Return to table of Contents
CHAPTER 2
ALTERNATIVES INCLUDING THE PROPOSED ACTION

INTRODUCTION

Chapter 2 presents and compares the proposed action and alternatives to the proposed action, including a no action alternative 1. The alternatives are displayed to show how they address the significant issues identified in Chapter 1 of this Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).

DEVELOPMENT OF THE ALTERNATIVES

An alternative is a set of management practices that meet the purpose of and need for the proposed action, while addressing one or more significant issues. The purpose of and need for the proposed action are described in Chapter 1 of this FEIS. Chapter 1 also includes a description of the scoping process and the significant issues. The alternatives were developed in response to the Act and comments received during the scoping process.

ALTERNATIVES NOT CONSIDERED IN DETAIL

All alternatives to the proposed action received detailed consideration in this FEIS.

ALTERNATIVES CONSIDERED IN DETAIL

This section describes the proposed action and each alternative to the proposed action. Maps, Figures 2.1 through 2.5 at the end of the chapter display resource management activities for the proposed action and each alternative. Table 2.25 at the end of this chapter, presents an overall comparison of the proposed action to the alternatives. Table 2.26, at the end of this chapter presents a comparison of how the alternatives address the significant issues.

Before describing the alternatives in detail, it is important that readers take note of two items that require clarification to avoid unnecessary confusion.

  1. Measurement - The Land and Resource Management Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests (Forest Plans) commonly describe resource management activities in terms of commodity and amenity outputs. For example, each Forest Plan describes an allowable sale quantity for timber harvest expressed in terms of million board feet (MMBF). The Act, however, describes resource management activities in terms of acres to be treated – a distinctly different method of expressing amounts of resource work to be completed than the terminology used in the Forest Plans. This FEIS follows the measurement method described in the Act by expressing and displaying most outputs in terms of acres to be treated.
  2. Landbase - Throughout this chapter, two terms are used to describe landbase. When comparing alternatives, it is important to distinguish between these terms.
Planning Area - 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, but does not set management direction for non-Forest System lands. The planning area includes Federal lands identified in the Act as "offbase" and "deferred." All lands within the planning area are potentially subject to effects 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.

Pilot Project Area - The pilot project area as referenced in the Act is comprised of certain National Forest System lands on the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests designated as "Available for Group Selection" on a map dated October 12, 1993, entitled Quincy Library Group Community Stability Proposal. The map is on file and avilable for inspection in the appropriate offices of the Forest Service. The pilot project area lands encompass approximately 1,528,667 acres. The pilot project described in the proposed action and alternatives would be tested and demonstrated on lands designated as "Available for Group Selection" on the map. The pilot project area does not include all National Forest System lands in the planning area.

DESCRIPTION OF THE ALTERNATIVES

Elements Common to All Alternatives

Duration of Pilot Project – The pilot project would be in place for a period not to exceed 5 years from the date of commencement (implementation date specified in the Record of Decision) or until amendment or revision of the Land and Resource Management Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests is completed as directed in the Act 2.

Special Area Allocations - The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans allocate some National Forest System lands to allocations and management prescriptions that exclude timber harvest and road construction activities. Land allocations and management prescriptions excluded from resource management activities would include established and proposed Special Interest Areas, established and proposed Research Natural Areas, and administratively withdrawn areas such as designated Wilderness Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and Semi-primitive, Non-motorized allocations.

Riparian Management - Streamside management zone requirements (current management direction in the Forest Plans) would continue to be the governing riparian management standards and guidelines in all portions of the planning area, except for the pilot project areas where resource management activities or any timber harvesting activities in the pilot project area are implemented. The selected riparian management strategy in the Record of Decision would govern management of riparian areas where resource management activities or timber harvests occur.

PACFISH - All alternatives comply with the amendment to the Lassen Forest Plan described in the Decision Notice and Environmental Assessment for Interim Strategies for Managing Anadromous Fish-Producing Watersheds in Eastern Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Portions of California (PACFISH) 3. In conformance with consultation between the USDA Forest Service and the U.S.Department of Commerce, National Marine Fisheries Service, under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, National Forest System lands in the five anadromous fish-producing watersheds of the Lassen National Forest (Butte Creek, Deer Creek, Mill Creek, Antelope Creek, and Battle Creek) would continue to be managed as "key" watersheds 4. PACFISH requires the identification of Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas (RHCA). It uses the riparian buffer width requirements identified by the Scientific Analysis Team (SAT) Report 5, except that under PACFISH all measurements are calculated using slope distance, rather than horizontal distance procedures. As directed by PACFISH, watershed analyses have been completed for the key watersheds in which the majority of the landbase is under Federal jurisdiction (Deer Creek, Mill Creek, and Antelope Creek).

Roadless Area Management – All alternatives comply with direction published in the Federal Register 6 precluding new road construction in unroaded areas. This direction suspends new road construction projects, including temporary road construction, and road reconstruction on specified National Forest System lands until the Forest Service adopts a revised road management policy, or for a period of 18 months (ending September 1, 2000), whichever is first. This direction applies in the following areas:

California Spotted Owl Management - All resource management activities would be implemented consistent with interim direction for the conservation of the California spotted owl. Interim direction is set forth in the California Spotted Owl Sierran Province Interim Guidelines Environmental Assessment 7 (Appendix Q). Spotted owl habitat areas and protected activity centers are excluded from resource management activities and timber harvest in all alternatives. This exclusion conforms to direction in the Act and the interim direction for protection of the California spotted owl. Light underburning designed to enhance old forest 8 attributes and suitability of spotted owl habitat is the only resource management activity allowed in spotted owl habitat areas and protected activity centers for the duration of the pilot project.

Group Selection Harvest - Group selection harvest is required in the Act to achieve a desired condition of all-age, multi-story, and fire resistant forests. Reference Appendix D for group selection modeling simulations. Alternatives 2 through 4 use group selection as a resource management activity. Alternative 1 allows group selection, but at levels commensurate with current programs. Alternative 5 also allows for some group selection. Appendix E demonstrates feasibility of achieving accomplishments listed in the Act for the pilot project period. An attachment to Appendix E, Table E-1 – Group Selection Priorities, discusses the priority stand structures from which to establish group selection harvests.

In the pilot project area, many stands should not be treated using the group selection method due to tree size, stand structure, and previous policy decisions. It should be noted, however, that these stands still contribute to the landbase from which group selection expectations are derived. The Act requires 0.57 percent of the landbase be harvested each year using group selection. The vegetation management strategy for the pilot project period assumes each watershed or area analyzed would be re-analyzed for group selection re-entry in 10 years. As explained in Appendix E, expected accomplishments, percent of the landbase analyzed, and length of time to the next re-entry must be balanced.

Within individual stands, percent of the surface area harvested using group selection would vary for reasons including stand structure, tree size, economics, and compliance with interim California spotted owl direction. Stands located in suitable habitat for California spotted owl, designated as "selected" and "other" strata types, as defined by the California spotted owl interim direction (Appendix Q), restrict harvesting based on tree size, basal area retention, and crown cover. Group selection treatment areas are not considered to be individual timber stands, but are viewed as subcomponents of larger stands. Treatment effects on crown cover and basal area retention are, therefore, averaged over the larger stand.

Individual Tree Selection Harvest - Individual tree selection is allowed in the Act to promote forest health and provide an uneven-aged structure to forested lands (see Glossary for definition). Individual tree selection is an uneven-aged silviculture system wherein all tree sizes are managed to predetermined stocking levels. This requires harvesting in all tree sizes to obtain a prescribed ratio of small trees to large trees. Individual tree selection works best in stands having stocking in several age classes. The individual tree selection method does not work well in even-aged stands. Reference Appendix D for individual tree selection modeling simulations.

Stands located in suitable habitat for California spotted owl, designated as "selected" and "other" strata types, as defined by the California spotted owl interim direction, restrict harvesting of the larger trees in a stand. These restrictions result in stands treated using individual tree selection method resembling stands treated using the even-aged silviculture system known as "thinning from below." Individual tree selection would be implemented first in uneven-aged stands that are not in suitable owl habitat having high tree densities, and second in stands having high tree densities.

Smoke Management and Air Quality Protection – 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: (1) the Interim Air Quality Policy on Wildland and Prescribed Fires, announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1998; (2) a Memorandum of Understanding between the California Air Quality Board and the USDA Forest Service, signed on July 13, 1999, and (3) the Smoke Management Guidelines under Title 17, currently under revision by California Air Quality Board. A brief description of these documents is contained in Appendix X - Air Quality.

Species of Concern to Native American Tribes – Plant materials (such as bear grass and deer grass) and animal products (such as porcupine quills) are used by Native American tribes for traditional cultural uses. Where feasible, all alternatives would provide for identification and enhancement of species of concern to Native American tribes.

Amendments to the Land and Resource Management Plans

The following amendments to Forest Plan management direction are common only to Alternatives 2, 3, and 4. Alternative 5 contains a different set of Forest Plan amendments. Amendments for Alternative 5 are displayed separately under the description of Alternative 5. The amendments apply only to site-specific projects derived from this FEIS analyisis that are implemented in the pilot project area. An exception is that the Act specifies that Scientific Analysis Team guidelines for riparian protection (Tables 2.5 through 2.9) apply to all timber harvest activities in the project area. The amendments do not apply to the planning area as a whole, nor to National Forest System lands outside the planning area. These amendments would terminate upon conclusion of the pilot project. Alternative 1 does not amend the Forest Plans.

Changes in Wildlife Management Direction – Management direction for wildlife in Alternatives 2, 3, and 4 is not consistent with existing management direction in the Forest Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests, as amended. Alternatives 2, 3, and 4 change the wildlife management direction in the Forest Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests as follows:

  1. The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans would be amended to require early consultation with the USDI Fish and Wildlife Service regarding Federally listed animal species. (Table 2.1)
  2. The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans would be amended to require completion of bald eagle management plans in consultation with the USDI Fish and Wildlife Service. (Table 2.1)
  3. The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans would be amended to establish or revise limited operating periods for wildlife habitat protection. (Tables 2.2 and 2.3)
The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans do not contain management direction requiring for early consultation with the USDI Fish and Wildlife Service regarding Federally listed animal species. The Forest Plans would be amended to provide new direction for early consultation as shown in Table 2.1.

Table 2.1 Consultation Requirements Amended Direction
FOREST PLAN AMENDED FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Conduct early consultation with the USDI Fish and Wildlife Service when any site-specific resource management activity is planned for implementation in suitable habitat in the pilot project area, for Federally-listed threatened and endangered animal species. At a minimum, consult for the following species:
  • Bald eagle
  • American peregrine falcon
  • Valley elderberry longhorn beetle
  • Shasta crayfish
  • California red-legged frog
  • Lahontan cutthroat trout
  • Northern spotted owl
Before silvicultural habitat manipulations in bald eagle wintering, roosting, or nesting habitat complete, in consultation with the USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, bald eagle management plans according to direction in the Pacific States Recovery Plan.

