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This chapter describes the environment in the planning area affected by the alternatives. It examines physical characteristics of the environment such as the landbase, climate, soils, water, aquatic resources, visual resources, and roads. The biological characteristics of the environment, including vegetation and old growth forest characteristics, fish and wildlife, range resources, and fire and fuels are described. The cultural heritage, social, and economic characteristics of the area are also described.

Chapter 3 is divided into three sections: Section 1 Physical Environment, Section 2 Biological Environment, and Section 3 Socioeconomic Environment. Each section is further divided into subject areas. Each subject area begins with a description of the affected environment to facilitate baseline comparison between the expected effects of the proposed action and alternatives. The affected environment is followed by a discussion of the expected environmental consequences. The direct, indirect and cumulative effects that would be expected with project implementation are described by alternative and in relation to the significant issues. A consideration of these expected environmental consequences forms the scientific and analytic basis for comparison of alternatives and that affects the decision making process. Each subject area concludes with a description of relevant disclosures. Chapter 3 is a combination of the traditional Chapter 3 (Affected Environment) and Chapter 4 (Environmental Consequences) and concludes with an overall summary that displays expected environmental effects and disclosures facilitate comparison of effects and decision making. The summary section does not present any new information.


All or part of Butte, Lassen, Nevada, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Tehama, and Yuba Counties in northern California are included in the planning area. Table 3.1 displays the acres of National Forest System lands included in the planning area in each county. As described in Chapter 2, the planning area is located on Federal lands administered by the Lassen National Forest, Plumas National Forest, and the Sierraville Ranger District of the Tahoe National Forest.

Table 3.1
National Forest Landbase Acres

Table 3.2 is displays the National Forest System lands "Available for Group Selection," described in the Act. It identifies the acres of "offbase" and "deferred" lands excluded from resource management activities by the Act. The difference in total acreage reflects recent land exchanges on the Lassen, Plumas, and Tahoe National Forests and errors that may have occurred in the mapping process.

Table 3.2
Summary of Acres in the Pilot Project Area
Pilot project area (defined in the Act)
Deferred Areas
Offbase Areas
Wilderness Areas
Non-Project Area (usually non-forest)
Total National Forest Acres in Planning Area


Weather in the planning area follows a Mediterranean pattern of wet winters and dry summers. East of the Sierra crest and Mount Lassen, marine influence lessens and there is a greater range in daily and seasonal temperatures, lower precipitation and humidity, and rain from summer thunderstorms is normal. Most precipitation on both sides of the crest falls as winter frontal disturbances are lifted and cooled over the mountains (Young 1998, Climate Section).

Over 95 percent of the precipitation in the planning area occurs during winter months. Precipitation ranges from 15 inches on the east side of the Sierra crest, to 90 inches on the west side. Winter temperatures below 0°F and summer temperatures above 100°F have been recorded. Snowpack is common from December through May at elevations above 4000 feet, although individual winter storms may bring rain to the highest elevations. Thunderstorms generally occur during the summer months and most frequently on the east side of the range (Schultz and Roby 1996; Young 1998).

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