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Section 2
Biological Environment

Plant Biodiversity

Affected Environment

Portions of five floristic subregions are located in the planning area. The subregions of the California Floristic Province the Northern High Sierra Nevada, the Northern Sierra Nevada Foothills, the Cascade Range Foothill, and the High Cascade Range (Hickman 1993). The northeastern edge of the analysis area is in the Modoc Plateau region of the Great Basin Province. The current characteristics of these subregions are merely a snapshot in time, heavily reflecting recent human, climatic, and geologic events. Plant communities of the High Sierra contain species and habitats whose ranges have fluctuated greatly with glacial, tectonic, and volcanic activity. At the subregional level, changes in temperature, precipitation, elevation, and topographic position over the last 500 to 3 million years, can be considered extreme compared to other regions of the North American continent.

A brief warm interval between 1,100 and 700 years ago was followed by a cooler, wetter interval marked by multiple advances of alpine glaciers between 700 and 150 years ago (AD 1300 to 1850)(Woolfendon 1996). The older forests and some remnant riparian ecotypes present today originated during this period. Forest and riparian vegetation attributes have changed drastically, having little resemblance to the area before 1850. The current ecological status of these habitats is primarily caused by human activities within the last 150 years.

Cyclic and episodic disturbances provided fertile ground for genetic change in plants, creating a center of speciation in the High Sierra (Stebbins and Major 1965, Stebbins 1982) making the region containing the Lassen, Plumas, and eastern Tahoe National Forests a focal point for rare and disjunct plant populations and habitat types. Causes of rarity can be divided into two factors, anthropogenic (demographic) and stochasticity (environmental) causes. For the areas designated to be treated in the pilot project, most rare plants and habitats are affected by both factors. Anthropogenic factors cause rarity by depletion or extirpation of habitat, genetic variability, and population numbers. Stochastic factors are more complex; with a temporal component that is far longer than human history.

Due to environmental factors, plants and communities migrate. The Northern High Sierra Nevada/Cascade subregions contain endemic recent immigrants that have adjusted to Sierran habitats with relatively little evolutionary change (Stebbins and Major 1965, Stebbins 1982), recent immigrants that have and are speciating rapidly (for example, Ivesia and Astragalus) andplants that are considered paleoendemics (old species). Paleoendemics exist in rare relict habitats that are disjunct in the analysis area (for example, the Lakes Basin Area). These unique plants and their communities have managed to survive in pockets of favorable climate.

Site-specific examples of rarity are caused by environmental and biological factors and are scattered throughout the analysis area. The causes of rarity for species in the analysis area has not been fully confirmed; although it is known that most are initially rare for "natural" reasons and subsequently become threatened by human-caused habitat and population depletion, or extirpation and genetic erosion. Management has focused on protection from and monitoring of current disturbance activities, rather than the study of intrinsic or extrinsic causes.

The impact on the analysis area that has occurred due to recent human activities can be understood through the concept of disturbance regime. Change in disturbance regimes, from natural fire to fire exclusion and catastrophic fire; from sparse or episodic herbivory to intensive seasonal livestock grazing; from periodic and patch-effect forest pathogen mortality to intensive extirpation or reduction through timber harvest (large-scale removal of selected species and age classes of trees) denotes a sharp divergence from which the disturbance regimes the ecosystem evolved. Natural disturbance regimes (fire, windthrow, disease, drought, and high water flow) before 1850 were periodic or "pulse" disturbances, while much of the disturbance since has been constant, or "press" disturbance regimes (roads and off-highway vehicle use, livestock grazing, timber harvest, mining, dams, and reservoirs).

Forested land in the analysis area is made up of hundreds of vegetation or ecological types. West slope types can be broadly grouped into riparian, chaparral/oak woodland, ponderosa pine, mixed conifer, white fir, and red fir forest types. Fire suppression, timber harvest, mining, roads, and livestock use have greatly changed these forests to dense, young and mid-seral, even-age forests dominated by fire intolerant and shade tolerant species; tanoak in the lower elevations and fir species in the upper elevations. Forest biodiversity and structural complexity is now greatly reduced (Granite Basin Landscape Analysis 1996; French Creek 1997; Bald Mountain Landscape Analysis 1998). The east slope of the analysis area has unique topography compared to the Sierra Nevada to the south because it has basin-range and plateau features. This region has riparian, transition, and eastside mixed conifer, subalpine fir, and eastside pine forest types that contain different plant communities as compared to the west slope. Fire suppression, catastrophic fire, railroads and subsequent logging, road building, and livestock use have molded the current condition of the eastside ecological types. Many ecological types east of the Sierra/Cascade crest little resemble the historic condition. Currently, these forest types are deficient in late seral values as compared to their historic range of variability.

Some habitats are now being affected by noxious or invasive plants (Appendix G). Invasive non-native plants alter natural disturbance regimes, alter substrate stability (increasing soil erosion and stream sedimentation, and decreasing soil productivity), simplify food webs, directly compete with native species, rapidly preempt resources after disturbance, and alter soil chemistry (D'Antonio and Haubensak 1998). All of these processes cause a decline in biodiversity at the plant community level. Dense infestations reduce wildlife forage, reduce thermal and escape cover, and change waterflow and water availability to animal species. Long-term effects can include the extirpation of native communities, elimination of rare plants, degradation of wildlife habitat, and reduced recreational and economic values (Sheley, et al. 1998).

There is an abundance of rare plants (Appendix F) and unique habitats throughout the analysis area. Some unique areas have been identified or are currently proposed (Tables 3.20 and 3.21),

Table 3.20 Research Natural Areas and Special Interest Areas
(as of March 1999)
TYPE CODE NAME FOREST ACRES
SPECIAL INTEREST AREAS
Archeological
618
Meadow Lake Tahoe
27.3
TOTAL      
27.3
Botanical
557
Valley Creek Plumas
151.8
900
Butterfly Valley Plumas
501.5
MUR
Murken Bench Lassen
172.4
TOTAL      
795.7
Geological
539
Deep Hole Lassen
125.6
556
Soda Rock Plumas
36.8
CRA
Crater Lake Lassen
192.2
TOTAL      
354.6
Scenic
114
Feather Falls Plumas
1,945.8
543
Home/Deer Lassen
36.5
555
Little Last Chance Creek Plumas
973.1
TOTAL      
2,935.4
RESEARCH NATURAL AREAS
RNA (230)
801
Mud Lake Plumas
330.2
RNA
815
Babbitt Peak Tahoe
62.5
TOTAL      
392.7
 
GRAND TOTAL      
4,555.6

Table 3.21 Proposed Special Interest Areas
(Plumas National Forest)
NAME REASON LOCATION
Brady’s Camp  Meadow/stream Pilot project area
Dixie Mountain Western white pine, rare plants Mostly offbase and deferred
Fales Basin Bog, rare plants Pilot project area
Fowler Lake Floating bog, rare plants Pilot project area
McNab Meadow Relict species, serpentine Pilot project area
McRae Meadow Headwater, willow flycatcher Mostly offbase and deferred
Mountain House Old growth, riparian Pilot project area
Mount Fillmore Mountain hemlock, western white pine Mostly offbase and deferred
Red Hill Rare plants, serpentine Pilot project area
Butterfly Valley Pitcher plant bog, old growth  
Valley Creek Remnant old growth Pilot project area
Big Bald Rock Geologic, heritage, rare plants Mostly offbase and deferred
Little Volcano Limestone, rare species 50 percent pilot project area
50 percent offbase and deferred

On the Plumas National Forest, two botanical Special Interest Areas (Butterfly Valley and Valley Creek) have proposed boundary expansions. Twelve additional Special Interest Areas have been proposed since 1991.

Environmental Consequences

A quantification of effects for plant biodiversity in the planning area cannot be provided as the inventory analysis of the current status of seral stages and other biodiversity indicators for vegetation types has not been completed. However, specific information is known about specific landscapes across the planning area. Professional judgement based on knowledge and experience gained within the analysis area leads to the conclusions that are discussed in this section.

For biodiversity, and to maintain ecological integrity, hydrologic function, and plant and animal diversity, each seral stage should be represented in each ecological group. Seral stage representation refers to the given distribution of seral stages for a given ecological type over the landscape in the historic range of variability. The effects of the proposed resource management activities (fuel treatments, timber harvest, and riparian management) on biodiversity will differ depending on vegetation type. Potential impacts to plant biodiversity by the proposed action and alternatives include effects on ecological type diversity and health, rare plant and unique habitat health, and native versus invasive non-native individual plant and community status. The last category is discussed in the Noxious Weed section of this FEIS. Rare plants and their habitats are discussed in the Threatened, Endangered, and Sensitive Plants section of this FEIS and the Threatened, Endangered, and Sensitive Plants Biological Evaluation located in the planning file. Ecological type health and unique habitat health will be the focus of this discussion as significant links to old forest values.

The distribution of seral stages found in each ecological type at the landscape level (management unit, subwatershed) indicates a level of ecosystem functioning, and subsequently, is a primary indicator of the biodiversity status of the landscape. The health and sustainability of each forest ecological type can be managed by ensuring a distribution of seral stages that is in the historic range of variability. Coupled with this is the maintenance of ecological processes (natural disturbance regimes, nutrient cycling, succession and herbivory) and attributes found in each seral stage (dominant size class, density, canopy cover, vertical structure, soil and litter characteristics).

Seral stage, as defined in Appendix E in the Plumas Forest Plan, can be measured for all vegetation types. The combination of extensive timber harvest and fire exclusion has caused the forest types on the Hat Creek and Eagle Lake Ranger Districts of the Lassen National Forest, the Beckwourth Ranger District of the Plumas National Forest, and the Sierraville Ranger District of the Tahoe National Forest to be deficient in seral stages 5, 6 and 7. Before intensive timber harvest at least half of the forested, productive soils in the planning area were covered with the last three seral stages (H-4A, H-4B/C, and H-5C) in transition and eastside mixed conifer, eastside pine, and fir types.

Consequences Common to All Alternatives

Oak Woodland/Foothill Chaparral; Montane Chaparral Habitat - Only minor amounts of these habitat categories are included in the planning area. Most are in offbase areas, so the effects of the proposed action and alternatives are expected to be minimal.

Serpentine Habitat - Serpentine habitats vary from rock outcrops to productive sites that support timber. These habitats contribute unique species and genotypes adapted to serpentine soils. These community types could be altered by certain ground-disturbing activities, thus decreasing their biodiversity status. Other activities, such as prescribed burn, may allow for an increase in biodiversity (assuming noxious weed infestation does not occur). Serpentine areas should not be considered timber harvest production areas because they grow trees and other vegetation too slowly. These sites are also important habitats for unique and rare plants that contribute to an increased biodiversity.

Forest/Forest Openings Habitat: West Slope Yellow Pine, West Slope Mixed conifer, and True Fir types - Landscape analyses on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada, determined there is a lack of openings and late seral stages, and an abundance of medium sized trees or mid-seral stages 3-b and 3-c having 40 to 100 percent crown cover (R. O’Hanlon, 1999). There is a need for more early seral stages and older seral stages in these productive types because a significant percentage of trees exceed the diameter limit restrictions under the California spotted owl interim guidelines. The proposed resource management activities would create small, short-lived increases in forest openings, but canopies would reclose quickly on these sites. The alternative that creates the most early seral stages would be Alternative 3 because it includes construction of area fuel breaks. An area fuel break system would provide more of a mosaic of seral stages. Alternative 4 also uses an area fuel break system, but fewer acres are treated. Alternative 5 uses an area fuel break system but the amount harvest is significantly lower suggesting that few openings would be created. All alternatives would be limited by the California spotted owl interim guidelines that limit changes to west slope seral stage mixes.

East Slope Mixed Conifer and Eastside Pine - For these forest ecological types, environmental consequences are common in Alternatives 2, 3, and 4; Alternatives 1 and 5 have very different actions and effects. Therefore, all environmental consequences for forest types east of the Sierran/Cascade crest are discussed individually below.

Riparian/Meadow/Seeps/Vernally Wet Habitats Riparian areas, meadows, seeps and vernally wet areas contribute unique species to the planning area’s biodiversity. These areas should be protected and should allow historic range of variability ecological processes to occur. Buffers should be placed around each of the wet habitats to maintain biodiversity. The riparian areas would not be protected through application of Scientific Analysis Team guidelines (Alternatives 2, 3, and 4), and Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project buffers (Alternative 5) that recommend large buffers. Streamside management zone buffers are used in Alternative 1. Meadows would also need to be buffered (protected during management activities). Seeps and vernally wet habitats should be identified and once located should be buffered from ground disturbance. Ephemeral ponds, aspen stands outside of stream areas, and alder thickets are subject to impact from proposed resource management activities if they are not buffered.

Designated and Proposed Special Interest Areas and Research Natural Areas Resource management activities and treatments described in Alternatives 2 through 5, will not impact the attributes in designated and proposed Special Interest Areas and Research Natural Areas. The Forest Plans only allow those activities that promote the significant attributes within the SIA.

Consequences by Alternative

Alternative 1

West Slope Yellow Pine, West Slope Mixed Conifer, and True Fir Types - The no action alternative would continue to decrease the amount of early seral stages, while allowing mid-seral stages to slowly develop into late seral. Other consequences of the no action alternative would be an increase in fuel loading and a subsequent high probability of a stand replacing fires. On the west slope, many productive types receive high rainfall rates (more than 70 inches per year). When fires occur, they tend to be less frequent and more moderate in intensity than in the rest of the Sierra Nevada. Therefore, the no action alternative would have a negative impact on biodiversity.

East Slope Mixed Conifer and Eastside Pine - The resumption of individual tree selection and biomass production in management areas that meet the diversity standards and guidelines (Lassen Forest Plan 4-30 20(3), Plumas Forest Plan 4-30, Appendix E; Tahoe Forest Plan pages 28) may have no adverse effect if the treatment objective is to further biodiversity sustainability. Many management areas on at least two of the four eastside Ranger Districts are below the minimum requirement of 5 percent in late seral stages for eastside fir, mixed conifer, and pine types. Biomass thinning, as opposed to individual tree selection, in the deficient management areas would impact biodiversity attributes with the application of existing and amended standards and guidelines. Alternative 1 would have the least impact to biodiversity and seral stage attributes on eastside forests.

Alternative 2

West Slope Yellow Pine, West Slope Mixed Conifer, and True Fir Types The proposed action and alternatives would have positive effects that would be limited by the California spotted owl interim guidelines. Changes need to occur on the west slope to return forests to the historic mix of seral stages. Alternative 2 would not accomplish the necessary change.

East Slope Mixed Conifer and Eastside Pine: Effects of Large Tree Removal and Creation of Openings - The target acreage for group selection is the same for Alternatives 2, 3, and 4, approximately 43,500 acres. The non-treatment areas increase in acreage for Alternatives 3 and 4 leaving fewer acres that qualify as available for group selection in the pilot project area. As shown on Figures 2.1, 2.2. 2.3. 2.4, and 2.5, protected activity centers, spotted owl habitat areas, late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5) do not retain the remaining late-seral stages of forest types east of the Sierra/Cascade crest.

Group selection employed in overstocked, even-aged stands (seral stages 2 through 4) (Plumas Forest Plan E-1) may benefit ecological type health, biodiversity, and long-term seral stage development. In contrast, in uneven-aged late-seral stage stands, these values may be adversely impacted. Currently, seral stage 7 (H-5C: large sawtimber (greater than 24 inches DBH) and greater than 40 percent crown closure, multistoried) and 6 (H-4B/C: greater than 24 inches DBH, 40 percent crown closure) occur in small remnant patches in eastside forests. The acreage covered by these patches is below the minimum 5 percent requirement per management area (Plumas Forest Plan 4-30) on at least two of the four eastern Ranger Districts. Due to the existing condition of the eastside forest, it is probable that stands having mid-seral size class and density attributes (seral stages 4 and 5: H-3B/C, H-4A) would be adversely impacted by group selection because these areas would be targeted for treatment and not protected by the interim direction for California spotted owl.

In addition to changes to the tree size class attribute of mid-seral to late-seral stands is the effect of the openings. In contrast to the west slope of the planning areas, mid-seral and uneven-aged eastside mixed conifer and pine stands have far more and larger anthropogenic openings (wildfire burns, regeneration cuts, roads, skid trails, landings) today than those caused by adaphic and stochastic factors (rock outcrops, insect patches, patch burns, windthrow) in the past. As eastside fir and mixed conifer mid-seral stands increase their late-seral values the creation of more openings and removal of the larger trees would increase earlier seral attributes creating a further imbalance in the quantity of land now occupied by the various seral stages. As for eastside pine, thinning would promote later seral values, but group selection would reverse the trend for mid-seral stands.

East Slope Mixed Conifer and Eastside Pine: Defensible Fuel Profile Zones - In Alternative 2, defensible fuel profile zones would be implemented on 40,000 to 60,000 acres per year. Because much of the eastside is exempt from the interim direction for protection of California spotted owls, the protected activity centers, spotted owl habitat areas, carnivore corridors, and late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5), the eastside forest types would be targeted for proposed treatments. Desired condition for defensible fuel profile zones is defined as open stands, dominated by larger trees of fire tolerant species, where the most fire resilient condition would be achieved by thinning the smallest diameter trees. This definition fits biodiversity goals because these forest conditions mimic late-seral stand structure. In contrast, defensible fuel profile zone desired conditions such as open and discontinuous crown fuels, both horizontally and vertically, and the forest litter standards as proposed (5 tons per acre in fuels less than 11 inches in diameter, 2 of the largest logs per acre in the primary zone, 3 of the largest logs per acre across 222,610 acres) are below the historic range of variability for these attributes and may not fit community biodiversity goals. Thus, the creation of defensible fuel profile zones is likely to impact mid-seral and late-seral attributes in all forest types.

Considering the current forest health status of eastside forests within the analysis area, large trees would need to be selected for harvest to make the defensible fuel treatment construction economically feasible. Defensible fuel profile zones could impact mid-seral to late-seral stage retention in three ways: (1) by removing trees more than 21 inches DBH, (2) by reducing canopy cover to less than 50 percent, and (3) by removing snags, down logs, and forest litter to levels below the historic range of variability across the landscape. If some retention is not considered either by subwatershed, management area, or site-specific project, defensible fuel profile zone treatments would likely compromise attributes that promote later seral values

Alternative 3

West Slope Yellow Pine, West Slope Mixed conifer, True Fir types, East Slope Mixed Conifer, and Eastside PineEffects of group selection harvest in Alternative 3 are similar to Alternative 2. Alternative 3 proposes 14,000 to 20,000 acres of defensible fuel profile zone construction and 26,000 to 40,000 acres of area fuel treatment annually. Considering that proposed harvest would focus on eastside and transition forest types (non-California spotted owl areas), the combined fuel treatments would likely compromise attributes that promote later seral values east of the Sierra/Cascade crest.

Alternative 4

East Slope Mixed Conifer and Eastside Pine - Alternative 4 proposes roughly half the biomass production, sawlog volume (206 million versus 379 million), and half the area of fuel treatment proposed in Alternative 3. Even with this drop in harvest and fuel treatment, the effects on eastside forests are similar to Alternative 2.