Table 2.2 Changes in Limited Operating Periods
FOREST PLAN FOREST PLAN REFERENCE CURRENT FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen Bald eagle and goshawk: Forest Plan page 4-55

California spotted owl: CASPO IG amendment

Limited operating period is suggested, but not defined for bald eagle and goshawk
Plumas Bald eagle prescription, Forest Plan, page 4-96

Goshawk prescription, Forest Plan, page 4-103

California spotted owl: CASPO IG amendment

Bald eagle (January through August)

Goshawk (March 1 through August 31)

Tahoe Goshawk: Forest Plan, page V-28

California spotted owl: CASPO IG amendment

Goshawk (March 1 through July 30)
FOREST PLAN AMENDED FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe When resource management activities occur in the locations shown in Table 2.3 - Limited Operating Periods require the indicated limited operating periods. Regard limited operating periods as a standard mitigation, in lieu of site-specific survey information. Based on site-specific survey information, a Wildlife Biologist may modify the distance, duration, or need for a limited operating period.

Table 2.3 Limited Operating Periods
SPECIES LOCATION LIMITED OPERATING PERIOD
Bald eagle Within designated territories November 1 through August 31
Bald eagle  Winter roosts November 1 through March 1
Peregrine falcon Within designated territories February 1 through August 31
California spotted owl Within ¼ mile of a protected activity center boundary March 1 through August 31
Goshawk Within ¼ mile of territory March 1 through September 15
Marten den Within ½ mile of known sites May 1 through August 1
Fisher den Within ½ mile of known sites March 1 through July 1
Wolverine den Within ½ mile of known sites February 1 through June 1
Sierra Nevada red fox dens Within ½ mile of known sites February 1 through July 1
Sandhill crane Within ½ mile of nesting sites April 1 through August 1
California red-legged frog All unsurveyed and occupied suitable habitat October 1 through April 15 or after the first frontal system resulting in more than ¼ inch of precipitation, or both. If a dry period of 72 hours or more occurs after the onset of the rainy season, operations may resume.

Forest Service policy regarding the management of threatened, endangered, and sensitive species, and other species for which viability is a concern would continue to be implemented, including:

1. Surveying of areas of suitable habitat, to protocols based on the best available science, to determine information relevant to implementation of site-specific resource management activities.

2. Where appropriate, limited operating periods would be applied to unsurveyed habitat considered to be suitable for threatened, endangered, or sensitive species; and to habitat considered suitable for any species for which viability may be a concern.

3. Where appropriate, habitat connectivity would be maintained to allow movement of old forest or aquatic/riparian-dependent species between areas of suitable habitat.

4. For the duration of a pilot project, old forest-dependent and aquatic/riparian-dependent species (including amphibians) cumulative reductions in suitable habitat would not be reduced more than 10 percent below 1999 levels.

Changes in Vegetation Management Direction – Vegetation management in Alternatives 2, 3, and 4 is not consistent with existing management direction in the Land and Resource Management Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests, as amended (Forest Plans). Alternatives 2, 3, and 4 change the vegetation management direction in the Land and Resource Management Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests as follows:

  1. The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans would be amended to add standards and guidelines to address management of noxious and invasive exotic weeds. (Table 2.4)
  2. The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans would be amended to specify direction for oak management.(Table 2.5)
The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans do not currently contain direction for the management of noxious and invasive exotic weed plants. The Forest Plans would be amended to provide direction for weed management as shown in Table 2.4.

Table 2.4 Noxious and Invasive Exotic Weed Management Amended Direction
FOREST PLAN AMENDED FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Manage National Forest System lands so that management activities do not introduce or spread noxious or invasive exotic weeds using the following guidelines during site-specific planning and implementation:

Inventory: As part of site-specific planning, inventory project areas and adjacent areas (particularly access roads) for noxious and invasive exotic weeds.

Control: If noxious weeds are found in or adjacent to a site-specific project area, evaluate treatment options relative to the risk of weed spread without treatment. Evaluate control methods at the site-specific planning level.

Prevention/Cleaning: Require off-road equipment and vehicles (both Forest Service owned and contracted) used for project implementation to be weed-free. Clean equipment and vehicles of all attached mud, dirt, and plant parts. Use standard timber sale contract clause C6.343 – Cleaning of Equipment in timber sale contracts.

Prevention/Road Construction: Require all earth-moving equipment, gravel, fill, or other materials to be weed-free. Use onsite sand, gravel, rock, or organic matter, where possible. Evaluate road locations for weed risk factors.

Prevention/Revegetation: Use weed-free equipment, mulches, and seed sources. Avoid seeding in areas where revegetation will occur naturally, unless noxious weeds are a concern. Save topsoil from disturbance and put it back to use in onsite revegetation, unless contaminated with noxious weeds.

Prevention/Staging Areas: Do not stage equipment, materials, or crews in noxious weed infested areas where there is risk of spread to areas of low infestation.

Table 2.5 Changes in Oak Management
FOREST PLAN FOREST PLAN REFERENCE CURRENT FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen Forest Plan, page 4-38 Retain 25 square feet basal area per acre.
Plumas Forest Plan, page 4-31 Retain 5 square feet per acre. Preference for oaks greater than 12 inches in diameter at breast height (DBH).
Forest Plan, page 4-34 Retain up to 35 square feet per acre on deer summer range and 30 percent canopy cover on deer winter range.
Tahoe Forest Plan, page V-30 In capable, available, and suitable strata, retain 30 square feet per acre in type X3P and X4P.

Retain 5 square feet per acre in other capable, available, and suitable strata.

FOREST PLAN AMENDED FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Where oak is present, retain an average 25 to 35 square feet basal area per acre of oaks over 15 inches diameter at breast height (DBH). Site-specific planning will determine feasibility and specific needs. Retain smaller oaks, if determined to be necessary for future recruitment.

Changes in Riparian Management Direction – Riparian management in Alternatives 2, 3, and 4 is not consistent with existing management direction in the Forest Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests, as amended. Alternatives 2, 3, and 4 change the riparian management direction in the Forest Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests as follows:

  1. The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans would be amended to apply the minimum protection riparian buffer widths prescribed by the Scientific Analysis Team guidelines. (Table 2.6)
  2. The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans would be amended to prohibit scheduled timber harvest, including fuelwood cutting, in Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas, except for salvage harvest or to meet Scientific Analysis Team guidelines for resource management objectives. (Table 2.7)
  3. The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans would be amended to allow unscheduled timber harvest salvage in Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas only when resource management objectives are met or a prescription is needed to obtain resource management objectives. (Table 2.7)
  4. The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans would be amended to include provisions for accommodating at least a 100-year flow, including associated bedload and debris, at new stream crossings and existing crossings where resources are degraded. (Table 2.8)
  5. The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans would be amended by adding a standard and guideline to provide for development and implementation of a road management plan for meeting resource management objectives. (Table 2.8)
  6. The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plan would be amended to provide specific direction for management of fire and fuel treatment to meet resource management objectives and minimize disturbance of riparian ground cover and vegetation. (Table 2.9)
  7. The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plan would be amended to provide direction for design of prescribed burn project identifying objectives and risks. (Table 2.9)
  8. The Tahoe and Lassen Forest Plans would be amended to require a watershed analysis before planning, implementing, or monitoring restoration projects. (Table 2.10)
  9. The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plan would be amended to require habitat assessments and surveys for California red-legged frogs in elevations below 5,500 feet. (Table 2.10)
Table 2.6 Determination of Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas (RHCA)
FOREST PLAN FOREST PLAN REFERENCE CURRENT FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen Standard and guideline 22.d.(2), page 4-32, and in Appendix R Prescribe minimum width guidelines for Streamside Management Zones (SMZ) as follows:
  • 100 to 300 feet (perennial water bodies)
  • 50 to 300 feet (intermittent water bodies)
  • 50 feet (ephemeral water bodies)
Plumas Standards and guidelines for Streamside Management Zones, pages 4-42 through 4-43, and Appendix M Prescribe minimum width guidelines for Streamside Management Zones (SMZ) as follows:
  • 100 to 300 feet (perennial water bodies)
  • 50 to 300 feet (intermittent water bodies)
  • 25 to 100 feet (ephemeral water bodies)
Tahoe Standards and guidelines 46, 47, and Appendix F, pages F-3 through F-6 Prescribe minimum width guidelines for Streamside Management Zones (SMZ) as follows:
  • 100 to 300 feet (perennial water bodies)
  • 25 to 200 feet (intermittent water bodies)
  • 25 to 50 feet (ephemeral water bodies)
Common in all 3 Forest Plans All three Forest Plans recognize the need to include other features in the SMZ, such as the top of inner gorges, the active floodplain, and the outer edge of riparian vegetation
FOREST PLAN AMENDED FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Prescribe minimum widths as "interim boundaries" as follows: 
  • 300 feet (perennial fish bearing streams and lakes) 
  • 150 feet (perennial non-fish bearing streams, ponds, wetlands greater than 1 acre, and lakes) 
  • 100 feet (intermittent and ephemeral streams, wetlands less than 1 acre, and landslides) 
Other features to include in RHCA determination, (whichever is greatest):
  • top of inner gorge 
  • 100-year floodplain, 
  • outer edge of riparian vegetation
  • a distance equal to one or two tree heights (depending on the stream type)

Table 2.7 Changes to Timber Management Direction
FOREST PLAN FOREST PLAN REFERENCE CURRENT FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen Management Prescription F, Riparian/Fish Prescription, Timber standards and guidelines, page 4-52 Allow scheduled timber harvest, but limit to single tree selection unless other prescriptions are needed to benefit riparian resources
Plumas Prescription 9 - Riparian Area Prescription, Timber standards and guidelines, page 4-92. Prohibit scheduled timber harvest in riparian areas.

Only allow vegetation removal in riparian areas that benefits riparian-dependent resources.

Allow scheduled timber harvest in intermittent and ephemeral SMZ where riparian wetland attributes do not exist.

Tahoe Appendix F, Tahoe National Forest Guidelines for Management in Riparian Areas and Streamside 

Management Zones (SMZ), Timber/Silviculture Direction, pages F-7 and F-8.

Prohibit scheduled timber harvest in riparian areas along perennial water bodies.

Allow scheduled timber harvest in intermittent and ephemeral SMZ where riparian wetland attributes do not exist.

FOREST PLAN AMENDED FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe TM-1: Prohibit scheduled timber harvest, including fuelwood cutting, in Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas (RHCA).
TM-2 and TM-3: Allow unscheduled timber harvest salvage operations only if Resource Management Objectives (RMO) are met or a prescription is needed to attain RMO.

Table 2.8 Changes to Road Management Direction
FOREST PLAN FOREST PLAN REFERENCE CURRENT FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen Management Prescription F, Riparian/Fish Prescription, Facilities standards and guidelines, page 4-50 Minimize disturbance to riparian-dependent resources.
Plumas Prescription 9.Riparian Area Prescription, Facilities standards and guidelines, page 4-94. Minimize the impact of roads on water quality and riparian areas.

Maintain natural channel character at stream crossings.

Tahoe Appendix F, Tahoe NF Guidelines for Management in Riparian Areas and Streamside Management Zones (SMZ), Roads Direction, pages F-8 and F-9. Cross at sites that minimize impacts.
FOREST PLAN AMENDED FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe RF-4 - Require improvement of culverts and stream crossings found to pose a substantial risk to riparian conditions to accommodate at least a 100-year flood, including associated bedload and debris. Base priorities for upgrading on the potential impact and ecological value of the riparian resources affected. Design and construct new stream crossings to accommodate at least a 100-year flood, including associated bedload and debris.
RF-8 - Require a Road Management Plan be developed and carried out that meets the Resource Management Objectives (RMO).

Table 2.9 Changes to Fire and Fuels Management Direction
FOREST PLAN FOREST PLAN REFERENCE CURRENT FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen Management Prescription F, Riparian/Fish Prescription, Fire and Fuels standards and guidelines, page 4-51. Set fuel-loading standards to meet riparian zone needs.

