INTERIOR COLUMBIA BASIN ECOSYSTEM
112 EAST POPLAR STREET
WALLA WALLA, WA 99362
Rex Holloway 509-522-4046
304 NORTH 8TH STREET, ROOM 250
BOISE, IDAHO 83702
Andy Brunelle 208-334-1770
333 S.W. 1ST STREET
PORTLAND, OREGON 97208
Cynthia Miner 503-326-7135
Scientists representing federal and State agencies, universities, and the private sector, today released the most comprehensive scientific assessment of the social, economic, and ecological trends and conditions of the region ever undertaken in the Pacific Northwest.
The Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project covers over 144 million acres (225,000 square miles) in Oregon and Washington east of the Cascades, Idaho, western Montana, and portions of Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. Land managers will use the findings to cooperatively manage the 75 million acres of public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service.
"The assessment provides the most comprehensive evaluation of the ecological, economic, and social conditions ever conducted," said Tom Mills, Director of the Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station in Portland.
Findings from the assessment include:
* On average, strong salmon populations inhabit between 0.1% and 33% of their historical range. However, enough habitat remains to possibly rebuild healthy salmon populations.
* The interior Columbia River Basin has experienced widespread and dramatic change in the composition, structure, and distribution of fish communities.
* Salmon habitat protection and restoration alone will not ensure future healthy populations. The effects of dams, hatcheries, and fish harvest must be addressed.
* Species that live in old forests, native grasslands, and native shrublands have lost habitat. The downward trends can be reversed by conserving and restoring these habitats.
* The Basin's economy is generally healthy. Only 4% of the Basin's economy depends directly on commodity extraction (including logging, grazing, and mining) from BLM and Forest Service-administered lands.
* Some local, rural economies are heavily dependent on products and services from BLM and Forest Service-administered land. Within the assessment area, 68% of the counties have low socio-economic resiliency, yet only 17% of the population lives in those counties.
* Any successful land management strategy must recognize and manage the multiple risks to ecological integrity and economic well-being.
* Ecosystem management strategies must recognize that multiple risks and opportunities vary significantly throughout the Basin.
* Managing ecosystems requires a recognition that individual sites are linked to broad landscapes and that broad landscapes are linked to individual sites.
The Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project was initiated because this decade has brought BLM and Forest Service managers an unparalleled challenge. Many of the issues they face, such as limiting intensive wildfires, providing predictable levels of grazing and timber harvest, and maintaining salmon habitat, cannot be effectively managed on a single BLM district or national forest. "We need this "big picture" scientific assessment in order to understand management risks and opportunities on these widespread issues," said Martha Hahn, Idaho State BLM Director.
Social, economic, and ecological trends and conditions were studied. The assessment's scientific information was compiled and synthesized by over 300 scientists and technicians from federal agencies, universities, state agencies, and private contractors.
This assessment marked the first time that data was gathered and synthesized so that it could be compared across the landscape. Prior to the assessment, data was scattered and inconsistent. It was also the first time the information had been integrated, creating a "big picture" look at the Basin.
Land managers are currently using the science findings to develop two Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) which will address widespread challenges, such as sustaining grazing and timber production and maintaining salmon habitat. The Eastside EIS will provide direction for BLM and Forest Service-administered lands in Oregon and Washington east of the Cascade Mountains. The Upper Columbia River Basin EIS covers BLM and Forest Service-administered lands in Idaho, western Montana, western Wyoming, and northernmost portions of Utah and Nevada. This scientific assessment provides the baseline information for the two EISs. Land managers have developed seven possible land management strategies, and scientists are currently analyzing the short and long-term effects of each. Land managers will use this information to weigh the risks and opportunities and ultimately select a strategy. The Draft EISs will be available for public comment in 1997.