WASHINGTON, NOVEMBER 18, 2004 AT 3:00 PM EST - U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth today affirmed the January 2004 Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment (SNFPA), a land management plan affecting 11.5 million acres in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and Modoc Plateau in California and parts of Nevada, which is designed to reduce fire danger, improve wildlife habitat and protect communities.
“After reviewing the appeals, I have found that the Pacific Southwest region complied with all applicable laws, regulations and policies in amending the 2001 plan,” said Bosworth. “Jack Blackwell and regional employees should be commended for all of their hard work.”
In making the administrative appeal decision, Bosworth looked at the plan’s supplemental environmental impact statement (EIS) and record of decision (ROD) as well as the administrative record. Specifically, the chief instructed Forest Service Pacific Southwest Regional Forester Jack
Blackwell to make two changes to the 2004 SNFPA. First, the region must reinstate the standard for plant surveys. Second, the region must further develop the plan’s evaluation and adjustment requirements in the adaptive management strategy. The region will have six months to respond to the instructions.
The Forest Service’s Washington office reviewed more than 6,200 appeals to the amendment. There were 27 unique letters; the remainder nearly identical. The appeals covered a wide range of natural resource issues, including fire and fuels, forest management, riparian and meadow ecosystems, terrestrial wildlife and aquatic species, range management, road management and social and economic considerations. In addition, the Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station in Albany, Calif., conducted a review of the science used in the supplemental EIS and found that it was consistent with current science.
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, Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Mark Rey will have 15 days to decide whether or not to conduct a discretionary review of Bosworth’s decision.
The 2004 SNFPA will remain in effect throughout this time.
The chief previously affirmed the plan in November 2001 with direction for Blackwell to conduct a management review. Bosworth's appeal decision for the 2001 SNFPA recommended reevaluating the SNFPA decision in light of recent and repeated severe fire seasons and a need to aggressively manage excessive hazardous fuels in the forests. That led the region to conduct a year-long review of the decision with federal, state and local agencies, scientists and other stakeholders. A supplemental EIS was prepared and in January 2004, Blackwell signed the ROD to amend the 2001 SNFPA.
The 2004 SNFPA amends 11 land and resource management plans: Humboldt-Toiyabe, Modoc, Lassen, Plumas, Tahoe, Eldorado, Stanislaus, Sierra, Sequoia and Inyo national forests, and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.
For a copy of the chief’s administrative appeal decision, for more information on the 2004 SNFPA, visit http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/snfpa/.