Minimize soil disturbance during fuel treatment.

Limit prescribed burning in and adjacent to riparian areas to protect riparian and aquatic values.

Use prescribed fire to improve wildlife habitat, primarily by stimulating aspen and willow regeneration.

Plumas Forestwide standards and guidelines, Fire and Fuels, pages 4-57 and 4-58. Meet effective organic ground cover for SMZ and minimize damage to water quality.
Forestwide standards and guidelines, Fire and Fuels, pages 4-57 and 4-58. Limit disturbance in SMZ.Prepare and adhere to an SMZ Plan for any activity within an SMZ. This Plan shall establish site-specific resource objectives, and include at minimum, objectives for vegetation management based on the needs of riparian-dependent resources.
Tahoe Appendix F, Tahoe National Forest Guidelines for Management in Riparian Areas and Streamside Management Zones (SMZ), Fuels Management Direction, pages F-9. Consider light burns in the SMZ of headwater streams.

Reduce impacts of fuel treatments within SMZ.

FOREST PLAN AMENDED FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe FM-1: Design fuel treatment to meet Resource Management Objectives (RMO), and to minimize disturbance of riparian ground cover and vegetation.
FM-4: Design prescribed burn projects to protect Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas (RHCA) from burning. Where riparian ecosystems would be enhanced by prescribed burns, clearly identify the specific objectives and risks.

Table 2.10 Changes to Watershed and Habitat Restoration Management Direction
FOREST PLAN FOREST PLAN REFERENCE CURRENT FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen Forestwide standards and guidelines, 22.Water and Riparian Areas d. Maintain or improve riparian dependent resources.

Prepare and adhere to a Project Implementation Plan for any activity within a riparian area, and include at minimum opportunities and procedures for restoration of any deteriorated area.

Forestwide standards and guidelines, 22.Water and Riparian Areas e. Evaluate all riparian areas Forestwide and manage to reach natural or achievable site potential and desired ecological conditions.
Plumas Forestwide standards and guidelines, Watershed Protection, pages 4-41 and 4-42. Protect highly sensitive watersheds through cumulative impact planning and rehabilitate highly disturbed watersheds.

Identify lands contributing to watershed degradation through analysis of National Forest System watersheds. Analyze

and mitigate on a total watershed basis, not only on project areas.

Tahoe Appendix F, Tahoe National Forest Guidelines for Management in Riparian Areas and Streamside Management Zones (SMZ), Watershed Management Direction, pages F-10. During compartment planning, identify opportunities to stabilize watershed problem areas.
FOREST PLAN AMENDED FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe WR-1: A watershed analysis is a prerequisite to planning, implementing, and monitoring all restoration projects.
WR-2: Conduct habitat assessments and surveys for California red-legged frogs in all areas below 5,500 feet in elevation.

DESCRIPTION OF THE ALTERNATIVES

ALTERNATIVE 1

DESIRED CONDITION

The desired condition as described in the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans is an intensively managed, even-aged, regulated forest on lands capable, suitable, and available for timber production. Each Forest Plan has a riparian management program designed to maintain, and where needed restore, healthy aquatic and riparian ecosystems. Each Forest Plan has a program for wildfire hazard reduction designed to manage fuels, and a management strategy for maintenance of viable populations of native and desired non-native plants and wildlife, including old forest-dependent species.

RESOURCE MANAGEMENT ACTIVITIES

In Alternative 1, resource management activities include:

Alternative 1 is the no action alternative (Figure 2.1). Management would continue under the existing decisions and management direction disclosed in the Records of Decision and the Land and Resource Management Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests, as amended (Forest Plans).

Fuels Management - The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans were not designed as comprehensive fuel reduction or wildfire protection strategies. Existing management direction allows fuels management activities. The fuels management program under Alternative 1 would continue treating approximately 16,000 acres annually (subject to funding), primarily through underburning projects designed to maintain past fuels management areas, or reduce natural accumulations of forest fuels and those created by timber harvest operations. Another objective of many current fuels management activities is to restore the ecological function of fire in forested ecosystems. Map L displays areas recently treated through the timber sale program, hazardous fuel reduction program, or Forest Health Pilot Program. 9

Vegetation Management - Over the last 5 years, the vegetation management program has focused on commercial thinning, precommercial thinning, and salvage of fire and drought-related mortality. In 1997 and 1998, approximately 26,000 acres were precommercially thinned and 23,600 acres commercially thinned in the planning area. The clearcut regeneration harvest method was most often used for salvage of areas having intense fire damage or severe drought mortality. Alternative 1 would harvest an average of 25,000 acres through individual tree selection, and allows group selection, but at levels commensurate with current programs. Group selection treatment areas would create openings ranging from ½ acre to 2 acres in size. Expected volume of timber sale offer for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans is displayed in Table 2.11:

Table 2.11 Annual Allowable Sale Quantity Land and Resource Management Plans
FOREST TOTAL VOLUME (MBF)
Lassen
96.0
Plumas
265.5
Sierraville
28.5
Total
390.0

The California spotted owl interim direction decision did not amend the allowable sale quantity values in the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans as displayed in Table 2.12. It estimated harvest volumes for the 2 years immediately following implementation of the California spotted owl interim direction decision. This reflects the premise that the interim direction would only be in place for a period of 18 to 24 months. The volume figures displayed in Table 2.12 represent outputs that can reasonably be expected under management governed by the current Forest Plans, as amended by the interim direction.

Table 2.12
California Spotted Owl Interim Direction
Estimated Timber Harvest Volumes (MMBF)
FOREST YEAR GREEN SAWLOG SALVAGE SAWLOG MULTI-PRODUCT
BIOMASS
TOTAL
Lassen 1993
24.0
56.0
5.0
85.0
  1994
36.6
10.5
5.0
52.1
Plumas 1993
39.1
37.0
9.0
85.1
  1994
39.1
37.0
9.0
85.1
Sierraville 1993
4.0
2.0
2.2
8.2
  1994
4.0
1.5
2.2
7.7
Totals 1993
1994
     
178.3
144.9

Timber harvest over the last 5 years ranged from 128 to 210 million board feet (MMBF). Approximately two-thirds of the timber harvest was sawlog size, and one-third was miscellaneous commercial products (chips for pulp or biomass fuel for electrical plants). Harvest programs varied greatly from year to year, based on funding levels and salvage needs, as displayed in Table 2.13. Appendix A includes additional detailed information.

Table 2.13
Annual Timber Sale Offer History (MBF)
FOREST YEAR SAWLOG MISCELLANEOUS COMMERCIAL PRODUCTS TOTAL
Lassen 1993
81.2
30.9
112.1
1994
78.5
36.3
114.8
1995
45.8
59.4
105.2
1996
43.3
53.7
97.0
1997
55.6
34.5
90.1
1998
31.9
38.9
70.8
Plumas 1993
84.4
19.9
104.3
1994
48.9
8.6
57.5
1995
32.6
8.3
40.9
1996
40.7
24.2
64.9
1997
44.9
24.0
68.9
1998
30.1
12.6
42.7
Sierraville 1993
13.7
0.0
13.7
1994
13.4
9.2
22.6
1995
58.8
5.8
64.6
1996
25.2
5.9
31.1
1997
23.6
4.4
28.0
1998
7.1
7.1
14.2
Totals  
759.7
383.7
1,143.4

Riparian Management - As directed by each Forest Plan, a variable width strategy would be applied to delineate streamside management zones. The width of these zones is influenced by downstream beneficial water uses, condition of the channel and adjacent uplands, and stream type (perennial, intermittent, ephemeral). Widths vary from 100 to 300 feet along each side of perennial streams, 50 to 300 feet along each side of intermittent channels, and 25 to 100 feet along each side of ephemeral channels, as shown in Table 2.14. These widths do not vary significantly among the three Forest Plans; in all cases, an interdisciplinary team determines the actual streamside management zone width and extent of management activities allowed in each streamside management zone.

Table 2.14 Streamside Management Zone Buffer Widths
Alternative 1
STREAM TYPE VARIABLE WIDTH BUFFER (feet)
Perennial
100 to 300
Intermittent
50 to 300
Ephemeral
25 to 100

The Lassen and Plumas Forest Plans require the development of a riparian area or streamside management zone management plan for any activity within a riparian area or streamside management zone. Riparian management plans include the establishment of objectives for vegetation within the zone, determination of the maximum allowable manipulation of that vegetation, manipulation procedures, limits on soil disturbance, ground cover requirements, analysis of erosion hazards, needed mitigation measures, and the identification of opportunities for restoration. The Tahoe Forest Plan emphasizes similar analyses and implementation requirements, but does not require the development of a specific riparian area or streamside management zone plan.

Road Management – Current Forest Plan management direction allows road management activities, including road construction, reconstruction, relocation, and decommissioning. Road management activities would comply with the goals of the Clean Water Action Plan 10.

Treatment Limitations - Annual funding and management direction have resulted in an average of 20,000 to 40,000 acres of harvest and fuels treatments annually.

Exclusions – In addition to the exclusions found in the Forest Plans, Alternative 1 would prohibit resource management activities in the following exclusion areas:

Protected Activity Centers and Spotted Owl Management Areas – Approximately 192,400 acres of protected activity centers and spotted owl habitat areas are excluded from timber harvest and road construction activities in Alternative 1.

RESPONSE TO SIGNIFICANT ISSUES

Issue 1 – Old Forests and Old Forest-Dependent Species -Alternative 1 addresses old forest-dependent species by continuing to manage under the Forest Plans, as amended. There are approximately 192,400 acres of protected activity centers and spotted owl habitat areas excluded from timber harvest and road construction activities in current Forest Plans.Additional old forest habitat is provided by land allocations established as goshawk management areas, Special Interest Areas, Research Natural Areas, Wild and Scenic River corridors, Wilderness Areas, and old growth reservation areas.

Issue 2 – Watershed Effects and Aquatic/Riparian Protection -Alternative 1 addresses aquatic/riparian protection by implementing streamside management zones, and allowing only 45 miles of new road construction over 5 years. In addition, each of the Forest Plans identifies standards and guidelines for resource activities, such as grazing and recreation, that provide additional protection for riparian and aquatic areas.

Issue 3 – Economic Well-Being - Alternative 1 harvests approximately 124 million board feet (MMBF) of timber and 215,000 bone dry tons of biomass annually. This would provide employment, income, and economic activities similar to the current situation. Aesthetic and natural values, as well as levels and amounts of tourism would be expected to remain unchanged.

Issue 4 - Wildfire Hazard Reduction and Fuel Management -Alternative 1 addresses wildfire hazard reduction and fuels management by using current management direction to treat National Forest System lands using underburning and other fuel treatment methods. The number of acres treated annually subject to funding levels.

FOREST PLAN CONSISTENCY

Alternative 1 is consistent with existing management direction in the Forest Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests, as amended. Selection of Alternative 1 would not amend the Forest Plans.

ALTERNATIVE 2

DESIRED CONDITION

As described in the Quincy Library Group Community Stability Proposal, the desired condition is an "all-age, multistory, fire-resistant forest approximating pre-settlement conditions" of open forest stands dominated by large, fire tolerant trees with crowns sufficiently spaced to limit the spread of crown fire. Riparian areas would support healthy aquatic and riparian ecosystems protected from the impacts of land use activities, but able to adjust to impacts caused by naturally-occurring disturbance processes such as wildfire, flood, and drought. Streams and their riparian areas would be restored to their proper functioning condition.

