INTERIOR COLUMBIA BASIN ECOSYSTEM
MANAGEMENT PROJECT


News Release

June 5, 1997

DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENTS FOR
INTERIOR COLUMBIA BASIN RELEASED

112 East Poplar Street
Walla Walla, WA 99362
Rex Holloway 509-522-4046

304 North 8th Street, Room 250
Boise, ID 83702
Andy Brunelle 208-334-1770, ext 128

Federal officials announced today that the Eastside and Upper Columbia River Basin Draft Environmental Impact Statements (DEISs) are now available for public review. The two DEISs address the management of more than 72 million acres of Forest Service- and Bureau of Land Management (BLM)-administered land in the interior Columbia River Basin and portions of the Klamath and Great Basins. One DEIS covers these public lands in eastern Oregon and eastern Washington, and the other DEIS covers much of Idaho, western Montana, northern Nevada, and parts of Utah and Wyoming.

"We are pleased to announce that these documents are now arriving in the mail," said Jim May, Acting Project Manager in Boise. "They represent the culmination of a significant effort on the part of the Federal agencies involved in this project. Now it is the public's turn to review and provide us comments."

"We have worked hard to design and propose management strategy choices that are firmly based on science and meet the requirements and spirit of the nation's environmental laws," said Jeff Blackwood, Project Manager in Walla Walla. "And we feel we have addressed the issues brought forward in our public scoping process almost 3 years ago."

The first mailing of the documents from the printer to the public began on Friday, May 30. Release of the two Draft Environmental Impact Statements will be formally announced with a Notice of Availability filed by the Environmental Protection Agency in the Federal Register on Friday, June 6, which will mark the beginning of a 120-day formal public comment period, closing October 6.

An additional document designed to complement the DEISs, entitled Considering All Things - Summary of the Draft Environmental Impact Statements, was also mailed last week. It is a 60 page summary of the two Draft EISs and is written to assist people in assimilating the scientific findings and the Draft EIS alternatives in an easy to read manner. Those who receive either or both of the DEISs will also receive the summary.

Both documents contain a "preferred alternative," which was identified among seven alternatives in each draft EIS. Federal officials announced the preferred alternative in a series of news conferences across the region on April 23rd.

"We have identified Alternative 4 as the 'preferred alternative' in the Draft Environmental Impact Statements," stated Idaho State BLM Director Martha Hahn. "The preferred alternative allows citizens to share the many values and uses of the Federal public lands. Among the seven alternatives, it strikes the best balance of actively restoring forest, rangeland and watershed resources, while providing resource goods and services to people. It also seeks to involve the public, other levels of government, and tribes in the decision making that affects public lands." Hahn chairs a panel of Federal executives in the Pacific Northwest who oversee the effort known as the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project.

"The two DEISs are based largely on a scientific assessment of the Interior Columbia River Basin, an unprecedented comprehensive evaluation of the ecological, economic, and social conditions that was released in December 1996," said Tom Mills, Director of the Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station. Mills pointed out that the scientific assessment's information was compiled and synthesized by over 300 scientists and technicians from federal and state agencies, universities and private contractors. "I am pleased to see science have such an important role helping professional land managers make better decisions."

Federal officials were quick to point out that public comments are essential to mold the final strategy, due to be completed by the summer of 1998. "These are draft documents," said Forest Service Northern Regional Forester Hal Salwasser. "The final direction will reflect your comments. There will be many opportunities to ask questions about the documents and give comments over the next few months."

The Project was launched in 1993 by the Forest Service and BLM to address environmental and economic issues, such as recovery of Snake River salmon, declining forest and rangeland health, and changing economies and social conditions of local communities, that affect larger areas than traditional administrative boundaries. Comprehensive science reports were issued in December 1996. For further information please contact the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project at 509-522-4030 or 208-334-1770.