THE NORTHWEST FOREST PLAN REVISITED
About the Report
James Pipkin is the Director of the Office of Policy Analysis at the Department of the Interior. This report was requested by the regional directors of the federal agencies that are involved in implementing the President's Pacific Northwest Forest Plan (U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Biological Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and commissioned by the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, acting in her capacity as Chair of the Interagency Steering Committee for the Northwest Forest Plan effort.
It is based on materials collected from a variety of sources as well as from interviews with approximately 75 people, including members of the Regional Interagency Executive Committee, the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, the Regional Community Economic Revitalization Team, the original Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team, the Regional Ecosystem Office, and agency field personnel doing on-the-ground implementation. It includes input from an intergovernmental team assembled to look at certain issues connected with the review. Drafts of the report were reviewed by many of these same people, as well as by employees at the field level and members of Provincial Advisory Committees.
Although many people provided assistance in the preparation of this report, the opinions and conclusions expressed in the report are those of the author and should not be regarded as the official position of any federal agency.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Future Directions -- Primary Recommendations
Ending the Impasse
Regulatory and Economic Stability
Change in Federal Agency Culture
Other Interagency and Intergovernmental Achievements
Northwest Economic Adjustment Initiative
Aquatic Conservation Strategy
Streamlined Consultation Procedures
Data Management and Resource Information
Research and Monitoring
Adaptive Management Areas
Northern Spotted Owl
Survey and Manage
Development of an Interagency "Vision"
Regional Executive Forums
Interagency Staffing Arrangements
Streamlining of Regulatory Processes
Cost and Continuity of Funding
Linking Science with Management
Data Standards, Data Synthesis, and Mapping
Broadening the Focus of Implementation
Federal Interagency Coordination
Coordination with Related State, Tribal, or Local Efforts
Intermediate or Province-Level Analysis
The Deschutes National Forest
Southwest Oregon Province
Coastal Landscape Analysis and Modeling Study
Funding Long-Term Monitoring
Relationship to Economic Adjustment Initiative
Government Performance and Results Act
Interagency Steering Committee
Regional Interagency Executive Committee
Intergovernmental Advisory Committee
Separate Structure for California
Regional Ecosystem Office
Research and Monitoring
Additional Organizational Changes
APPENDIX 1: GENESIS OF THE REPORT
APPENDIX 2: REFERENCES
APPENDIX 3: REVISED MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING
THE NORTHWEST FOREST PLAN REVISITED
Five years ago, President Clinton announced a new plan for the forests on federal land in the Pacific Northwest. The Northwest Forest Plan had three parts: a program for managing the forests to achieve both sustainable timber production and protection of biological diversity; a system for coordinating federal agency implementation of the forest management effort and receiving advice from non-federal interests; and an initiative for providing economic assistance and job retraining to displaced timber workers, communities, and others who were adversely affected by reductions in the size of the timber program.
To implement the forest management component of the Northwest Forest Plan, an interagency Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the heads of five Cabinet-level departments and agencies. The need to revise and extend that document, which sets forth a list of interagency objectives and outlines a structural framework for implementing the Plan, triggered the review that is the subject of this report.
This report discusses the achievements under the Northwest Forest Plan, the lessons learned that might be applicable to other natural resource challenges, the areas where progress has fallen short of what was originally envisioned, the organizational changes that have taken place and that are desirable for the future, and pending issues that could alter the thrust of future implementation activities.
Even today, the Northwest Forest Plan remains controversial. Some feel that it produces timber harvests that are too small, resulting in economic and social harm to the region. Others feel that timber harvests are too large, threatening the survival of plant and animal species. Still others believe that the expectations of the economic assistance and job retraining program have not been fulfilled. At the center of these debates are policy judgments about whether the right balance was struck between economic and ecological considerations, as well as legal judgments regarding what is necessary to satisfy statutory mandates. Those issues are beyond the scope of this report.
However, based on three accomplishments alone, the Northwest Forest Plan must be judged one of the singular achievements of the Clinton Administration in the natural resource field.
The first accomplishment relates to the fact that when the Clinton Administration came into office in early 1993, injunctions had been issued that brought the timber sale program on federal lands in the Pacific Northwest to a halt. The region was a polarized battleground, with some believing that the economic and social benefits of a large timber program should take precedence over all else, and others arguing for the supremacy of ecological health and protection of biodiversity. People in the region were unable to break the impasse, and Congress was unwilling to legislate a solution.