RESOURCE MANAGEMENT ACTIVITIES

In Alternative 2, resource management activities include:

Alternative 2 is the proposed action and one of the two preferred alternatives identified in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) (Figure 2.2). Alternative 2 establishes and implements a pilot project to demonstrate and test the effectiveness of resource management activities described in the Act, by amending, as needed, management direction in the Land and Resource Management Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests. The Act specifies the following resource management activities:
  1. Fuelbreak construction in the form of a strategic system of defensible fuel profile zones 11, including shaded fuelbreaks, utilizing thinning, individual tree selection, and other methods of vegetation management consistent with the Quincy Library Group Community Stability Proposal, on not less than 40,000, but not more than 60,000 acres per year.
  2. Group selection and individual tree selection uneven-aged forest management prescriptions as described in the Quincy Library Group Community Stability Proposal to achieve a desired future condition of all-age, multistory, fire resilient forests. Group selection harvest is required on an average acreage of 0.57 percent of the pilot project land each year of the pilot project. Individual tree selection may also be used within the pilot project area.
  3. The total acreage on which resource management activities are implemented may not exceed 70,000 acres each year.
  4. A program of riparian management, including wide protection zones and riparian restoration projects consistent with riparian protection guidelines in the document entitled "Viability Assessments and Management Considerations for Species Associated with Late-Successional and Old-Growth Forests of the Pacific Northwest," a Forest Service research document dated March 1993 and co-authored by the Scientific Analysis Team.
Fuels Management - Up to 300,000 acres of defensible fuel profile zones would be constructed to increase the protection from wildfire. Defensible fuel profile zones, approximately ¼ mile in width, would be constructed along existing roads, ridgetops, or other suitable terrain. The defensible fuel profile zone segments would be prioritized to establish an order for construction based on hazard, risk, and values to be protected. The defensible fuel profile zone strategy is consistent with that outlined in the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Final Report to Congress 12 and would allow for achievement of the goals outlined in the Wildland Fire Management Policy 13.

Defensible fuel profile zone would usually appear as open stands dominated by large trees. To reduce the potential for crown fire, canopy closure would be approximately 40 percent. Smaller trees may be present in small clumps or individually. The forest floor would usually be relatively open, with the exception of occasional large logs. Vegetation management techniques, including prescribed fire, would be used to construct and maintain defensible fuel profile zones, as well as to mimic natural fire cycles.Reference Appendix C for modeling simulations of defensible fuel profile zone implementation.

Vegetation Management – Vegetation management in Alternative 2 consists of management of noxious and invasive exotic weed species, and stocking control through timber harvest. Timber harvest under Alternative 2 would use two silvicultural treatment systems – group selection and individual tree selection.

Group Selection - Group selection harvest would create openings ranging from ½ acre to 2 acres in size, distributed throughout portions of the pilot project area designated "Available for Group Selection." Group selection harvest would be implemented on 0.57 percent of the lands labeled "Available for Group Selection," or approximately 8,700 acres annually. Reference Appendix D for modeling simulations of group selection implementation.

Individual Tree Selection - Individual tree selection harvest treatments would be scattered throughout the pilot project area on lands designated as "Available for Group Selection." Reference Appendix D for modeling simulations of individual tree selection.

Riparian Management - Riparian management would consist of riparian restoration projects and riparian protection zones, as described in the document, Viability Assessments and Management Considerations for Species Associated with Late-Successional and Old Growth Forests of the Pacific Northwest. This report provides guidelines for riparian system protection required in the Act, commonly referred to as the Scientific Analysis Team guidelines. The Scientific Analysis Team interim widths, standards, and guidelines apply only where management activities prescribed by the Act would be implemented.

The riparian management program would establish aquatic/riparian protection zone widths, and management restrictions and practices designed enhance aquatic and riparian ecosystems. Riparian and aquatic ecosystems would be managed to achieve riparian objectives, developed through watershed analysis, as identified in Appendix L 14. Riparian habitat conservation areas widths would be determined by watershed analysis, although interim widths as shown in Table 2.15 would be applied until the watershed analysis is completed. Resource habitat conservation areas management guidelines would apply within the protection area. Scientific Analysis Team guidelines would supercede other direction, unless the conflicting direction (including PACFISH direction) provides greater protection to riparian and fish habitat or better achieves riparian management objectives. The Act exempts livestock grazing from the application of Scientific Analysis Team guidelines for riparian protection during the term of the pilot project, except where resource management activities defined in the Act would be implemented. Appendix L addresses resource management activity for riparian habitat conservation areas and the Scientific Analysis Team guidelines.

Table 2.15 Scientific Analysis Team Riparian
Habitat Conservation Area Protection Zones
STREAM TYPE RIPARIAN PROTECTION ZONE
Perennial fish-bearing streams and natural lakes Minimum 300 feet on each side of the stream
Perennial non-fish bearing streams, ponds, reservoirs, and wetlands greater than 1 acre in size Minimum 150 feet on each side of the stream
Intermittent streams, including those ephemeral streams having a definable channel and evidence of annual scour and deposition Minimum 100 feet on each side of the stream
Landslides and landslide prone areas Use protection zones that cover the extent of the features

A riparian improvement strategy is an essential component of the riparian management program (Appendix R). The riparian improvement strategy includes an analysis of watershed condition and trend, and cause and effect relationships. The riparian improvement strategy includes a determination of methods to move watersheds towards proper functioning condition. These methods may include adjustment of management practices and restoration projects. Essential components of the program include monitoring and adaptive management. The watershed improvement strategy is consistent with the strategy described by Clifton on behalf of the Feather River Coordinated Resource Management Group in a document entitled, East Branch North Fork Feather River Erosion Control Strategy15.

Road Management – Road management activities in Alternative 2 would focus on repairing resource degradation caused by existing roads. Resource degradation repair methods would include road decommissioning, relocation, and reconstruction. Additional roads would be decommissioned in compliance with the Clean Water Action Plan. Amount of road construction would be directly related to amount of resource management activity accomplished.

Treatment Limitations - The Act specifically limits the combined total acreage of resource management activities designated in the Act to no more than 70,000 acres per year.

Exclusions - In addition to the exclusions found in the Forest Plans, Alternative 2 would prohibit resource management activities in the following exclusion areas:

Late Successional Old Growth Forest Areas – Timber harvest and road construction in highly ranked late successional old growth forests 16 (ranks 4 and 5) would be postponed for the duration of the pilot project. Approximately 60,000 acres meet this classification in the pilot project area.

Offbase and Deferred – Offbase and deferred areas are described in the Quincy Library Group Community Stability Proposal as "certain sensitive areas, such as proposed roadless areas and Scenic River corridors." They include many late successional old growth areas within the exterior boundary of the pilot project area that are not identified as "Available for Group Selection." Approximately 466,400 acres meet this classification in the pilot project area.

RESPONSE TO SIGNIFICANT ISSUES

Issue 1 – Old Forests and Old Forest-Dependent Species - Alternative 2 addresses old forest-dependent species by deferring timber harvest and road construction in approximately 60,000 acres of highly-ranked late successional old growth forest (ranks 4 and 5) in the area designated as "Available for Group Selection," for the duration of the pilot project.Additionally, nearly 466,000 acres of offbase and deferred areas would be excluded from resource management activities.

Issue 2 – Watershed Effects and Aquatic/Riparian Protection - Alternative 2 addresses aquatic/riparian protection by applying Scientific Analysis Team guidelines to the areas where resource management activities prescribed by the Act would be implemented. All remaining portions of the planning area would be protected using streamside management zone buffers. Additionally, a program of riparian restoration would be implemented.

Issue 3 – Economic Well-Being - Alternative 2 harvests approximately 286 million board feet (MMBF) of timber and 227,000 bone dry tons of biomass annually providing employment, income, and economic activity in local communities. Aesthetic values and recreational opportunities would be protected at a level commensurate with the current condition. Over time, reduction of wildfire hazard would enhance aesthetics, recreational opportunities, and natural values.

Issue 4 – Wildfire Hazard Reduction and Fuel Management - Alternative 2 addresses wildfire hazard reduction and fuels management by creating a network of up to 300,000 acres of defensible fuel profile zones over the pilot project period.

FOREST PLAN CONSISTENCY

Alternative 2 is not consistent with existing management direction in the Forest Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests, as amended. Selection of Alternative 2 would amend the Forest Plans.

ALTERNATIVE 3

DESIRED CONDITION

The desired condition is similar to the proposed action -- an "all-age, multistory, fire resistant forest approximating pre-settlement conditions," and healthy aquatic and riparian ecosystems. Forest stands would appear fairly open and dominated by large fire-tolerant trees. The defensible fuel profile zones would be short segments and much wider than those designed in the proposed action. Defensible fuel profile zones would be combined with adjacent area fuel treatments in many cases.

RESOURCE MANAGEMENT ACTIVITIES

In Alternative 3, resource management activities include:

Alternative 3 (Figure 2.3) establishes and implements a pilot project to demonstrate and test the effectiveness of specified resource management activities, by amending, as needed, management direction in the Land and Resource Management Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests.Alternative 3 creates fuelbreaks using area fuel treatments in combination with defensible fuel profile zones. Alternative 3 excludes resource management activities from late successional old growth forests (ranks 4 and 5). Alternative 3 provides protection for nesting and foraging habitat for the California spotted owl through implementation of a species strategy for maintaining suitable California spotted owl habitat. In this strategy, any resource management activity implemented in habitat currently considered suitable as nesting or foraging habitat for California spotted owls would not alter habitat to the extent that nesting habitat would be degraded out of nesting status, nor would foraging habitat be degraded out of foraging status.

Fuels Management – Up to 300,000 acres of defensible fuel profile zones and area fuel treatments would be constructed to improve protection from wildfire (40,000 to 60,000 acres annually). The defensible fuel profile zones would form a strategic network like those in the proposed action; however, the network would consist of a combination of defensible fuel profile zones and area fuel treatments 17 strategically located to protect resources from catastrophic wildfire. Area fuel treatments are located in ways that consider fire risk, vegetation, slope, aspect, proximity to defensible fuel profile zones, and existing roads. They are designed to complement the strategically located defensible fuel profile zone system. As in the proposed action, treatments planned near communities and other high use areas would be ranked as high priority for treatment.

Alternative 3 is consistent with the landscape level fuel strategy outlined in the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Final Report to Congress. It provides for achievement of the goals of the Wildland Fire Management Policy. Stand structure characteristics in both defensible fuel profile zones and area fuel treatments would be similar to those described in the proposed action, with the exception of meeting CASPO interim direction for canopy retention in suitable nesting and foraging habitat for the California spotted owl (Appendix Q). Defensible fuel profile zones and area fuel treatments would appear as open stands dominated by large trees. Some smaller trees may be present in small clumps or individually. The forest floor would be relatively open, with the exception of occasional large logs. As in the proposed action, timber harvest and prescribed fire would be used to construct and maintain defensible fuel profile zones and area fuel treatments. Maintenance, accomplished through prescribed burning, would be planned in intervals that mimic natural fire cycles. Reference Appendix C for modeling simulations of defensible fuel profile zone implementation.

Vegetation Management – Vegetation management in Alternative 3 consists of management of noxious and invasive exotic weed species, and stocking control through timber harvest. Timber harvest under Alternative 3 would use two silvicultural treatment systems – group selection and individual tree selection.

