation plans and bonds are included in approved plans of operation. Such plans and bonds must address the costs of removing facilities, equipment, and materials; recontouring disturbed areas to near pre-mining topography; isolating and neutralizing or removing of toxic or potentially toxic materials, salvaging and replacing topsoil, and preparing seedbed and revegetating to meet Riparian Management Objectives.
 
MM-2. Avoid locating permanent structures or support facilities within Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas. Road construction will be kept to the minimum necessary for the approved mineral activity. Such roads will be constructed and maintained meet the Roads Management Standards and to minimize damage to resources in the Riparian Habitat Conservation Area. When a road is no longer required for mineral activity, it will be closed, obliterated, and stabilized.

MM-3. Avoid locating waste dumps in Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas. If no other alternative exists, ensure that safeguards are in place to prevent release or drainage of toxic or other hazardous materials.

MM-4. For leasable minerals, prohibit surface occupancy within Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas for oil, gas, and geothermal exploration and development activities where contracts and leases do not already exist. Where contracts already exist, modify the operating plan to meet the Riparian Management Objectives.

MM-5. Prohibit common variety sand and gravel mining and extraction within Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas (subject to valid permitted rights), unless mining and ext5raction are consistent with Riparian Management Objectives and needed for restoration purposes.

Fire/Fuels Management
FM-1. Design fuel treatment and fire suppression strategies, practices, and activities to meet Riparian Management Objectives, and to minimize disturbance of riparian ground cover and vegetation. Strategies should recognize the role of fire in ecosystem function and identify those instances where fire management activities could damage long-term ecosystem health.

FM-2. Locate incident bases, camps, helibases, staging areas, helispots and other centers for incident activities outside of Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas. If the only suitable location for such activities is within the Riparian Habitat Conservation Area, an exemption may be granted following a review and recommendation by a resource advisor. The advisor will prescribe the location, use conditions, and rehabilitation requirements. Use an interdisciplinary team to predetermine suitable incident base and helibase locations.

FM-3. Prohibit application of chemical retardant, foam, or additives in Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas. An exception may be warranted in situations where over-riding safety imperatives exist, or following a review and recommendation by a resource advisor, when an escape would cause more long-term damage.

FM-4. Design prescribed burn projects/prescriptions for areas next to Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas so that Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas are protected. Where riparian ecosystems would be enhanced by use of prescribed fire, clearly identify the specific objectives and risks.

FM-5. If Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas are significantly damaged by a wildfire or a prescribed fire burning our of prescription, establish an emergency interdisciplinary team to decide the rehabilitation treatments needed.

FM-6. Use minimum impact suppression methods in Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas. Consider potentially adverse effects of fire suppression effects and the potentially adverse effects of wildfire damage during initial fire size-up, initial suppression response, and in the development of the Escaped Fire Situation Analysis.

Lands
LH-1. Fir hydroelectric and other surface water development proposals, require instream flows and habitat conditions that maintain or restore riparian resources, channel conditions, and fish passage at levels that approximate favorable pre-project conditions. Coordinate this process with the appropriate state agencies. During relicensing of hydroelectric projects, make written and timely recommendations to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that require flows and habitat conditions that maintain/restore riparian resources and channel integrity. Coordinate relicensing projects with the appropriate state agencies.

LH-2. Locate facilities that are not required within the Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas (such as control rooms, housing, temporary construction buildings, etc.) outside the Riparian Habitat Conservation Area. Facilities within the Riparian Habitat Conservation Area will be located, operated, and maintained to minimize effects on riparian resources, including, for example, maintenance of upstream and downstream passages, and screening intakes and diversions.

LH-3. Review all Special Use Permits, rights-of-way, and easements affecting Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas. When Riparian Management Objectives are not being me, reduce impacts through education or modification of existing Special Use Permits. When granting easements or other rights-of-way across lands managed by the Forest Service to reach private lands, apply these standards and guidelines to provide the terms and conditions necessary to protect riparian resources on lands managed by the Forest Service.

LH-4. Use land acquisition and exchange to consolidate in-holdings, with the priority to protect and restore fish stocks and species at risk.

General Riparian Area Management
RA-1. Exclude heavy equipment from Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas, unless specifically approved for road construction and maintenance, or unless an interdisciplinary team finds that proposed activity is needed to meet the Riparian Management Objectives.

RA-2. Fell hazard trees only when the are found to pose an unacceptable safety risk. Such trees may be removed from Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas only when adequate sources of woody debris remain to meet Riparian Management Objectives. If long-term sources of woody debris are inadequate, and a tree is found to pose an unacceptable safety risk, that risk must be reduced in a way that contributes to woody debris objectives.

Watershed and Habitat Restoration
WR-1. A watershed analysis is a prerequisite to planning, implementing, and monitoring all restoration projects. A Level I watershed analysis (see Component 30 may be sufficient to identify the causes of riparian area degradation, to set priorities for watershed restoration measures, and initiate restoration projects in critical areas. A full watershed analysis (Level II) is required, however, to develop and integrated basin-wide strategy for restoration and monitoring. Priority should be given to restoring key watersheds supporting at-risk stocks and species.

WR-2. Control the causes of riparian area degradation before initiating restoration projects.

WR-3. Employ restoration methods that promote the long-term genetic and ecological integrity of restored ecosystems.

WR-4. Where mixed ownership exists, encourage the development of Coordinated Resource Management Plans or other cooperative agreements to meet Riparian Management Objectives.

WR-5. Do not use mitigation measures or planned restoration as a substitute for preventing habitat degradation.

Return to Table of Contents