Alternative 5

East Slope Mixed Conifer and Eastside Pine - The proposed individual tree selection, biomass production, sawlog volume, and area fuel treatments for Alternative 5 would have a beneficial impact on the biodiversity attributes of uneven-aged, stocked, mid-seral and late-seral eastside forest types. However, the low biomass production level might prevent the improvement of overstocked, even-aged, early-seral stage stands in need of treatment, in effect not promoting succession to later seral stages. A beneficial effect is the lack of ground-disturbance lowering risk of noxious weed dispersal and infestation, and retaining undisturbed soil and hydrologic function, thereby promoting beneficial ecological processes. The use of prescribed fire would increase risk of weed dispersal and infestation. Assuming the current and amended standards and guidelines are employed, it is likely Alternative 5 would have an overall beneficial effect on biodiversity attributes on the eastside forest types.

Disclosures

Relationship of Short-Term Effects to Long-Term Productivity - As the fuel treatments are applied over pilot project period, fewer and fewer stands would have mid-seral to late-seral attributes (canopy cover, forest floor cover, snags, down logs). The balance in vegetation structure, age class, and species composition affects all aspects of the ecosystem, both biological and physical. Hydrologic function and animal species are dependent on late-seral vegetation in both forest and riparian environments.

As group selection treatment is applied over the pilot project period, approximately 45,000 acres of additional early successional habitat would be created than exits today. Treated stands with mid-seral to late-seral attributes would be moved to earlier seral status and have fewer attributes to move them toward stages 5 to 7.. Hydrologic function and animal species are dependent on mid-seral to late-seral vegetation in both forest and riparian environments.

If group selection is employed in eastside stands that are good candidates for mid-trending-toward-late seral attributes, these stands would likely decrease mid-seral to late-seral biodiversity values. If fuel treatments are employed in stands that are good candidates for mid-trending-toward-late-seral attributes, these stands would further erode biodiversity values. Reduction in the amount of shade reaching the forest floor would promote regeneration of ladder fuels.

Unavoidable Adverse Effects - Correcting deficiencies in late seral attributes would not likely occur unless fuel treatment areas are avoided in east side forest stands. Activities that cause further deficiencies in seral stages 5 through 7 further increase the imbalance in distribution of seral stages found within the historic range of variability causing an adverse impact to biodiversity as the balance in vegetation structure, age class, and species composition affects all aspects of the ecosystem, both biological and physical

Irreversible Commitments of Resources - There are no known irreversible commitments of vegetative biodiversity resources.

Irretrievable Commitment of Resources - There is no known irretrievable commitments of vegetative biodiversity resources.

Other Relevant Disclosures - There are no additional relevant disclosures related to vegetation biodiversity.

Old Forest Vegetation

AFFECTED Environment

Old forests are forested areas with a physical structure and ecological processes similar to what would have been common before the year 1850 and before the implementation of current forest management activities. Old forests 18 are characterized by:

(a) significant number of trees that approach their biological maximum age;
(b) complex horizontal and vertical structure, including live and dead vegetation, that has been shaped or maintained by natural disturbances or their functional equivalents;
(c) an array of plant and animal species endemic to the region and location; and
(d) continuity in the above characteristics over large geographic areas (hundreds of thousands of acres).
Old forest acreage within the planning area is less than it was in 1850 for all vegetation types 19. The Science Review (Forest Service, 1998) states modern forests differ from pre-1850 conditions because of their (a) reduction in numbers of large trees and structural diversity within patches (local homogenization); (b) loss of diversity among patches (landscape homogenization and simplification); and (c) loss of continuity and distribution of old forests across the landscape (landscape gaps).


Footnotes:
  18Sierra Nevada Forest  Plan Amendment Environmental Impact Statement (preliminary work).

  19The Sierra Nevada Science Review (USDA Forest Service, 1998, page 23) describes a technique used to analyze old forest inventory by use of ground plot information.  This analysis technique then compared Sierran national park old forest acreage with that of Sierran national forest old forest acreage.  The national forests have an average old forest condition of approximately 15 percent of their forested area, while the national parks average 65 percent.



A number of indices can be used for old forest conditions, including current forest planning direction and prescription acres, late successional old growth and patch mapping results, California Vegetation (CALVEG) strata (Appendix B) and California Wildlife Habitat Relationship acres (Appendix H).

Current Forest Planning - Current direction as outlined in the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe Forest Plans, as amended by the California spotted owl interim direction, includes old growth management prescriptions for spotted owl areas and other areas where timber harvest is limited or restricted. These areas are old forest or will trend toward old forest. Table 3.22 lists these prescriptions and areas for each Forest.

Table 3.22
Current Old Growth Management Acres By Prescription
PRESCRIPTION LASSEN NF
(ACRES)
PLUMAS NF
(ACRES)
SIERRAVILLE RD
(ACRES)
Wilderness
100,000
21,000
O
Special Interest Areas
43,000
0
70
Wild and Scenic Rivers
0
19,000
0
Feather Falls Scenic Area
0
15,000
0
Sensitive – wildlife
0
0
5,110
Recreation
0
12,000
0
Minimal management
49,000
141,000
1,810
Late successional
98,000
0
0
Riparian/fish
28,000
45,000
5,040
Semi-primitive, non-motorized
48,000
79,500
0
Semi-primitive, motorized
17,000
0
0
Backcountry/natural
0
4,560
Bald eagle habitat
0
9,000
0
Spotted owl habitat
0
63,000
0
Goshawk habitat
0
3,000
0
Research Natural Areas
0
1,400
0
Unsuitable forest lands
0
0
9,220
SUBTOTAL
383,000
408,900
25,810
TOTAL NFS LANDS
1,130,000
1,204,000
169,620

Late Successional Old Growth and Patch Mapping - Franklin and Fites-Kaufmann (1996) 20 conclude that:

  1. There is relatively little high-quality late-successional forest remaining in the Sierra Nevada, particularly in commercial forest zones.
  2. Commercially important forest types, such as eastside mixed-conifer and eastside pine forests, are the types most deficient in high quality late successional forest relative to their potential and to pre-settlement conditions.
  3. Key structural features of late successional forests, such as large diameter trees, snags, and down logs are at low levels in the Sierra Nevada.
  4. Sierra Nevada forest cover is relatively intact and most stands have sufficient structural complexity to provide for at least low levels of late successional forest function.
  5. Much of the highly ranked late successional forest on National Forest System lands is unreserved and potentially available for harvest.
The above conclusions were based on a March 1994 Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project mapping exercise completed by ecologists, silviculturalists, and fire and timber managers from the various land management agencies. Together, these resource management specialists ranked areas of land according to their ability to contribute to late successional function. 21 Areas were assigned values ranging from 0 to 5, with 5 being the highest late successional old growth ranking. Table 3.23 lists the results of the late successional old growth rankings by forest type for the Sierra Nevada.

Table 3.23 Late Successional Old Growth
Percentage by Forest Type and Ranking 22
FOREST TYPE TOTAL ACRES RANKED "M" PERCENT BY RANK
  0 1 2 3 4 5
Foothill pine and oak
239
14
24
54
8
0
0
Westside mixed conifer
3,345
4
12
33
31
15
5
White fir
218
3
16
34
33
7
7
Red fir
1,476
0
9
28
34
17
13
Jeffrey pine
340
1
7
28
55
9
0
Subalpine 
2,025
5
27
32
32
4
0
Eastside pine
2,776
9
24
45
14
5
2
Eastside mixed conifer and white fir
712
4
22
39
26
9
0
Pinyon and juniper
1,461
19
75
5
1
0
0
Riparian hardwood
314
7
47
33
7
6
0
All Forest Types
12,906
5
20
32
28
10
4



Footnotes:
  20An Assessment of Late-Successional Forests of the Sierra Nevada, Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project, Volume II, pages 648-650, 1996.

  21Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project, Volume II, Chapter 21, Appendix 21.1.

  22Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project, Volume II, page 647.



Late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5) polygons are most important to old forest values. The mapping exercises considered patches and polygons. Patches are 1 to 5 acre areas with somewhat uniform characteristics and can be late successional old growth ranked. Polygons are 500 to 10,000 acre areas that are late successional old growth ranked according to the predominance of patches. Polygons on the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests range from 6,600 to 7,400 acres. Many late successional old growth rank 3 polygons have a high percentage of highly ranked patches and contribute moderately to old forest. Table 3.24 lists late successional old growth rank 3 polygons by percentage of ranked 4 and 5 patches.

Table 3.24 Percentage of Rank 3 Polygons with Patches of Rank 4 and 5 Included 23
Forest type Percentage of polygon in patches ranks 4 and 5 
  Less than 5 5 TO 25 25 TO 50 MORE THAN 50
Westside mixed conifer
59
9
18
14
Red fir
48
20
13
19
Eastside pine
60
23
12
5

Tables 3.25 and 3.26 list late successional old growth ranks 3, 4, and 5 information for the Lassen, Plumas, and Sierraville District, Tahoe National Forests with additional information on offbase and deferred lands.

Table 3.25 Acreage of Late Successional Old Growth Ranks 4 and 5 by Land Classification
(Based on Forest Service geographic information system (GIS) information)
Forest Total Acres In QLG Available Off-Base Wilderness Deferred Other Total Forested Acres Percent
Lassen
44,946
14,995
25,767
3,598
586
869,119
5.2
Plumas
105,382
42,948
58,081
44
4,309
1,142,795
9.2
Sierraville
3,422
2,481
0
0
941
141,634
2.4
Total
153,750
60,424
83,848
3,642
5,836
2,153,548
7.1


Footnotes:
  23Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project, Volume II, page 648.

Table 3.26 Acres of Late Successional Old Growth Ranked 3 by Land Classification
(Based on Forest Service GIS information)
Forest Total Acres In QLG Available Off-Base Wilderness Deferred Other Total Forested Acres Percent
Lassen
106,273
60,510
30,602
365
14,769
869,119
12.2
Plumas
81,824
48,217
19,193
9,679
4,738
1,142,795
7.2
Sierraville
741
93
449
0
199
141,634
0.5
Total
188,838
108,820
50,241
10,044
19,733
2,153,548
8.8

Table 3.27 Acres of Areas of Late Successional Emphasis by Land Classification
(Based on Forest GIS information)
Forest Total Acres In QLG Available Off-Base Wilderness Deferred Other  Total Forested Acres Percent
Lassen
172,951
79,849
80,259
7,632
5,211
869,119
19.9
Plumas
220,840
89,644
97,773
21,437
11,986
1,142,795
19.3
Sierraville
3,643
2,574
23
0
1,046
141,634
2.6
Total
397,434
172,067
178,055
29,069
18,243
2,153,548
18.5

Summary - Late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5) polygons comprise 7.1 percent of the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests. Late successional old growth (rank 3) polygons (with more than 25 percent highly ranked patches) comprise an additional 8.8 percent of the forested area. In response to Congressional and Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Steering Committee direction, the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Science Team Working Group (1996) developed alternative management strategies to protect and enhance old forest and old forest-dependent wildlife species. Part of their charge was to assess whether late successional reserves are necessary. The various strategy alternatives are discussed in the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project: Addendum to the Final Report (SNEP Addendum, Chapter 3, pages 53 through 70). In designing alternatives, the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Working Group developed criteria for a late successional old growth strategy (SNEP Addendum, pages 54 through 62,). One criterion involves retaining large reserves of late successional old growth forest, leading to the development of areas of late successional forest emphasis. Areas of late successional emphasis are composed of one or more highly ranked late successional old growth polygons, but also can contain lower ranked late successional old growth polygons to connect highly ranked areas and meet the size requirements for old forest objectives.

The areas of late successional emphasis strategy as discussed in the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project would allow for some management activity. Volume I, Chapter 6 provides some insight into the intent of the areas of late successional emphasis strategy, stating: "Management of areas of late successional emphasis would emphasize treatments to maintain, enhance, and protect high quality late successional conditions. Active management within areas of late successional emphasis is anticipated in at least some areas, with prescribed fire being the primary tool. Mechanical fuel treatment (timber harvest) could be allowed if limited in intensity and extent so as to maintain conditions as near natural as possible." Table 3.27 displays areas of late successional emphasis strategy for the planning area by acres.

CALVEG Strata
Between 1988 and 1991, the planning area was classified into vegetation types using satellite imagery. On-the-ground inventory plots were installed between 1992 and 1995 to provide a database link. Areas (interpreted as stands of at least 2.5 acres) were labeled from the satellite imagery using the CALVEG Classification System (Appendix B). To simplify the analysis, vegetation was categorized into strata. Strata labels were defined by tree type, size, and canopy cover. The regional type codes (Appendix B) and the Pacific Southwest Region size class and canopy closure codes (Appendix H) determined strata labeling. Table 3.28 displays acres of land by large tree strata.

Table 3.28 Acres by Strata and Land Classification
(Acres may be listed in more than one)
Forest Strata Total Acres In QLG Available In LS/OG 4 and 5 In  Alse Off-Base Deferred Total Forest Acres Percent
Lassen F4G
63,227
37,744
9,697
22,451
25,008
 
F4N
18,080
11,390
1,381
5,927
8,558
M4G
9,095
3,065
2,774
5,592
7,771
M4N
7,496
2,617
1,465
3,739
7,185
R4N
16,223
7,563
789
7,395
4,653
W4N
13,394
9,667
1,173
3,769
4,039
TOTAL  
127,515
72,046
     
869,119
14.7
Plumas F4G
10,603
7,436
1,753
4,122
2,499
 
J4G
2,100
1,642
0
196
375
M4G
16,367
11,975
2,066
5,618
4,102
P4G
5,654
3,919
723
2,298
1,426
R4G
3,228
803
27
1,529
1,512
TOTAL  
37,952
25,775
     
1,142,795
3.3
Sierraville F4G
14,661
14,175
69
69
124
 
F4P
2,240
2,321
25
25
1
J4G
6,557
6,340
0
0
112
J4P
1,443
1,398
0
0
33
R4G
14,813
13,088
716
782
1,885
R4P
3,398
3,048
104
104
255
TOTAL  
43,292
40,370
     
141,634
30.6
Grand Total  
208,759
138,191
     
2,153,548
9.7

California Wildlife Habitat Relationships
The California Wildlife Habitat Relationship System, an information system that describes the management status, distribution, life history, and habitat requirements of California's wildlife species, was established by Federal and State agencies during the 1980s. This system defines habitat by dominant vegetation, tree size, and tree canopy cover, and can be used to discuss old forest conditions. Appendix H provides more information on habitat classification and Appendix AA is the wildlife report. Table 3.29 displays acres of land by California Wildlife Habitat Relationship classifications dominated by large trees.

Table 3.29 Acres by California Wildlife Habitat Relationships and Land Classification
(Acres can be listed in more than one classification)
Forest Tree Size & Canopy Class Total Acres In QLG Available In LS/OG 4 and 5 In ALSE  Off-Base Deferred Total Forest Acres Percent
Lassen 5S
11,470
7,978
340
1,109
4,666
 
6
16,591
5,682
4,239
9,331
14,957
TOTAL  
28,061
13,660
     
869,119
3.3
Plumas 5M
13,830
8,239
1,780
5,651
4,012
 
5S
8,040
5,802
103
1,695
1,433
6
132,845
93,131
9,980
35,802
34,731
TOTAL  
154,715
107,172
     
1,142,795
13.5
Sierraville 5S
89
0
0
0
0
 
5M
21,039
18,439
1,686
1,788
3,021
TOTAL  
21,128
18,439
     
141,634
14.9
Grand Total  
203,904
139,271
     
2,153,548
9.5

Summary - In summary, old forest conditions on the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests have been greatly diminished since pre-settlement times. In contrast with National Forest System lands, Lassen Volcanic National Park has 79 percent late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5) polygons, compared to the 9 percent on the Lassen National Forest in similar vegetation types (SNEP, Volume I, Chapter 6, page 98). Table 3.30 compares the various indices.

Table 3.30 Percent of Forested (F) or Total (T) Landbase in Old Forest Conditions by Index
Index number Index description Percent
1 Forest plan prescriptions (existing and trending toward old forest conditions)
32.7 (T)
2 Late successional old growth polygons (ranks 4 and 5)
7.1 (F)
3 Late successional old growth polygons (ranks 3, 4, and 5)
15.9 (F)
4 Areas of late successional emphasis
18.5 (F)
5 Size 4 strata
9.7 (F)
6 Size 5 and 6 California Wildlife Habitat Relationships classification
9.5 (F)

Calculation of Indices in Table 3.30 - In Index 1, percent is calculated from Table 3.22. The total of all the acres with restricted vegetation management or old forest objectives, as described in the current Forest Plans is divided by the total acres in the analysis area (T). Index 2 is derived from Table 3.25. The percent is calculated by dividing the total acres of late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5) by the total forested acres in the analysis area (F). Index 3 adds the percent of late successional old growth (rank 3), as shown in Table 3.26, to percent of forested areas as shown in Table 3.25. Index 4 percent is taken from Table 3.27. The percent is total acres of areas of late successional emphasis divided by the total forested acres in the analysis area (F). Index 5 is derived from Table 3.28. The total acres of size 4 class are divided by the total forested acres in the analysis area (F). Index 6 is from Table 3.29. The total acres of size 5 and 6 are divided by total forested acres in the analysis area (F).

Environmental Consequences

The resource management activities described in the proposed action and alternatives would have varying effects on the amount and distribution of old forest. Attributes such as the number of large trees, horizontal and vertical structure, the number of dead trees, and size and distribution of old forest stands are key to identifying old forest values. The Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project identified and ranked late successional old growth areas according to a developed set of criteria and suggested a strategy for establishing areas of late successional emphasis.

The effects to old forests under the proposed action and each alternative are described below. The strata vegetation types have varying interpretations on the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests. To level this variable of interpretation, all strata types were calculated to California Wildlife Habitat Relationship types, based on actual plot data.

Direct and Indirect Effects Common to all Alternatives

Large Tree Retention - All alternatives comply with the large tree retention guidelines in the interim direction for the protection of California spotted owl. In "selected" strata, no live tree over 30 inches in diameter at breast height (DBH) would be harvested, and the largest trees in each stand comprising 40 percent of the existing basal area would be retained. In "other" strata, no live tree over 30 inches diameter at breast height (DBH) would be harvested and the largest trees in each stand comprising 30 percent of the basal area would be retained. 24



Footnotes:
  24Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact for California Spotted Owl Sierran Province Interim Guidelines, January, 1993

Forest Plans - All alternatives would comply with the Forest Plans, as amended. Timber harvest restrictions would be unchanged for areas where old forest objectives drive management. Protected activity centers and spotted owl habitat areas would be managed as described in the Forest Plans. All alternatives would maintain, at minimum, the same amount of restricted timber harvest acres and old forest emphasis acres listed in the Forest Plans (Forest Service, 1992, 1988, 1990).

Group Selection Harvesting - Group selection harvesting would create forest openings up to 2 acres in size. Interim California spotted owl direction would apply to large tree retention in "selected" and "other" strata. To meet the requirements of the interim direction, group selection in "select" or "other" strata would leave the larger trees. For a listing of the estimated remaining trees in openings by forest and by vegetation type, refer to Appendix E. The analysis in Appendix E provides feasibility decision criteria based on areas where California spotted owl interim direction would not inhibit regeneration and growth of seedlings.