The Northwest Forest Plan was the product of a personal commitment by the President, supported by relevant Cabinet officers, to find a solution. It involved, in the words of a district court, "a massive effort by the executive branch of the federal government to meet the legal and scientific needs of forest management." It reflected "unprecedented thoroughness." It represented the first systematic, broad-scale attempt by any administration to apply an ecosystem approach to resolve a natural resource management issue. It involved the assessment of potential impact on "more than a thousand animal and plant species for the next century."
In terms of the debate over whether ecological considerations should predominate over economic and social needs, the plan represented a compromise. It satisfied the environmental laws and protected biodiversity, including the habitat needs of the northern spotted owl, the marbled murrelet, and other species believed to be in danger. It also committed the federal agencies to the attainment of the greatest sustainable economic and social benefits while complying with environmental and other applicable laws. The result was a substantial, predictable federal timber sale program, though much smaller than the region had become used to during the 1980s. The Northwest Economic Adjustment Initiative provided assistance to individuals and communities who were hurt by the smaller timber program.
The Northwest Forest Plan was upheld by the courts, the injunctions were lifted, and the region began to move forward again. This was an important accomplishment -- from a situation characterized by stalemate, with no end in sight, to one in which progress could be made on ecological, economic, and social fronts.
The second major accomplishment is that the Northwest Forest Plan has provided regulatory and economic stability for owners of state and private lands, in addition to providing benefits to the regional economy from the resumption of a predictable timber supply program on federal lands.
Because one of the cornerstones of the Northwest Forest Plan was the restoration and maintenance of biological diversity, the plan was developed in a way that would "aid in the recovery of 'listed' species." Furthermore, as the "Mission Statement" from the Cabinet members to the scientific team states, the intent was to develop a plan for federal land that would minimize the "impact of protection and recovery of threatened and endangered species on non-federal lands ...." The extensive habitat protection on federal land under the plan has allowed the agencies that are responsible for enforcing the Endangered Species Act to permit more intensive economic utilization of nearby state and private lands than would otherwise have been possible.
Before the Northwest Forest Plan, uncertainty prevailed in the region concerning the extent to which state and private landowners would be able to produce timber from their lands without violating the prohibitions of the Endangered Species Act concerning the "take" of threatened or endangered species. This uncertainty, and fear than an agency might later declare land "critical habitat" for a threatened species, made it difficult for some private landowners to make long-term plans about the economic utilization of their lands.
After the Northwest Forest Plan, because of the assurance of habitat protection on federal land, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service have been able to enter into large-scale "habitat conservation plan" agreements with state and private landowners. They are also proposing to limit the effect of the Endangered Species Act on private land management through the issuance of "section 4(d) rules," including a proposal that will provide relief for private landowners with small holdings. In their actions on both habitat conservation plans and 4(d) rules, the agencies are taking into account the contributions that federal lands are making toward species conservation, thereby easing the need for restrictions on non-federal lands. The result is that state and private landowners receive the flexibility and predictability that they need to take a long-term approach to the management of their lands. Collectively, these benefits to individual owners also provide increased stability for the region as a whole.
The third major achievement is the initiation of a fundamental change in how the federal agencies in the Northwest relate to each other and how they relate to the states, tribes, and the general public. Prior to the Northwest Forest Plan, the federal agencies operated relatively independently and sometimes at cross-purposes to each other. The regulatory agencies (Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and Environmental Protection Agency) were often perceived as pursuing their statutory missions to protect biodiversity or safeguard clean air and water without giving adequate consideration to economic and social impacts. On the other hand, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management were sometimes regarded as placing too much emphasis on commodity production (such as timber) and not enough on ecological concerns.
The Northwest Forest Plan changed that. It established a common vision for the management of federal lands within the range of the northern spotted owl. It delineated a set of objectives covering ecological protection as well as commodity production and committed all the agencies to work toward all those objectives. Even more importantly, it required them to work together, on an interagency basis, to implement the Plan. It also set up a formal structure for obtaining advice on a regular basis from states, tribes, counties, and others on critical implementation issues. Forums were created at both the regional and local levels in which agency personnel are asked to put aside, as much as possible, their identities as agency employees and focus on achieving the common objectives of the Northwest Forest Plan.
This drastically altered the way that agency personnel conduct their business, and it is changing the cultures of the agencies. The new processes are not easy, and in some ways they are more burdensome than the traditional, more insular methods. But it has resulted in many tangible and intangible benefits, including: greatly improved trust among personnel; better understanding of each others' disparate missions; improved use of agency resources; and better informed decisions, which are more defensible and less likely to be challenged in court.