Group Selection - Group selection harvest would create openings ranging from ½ acre to 2 acres in size, distributed throughout portions of the pilot project area designated "Available for Group Selection." Group selection harvest would be implemented on 0.57 percent of the lands labeled "Available for Group Selection," or approximately 8,700 acres per year, for 5 years. Reference Appendix D for modeling simulations of group selection implementation.

Individual Tree Selection - Individual tree selection harvest treatments would be scattered throughout the pilot project area on lands designated as "Available for Group Selection." Reference Appendix D for modeling simulations of individual tree selection.

Riparian Management - Riparian management would consist of riparian restoration projects and riparian protection zones, as described in the document, Viability Assessments and Management Considerations for Species Associated with Late-Successional and Old Growth Forests of the Pacific Northwest. This report provides guidelines for riparian system protection required in the Act, commonly referred to as the Scientific Analysis Team guidelines. Scientific Analysis Team interim widths, standards, and guidelines apply only where management activities prescribed by the Act would be implemented.

The riparian management program would establish aquatic/riparian protection zone widths, and management restrictions and practices designed enhance aquatic and riparian ecosystems.Riparian and aquatic ecosystems would be managed to achieve riparian objectives, developed through watershed analysis, as identified in Appendix L. Riparian habitat conservation areas widths would be determined by watershed analysis, although interim widths as shown in Table 2.15 would be applied until the watershed analysis is completed. Riparian habitat conservation area management guidelines would apply within the protection zone. Scientific Analysis Team guidelines would supercede other direction, unless the conflicting direction (including PACFISH direction) provides greater protection to riparian and fish habitat or better achieves riparian management objectives. The Act exempts livestock grazing from the application of the Scientific Analysis Team guidelines for riparian protection during the term of the pilot project, except where resource management activities defined in the Act would be implemented.

A riparian improvement strategy is an essential component of the riparian management program (Appendix R). The riparian improvement strategy includes an analysis of watershed condition and trend, and cause and effect relationships. The riparian improvement strategy includes a determination of methods to move watersheds towards proper functioning condition. These methods may include adjustment of management practices and restoration projects. Essential components of the program include monitoring and adaptive management. The watershed improvement strategy is consistent with the strategy described by Clifton on behalf of the Feather River Coordinated Resource Management Group in a document entitled, East Branch North Fork Feather River Erosion Control Strategy.

California Spotted Owl Management - The report entitled The California Owl, A Technical Assessment of its Current Status (Verner et al, 1992), describes the rationale for the California Spotted Owl interim direction pertaining to suitable nesting and foraging habitat. California spotted owl interim direction (Appendix Q) is designed to protect large tree attributes for an interim period, but do not necessarily retain all habitat components needed for nesting and foraging. Management of snags and down logs would comply with California spotted owl interim direction (Appendix Q). In nesting and foraging habitat, fuel ladders in the 12 to 15 foot vertical space between the base of the live crowns and the ground surface would be removed in at least 90 percent of the treated area.

Where possible, vegetation treatments in suitable spotted owl habitat would retain or promote vertical diversity (more than one layer of vegetation) and crown cover. Limited opportunities exist in some currently even-aged stands to achieve multiple vegetation layers. In these cases, retention of crown cover with the largest trees would be of primary importance. When applied in concert with spotted owl habitat retention, vegetation management treatments would reduce the potential for crown fire initiation. Table 2.16 displays vegetation management guidelines for suitable spotted owl habitat. Reference Appendix Q for direction that is more specific.

Table 2.16 Management Direction for Suitable
California Spotted Owl Habitat
  NESTING HABITAT FORAGING HABITAT
Canopy Cover Retain at least 70 percent of crown cover Retain at least 50 percent of total crown closure 18
Retention of trees 6 to 23.9 inches DBH Retain at least 20 percent in lower canopy layer Retain at least 10 percent in lower canopy layer
Retention of trees greater than 23.9 inches DBH Retain at least 30 percent in upper canopy layer Retain at least 20 percent in upper canopy layer

Road Management - Road management activities in Alternative 3 would focus on repairing resource degradation caused by existing roads. Resource degradation repair methods would include road decommissioning, relocation, and reconstruction. Additional roads would be decommissioned in compliance with the Clean Water Action Plan. Amount of road construction would be directly related to amount of resource management activity accomplished.

Treatment Limitations – The total acreage of vegetative resource management treatments would not exceed 70,000 acres per year.

Exclusions – In addition to the exclusions found in the current Forest Plans, Alternative 3 would prohibit resource management activities in the following exclusion areas:

Late Successional Old Growth Forest Areas – Timber harvest and road construction in late successional old growth forest (ranks 4 and 5) would be postponed for the duration of the pilot project period. Approximately 60,000 acres meet this classification in the area designated as "Available for Group Selection."

Offbase and Deferred – Offbase and deferred areas are excluded from resource management activities.Approximately 466,400 acres meet this classification in the pilot project area.

Response to Significant Issues

Issue 1 – Old Forests and Old Forest-Dependent Species - Alternative 3 addresses old forest-dependent species by postponing timber harvest and road construction in approximately 60,000 acres of highly ranked late successional old growth forest (ranks 4 and 5) for the duration of the pilot project. In addition, approximately 466,000 acres of offbase and deferred areas are excluded from resource management activities.

Issue 2 – Watershed Effects and Aquatic/Riparian Protection - Alternative 3 addresses aquatic/riparian protection by creating riparian protection zones and riparian restoration projects using the Scientific Analysis Team guidelines. All remaining portions of the planning area would be protected using streamside management zone buffers.

Issue 3 – Economic Well-Being - Alternative 3 harvests approximately 251 million board feet (MMBF) of timber and 227,000 bone dry tons of biomass annually providing employment, income, and economic activity in local communities. Aesthetic values and recreational opportunities would be protected at a level commensurate with the current condition. Over time, reduction of wildfire hazard would enhance aesthetics, recreational opportunities, and natural values.

Issue 4 – Wildfire Hazard Reduction and Fuel Management - Alternative 3 addresses wildfire hazard reduction and fuels management by creating up to 300,000 acres of defensible fuel zones in combination with area fuel treatments over the pilot project period.

Forest Plan Consistency

Alternative 3 is not consistent with existing management direction in the Forest Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests, as amended. Selection of Alternative 3 would amend the Forest Plans.

Alternative 4

Desired Condition

The desired condition is similar to the proposed action -- an "all-age, multistory, fire-resistant forest approximating pre-settlement conditions," and healthy aquatic and riparian ecosystems. Forest stands would appear open and be dominated mostly by large fire-tolerant trees. The defensible fuel profile zones would be short segments and much wider than those designed for the proposed action with area fuel treatments adjacent to the defensible fuel profile zones in many cases. Large trees would be maintained during the pilot project period.

Resource Management Activities

In Alternative 4, resource management activities include:

Alternative 4 is one of the two preferred alternatives identified in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) (Figure 2.4). Alternative 4 establishes and conducts a pilot project to demonstrate and test the effectiveness of specified resource management activities, by amending, as needed, management direction in the Land and Resource Management Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests. Alternative 4 creates fuelbreaks using area fuel treatments in combination with defensible fuel profile zones. Alternative 4 excludes resource management activities from late successional old growth forests (ranks 4 and 5), and in areas of late successional emphasis 19. Alternative 4 provides protection for nesting and foraging habitat for the California spotted owl through implementation of a species strategy for maintaining suitable California spotted owl habitat. In this strategy, any resource management activity implemented in habitat currently considered suitable as nesting or foraging habitat for California spotted owls would not alter habitat to the extent that nesting habitat would be degraded out of nesting status, or foraging habitat would be degraded out of foraging status.

Fuels Management - Up to 125,000 acres of defensible fuel profile zones and area fuel treatments would be constructed to improve protection from wildfire (approximately 25,000 acres annually). The defensible fuel profile zones would form a strategic network like those in the proposed action; however, the network would consist of a combination of defensible fuel profile zones and area fuel treatments strategically located to protect resources from catastrophic wildfire. Area fuel treatments are located in ways that consider fire risk, vegetation, slope, aspect, proximity to defensible fuel profile zones, and existing roads. They are designed to complement the strategically located defensible fuel profile zone system. As in the proposed action, treatments planned near communities and other high use areas would be ranked as high priority for treatment.

Alternative 4 is consistent with the landscape level fuel strategy outlined in the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Final Report to Congress. It provides for achievement of the goals of The Wildland Fire Management Policy. Stand structure characteristics in both defensible fuel profile zones and area fuel treatments would be similar to those described in the proposed action, with the exception of meeting California spotted owl interim direction for canopy retention in suitable nesting and foraging habitat for the California spotted owl (Appendix Q). Defensible fuel profile zones and area fuel treatments would appear as open stands dominated by large trees. Some smaller trees may be present in small clumps or individually. The forest floor would be relatively open, with the exception of occasional large logs. As in the proposed action, timber harvest and prescribed fire would be used to construct and maintain defensible fuel profile zones and area fuel treatments. Maintenance, accomplished through prescribed burning, would be planned at intervals that mimic natural fire cycles. Reference Appendix C for modeling simulations of defensible fuel profile zone implementation.

Vegetation Management – Vegetation management in Alternative 4 consists of management of noxious and invasive exotic weed species, and stocking control through timber harvest. Timber harvest under Alternative 4 would use two silvicultural treatment systems – group selection and individual tree selection.

Group Selection - Group selection harvest would create openings ranging from ½ acre to 2 acres in size, distributed throughout portions of the pilot project area designated "Available for Group Selection." Group selection harvest would be implemented on 0.57 percent of the lands labeled "Available for Group Selection," or approximately 8,700 acres per year, for 5 years. Reference Appendix D for modeling simulations of group selection implementation.

Individual Tree Selection - Individual tree selection harvest treatments would be scattered throughout the pilot project area on lands designated as "Available for Group Selection." Reference Appendix D for modeling simulations of individual tree selection.

Riparian Management - Riparian management would consist of riparian restoration projects and riparian protection zones, as described in the document, Viability Assessments and Management Considerations for Species Associated with Late-Successional and Old Growth Forests of the Pacific Northwest. This report provides guidelines for riparian system protection required in the Act, commonly referred to as the Scientific Analysis Team guidelines. Scientific Analysis Team interim widths, standards, and guidelines apply only where management activities prescribed by the Act would be implemented.

The riparian management program would establish aquatic/riparian protection zone widths, and management restrictions and practices designed enhance aquatic and riparian ecosystems.Riparian and aquatic ecosystems would be managed to achieve riparian objectives, developed through watershed analysis, as identified in Appendix L. Riparian habitat conservation areas widths would be determined by watershed analysis, although interim widths as shown in Table 2.15 would be applied until the watershed analysis is completed. Riparian habitat conservation area management guidelines would apply within the protection zone. The Scientific Analysis Team guidelines would supercede other direction, unless the conflicting direction (including PACFISH direction) provides greater protection to riparian and fish habitat or better achieves riparian management objectives. The Act exempts livestock grazing from the application of Scientific Analysis Team guidelines for riparian protection during the term of the pilot project, except where resource management activities defined in the Act would be implemented.

A riparian improvement strategy is an essential component of the riparian management program (Appendix R). The riparian improvement strategy includes an analysis of watershed condition and trend, and cause and effect relationships. The riparian improvement strategy includes a determination of methods to move watersheds towards proper functioning condition. These methods may include adjustment of management practices and restoration projects. Essential components of the program include monitoring and adaptive management. The watershed improvement strategy is consistent with the strategy described by Clifton on behalf of the Feather River Coordinated Resource Management Group in a document entitled, East Branch North Fork Feather River Erosion Control Strategy.

