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CHAPTER 1

PURPOSE AND NEED FOR ACTION

INTRODUCTION

The Quincy Library Group Community Stability Proposal of 1993,[1] herein incorporated by reference, was developed by a coalition of representatives from environmental organizations, the forest products industry, citizens, elected officials, and local communities in northern California. The intent was to develop a resource management program that promotes ecological and economic health on certain Federal lands and communities in the northern Sierra Nevada. Discussions about a pilot project began in 1992 when the Quincy Library Group formed. The Quincy Library Group and its Community Stability Proposal represents a locally developed, consensus-based approach to public land management. The Quincy Library Group Community Stability Proposal was introduced to Congress in 1997, and enacted as the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act of October 21, 1998,[2] (Act). The Act directs the Secretary of Agriculture, acting through the Forest Service, after completion of an environmental impact statement to establish and conduct a pilot project for a period of not more than 5 years[3]. The pilot project is intended to demonstrate and test the effectiveness of resource management activities detailed in the Act, including construction of defensible fuel profile zones, group selection harvest, individual tree selection harvest, and a program of riparian management. The Act excludes, from timber harvest and road construction, certain Federal lands that are within Protected Activity Centers (PAC), Spotted Owl Habitat Areas (SOHA), and offbase and deferred areas from it’s stated resource management activities during the 5-year term of the pilot project.

LOCATION

The planning area encompasses all of the National Forest System lands in the Sierraville Ranger District of the Tahoe National Forest, Plumas National Forest, and that part of the Lassen National Forest south of State Highway 299. These National Forest System lands are in Butte, Lassen, Nevada, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Tehama, and Yuba counties in the State of California. The planning area encompasses lands in other ownerships. The planning area includes Federal lands identified in the Act as "offbase" and "deferred." All lands within the planning area are potentially subject to affects from proposed management activities; therefore, a planning area larger than the pilot project area is used in assessing environmental impacts, particularly with respect to identification of connected actions, reasonably foreseeable actions, and cumulative effects.

The pilot project area is comprised of certain National Forest System lands on the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests designated as “Available for Group Selection” on the map dated October 12, 1993, entitled Quincy Library Group Community Stability Proposal prepared by VESTRA Resources™ of Redding, California. The map is on file and avilable for inspection in the appropriate offices of the Forest Service. These pilot project area lands encompass about 1,528,667 acres. They do not include all lands in the planning area.

PURPOSE AND NEED

The purpose of and need for a pilot project is to test and demonstrate the effectiveness of certain resource management activities designed to meet ecologic, economic, and fuel reduction objectives on the Lassen, Plumas, and Sierraville Ranger District of the Tahoe National Forests. The Act requires the Secretary to conduct a pilot project for a period of up to 5 years from the initiation of the pilot project (Title IV, Section 401(g)(2)). To accomplish the purpose of the Act, resource management activities that include fuelbreak construction consisting of a strategic system of defensible fuel profile zones, group selection and individual tree selection harvest, and a program of riparian management and riparian restoration projects are required.

In proposing the alternatives, the agency is responding in part to an underlying purpose outlined in the Quincy Library Group Community Stability Proposal, November 1993, as referenced in the Act (Title IV, Section 401(b)(1)) and to concerns identified by the Public as required by Law. The underlying need for the pilot project is to fulfill the Secretary of Agriculture’s statutory duty under the Act (Title IV, Section 401(b)(1)).

PROPOSED ACTION

The Forest Service proposes to establish and implement a pilot project not to exceed 5 years to demonstrate and test the effectiveness of management activities described in the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act of October 21, 1998, by amending, as needed, management direction in the Land and Resource Management Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests. The total acreage on which management activities are implemented is not to exceed 70,000 acres each year.

Alternative 2 is the proposed action and one of the two preferred alternatives identified in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

DECISION TO BE MADE

The Responsible Officials will decide whether or not to implement a pilot project for a 5-year period to test and demonstrate the effectiveness of the resource management activities described in Act. If the Responsible Officials decide to conduct a pilot project, they will also decide to what extent management direction in the Land and Resource Management Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests will be amended. A decision to conduct a pilot project is constrained by the Act’s[4] stipulation that required resource management activities be implemented consistent with applicable Federal law and The California Spotted Owl Sierran Province Interim Guidelines[5].

PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT

On December 21, 1998, the Forest Service published a Notice of Intent (NOI) in the Federal Register[6] to prepare an environmental impact statement to disclose the expected effects of establishing and conducting a 5-year pilot program to demonstrate and test the management activities described in the Act. Between December 1998 and January 1999, the Forest Service solicited and received comments about the proposed action from individuals, interest groups, and Federal, State and local governments. Issues and points of concern regarding the proposed action were developed from the comments received.

The Forest Service received 185 comment letters during the initial scoping process. The comments were reviewed and considered by the Responsible Officials and Interdisciplinary Team. Additionally, an independent Content Analysis Enterprise Team, assisted the Responsible Officials and Interdisciplinary Team in analyzing and interpreting the concerns identified in the comments received.

News releases announcing the NOI and public meetings were sent to news agencies throughout northern California in December 1998. Between January and April 1999, individual and group meetings were held with members of the  and Sierra Nevada Forest Protection campaign, local governmental agencies, Federal and State agencies, environmental groups, commodity interest groups, tribal representatives, and the general public. Scoping workshops were held in Susanville and Quincy in January 1999. Public information meetings were hosted by the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests at Loyalton, Blairsden, Quincy, Oroville, Chico, Burney, and Chester, California in January 1999. Public information meetings were hosted by the Lassen, Plumas and Tahoe National Forests at Loyalton, Blairsden, Quincy, Greenville, Oroville, Chico, Burney, and Chester, California between January 4 and January 16, 1999. Two scoping workshops were also held in Susanville and Quincy on January 16, 1999. Open houses were held in Chico, Susanville, and Quincy on February 24, 25, and May 12, respectively, to review preliminary alternative design. Additionally, several project updates were mailed in March and April.

Meetings and workshops with interested groups and individuals were ongoing throughout the development process for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), as well as the development period for this FEIS. The DEIS was published on June 11, 1999[7], and mailed to approximately 650 persons. Public information meetings were hosted by the Lassen, Plumas and Tahoe National Forests at Loyalton, Blairsden, Quincy, Susanville, Greenville, Chico, Burney, Chester, Nevada City, and Sacramento, California between June 23 and July 12, 1999. In addition, two roundtable dialogues were conducted in July 1999 in Vallejo and Quincy, California so participants could clarify their views and concerns about the DEIS for the Interdisciplinary Team. Collaboration meetings have continued with the Herger-Feinstein

 EIS interdisciplinary team and groups such as the Quincy Library Group, the Forest Protection Campaign, and the Plumas Forest Project. Information and guidance meetings have also continued with the Steering Committee (consisting of the Forest Supervisors of the three affected National Forests and representatives from Research and Region 5 Regional Office) as well as information sharing with the Sierra Nevada Conservation Framework (SNCF) interdisciplinary team.

The Forest Service received over 10,000 comments on the DEIS. The comments were reviewed and considered by the Responsible Officials and Interdisciplinary Team. In addition, an independent Content Analysis Enterprise Team, assisted the Responsible Officials and Interdisciplinary Team in analyzing, interpreting, and responding to the comments received. The Response to Comments is in Chapter 4 of the FEIS.

ISSUES

The Responsible Officials and Interdisciplinary Team reviewed the results of scoping and public comments, including the analysis provided by the Content Analysis Team. In February 1999, the Responsible Officials met with the Steering Committee to confirm the selection of significant issues and the range of alternatives to be analyzed. Four significant issues were identified. Another three issues were identified as important, but not to a degree that necessitated detailed analysis. In addition to the significant issues, other resource items may be discussed throughout this FEIS for disclosure purposes. Such items are not considered to be significant issues for purposes of this FEIS.

SIGNIFICANT ISSUES

Issue 1: Old Forest Values and Old Forest-Dependent Species

Ø      The proposed action provides inadequate protection for old forests, and plant and wildlife species associated with old forest ecosystems

Ø      Implementation of management activities described in the Act, including the construction of defensible fuel profile zones, group selection harvest, individual tree selection harvest, and thinning could result in additional fragmentation of old forest habitat adversely affecting the viability of some species that depend on old forests.

