PROJECT BACKGROUND & STATUS

Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project     May 2001


In July 1993, President Clinton directed the Forest Service to "develop a scientifically sound and ecosystem-based strategy for management of eastside forests." The Project's geographic area includes over 140 million acres in the interior Columbia River Basin, the Upper Klamath, and parts of the Great Basin (this includes eastern Washington and Oregon, Idaho and western Montana). The management strategy will apply only to the public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service within this area (approximately 64 million acres).

The Project involves both a scientific component and an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process. Over 300 scientists representing state and federal agencies, universities, and the private sector released a comprehensive scientific assessment of the social, economic, and ecological trends and conditions of the basin in December 1996.

Using the scientific assessment as a foundation, the Project released two Draft EISs (the Eastside and Upper Columbia River Basin EISs) for public review in June 1997. During an 11-month comment period, nearly 83,000 comment letters were received from individuals, agencies, tribes, and organizations. During the comment period, the Project's Executive Steering Committee (ESC) combined the Eastside and Upper Columbia River Basin EISs into one EIS for the entire project area.

A Supplemental Draft EIS (SDEIS) was released in March 2000. Approximately 525 comments were received during the 90-day comment period. The Final EIS and Proposed Decision were released in December 2000. A protest period ran from December 15, 2000 to January 16, 2001, during which 74 protests were received.

The Final EIS incorporates by reference the Supplemental Draft EIS; therefore, it may be useful to use the Supplemental Draft and Final EISs together.

There are three alternatives in the Final EIS - S1, S2, and S3. The Science Advisory Group evaluated the likely cumulative effects and outcomes of these alternatives and the EIS Team used this evaluation to develop the effects analysis in Chapter 4 of the Final EIS.

The Project's Executive Steering Committee selected Alternative S2 as the preferred alternative. It was modified based on comments received, and is presented in its entirety in the Proposed Decision document, which accompanies the Final EIS. The ESC agreed that this alternative has a solid science foundation and, as adjusted, would best meet the purpose and need of the Project and provide the strongest and best strategy for: