QUESTIONS & ANSWERS for the SUPPLEMENTAL DRAFT EIS
Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project March 2000
Supplemental Draft EIS
Q What is the status of the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project?
A The Interior Columbia River Basin Ecosystem Management Project (Project) is releasing a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a 90-day public comment period. We anticipate that the Supplemental Draft EIS will be available by the end of March. The Supplemental Draft EIS responds to the 83,000 public comments received on two Draft ElSs released in June 1997. The Supplemental Draft EIS focuses on critical broad-scale issues related to: landscape health; aquatic and terrestrial habitats; human needs; and products and services.
The Project is also releasing a report that was required by Congress through the 2000 Interior and Related Agencies Appropriation Act (Section 335). This report is required to address the following four items: 1) describe, by type and responsible official, all land and resource management decisions to be made consistent with the Project's Final EIS; 2) provide an estimate of the time and cost of each of these decisions; 3) contain an estimate of the production of goods and services from the federal lands managed by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for the first five years of implementation; and 4) provide a description of the decision making process to be used to establish priorities in accordance with appropriations, if the requirements cannot be accomplished in subsequent fiscal years with current appropriations levels, adjusted for inflation, and without any reprogramming of such appropriations. The Congress required a 120-day public comment period on the report and that the response to the comments be included in the Final EIS for the project. We anticipate releasing this report in early April.
Q Why is the Project needed?
A 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. A long-term, integrated strategy is needed to consistently and adequately address aquatic and terrestrial species; landscape health issues such as noxious weeds, forest health, and catastrophic fire; and the social and economic needs of communities. Federal court decisions have affirmed the need to replace interim strategies for fish (PACFISH and the Inland Native Fish Strategy) and old forests (Eastside Screens) with a long-term, comprehensive strategy for addressing these issues. Providing consistent direction at regional and subregional levels to assist federal managers in making decisions at a local level within the context of broader ecological considerations will improve the agencies ability to address basin-wide ecological and socio- economic concerns.
Q How many alternatives are in the Supplemental Draft EIS?
A There are three alternatives in the Supplemental Draft EIS: Alternatives S1, S2, and S3. The Supplemental Draft EIS supplements the Eastside and Upper Columbia River Basin Draft EISs released in June 1997. There were seven alternatives in the Draft EISs. The Supplemental Draft EIS was written as a stand-alone document; however, some maps, appendices, and other information from the Draft EISs are referred to without reprinting.
Alternative S1, the no action alternative, represents the 64 individual land use plans currently in effect on 32 Forest Service or BLM administrative units in the project area as they have been amended by interim strategies (PACFISH, Inland Native Fish Strategy, the Eastside Screens and the Biological Opinions on the land use plans). Alternative S1 also assures that Healthy Rangelands is applied to BLM-administered lands.
Alternatives S2 and S3, the action alternatives, propose variations of a coordinated, ecosystem-based, scientifically sound management strategy focusing on issues that are broad-scale in nature and interrelated. The selection of either action alternative would amend 64 land use plans with objectives, standards, and guidelines to address these broad-scale issues. Management direction and land allocations in existing land use plans not directly superceded by the Project's Record of Decision would remain in effect.
Q Is there a Preferred Alternative?
A The Executive Steering Committee for the Project selected Alternative S2 as the Preferred Alternative. The alternatives considered included the seven alternatives from the Draft EISs released in June 1997 and the three alternatives in the Supplemental Draft EIS. Alternative S2 from the Supplemental Draft EIS was identified as the Preferred Alternative because it provides the strongest and best strategy for: restoring the health of forests, rangelands, and aquatic-riparian ecosystems in the project area; recovering plants, wildlife and fish species; avoiding future species listings; and providing a predictable level of goods and services from the lands administered by the BLM and the Forest Service.
Q How does the Preferred Alternative differ from current management?
A The Preferred Alternative provides consistent, broad-scale direction in an integrated fashion for the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to address the following critical basin-wide issues: aquatic and terrestrial species that are in decline, forest and rangeland health, and socioeconomic and tribal issues. Currently, these issues are addressed on a unit by unit (National Forest or BLM District) basis.
The Preferred Alternative uses basin-wide information on resource and social economic conditions to guide and prioritize restoration activities where there is a potential to have the greatest benefit. This broad-scale prioritization will augment and inform the restoration priorities that are currently determined on unit by unit basis.
The direction in the Preferred Alternative also provides more clearly defined opportunities and requirements for National Forest and BLM Districts to coordinate with local and tribal governments. The direction in the Preferred Alternative also institutes an analysis process whereby broad-scale information is considered at finer scales through subbasin review and ecosystem analysis at the watershed scale.
Q What on-the-ground changes will occur as a result of implementing the Preferred Alternative?
A Implementing the Preferred Alternative will involve changes in the way management activities are conducted on BLM Districts and National Forests in the project area. It will involve conducting analysis at the subbasin and watershed scale in a systematic way. Decisions will benefit from this broader scale information and context and there will be improved efficiency and effectiveness in addressing issues that cross National Forest and BLM District boundaries. Restoration will be prioritized and where restoration occurs there will be a decrease in the threat of noxious weeds, insect and disease infestations, and uncharacteristic wildfire. This restoration will be focused first in areas near isolated and economically-specialized rural and tribal communities that are in need of economic stimulus. These restoration activities will include such things as increasing the level of stewardship thinnings (cutting small diameter trees and leaving older trees) and the use of prescribed fire. There will be a more consistent and effective approach for protecting and restoring aquatic and terrestrial habitat for wide-ranging fish and wildlife species and we intend more predictability in goods and services from BLM and Forest Service-administered lands.
Improved landscape and aquatic conditions, healthier populations of fish and wildlife, cleaner air and water, increased collaboration with Tribal governments, and consistency in delivering goods and services are some of the on-the-ground benefits of implementing the Preferred Alternative.
Q What factors are influencing landscape health?
A It has taken more than a hundred years to reach the present condition of upland areas which are characterized by increasingly larger and more severe wildfire, increased invasion of noxious weeds, more insect and disease problems, and changes in the mix of vegetation types on the landscape that once provided for a balance of wildlife species that use them. Currently, the movement away from historical regimes is proceeding rapidly with a great momentum. Because it took a long time to reach this condition, remedies will not be easy, inexpensive, or quickly achieved. When restoration activities are concentrated into High Restoration Priority Subbasins local results are expected to be positive. However, even in the High Restoration Priority Subbasins there will be a considerable time lag involved in moving vegetation closer to historical conditions. Higher amounts of restoration activities applied to forests and rangelands alike are expected to result in greater improvements over the long-term.
Q How will the Preferred Alternative effect the risk of wildfire?
A The Preferred Alternative attempts to reduce the severe effects of wildfire by balancing wildfire levels with prescribed fire. Although wildfire will continue to occur under all alternatives, uncharacteristic wildfire effects are expected to decline by 15% under the Preferred Alternative in the long-term on BLM and Forest Service-administered lands. In High Restoration Priority Subbasins, the effects of restoration activities will further reduce the uncharacteristic wildfire effects under the Preferred Alternative. The Preferred Alternative will also reduce the wildfire danger in the urban-rural/wildland interface through many of the same restoration activities.
Q What are the effects of the Preferred Alternative on rangeland health?
For the Preferred Alternative, vegetation and soil conditions will trend toward historic conditions over more extensive portions of the project area than Alternative S3 or Alternative S1 over the long-term. This trend toward historic conditions is particularly evident in High Restoration Priority Subbasins where there is a greater concentration of restoration activities (such as prescribed fire treatments). The wheatgrass bunchgrass, fescue-bunchgrass, and mountain sagebrush vegetation types, which have declined substantially in geographic extent from historic conditions, would increase in extent where the reintroduction of fire achieves reduction in woody species encroachment (such as western juniper).
The rate of spread of noxious weeds and other exotic undesirable plants on BLM- and Forest Service-administered lands would be slowed under the Preferred Alternative. Although the rate of spread will be slowed, the geographic extent of noxious weeds and other exotic undesirable plants would continue to increase under all alternatives for the project area as a whole. There are exceptions to this within portions of the project area, including the Aquatic A1 and A2 Subwatersheds, the Terrestrial T Watersheds, and High Restoration Priority Subbasins, where the geographic extent would decline in the long-term. Some reasons for the continued increase in the extent of noxious weeds and other exotic undesirable plants are the widespread distribution of these plant species (such as cheatgrass) combined with a lack of weed control and prevention techniques and technology that are proven to be effective at control at the landscape (watershed) scale.
Q What are the effects of the Preferred Alternative on forest health?
A The Preferred Alternative is expected to achieve forest conditions and trends that are more in balance with historic disturbance (i.e., fire, insects, and disease) regimes on BLM-and Forest Service-administered lands within the project area. This trend toward historic conditions is particularly evident in High Restoration Priority Subbasins. The Preferred Alternative will increase the extent of dominance by the shade-intolerant trees such as ponderosa pine, western larch, and western white pine, which are adapted to those regimes and will trend toward historic conditions. The Preferred Alternative will also increase the extent of large trees and old forests, especially in the single story structures. The focus of the Preferred Alternative is to promote cover types and structural stages in patterns where, over the long-term, they are most sustainable. The result is expected to be a decline in uncharacteristic wildfire effects, a decline in uncharacteristic insect and disease, a better mix of forest habitats, and an improvement in forest health and landscape health in general.
Q What are the effects of the Preferred Alternative on old forests?
A In the short-term (10 years), the management direction in the Preferred Alternative will maintain old forest characteristics and prevent loss of old forest conditions from both natural and human-caused disturbances. This short-term strategy allows managers to actively protect these scarce habitats from natural disturbances such as wildfire, insects, and disease. The Preferred Alternative also directs managers to pursue a long-term strategy to increase the extent of old forests in locations that are consistent with the landscape and disturbance patterns, and where they will be more sustainable through time. In order to protect and promote old forest habitats activities such as stewardship thinning and prescribed fire will be applied. The effects will be larger increases in the scarcest types of old forest under the Preferred Alternative, followed by Alternative S3, with Alternative S1 a distant last. While the historic range of old forest types is not likely to be achieved in the long-term, the trend is toward historic.
Q How would roadless areas be managed under the Preferred Alternative?
A Under the management direction in the Preferred Alternative, new road construction will be reduced from past levels. New road building would rarely occur in watersheds that are currently unroaded or have very few roads. The Preferred Alternative specifically limits road construction in identified important fish and wildlife habitat (Aquatic A1 Subwatersheds and Terrestrial (T) Watersheds). Many of these important fish and wildlife habitats coincide with roadless areas.
Q Will there be a decrease in road densities under the Preferred Alternative?
A The Preferred Alternative promotes a higher level of road closure compared to current management. Road closures are anticipated to occur in areas classified as having high road densities and these areas currently account for approximately 19.5 million acres within the project area.
Q Is the Preferred Alternative consistent with the Forest Service Roadless Area Proposal?
A The Forest Service has initiated a public rulemaking process to propose the protection of remaining roadless areas within the National Forest System. To assist in determining the scope and content of a proposed rule, the agency will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to analyze: 1) the effects of eliminating road construction in the remaining unroaded portion of inventoried roadless areas on the National Forest System; and 2) the effects of establishing criteria and procedures to ensure that the social and ecological values that make both inventoried roadless areas and other uninventoried roadless lands important, are considered and protected through the forest planning process. A draft EIS and proposed rule are expected to be available for public review and comment in spring 2000 and a final EIS and final rule will follow.
The Project's Supplemental Draft EIS also addresses the values of unroaded lands (including inventoried roadless). The road management direction in the Supplemental Draft EIS incorporates use of roads analysis and Subbasin Review to provide information and context needed to effectively and efficiently reduce road-related adverse effects. Results of roads analysis is aimed at producing information and maps that will display management opportunities and risks of existing roads to better address future needs, budgets and environmental concerns. Roads analysis is expected to provide the foundation for road-related decisions and facilitate development of transportation plans such as Access and Travel Management Plans and other NEPA documents. Decisions on individual roads would be made at the local level, based on appropriate analysis and collaboration.
Efforts will be made to promote consistency and continuity between the Forest Service roadless protection EIS and the Final EIS and Record of Decision for the Project.
Q Is the Preferred Alternative consistent with the Forest Service proposed Road Management Policy?
A The road management direction in the Supplemental Draft EIS incorporates use of roads analysis and Subbasin Review to provide information and context needed to efficiently and effectively reduce road-related adverse effects. Results of roads analysis is aimed at producing information and maps that will display management opportunities and risks of existing roads to better address future needs, budgets, and environmental concerns. Roads analysis is expected to provide the foundation for road-related decisions and facilitate development of transportation plans such as Access and Travel Management Plans and other NEPA documents. Decisions on individual roads would be made at the local level, based on appropriate analysis and collaboration.
The intent of the road direction in both the Forest Service proposed policy and the Project's strategy is to 1) Close or obliterate roads no longer needed. Some roads may be closed or obliterated and ecological values restored, other roads that are needed will be improved to minimize adverse environmental effects; 2) New road construction will be reduced from past levels; 3) New road building should rarely occur in watersheds that are currently unroaded or have very few roads.
Fish and Wildlife
Q What are the effects of the Preferred Alternative on wildlife?
A In general, the Preferred Alternative would result in better habitat conditions for wildlife on BLM- and Forest Service-administered lands than Alternatives S1 and S3. The intent is to improve conditions for groups of species through the management and protection of habitat. Terrestrial (T) Watersheds have been identified where habitats that have declined substantially in geographic extent from historical to current periods would receive the greatest focus for conservation and restoration efforts. There are 14 million acres of T Watersheds identified in the Preferred Alternative and Alternative S3 (9.5 million of these acres are within Congressionally designated Wilderness Areas or Wilderness Study Areas). The intent is to maintain and secure terrestrial wildlife species habitats that have declined significantly over time and are in short supply; and to increase the extent and connectivity of these "source" habitats within T Watersheds. These habitat types include old-forests, riparian areas, sagebrush and grassland habitat types.
Conditions for rangeland species (such as sage grouse) are expected to be stable or declining in part due to a lack of restoration technology and available resources for active restoration. Continued declines in habitat for some rangeland species would be less with Alternative S2 and S3 than with Alternative S1. Habitat conditions for species dependent on multiple vegetation types generally remain the same. Habitat conditions for species dependent on old-forests generally increase. Wide-ranging threatened and endangered wildlife species (woodland caribou, gray wolf, and grizzly bear) would move toward recovery within designated recovery areas but basin-wide, conditions would remain greatly reduced from historical levels.
Q What are the effects of the Preferred Alternative on aquatic habitat?
A The aquatic strategies within all of the alternatives will improve aquatic habitat, water quality and water quantity for salmon and native inland trout. The greatest benefit is realized under Alternative S2, the Preferred Alternative. The objective of all the alternatives is to conserve and restore health of aquatic systems and aquatic and riparian dependent species. Alternatives S2 and S3 identify geographic areas for aquatic protection and restoration. Under the Preferred Alternative, just over 6 million acres are proposed for protection in what are referred to as Aquatic A1 Subwatersheds (3 million of these acres are within Congressionally designated Wilderness Areas or Wilderness Study Areas.) These areas have important, strong populations of fish and the intent is to conserve and maintain these areas. There are also areas where there are important, strong populations of fish but the habitat conditions are not optimal. These areas are known as Aquatic A2 Subwatersheds and under the Preferred Alternative, 6.0 million acres of these types of subwatersheds have been identified for aquatic habitat restoration.
The Preferred Alternative also calls for the identification of Riparian Conservation Areas which would be managed to maintain and improve riparian areas over time. The Preferred Alternative describes a process for delineating these areas based on local, site-specific conditions. Under the Preferred Alternative an estimated 19 million acres would be identified as Riparian Conservation Areas (7.6 million of these acres are within Congressionally designated Wilderness, Wilderness Study Areas, Aquatic A1 and A2 Subwatersheds, or Terrestrial T Watersheds).
Q How does the Project relate to the All-H Paper on salmon recovery?
A The Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service are participating in a process known as the Federal Caucus. This Federal Caucus is made up of nine agencies with responsibility for anadromous fish in the Columbia River Basin. The Federal Caucus released an All-H Paper in December 1999 for public review. The All H Paper is a conceptual document that explores alternative actions for recovery of aquatic species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Specifically, they examine potential changes in hydropower operations, harvest, hatcheries and habitat management that could be initiated to recover these listed aquatic species.
The aquatic strategy being proposed by the Project's Supplemental Draft EIS provides the framework for addressing the management of federal aquatic habitat that plays a significant role in the life cycle of salmon. The All H Paper proposes the aquatic programs outlined in the Project's Supplement Draft EIS as the federal contribution to the habitat "H". The All-H paper is looking at overall federal coordination and habitat restoration needs for all lands in the basin. The All H Paper proposes improving the coordination of habitat management on federal lands, federal regulatory requirements (Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act), and local and state habitat plans and initiatives to better prioritize our efforts and achieve habitat restoration goals. These coordination proposals complement the emphasis on inter-agency, community and tribal coordination found in Alternatives S2 and S3 of the Project's Supplemental Draft EIS.
Q How does the Supplemental Draft EIS address the U.S. Corps of Engineers Draft EIS on the four lower Snake River dams?
A The Supplemental Draft EIS provides some information related to the effects of the Snake River dams on anadromous fish in the basin. In analyzing the effects of the Supplemental Draft EIS alternatives on anadromous fish populations we found that outcomes for anadromous fish above the dams in the Snake River and Upper Columbia River showed minor to no improvements as a result of the high uncertainty associated with migrant survival. The alternatives proposed in the Project's Supplemental Draft EIS would provide protection and restoration of key habitats supporting anadromous fish populations on federal lands and would contribute to increasing the short-term persistence of anadromous fish. However, rebuilding and long-term persistence will depend on reducing mortality from all factors influencing salmon survival (hydropower, hatcheries, harvest, and habitat).
Outputs and Activities
Q What are the effects of the Preferred Alternative on timber harvesting and grazing?
A In the first ten years of implementation, we estimate a 22% increase in timber harvest volume over current levels. While total timber harvest volumes would increase under Alternatives S2 and S3, the size and quality of the logs produced would decline somewhat due to the types of restoration activities needed in the forests and woodlands such as thinning and timber harvest. Timber outputs would come primarily from commercial thinning and other harvest activities designed to promote forest ecosystem restoration.
In the first decade of implementation, we estimate a decline of 10% in animal unit months (AUMs) for livestock grazing on agency lands. There are no specific levels of, or limits on, AUMs that are required by direction in the SDEIS. Rather, expected reductions would come about indirectly as a result of implementing objectives and standards for watershed and rangeland protection and restoration. The estimated reduction in AUMs is solely from changes in management direction on agency lands, and does not reflect any potential changes that may occur in the livestock grazing industry for other reasons (for instance, changes in ranch ownership patterns, long-run market conditions, or basic industry structural changes).
Output Alternative S1 Alternative S2 Alternative S3
Animal Unit Months (AUMs) 3,111,000 2,798,000 2,765,000
Timber Harvest Volume (million board feet) 810 990 980
Q How will the Preferred Alternative affect restoration activities?
A We estimate that there will be a 40% increase in treated forest/woodland acres, an 8% increase treated rangeland acres, and a 700% increase in the amount of acres treated with prescribed fire/fuels management.
Activity Alternative S1 Alternative S2 Alternative S3
Forest/Woodland Restoration (acres) 142,000 199,000 192,000
Rangeland Restoration (acres) 3,074,000 3,339,000 3,183,000
Prescribed Fire/Fuels Management 181,000 1,456,000 1,110,000
Q What analysis processes are called for by the Preferred Alternative?
A The Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are currently (Alternative S1) required to conduct subbasin analyses under terms and conditions within biological opinions that have been issued for listed fish species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. The analysis process proposed under Alternatives S2 and S3 would simply put into place a more unified and integrated approach to subbasin and ecosystem analysis at the watershed scale.
Under the Preferred Alternative, Subbasin Reviews would need to be completed for all of the subbasins within the project area. These Subbasin Reviews would be completed within two years in High Priority to Restore Subbasins and within five years for the remaining subbasins.
Ecosystem Analysis at the Watershed Scale (EAWS) is an issue-driven process. It is intended to be used as a tool for identifying management actions needed to meet overall management objectives, and at the same time provide information useful in managing the mix of short- and long-term risks to resources that occur within the watershed. It is intended to be conducted where it adds value by contributing information needed for planning, locating, and designing activities across a watershed.
In the Preferred Alternative, EAWS are required where there is a potential to negatively impact threatened, endangered, or proposed aquatic species or their habitats, or the source habitats that have declined substantially from historic to current within identified Terrestrial (T) Watersheds. The only exception is where impacts are anticipated to be negligible, short-term, and localized in scope. In those areas where Subbasin Reviews and EAWS have already occurred, additional analysis would not be required unless new information is available or conditions warrant re-evaluation.
There is no question that these analysis processes take time, however, the resulting projects and actions that are identified through these processes facilitate improved, better informed decisions that prioritize limited resources and funds to those areas where we are able to have the greatest ecological and social benefits.
Q How will this Preferred Alternative affect people and communities?
A The Preferred Alternative will provide a long-term vision for public lands in the basin, promote the health and sustainability of these forest, rangeland and aquatic systems and provide a more consistent and predictable flow of goods and services. Although the social and economic effects of the Preferred Alternative are thought to be small at the broad-scale; geographically isolated communities, whose economies are specialized in sectors that depend on outputs from federal lands, economic and social effects may be more pronounced.
The Supplemental Draft EIS displays the environmental, social, and economic consequences of all of the alternatives in a more geographically specific manner than Draft EISs released in June 1997. These effects in the Supplemental Draft EIS are be displayed by 12 Resource Advisory Council and Provincial Advisory Committee areas which vary in size but on average include 2-3 BLM Districts and National Forests.
Q What are the effects of the Preferred Alternative on employment?
A Direct employment generated from Forest Service and BLM-administered lands can be classified as wood products, livestock grazing, forestry services, mining, federal employment and recreation related retail trade and services. It is estimated that there are approximately 95,000 jobs associated with these types of activities across the project area (81% in recreation, 9% in timber harvest, 1% in livestock grazing, and 8% in forestry related services).
Because no changes in recreation use or mining could be estimated at the broad-scale, basin-level in this analysis, no changes in jobs related to recreation or mining were projected. Possible changes in effects on recreation and mining opportunities, and associated employment, will be further assessed during Subbasin Reviews and Ecosystem Analyses at the Watershed Scale.
In the first decade of implementation, livestock grazing on BLM and Forest Service-administered lands and the number of related jobs could decline under the Preferred Alternative. We estimate a possible reduction of approximately 112 to 125 jobs (10-11 percent). While timber-related employment associated with Forest Service and BLM-administered lands has declined for the past several years in the project area, timber output, forest restoration activities and related jobs are expected to increase under Alternative S2. There is an anticipated increase in employment opportunities of 1,300 jobs (21 percent) in timber-related employment, and 120 jobs (40%) in forest restoration employment. In addition, under Alternative S2, another 2,600 jobs related to prescribed fire and fuels management activities (700% increase) could be expected..
Q How does the Preferred Alternative affect recreation?
A At the broad-scale of the basin and at the Resource Advisory Council and Provincial Advisory Committee Area level, there are no significant changes predicted in the levels of recreation opportunities as a result of the management direction proposed under any of the alternatives. However, subbasin-level and site-specific changes in road systems, and effects from implementation of Riparian Conservation Area objectives and standards, may be identified at the mid- or fine-scale after Subbasin Review and Ecosystem Analysis at the Watershed Scale, which could affect recreation supply and expected use. Any recreation-related job changes could then also be estimated.
Q Is the Project in compliance with the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) of 1996?
A The SBREFA applies to federal rulemaking that has the potential to impact small businesses. Because the Project is a land management planning process, and not rulemaking, our legal counsel has said that SBREFA does not apply.
Q How does the Preferred Alternative affect harvestable populations of fish, wildlife, and plants for Tribes?
A In general, habitat conditions for wildlife species that depend on forested habitats, habitats that are a mix of forestland, shrubland, and grassland habitats, or riparian habitats improve or are stable from current with all three alternatives. Although many non-habitat factors can affect harvestability, these trends in habitat conditions tend to support continued harvestability. Alternative S2 tends to provide for greater improvements than Alternatives S1 or S3. Similar conditions would exist for harvested plants in these habitats.
In contrast, general habitat conditions for wildlife species that depend on either shrubland or grassland habitats continue to decline with all three alternatives, although Alternatives S2 and S3 slow the decline compared to Alternative S1. These trends in habitat conditions indicate that harvestability may be reduced for these species. Similar conditions would exist for harvested plants in shrubland or grassland habitats.
Overall, Alternative S2 provides the best opportunity for addressing protection and restoration of habitats that play a role in sustaining important social and cultural traditions of tribal communities. These restoration and protection measures also provide an improved ability to address tribal access and harvestability concerns.
All the alternatives improve aquatic habitat capacity for anadromous fishes which are of critical importance to tribal cultures. It is uncertain whether harvestable population levels would be attained by the proposed strategies in Alternatives S1, S2 or S3. However, Alternative S2 provides the greatest improvements in aquatic habitat condition, which support harvestability. The greatest improvements would occur in Aquatic A2 Subwatersheds, High Restoration Priority Subbasins, and areas currently with high habitat capacity (such as wilderness areas and Aquatic A1 and A2 Subwatersheds.) Population modeling for six key salmonids indicate that Alternative S2 is expected to result in the greatest improvement. Expected improvements in populations were not as substantial as changes in habitat capacity because many other biological constraints influence population status and distribution. For example anadromous fish population outcomes, particularly those above several dams in the Snake River and Upper Columbia River, showed minor to no improvements because of the high uncertainty associated with migrant survival.
Q How will the Preferred Alternative affect federal trust responsibilities and tribal treaty rights?
A Alternatives S2 and S3 provide more consistent and effective consultation direction which should lead to improvements in government-to-government consultation. Both Alternatives S2 and S3 provide more opportunities for tribal involvement in both planning and decision-making processes than currently exist. Alternative S2, the Preferred Alternative, provide more opportunities for Tribal involvement as well as increasing the level of consistency and accountability in implementing management direction and monitoring its effects. The higher rate and intensity of restoration combined with increases in the amount of fine scale restoration is predicted to be more responsive to the social and ecological needs of tribes. Alternative S2 is predicted to have a positive influence on water quality, hydrologic function and soil productivity in those areas identified as High Priority Restoration Subbasins all of which are important to tribal communities.
Q What is the cost of the Project?
A The cost of the Project from 1993 through fiscal year 1999 totals approximately $45 million. The fiscal year 2000 budget for completing the Project is $3.5 million for the Forest Service and $1.7 million for the Bureau of Land Management.
Q What is the cost of implementing the Preferred Alternative?
A Currently, the BLM and Forest Service have a budget of approximately $550 million to manage lands included in the project area. Approximately $135 million is directly expended in on-the-ground restoration activities. The Preferred Alternative could be implemented at current budget levels, lower budget levels or higher budget levels. The intent in designing the Preferred Alternative was to design an improved management strategy regardless of funding levels. Funding levels will influence the pace with which management activities are conducted. With more funds, more restoration activities will occur.
For the purpose of analyzing effects, Alternative S1 was modeled at current budget levels, the Preferred Alternative was modeled using a $67 million increase above current budget levels, and Alternative S3 was modeled using a $47 million increase above current budget levels.