California Spotted Owl Management - The report entitled The California Owl, A Technical Assessment of its Current Status (Verner et al, 1992), describes the rationale for the California spotted owl interim direction pertaining to suitable nesting and foraging habitat. California spotted owl interim direction (Appendix Q) is designed to protect large tree attributes for an interim period; however, it does not necessarily retain all habitat components needed for nesting and foraging. Management of snags and down logs would comply with California spotted owl interim direction (Appendix Q). In nesting and foraging habitat, fuel ladders in the 12 to 15 foot vertical space between the base of the live crowns and the ground surface would be removed in at least 90 percent of the treated area.

Where possible, vegetation treatments in suitable spotted owl habitat would retain or promote vertical diversity (more than one layer of vegetation) and crown cover. Limited opportunities exist in some currently even-aged stands for managing to achieve multiple vegetation layers. In these cases, retention of crown cover with the largest trees would be of primary importance. When applied in concert with spotted owl habitat retention, vegetation management treatments would reduce the potential for crown fire initiation. Table 2.16 displays vegetation management guidelines for suitable spotted owl habitat that would be applied in Alternative 4. Reference Appendix Q for direction that is more specific.

Road Management - Road management activities in Alternative 4 would focus on repairing resource degradation caused by existing roads. Resource degradation repair methods would include road decommissioning, relocation, and reconstruction. Additional roads would be decommissioned in compliance with the Clean Water Action Plan. Amount of road construction would be directly related to amount of resource management activity accomplished.

Treatment Limitations – The total acreage of vegetative resource management treatments would not exceed 70,000 acres per year.

Exclusions – In addition to the exclusions found in the current Forest Plans, Alternative 3 would prohibit resource management activities in the following exclusion areas:

Late Successional Old Growth - Late-successional and old growth stands (ranks 4 and 5) are excluded from timber harvest and road construction activities. Approximately 60,000 acres of highly ranked late successional old growth are within the areas designated as "Available for Group Selection."

Areas of Late Successional Emphasis – Areas of late successional emphasis would be excluded from timber harvest and road construction activities. Approximately 397,000 acres in this classification have been identified. Areas of late successional emphasis would be excluded from timber harvest and road construction activities.

Offbase and Deferred – Offbase and deferred areas are excluded from resource management activities.Approximately 466,400 acres meet this classification in the planning area.

Response to Significant Issues

Issue 1 – Old Forests and Old Forest-Dependent Species - Alternative 4 addresses old forest-dependent species by postponing timber harvest and road construction in approximately 60,000 acres of highly-ranked late successional old growth forest (ranks 4 and 5) and areas of late successional emphasis (ALSE) for the duration of the pilot project. In addition, approximately 466,400 acres of offbase and deferred areas would be excluded from resource management activities.

Issue 2 – Watershed Effects and Aquatic/Riparian Protection - Alternative 4 addresses aquatic/riparian protection by applying the Scientific Analysis Team guidelines to the areas where resource management activities would be implemented. All other portions of the planning area would be protected using streamside management zone buffers.

Issue 3 – Economic Well-Being - Alternative 4 would harvest approximately 85 million board feet (MMBF) of timber and 107,000 bone dry tons of biomass annually providing employment, income, and economic activity in local communities. Aesthetic values and recreational opportunities would be protected at a level commensurate with the current condition. Over time, reduction of wildfire hazard would enhance aesthetics, recreational opportunities, and natural values.

Issue 4 – Wildfire Hazard Reduction and Fuel Management - Alternative 4 addresses wildfire hazard reduction and fuels management by creating 125,000 acres of defensible fuel profile zones and area fuel treatments during the pilot project period.

FOREST PLAN CONSISTENCY

Alternative 4 is not consistent with management direction in the Forest Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests, as amended. Selection of Alternative 4 would amend the Forest Plans.

Alternative 5

Desired Condition

The desired condition is a managed ecosystem that mimics natural disturbance events and natural functions and processes. The intent is to protect and enhance ecological values reported in the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project, 20 and retention of high-quality late successional old growth reserves.

Old forest areas would be conserved. Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project buffer widths would be used for riparian protection. Timber harvest activities would be excluded in late successional emphasis areas and highly ranked late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5). At least 50 percent of the area within each California spotted owl home range identified as suitable habitat would be maintained. Fire would be restored as a natural disturbance process. Protected activity centers for goshawks (200 acres), forest carnivores (700 acres), willow flycatchers (variable size), great gray owls (50 acres in addition to the adjacent meadow ecosystem that supports the owl), and California spotted owls (300 acres) would be created. Roadless areas and roadless character would be protected.

Resource Management Activities

In Alternative 5, resource management activities include:

Alternative 5 (Figure 2.5) establishes and conducts a pilot project to demonstrate and test the effectiveness of specified resource management activities, by amending, as needed, management direction in the Land and Resource Management Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests.The pilot project would be designed to mimic natural disturbance events and the restoration of natural functions and processes. Alternative 5 employs an area fuel treatment strategy. It excludes resource management activities from areas of late successional emphasis and provides protection for riparian areas and old forests. Alternative 5 provides habitat protection for the California spotted owl, goshawks, forest carnivores, willow flycatchers, and great gray owls, and increased protection for roadless areas and roadless character.

Changes in Wildlife Management Direction – Management direction for wildlife in Alternatives 2, 3, and 4 is not consistent with existing management direction in the Forest Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests, as amended. Alternatives 2, 3, and 4 change the wildlife management direction in the Forest Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests as follows:

  1. The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans would be amended to require early consultation with the USDI Fish and Wildlife Service regarding Federally listed animal species. (Table 2.17)
  2. The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans would be amended to require development of bald eagle management plans in consultation with the USDI Fish and Wildlife Service. (Table 2.17)
  3. The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans would be amended to establish or revise limited operating periods for wildlife habitat protection. (Tables 2.18 and 2.19)
The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans do not contain management direction requiring for early consultation with the USDI Fish and Wildlife Service regarding Federally listed animal species. The Forest Plans would be amended to provide new direction for early consultation as shown in Table 2.17.

Table 2.17 Consultation Requirements
Amended Direction
FOREST PLAN AMENDED FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Conduct early consultation with the USDI Fish and Wildlife Service when any site-specific resource management activity is planned for implementation in suitable habitat in the pilot project area, for Federally-listed threatened and endangered animal species. At a minimum, consult for the following species:
  • Bald eagle
  • American peregrine falcon
  • Valley elderberry longhorn beetle
  • Shasta crayfish
  • California red-legged frog
  • Lahontan cutthroat trout
  • Northern spotted owl
Before silvicultural habitat manipulations in bald eagle wintering, roosting, or nesting habitat complete, in consultation with the USDI Fish and Wildlife Service, bald eagle management plans according to direction in the Pacific States Recovery Plan.

Table 2.18
Limited Operating Periods
FOREST PLAN FOREST PLAN REFERENCE CURRENT FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen Bald eagle and goshawk: Forest Plan page 4-55

California spotted owl: CASPO IG amendment

Limited operating period is suggested, but not defined for bald eagle and goshawk
Plumas Bald eagle prescription, Forest Plan, page 4-96

Goshawk prescription, Forest Plan, page 4-103

California spotted owl: CASPO IG amendment

Bald eagle (January through August)

Goshawk (March 1 through August 31)

Tahoe Goshawk: Forest Plan, page V-28

California spotted owl: CASPO IG amendment

Goshawk (March 1 through July 30)
FOREST PLAN AMENDED FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe When resource management activities occur in the locations shown in Table 2.19 - Limited Operating Periods require the indicated limited operating periods. Regard limited operating periods as a standard mitigation, in lieu of site-specific survey information. Based on site-specific survey information, a Wildlife Biologist may modify the distance, duration, or need for a limited operating period.

Table 2.19
Limited Operating Periods
SPECIES LOCATION LIMITED OPERATING PERIOD
Bald eagle Within designated territories November 1 through August 31
Bald eagle  Winter roosts November 1 through March 1
Peregrine falcon Within designated territories February 1 through August 31
California spotted owl Within ¼ mile of a protected activity center boundary March 1 through August 31
Goshawk Within ¼ mile of territory March 1 through September 15
Marten den Within ½ mile of known sites May 1 through August 1
Fisher den Within ½ mile of known sites March 1 through July 1
Wolverine den Within ½ mile of known sites February 1 through June 1
Sierra Nevada red fox dens Within ½ mile of known sites February 1 through July 1
Sandhill crane Within ½ mile of nesting sites April 1 through August 1
California red-legged frog All unsurveyed and occupied suitable habitat October 1 through April 15 or after the first frontal system resulting in more than ¼ inch of precipitation, or both. If a dry period of 72 hours or more occurs after the onset of the rainy season, operations may resume.

Forest Service policy regarding the management of threatened, endangered, and sensitive species, and other species for which viability is a concern would continue to be implemented, including:

1. Surveying of areas of suitable habitat, to protocols based on the best available science, to determine information relevant to implementation of site-specific resource management activities.

2. Where appropriate, limited operating periods would be applied to unsurveyed habitat considered to be suitable for threatened, endangered, or sensitive species; and to habitat considered suitable for any species for which viability may be a concern.

3. Where appropriate, habitat connectivity would be maintained to allow movement of old forest or aquatic/riparian-dependent species between areas of suitable habitat.

4. For the duration of a pilot project, old forest-dependent and aquatic/riparian-dependent species (including amphibians) cumulative reductions in suitable habitat would not be reduced more than 10 percent below 1999 levels.

Fuels Management – Alternative 5 does not limit the number of acres that could be treated during the pilot project period. For comparison purposes with other alternatives in this FEIS, an assumption was made that up to 200,000 acres would be treated to improve protection from wildfires. Use of mechanical treatment would be emphasized where needed, particularly around urban interface areas and major transportation routes. Prescribed fire would be the primary treatment on the remainder of the area and would be used as a means of reintroducing fire into the ecosystem. When use of prescribed fire alone would not meet the fuel reduction objectives, understory thinning would be completed before prescribed burning. Alternative 5 is consistent with the landscape-level fuel strategy outlined in the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Final Report to Congress and achieves the goals of the Wildland Fire Management Policy. Stand structure characteristics fuel treatment areas would be similar to those described in the proposed action, except for retention of a more dense overstory canopy in certain habitat areas and aquatic emphasis areas. Defensible fuel profile zones and area fuel treatments would appear as open stands dominated by large trees. Some smaller trees may be present in small clumps or individually. The forest floor would be relatively open, with the exception of occasional large logs. As in the proposed action, timber harvest and prescribed fire would be used to construct and maintain defensible fuel profile zones and area fuel treatments. Maintenance, accomplished through prescribed burning, would be planned at intervals that mimic natural fire cycles. Reference Appendix C for modeling simulations of defensible fuel profile zones.

Vegetation Management – Vegetation management in Alternative 5 consists of management of noxious and invasive exotic weed species, creation of forest openings, and stocking control through thinning. The amount, method, and location of vegetation management activities would be determined by conducting landscape-scale watershed analyses to establish a desired vegetative condition.

Forest Openings - Alternative 5 creates forest openings, which are generally less than ½ acre in size, ranging up to 2 acres in size, only when openings meet the objectives of providing desired vegetative structure and variability appropriate to the vegetation type.

