"We knew coming into this project that we would have to learn to deal with change because ecosystems themselves are dynamic. To manage them, we must learn to be dynamic also."
In addition to the Environmental Impact Statement for eastern
Oregon and Washington (Eastside EIS) being developed by the Eastside
Ecosystem Management Project, a recent decision was made to develop
a separate EIS for about 69,000 square miles of land managed by
the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management in Idaho, the
western slope of the Rocky Mountains in Montana, and portions
of northwest Nevada that lie within the Upper Columbia River Basin.
The Upper Columbia River Basin EIS will be similar to the Eastside
EIS. For several reasons, this will result in a change in schedule
for the Eastside Project.
Now that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) effort for the Upper Columbia River Basin has begun, which is similar in scope to the Eastside EIS, it makes sense for the Scientific Assessments to serve as a tie between both processes. In this new picture, the Scientific Assessment will support both Environmental Impact Statements. To serve as a useful tool for both EIS processes, a mid-scale assessment will now be done to cover the whole interior Columbia River Basin, instead of only eastern Oregon and Washington. A broad-scale assessment for the entire basin has been planned since the project began. Project team members must work to integrate information at this new scale for areas across the basin. Overall, these changes will foster a more consistent ecosystem approach to the Scientific Assessments. The two EIS processes will follow similar timelines and both will focus on ecosystem management as an overall goal. The Scientific Assessment will link to both processes. Close coordination between the two EIS projects will be necessary throughout the process.
The timeline for the Eastside Project has been extended to allow for added coordination and the expansion of the mid-scale assessment. This will give the Science Integration Team and both Environmental Impact Statement Teams an opportunity to gather necessary information and better understand relationships and interactions of the ecosystem across state lines. The Eastside EIS Team and the newly forming Upper Columbia River Basin EIS Team will assist in the assessment process and ensure good coordination.
This new schedule also allows more time for public interaction and involvement in the process. So, your comments and concerns will continue to be welcomed. As more details about these changes surface, we'll share information on the latest developments.
The Science Integration Team will complete both broad and mid-scale assessment for the interior Columbia River Basin. Previously a mid-scale assessment was only planned for the eastern Oregon and Washington area.
The Eastside Environmental Impact Statement Team and Science Integration Team will coordinate closely with the newly forming Upper Columbia River Basin Environmental Impact Statement Team throughout the process.
Additional science efforts will push the publication of the Draft Scientific Assessments, both broad and mid-scale, to July 1995. This represents eight additional months.
The release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement will shift forward, and should occur approximately 2-3 months after the assessments are completed.
The Eastside Project has adopted several sites as "prototypes for Ecosystem Planning and Analysis"-areas around the eastside that are currently going through a watershed analysis process and have agreed to test some of the principles and concepts contained in the project's "Framework for Ecosystem Management."
In order to foster a "mutual learning" environment with interested publics, the project team is in the process of planning local field trips to these areas. Four field trips are tentatively being scheduled for next spring. These field trips will involve local land managers, scientists, stakeholders, tribes, county governments and members of the Eastside Team. It is hoped that in the spirit of "mutual learning" others throughout the area will plan additional field trips based on the agenda and objectives developed for these first four.
The Eastside Team has identified four objectives for these field trips:
To involve people in envisioning the future of their forests and rangelands within the interior Columbia River Basin.
To open dialogue within communities to better understand various values and recognize the importance of these expressed values. To establish relationships and interaction opportunities between managers, scientists, and the public, to work towards a better understanding of ecosystem management.
And to raise the level of knowledge of ecosystem principles and ecosystem management by all participants.
The field trips will be open to anyone who wishes to participate. More information will be available as soon as the dates and places are finalized.
The scope of the scientific assessment, being done by the Eastside Ecosystem Management Project Science Integration Team, has recently been expanded to include a mid-scale assessment of the entire upper Columbia River Basin (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, western Montana, parts of Wyoming, Nevada, and Utah). Earlier plans called for a broad-scale assessment of the entire area and a mid-scale assessment of only the eastern Oregon/Washington area.
So what exactly do the two scales mean in practical terms? The scales are like the resolution on your TV screen. When a picture of the entire multi-state area (broad-scale) fills your screen, you see the big picture: how the parts fit together, the relative proportion of the parts, how one part is related to the other parts. For many land management decisions, this big picture is necessary. The big picture is necessary for determining trends in employment or population dynamics, for example.
For other questions-management objectives or habitat restoration on a specific watershed-more details are necessary. We need to zoom in on that big picture. You need a picture taken on a smaller scale to see the details of a river basin. This is the mid-scale view.
A broad-scale analysis looks at species groups, the general amount of old growth, general rates of change in resource productivity, trends in urbanization, and conservation strategies. Much of the data gathering is done by satellite imagery and mapping.
Mid-scale analysis looks at the presence and distribution of individual species; distribution of old growth; amounts of timber, minerals, forage, and other resources produced; maps and actual acreage of changes in ownership and land use; and land management plans. The data gathering is summarized on smaller-scale maps and by photo interpretation and existing field sampling and surveys. The data needed for broad-scale analysis can, in some cases, be obtained by lumping the data collected at a smaller scale.
On the Eastside Project, the inclusion of the larger area in the mid-scale analysis will clearly take longer. But it will result in a level of detail to support the Eastside and Upper Columbia River Basin Environmental Impact Statement processes in one planning step rather than two. That's a result that is worthwhile.
In coordination with the scientific and EIS efforts in Walla Walla, the Upper Columbia River Basin Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was announced in Boise on July 28, 1994, by Intermountain Regional Forester, Dale Bosworth, and Idaho BLM State Director, Del Vail.
Bosworth and Vail were making the announcement on behalf of the agencies' Columbia Basin Executive Steering Committee. The committee is composed of the Regional Foresters from the Northern, Intermountain, and Pacific Northwest Regions and Station Directors from the Rocky Mountain, Intermountain and Pacific Northwest Research Stations of the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management State Directors for Oregon/Washington, Idaho and Montana.
The team's project manager will be Stephen P. Mealey. Mealy is being reassigned from his current job as Boise National Forest Supervisor, a position he's held since 1991. The team's headquarters will be in Boise, Idaho. The Co-EIS Team Leaders are Cindy Deacon Williams of the Forest Service and BLM's Gary Wyke.
The Boise team's mission is an expansion of an earlier planned effort called "Pacfish" that was to have addressed habitat for salmon and other aquatic species in the range of anadromous fish in Idaho. The Upper Columbia River Basin EIS Team will draw on the expertise of its own employees, other federal and state resource specialists, and the Eastside Ecosystem Management Project's EIS and Science Integration Teams.
Similar to the Eastside EIS, the Upper Columbia River Basin EIS will develop and evaluate information that will be used to write or revise individual forest plans and BLM resource management plans. Public scoping will begin early fall to learn what issues people believe should be addressed in the EIS. It is anticipated that the EIS will be finished in about 18 months.