All alternatives would implement group selection in accordance with interim direction, which states (page IV-62), "Group selection will be considered to provide continuous forest cover. This interpretation is made because group selection tends to mimic natural regeneration patterns, and other harvests (intermediate harvests), while variable in appearance, tend to leave sufficient forest vegetation that a perception of continuous forest cover is maintained."

Cumulative Effects Common to All Alternatives

Adaptive management strategies such as those described in the interim direction for California spotted owl (page III-3), provides direction for some large tree harvest for projects designed to meet resource objectives or safety requirements. The proposed action and alternatives would not decrease the number of large trees in "selected" and "other" strata during the pilot project period. Thinning stands to decrease density levels would, over time, promote the growth of large trees.

Direct, Indirect, and Cumulative Effects By Alternative

Table 3.31 is an overview comparison of vegetation management effects on late successional old growth areas and areas of late successional emphasis, by alternative. More specific information follows in the discussion of alternatives.

Table 3.31Effects by Alternative on Late Successional Old Growth
and Areas of Late Successional Emphasis
Alternative Late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5) Late successional old growth 

(rank 3) 

Areas of late successional emphasis
1 Minor. California spotted owl guidelines would be followed to retain large trees in selected/other strata. Minor. California spotted owl guidelines would be followed to retain large trees in selected and other strata. Some harvest of larger trees in unsuitable strata. Moderate levels of expected vegetation management accomplishment.  Minor. California spotted owl guidelines would be followed to retain large trees in selected and other strata. Some harvest of larger trees in unsuitable strata. Moderate levels of expected vegetation accomplishment.
2 None. Timber harvest and road building would be deferred. Moderate. California spotted owl guidelines would be followed to retain large trees in selected and other strata. Some harvest of larger trees in unsuitable strata. High levels of expected vegetation management accomplishment.  Moderate. California spotted owl guidelines would be followed to retain large trees in selected and other strata. Some harvest of larger trees in unsuitable strata. High levels of expected vegetation management accomplishment. 
3 None. Timber harvest and road building would be deferred.  Moderate. California spotted owl guidelines would be followed to retain large trees in selected and other strata. Some harvest of larger trees in unsuitable strata. High levels of expected vegetation management accomplishment.  Moderate. California spotted owl guidelines would be followed to retain large trees in selected and other strata. Some harvest of larger trees in unsuitable strata. High levels of expected vegetation management accomplishment.
4 None. Timber harvest and road building would be deferred.  Moderate. California spotted owl guidelines would be followed to retain large trees in selected and other strata. Some harvest of larger trees in unsuitable strata. Moderate levels of expected vegetation management accomplishment. Group selection accomplishments still high.  None. Timber harvest and road building would be deferred. 
5 None. Timber harvest and road building would be deferred None. Highly ranked patches of old forest are limited to only very minor vegetation management. None. Timber harvest and road building would be deferred. 

A breakdown of suitable and unsuitable California spotted owl habitat is pertinent to the analysis of vegetation management effects on highly ranked late successional old growth (rank 3) and areas of late successional emphasis. For Tables 3.32 through 3.35 California Wildlife Habitat Relationship classifications were used as calculated from Forest inventory plot data. Only acres available for mechanical treatment (commercial tree harvest) are listed. California Wildlife Habitat Relationship size and canopy closure types suitable for spotted owl habitat are: 4M, 4D, 5M, 5D, and 6. (Appendix H provides a description of California Wildlife Habitat Relationship tree size and canopy closure codes.)

There are 397,000 acres of areas composed of late successional emphasis communities in the pilot project area, of which 172,000 acres are available for group selection. Of those 172,000 acres, fewer are available for mechanical treatment (Table 3.35). There are 188,000 acres late successional old growth (rank 3) in the pilot project area. Highly ranked late successional old growth (rank 3) are more than 25 percent late successional old growth (ranks 4 or 5) patches. Of this amount, 109,000 acres are in areas identified as available for group selection. Of those 109,000, fewer are available for mechanical treatment (Table 3.33).

All late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5) areas are in areas of late successional emphasis. As noted in Table 3.31, management of these areas varies little by alternative. There are approximately 154,000 areas of late successional emphasis acres within the pilot project area, of which 60,000 are in areas available for group selection.

Table 3.32 Highly Ranked Late Successional Old Growth (Rank 3) Acres
By Suitable and Unsuitable California Spotted Owl Habitat
(Acres within defensible fuel profile zonesmodeled as available for mechanical treatment)
Alternative Suitable owl habitat (acres) Unsuitable for owl habitat (acres) Total
Acres
1    
0
2
6,207
7,343
13,550
3
10,247
10,106
20,353
4
3,583
5,760
9,343
5
8,377
6,678
15,055

Table 3.33 Highly Ranked Late Successional Old Growth (Rank 3) Acres
By Suitable and Unsuitable California Spotted Owl Habitat
(Total acres available for mechanical treatment)
Alternative Suitable owl habitat (acres) Unsuitable for owl habitat (acres) Total
Acres
1
53,821
42,197
96,018
2
40,311
43,738
84,049
3
40,311
43,738
84,049
4
32,307
38,159
70,466
5
11,078
9,607
20,685

Table 3.34 Areas of Late Successional Emphasis
Acres by Suitable and Unsuitable California Spotted Owl Habitat
(Acres within defensible fuel profile zones available for mechanical treatment)
Alternative Suitable owl habitat (acres) Unsuitable for owl habitat (acres) Total
Acres
1    
0
2
7,063
9,333
16,396
3
9,350
7,239
16,589
4
0
0
0
5
0
0
0

Table 3.35 Areas of Late Successional Emphasis
Acres by Suitable and Unsuitable California Spotted Owl Habitat
(Total acres available for mechanical treatment)
Alternative Suitable owl habitat (acres) Unsuitable for owl habitat (acres) Total
Acres
1
98,137
54,319
152,456
2
43,404
49,754
93,158
3
43,404
49,754
93,158
4
0
0
0
5
0
0
0

Direct, Indirect, and Cumulative Effects

Alternative 1

Alternative 1 allows for individual tree selection on approximately 125,000 acres, and group selection on approximately 1,500 acres during the term of the project period. Annual harvest levels could vary, but all management activities would comply with interim direction for protection of the California spotted owl.

Late Successional Old Growth (Ranks 4 and 5) - A total of 154,000 acres of late successional old growth areas (ranks 4 and 5) are within the pilot project area. In a May 1, 1998, letter to Forest Supervisors 25, the Regional Forester directed that no timber sales should be offered in late successional old growth areas (ranks 4 and 5), but said that fire hazard reduction activities could continue. The Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests are following the Regional Forester’s direction, and expect to continue during the implementation period for a pilot project. Following the Regional Forester’s direction would reduce loss or degradation of late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5), and there would be no expected cumulative effects would be definable at the programmatic level.



Footnotes:
  25Forest Service Memo.  May 1, 1998.  Improving Conservation Options for National Forests in the Sierra Nevada.


Late Successional Old Growth (Rank 3) - Table 3.33 lists the total late successional old growth (rank 3) strata acreage available for management under the current Forest Plans. There are approximately 96,000 acres of late successional old growth (rank 3), of which 54,000 is in "selected" and "other" strata owl habitat and shown as suitable habitat in Table 3.33. Interim direction for the protection of California spotted owl restricts removal of large trees and requires basal area retention within these strata. Management activities within suitable owl habitat under the current Forest Plans would not affect large tree size classes, but could effect the density of stands. Stands that are classified 5D in the California Wildlife Habitat Relationship System (Appendix H) could, after management, become 5M. Construction of defensible fuel profile zones, and individual tree selection and group selection harvests would be permitted. The locations of management activities would be unknown until site-specific analysis occurs, so the effect of management on late successional old growth (rank 3) is difficult to assess at a programmatic level.

In unsuitable habitat, interim direction for the protection of the California spotted owl requiring large tree and basal area retention would not apply. There is 42,000 acres of late successional old growth (rank 3) in unsuitable habitat available for mechanical treatment. In recent years, most resource management activities have used the even-aged silvicultural treatment known as "thinning from below." This silvicultural treatment leaves the largest and most vigorous trees and harvests the smaller less vigorous trees. The locations of future management activities would not be known until site-specific analysis occurs, so the effect of management on late successional old growth (rank 3) is difficult to assess at a programmatic level.

The overall effect of management activities during the pilot project period on late successional old growth (rank 3) areas is minor because of the restrictions required in the interim direction for the protection of the California spotted owl and management objectives. The effects are less than Alternatives 2, 3, and 4, and greater than Alternative 5.

Cumulative effects of Alternative 1 on late successional old growth (rank 3) are difficult to assess. Compliance with interim direction requirements in suitable California spotted owl habitat protects large trees. In time, smaller stands and trees could become suitable habitat. It is probable that some late successional old growth (rank 3) could achieve late successional old growth (rank 4 and 5) status. Other areas not currently designated as late successional old growth (rank 3), could qualify in the future. The eastside of the pilot project area is exempt from the interim direction for California spotted owls; these areas would be managed using the large tree guidelines found in the Forest Plans. The Forest Plan management objectives for stand vigor and growth could result in a minor reduction in numbers of late successional old growth (rank 3) acres.

Areas of Late Successional Emphasis - Table 3.35 lists the total acreage in areas of late successional emphasis available for mechanical treatments under the current Forest Plans. There are approximately 152,599 acres of areas of late successional emphasis, which include 98,100 acres in "selected" and "other" strata habitat for California spotted owls (Table 3.35). Areas of late successional emphasis do not include late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5) areas.

Management activities allowed in suitable California spotted owl habitat under the Forest Plans would not affect large tree size classes, but could effect density. Stands that are California Wildlife Habitat Relationship class 5D (Appendix H), could become 5M after management. Construction of defensible fuel profile zones, and individual tree selection and group selection harvests are allowed. Because the locations of management activities have not been specified, the effect of management on areas of late successional emphasis would be difficult to assess at the programmatic level. Effects would be analyzed at the site-specific level.

California spotted owl interim guidelines for large tree and basal area retention do not apply in unsuitable habitat. There are 54,300 acres of areas of late successional emphasis in unsuitable habitat available for mechanical treatment. In recent years, most activities in suitable habitat have been thinning from below prescriptions that leave the largest and most vigorous trees. Because the locations of management activities have not been specified, the effect of management on areas of late successional emphasis is difficult to assess at the programmatic level. Effects would be analyzed at the site-specific level.

The overall effect of management activities on areas of late successional emphasis areas is expected to be minor due to interim California spotted owl direction and forest health management objectives. The effects of Alternative 1 on areas of late successional emphasis areas are expected to be more than Alternatives 4 and 5, and less than Alternatives 2 and 3.

California spotted owl large tree retention guidelines protect large trees, except in unsuitable habitat. With time, unsuitable habitat could become suitable habitat, except in eastside pine areas where tree size is not a factor. Cumulative effects of Alternative 1 on areas of late successional emphasis would be minor due to current management objectives for increasing vigor and growth of stands into suitable habitat.

California Wildlife Habitat Relationship - Alternative 1 would trend the pilot project area to a larger size conifer component. Current management objectives in unsuitable habitat favor stand vigor, and individual tree selection favors the larger trees 26. Table 3.36 illustrates the trend of the pilot project area over five decades. The SPECTRUM linear programming tool generated numbers for all decades. SPECTRUM was programmed as if current management would continue in the future. California Wildlife Habitat Relationships size class 5 would increase from 77,000 to 346,000 acres in the first two decades and continue to increase as more acres were thinned.



Footnotes:
  26Individual tree selection or thinning promotes tree growth of residual trees. (Oliver, 1972; Fiddler et al, 1989) by removing the smaller trees and favoring the larger trees.


California Wildlife Habitat Relationships size class 6 would decrease slightly from 150,000 to 109,000 acres in the first two decades, and then increase to 174,000 acres in the third decade as California spotted owl interim direction causes the smaller commercial-size trees associated with California Wildlife Habitat Relationships size 6 layers (Appendix H) to be removed. Over time younger trees would establish new canopy layers.

The cumulative effects of Alternative 1 would increase California Wildlife Habitat Relationships sizes 5 and 6 over time, and would be favorable to the amount and composition of old forest (Table 3.36)

Table 3.36 California Wildlife Habitat Relationships Size 5 and 6 Acres by Decade
(Thousands of acres) 27
Alterntive Cwhr size class Decade 1 Decade 2 Decade 3 Decade 5
1 5
77
346
40
677
1 6
150
109
174
244
2 5
77
277
474
244
2 6
150
179
223
305
3 5
77
307
482
719
3 6
150
121
160
170
4 5
77
249
462
673
4 6
150
172
216
205
5 5
77
261
424
606
5 6
150
172
230
259



Footnotes:
  27Possible scenario based on modeling.  For comparative purposes only.


Fire The Fire and Fuel Section of Chapter 3 of this FEIS considers the effects of fire by alternative. Between 1970 and 1996, high intensity fires, greater than 100 acres, burned 307,500 acres. This figure useful for comparing the proposed action and alternatives. Compared to Alternative 1, all other alternatives would reduce the number of acres burned. Alternatives 2 through 5 would also reduce the intensity of fire. It is impossible to determine how many of the 307,500 acres would involve old forest, but it is expected that more old forest areas would be negatively affected by fire loss with management under Alternative 1 than with the other alternatives.

Alternative 2

Alternative 2 would implement the Act. Defensible fuel profile zone construction would range from 200,000 to 300,000 acres. Group selection harvest would be allowed on 0.57 per cent of the landbase identified as "Available for Group Selection" annually, or approximately 43,500 acres for the pilot project period. Individual tree selection harvest levels are not specified in the Act and could vary from several thousand to 100,000 acres. The Act limits resource management treatments (combined) to no more than 70,000 acres treated annually.

Late Successional Old Growth (Ranks 4 and 5) - A total of 154,000 acres of late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5) lie within the pilot project area. Alternative 2 defers from mechanical treatment (commercial tree harvest) areas of late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5) and road building, but allows prescribed fire and very light vegetative treatment. Late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5) would not be subject to loss or degradation because of resource management activities are deferred for the term of the pilot project.

Late Successional Old Growth (Rank 3) Table 3.33 lists the total acreage of late successional old growth (rank 3) available for mechanical vegetation treatment (commercial tree harvest). Of the total 84,000 acres, 40,000 acres are in "selected" and "other" strata. California spotted owl interim guidelines place restrictions on large tree removal and basal area retention within these areas.

Defensible Fuel Profile Zones - During defensible fuel profile zones construction, the smaller trees, or fuel ladders, would be removed and larger trees would remain. Approximately 14,000 acres of defensible fuel profile zone construction would occur in areas classified as late successional old growth (rank 3). Of this amount, 6,200 acres lie in "selected" or "other’ suitable owl habitat, so interim direction for the protection of the California spotted owl would apply restricting removal of large tree and requiring basal area retention. There is 7,300 acres of late successional old growth (rank 3) in unsuitable habitat that would be available for mechanical treatment during the pilot project period.

Group Selection Harvest - In "selected" or "other" strata, California spotted owl guidelines require the retention of larger trees. Approximately 44,000 acres of late successional old growth (rank 3) are in unsuitable habitat (Table 3.33). Larger tree retention in stands after harvest would depend on the management objectives for individual projects. California spotted owl compliance for activities in "selected" and "other’ strata would make treatment silviculturally-infeasible for group selection. (Appendix E, Attachment), and therefore places a burden on unsuitable habitat for meeting group selection harvest targets. However the group selection strategy, as discussed in Chapter 2 of this FEIS, would limit treatment intensity to no more than 11.4 percent of the surface area for the first 10 years to compensate for other areas where group selection is infeasible.

It is not known whether the group selection accomplishment expectations would extend beyond the pilot project period. This concern will be addressed in other planning efforts. The pilot project period, not to exceed 5 years, is only half of an average 10-year re-entry cycle. Therefore, on a 5.7 percent rate per decade entry cycle for the pilot project area, and a 11.4 percent per decade maximum group selection harvest rate for any area, the maximum amount of acres of unsuitable late successional old growth (rank 3) habitat that could be harvested in the pilot project period is approximately 2,500 acres (calculated as 11.4 percent per decade +

2 pilot project periods % 43,738 acres).

Individual Tree Selection - Management activities allowed within suitable habitat under California spotted owl interim direction would not affect large tree size classes, but could effect density. Areas or stands that are in California Wildlife Habitat Relationships class 5D (Appendix H), could become 5M after implementation of this alternative. In recent years, most mechanical thinning treatment, other than salvage of fire or drought mortality, in unsuitable habitat has been for stand vigor. Thus, most activities have used the even-aged silvicultural treatment method known as "thinning from below," leaving the largest and most vigorous trees and harvesting the smaller less vigorous trees. The locations of future management activities is not known, hence the effect of management on late successional old growth (rank 3) is difficult to assess at the programmatic scale. Site-specific analysis would determine implementation locations.

In summary, the overall affect of group selection on late successional old growth (rank 3) would be moderate, but if management activities extended past the pilot project period, the cumulative effects would be additive. Group selection could cause the loss of large trees from 11.4 percent of the unsuitable habitat each decade, or approximately 5,000 acres per decade (57 percent of the existing unsuitable habitat over the next 50 years). The effects of group selection under Alternative 2 would be similar to the effects under Alternative 3, and greater than Alternatives 1, 4, and 5.

Areas of Late Successional Emphasis - Alternative 2 does not restrict areas of late successional emphasis from commercial tree harvest, except for areas identified as late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5). Table 3.35 lists the total acreage of areas of late successional emphasis available for mechanical treatment (commercial tree harvest). Of the total 93,000 acres, 43,000 acres are in "select" and "other" strata. These areas are shown as suitable habitat in Table 3.35. California spotted owl interim guidelines place restrictions on large tree removal and basal area retention within these areas.

Defensible Fuel Profile Zones - Approximately 16,400 acres of modeled defensible fuel profile zones construction are in areas of late successional emphasis. Of this, 7,100 acres are within suitable habitat. Large tree and basal area retention interim guidelines for protection of the California spotted owl would apply to resource management activities. There are 9,300 acres of areas of late successional emphasis in unsuitable habitat available for mechanical treatment. Defensible fuel profile zone construction favors leaving the larger trees and removing the smaller trees that contribute to a fuel ladder (Appendix J).

Group Selection Harvest - Group selection harvest level expectations are 43,500 for the pilot project period. In "selected" and "other" strata, group selection harvest would be guided by interim direction to retain larger trees. Approximately 50,000 acres of areas of late successional emphasis are in unsuitable habitat (Table 3.35). Depending on management objectives for individual projects, the larger trees may or may not be retained in the stands after group selection harvest. Locations for group selection have not been identified. Based on the treatment rate of 5.7 percent of the area treated by group selection every 10 years. It would be more difficult to achieve harvest targets in suitable owl habitat. Suitable habitat is exempt from group selection harvest under California spotted owl interim direction. This would place an added burden on unsuitable owl habitat for meeting harvest targets. The vegetation selection strategy, as discussed in Chapter 2 of this FEIS, limits treatment intensity to no more than 11.4 percent of the surface area for the first 10 years as an attempt to compensate for the areas where group selection is infeasible. Based on a group selection harvest level of 5.7 percent of the landbase designated as "Available for Group Selection" per decade, and a 11.4 percent per decade maximum group selection rate for any area, the maximum number of acres of unsuitable late successional old growth habitat (rank 3) that could be harvested in the pilot project period would be approximately 2,800 acres (11.4 percent per decade + by 2 pilot project periods % 49,754 acres).