Thinning - Thinning consistent with restoring, maintaining, and protecting forested ecosystems would be emphasized and implemented to achieve the desired condition over the landscape.

Changes in Vegetation Management Direction – Vegetation management in Alternatives 2, 3, and 4 is not consistent with existing management direction in the Land and Resource Management Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests, as amended (Forest Plans). Alternatives 2, 3, and 4 change the vegetation management direction in the Land and Resource Management Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests as follows:

  1. The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans would be amended to add standards and guidelines to address management of noxious and invasive exotic weeds. (Table 2.20)
  2. The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans would be amended to specify direction for oak management. (Table 2.21)
The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans do not currently contain direction for the management of noxious and invasive exotic weed plants. The Forest Plans would be amended to provide direction for weed management as shown in Table 2.20.

Table 2.20 Noxious and Invasive Exotic Weed Management
Amended Direction
FOREST PLAN AMENDED FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Manage National Forest System lands so that management activities do not introduce or spread noxious or invasive exotic weeds using the following guidelines during site-specific planning and implementation:

Inventory: As part of site-specific planning, inventory project areas and adjacent areas (particularly access roads) for noxious and invasive exotic weeds.

Control: If noxious weeds are found in or adjacent to a site-specific project area, evaluate treatment options relative to the risk of weed spread without treatment. Evaluate control methods at the site-specific planning level.

Prevention/Cleaning: Require off-road equipment and vehicles (both Forest Service owned and contracted) used for project implementation to be weed-free. Clean equipment and vehicles of all attached mud, dirt, and plant parts. Use standard timber sale contract clause C6.343 – Cleaning of Equipment in timber sale contracts.

Prevention/Road Construction: Require all earth-moving equipment, gravel, fill, or other materials to be weed-free. Use onsite sand, gravel, rock, or organic matter, where possible. Evaluate road locations for weed risk factors.

Prevention/Revegetation: Use weed-free equipment, mulches, and seed sources. Avoid seeding in areas where revegetation will occur naturally, unless noxious weeds are a concern. Save topsoil from disturbance and put it back to use in onsite revegetation, unless contaminated with noxious weeds.

Prevention/Staging Areas: Do not stage equipment, materials, or crews in noxious weed infested areas where there is risk of spread to areas of low infestation.

Table 2.21 Changes in Oak Management
FOREST PLAN FOREST PLAN REFERENCE CURRENT FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen Forest Plan, page 4-38 Retain 25 square feet basal area per acre.
Plumas Forest Plan, page 4-31 Retain 5 square feet per acre. Preference for oaks greater than 12 inches in diameter at breast height (DBH).
Forest Plan, page 4-34 Retain up to 35 square feet per acre on deer summer range and 30 percent canopy cover on deer winter range.
Tahoe Forest Plan, page V-30 In capable, available, and suitable strata, retain 30 square feet per acre in type X3P and X4P.

Retain 5 square feet per acre in other capable, available, and suitable strata.

FOREST PLAN AMENDED FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Where oak is present, retain an average 25 to 35 square feet basal area per acre of oaks over 15 inches diameter at breast height (DBH). Site-specific planning will determine feasibility and specific needs. Retain smaller oaks, if determined to be necessary for future recruitment.

Riparian Management – Riparian management would consist of the delineation of riparian protection zones as described in The Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Final Report to Congress. This strategy calls for the recognition of riparian area community, energy, and buffering requirements to aid in riparian area protection and management (Appendix M). Community and energy areas are identified along all channel types. A wider riparian buffer area, based on slope and potential soil erosion, encompasses the combined community-energy zone. Before any management activity would occur in the riparian buffer area, a landscape-scale (approximately 100,000 acres) watershed analysis would be conducted. In riparian protection zones and buffers, resource management activities would follow the standards and guidelines established by the site-specific watershed analysis. Only those management activities contributing to improvement or maintenance of watershed and aquatic conditions, as described in the riparian management objectives or established in a site-specific watershed analysis would be allowed. Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project widths, standards, and guidelines as displayed in Table 2.22 apply only where resource management activities would be implemented.

Table 2.22 Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project
Determination of Riparian Buffer Areas
STREAM TYPE RIPARIAN BUFFER AREA 
Perennial fish-bearing streams and natural lakes Average 540 feet on each side of the stream
Perennial non-fish bearing streams, ponds, reservoirs, and wetlands greater than 1 acre in size Average 540 feet on each side of the stream
Intermittent streams, including those ephemeral streams having a definable channel and evidence of annual scour and deposition Average 540 feet on each side of the stream
Landslides and landslide prone areas Use protection zones that cover the extent of the features

A riparian improvement strategy is an essential component of the riparian management program. The riparian improvement strategy includes an analysis of watershed condition and trend, and cause and effect relationships. The riparian improvement strategy includes a determination of methods to move watersheds towards proper functioning condition. These methods may include adjustment of management practices or restoration projects. Essential components of the program include monitoring and adaptive management. The watershed improvement strategy is consistent with the strategy described by Clifton on behalf of the Feather River Coordinated Resource Management Group (FRCMG) in a document entitled, East Branch North Fork Feather River Erosion Control Strategy.

Changes in Riparian Management Direction – Riparian management in Alternative 5 is not consistent with existing management direction in the Forest Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests, as amended. Alternative 5 changes the riparian management direction in the Land and Resource Management Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests as follows:

  1. The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans would be amended to apply the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project guidelines for aquatic/riparian protection and management zones. (Table 2.23)
  2. The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans would be amended to require habitat assessments and surveys for California red-legged frogs at elevations below 5,500 feet. (Table 2.24)
  3. The Tahoe and Lassen Forest Plans would be amended to require a watershed analysis whenever a resource management activity is planned for implementation inside a riparian buffer area. (Table 2.24)
Table 2.23 Changes to Aquatic/Riparian Protection Management Direction
FOREST PLAN FOREST PLAN REFERENCE CURRENT FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen Standards and guidelines 22.d.(2), page 4-32, and Appendix R Prescribe minimum width guidelines as 

Streamside Management Zones (SMZ) as follows:

  • 100 to 300 feet (perennial water bodies)
  • 50 to 300 feet (intermittent water bodies)
  • 50 feet (ephemeral water bodies)
Plumas Standards and guidelines, Streamside Management Zones (SMZ), pages 4-42 through 4-43, and Appendix M Prescribe minimum width guidelines as Streamside Management Zones (SMZ) as follows:
  • 100 to 300 feet (perennial water bodies)
  • 50 to 300 feet (intermittent water bodies)
  • 25 to 100 feet (ephemeral water bodies)
Tahoe Standards and guidelines 46, 47, and Appendix F, pages F-3 through F-6 Prescribe minimum width guidelines as 

Streamside Management Zones (SMZ) as follows:

  • 100 to 300 feet (perennial water bodies)
  • 25 to 200 feet (intermittent water bodies)
  • 25 to 50 feet (ephemeral water bodies)
Common to all three Forest Plans All three Forest Plans recognize the need to include other features in the SMZ, such as the top of inner gorges, the active floodplain, and the outer edge of riparian vegetation.
FOREST PLAN AMENDED FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Using an interdisciplinary team, identify the area relevant to stream, lake, or wetland processes and functions; and determine the extent of the community and energy areas. The community area includes the aquatic and riparian habitats necessary for the maintenance of flora and fauna dependent on these habitats.The energy area includes upstream, riparian, and upslope areas that contribute organic material and energy. The land use influence area (buffer) includes upstream and upslope areas that influence aquatic and riparian habitats. Calculate the buffer width as a probability of disturbance based on slope steepness and soil erodibility.

Table 2.24 Watershed Restoration
FOREST PLAN FOREST PLAN REFERENCE CURRENT FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
Lassen Forestwide standards and guidelines 22.Water and Riparian Areas d. Maintain or improve riparian-dependent resources.

Prepare and adhere to a Project Implementation Plan for any activity within a riparian area and include, at minimum opportunities and procedures for restoration of any deteriorated area.

Forestwide standards and guidelines, 22.Water and Riparian Areas e. Evaluate all riparian areas Forestwide and manage to reach natural or achievable site potential and desired ecological conditions
Plumas Forestwide standards and guidelines, Watershed Protection, pages 4-41 and 4-42. Protect highly sensitive watersheds through cumulative impact planning and rehabilitate highly disturbed watersheds.

Identify lands contributing to watershed degradation through analysis of National Forest System watersheds. Analyze and mitigate on a total watershed basis, not only on project areas.

Tahoe Appendix F, Tahoe National Forest Guidelines for Management in Riparian Areas and Streamside Management Zones (SMZ), Watershed Management Direction, page F-10. During compartment planning, identify opportunities to stabilize watershed problem areas.
FOREST PLAN AMENDED FOREST PLAN DIRECTION
 Lassen and Tahoe Complete a watershed analysis whenever resource management activities enter the riparian protection land use buffer.
Conduct habitat assessments and surveys for California red-legged frogs in all areas below 5,000 feet in elevation.

Road Management – Road management activities in Alternative 5 would focus on repairing resource degradation caused by existing roads. Resource degradation repair methods would include road decommissioning, relocation, and reconstruction. Additional roads would be decommissioned in compliance with the Clean Water Action Plan. Road construction completed would be directly related to the amount of resource management activity accomplished.

Treatment Limitations – The total acreage treated would be determined by annual budget allocations and by site-specific factors that influence priorities and accomplishment.

Exclusions – In addition to the exclusions found in the current Forest Plans, Alternative 5 would prohibit resource management activities in the following exclusion areas:

Late-Successional Old Growth – Late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5) are excluded from timber harvest and road construction activities. Approximately 154,000 acres meet this classification in the planning area.

Patches - Patches of old forest greater than 5 acres in size are excluded from timber harvest and road construction activities.

Areas of Late Successional Emphasis - Areas of late successional emphasis are excluded from timber harvest and road construction activities, except for those activities specifically designed to enhance old forest conditions. Approximately 397,000 acres of areas of late succession have been identified.

California Spotted Owl Home Range - At least 50 percent of the area within identified California spotted owl home ranges would be maintained as suitable habitat.

Protected Activity Centers - With the exception of light underburning allowed by California spotted owl interim direction, stand altering activities would be avoided within protected activity centers for goshawks (200 acres), forest carnivores (700 acres), willow flycatchers (variable in size), great gray owls (50 acres in addition to the adjacent meadow ecosystem that supports the owl), and California spotted owl (300 acres).

Offbase and Deferred – Offbase and deferred areas are excluded from resource management activities. Approximately 466,000 acres meet this classification in the planning area.

Roadless Management - In addition to the direction found in the interim rule published in the Federal Register, the following additional restrictions will be applied: (1) extend roadless protection to areas 5,000 acres or greater; (2) extend roadless protection to lands equal to or greater than 1,000 acres that are adjacent to designated Wilderness Areas or contiguous to designated Wild and Scenic Rivers that are classified as "wild," and (3) until an evaluation of individual roadless lands between 1,000 acres and 5,000 acres is completed, all roadless lands greater than 1,000 acres are managed to fully maintain their roadless character. Approximately 97,400 acres meet the criteria for roadless protection in Alternative 5.