There is still substantial room for improvement. Some employees have not fully accepted their new interagency mandate, and some of the intended coordination has fallen short of its target. Continued effort is essential. Trust and willingness to work collaboratively can easily break down unless the process continues to be supported strongly by national and regional agency executives. Change of this magnitude takes time and constant attention. The agencies, at all levels, should work to solidify and sustain the change in agency culture, so that the new agency culture of cooperation and collaboration truly replaces the old. However, at this point the process of interagency (and intergovernmental) collaboration has become sufficiently well established that most of the federal officials involved in implementing the Northwest Forest Plan cannot imagine going back to the old way of doing business.
The progress toward transformation of relationships and of agency cultures in less than five years, though incomplete, is remarkable. It may be the single greatest accomplishment, and the greatest legacy, of the Northwest Forest Plan.
In addition to these three major changes, there have been many substantive accomplishments of the Northwest Forest Plan. The process of planning and carrying out timber sales has been revitalized, and in the last four years the agencies have met the intent of the Northwest Forest Plan "for an environmentally sensitive timber sale program with a sustainable timber harvest level." The Northwest Economic Adjustment Initiative has resulted in approximately one billion dollars being made available to the region to help workers, businesses, tribes, and communities.
Moreover, data management has been improved to increase information sharing, to develop common data standards, and to facilitate mapping of data from multiple agencies at a common scale. Consultation under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act has been streamlined, so that the time required to conduct consultation on timber sales has been sharply reduced and the entire process has become more efficient. Watershed analyses have been carried out for hundreds of watersheds, providing a systematic way to understand and organize ecosystem information, and to guide management actions such as restoration projects, timber sales, and the construction or decommissioning of roads. Assessments of late-successional reserves have been conducted, to guide future actions in those reserves, and plans have been developed for more than half of the adaptive management areas. The Jobs in the Woods program, which provided displaced timber workers and others with new jobs, has resulted in improved control of road-related runoff and sediment production, restoration of riparian vegetation, and restoration of in-stream habitat complexity.
A strategic research plan has been drafted and a program of monitoring is under way that will check whether the requirements of the Northwest Forest Plan are being complied with, whether the desired goals are being achieved, and whether the management assumptions that underlie the Plan are valid. A data base has been assembled for many species about which relatively little is known, and protocols have been published on how to search for those species and determine appropriate management actions.
The intensive effort that has gone into implementing the Northwest Forest Plan has taught us a great deal, not only in terms of the particular characteristics of the federal forests in the Northwest but also in terms of how to improve interagency relationships and how to approach complex natural resource problems. The scale of the effort, the dollars devoted to it, and the unique circumstances involved suggest that the effort is not likely to be replicated exactly in other sections of the country. However, in the bigger picture, the Northwest Forest Plan represents a movement toward (1) landscape-level planning, (2) collaborative agency efforts, (3) broader public participation, and (4) a balance of economic, social, and ecological interests. All of these are positive developments and should be hallmarks of future decision-making in other parts of the country. Accordingly, it is appropriate for others to look closely at what has been done in the Northwest. In this respect, several fundamental components of the Northwest Forest Plan are worth noting as useful and proven models:
• Development of a common "vision" -- desired goals and objectives for the region's ecological and economic communities upon which all participants can agree and toward which they can all move in some collective way.
• Establishment of forums in which key participants can meet regularly and work collectively to implement the plan.
• Establishment of interagency staffing arrangements in which personnel focus on moving the collective vision forward.
• Improvement of regulatory processes to adapt them to the situation and make them more efficient.
• Establishment of one or more vehicles for direct participation by state, tribal, and local governments, and other interested parties.
• Improvement of data collection and management to develop consistent information across the relevant landscape.
• Consideration of personnel exchanges to utilize best available expertise and reduce duplication of effort.
• Joint development of research and monitoring plans that will provide the best scientific information for decision making and validation of results.
Future Directions -- Primary Recommendations
While much of the initial implementation work on the Northwest Forest Plan has been done, the job is not finished. Moreover, improvements can and should be made. The revised Memorandum of Understanding, which appears at the end of this report, has been proposed by the regional federal executives, approved by the Interagency Steering Committee, and is being circulated for signature. It either incorporates the following recommendations or provides the flexibility to implement them.