Ø      The design, placement, and diameter limits specified by the proposed silvicultural activities could change old forest structure and function. Implementation of management activities described in the Act could result in the loss of stand structure diversity, including layering, snags, and down log abundance.

Old forest values and old forest-dependent species issues are addressed in the alternatives by including design elements focusing on protection of these areas and the attributes that comprise them. Examples of design elements are areas excluded from resource management activities and the application of management practices that promote the development of large trees. Measures that provide or enhance protection for flora and fauna and their habitat are essential design criteria.

Issue 2: Watershed Effects and Aquatic/Riparian Protection

Ø      Aquatic and riparian habitats are known to be affected by the effects of past and current management. Aquatic and riparian areas could be negatively affected by sedimentation, ground-disturbing activities, and other forms of degradation resulting from implementation of resource management activities described in the Act.

Ø      Several watersheds within the planning area are at a high level of risk for cumulative effects. Soil productivity and water quality could be affected by implementation of the management activities described in the Act. An increase in total road mileage, soil compaction, erosion, or sedimentation would lead to off-site cumulative watershed effects. Additional impacts could compound and greatly reduce the health of soils and water throughout the watershed, and increase the difficulty of restoring watershed health.

Ø      Application of Scientific Analysis Team guidelines would provide inadequate protection for headwater areas in watersheds. Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project guidelines, not the Scientific Analysis Team guidelines, should be used to ensure protection of headwater and riparian areas.

Watershed effects and aquatic/riparian protection issues are addressed by including design elements focusing on protection of these areas and the attributes that comprise them. Design elements encouraging protection of watershed, aquatic, and riparian values include items such as buffers around riparian areas and other water features in which little or no management activities may occur. Mitigation measures that provide or enhance protection for riparian areas, aquatic areas, and watersheds are essential design criteria.

Issue 3: Economic Well-being

Ø      How will the level of harvest proposed in the DEIS support the economic well-being of local communities?

Ø      The proposed project would not contribute to, nor address, the economic well-being or needs of local communities.

Ø      Aesthetic and natural values are essential to local communities. Tourism, the service sector, and local community quality-of-life values would be diminished by implementation of the proposed action.

Economic well-being issues are addressed by including design elements focusing on the production of outputs from National Forest System lands. Among the outputs considered are timber, energy production, water, and scenery.

Issue 4: Wildfire Hazard Reduction and Fuel Management

Ø      Implementation of the management activities described in the Act would not effectively address reduction of wildfire hazard.

Ø      Construction of defensible fuel profile zones would open the forest, bring more light to the forest floor, and result in more brush in the understory of treated areas. This would increase the risk and intensity of wildfire. Defensible fuel profile zones would be ineffective in reducing wildfire hazard without ongoing maintenance. The proposed action would not provide funding for maintenance.

Ø      The desired number and size of snags and down logs is different for wildlife and fire management needs. Implementation of snag and down woody material requirements found in the California Spotted Owl Interim Guidelines, as required by the Act, would reduce the effectiveness of defensible fuel profile zones by making firefighting unsafe in treated areas with high snag densities, and by leaving excessive fuel in place.

Ø      Would defensible fuel profile zones be better than areawide fuel treatments in reducing the size and intensity of wildfire?

Ø      Would increasing road mileage result in an increase in human-caused forest fires?

Wildfire hazard reduction and fuel management issues are addressed by including an array of fuel reduction strategies that encourage removal of excess natural fuels and those created by resource management activities.

ISSUES NOT ADDRESSED IN DETAIL

The scoping process identified many issues. This section highlights three issues that are important to this analysis, but are not considered significant for purposes of this FEIS.

Noxious Weeds - Concern exists as to whether the proposed resource management activities would result in an increased distribution and abundance of noxious weeds. Noxious weeds are not considered a significant issue because management of noxious weeds under the proposed action or any of the alternatives is not likely to result in effects different than would occur with current management activities and the existing road system. Measures that minimize the potential for increasing the distribution and abundance of noxious weeds are design elements of the proposed action and all alternatives.

