Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project March 2000


All of the alternatives are 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 will result in declines in uncharacteristic wildfire effects, uncharacteristic insect and disease, and a better mix of forest habitats and improved forest health. This trend toward historic conditions is particularly evident in the High Restoration Priority Subbasins identified in Alternatives S2 and S3; with Alternative S2 achieving slightly better results than Alternative S3.

All alternatives are expected to increase the extent of shade-intolerant trees such as ponderosa pine, western larch, and western white pine with Alternative S2 producing the greatest results followed by Alternative S3 and S1 respectively. All alternatives will also increase the extent of large trees and old forests, especially in the single story structures; with the greatest results in Alternative S2, followed by Alternative S3 and S1 respectively. Under Alternative S2 and S3, old forests occur in areas that are more sustainable over time.


For Alternative S2, 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 Alternative S2 and S3. 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.


In general, Alternative S2 would result in better conditions for wildlife habitat than Alternative S3, followed by Alternative S1. Habitat conditions for species dependent on shrublands or grasslands are expected to be stable or declining. 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 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.

Fish and Aquatic Species

The largest increase in aquatic habitat capacity would come from Alternative S2, followed by Alternative S1 and then Alternative S3. Alternative S2 would maintain or improve riparian ecological processes, while Alternative S1 would likely maintain them. For Alternative S3, outcomes are less certain. Alternative S2 is expected to result in the greatest improvements for water quality and habitat for salmon and trout species. Alternative S3 is expected to result in the least improvement.

Uncharacteristic Wildfire

For Alternatives S2 and S3 there is a reduction in the size, severity, and other unwanted effects of uncharacteristic wildfires as a result of restoration efforts; with Alternative S2 providing slightly better results. Under Alternative S2, there is a reduction in uncharacteristic wildfire of approximately 15% from current levels.


For all alternatives, the management direction and associated analysis requirements are expected to decrease the amount of disturbance resulting from roads. Decreases in adverse road effects with short and long-term benefits to hydrologic function and watershed process would be highest for Alternative S2, Alternative S3 and Alternative S1, respectively.


Alternative S2 provides more consistent and effective consultation direction which should lead to improvements in government-to-government consultation and provides more opportunities for tribal involvement in both planning and decision-making processes than currently exist. 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.

Restoration Activities

In Alternative S2, there is an estimated 40% increase in treated forest/woodland acres, a 9% increase in treated rangeland acres, and a 7 fold (700%) increase in the amount of acres treated with prescribed fire/fuels management. In Alternative S3 there is a 35% estimated increase in treated forest/woodland acres, a 4% increase in treated rangeland acres, and a 5 fold (500%) increase in the amount of acres treated with prescribed fire/fuels management. Both Alternatives S2 and S3 increase these activities over Alternative S1.


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 / Activity 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

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


Employment - It is estimated that there are approximately 95,000 jobs associated with livestock grazing, timber harvest, and recreation (1% in livestock grazing, 9% in timber harvest, 81% in recreation, and the remaining 8% in forestry related services.) Direct employment generated from Forest Service and BLM-administered lands would increase in Alternatives S2 and S3, by approximately 4,000 and 3,000 jobs respectively. The increases represent a 4% gain in Alternative S2 and a 3% gain in Alternative S3 with respect to the total 95,000 jobs.

In the first decade of implementation, livestock grazing on Forest Service and BLM-administered lands and the number of related jobs would decline an estimated 112 to 125 jobs (10-11 percent) under Alternatives S2 and S3. Timber volume, forest restoration activities and related jobs are expected to increase under Alternative S2 by 1,300 jobs (21 percent) reversing a declining trend. The large increase in prescribed fire activity would represent an increase in employment of approximately 2,600 jobs for Alternative S2 and an increase of approximately 1,900 jobs for Alternative S3.