Broadening the Focus of Implementation. At this stage of implementing the Plan, it is appropriate that the agencies broaden the focus of implementation to include consideration of other initiatives taking place in the Northwest (both federal and non-federal) that affect the Plan or present opportunities for increased efficiencies.
To some extent, this broader scope has always been part of the intent of the Plan. However, in the early years of implementing the Plan, the thrust of the effort was necessarily more narrow. The agencies concentrated on developing and putting in place the new Plan for the federal lands and lifting the injunctions so that timber sale activities could resume. They were also forced to look inward by the extensive requirements of the Standards and Guidelines, which established new procedures to be followed and new analyses to be performed by the federal agencies. These activities included conducting watershed analyses, establishing watershed restoration priorities and late-successional reserve assessments, developing and implementing research and monitoring plans, revising data management systems, and developing protocols for "survey and manage" species.
Now that many initial implementation tasks have been completed, recent developments suggest that it is time for the agencies to increase their efforts to broaden their focus. These developments include: (1) actions by federal regulatory agencies that are not part of the Northwest Forest Plan but that could affect the latitude of decision-making under the Plan; and (2) initiatives by states that involve related issues where implementation efforts parallel actions under the Northwest Forest Plan and where opportunities are provided for efficiencies and for accomplishment of mutual objectives. Examples of the former are decisions to "list" certain species of salmon under the Endangered Species Act, or approvals of habitat conservation plans on private land; examples of the latter category are state initiatives to facilitate salmon recovery.
The change suggested here toward broadening the focus of implementation represents a shift toward (1) looking at where the greatest gain can be achieved on the entire relevant landscape, not just on federal lands, and (2) increasing collaboration with states, tribes, local governments, and private landowners in situations where mutual interests can be advanced. In these respects, the change is emblematic of a fundamental shift in the way the federal agencies relate to each other and to other landowners and land managers.
Viewed another way, the change represents a conscious decision by the federal agencies to become involved at an early stage in the initiatives of the states and other key players. Such early collaboration is enormously beneficial. It contrasts with the more traditional scenario in which individual governmental organizations proceed with planning, and only hear the concerns of other interested governmental entities after they have made significant investments in a preferred outcome. Under that scenario, any concerns expressed by others are unwelcome and possibly costly, depending on what changes are required.
In implementing a broadened focus, the federal partners will have to decide how federal efforts, including ecosystem restoration under the Jobs in the Woods program, could be more fully integrated and coordinated with complementary state, tribal, and local initiatives under current budget constraints. The Regional Interagency Executive Committee, with input from the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, should develop the specific details of how such collaboration will be carried out.
Information Management. A second major recommendation is for the agencies to rededicate themselves toward achieving a "seamless web" of information across the landscape that can facilitate better informed management decisions and be used at a variety of scales for many different purposes. This was one of the goals of the original Northwest Forest Plan. It is a difficult objective to accomplish, since it requires the agencies to develop common data standards and to overcome incompatibilities in computer hardware, software, mapping scales, and data categorization. The problems are multiplied when attempts are made to incorporate information compiled by states, tribes, and other non-federal sources. While significant progress has been made, particularly within the federal family, it is no surprise that the agencies have so far fallen short of their ambitious target. Nevertheless, it is important that the agencies redouble their effort.
Budget constraints hinder progress in this area. It is never easy to fund long-term improvements when near-term needs remain unmet. However, to the extent feasible, the agencies should commit mid-level management to develop and implement a cohesive information management strategy that supports Northwest Forest Plan activities, including monitoring, salmonid recovery, watershed restoration, and water quality, while meeting the information needs of individual organizations. They should establish explicit and measurable goals and milestones with which to measure progress and eventual success. And they should describe an integrated information strategy and build the necessary partnerships to implement that strategy.
Intermediate Level Analysis. A third suggestion seeks to move the agencies toward an intermediate level of analysis -- that is, a level somewhere between the regional scale and the site specific, or planning action, scale. In the Record of Decision, this intermediate level was referred to as a "province" or "river basin" level. The agencies have largely avoided any formal "planning" effort at this intermediate scale, in part because of the extensive legal requirements for documentation and "process" at each planning level. However, recent experience in the Deschutes National Forest (where a type of landscape planning has been carried out for 155,000 acres) and by the Southwest Oregon Province Interagency Executive Committee (which is taking a landscape approach in assessing the Rogue watershed and Umpqua river basin) indicates that an intermediate-level assessment can be an important step. It helps to detect landscape-level patterns and trends. It also provides a context for site-specific actions and enables land managers to demonstrate to members of the community the reasonableness of agency actions. In addition, it can support not only actions under the Northwest Forest Plan, but also actions under the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and state initiatives such as the Oregon Plan.