Roadless Areas - Concern was stated about the protection of the roadless character of roadless areas. Protection of the roadless character of roadless areas is not considered a significant issue because the proposed action and alternatives comply with the Forest Service interim rule temporarily suspending new road construction in unroaded areas. (Refer to Chapter 2, Section 2.53, Roadless Area Management for additional details about the road construction suspension.)

Grazing - There is concern about livestock grazing adversely impacting resource values. Concern also exists as to whether the application of the Scientific Analysis Team guidelines in resource management activity areas would adversely affect grazing permittees and their livestock operations. Grazing is not considered a significant issue because the Act states “nothing…shall be construed to require the application of the Scientific Analysis Team guidelines to any livestock grazing in the pilot project area during the term of the pilot project, unless the livestock grazing is being conducted in the specific location at which the Scientific Analysis Team guidelines are being applied to an activity under subsection (d).” (Title IV Section (c)(2)(C) For Alternative 5, grazing would continue as provided for in the current Forest plans. Implementation of any of the action alternatives may result in a need to coordinate grazing activities with management activities or result in the need for development or maintenance of structural improvements.


OTHER APPLICABLE LAWS, REGULATIONS, AND POLICY

THE NATIONAL FOREST MANAGEMENT ACT OF 1976 (NFMA) (PUBLIC LAW 94-588)

The Federally-administered National Forest System lands analyzed in this FEIS are subject to management decisions and direction in the Records of Decision and accompanying Land and Resource Management Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests (Forest Plans). The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans provide guidance for the management of lands and resources under their jurisdiction. All three Forest Plans contain management direction applicable to the resource management activities described in the proposed action, including forest goals and objectives, standards and guidelines, management area direction, and expected outputs. Management direction applicable to the proposed action is found throughout each Forest Plan and it’s accompanying Final Environmental Impact Statement. To avoid redundancy, this FEIS is tiered to the analysis and decisions in the Records of Decision, Land and Resource Management Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests, and their respective Final Environmental Impact Statements.

Resource management described in the proposed action and action alternatives changes management direction in the Records of Decision for the Land and Resource Management Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests, as amended, and their accompanying environmental disclosure documents. Selection of the proposed action (Alternative 2) or any of the action alternatives (Alternatives 3, 4, and 5) described in this FEIS requires concurrent amendment of the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans. Selection of the no action alternative (Alternative 1) reflects implementation under current management direction in the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans. No amendments are required to implement Alternative 1. If it is determined that the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans need to be amended, the NFMA significance determination for any amendments needed will be disclosed in the Record of Decision for this FEIS.

ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT OF 1973 (PUBLIC LAW 93-205)

Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act requires Federal agencies to pursue consultation with the U.S. Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Commerce National Marine Fisheries Service, whichever is appropriate, during the planning phase of project work. To date, informal consultation occurred with both agencies regarding Federally proposed, threatened, or endangered species that are expected to occur within the planning area for this proposal. Details of this consultation are found in this document and the Biological Assessment/Biological Evaluation, which is located in the project planning file at the Forest Supervisor’s Office of the Plumas National Forest.

CLEAN WATER ACT (PUBLIC LAW 92-500)

All Federal agencies must comply with the provisions of the Clean Water Act. This proposal meets the terms of the Clean Water Act for non-point sources of pollution, primarily erosion and sedimentation. For purposes of this proposal and analysis compliance is accomplished through implementation of Best Management Practices (BMP) for National Forests in California (USDA Forest Service, 1979).

CLEAN AIR ACT (PUBLIC LAW 84-159)

Whenever prescribed fire is used, smoke management and air quality would be emphasized. Where feasible, mechanical treatment of fuels would be applied before prescribed burning. Guidance and direction for smoke management and air quality protection is found in the Interim Air Quality Policy on Wildland and Prescribed Fires, announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1998, in a Memorandum of Understanding between the California Air Quality Board (CARB) and the USDA Forest Service, signed on July 13, 1999, and in the Smoke Management Guidelines under Title 17, currently under revision by CARB. A brief description of these documents is contained in Appendix X - Air Quality.

NATIONAL HISTORIC PRESERVATION ACT (PUBLIC LAW 89-665)

Consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office is not required at this time. The Forest Service is complying with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, as stipulated in the agreement entitled, Programmatic Agreement between the USDA Forest Service - Pacific Southwest Region, California State Historic Preservation Officer, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation[8]. If and when effects on cultural heritage resources are identified, consultation will be required outside the programmatic agreement.

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE (EXECUTIVE ORDER 1289)

Based on the results of the scoping and public outreach completed for this project, there is no evidence that disparate or disproportionate impacts to any social, ethnic, or economic group will occur through implementation of the proposed action or any of the alternatives. Special outreach efforts involved Native American tribes and communities within the geographic range of the proposal. The geographic area influenced by this proposal encompasses all or part of the areas of 24 Native American groups, bands, communities, or tribes. Native Americans depend on the National Forest System lands affected by this proposal for an array of reasons, including connections with their culture and heritage, religion, and ancestral ties. Consultation with affected Native Americans clearly indicates a strong interest in how the affected Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests are managed. Specifically, they are interested in any economic opportunities this proposal may generate, they wish to participate in planning and implementation of specific projects implementing decisions following from this proposal, and they are strong advocates for a healthy and livable forest environment.

CIVIL RIGHTS IMPACT ANALYSIS (DEPARTMENTAL REGULATION 4300-4)

A Civil Rights Impact Analysis was completed to determine if implementation of the Act would have an effect on the rights and opportunities of all people. The analysis determined that Alternatives 2, 3, and 4 could increase discrimination complaints, although there would be an increase in employment opportunities. Alternative 5 would have unfavorable impacts to the skills, knowledge, and potential workforce diversity. Appendix O contains the complete analysis.

PERMITS AND COORDINATION REQUIREMENTS

Required permits for wetland and riparian restoration and creation activities would be obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Coordination continues with State of California regulatory agencies including Air Quality Management Districts and Water Quality Control Boards. Site-specific analysis could identify additional coordination requirements including, but not limited to, (1) county agricultural permits; (2) use of the Memorandum of Understanding with the California Department of Fish and Game to manage National Forest System lands which include wildlife, fisheries, and plant resources; and (3) required licenses and permits from State Water Quality Control Boards for activities in the aquatic environment.

RELATIONSHIP WITH THE SIERRA NEVADA FRAMEWORK FOR CONSERVATION AND COLLABORATION

In 1999, the Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest Service began the planning process for an amendment to the Land and Resource Management Plans (Forest Plans) for the 11 national forests that encompass the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, the Modoc Plateau, and the Warner Mountains. This planning process is part of the overall Sierra Nevada Framework for consultation and collaboration. The proposed amendment is in response to changed circumstances and new information that resulted from the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP). The SNEP Report identified resource management and ecosystem health issues that current management may or may not be adequately addressing.

The proposed action for this FEIS is independent of the Sierra Nevada Framework amendment process. Although the efforts are independent, the teams doing both analyses have coordinated closely with one another. Information, particularly information applicable to land and resource management issues, is shared between them.

continue to Chapter 2



[1] The Quincy Library Group Community Stability Proposal, November 1993 is an agreement by a coalition of representatives of fisheries, timber, environmental, county government, citizen groups, and local communities to develop a resource management program to promote ecological and economic health for certain Federal lands.

[2] On October 12, 1998, the President of the United States signed the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, including Section 401, The Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act (ACT).

[3] Reference Title IV, Section 401(b)(1) of the Act.

 

[4] See Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act, Title IV, Section 401(c)(3) – Compliance.

 

[5] California Spotted Owl Sierran Province Interim Guidelines, Decision Notice, January 1993.

 

[6] See Federal Register, Volume 63, Number 244, pages 70383-70385, December 21, 1998.

 

[7] See Federal Register, Volume 64, Number 112, page 31571, June, 11, 1999.

 

[8] The Forest Service is following a process for compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act as stipulated in the Programmatic Agreement Among the USDA Forest Service-Pacific Southwest Region, California State Historic Preservation Officer, and the Advisory Council 9n Historic preservation (RPA). This programmatic agreement provides the agency with more flexible compliance procedure whenever historic properties will not be affected or can be adequately protected during project activities.