U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth today issued an administrative appeal decision affirming the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment, but directed the California region to reexamine some aspects of the forest management plan.
"I appreciate the hard work and dedication of the interested citizens, governmental agencies and many others who came together to help develop the Sierra Nevada Framework," said Bosworth. "While the foundation of the plan is a sound one, I am concerned with some aspects of it and I believe that further review will help to make the plan more consistent with other agency policy, including the National Fire Plan."
In making the decision, Bosworth looked at the plan's environmental impact statement and record of decision as well as the appeals and administrative record. Specifically, the chief instructed the Pacific Southwest regional forester to:
- reexamine the plan for possible ways to further reduce catastrophic fire risk to fish and wildlife habitat and communities in the Sierra Nevada;
- reevaluate the plan based on the latest science detailed in the National Fire Plan; and
- identify opportunities to better synchronize the plan with the goals of the Herger Feinstein Quincy Library Group Act.
Sierra Nevada forests continue to have unusually high levels of fire activity with dangerously high fuel loadings. The plan had been completed prior to the completion of the National Fire Plan, which is an integrated, multi-agency, multi-ownership approach to reduce wildland fire risk in the United States.
Once the Pacific Southwest Region completes the chief's instructions, in coordination with the Pacific Southwest Research Station and the Intermountain Region, the regional forester will determine whether or not to amend the plan. The plan will remain in effect throughout this time.
Appeal decisions rendered by the chief are subject to discretionary review by the secretary of agriculture. However, since Secretary Ann M. Veneman recused herself from this issue, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Mark Rey will have 15 days to decide whether or not to conduct a review.
In January, the Forest Service issued the Sierra Nevada Framework for Conservation and Collaboration, a plan for managing 11.5 million acres of Sierra Nevada forests that integrates the latest science and a collaborative approach to national forest management. Bosworth received 276 appeals challenging the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment and its final environmental impact statement.