Individual Tree Selection - Management activities allowed within suitable habitat as defined under California spotted owl interim direction would not affect large tree size classes, but could effect density. Stands that are in California Wildlife Habitat Relationships classes 5D (Appendix H), could become 5M after management. In recent years, most mechanical thinning treatment, other than salvage of fire or drought mortality, in unsuitable habitat has been for stand vigor. Most activities have utilized the even-age silvicultural treatment known as "thinning from below," leaving the largest and most vigorous trees and harvesting the smaller less vigorous trees. The location of future management activities is unknown, hence the effect of management on areas of late successional emphasis is difficult to assess at the programmatic level. Locations would be determined during site-specific analysis.

In summary, the overall effect during the pilot project period is moderate for areas of late successional emphasis. If resource management activities for Alternative 2 are carried into the future, the cumulative effects would be additive. Under the worst case scenario, 11.4 percent per decade of unsuitable habitat could lose large trees due to group selection harvests. This could amount to approximately 56,000 acres per decade ,or approximately 56 percent of the existing unsuitable habitat over five decades. Relative to the other alternatives and based on vegetation management expectations, the effects are similar to Alternative 3, and greater than Alternatives 1, 4, and 5.

California Wildlife Habitat Relationships - Alternative 2 trends the pilot project area towards a forest with larger size conifers. California spotted owl interim direction favors large tree retention, and current management objectives in unsuitable habitat enhance stand vigor. Individual tree selection, a common mechanical treatment in unsuitable habitat, promotes tree growth of residual trees (Oliver, 1972; Fiddler et al, 1989). If the larger trees or older stands are not replaced with younger plantations, large tree classifications could increase in the pilot project area.

Table 3.36 illustrates the trend for the pilot project area over five decades. The SPECTRUM linear programming tool generated numbers for all decades. SPECTRUM was programmed as if current management would continue into the future. California Wildlife Habitat Relationships size class 5 would increase from 77,000 to 277,000 acres in the first two decades, and continue to increase as more acres were thinned.

California Wildlife Habitat Relationships size class 6 would increase slightly from 150,000 to 179,000 acres in the first two decades, and then increase to 233,000 acres in the third decade as California spotted owl interim direction causes the smaller commercial-size trees associated with California Wildlife Habitat Relationships size 6 layers (Appendix H) to be removed. Over time, younger trees would establish new canopy layers. The cumulative effects of Alternative 1 would increase California Wildlife Habitat Relationships sizes 5 and 6 over time, and are therefore favorable to the amount and composition of old forest (Table 3.36).

Fire - The Fire and Fuel Section of this FEIS considers the effects of fire by alternative.

Between 1970 and 1996, high intensity fires that were greater than 100 acres, burned 307,500 acres. This number is useful in comparing the proposed action and alternatives. Alternative 2 shows a reduction of acres burned ranging from 53,000 to 77,000 acres over a 27 year period from that of Alternative 1. Fire intensities would remain unchanged. It is impossible to determine how many of the acres described would involve old forest, but Alternative 2 would reduce fire loss in old forest. Alternative 2 is comparable in reducing fire loss to Alternatives 4 and 5, less effective than Alternative 3, and more effective than Alternative 1 in reducing the loss of old forest habitat by fire.

Alternative 3

Defensible fuel profile zones combined with area fuel treatments could range from 200,000 to 300,000 acres. Group selection harvest would be specified at 0.57 percent of the landbase designated "Available for Group Selection" per year or approximately 43,500 acres for the pilot project period. Individual tree selection harvest levels are not specified, and could vary from several thousand to 100,000 acres. No more than 70,000 acres would be treated with the combined resource management activities in any given year.

Late Successional Old Growth (Ranks 4 and 5) - A total of 154,000 acres of late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5) lie within the pilot project area. Alternative 3 defers late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5) from mechanical treatment (commercial tree harvest) and road building, but allows prescribed fire and very light vegetative treatment. Late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5) would be protected from loss or degradation because resource management activities would be excluded.

Highly Ranked Late Successional Old Growth (Rank 3) - Table 3.33 lists the total acreage of late successional old growth (rank 3) available for mechanical vegetation treatment (commercial tree harvest). Of the total 84,000 acres, 40,000 acres are in "select" and "other" strata. California spotted owl interim direction restricts large tree removal and requires basal area retention within these areas.

Defensible Fuel Profile ZonesDefensible fuel profile zone construction favors leaving larger trees and removing smaller trees that contribute toward a fuel ladder (Appendix J). For the pilot project period, approximately 20,000 acres of modeled defensible fuel profile zone construction are in late successional old growth (rank 3) areas. Of this, 10,200 acres are within suitable owl habitat. Large tree and basal area retention California spotted owl interim direction applies. In addition, vegetation management guidelines designed for Alternative 3 would not prohibit degradation of existing California spotted owl nesting habitat to foraging habitat, and existing foraging habitat to unsuitable habitat. There is 10,100 acres (for the pilot project period) of late successional old growth (rank 3) in unsuitable habitat available for mechanical treatment.

Group Selection Harvest - Group selection harvest level expectations would be 43,500 for the pilot project period. Within "selected" and "other" strata, group selection harvest would be guided by interim direction for the protection of the California spotted owl, including direction to retain larger trees. Approximately 44,000 acres of late successional old growth (rank 3) are in unsuitable habitat (Table 3.33). The retention of larger trees after group selection harvest would depend on management objectives for individual projects.

Locations for group selection have not been identified. Based on a treatment rate of 5.7 percent of the area treated by group selection every 10 years, it would be more difficult to achieve harvest targets in suitable owl habitat. Because much of the suitable owl habitat is silviculturally infeasible for group selection harvest, an added burden would be placed on unsuitable owl habitat for meeting harvest targets. The vegetation selection strategy, as discussed in Chapter 2 of this FEIS, limits treatment intensity to no more than 11.4 percent of the surface area for the first 10 years, as an attempt to compensate for the areas where group selection harvest is infeasible.

It is not known whether the group selection accomplishment expectations would extend beyond the pilot project period. This will be addressed in other planning efforts. The pilot project period, not to exceed 5 years, is only half of an average 10-year re-entry cycle. Therefore, on a 5.7 percent rate per decade for the pilot project area, and a 11.4 percent per decade maximum group selection harvest rate for any area, the maximum amount of acres of unsuitable late successional old growth (rank 3) habitat that could be harvested in the pilot project period is approximately 2,500 acres (calculated as 11.4 percent per decade + 2 pilot project periods % 43,738 acres).

Individual Tree Selection - Management activities allowed within suitable habitat under interim direction for the protection of California spotted owl would not affect the large tree size classes. Alternative 3 does not allow vegetation management to degrade existing California spotted owl nesting habitat to foraging habitat, or existing foraging habitat to unsuitable habitat. The locations of future management activities are unknown, so the effect of management on late successional old growth (rank 3) is difficult to assess at the programmatic level. Site-specific analysis would be needed to determine locations.

In recent years, most mechanical thinning treatment, other than salvage of fire or drought mortality, in unsuitable habitat has been for stand vigor. Thus, most activities have used the silvicultural treatment method known as" thinning from below." This method leaves the largest and most vigorous trees and harvests smaller less vigorous trees. The locations of future management activities are unknown, hence the effect of management on late successional old growth (rank 3) is difficult to assess.

In summary, the overall effect during the pilot project period is moderate for late successional old growth (rank 3). If the management activities for Alternative 3 were carried into the future, the cumulative effects would be additive. Under the worst case scenario, 11.4 percent per decade of unsuitable habitat could lose large trees due to group selection harvesting. This could amount to approximately 5,000 acres per decade or approximately 57 percent of the existing unsuitable habitat in the next five decades. Relative to the proposed action and other alternatives, and based on vegetation management expectations, the effects are similar to Alternative 2 and more than Alternatives 1, 4, and 5.

Areas of Late Successional Emphasis - Alternative 3 does not restrict areas of late successional emphasis from commercial tree harvest, except for areas identified as late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5). Table 3.35 lists the total acreage of areas of late successional emphasis available for mechanical treatment (commercial tree harvest). Of a total 93,000 acres of areas of late successional emphasis, 43,000 acres are in "selected" and "other" strata. These areas are shown as suitable habitat in Table 3.35. California spotted owl interim direction restricts large tree removal and basal area retention within these areas.

Defensible Fuel Profile Zones - Approximately 16,600 acres (over the term of the pilot project) of modeled defensible fuel profile zone and area fuel treatment construction would occur in areas of late successional emphasis. Of this, 9,400 acres are within suitable habitat. Large tree and basal area retention California spotted owl interim direction would apply. In addition, Alternative 3 does not allow vegetation management to degrade existing California spotted owl nesting habitat to foraging habitat, or existing foraging habitat to unsuitable habitat. There are 7,200 acres of areas of late successional emphasis in unsuitable habitat that are available for mechanical treatment. Defensible fuel profile zone construction favors leaving larger trees and removing smaller trees that contribute toward a fuel ladder (Appendix J).

Group Selection Harvest - In suitable owl habitat, group selection harvest would be guided by California spotted owl interim guideline direction to retain larger trees. Approximately 50,000 acres of areas of late successional emphasis are in unsuitable habitat (Table 3.33). Depending on management objectives for individual projects, the larger trees may or may not be retained in stands after group selection harvest.

Locations for group selection have not been identified. Based on a treatment rate of 5.7 percent of the area treated by group selection harvest every 10 years, it would be more difficult to achieve harvest targets in suitable owl habitat. Because much of the suitable owl habitat is silviculturally infeasible for group selection harvest, targets would place an added burden on unsuitable owl habitat for meeting harvest targets. The group selection strategy, as discussed in Chapter 2 of this FEIS, limits treatment intensity to no more than 11.4 percent of the surface area for the first 10 years, as an attempt to compensate for the areas where group selection is infeasible.

Based on a group selection harvest level of 5.7 percent per decade, and an 11.4 percent per decade maximum group selection harvest rate for any area, the maximum number of acres of unsuitable late successional old growth (rank 3) habitat that could be harvested in the pilot project period would be approximately 2,800 acres (11.4 percent per decade + 2 pilot project periods % 49,754 acres).

Individual Tree Selection - Management activities allowed within suitable owl habitat under California spotted owl interim direction would not affect large tree size classes. Alternative 3 does not allow vegetation management to degrade existing California spotted owl nesting habitat to foraging habitat, or existing foraging habitat to unsuitable habitat. In recent years, most mechanical thinning treatment, other than salvage of fire or drought mortality, in unsuitable habitat has been for stand vigor. Thus, most activities have used the even-aged silvicultural treatment known as "thinning from below," leaving the largest and most vigorous trees and harvesting the smaller less vigorous trees. The locations of future management activities are unknown, hence the effect of management on areas of late successional emphasis is difficult to assess at a programmatic level. Site-specific analysis would determine the locations of treatments.

In summary, the overall effect during the pilot period is moderate for areas of late successional emphasis. If the management activities for Alternative 3 were carried into the future, the cumulative effects would be additive. Under the worst-case scenario, 11.4 percent per decade of unsuitable habitat could lose large trees due to group selection harvesting. This could amount to approximately 5,600 acres per decade or approximately 56 percent of the existing unsuitable habitat in the next five decades. Relative to the proposed action and other alternatives, and based on vegetation management expectations, the effects are similar to Alternative 2, and more than Alternatives 1, 4, and 5

California Wildlife Habitat Relationships - Alternative 3 trends the pilot project area towards a forest structure of larger size conifers. California spotted owl interim direction favors large tree retention, and current management objectives in unsuitable habitat enhance stand vigor. Individual tree selection, a common mechanical treatment in unsuitable habitat, promotes growth of residual trees (Oliver, 1972; Fiddler et al, 1989). If the larger trees or older stands are not replaced with younger plantations, large tree classes could increase in the pilot project area.

Table 3.36 illustrates the trend of the pilot project area over five decades. Numbers were generated using the SPECTRUM linear programming tool for all decades. SPECTRUM was programmed as if current management would continue into the future. California Wildlife Habitat Relationship size class 5 would increase from 77,000 to 307,000 acres in the first two decades and would continue to increase as more acres were thinned.

California Wildlife Habitat Relationship size class 6 would decrease slightly from 150,000 to 121,000 acres in the first two decades, and then increase to 160,000 acres in the third decade as California spotted owl interim direction causes the smaller commercial-size trees associated with California Wildlife Habitat Relationship size 6 layers (Appendix H) to be removed. Younger trees, over time, would establish new canopy layers. The cumulative effects of Alternative 3 would increase California Wildlife Habitat Relationships sizes 5 and 6 over time, and are favorable to the amount and composition of old forest (Table 3.36).

Fire - The Fire and Fuel section of this FEIS considers the effects of fire by alternative. From 1970 to 1996, high intensity fires greater than 100 acres burned 307,500 acres. This number is useful for considering other alternatives. Alternative 2 shows a reduction of acres burned ranging from 76,000 to 108,0000 acres over a 27-year period from that of Alternative 1. Fire intensities would be reduced on 100,000 to 116,000 acres.

It is impossible to determine how many of the acres would involve old forest, but Alternative 3 could reduce fire in old forest areas. Compared to the proposed action and other alternatives, Alternative 3 is best at reducing old forest loss from fire.

Alternative 4

Alternative 4 allows for a combined total of approximately 125,000 acres of defensible fuel profile zones and area fuel treatments. Group selection would be used to harvest at 0.57 of landbase identified as "Available for Group Selection" per year, or approximately 43,500 acres. Individual tree selection harvest levels are not specified, but could vary between several thousand to 28,000 acres. Within "select" and "other" strata, vegetation management would not reduce nesting or foraging California spotted owl habitat.

Late Successional Old Growth (Ranks 4 and 5) - A total of 154,000 acres of late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5) are in the pilot project area. Alternative 3 defers late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5) from mechanical treatment (commercial tree harvest) and road building, but allows prescribed fire and very light vegetative treatments. Late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5) loss or degradation would not occur because management activities would be excluded.

Late Successional Old Growth (Rank 3) - Table 3.33 lists the total late successional old growth (rank 3) acreage available for mechanical vegetation treatment (commercial tree harvest). Of total 70,400 acres of late successional old growth (rank 3) areas, 32,000 acres are in "selected" and "other" strata. This is shown as suitable habitat in Table 3.33. Interim direction restricts large tree removal and requires basal area retention within these strata.

Defensible Fuel Profile Zones - Approximately 9,300 acres of modeled defensible fuel profile zones and area fuel treatment construction are would be located in late successional old growth (rank 3). Of this, 10,200 acres are within suitable owl habitat. Large tree and basal area retention interim direction would apply. In addition, vegetation management guidelines designed for Alternative 4 would prohibit degradation of existing California spotted owl nesting habitat to foraging habitat, or existing foraging habitat to unsuitable habitat. There is 5,800 acres of late successional old growth (rank 3) in unsuitable habitat available for mechanical treatment. Defensible fuel profile zone construction favors leaving larger trees and removing smaller trees that contribute toward a fuel ladder (Appendix J).

Group Selection Harvest - In selected or other strata, group selection would be guided by California spotted owl interim direction to retain larger trees. Approximately 38,200 acres of late successional old growth (rank 3) are in unsuitable habitat (Table 3.33). Depending on management objectives for individual projects, the larger trees may or may not be retained in the stands after group selection harvest. Locations for group selection have not been identified, but Appendix E describes expected group selection harvest levels by suitable and unsuitable owl habitat. Based on a treatment rate of 5.7 percent of the area by group selection harvest every 10 years, it would be more difficult to achieve harvest targets in suitable owl habitat. Because much of the suitable owl habitat is silviculturally-infeasible for group selection harvest, targets would place an added burden on unsuitable owl habitat for meeting harvest targets. The group selection strategy, as discussed in Chapter 2 of this FEIS, limits treatment intensity to no more than 11.4 percent of the surface area for the first 10 years, as an attempt to compensate for the areas where group selection is infeasible.

Based on a group selection harvest level of 5.7 percent per decade and a 11.4 percent per decade maximum group selection rate for any area, the maximum amount of acres of unsuitable late successional old growth (rank 3) habitat that could be harvested in the project period would be approximately 2,200 acres (11.4 percent per decade + 2 pilot project periods % 38,159 acres).

Individual Tree Selection - Management activities allowed within suitable habitat under the interim direction for protection of California spotted owl would not affect large tree size classes. Alternative 4 does not allow vegetation management to degrade existing California spotted owl nesting habitat to foraging habitat, and existing foraging habitat to unsuitable habitat. In recent years, most mechanical thinning treatment, other than salvage of fire or drought mortality, in unsuitable habitat has been for stand vigor. Thus, most activities have used the even-aged silvicultural treatment known as "thinning from below." This silvicultural treatment leaves the largest and most vigorous trees while harvesting smaller less vigorous trees. The locations of future management activities are unknown, hence the effect of management on late successional old growth (rank 3) is difficult to assess at the programmatic level. Location decisions would be made during site-specific analysis.

In summary, the overall effect during the pilot project period is moderate for late successional old growth (rank 3). If the management activities for Alternative 4 were carried into the future, the cumulative effects would be additive. Under the worst-case scenario, 11.4 percent per decade of unsuitable habitat could lose large trees due to group selection harvesting. This could amount to approximately 4,400 acres a decade or approximately 58 percent of the existing unsuitable habitat in the next five decades. Relative to the other alternatives and based on vegetation management expectations, the effects are somewhat less than Alternatives 2 and 3, more than Alternatives 1 and 5.

Areas of Late Successional Emphasis - Road building and commercial timber harvest activities would be deferred so no effects would be expected on areas of late successional emphasis with Alternative 4.

California Wildlife Habitat Relationships - Alternative 4 trends the pilot project area toward a forest with larger size conifers. Interim direction for protection of California spotted owls favors large tree retention, and current management objectives in unsuitable habitat enhance stand vigor. Individual tree selection, a common mechanical treatment in unsuitable habitat, promotes tree growth of residual trees (Oliver, 1972; Fiddler et al, 1989). If the larger trees or older stands are not replaced with younger plantations, large tree classes could increase in the pilot project area.

Table 3.36 illustrates the trend of the pilot project area over five decades. The SPECTRUM linear programming tool generated numbers for all decades. SPECTRUM was programmed as if current management would continue into the future. California Wildlife Habitat Relationships size class 5 would increase from 77,000 to 249,000 acres in the first two decades, and continue to increase as more acres were thinned.

California Wildlife Habitat Relationship size class 6 would increase slightly from 150,000 to 172,000 acres in the first two decades, and then increase to 216,000 acres in the third decade as California spotted owl interim direction causes smaller-commercial size trees associated with California Wildlife Habitat Relationships size 6 layers (Appendix H) to be removed. Younger trees, over time, would establish new canopy layers. The cumulative effects of Alternative 4 would increase California Wildlife Habitat Relationship sizes 5 and 6 over time, and are favorable for the amount and composition of old forest (Table 3.36)

Fire - The Fire and Fuels section of this FEIS considers the effects of fire by alternative. From 1970 to 1996, high intensity fires greater than 100 acres burned 307,500 acres. This number is useful for comparison with other alternatives. Alternative 4 shows a reduction of acres burned ranging from 53,000 to 77,000 acres over a 27-year period from that of Alternative 1. Fire intensities would be reduced on 40,000 to 46,000 acres. It is impossible to determine how many of the acres described would involve old forest, but Alternative 4 could reduce fire in old forest areas. Alternative 4 would be comparable to Alternatives 2 and 5 for potential fire reduction effectiveness, less than Alternative 3, and more than Alternative 1.

Alternative 5

Alternative 5 would establish defensible fuel profile zones primarily through use of prescribed fire. Some mechanical treatment would be allowed and is assumed.

Late Successional Old Growth (Ranks 4 and 5) - A total of 84,000 acres of late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5) are in the pilot project area. Alternative 5 defers late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5) from mechanical treatment (harvest) and road building, and allows only prescribed fire and very light vegetative treatments.

Late Successional Old Growth (Rank 3) - All late successional old growth (ranks 4 and 5) patches inside late successional old growth (rank 3) would be deferred from road building and commercial timber harvest. This alternative has no effect on late successional old growth (rank 3).

Areas of Late Successional Emphasis - Road building and commercial timber harvest would be deferred on areas of late successional emphasis so no effects would be expected with Alternative 5.

California Wildlife Habitat Relationships - Alternative 5 trends the pilot project area toward a large size conifer forest. California spotted owl interim direction favors large tree retention, and current management objectives in unsuitable habitat enhance stand vigor. Individual tree selection or thinning, common mechanical treatments in unsuitable habitat, promote growth of residual trees (Oliver, 1972; Fiddler et al, 1989). If the larger trees or older stands are not replaced with younger plantations, large tree classes could increase in the project area.

Table 3.36 illustrates the trend of the pilot project area over five decades. The SPECTRUM linear programming tool generated numbers for all decades. SPECTRUM was programmed as if current management would continue into the future. California Wildlife Habitat Relationship size class 5 would increase from 77,000 to 261,000 acres in the first two decades, and continue to increase as more acres were treated.

California Wildlife Habitat Relationship size class 6 would increase slightly from 150,000 to 172,000 acres in the first two decades, and then increase to 230,000 acres in the third decade as interim direction for California spotted owl causes smaller commercial-size trees associated with California Wildlife Habitat Relationship size 6 layers (Appendix H) to be removed. Younger trees, over time, would establish new canopy layers. The cumulative effects of Alternative 5 would increase California Wildlife Habitat Relationships sizes 5 and 6 over time, and are favorable for the amount and composition of old forest (Table 3.36)

Fire - The Fire and Fuel section of this FEIS considers the effects of fire by alternative. From 1970 to 1996, high intensity fires greater than 100 acres, burned 307,500 acres. This number is useful for comparison with other alternatives. Alternative 5 shows a reduction of acres burned ranging from 53,000 to 77,000 acres over a 27-year period from that of Alternative 1. Fire intensities would be reduced on 40,000 to 46,000 acres. It is impossible to determine how many of the acres would involve old forest, but Alternative 5 could reduce fire in old forest areas. Alternative 5 would be comparable to Alternatives 2 and 4 for potential fire reduction, but less effective than Alternative 3, and more than Alternative 1.

DISCLOSURES

Relationship of Short-Term Uses and Long-Term Productivity

Table 3.37 Growth and Harvest by Decade by Alternative
(MMBF)
Alternative Decade 28 Harvest Net growth 29
1
1
618
1,172
3
43
1,234
5
80
983
10
52
433
2
1
1,432
1,225
3
689
1,212
5
145
691
10
57
616
3
1
1,256
609
3
296
1,113
5
326
987
10
245
474
4
1
424
843
3
96
953
5
53
808
10
58
232
5
1
65
835
3
32
846
5
181
685
10
24
56


Footnotes:
  28Decade one only represents pilot period.  Thus harvest levels are underestimated.

  29Equals total growth minus harvest.



Growth rates could exceed harvest by significant amounts with each alternative (Table 3.37). The total inventory of the pilot project area grows at increased rates with all alternatives for the first three decades and begins to slow as stands become overstocked and lose vigor. Current objectives for trending the forest to larger trees, and restrictions on harvesting larger trees affect future harvest, if current interim California spotted owl direction and other large tree/old forest practices continue.

Unavoidable Adverse Effects - Large trees in unsuitable California spotted owl habitat are unprotected with current interim direction. Unsuitable California spotted owl habitat includes all vegetation strata not identified as "selected" or "other" in the California Spotted Owl Interim Guidelines Environmental Assessment, page III-3, (1993). Alternatives 1 through 4 would allow trees up to 30 inches DBH in areas up to 2 acres to be harvested by group selection and would also allow individual large tree harvest in unsuitable owl habitat. Once harvested, old forest cannot be replaced, except over time periods of hundreds of years.

Irreversible Commitments of Resources - Although the number of large trees increases over time with management under the proposed action and alternatives, the group selection harvest of small old forest areas or individual old growth trees, as described in Alternatives 1 through 4 represents an irreversible commitment of resources.

Irretrievable Commitments of Resources - Although the number of large trees increases over time with management under the proposed action and alternatives, the group selection harvest of small old forest areas or individual old growth trees, as described in Alternatives 1 through 4 represents an irretrievable commitment of resources.

Threatened, Endangered, Sensitive, and Watchlist Plants

Affected Environment

Threatened and Endangered Plants: Orcuttia tenuis (slender Orcutt grass; Federally-listed threatened), Senecio layneae (Layne's butterweed; Federally-listed as threatened) and Tuctoria greenei (Greene's tuctoria; Federally-listed as endangered), are known to have unsurveyed potential habitat in and near the pilot project area. No other threatened, endangered, or proposed plant species are known or suspected to occur in the pilot project area. (Appendix F).

Sensitive, Watchlist Plants and Plant Communities: The sensitive and watchlist plant species known or suspected to occur in the pilot project area have unsurveyed potential habitat. They are listed by general plant community in Appendix F. Watchlist plants and plant communities are those plants that may become increasingly rare. These plants are in addition to threatened, endangered, and sensitive plant species.

Environmental Consequences

Consequences Common to All Alternatives

Implementation of any of the alternatives proposed would not directly affect Orcuttia tenuis, Senecio layneae and Tuctoria greenei. Minor indirect effects are possible. No cumulative effects are expected from implementation of any of the alternatives. The determination is no effects. No consultation with USDI Fish and Wildlife Service is required. Refer to the biological assessment for this FEIS located in the planning file.

No direct effects to Orcuttia tenuis, Senecio layneae and Tuctoria greenei would occur from implementation of any of the alternatives because specific standards and guidelines are incorporated into each of the alternatives to protect these plants. The standards and guidelines include avoidance of known occurrences, surveys of potential habitat before implementation, and noxious weed direction. Following the standards and guidelines would reduce indirect effects to insignificant levels or eliminate them altogether.

Direct cumulative effects to Orcuttia tenuis, Senecio layneae and Tuctoria greenei primarily threaten plants located on private lands, where many occurrences are known. Several of these plants no longer occur on private lands. Since many of the known and historic occurrences of Orcuttia tenuis, Senecio layneae, and Tuctoria greenei are on private land that is less protected by the provisions of the Endangered Species Act, maintaining viable populations on National Forest System lands is important for the viability of the species, especially in the northeastern part of their ranges. Following the standards and guidelines ensures that Forest Service management would not negatively affect occurrences of these species, and would not contribute to a negative cumulative effect and downward trend for Orcuttia tenuis, Senecio layneae or Tuctoria greenei.

Consequences Common to All Alternatives: Sensitive Plants

The following process ensures that specific standards and guidelines for sensitive plants are implemented as management requirements. Inclusion of this process would reduce possible impacts to sensitive plants. Application of this process ensures that implementation of any of the proposed alternatives would not directly impact sensitive plants to the point of reduced viability. A determination would be made as to what activities would affect and contribute to a trend for listing. This information is provided in the Biological Evaluation for Sensitive Plants located in the planning file. The risk of indirect and cumulative impacts to sensitive plants under implementation of the proposed action or alternatives would be expected to be low, due to incorporation of the following process for identification and protection of sensitive plants and noxious weeds.

  1. All known sensitive plant occurrences would be identified where resource management activities are proposed. Impacts to sensitive plants would be reduced or eliminated.
  2. All sensitive plant surveys would be completed before pilot project implementation.
  3. Species-specific recommendations would be developed for each sensitive plant occurrence within the pilot project area. Often, recommendations would be for avoidance.
  4. Noxious weed standards and guidelines would be followed to reduce the risk of noxious and invasive exotic weed introduction and spread.
  5. Native plants and plant materials would be used in restoration activities.
  6. An analysis and determination of effects would be done for each specific implementation project.
  7. Implementation and effectiveness monitoring would occur. When monitoring identifies the need, adaptive management would occur (Chapter 6).
All of the sensitive plant habitats could be indirectly and cumulatively impacted by implementation of fuel treatment activities, timber harvest, and riparian restoration activities. These indirect impacts would come from introduction and spread of noxious weeds, and changes to soil and hydrologic function due to reduction in soil cover adjacent or near sensitive plant occurrences.

Direct, Indirect, and Cumulative Effects: Sensitive Plants

Alternative 1 - Alternative 1 proposes to continue managing lands as described in the current Forest Plans. This alternative has the fewest indirect and cumulative impacts to sensitive plants.

Alternatives 2 and 3 - Alternatives 2 and 3 propose the greatest amounts of road management, fuels management, and timber harvest activities. Therefore, the risk of indirect impacts to sensitive plants is the greatest in Alternatives 2 and 3.

Alternative 4 - Alternative 4 disturbs the fewer acres than Alternatives 1, 2, and 3, and therefore has a reduced risk of impacting sensitive plants.

Alternative 5 - Alternative 5 reduces the risk of indirect impacts and effects to sensitive plants more than Alternative 4 because it proposes to disturb the fewest acres.

Determination for Threatened, Endangered, and Sensitive Plants

The determination summarized here is further outlined in the Sensitive Plant Biological Assessment (Federally listed threatened and endangered species) and Biological Evaluation (Pacific Southwest Region Sensitive Species). The determination summarized here is based on current techniques where site-specific areas are surveyed before project initiation, and all threatened, endangered, or sensitive plant populations are avoided during the implementation activities. Site-specific analysis would be required as would a determination of effects on a smaller scale than allowed at the programmatic level of this FEIS.

The Biological Assessment completed for threatened and endangered plants determined that:

The biological evaluation that reviewed the effects to sensitive plant species that could occur within the planning area determined that the site-specific projects derived from this analysis will not affect the following species:
 
 
Albicaulis spp.
Allium jepsonii
Arabis constancei
Arabis rigidissima var. demota
Astragalus lentiformis
Astragalis pulsiferae var. pulsiferae
Astragalis pulsiferae var. suksdorfii
Astragalus webberi
Botrchium ascendens
Botrchium crenulatum
Botrchium lineare
Botrchium montanum
Calochortus clavatus var. avius
Calochortus longebarbatus var. longebarbatus
Calycadenia oppostifolia
Calystegia atriplicifolia spp.
Buttensis spp.
Campanula wilkinsiana
Clarkia biloba spp.
Brandegeae spp.
Clarkia gracilis spp.
Clardia mosquinii
Clarkia stellata
Cypredium fasciculatum
Cypredium montanum
Epilobium howelli
Erigeron miser
Illiamna bakeri
Juncus leiospermus var. leiospermus
Lewisia cantelovii
Lewisia serrata
Lewisia longipetala
Limnanthus floccosa spp. Bellingeriana
Longistipitata spp.
Lupinus dalesiae
Meesia triquetra
Meesia uliginos
Mimulus evanescens
Monardella follettii
Oreostemma elatum
Penstemon personatus
Phacelia inundata
Phacelia stebbensii
Pogogyne floribunda
Pyrrocoma lucida
Reiogonum umbellatum var. torreyanum
Rorippa columbiae
Rupertia halli
Scheuchzeri palustris var. americana
Sedum albomarginatum
Senecio eurycephalus var. lewisrosei
Silene occidentalis spp.
Smilax jamesii
Vaccinium coccinium

Consequences Common to All Alternatives: Watchlist Plants

Implementation of any of the proposed alternatives would directly, indirectly, and cumulatively impact watchlist plants and plant communities. A site-specific analysis of effects to watchlist plants or plant communities would be completed during the project level analysis.

All of the watchlist plant habitats would be directly, indirectly, and cumulatively impacted by implementation of fuels treatment activities, timber harvest, and riparian restoration activities. These indirect impacts would come from introduction and spread of noxious weeds, and changes to soil and hydrologic function due to reduction in soil cover adjacent to, or near, watchlist plant occurrences.

Alternative 1 - Alternative 1 proposes to continue managing lands as described in the current Forest Plans. This alternative has the fewest indirect and cumulative impacts to watchlist plants and plant communities.

Alternatives 2 and 3 - Alternatives 2 and 3 propose the greatest amount of road management, fuel treatment activities, and timber harvest activities. Therefore, the risk of indirect impacts to watchlist plants is greatest in Alternatives 2 and 3.

Alternative 4 - Alternative 4 disturbs fewer acres than Alternatives 2 and 3, and therefore has a reduced risk of affecting watchlist plants.

Alternative 5 - Alternative 5 reduces the risk of indirect impacts and effects to watchlist plants and plant communities more than Alternative 4 because it proposes to disturb the fewest acres.

Disclosures

Relationship of Short-Term Uses and Long-Term Productivity or Effects - Minimizing onsite impacts to sensitive plants is an effective way of reducing cumulative impacts, including viability concerns. If adverse effects are minimized or reduced at the local scale, it follows that there would be a greatly reduced potential for larger-scale effects. Therefore, short-term and long-term effects to threatened, endangered, proposed, and sensitive plants would not occur.

Unavoidable Adverse Effects - Unavoidable adverse effects to rare plants and plant communities would not occur if the standards and guidelines for threatened, endangered, proposed, sensitive, and watchlist plants and plant communities; and noxious weeds are followed.

Irreversible Commitments of Resources - Irreversible commitments of rare plants and plant communities would not occur if the standards and guidelines for threatened, endangered, proposed, sensitive, and watchlist plants and plant communities; and noxious are followed.

Irretrievable Commitments of Resources - Irretrievable commitments of rare plants and plant communities would not occur if standards and guidelines for threatened, endangered, proposed, sensitive, and watchlist plants and plant communities; and noxious weeds are followed.

Other Relevant Disclosures There are no other relevant disclosures related to threatened, endangered, proposed, sensitive, and watchlist plants and plant communities or noxious weeds.

Noxious Weeds

Affected Environment

"Noxious weed" means any species of plant that is currently, or is liable to be, troublesome, aggressive, intrusive, detrimental, or destructive to agriculture, silviculture, or important native species. Noxious weeds are difficult to control or eradicate. Through regulation, the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture makes designation as "noxious." Inventories for noxious weeds are not complete in the planning area, but efforts are ongoing and usually tied to specific sites and projects. Current knowledge varies, but the noxious weed species present on or near National Forest System lands are identified and an approximation of abundance is known.

Noxious weeds affect the environment by competitively replacing desirable vegetation such as forage, cover, rare plants, native plant communities, and commercial species such as conifers. Noxious weeds often make recreation and access more difficult and unpleasant due to spiny plant parts or allergic reaction, and replace visually interesting diverse vegetation. Weeds can increase fuel loadings, particularly of flashy fuels, and are often less effective than desirable plants at holding soil, resulting in increased erosion.

Once established over a large area, noxious weeds can produce permanent change in the local vegetation composition, because it is practically impossible to eliminate a widespread infestation. Control activities can themselves be harmful to native and desirable vegetation and those parts of the ecosystem that depend on them. Therefore, each acre lost to noxious weeds has substantial effects.

In the last few decades, millions of acres of private lands in California have been affected by noxious weeds (personal communication: Steve Schoenig, State of California Department of Food and Agriculture). National Forest System lands have not seen the incursion of noxious weed plants experienced by private lands. Private lands continue to provide a source for seed outside the planning area, maintaining the risk of introduction of noxious weeds.

In the planning area, noxious weed infestations are usually small and localized (with a few notable exceptions). Because so many different noxious weeds are present, particularly highly aggressive species (such as most on the State of California’s "A" list), the potential for increased acreage of National Forest System land to be affected is very high. In fact, the northeastern California region has the greatest number of A-listed noxious weeds of any region within the State of California (personal communication: Butch Kreps, State of California Department of Food and Agriculture).

Some widespread non-native weeds, not listed by the State or the Federal Secretary of Agriculture as "noxious," also affect native plant communities in the planning area. Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), mullein (Verbascum thapsus), and bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) are in this category. Yellow star thistle (Centaurea solstitialis) is one noxious weed that is abundant in parts of the planning area. On the east side of the Sierra Nevada/Cascade crest and at higher elevation sites, maintaining yellow star thistle-free zones may become a high priority. Appendix G provides more information on noxious weeds.

Environmental Consequences

Consequences Common to All Alternatives

Noxious weeds can invade native habitats in a relatively short time. Management activities can produce conditions favorable for introduction of invasive non-native plants and noxious weeds. Noxious weeds are spread by the introduction of seeds or reproductive parts into new areas. Management activities can also change habitat conditions by creating soil disturbance, reducing competition from other vegetation, and reducing shade and soil cover. Presence of noxious weeds can prevent achievement of management objectives for many resources. The risk assessment (Appendix G) for the planning area indicates the entire area has a high potential for noxious weed invasion due to: (1) the presence of a number of high priority weeds, (2) high levels of previous disturbance, (3) expected increases in vectors for seed spread, and (4) intensive and extensive habitat alteration, including reduced canopy and soil cover. Noxious weeds are increasingly recognized as a national concern, 30 as well as regional and local concern. Cheatgrass is an example of an invasive species that responds well to stand-replacing fires on the east side of the planning area. Alternatives that implement actions that potentially reduce the threat of stand-replacing fire could result in the slower spread of cheatgrass.



Footnotes:
  30Executive Order Number E013112 regarding invasive species, February 3, 1999 and the Forest Service Strategy for Noxious and Nonnative Invasive Plant Management, September 25, 1998.

Direct Effects

Direct effects related to noxious weeds would come from prevention and control activities and other management activities. Prevention activities would be designed to keep noxious weeds from being introduced into new areas. Control activities would be designed to reduce or eliminate existing weed occurrences. If prevention and control activities are implemented in tandem with other management activities, the rate of noxious weed infestation is not likely to increase in the area, and existing noxious weed occurrences are more likely to remain constant or decrease. Prompt treatment of small, isolated patches of noxious weeds in or near resource management treatment areas is a highly effective and efficient means of reducing the risk of weed spread (Asher 1995).

