SUMMARY of the ALTERNATIVES

Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project     March 2000


Alternative S1

Theme

Alternative S1 (no action) continues management specified under each existing Forest Service and BLM land use plan, as amended or modified by interim direction--known as Eastside Screens (national forests in eastern Oregon and Washington only), PACFISH, and INFISH--as the long-term strategy for lands managed by the Forest Service or BLM. The final standards for rangeland health and guidelines for livestock grazing management (Healthy Rangelands) currently being implemented on BLM-administered lands in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington are continued on the same lands. The reasonable and prudent measures, terms and conditions, and/or conservation recommendations from the Biological Opinions on the Forest Service Land and Resource Management Plans as amended by PACFISH and INFISH are maintained and followed where applicable.


Forest Service- and BLM-administered lands would continue to be managed by direction in each individual existing land use plan (currently 65 plans), recovery plan, and other current direction. These land use plans cover diverse ecosystems and have distinct, and sometimes widely varying, land management objectives and emphases. Many of the plans were based on the assumption that ecological conditions were healthy, or that disturbances (such as fire, insects, and disease) would not substantially affect planned actions, desired outcomes, or outputs. In general, the intent is to provide sustainable levels of resources (such as timber and wood products, livestock forage, big game and game birds, and minerals) in an environmentally prudent manner from some areas. Other areas are managed as wilderness, scenic areas, research natural areas, unroaded lands, and conservation areas to provide other uses and values such as aesthetics, recreation opportunities, viewable wildlife, and clean air and water.


Display of Alternative S1, Compared to S2 and S3

Alternative S1, the no-action alternative, represents all the various land use plans in the project area. These plans were developed at different times by two agencies in several regions using different definitions and policies. The plans vary tremendously, each plan was written at a much smaller scale than the ICBEMP, and each were developed using different goals than the ICBEMP. An attempt was made to make Alternative S1 parallel to the other alternatives; however, it is described and presented somewhat differently than Alternatives S2 and S3. For example, Alternative S1 is organized by the four major components, just as Alternatives S2 and S3 are (landscape succession/disturbance; terrestrial species habitat; aquatic habitat; and human needs, products, and services). However, it does not have a comprehensive restoration strategy, and there are no aquatic (A1 and A2 subwatersheds) or terrestrial (T watersheds) habitats delineated. Therefore, since it was neither appropriate nor possible to include all direction from individual plans, relevant items were consolidated and paraphrased.


Management Direction

Forestland Vegetation Management - The general intent of forestland vegetation management is to rely on even-aged management practices, favor early seral species with reduced stand densities, improve growth and yields, restore and maintain soil productivity, use genetically improved trees to prompt reforestation, and reduce fuel loads. In the past, lands suitable for timber production were managed at the stand level; however, policy changes, interim strategies, and Biological Opinions have affected forestland management so management activities are planned at watershed scales more than at the stand level, uneven-aged practices are emphasized more, and timber harvest is reduced within riparian areas and priority watersheds.

Rangeland Vegetation Management - The intent of vegetation management on rangelands is focused on providing forage for livestock and wildlife, while protecting soil productivity and coordinating with other resource uses. Control and prevention of noxious weeds and management of non-native plants is gaining importance as a management intent. Healthy Rangelands direction for BLM-administered lands, interim strategies, and Biological Opinions have increased the focus on vegetation and soil conditions and protection of aquatic and riparian values.

Wildlife Habitat Management - The intent of wildlife habitat management is to develop effective wildlife habitat (primarily big game and other game animal habitat) by managing vegetative conditions and distribution of roads. Certain key habitats and habitat components, such as late/old growth forests and snags and downed wood, are generally planned to exist at relatively low levels--often the minimum required to maintain species viability, although the importance of these habitat components have been enhanced in eastern Oregon and eastern Washington forests because of the Eastside Screens.

Aquatic/Riparian Management - Each land use plan generally has direction for aquatic and riparian management. The intent of managing aquatic/riparian resources has been modified by requirements in PACFISH, INFISH, and the Biological Opinions, which provide a consistent approach to aquatic habitat management for most of the project area. The requirements include:

Restoration - Restoration of vegetation and succession/disturbance regimes usually are not a priority in existing land use plans. In general, restoration activities such as thinning, prescribed fire, decreased road densities, and watershed restoration occur at relatively low levels. Restoration priorities are set locally, not regionally. The interim strategies and Biological Opinions have increased the focus on restoration of aquatic and riparian resources, and of forest vegetation in eastern Oregon and eastern Washington forests. They have also increased the emphasis on prioritizing restoration beyond the bounds of individual administrative units.


Alternative S2 - The Preferred Alternative

The Executive Steering Committee selected Alternative S2 as the preferred alternative in the Supplemental Draft EIS. All of the agency executives at the table (Bureau of Land Management, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service) collaborated on this decision and all agreed that Alternative S2 would best meet the purpose and need of the Project.

