PURPOSE and NEED for ACTION

Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project     March 2000


The intent of the Purpose and Need Statement has not changed from what was presented in the Draft Environmental Impact Statements. A few editorial changes have been made to add clarity and respond to public comments:

Purpose - The purpose of the proposed action is to take a coordinated broad-scale approach and to select a management strategy that best achieves a combination of the following:



Need - Changed conditions over the last century and new information and understandings indicate that the ecosystems of the interior Columbia River Basin are declining in health. Ecosystems must be healthy, diverse, and productive to meet the needs of society today as well as those of future generations. Restoring and maintaining ecosystem health and ecological integrity will better support the economic and/or social needs of people, cultures, and communities. The twin needs are compatible with and dependent on each other. Therefore, the alternative management strategies examined in detail in the Supplemental Draft EIS are based upon underlying needs for:


Identification of these needs comes primarily from three considerations which have developed or become more apparent since current land management plans were signed:


Changed Conditions - The Scientific Assessment (Integrated Assessment, Quigley, Haynes, and Graham 1996, and Assessment of Ecosystem Components, Quigley and Arbelbide 1997) provides information characterizing historical and current conditions, as well as associated trends. The Scientific Assessment and other project publications (including Source Habitats for Terrestrial Vertebrates of Focus on the Interior Columbia Basin: Broad-scale Trends and Management Implications [Wisdom, M. J., et al., Draft, December 1998] and Economic and Social Characteristics of Communities in the Interior Columbia Basin [Reyna, Phillips, and Williams 1998]) document accelerated changes in vegetation patterns, fish and wildlife distributions, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem processes, and human communities that have occurred in the project area in the past century. These conditions have evolved over many decades as a result of the interaction of human activities and naturally occurring events.


Today's society values some of the changes that have occurred on federal lands since historical times, while other changes may cause concern. Many pre-settlement conditions are neither reasonable nor possible to recreate because of factors as diverse as population growth, urban development, dams, highways, and land use and ownership patterns. Historical conditions are not a goal; they are needed for reference to help understand landscape potential, how landscapes evolve, the role of disturbance on the landscape, and human influences on landscapes.


Some specific changes are considered to be symptoms of declining ecological integrity and ecosystem health. Healthy forests, rangelands, and aquatic and riparian areas and their associated fish, wildlife, and plant species, are valued and needed by the public--including those members of the public who live and work in nearby resource-dependent communities as well as other stakeholders of public lands--for social, cultural, ecological, economic, and other reasons. The types of changes that indicate declining ecosystem health and a subsequent need for management response are listed here and are described in more detail in Chapter 2 of the Supplemental Draft EIS and in the Scientific Assessment.


New Information and Understandings -


Considerable research, studies, and reports documenting some of these changed conditions were published recently. These studies reveal both new information and a better understanding of the implications of these changes for long-term ecosystem health. For example, cumulative human activities and management practices--such as timber harvest, fire exclusion, pest suppression, livestock use, road construction, mining and waste disposal, flood control and irrigation, agricultural development, fish harvest and hatcheries, increased recreation use, and urban expansion--are now known to have affected natural resource conditions in ways that were previously not fully understood. This new information and understanding must be addressed. The Council on Environmental Quality's (CEQ) regulations for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), along with supporting guidance from the Forest Service and BLM, require that agencies re-examine existing management direction in light of significant new circumstances or information relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on existing management or its impacts.


The following is a partial list of the major studies documenting these changed conditions. Studies published before 1995 were listed in the Draft EISs, and are not re-listed here (with the exception of PACFISH); additional studies published since the release of the Draft EISs have been added to the list.