Prevention and control methods would be analyzed in site-specific environmental analyses. They would depend on the existing conditions in treatment areas for an accurate analysis. Considerations include the number and size of existing infestation, species (particularly relating to growth form – annual. perennial, or rhizomatous), and location of the infestation. Control may be as simple as pulling a few plants (and subsequent monitoring); or as complex as herbicide treatment (determined through site-specific analysis), modifying unit boundaries or timing of treatments to eliminate or limit an infestation. The long-term environmental goal of prevention and control activities would be to ensure treated infestations would not spread and new infestations would be prevented.

Indirect Effects

Habitat Alteration - The proposed resource management activities would cause habitat alteration making certain areas more conducive to weed growth and spread. In particular, group selection harvest areas, landings, skid trails, and new or reconstructed roads could disturb soils and reduce shade or soil cover in localized areas. Disturbed soil, lack of mulch or duff, and increased sunlight create prime conditions for noxious weed growth (D'Antonio and Haubensak 1998).

Defensible fuel profile zones, area fuel treatments, group selections, and individual tree selection, and thinning would result in moderately to highly disturbed sites with reduced shade conditions. These activities improve conditions and increase the risk of noxious weeds invasion as compared to no treatment. Ground-disturbing activities create a high introduction potential. Because of their spatial arrangement, defensible fuel profile zones create the potential for spread along roads and in fuel zones. Weeds can spread from disturbed areas into the adjacent vegetation zones.

Watershed restoration affects the introduction and rate of spread of noxious weeds based on the amount of soil disturbance and reduced cover associated with a particular activity, such as thinning, burning, roadwork, and soil restoration. Weed spread from watershed restoration or fuel treatment activities adjacent to or in riparian areas would adversely effect this sensitive habitat through the introduction of undesirable plants that could displace native species. Perennial pepperweed, purple loosestrife, Dalmation toadflax, and Canada thistle are some examples of noxious weeds that affect riparian habitats.

Seeds from noxious weeds are spread through management activities, and by vehicles and equipment. All proposed resource management activities (construction of defensible fuel profile zones and area fuel treatments, group selection and individual tree selection harvest, and road construction and restoration activities, each with associated equipment and crew requirements) have the potential to spread noxious weeds. In addition, noxious weeds may be distributed and spread if gravel, fill, mulch, revegetation seed mixes, or planting stock contains noxious weed seed or reproductive plant parts. Noxious weeds particularly increase along roads because traffic brings in seeds and reproductive plant parts, and open road beds and road sides are suitable growing areas.

The resource management activities that are described in the proposed action and alternatives consist of fuel treatment, timber harvest, and watershed activities across the planning area. Because of the large acreage affected, and the influx of workers and equipment over a pilot project period, there is potential for substantive increases and spread of noxious weeds. Therefore, the potential for incremental affects from noxious weeds can be substantial if the effects are not mitigated.

Defensible fuel profile zones, area fuels treatments, and watershed restoration activities would cause ground disturbance. Watershed restoration activities would affect an additional undetermined amount of land. The cumulative effect of these ground-disturbing activities, linked by roads, creates a system highly conducive to noxious weed introduction and spread. This is in addition to extensive and intensive previous disturbances and weed vectors (roads, trails, traffic, and livestock) already in the planning area that contribute to, and enhance the potential for, noxious weed introduction and spread.

Standards and Guidelines Common to All Alternatives

Chapter 5 of this FEIS provides new management direction, in the form of Forestwide standards and guidelines for the management of noxious weeds and invasive non-native weed species. The negative environmental effects from noxious weeds and invasive non-native plants are likely to be significant if standards and guidelines are not applied. Implementing the standard and guidelines can be highly effective in reducing effects from noxious weeds and invasive non-native plants. Practices such as equipment cleaning, requiring weed-free staging areas, and using weed-free materials would considerably reduce the risk of introducing new weeds into the planning area. Standards and guidelines for inventory, control, and monitoring in and adjacent to site-specific resource management treatment areas, can be very effective in stopping and not allowing them to spread, despite the habitat modification that would be expected in the pilot project area. (See Appendix G.)

Direct, Indirect, and Cumulative Effects

Alternative 1- Alternative 1 continues current management activities in the planning area according to Forest Plan direction. Site disturbance would continue that promotes noxious weeds. The Forest Plans lack management direction for noxious weed management. Weed mitigation measures for each Forest varies. Agency direction for noxious weeds provides general policies and guidelines. Ongoing inventory and control not related to the pilot project would continue.

Alternative 2 - Alternative 2 has the greatest potential for weed spread, based on the proposed acreage for soil disturbing activities and miles of road work, which would create the largest amount of habitat modification and influx of workers. Alternative 2 also has an increased risk of weed spread due to the proximity of defensible fuel profile zones to the road system and potential for weed spread from other areas. Disturbance is spread out over the largest area in Alternative 2 because it has the fewest excluded areas. This lack of exclusion areas may somewhat affect the extent of weed spread, although it is probably less important than the total number of acres disturbed.

Alternative 3 - Effects from Alternative 3 are expected to be nearly the same as Alternative 2, except that area fuel treatment acreage would be in blocks, in addition to the defensible fuel profile zone arrangement; therefore, the risk of noxious weed spread is slightly less than in Alternative 2.

Alternative 4 Alternative 4 has less risk for noxious weed introduction and spread than Alternatives 2 or 3 because of the reduction in disturbed acres, reduced road work, and consequent smaller temporary influx of workers and equipment. The defensible fuel profile zone arrangement and area fuel treatments would be similar to Alternative 3, but fewer total acres for are proposed.

Alternative 5 - Alternative 5 would have a lower risk of noxious weed spread than the proposed action and other alternatives because it affects the fewest acres, and the treatment methods emphasized (particularly prescribed fire rather than mechanical treatment) usually result in less soil disturbance, habitat modification (soil cover and shade removal), and influx of workers and equipment than other proposed treatments. Alternative 5 would have increased protection for riparian areas, so less disturbance and risk of noxious weed spread into these areas would be expected.

Summary of Effects

Noxious weeds adversely affect native plant communities because they have little or no forage value for wildlife or livestock, competitively replace rare or desirable plants, and often make recreation and access more difficult or unpleasant due to spiny plant parts or allergic reactions. Through competition with economically valuable species such as conifers and replacement of visually-interesting diverse vegetation, noxious weeds increase fuel loadings (particularly of "flashy" fuels).

Disclosures

Relationship of Short-term Uses and Long-term Productivity or Effects - Short-term influx of workers and equipment would have the potential to introduce noxious weeds. Relatively short-term habitat changes in shade and soil cover produce conditions conducive to noxious weed growth. Both of these effects could be reduced through application of standards and guidelines. Long-term productivity, in terms of forage and fiber production, recreation opportunities, and native species habitat, would be greatly reduced if noxious weeds were allowed to become established and spread due to proposed resource management activities (standards and guidelines were not applied). Resource management activities designed reduce the threat of stand replacing fire would reduce spread of noxious weeds and invasive non-native plants. Implementation of standards and guidelines is expected to be effective in preventing the introduction or slowing and stopping the spread of noxious weeds and other invasive exotic plants, there would be no irreversible effects. If standards and guidelines are not implemented and noxious weeds become established in an area, the site is permanently degraded, because it is nearly impossible to eliminate a widespread infestation.

Unavoidable Adverse Effects - There are no unavoidable adverse effects expected.

Irreversible Commitments of Resources - There are irreversible commitments of resources expected.

Irretrievable Commitments of Resources - There are irretrievable commitments of resources expected.

Other Relevant Disclosures There are no other relevant disclosures related to noxious weeds and invasive non-native plants.

Rangeland Management

Affected Environment

The rangeland management program is an established use of National Forest System lands in the planning area. It is a program that provides opportunities for ranchers (permittees) to be issued grazing permits to graze domestic livestock on National Forest System lands. These grazing permits authorize a specified number of livestock, in specific areas (allotments), for a specified season or amount of time. Compliance with all of the terms and conditions of the grazing permit is required.

Within the planning area, there are 103 grazing permits issued for 144 allotments. The area encompassed by these allotments includes 1,747,358 acres, of which 759,000 are suitable for grazing. Permitted livestock use forage, primarily herbaceous plants, in most vegetation types in the planning area. Most livestock use occurs in meadows, grasslands, shrublands, and open timber stands.

Environmental Consequences
The Act stipulates that livestock grazing is exempt from application of the Scientific Analysis Team guidelines for riparian protection in the pilot project area during the term of the pilot project, unless the livestock grazing is being conducted in a specific location at which the riparian protection guidelines are being applied to a resource management activity. Effectively, this means that implementation of Alternatives 2 through 4 would not result in any direct effects to livestock grazing activities in the pilot project area, except for those places where resource management activities overlay riparian habitat conservation areas identified using the Scientific Analysis Team guidelines.

In overlay areas, livestock grazing activities may require some adjustment to ensure they do not affect attainment of riparian habitat objectives. This adjustment may include one or more of the following management actions: (1) changes in season of livestock use, (2) changes in duration or timing of livestock use, (3) changes in numbers of permitted livestock, or (4) exclusion (such as fencing) to keep livestock out of the affected area. Implementation of Alternatives 2 through 4 would result in numerous overlay places. Most of the solutions used in these areas would be fencing to exclude livestock that would result in some loss of access to forage, primarily in riparian areas. Site-specific planning that includes consultation with the grazing permittee should help minimize effects.

Indirect effects that would result from implementation of Alternatives 2 through 4 include creation of openings in some vegetation types that currently function as barriers to livestock movement. Thinning vegetation would allow livestock to move, through what was previously a barrier, to areas that they are not authorized to graze. Site-specific planning that includes consultation with the affected grazing permittee would be needed to identify these situations, to help avoid or minimize negative effects to grazing and provide solutions.

Disclosures

Relationship of Short-Term Uses and Long-Term effects - Implementation of Alternatives 2 through 4 would result in livestock management changes in riparian areas. This in turn would result in small reductions in forage availability to domestic livestock. Management changes are expected to result in improved riparian habitat conditions over time.

Unavoidable Adverse Effects - There are no unavoidable adverse effects expected to result from implementation of Alternatives 2 through 4.

Irreversible Commitments of Resources - There are no irreversible commitments of resources expected to result from implementation of Alternatives 2 through 5.

Irretrievable Commitments of Resources - There are no irretrievable commitments of resources expected to result from implementation of Alternatives 2 through 5.

Other Relevant Disclosures There are no other relevant disclosures livestock grazing and rangeland management.

Wildlife and Fisheries

Affected Environment

Introduction
This section summarizes findings for wildlife and fisheries resources as they were described in the reports completed for this analysis. These reports include the specialist reports (Appendix AA) and the Biological Assessment/Biological Evaluation located in the planning file. While many of the main points of these reports are highlighted here, a review of the specialist reports is recommended for further understanding of background information, and assumptions used in developing this analysis.

This analysis used a number of modeling programs to assess the effects of the proposed action and alternatives. The California Wildlife Habitat Program (Mayer and Laudenslayer; 1988) modeled effects based on changes in habitat characteristics. A literature review was completed to ensure that the latest information by researchers and professionals in the field was included (Bibliography). The Environmental Effects section was reviewed by biologists and researchers familiar with the planning area and subject matter, and is consistent with current knowledge, policies, and law.

There are approximately 224 species of birds, 84 species of mammals, 26 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 30 species of fish occupying a wide range of habitats in the planning area. Some species, such as the California spotted owl and Pacific fisher, occupy a narrow range of habitat types while others, such as bear and many land birds, use a wide range of habitats. Eleven migratory deer herds use the planning area for summer and winter range (California Department of Fish and Game; 1998).

The California Wildlife Habitat Relationship Program can be used to describe wildlife habitats to determine the effects of management activities. The most abundant habitats in the project area are grass/forb, shrub, and early successional habitats; open forest habitats; and closed-canopy late successional habitats.

The grass/forb complex is important to a number of wildlife species, including ground nesting birds, small mammals, reptiles, deer, and bats (California Wildlife Habitat Relationships). Open forest habitats support a number of birds, many from declining populations. Closed-canopy stands support many species on the Forest Service sensitive species list, including the California spotted owl, northern goshawk, marten, and fisher (SNEP 31).



Footnotes:
  31Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project 1996.  Volume II, Section III, Chapters 21-36


Many species in the project area are identified as a management indicator species or threatened, endangered, and sensitive species, or both. Management indicator species are those species that are identified as indicative of a number of other animals that use similar habitats. Threatened and endangered species, although they are also classified as management indicator species, are analyzed separately to more clearly display effects of management. The effects of the proposed management activities on these types of speciesandtheir habitats are analyzed and documented in the specialist report (Appendix AA). Effects to threatened and endangered species are discussed in the Biological Assessment/Biological Evaluation (project file) and summarized in the specialist report.

Analysis of Effects - Terrestrial Species

Overall Effects - This analysis shows that individual tree selection and group selection harvest activities prescribed in Alternatives 2 through 4 would have both positive and negative effects on forest species habitat (Appendix I). Reducing stocking in stands through individual tree selection would affect approximately 247 species. Of that amount, 65 species would experience declining trends in habitat values, 40 would experience no change in habitat values, and 142 would have increasing trends in habitat values (California Wildlife Habitat Relationships).

Important prey species, such as Douglas squirrel and northern flying squirrel, have projected decreases in estimated habitat values. These two forest species are important prey for the California spotted owl, Pacific fisher, American marten and northern goshawk. The prey species of threatened and endangered species with projected increases in estimated habitat values were the golden-mantled ground squirrel, dusky-footed woodrat, yellow-pine chipmunk, deer mouse, porcupine, and quail.

A reduction of canopy closure due to group selection harvest is expected to affect 257 species. Compared to existing conditions, 83 species have projected declining trends in habitat values, 38 have no expected change in habitat values, and 136 have increasing trends in habitat values. Four sensitive species have a projected reduction in estimated habitat values. These species are the northern goshawk, California spotted owl, American marten, and Pacific fisher.

The two management indicator species with projected increases in estimated habitat values are the hairy woodpecker and mountain quail. One of the management indicator species with a projected decrease in the estimated habitat value is the osprey. A full list of the management indicator species that were utilized in the analysis and a review of the predicted affects to their habitat values is provided in Table 3.40

All alternatives, except Alternative 1, increase the level of human disturbance above current levels. Alternative 1 treats less than the other alternatives. Alternative 5 treats 30,000 to 40,000 acres annually. Alternative 4 treats 40,000 acres annually. Alternatives 2 and 3 project resource management activities on 60,000 acres annually, causing the highest level of human disturbance over the duration of the pilot project, thereby posing the greatest risk to wildlife.

A number of cumulative effects, including those from recreational activities, mining, and fuelwood gathering, could result from management activities and events outside the scope of this analysis. Management activities on non-National Forest System lands, particularly in areas having "checkerboard 32 ownerships," are likely to add to the effects from activities in the pilot project area. Actual effects of implementation would be most accurately displayed in a site-specific analysis.



Footnotes:
  32Checkerboard ownership refers to lands where ownership alternates between public ownership and private ownership in alternating sections in each township.  The alternating sections often resemble the alternating red and black squares of a checkerboard.


Effects to Habitat

Shrub and Early Successional Habitat - Resource management activities in the proposed action and alternatives were not designed to enhance grass/forb seral stage habitat. In all alternatives, existing early seral vegetation, including shrub habitat, would be treated with forested stands by mastication, crushing, or underburning. Opening a forest stand through harvest, followed by underburning would help regenerate existing shrub species. Group selection harvest in forest stands supporting shrub species would delay succession. A short-lived grass/forb stage would be replaced by shrub regeneration in each group selection treatment area. Early seral wildlife species that use mature brush would benefit from these areas until conifers grew to dominate the site.

Open Canopy Forest Habitat - All alternatives would increase the open canopy condition over the pilot project period, although the range of habitat change in each would vary (Table 3.38). Silvicultural treatments designed to remove fuel ladders would retain basal area in the largest trees, remove suppressed, intermediate, and some codominant trees, and result in pole, mature, and some late successional forest habitat with less than 40 percent canopy cover.

Table 3.38 Potential Changes in Open Canopy Forest
Alternative Percent increase
(%)
1 6
2 13
3 8
4 7
5 1

A review of Table 3.38 might seem to suggest that Alternative 2 would be of greatest benefit to species that prefer open habitat. However, considering the effects of roads and related disturbance activities, Alternatives 3 and 4 could provide greater habitat value because management activities proposed for these alternatives would not necessarily depend on roads for implementation. Construction of area fuel treatments, for example, could use temporary roads that would be closed after use; thereby reducing the opportunity for continued human presence in an area. Alternative 1 would provide habitat benefits similar to those provided under Alternatives 3 and 4. Species that prefer a more closed canopy would benefit most from Alternative 5 because it was not designed to open the forest canopy, although prescribed fire would open the understory and remove some fuel ladders, and some individual tree removal through thinning would create minor amounts of open forest habitat.

Closed Canopy Forest - All alternatives would lead to a decrease in closed canopy forest habitat over the pilot project period (Table 3.39). Silvicultural treatments designed to remove fuel ladders in stands would retain reserve basal areas in the largest trees, remove suppressed, intermediate, and some codominant trees, and result in pole, mature, and some late successional forest with relatively open canopies. Resource management activities would be designed to increase open canopy forest conditions.

Table 3.39 Potential Changes in Closed Canopy Forest
ALTERNATIVE PERCENT DECREASE
(%)
1 6
2 13
3 8
4 7
5 1

Riparian Habitat - The riparian buffer widths described in Scientific Analysis Team guidelines are designed to maintain stream and riparian habitat until a site-specific watershed analysis is conducted. Scientific Analysis Team interim widths are more protective and consistent in implementation than those specified in streamside management zones specified in the Forest Plans. Application of Scientific Analysis Team interim widths on perennial, intermittent, and ephemeral stream channels would create or maintain habitat conditions suitable for the continuity of riparian and meadow species associated with these habitats, including fish and amphibians. For discussion of environmental consequences, effectiveness of streamside management zones and Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project riparian buffers (used in Alternative 5), reference the discussions on watershed and the riparian habitats at the end of this section.

Ecotone/Mosaic Habitat - Ecotones, or edge habitat, are important to a wide range of wildlife because these areas provide forage and cover for species that inhabit both open and closed habitat types. Each of the alternatives would provide different amounts and quality of edge habitat. Alternative 1 emphasizes tree stocking reduction and hazardous fuel reduction activities that lead to a mosaic of habitat types, but is limited by California spotted owl interim direction that hinders the generation of small forest openings through group selection harvest. In Alternatives 2 through 4, group selection activities could generate ecotone-like habitats. Alternative 5 would provide less of that habitat type than Alternatives 2 through 4. The wider stream zones prescribed under Alternatives 2 through 5 could protect riparian ecotone habitats more effectively than Alternative 1, and would continue to be treated.

Resource management activities designed for Alternatives 2 through 4 would favor species associated with small forest openings. Because the objective of these alternatives is to reduce wildfire hazard conditions, through construction of defensible fuel zones and area fuel treatments, and creation of a mosaic of openings through small group selection harvest, these alternatives would be most beneficial to ecotone development and favor species that prefer edges.

Resource management activities under Alternative 5 would result in little increase in edge habitat over the pilot project period. Mechanical treatments and prescribed burning would be designed to modify understory vegetation without modifying the stand as a whole. Resource management activities were not designed to modify stands to maximize edge habitat values.

Effects to Management Indicator Species and Neotropical Migratory Birds - Table 3.40 displays the management indicator species, excluding threatened and endangered species, considered in this analysis based on the Forest Plans.

Table 3.40 Management Indicator Species
Species Change in habitat value for group selection harvest 
(%)
Change in habitat rating for group selection harvest Change in habitat value for defensible fuel profile zones 
(%)
Change in habitat rating for defensible fuel profile zones
Deer
+ 10
No change – remains moderate
+ 23
Increases from moderate to high
Black bear
- 9
No change – remains moderate
+ 3
No change – remains moderate
Grey squirrel
- 45
No change – remains moderate
- 9 
No change – remains moderate
Mountain quail
+ 22
Increases from moderate to high
+ 13
Increases from moderate to high
Wild turkey
+ 25
No change – remains moderate
+19
No change – remains moderate
Band-tailed pigeon
- 5
No change – remains moderate
- 7
No change – remains moderate
Blue grouse
- 1
No change – remains high
+2
No change – remains high
Pileated woodpecker
- 35
No change- remains moderate
- 23
No change – remains moderate
Hairy woodpecker
+ 7
Increases from moderate to high
+19
No change – remains high
Golden eagle
+ 9
No change – remains high
+ 6
No change – remains high
Prairie falcon
+ 28
No change – remains high
+ 5
No change – remains high
Osprey
- 21
Decreases from high to moderate
- 1 
No change – remains high
Bufflehead
+ 200
No change – remains low
+ 200
No change – remains low

Seven of the 13 indicator species would benefit from improved habitat values that resulting from the resource management activities associated with Alternatives 2 through 4. Blue grouse habitat value would change little. Group selection harvests would result in the greatest adverse effects on habitat values. The values associated with the bufflehead are largely associated with their preferred habitat, open water.

Of the 18 species of birds identified as definitely or likely to be declining in the Sierra, 12 species are neotropical migrant species (Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Report). Five of these species, the red-breasted sapsucker, American robin, chipping sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, and the brown-headed cowbird have projected increases in habitat trends with the proposed actions. Five species, the band-tailed pigeon, olive-sided flycatcher, western wood peewee, golden-crowned kinglet, and Swainson's thrush have projected declines in habitat trends. These species would be adversely affected by the change from closed to open forest stands. Two species, the lesser goldfinch and black-headed grosbeak, would remain stable (Appendix I).

The overall effect of management activities on neotropical migrant species populations has not been studied, but habitat modification would be expected to effect neotropical migratory birds. Timber harvest and prescribed burning would kill birds in the nest that are too young to escape if management activities were implemented during the April through September breeding season.

Effects to Terrestrial Avian Threatened, Endangered, and Sensitive Species - In the planning area habitat exists for 17 vertebrate species and 1 invertebrate terrestrial species listed as Federally threatened or endangered (including listing proposals). These species are also considered to be sensitive species by the Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest Service (Table 3.41). These species receive detailed discussion in the Biological Assessment/Biological Evaluation located in the planning file. A summary of the effects analysis is presented here.

Table 3.41 Threatened, Endangered, Proposed, and Sensitive Terrestrial Animal Species In the Planning Area
(Pacific Southwest Region Sensitive Species List, June 8, 1998)
Species Status National Forest Occurrence
Terrestrial species
Birds
American peregrine falcon Endangered Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe
Bald eagle Threatened Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe
Northern spotted owl Threatened Lassen
California spotted owl Sensitive Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe
Northern goshawk Sensitive Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe
Willow flycatcher Sensitive Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe
Great grey owl Sensitive Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe
Greater sandhill crane Sensitive Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe
Swainson’s hawk Sensitive Lassen, Plumas
MAMMALS
Pacific fisher Sensitive Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe
American marten Sensitive Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe
Sierra Nevada red fox Sensitive Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe
California wolverine Sensitive Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe
Pallid bat Sensitive Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe
Townsend’s big-eared bat Sensitive Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe
Western red bat Sensitive Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe
REPTILES
Northwestern pond turtle Sensitive Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe
INVERTEBRATES
Valley elderberry longhorn beetle Threatened Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe

Peregrine Falcon - The destruction or modification of foraging habitat would directly and indirectly affect the peregrine falcon. Logging, road building and other activities related to management activities prescribed in the proposed action and alternatives could disturb nesting pairs. Individual tree selection and group selection harvests, as well as thinning could enhance foraging opportunities in foraging areas. The California Wildlife Habitat Relationship model shows there would be no net change to habitat values from these activities. No specific cumulative effects were identified in the Biological Evaluation/Biological Assessment (located in the planning file) although small incremental changes to habitat may occur over time through a variety of activities.

Bald Eagle - Management activities prescribed by the proposed action and alternatives would change bald eagle habitat. While logging, road building, and other resource management activities designed for the proposed action and alternatives would disturb nesting pairs; fire hazard reduction activities would benefit this species by reducing the threat of habitat loss. The California Wildlife Habitat Relationship model suggests a slight increase in habitat value would accompany a more open forest canopy. Cumulative effects would result when resource management activities combine with other uses (such as recreation). Habitat could be lost incrementally, over time.

Northern Spotted Owl - The resource management activities designed for the proposed action and alternatives would result in some modification or loss of habitat. Logging, road building, and other resource management activities could cause behavioral disturbances to nesting pairs, but a concurrent reduction of wildfire hazard would benefit the species by reducing the threat of habitat loss. The California Wildlife Habitat Relationship model suggests a slight increase in habitat value would accompany a more open forest canopy. Activities on private lands would have an impact on connectivity between the California spotted owl and the northern spotted owl, and could have cumulative effects on owl habitat.

California Spotted Owl - Before 1993, the California spotted owl was generally managed by protecting nests and providing 1,000-acre spotted owl habitat areas. California spotted owls are now managed according to the guidelines found in the Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact for California Spotted Owl Sierran Province Interim Guidelines (January 1993). California spotted owl standards and guidelines define habitat as "selected" or "other" strata, depending on the species and size of conifers within stands, and defined actions designed to maintain specific attributes important to the species. Protected activity centers, 300 acres in size, were prescribed for California spotted owl sites known to exist at the time of interim direction implementation. Table 3.42 displays the number of protected activity centers and spotted owl habitat areas in the pilot project area.

The westside and transition zone, the area between the eastside pine type, and the westside mixed conifer type are managed under California spotted owl interim direction. However, due to the variable types of habitat in the transition zone, an adaptive management strategy was developed to meet California spotted owl objectives, while implementing resource management activities. On the eastside of the Plumas National Forest, California spotted owls and owl habitat management were addressed in a Biological Evaluation dated October 27, 1993 (located in the planning file). The Biological Evaluation concluded that suitable eastside habitat for spotted owls could be managed without California spotted owl interim direction or guidelines, without an increased trend toward Federal listing. This conclusion was approved by the Pacific Southwest 5 Regional Office of the Forest Service, with a recommendation that the Plumas National Forest implement the requirements of a modified cumulative effects analysis process for eastside pine, as described in the California Spotted Owl Environmental Assessment (page lll-6 through lll-9). This management direction for the eastside zone of the Plumas National Forest would continue for the duration of the pilot project.

Table 3.42 Protected Activity Centers (PAC)
and Spotted Owl Habitat Areas (SOHA) 33
Forest Number of PACS and SOHAS Number of PACS and SOHAS in Pilot Project Area Number of PACS and SOHAS in Westside Zone Number of PACS and SOHAS in Transition Zone Number of PACS and SOHAS in Eastside Zone
Lassen NF
111
111
77
26
8
Plumas NF
244
244
172
72
0
Tahoe NF
139
11
135
4
0
Sierraville RD
11
11
7
4
0
TOTAL
494
366
256
102
8

California spotted owl identifies "areas of concern" in the range and distribution of the California spotted owl. These areas of concern are areas of limited suitable habitat for the owl. The California Spotted Owl Report 34 identified four areas of concern in the planning area. These areas, which are located in northern Lassen County (Area of Concern 1), Plumas County (Area of Concern 2), and on the Sierraville Ranger District (Area of Concern 3) contain a limited amount of suitable habitat for spotted owls from previous activities on both private and public lands. The loss of suitable habitat could cause gaps large enough to greatly reduce the connectivity of habitat throughout the Sierras.

Four demographic studies 35 are currently investigating population trends for the California spotted owl in the Sierra Nevada. These studies imply that in some parts of the range populations are declining. On the Lassen National Forest, data suggests that the study population declined at a 7.7 percent annual rate between 1990 and 1998 (Blakesley and Noon 1998). These declining trends in population could be affected by a decline in the abundance of prey, changes in regional weather patterns, broad-scale land management practices (Steger et al. 1998), or other factors yet to be identified.



Footnotes:
  33Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement:  Managing California Spotted Owl Habitat in the Sierra Nevada National Forests of California, An Ecosystem Approach (Cal Owl RDEIS) (1996), Table 3.E.1, page 3 through 26; updated in 1998 with new information (DFG database, Gould 1998).

  34Verner, J., K.S. McKelvey, B.R. Noon, R.J. Gutierrez, G.I. Gould, Jr., and T.W. Beck, tech. Coords. 1992   The California Spotted Owl Technical Report, pages. 45 through 48.  General Technical Report.  PSW-133.  Albany, CA.  Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  35Blakesly, J. and Dr. B.R. Noon. 1999.  Demographic Parameters of the California Spotted Owl on the Lassen National Forest; Preliminary Results (1990-1998).  February 1999.



All alternatives would maintain protective areas of concern and California spotted owl habitat areas throughout the pilot project period. Although interim direction for the protection of California spotted owl sets parameters for management in suitable habitat, these guidelines were not designed to maintain it. Table 3.43 displays the amount of suitable nesting and foraging habitat that would be entered under each alternative. Table 3.44 displays the estimated changes to habitat under each alternative.

Table 3.43 Potential Acres of Suitable California Spotted Owl Habitat
Entered During the Pilot Project by Fuel Treatments
Alternative Potential Suitable Nesting Habitat (5m and 5d) Entered
(Acres)
Potential Suitable Foraging Habitat (4m and 4d) Entered
(Acres)
1 12,982 40,108
2 12,791 49,148
3 20,960 67,232
4 7,959 34,905
5 22,085 60,910

Table 3.44 Changes in Suitable Owl Habitat During the Pilot Project by Fuel Treatments
Alternative Change in Nesting Habitat (5m ,5d, and 6) from 1998 Base
(%)
Change in Nesting Habitat (4m and 4d) from 1998 Base
(%)
1 - 7 - 7
2 - 7 - 8.5
3 0 0
4 0 0
5 0 0

A number of factors were considered in this analysis, including the effect of fragmentation, loss of large trees, retention of closed canopy, and snags and down logs on owl habitat. Alternative 1 is the alternative most likely to increase fragmentation due to a higher risk of stand-replacing fire, and the fact that more area would be available for vegetation management activities than in the proposed action or other alternatives. Alternative 2 would reduce the amount of suitable habitat since it has the potential to reduce crown closures below suitable habitat levels, even though it complies with California spotted owl interim direction. Alternatives 3 and 4 would decrease continuity of owl habitat, but would not contribute to a reduction in suitable habitat in areas identified as suitable habitat in the pilot project area. All alternatives, except Alternative 5 would adversely affect the areas of concern identified in the California Spotted Owl Technical Report, by increasing fragmentation, habitat discontinuity, or both.

All alternatives retain trees greater than 30 inches in diameter at breast height (DBH), except for those identified as hazard trees 35. Because Alternatives 2 through 4 would treat more acres than Alternatives 1 and 5, there is a greater probability that large hazard trees would be removed. Group selection harvests would likely contribute to a reduction in dominant and codominant tree classes. All alternatives would decrease the number of snags and down logs.



Footnotes:
  35Hazardous trees are defined in the documents entitled, Guidelines for Selecting Reserve Trees  and Guidelines for Selecting Live and/or Dead Standing Wildlife Trees, USDA Forest Service.  These documents are located in the planning file.


All alternatives would contribute to the overall effects to California spotted owl home ranges. Table 3.45 displays the potential changes in the amount of suitable habitat within the pilot project area. The number of California spotted owl home ranges with less than 50 percent suitable habitat would increase under Alternatives 1 and 2, and remains the same in Alternatives 3 through 5. Habitat suitability within California spotted owl home ranges would decrease in Alternatives 1 and 2, and remain unchanged in Alternatives 3 through 5.

Table 3.45 Potential Changes to Number of California Spotted Owl
Home Ranges with 50 Percent Suitable Habitat
Alternative Suitable habitat 
(%)
  Less than 50 percent MORE THAN 50 PERCENT
  # % # %
1 151 34 294 66
2 160 36 285 64
3 125 28 320 72
4 125 28 320 72
5 125 28 320 72

Table 3.46 indicates the overall expected effectiveness of the proposed action and alternatives to reduce the risk of burning suitable owl habitat.

Table 3.46 Effects of Alternatives to Reduce
Acres of Suitable Owl Habitat Burned
Alternative Reduction in Acres Nesting Habitat California Spotted Owl Habitat (over 27 years) Acres Burned at Reduced intensity in Suitable California Spotted Owl Habitat (over 27 years)
1
0
0
2
7,700 to 11,500
0
3
19,200 to 26,900
25,000 to 28,000
4
7,700 to 10,800
10,000 to 11,200
5 Undetermined reduction. Possibly similar to Alternative 4 Undetermined reduction. Possibly similar to Alternative 4

Northern Goshawk - The known and estimated number of northern goshawk sites on the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests is derived from data provided from geographic information system overlays reflecting the goshawk territory database from each Forest (Table 3.47). For this analysis, territories were assumed to be those areas managed in accordance with each Forest’s goshawk management direction.

Table 3.47 Northern Goshawk Territory Status
Forest Total Nesting Territories Nesting Territories in Westside Zone Nesting Territories in Transition Zone Nesting Territories in Eastside Zone
Lassen NF 115 54 20 41
Plumas NF 76 41 19 16
Sierraville RD 11 4 6 1
TOTAL 202 99 45 58

Management direction (standards and guidelines) in each Forest Plan would apply to goshawk territory management. The Lassen National Forest implements Prescription G (USFS 1992, pages 4-54 through 4-55); the Tahoe National Forest implements standard and guideline 23 (USFS 1990, page V-28). The Tahoe National Forest completed a management strategy for goshawks based on new site-specific information (York and Wilson, 1999). These guidelines include maintaining a 200-acre primary nest core and a 300-acre post fledging area. The Plumas National Forest implements Prescription 13 (USFS 1988).

The effects of the proposed action and alternatives on goshawk habitat were analyzed by considering the westside and transition zones and the eastside zone. Goshawk nesting habitat requirements are similar to California spotted owl nesting requirements, and therefore Alternatives 3, 4, and 5 would not change the amount of suitable nesting habitat because they protect suitable California spotted owl habitat. All alternatives would decrease the amount of suitable goshawk foraging habitat (Tables 3.48 and 3.49), due to the reduction in canopy cover from management activities. Unlike California spotted owls, however, goshawks use habitat in the eastside zone of the pilot project area. Thus, there would be potential habitat modifications to suitable habitat on the east side (Table 3.49).

Table 3.48 Westside and Transition Zones:
Potential Changes (Acres) in Suitable Habitat During the Pilot Project Period
with Implementation of Fuel Treatments
Alternative Amount of Suitable Nesting Habitat (4m, 4d, 5m, and 5d) Percent Decrease in Nesting Habitat from 1998 Base Amount of Suitable Foraging 37 Habitat (3m, 3d, 4p, 5p, and 6) Percent decrease in foraging habitat from 1998 base
1998 Base 607,867   692,664  
1 554,700 9 644,200 7
2 555,680 8.5 630,000 9
3 607,867 0 619,552 10.5
4 607,867 0 657,318 5
5 607,867 0 630,097 9

Footnotes:
  37Change in foraging does not reflect a decline in foraging habitat; it reflects modification from closed canopy forest foraging habitat to open canopy forested foraging habitat.

  38Alternative 5 enters the amount of habitat shown, but percent change from base is less than indicated due to emphasis on light treatment, retention of overstory canopy cover, and retention of dominant and codominant tree classes.


Table 3.49 In Eastside Zone: Potential Changes (Acres) in Suitable Habitat During the Pilot Period
with Implementation of Fuel Treatments
Alternative Amount of Suitable Nesting Habitat (4m, 4d, 5m, and 5d) Percent Decrease in Nesting Habitat from 1998 Base Amount of Suitable Foraging 39 Habitat (3m, 3d, 4p, 5p, and 6) Percent Decrease in Foraging Habitat from 1998 Base
1998 Base 122,000   275,553  
1 113,500 7 256,260 7
2 107,822 12 239,085 13
3 109,841 10 232,163 16
4 122,090 0 264,104 4
5 40 111,675 9 239,193 13


Footnotes:
  39Change in foraging does not reflect a decline in foraging habitat; it reflects modification from closed canopy forest foraging habitat to open canopy forested foraging habitat.

  40Alternative 5 enters the amount of habitat shown, but percent change from base is less than indicated due to emphasis on light treatment, retention of overstory canopy cover, and retention of dominant and codominant tree classes.



Goshawk territory management differs on each of the three Forests but under all alternatives, activities would be limited to light thinning and underburning to maintain suitable nesting habitat. Alternative 2 allows activities in 91 territories (3,311 acres); Alternative 3 allows activities in 88 territories (2,552 acres); and Alternative 4 allows activities in 43 territories (1,313 acres). Alternative 5 would allow prescribed burning activities in 88 territories (1,407 acres).

Willow Flycatcher - The willow flycatcher would be directly and indirectly affected by management activities. The loss of riparian vegetation, and changes in surface and subsurface water flows, could adversely affect the willow habitat on which the willow flycatcher depends. Loss of riparian vegetation would limit or eliminate potential nest sites, foraging perches, and foraging surfaces. Changes in the hydrology of an area could render formally suitable habitat unsuitable. Changes in the hydrologic processes would also affect the insect component that supports the flycatcher. Cumulative effects would occur to individuals or communities of willow flycatchers by additional management activities in addition to the resource management activities specified in the proposed action and alternatives (such as grazing, woodcutting, and recreation). Management activities on private lands that affect willow flycatchers and their habitat might also reduce connectivity of suitable habitat.

Great Gray Owl - Direct effects on the great gray owl include the loss of nesting habitat or habitat components, and changes in the amount of early successional habitat used by the great gray owl’s prey. Logging, road building, and other related activities could cause changes in the owl’s behavior. Cumulative effects could occur as other activities on private and public lands continue to reduce the amount of suitable habitat for this species.