Alternative S2 will provide the strongest and best strategy for:

Theme

Alternative S2 focuses on restoring and maintaining ecosystems across the project area and providing for the social and economic needs of people, while reducing short- and long-term risks to natural resources from human and natural disturbances. An emphasis on conducting analyses, such as Subbasin Review and Ecosystem Analysis at the Watershed Scale (EAWS), prior to conducting management activities is intended to minimize short-term risk from management activities in areas where short-term risks are of most concern, and to ensure actions occur in the most appropriate locations in the most appropriate sequence. In this way, Alternative S2 systematically minimizes short-term risks from management activities or disturbance events. Economic participation of the local workforce in management activities is promoted by ensuring restoration activities are prioritized to occur in areas that are economically specialized in industries tied to goods and services from Forest Service- and BLM-administered lands.


Restoration activities are planned and conducted across the project area to effectively and efficiently address the long-term risks associated with disturbance events. Restoration in certain areas is prioritized based on areas that have high risk to terrestrial and aquatic habitats of unnaturally severe disturbance and high or moderate opportunity to address those risks (for example through the ability to connect and expand scarce aquatic and terrestrial habitats). In addition, some of these areas were near isolated and economically specialized communities, and therefore had opportunity to provide economic value to human communities.

In addition to promoting the broad-scale restoration and maintenance of ecosystems, conservative direction is also provided to further promote the protection of specific subwatersheds containing important fish populations and specific watersheds containing important terrestrial source habitats. These are the habitats that have declined the most (in geographic extent) from historic to current, and therefore, they are in short supply. Management is designed to conserve these habitats by avoiding short-term risks to them, while expanding them elsewhere through restoration actions.

Design/Architecture of Alternative S2

Management direction in Alternatives S2 is hierarchical in that some types of direction take precedence over others. ICBEMP direction may be basin-wide (applies to all Forest Service- and BLM-administered lands in the project area), geographic (applies to certain mapped or described areas), or conditional (applies wherever particular conditions are found).

The design or architecture of Alternative S2 includes four main elements:

1) Integrated Management Direction includes base-level, restoration, and geographically specific direction, which addresses landscape dynamics, terrestrial source habitats, aquatic species and riparian and hydrologic processes; and social-economics and tribal governments;

2) a Step-Down process to bring broad-scale management direction and scientific findings to National Forests and BLM Districts;

3) Adaptive Management, which allows modification of management direction to incorporate new knowledge and understandings; and

4) Monitoring and Evaluation to ensure management activities are achieving desired results.

Integrated Management Direction - The management direction in Alternative S2 is designed to address four major broad-scale ecosystem components: landscape dynamics; terrestrial source habitats; aquatic species and riparian and hydrologic processes; and social-economics and tribal governments. The direction is organized to integrate the interconnections among these components. The intent of the management direction, which includes objectives, standards, and guidelines, is summarized below. The management intent and management direction for Alternative S2 is presented in full later in this chapter.

Landscape Dynamics

The landscape dynamics component of the integrated ecosystem management strategy was developed to maintain ecosystems that are in good condition, and to restore ecosystems that are degraded on Forest Service- and BLM-administered lands. The intent of management direction for landscape dynamics is to maintain or, if necessary, restore the health, productivity, and diversity of native fish, wildlife, and plants; maintain or improve water quality; sustain stream flows; and maintain and/or enhance the resiliency of forests and rangelands to fires, disease, and other disturbances. This direction provides the foundation for managing long-term risk to fish, wildlife, and plant species and habitats, and social-economic needs (including tribal rights and interests). It provides the thread that connects and integrates the individual components. Management direction for landscape dynamics can be found in the base-level, restoration, and terrestrial T watershed sections; however, direction for aquatic A1 and A2 subwatersheds also contributes to the maintenance and restoration of landscape dynamics.


One intent of managing native plant communities is to slow the rapid spread of noxious weeds using an integrated weed management strategy. Another intent is to protect and enhance vegetation types that are in short supply and are important to wildlife, such as old forests.


Management direction for fires and roads are included as part of landscape dynamics. The intent of direction for fire management is to improve vegetation conditions and reduce the threat of severe wildfire through the use of prescribed fire. Coordinating fire management with adjacent landowners is intended to increase the resiliency of forests and rangelands to severe wildfires while also reducing the negative air quality impacts that are associated with severe wildfires.


The overarching intent for roads management within the ICBEMP is to progress toward a smaller transportation system that provides public access, reduces road-related adverse effects, and that can be maintained in the long-term with minimal environmental impact. Roads that are no longer needed will be closed or obliterated and ecological values restored. Roads that are needed for land management, public access, and tribal rights are intended to be safe, promote efficient travel, and be improved as needed. New road construction will be reduced from past levels. The focus of road restoration is intended to occur where reduction of adverse effects and benefits to resources can be maximized--for example along valley bottoms and main river corridors where species are negatively affected by human disturbance and habitat degradation associated with roads.


Terrestrial Source Habitat

The terrestrial component of the integrated ecosystem management strategy was developed to consider and provide habitat for productive and diverse populations and communities of plant and animal species; provide habitat capable of supporting harvestable resources; and provide for terrestrial habitats on Forest Service- and BLM-administered lands. The focus of the terrestrial source habitat direction is to change declining trends in terrestrial habitats by maintaining important vegetation characteristics (such as plant species composition, forest and rangeland vegetation structure, snags, and coarse woody debris) which various terrestrial species need to survive and reproduce. Management direction for terrestrial source habitat can be found in the base-level, restoration, and terrestrial T watersheds sections.


Terrestrial T watersheds were identified because the amount of source habitat is in short supply, but the pattern across the watershed is similar to that historically. T watersheds are an important component of the terrestrial habitat strategy. In the short term, the intent of managing source habitats, especially in T watersheds, is to conserve habitats with old-forest characteristics and those that have shown the greatest decline in geographic extent from what they were historically and therefore are in short supply. In the long-term, the overall intent is to increase the geographic extent and connectivity of these same habitats, and to have a sustainable mix and pattern of habitats, which should contribute to the long-term persistence of terrestrial species.


Aquatic Species and Riparian and Hydrologic Processes

The aquatic/riparian/hydrologic component of the integrated ecosystem management strategy was developed to maintain and restore the health of watersheds and aquatic ecosystems on Forest Service- and BLM-administered lands. It focuses on maintaining and restoring watershed conditions, water quality, and aquatic and riparian habitat by replacing interim strategies (PACFISH and INFISH), and addressing long-term aquatic species viability, short- and long-term risks to these resources from management activities, and long-term risks from uncharacteristically severe natural disturbances. Geographically specific areas, such as riparian conservation areas (RCAs), aquatic A1 subwatersheds, and aquatic A2 subwatersheds, are important components of the aquatic strategy. Management direction for aquatic/riparian/hydrologic resources can be found in the base-level, restoration, aquatic A2 subwatersheds, and aquatic A1 subwatersheds sections. In addition, management direction for landscape dynamics and terrestrial source habitats is intended to enhance aquatic/riparian/hydrologic resources.


RCAs, A1 subwatersheds, and A2 subwatersheds were identified because of their importance to fish, riparian-dependent species, water quality, and other aquatic, riparian, or hydrologic resources. The management intent in these areas is to protect these resources in the short term and improve them in the long term. Protection and enhancement of these areas is intended to contribute to a network of connected aquatic/riparian habitats and enhance the long-term persistence of aquatic and riparian-dependent species.


Socio-Economics and Tribal Governments

The socio-economics and tribal governments component of the integrated ecosystem management strategy was developed to support the economic and social needs of people, cultures, and communities of the interior Columbia Basin, and to provide for sustainable levels of products and services from lands administered by the Forest Service and BLM within the capabilities of the ecosystem. It focuses on producing products and services from public lands to encourage and support people's use of public land resources within the capacity of ecosystems to provide sustainable levels of products and services, consistent with other ecological and restoration goals. Another intent is to support economic activity for local and tribal communities, particularly those that are isolated and economically specialized, which will help maintain their viability as they move toward achieving their long-range goals of economic development and broader economic diversification. Management direction that specifically addresses this component can be found in base-level and restoration sections.


The socio-economic and tribal government direction promotes agency support for, and collaboration with, local communities and tribal governments when developing methods to support their social and economic needs. Another intent is to integrate the needs of local and tribal communities more thoroughly into agency decision-making and management activities.


The socio-economic-tribal restoration direction highlights areas where restoration activities have a direct influence on human community economic, social, and cultural needs. This direction is linked to restoration direction provided in the landscape dynamics, terrestrial, and aquatic/riparian/hydrologic sections; it relates to considerations for designing and implementing restoration activities that are intended to promote workforce participation, serve demands for commodity products at various levels, encourage intergovernmental collaboration, and consider tribal needs and interests.


The intent of management direction for federal trust responsibility and tribal rights and interests is to address as fully as possible tribal concerns and interests and to reflect consideration of federal legal responsibilities both to tribes and American Indian people as expressed through treaty language, federal laws, executive orders, and federal court judgements.


Step-Down - Step-down is the process of applying broad-scale science ICBEMP findings and management direction to site specific activities on National Forests and BLM Districts.