Response to Significant Issues

Issue 1 – Old Forests and Old Forest-Dependent Species - Alternative 5 addresses old forest-dependent species by deferring timber harvest and road construction in approximately 60,000 acres of highly ranked late successional old growth forest (ranks 4 and 5), as well as deferring resource management activities in 397,000 acres of areas of late successional emphasis, except for those treatments specifically designed to enhance old forest ecosystem conditions. In addition, 50 percent of the area within identified California spotted owl home ranges would be maintained as suitable habitat.

Issue 2 – Watershed Effects and Aquatic/Riparian Protection - Alternative 5 addresses aquatic/riparian protection by requiring use of Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project guidelines for stream protection. All remaining portions of the planning area would be protected using streamside management zone buffers.

Issue 3 – Economic Well-Being - Alternative 5 harvests approximately 13 million board feet (MMBF) of timber and 68,000 bone dry tons of biomass annually providing employment, income, and economic activity in local communities. Aesthetic values and recreational opportunities would be protected at a level commensurate with the current condition. Over time, reduction of wildfire hazard would enhance aesthetics, recreational opportunities, and natural values.

Issue 4 – Wildfire Hazard Reduction and Fuel Management - Alternative 5 addresses wildfire hazard reduction and fuels management by strategically locating area fuel treatments, emphasizing the use of prescribed fire for implementation, and prioritizing fuel reduction efforts adjacent to urban interface and major transportation routes.

Forest Plan Consistency

Alternative 5 is not consistent with management direction in the Forest Plans for the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests, as amended. Selection of Alternative 5 would amend the Forest Plans.

Comparison of Alternatives Including the Proposed Action

The following series of tables and graphs are provided for comparative purposes only. They display the management strategies and tradeoffs associated with the proposed action and alternatives to the proposed action. No additional information is provided beyond that already discussed in the description of the proposed action and the descriptions of the alternatives to the proposed action. Table 2.25 presents an overall comparison of the proposed action to the alternatives. Table 2.26 presents a comparison of how the alternatives address the significant issues.

Table 2.25 Comparison of Alternatives
RESOURCE MANAGEMENT ACTIVITIES ALTERNATIVE 1
NO 
ACTION
ALTERNATIVE 2
PROPOSED ACTION
ALTERNATIVE 3 ALTERNATIVE 4 ALTERNATIVE 5
FUELS MANAGEMENT
Defensible fuel profile zones Not precluded under current management direction in the Forest Plans 40,000 to 60,000 acres per year 14,000 to 20,000 acres per year Approximately 12,000 acres per year Acres treated annually depend on funding and management objectives
Area fuel treatments Not precluded under current management direction in the Forest Plans Not applicable 26,000 to 40,000 acres per year Approximately 13,000 acres per year Estimate 30,000 to 40,000 acres per year; not to exceed 40,000 acres in combination with other treatments
VEGETATION MANAGEMENT
Size of group selection harvest openings ½ acre to 2 acres Generally less than ½ acre, but not more than 2 acres
Group selection harvest  Average 300 to 400 acres per year Up to 8,700 acres per year Up to 500 acres per year
Individual tree selection harvest Not precluded under current direction in the Forest Plans Allowed throughout the pilot project area
RIPARIAN MANAGEMENT
Protection Zone Method Variable width SMZ Variable width SAT guidelines Variable width SNEP guidelines
Perennial Streams with Fish Minimum 100 to 300 feet on each side Minimum 300 feet on each side Average 540 feet on each side
Perennial Streams without Fish Minimum 100 to 300 feet on each side Minimum 150 feet on each side Average 540 feet on each side
Intermittent Streams Minimum 50 to 300 feet on each side Minimum 100 feet on each side Average 540 feet on each side
Ephemeral Streams with Evidence of Annual Scour or Deposition Minimum 25 to 100 feet on each side Minimum 100 feet on each side Average 540 feet on each side
Natural Lakes Minimum 100 to 300 feet on each side Minimum 300 feet on each side Average 540 feet on each side
Ponds, Reservoirs, and Wetlands Greater than 1 Acre in Size Minimum 100 to 300 feet on each side Minimum 150 feet on each side Average 540 feet on each side
Wetlands Less than 1 Acre in Size Minimum 50 to 100 feet on each side Minimum 100 feet on each side Average 540 feet on each side
Landslides and Landslide-Prone Areas Extent of features
ROAD MANAGEMENT
Compliance with the Clean Water Action Plan Complies
Roadless area protection February 1999 moratorium restrictions
  Extend protection to areas greater than or equal to 5,000 acres, areas greater than or equal to 1,000 acres adjacent to Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers, and areas between 1,000 and 5,000 acres until an evaluation is completed
CALIFORNIA SPOTTED OWL MANAGEMENT
Habitat protection strategy CASPO IG implemented
  California spotted owl suitable habitat strategy 50 percent of spotted owl home range concept implemented
GRAZING MANAGEMENT
Grazing strategy Managed under current Forest Plan direction Current Forest Plan direction but SAT guidelines implemented where resource management activities overlap riparian habitat conservation areas Managed under current Forest Plan direction

Table 2.26 Summary of Alternative Response to the Signicant Issues
SIGNIFICANT ISSUE ALTERNATIVE 1
NO 
ACTION
ALTERNATIVE 2
PROPOSED ACTION
ALTERNATIVE 3 ALTERNATIVE 4 ALTERNATIVE 5
Old Forest Values and Old Forest-Dependent Species Resource management exclusions: 
  • SOHA 
  • PAC 
Resource management exclusions: 
  • SOHA 
  • PAC 
  • Offbase 
  • Deferred 
  • LS/OG 4 and 5
Resource management exclusions: 
  • SOHA 
  • PAC
  • Offbase 
  • Deferred 
  • LS/OG 4 and 5
Resource management exclusions: 
  • SOHA 
  • PAC 
  • Offbase 
  • Deferred 
  • LS/OG 4 and 5
  • ALSE
Resource management exclusions: 
  • SOHA 
  • PAC 
  • Offbase 
  • Deferred 
  • LS/OG 4 and 5
  • ALSE
  • 5 acre patches of high quality old forest
CASPO IG implemented CASPO IG implemented CASPO IG implemented

California spotted owl suitable habitat strategy 

CASPO IG implemented

California spotted owl suitable habitat strategy

CASPO IG implemented

50 percent of spotted owl home range concept implemented

Follow advice in Regional Forester’s letter of May 1, 1998 Follow advice in Regional Forester’s letter of May 1, 1999 Follow advice in Regional Forester’s letter of May 1, 1999 Follow advice in Regional Forester’s letter of May 1, 1999 Follow advice in Regional Forester’s letter of May 1, 1999
Watershed Effects and Aquatic/Riparian Protection CWE analysis completed with site-specific analysis 

SMZ guidelines for stream protection required 

BMP and SQS

Riparian restoration limited

CWE analysis completed with site-specific analysis 

SAT guidelines for stream protection required 

BMP and SQS

Riparian restoration emphasized

CWE analysis completed with site-specific analysis

SAT guidelines for stream protection required 

BMP and SQS

Riparian restoration emphasized

CWE analysis completed with site-specific analysis

SAT guidelines for stream protection required

BMP and SQS

Riparian restoration emphasized

CWE analysis completed with site- specific analysis 

SNEP guidelines for stream protection required

BMP and SQS

Riparian restoration emphasized

Watershed analysis required

Aquatic Conservation Areas identified

 
Contributes to Economic Well-Being No change Greater contribution than current management Greater contribution than current management Less contribution than current management Less contribution than current management
 
Wildfire Protection and Fuel Reduction No change Construct 40,000 to 60,000 acres of DFPZ annually. DFPZ patterns are developed in a network of linear strips that are generally ¼ mile wide Construct 40,000 to 60,000 acres of DFPZ and areawide fire hazard reduction treatments Construct DFPZ and areawide fire hazard reduction treatments on 25,000 acres each year Strategically located fuel treatments emphasizing the use of prescribed fire. Focuses fuel reduction efforts adjacent to urban interface and major transportation routes



Footnotes:

1Required by the implementing regulations for the National Environmental Policy Act at 40 CFR 1502.14(d).

2Title IV, Section 401(i)

3USDA Forest Service and USDI Bureau of Land Management, 1995.

4Key watershed:  A watershed containing habitat for potentially threatened species or stocks of anadromous salmonids or other potentially threatened fish, or a watershed that is greater than six (6) square miles with high quality water and fisheries.

5Viability Assessment and Management Considerations for Species Associated with Late-Successional and Old-Growth Forests of the Pacific Northwest, The Report of the Scientific Analysis Team, USDA Forest Service, March 1993.

6The Federal Register, Volume 64, Number 29, pages 7304 through 7305, February 12, 1999.

7California Spotted Owl Sierran Province Interim Guidelines Environmental Assessment, January 1993, pages lll-2 through lll-5.

8Old Forest:  Old forests are forested areas that look (have physical structure) and act (have ecological processes) as they might have in the absence of contemporary human activity (prior to the year 1850).  Old forests characteristically have:  (a) a significant number of trees approaching biological maximum age for the species present; (b) a complex horizontal and vertical structure, including both live and dead vegetation, shaped or maintained largely by natural disturbance or its functional equivalent; (c) an array of plant and animal species endemic to the region or location; and (d) continuity in characteristics (a) through (c) over large geographic areas (hundreds of thousands of acres).

9Forest Heath Pilot Program projects are designed to improve stand health, reduce risk of stand-replacing fires, and improve aquatic and riparian condition.  The monitoring strategy for these projects is focused on estimating the effects of various treatment schemes on fuel loading and vegetation.

10Clean Water Action Plan:  Restoring and Protecting America’s Waters, Report to the Vice President of the United States from the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Agriculture, February 14, 1998.

11Defensible Fuel Profile Zone:  A defensible fuel profile zone is a strategically located strip of land on which fuels, both living and dead, have been modified.  The objective is to reduce the potential for a crown fire and to allow fire suppression personnel a safer location from which to take action against a wildfire.  Defensible fuel profile zones are usually located in conjunction with a road system and often along topographic or vegetative features, such as ridgetops or meadows, that enhance their effectiveness.

12Status of the Sierra Nevada, Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Final Report to Congress; Centers for Water and Wildland Resources, Wildland Resources Center Report Number 37, University of California at Davis, July 1996.

13Final Report, December 18, 1995, prepared by the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture to establish principles and policies for wildland fire management.

14Appendix L contains excerpts from Appendix 5K of the SAT Report.

15Clifton, Clay C.; East Branch North Fork Feather River Erosion Control Strategy; USDA Forest Service, May 1994.

16The term “late successional old growth” is defined in the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project, Volume II, Chpater 21.

17Area fuel treatment:  A strategically located block of land on which fuels, both living and dead, are modified.  Area fuel treatments are arranged on the landscape in a pattern that would reduce fire intensity in the direction a fire is likely to spread.  Area fuel treatment improves wildfire suppression efficiency.

18Foraging habitat between 40 and 50 percent canopy cover would be retained at the existing canopy cover provided by both the lower and upper canopy layers as identified in Table 2.16.

19Areas of Late Successional Emphasis:  The Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project developed this strategy primarily for west side Sierra Nevada vegetation types.  Where possible, large areas (more than 20,000 acres) having a high percentage of late successional or old growth (ranks 4 and 5) were delineated as areas of late successional emphasis.  Areas of late successional emphasis are managed for old forest objectives.  Reference the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Report, Volume I, page 101 for additional details

20The Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Final Report to Congress (SNEP), Volume III, Chapter 5, Appendix 3 (Erman et. al. 1996, pages 270 through  273).

Return to Table of Contents