Greater Sandhill Crane - Management activities prescribed in the proposed action and alternatives could contribute to the loss of wetland and meadow vegetation, due to changes in surface and subsurface flows that affect the nesting and foraging sites of greater sandhill cranes. Disturbance generated from the proposed resource management activities has the potential to limit foraging times and the duration during which greater sandhill cranes feed. Cumulative effects are those contributing to a loss of meadow vegetation, primarily through changes in surface and subsurface water flows.

Swainson's Hawk - There are few sightings of Swainson’s hawk within the planning area. The habitat used by Swainson’s hawk is not a high priority treatment area under the proposed action or any of the alternatives. The open habitat that attracts this raptor is not expected to be affected by the activities under consideration.

Effects to Terrestrial Threatened, Endangered, and Sensitive Mammals

Mesocarnivore Habitat Network - Current management in the Lassen National Forest includes a forest carnivore habitat network consisting of interconnected habitat management areas for American marten and Pacific fisher. Nineteen habitat management areas, each with a minimum of 2,100 acres of suitable habitat, have been established for marten; 5 habitat management areas, each with a minimum of 9,800 acres of suitable habitat, are established for Pacific fisher. This network connects habitat to the Plumas National Forest to the south and the Shasta -Trinity National Forests to the north. Specific management direction (standards and guidelines) for management of habitat management areas and connecting corridors are described in the Lassen Forest Plan (USDA 1993).

Although the Plumas and Tahoe National Forests include forest carnivore networks, no management direction is in place to guide for management of networks. Criteria used to develop carnivore networks on the Plumas National Forest included: (1) reported known sightings, (2) existing large habitat management areas, and (3) dispersal or connecting corridors for migration and population health. These corridors connect at the Plumas and Tahoe National Forest boundaries. The Tahoe National Forest developed its network based on California Wildlife Habitat Relationships, and Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project - Late Seral Old Growth Maps, polygon patch data, a spatial model, and orthographic and aerial photos. The information in Table 3.50 was derived from geographic information system overlays of the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forest's mesocarnivore networks (all acres are approximate).

Table 3.50
Approximate Mesocarnivores Corridor Acres (Total refers to number of Network acres on Forest)
Forest Total Acres in Carnivore Network Acres in Westside Zone Acres in Transition Zone Acres in Eastside Zone
Lassen NF 100,528 64,915 30,153 5,460
Plumas NF 251,950 150,895 99,428 1,627
Sierraville RD 40,193 7,564 28,084 4,545
TOTAL 392,671 223,374 157,665 11,632

Pacific Fisher - The current distribution of fisher in California suggests that a once continuous distribution is now fragmented into two areas separated by a gap approximately 250 miles wide. Numerous survey efforts to detect Pacific fisher failed to find within this species on Forest Service lands in the area between Mount Shasta and Yosemite National Park (Zielinski, et al, 1995). This gap in Pacific fisher distribution may be effectively isolating the southern Sierra Nevada population from the rest of the Pacific fisher range in northern California.

American Martens American marten are present in localized areas on the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests in the planning area. On the Plumas National Forest, 43 percent of American marten sightings occurred in the transition zone (Plumas database). All but 5 of those sightings occurred in the Lakes Basin-Haskell Peak area, and all were unverified. Two sightings occurred on the eastside. The rest of the sightings occurred on the westside, the majority around Little Grass Valley Reservoir.

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

The preferred habitat for Pacific fisher and American marten differs slightly, but is generally considered to be closed canopied stands with an abundance of down logs. Because spotted owls, goshawks, fishers, and marten are associated with mature forests, their distribution and habitat requirements overlap (Table 3.51). For the Sierra Nevada Framework Project potential forest carnivore strategy, three capability areas were identified and used to model marten and fisher habitat availability and distribution across the Sierra Nevada. These capability areas are:

Table 3.51 American Marten and Pacific Fisher Habitat
Availability and Distribution in the Sierra Nevada
  Westside and transition zones Eastside
Denning and resting habitat Greater than 60 percent canopy cover

More than 6 trees 24+ inches DBH per acre

Greater than 40 percent canopy cover

More than 2 trees 24+ inches DBH per acre

Foraging and travel habitat Greater than 40 percent canopy cover

More than 2 trees 24+ inches DBH per acre

Greater than 25 percent canopy cover

More than 0.5 trees 24+ inches DBH per acre

Unsuitable Does not meet above requirements Does not meet above requirements

All alternatives could potentially decrease the amount of suitable American marten and Pacific fisher denning habitat, due to opening the canopy through proposed resource management activities. Total suitable denning and foraging habitat in the pilot project area in westside habitat is approximately 758,431 acres. Total suitable denning and foraging habitat in the pilot project area in eastside habitat is approximately 394,362. Table 3.52 displays the amount of suitable habitat that would be entered under the various alternatives.

Table 3.52 Potential Changes (Acres) in Suitable Marten and Fisher Habitat
During the Pilot Period with Implementation of Fuel Treatments
Alternative Westside and Transition Zone
Amount of Denning and Resting Habitat Affected
(4d, 5d, and 6)
(%)
Westside and Transition Zone
Amount of Foraging and Travel Habitat Affected
(4m and 5m)
(%)
Eastside
Amount of Denning and Resting Habitat Affected
(4m, 4d, 5m, 5d, and 6)
(%)
Eastside Amount of Foraging and Travel Habitat Affected
(4p and 5p)
(%)
1 10 10 10 10
2 8 9 34 14
3 14 12 10 17
4 5 10 6 13
5 17 10 9 13

Alternative 5 potentially enters a similar number of acres as Alternative 3, but does not construc defensible fuel profile zones, and prescribed burning is emphasized over thinning activity in area treatments. Alternatives 2 through 4 would increase the amount of roads, thereby increasing the potential for human access into habitats during critical denning and winter periods and increasing the potential for roadkill.

Sierra Nevada Red Fox - Management activities prescribed by the proposed action and alternatives could improve habitat for the lowland fox and facilitate its migration into the upper elevations where it could compete successfully against its native cousin, the Sierra Nevada red fox. Site-specific analysis would be needed to accurately predict effects to the Sierra Nevada red fox. In addition to the effects of management activities, additional roaded areas, increased human settlement, and disturbances along the urban interface could cause cumulative effects.

California Wolverine - Direct and indirect effects to the California wolverine are likely because of the number of activities that increase human access to large blocks of land. Cumulative effects would include increases in recreational activity, increases in urban development, and other activities associated with resource use that increase with growth in population.

Bats: Pallid Bat, Western Red Bat and Townsend’s Big-Eared Bat - Habitat modification is the main adverse effect facing bats from proposed resource management activities by the proposed action and alternatives. Activities that result in a loss of riparian and meadow vegetation would effect foraging habitat. Because bats do not typically nest or roost in trees, the loss of bridge structures, destruction of caves, or removal of abandoned buildings would affect bat populations. Due to the scarcity of these bat species in the planning area, cumulative effects are difficult to predict. Disturbance to roost sites combined with other activities on private, State, and Federal land would combine to affect local populations.

Effects to Terrestrial Threatened, Endangered, and Sensitive Reptiles

Northwestern Pond Turtle - Loss of riparian vegetation, specifically low-growing emergent vegetation that provides basking and foraging sites, would reduce habitat suitability for northwest pond turtle hatchlings. Changes in stream flow would adversely affect this species. Road construction could cause turtles to be killed by machinery, and increase the potential for harm to the species. Steep road banks would become barriers during turtle migrations. Loss of woody material, especially logs that serve as basking sites, could affect thermoregulation.

Cumulative effects would occur if livestock were allowed access to previously inaccessible areas. Mining, timber harvest, recreation, and range developments, on private and public lands, have the potential to raise stream temperatures if vegetation in riparian areas were affected. Management activities prescribed by the proposed action and alternatives have the potential to affect stream temperatures and act in concert with other activities to increase water temperatures and reduce northwestern pond turtle habitat suitability.

Effects to Terrestrial Threatened, Endangered, and Sensitive Invertebrates

Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle - The risk to this species from proposed management activities by the alternatives appears to be low. A large portion of suitable habitat within the National Forest boundaries is not included within the pilot project area (such as Wilderness, offbase, or deferred). The potential to affect the elderberry longhorn beetle is highest during prescribed burning in suitable habitat. Upstream treatment could affect downstream vegetation on which the elderberry longhorn beetle depends. There could be indirect effects to habitat if areas that could become suitable habitat were included in a site-specific project and defensible fuel profile zone or thinned areas kept elderberry longhorn beetles from reaching maturity. Consultation with the USDI Fish and Wildlife Service would be required for any action that with the potential to affect this species. Cumulative effects could occur if management activities, combined with other activities (grazing, private land, and other near stream disturbances) affect water flow and quality or the elderberry plant on which the elderberry longhorn beetle depends.

Effects to Aquatic Management Indicator Species

Rainbow trout, largemouth bass, and riparian habitat (alder and willow) complexes were identified as management indicator species (Appendix AA). Because these management indicator species occur in a wide range of habitats, effects are best addressed at the site-specific project level.

Trout Scientific Analysis Team guidelines for riparian protection would be used in Alternatives 2 through 4, streamside management zone buffers in Alternative 1, and Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project guidelines would provide protection in Alternative 5. Streamside management zones implemented with Alternative 1 would minimize impacts to trout species and their habitats. However, riparian habitat restoration, replacement of road structures (culverts), and sedimentation from roads would affect trout. The removal of vegetation within the riparian areas would increase the likelihood of sedimentation to streams, reduce shade, and increase stream temperature. Alternative 1 provides the least amount of protection from resource management activities and thus, effects are most likely to be found under Alternative 1 than any of the other alternatives.

Largemouth Bass - This species is unlikely to be affected by the resource management activities in the proposed action or alternatives because it primarily inhabits lake habitats.

Willow and Alder Communities - The effects to willow and alder communities are hard to determine at the programmatic level of analysis. Not all affects would be adverse because many stands lack age and species diversity and are in late successional stages for riparian communities. Some disturbance could encourage a multitude of age structures and be beneficial to the community. Effects from activities are likely to be most in Alternative 1, where stream buffer widths would be smaller than with other alternatives. The Scientific Analysis Team guidelines for riparian protection are likely to minimize effects to these communities, except in road construction, crossing repairs, and where necessary to implement riparian habitat improvement projects. Alternative 2 is likely to have effects similar to Alternative 1, based on the number of acres treated. It is difficult to assess the levels of effects to riparian communities under Alternatives 3 through 5, but the effects are likely to be localized and difficult to assess at the programmatic level. Each community type would need to be mapped and defined before determination could be made with any level of confidence. Therefore, the effects analysis is better accomplished at the site-specific level where the affected riparian communities could be best described.

Effects to Aquatic Threatened, Endangered, and Sensitive Species

Table 3.53 displays the aquatic species Federally listed as threatened or endangered, or identified as sensitive by the Regional Forester for the Pacific Southwest Region.

Table 3.53 Threatened, Endangered, Proposed, and Sensitive Aquatic Animal Species
(Pacific Southwest Region Sensitive Species List, June 8, 1998)
Species Status National Forest Occurrence
Aquatic species
Fish
Central Valley spring-run chinook salmon Proposed endangered Lassen
Central Valley fall-run chinook salmon Proposed Threatened Lassen
Central Valley steelhead Threatened Lassen
Lahontan cutthroat trout Threatened  Tahoe
Hardhead Sensitive Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe
Eagle Lake rainbow trout Sensitive Lassen
Lahontan Lake tui chub Sensitive Tahoe
AMPHIBIANS
California red-legged frog Threatened Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe
Mountain yellow-legged frog Sensitive Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe
Foothill yellow-legged frog Sensitive Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe
Cascade frog Sensitive Lassen
Northern leopard frog Sensitive Plumas, Tahoe
INVERTEBRATES
Shasta crayfish Endangered Lassen
California floater freshwater mussel Sensitive Lassen
Great Basin rams-horn snail Sensitive Lassen, Tahoe
Scalloped juga snail Sensitive Lassen
Topaz juga snail Sensitive Lassen
Montane peaclam sensitive Lassen

Fish

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

For purposes of the proposed pilot project, consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service has been ongoing since the Act became law. On June 11, 1999, a letter by the Forest Service (planning file) was sent to the National Marine Fisheries Service to initiate consultation and request concurrence on the consultation process for the proposed pilot project. Based on preliminary discussions with the National Marine Fisheries Service (Appendix W), it was concluded that the Forest Service’s obligations under the Endangered Species Act, for consultation at on this programmatic FEIS, were met during the consultation completed to date for the Lassen Forest Plan. To meet Endangered Species Act obligations at the site-specific level, however, additional site-specific assessments would be conducted.

Lahontan Cutthroat Trout - Possible effects on the Lahontan cutthroat trout from proposed resource management activities in the pilot project area include: (1) modification of vegetation within riparian areas; (2) decreased shading of aquatic systems; (3) increased water temperature, (4) decreased input of vegetation and animals from floodplains into streams; (5) changes in surface or subsurface water flows; and (6) the use of water for dust abatement by drafting water from creeks, especially during summer months. Indirect effects include loss of future woody debris recruitment into riparian and aquatic habitats; and increased sedimentation of riparian and aquatic habitats.

Hardhead - Current threats include widespread alteration of downstream habitats and population isolation that increase the possibility of local extinction, habitat loss from hydroelectric power development and use, and predation by exotic species.

Eagle Lake Trout - Direct and indirect effects could derive from road activities, vegetation and fuels management activities, and stream restoration projects. Stream disturbance could result in the loss of eggs and juveniles. Water levels could be affected during water drafting or crossing repairs. Vegetation and fuels management activities have the potential to introduce short-term and long-term sedimentation if ample protection is not afforded riparian areas. The loss of down logs or snags that would eventually become logs would affect the nutrient cycles within the immediate area. Even stream restoration activities, if not properly planned, could increase sedimentation.

Lahontan Tui Chub - The Lahonton tui chub is not known to occur in the pilot project area; no direct effects are likely to occur and no cumulative effects can be predicted.

Amphibians

California Red-legged Frog - Direct effects that could occur from proposed resource management activities described in the proposed action and alternatives include loss of riparian vegetation (habitat loss); a decrease in the shading of aquatic systems; and a decrease of vegetation and animals from the floodplain into the streams, affecting food sources for tadpoles. There could also be changes in surface and subsurface flows. Several indirect effects were considered, including an increase in sedimentation, high-volume spring flows that affect eggs, and changes in water levels during drafting for dust abatement activities. During winter rain events, California red-legged frogs disperse from breeding areas for nearly two miles into adjacent upland habitats. Upland dispersal increases vulnerability to direct mortality from resource management activities and predation.

Mountain Yellow-legged Frog, Foothill Yellow-legged Frog, and Cascade Frog - The effects analysis considered the mountain and foothill yellow-legged frogs, Cascade frog, and the northern leopard frog in a single discussion due to their similarity in habitat needs. The direct effects identified for these species from vegetation and fuels management activities include loss of riparian vegetation, a decrease in the shading of aquatic systems, a decrease in vegetation and animal input into floodplains (for tadpoles) and changes in surface and subsurface waterflows. Indirect effects include a loss of future organic matter, from the loss of snags, damage to eggs during high flows, and reduction of water flow when drafting for road dust abatement activities. Cumulative effects would occur with similar activities on other lands (private holdings) in the planning area watersheds. Other on-going activities, such as range management and recreation, would add to these affects.

Aquatic Invertebrates

Shasta Crayfish - Because the Shasta crayfish is not known to occur on National Forest System lands, no effects are expected from the proposed action or alternatives considered in this analysis.

California Floater Freshwater Mussel, Great Basin Rams-Horn Snail, Scalloped Juga Snail, and Topaz Juga Snails, and the Montane Peaclam - Implementation of Scientific Analysis Team guidelines with Alternatives 2 through 4, and Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project guidelines used for Alternative 5, are unlikely to cause direct or indirect effects to these species. However the Forest Plan direction that would continue with Alternative 1, could be insufficient to limit effects to these species.

Riparian and Meadow Habitats

Alternative 1 would continue riparian restoration efforts, although the coordination of efforts would not be guaranteed. Riparian habitats would improve in small increments where treated. Alternative 1 would treat fewer acres than the proposed action or other alternatives and, theoretically 41, would result in the least improvement to habitat for wildlife species dependent on riparian and meadow habitats.



Footnotes:
  41The actual amount is unknown due to unforeseen budgets and the potential to work with cooperating agencies and private groups.

Alternatives 2 through 5 prescribe prioritized treatment of areas that could lead to overall improvements in watersheds. Adverse affects could occur where small areas in poor condition were not treated because of higher priority treatment elsewhere. Until specific treatment areas are identified, the effect of activities in riparian habitat on wildlife species cannot be accurately predicted.

Disclosures

Relationship of Short-Term Uses and Long-Term Effects - Under Alternatives 1 through 4, a reduction of suitable habitat for the California spotted owl, marten, and fisher could be expected to occur as the forest moved toward a more open canopy structure.

Unavoidable Adverse Effects - Alternative 2 meets California spotted owl interim direction. Implement as described based on the determination made in the Biological Assessment /Biological Evaluation would not result in unavoidable adverse effects.

Irreversible Commitments of Resources - There are no known irreversible commitments of wildlife and fish resources.

Irretrievable Commitment of Resources - There are no known irretrievable commitments of wildlife and fish resources.

Other Relevant Disclosures. See Table 3.54 Determinations.

Table 3.54 Determinations
Determination Species Status
The proposed action and alternatives will have no affect on the species or their critical habitat Winter-run chinook salmon Endangered
Sacramento splittail Theatened
Delta smelt Threatened
Shasta crayfish Endangered
Conservancy fairy shrimp Endangered
Vernal pool tadpole shrimp Endangered
Vernal pool fairy shrimp Threatened
The proposed action and alternatives may affect, but are not likely to adversely affect these species or their critical habitat Valley elderberry longhorn beetle Threatened
California red-legged frog Threatened
Lahontan cutthroat trout Threatened
Bald eagle Threatened
American peregrine falcon Endangered
Northern spotted owl Threatened
The proposed action and alternatives will have no affect on these species California floater All species in this category or listed as sensitive by the Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest Service
Great Basin rams-horn
Scalloped juga
Topaz juga
Montane peaclam
Lahontan Lake tui chub
Eagle Lake trout
Hardhead
Northern leopard frog
Townsend’s big eared bat
Greater sandhill crane
Swainson’s hawk
The proposed action and alternatives may affect individuals, but will not lead to a trend towards Federal listing, nor increase the risk of population changes leading to a loss of viability Northwestern pond turtle All species in this category or listed as sensitive by the Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest Service
Foothill yellow-legged frog
Mountain yellow-legged frog
Cascade frog
Pallid bat
Western red bat
Great gray owl
Willow flycatcher
Northern goshawk
Sierra Nevada red fox
American marten
California wolverine
The proposed action and alternatives may affect individuals, but will not lead to a trend towards Federal listing. Pacific fisher Sensitive
Alternatives 1 and 2 may affect individuals and are likely to result in a trend toward Federal listing and pose a significant threat to the long-term viability of the species. Alternatives 3 through 5 may affect individuals but are not likely to result in a trend towards Federal listing. California spotted owl Sensitive

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