Four levels of analysis make up this Step-down process:


The Supplemental Draft EIS proposes direction for mid-scale analysis (Subbasin Review) and fine-scale analysis (Ecosystem Analysis at the Watershed Scale). Forest Service and BLM direction already exist for the development of resource management plans and site-specific NEPA analysis.


The intent of conducting these analyses in this step-down manner is to reduce overall short-term and long-term risks to resources from human and natural disturbances, while maximizing conservation and restoration opportunities. For example, broad-scale or regional resource risks are addressed through the Supplemental Draft EIS, sub-regional resource risks are addressed through land use plans, midscale or landscape resource risks through Subbasin Review and/or EAWS, and site-specific resource risks through site-specific NEPA analysis.


In Alternative S2, there is greater emphasis on conducting analyses (Subbasin Review and EAWS) prior to conducting management activities in certain areas, which is intended to minimize the short-term risks posed by the activities, and assist in determining the most appropriate location and sequence of activities.


Adaptive Management - The intent of adaptive management is to incorporate and build on current knowledge, observation, experimentation, and experience to adjust management methods and policies, and to accelerate learning. The intent is for management direction to be modified if a site-specific situation is different than what was assumed during ICBEMP planning; if a flood, fire, or other event changes the characteristics of the environment; if new information gathered through monitoring indicates objectives are not being met; or if new science information indicates a need for change. Accelerated learning is intended to occur from formal research designed to test hypotheses of scientifically uncertain and/or controversial management issues, or to use field trials to test the usefulness of new strategies to achieve objectives.


Monitoring and Evaluation - Monitoring and evaluation are an integral part of adaptive management and are key to achieving the short- and long-term goals and objectives of the ICBEMP. Success in meeting ICBEMP goals and objectives requires that the effects of this outcome-based direction be monitored and evaluated in a timely manner to determine if modifications are needed.


The monitoring and evaluation plan is intended to:

Alternative S3



Theme

Alternative S3 focuses on restoring and maintaining ecosystems across the project area and providing for the social and economic needs of people, while reducing short- and long-term risks to natural resources from human and natural disturbances. Because managers must take some short-term risks to address long-term risks of disturbance events, short-term risk is acceptable within the requirements of the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and Clean Air Act. Minor emphasis is put on conducting Subbasin Review and Ecosystem Analysis at the Watershed Scale (EAWS) prior to conducting management activities. Management activities are linked to areas where they can benefit isolated communities that are economically specialized in industries tied to goods and services from Forest Service- and BLM-administered lands.



Restoration activities are planned and conducted across the project area to address the long-term risks associated with unnaturally severe disturbance events. Restoration is prioritized in certain areas based on: disturbance/succession regimes and other measures of landscape dynamics; ability to connect and expand scarce aquatic and terrestrial habitats; hydrologic processes; and economic value to human communities.



In addition to promoting the broad-scale restoration and maintenance of ecosystems, conservative direction is also provided to further promote the protection of specific subwatersheds containing important fish populations and specific watersheds containing important terrestrial source habitats. These are the habitats that have declined the most (in geographic extent) since that historically, and therefore, they are in short supply. Management is designed to conserve these habitats by avoiding short-term risks to them, while expanding them elsewhere through restoration actions.


Design/Architecture of Alternative S3

The design/architecture of Alternative S3 is the same as for Alternative S2.

Integrated Management Direction

Landscape Dynamics - The intent of management direction for the landscape dynamics component is the same as that under Alternative S2 with the following exceptions:

In Alternative S3, there is a greater emphasis on conducting more immediate actions to address long-term risks to resources from unnaturally severe disturbance.

Terrestrial Source Habitat - The intent of management direction for the Terrestrial Source Habitat is the same as that under Alternative S2.

Aquatic Species and Riparian and Hydrologic Processes - The intent of aquatic/riparian/hydrologic direction is the same as that under Alternative S2 with the following exceptions:

In Alternative S3, there are fewer acres that are delineated as aquatic A1 and A2 subwatersheds and riparian conservation areas (RCAs).

Socio-Economics and Tribal Governments

The intent of the socio-economic and tribal management direction is the same as under Alternative S2 with the following exceptions:

Alternative S3 promotes the economic participation of the local workforce in management activities by prioritizing activities near communities that are less economically diverse and more economically specialized in outputs of goods and services from Forest Service and BLM-administered lands, and near tribal communities.

Step-Down - The intent of step-down under Alternative S3 is the same as that under Alternative S2, with the following exceptions:

In Alternative S3, there is less of an emphasis to complete EAWS prior to conducting management activities. Instead, the intent is to prioritize and schedule EAWS and any other necessary analysis during Subbasin Review.

Adaptive Management - The intent of adaptive management under Alternative S3 is the same as that under Alternative S2.

Monitoring and Evaluation - The intent of monitoring and evaluation under Alternative S3 is the same as that under Alternative S2.