Adaptive Management. Another area where initial expectations have fallen short is adaptive management -- the process of taking into account new information and altering management direction accordingly. The necessary predicate for adaptive management is new information. In years to come, new information provided by effectiveness monitoring will be a primary basis for changes in management decisions. However, effectiveness monitoring is only a tool for long-term change. At present there is no short-term systematic way to search for, assimilate, or utilize new information. Moreover, there is a widespread perception among federal employees that the Standards and Guidelines of the Northwest Forest Plan are too rigid and difficult to change.
This report proposes a rededication to the principle of adaptive management, which must be a cornerstone of any long-term plan, like the Northwest Forest Plan, where little is known at the outset of the management effort about some aspects of the ecological (or economic or social) universe, and where the intention is to modify and improve the plan as experience is gained. Adaptive management is not easy to accomplish within current planning processes, but it is important that the agencies strive to evaluate and respond to new information. The agencies should consider establishing some form of a structured, interagency review process. In addition, they should review, and attempt to reduce, impediments to adaptive management. This may include the possibility of amending agency planning regulations to make it less burdensome for agency activities to evolve or for refinements to be made to the Standards and Guidelines.
Research and Monitoring. Research and monitoring remain central components of the Northwest Forest Plan and pose special problems -- in terms of validating the assumptions underlying the Plan and assuring interagency funding for programs that will be in existence for decades and that will yield only long-term results. Indeed, the Northwest Forest Plan itself, as a form of adaptive ecosystem management, has created an interdependency among participating agencies and presents the difficult (some would say impossible) challenge to the agencies of coordinating their budgets in some fashion and providing long-term predictability of funding. The continued success of the Northwest Forest Plan hinges on each agency's continued participation.
The challenge in this area also includes the need to forge strong and lasting links among resource management, monitoring and research. Each is important to ecosystem management. Such linkages will require an intergovernmental commitment to information gathering and information sharing. Institutional responsibilities and accountability should be established. Resource managers should be involved in establishing the vision and the desired outcomes in the ecosystem. They must help frame the management questions that monitoring seeks to answer, and they must be involved in evaluating the results.
Stable, Long-Term Funding. Having a stable source of federal agency funding is a critical component of any successful regional ecosystem plan. Funding for the Northwest Forest Plan needs to continue long enough to support not only the initial transition tasks but also the additional land management and coordination activities associated with long-term implementation. The regional executives should consider discussing this issue with the Interagency Steering Committee. The Office of Management and Budget should be invited to participate in those discussions.
The agencies should consider whether alternative, perhaps more systematic and unified, budget request mechanisms would help assure long-term funding for aspects of the Northwest Forest Plan. Such budget requests could also include the Jobs in the Woods program, and the integral role its ecosystem restoration funding plays in the overall Northwest Forest Plan effort. The agencies need to be constantly alert for ways to hold down the costs of implementing the Northwest Forest Plan, to find efficient ways to fund interagency projects, and to structure their work so that Northwest Forest Plan activities are not treated as separate and apart from their traditional responsibilities.
Managers at all levels must be committed to monitoring as a budgetary and substantive priority. One way to approach the funding needs for long-term monitoring would be to develop a new appropriation account providing no-year funds devoted exclusively to long-term monitoring. Initial capitalization of the account could be accomplished by transferring currently appropriated monitoring funds from the research and national forest system or other operating accounts. Such an account would clarify the relative importance of the currently ambiguous status of monitoring. However it is accomplished, it is important to give monitoring a standing comparable to the more traditional management and research activities.
Relationship to Economic Adjustment Initiative. Agencies should consider whether there should be more coordination between the forest management and economic adjustment aspects of the Northwest Forest Plan than there is now. If it is determined that coordination should be increased, there are several options for doing so. The relationship between the two components of the Northwest Forest Plan would also benefit from a modification in the reporting of accomplishments. It may be desirable for the agencies to develop and implement a tracking, monitoring, and reporting system to identify the improvements to the watersheds, habitats, rivers, and streams, and to the impacted communities in the region resulting from the expenditures and agency actions.
Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). Federal agencies are entering a new era of managing their programs and justifying their budgets on the basis of accountability of outcomes. This conclusion is reinforced by the Government Performance and Results Act, whose requirements suggest that the agencies should pay special attention to outcomes as they begin a new round of revisions to their land management plans. The Regional Ecosystem Office could be called upon to help the agencies integrate their strategic planning and compliance with GPRA. For example, the Office might prepare in GPRA format its annual Northwest Forest Plan budget and activities planning exercises.
Organizational Changes. In addition to the foregoing primary recommendations concerning substantive areas, the report also recommends changes in the interagency organizations that are involved in Plan implementation. Like the substantive changes, these organizational changes are reflected in the revised Memorandum of Understanding, which appears at the end of this report and which is being circulated for signature.
Interagency Steering Committee. The Northwest Forest Plan committed agency personnel to an unprecedented level of interagency and intergovernmental work. Sustaining the effort requires that agency directors in Washington be involved and hear about the achievements, the challenges, and future funding requirements. To accomplish this, the membership of the Interagency Steering Committee should be expanded to include the agency directors. The Department of Justice, the Office of Management and Budget, and others should be involved as appropriate. The Committee should meet periodically (preferably twice a year) to receive an interagency briefing and provide advice on issues referred by the regional executives. Meetings should be coordinated with the annual budget process. The reconstituted Committee may wish to include other regional or national initiatives as part of its portfolio.
Regional Interagency Executive Committee. The report recommends that membership on the Regional Interagency Executive Committee should be extended to the Corps of Engineers and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. It also recommends that the regional executives devote more attention to the integration of federal and non-federal ecosystem management activities across the landscape, where appropriate, and to integration with the Northwest Economic Adjustment Initiative. The Regional Interagency Executive Committee should conduct periodic reviews of implementation groups and present recommendations for change to the Interagency Steering Committee.
Intergovernmental Advisory Committee. The Intergovernmental Advisory Committee is the primary vehicle for receiving input at the regional level from the states, tribes, and counties. The agencies have accepted the recommendation that they should broaden the focus of implementation to include consideration of other federal and non-federal initiatives. The Intergovernmental Advisory Committee is a forum in which part of that consideration should take place. The agencies have also agreed that the consideration of issues involving northern California warrants setting up a subcommittee to deal with California issues.
Regional Ecosystem Office. The Regional Ecosystem Office, the principal staff office for the regional executives, has been critical to the success of the Northwest Forest Plan and should be continued in its present form. However, its workload will continue to change, away from "nuts and bolts" implementation issues and toward longer-range planning and support of monitoring efforts, data management, and adaptive management. The regional executives should continue to review periodically the workload and staffing of the Regional Ecosystem Office and make appropriate changes.
Provincial Advisory Committees. The Provincial Advisory Committees consist of representatives of federal agencies, states, tribes, and others in each of the twelve provinces in the region. They are a key to collaboration with state watershed councils and biodiversity councils, as well as to coordination with the economic initiative. They should be structured to reduce duplication and maximize efficiency. In some cases, consideration could even be given to eliminating a Provincial Advisory Committee if it is felt that the desired benefits can be obtained through some other existing institution.
There is no formal reporting relationship to the regional level for either the Provincial Interagency Executive Committees or Provincial Advisory Committees. The Regional Interagency Executive Committee should consider ways to strengthen ties and improve communication between province-level and region-level organizations, to provide guidance from the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee or the Regional Interagency Executive Committee in situations where that is appropriate, and to provide increased opportunity for Provincial Advisory Committees to have input on policy issues that will affect management at the province level. The composition and role of individual Provincial Advisory Committees should be reconsidered in order to increase coordination with other organizations (such as state watershed councils) and with the economic initiative, and to maximize efficiency.
This is a critical time for the Northwest Forest Plan. Direct attacks on the Plan (including a number of lawsuits and one act of Congress that required the agencies to make or release certain timber sales regardless of whether those sales were consistent with the Plan) have thus far been unsuccessful in forcing a termination of the Plan and its processes. Indirect assaults (such as decreases in agency funding) could in time succeed where direct attacks have failed.
The new processes -- the collaboration among federal agencies, the coordination with states, tribes, and counties, the watershed analyses, the movement toward a uniform data base, the development of research and monitoring programs, the effort to survey for lesser known species -- all take time, effort, and money. On some of these matters, especially the development of validation and effectiveness monitoring and of a coordinated information network, the agencies are not where they hoped to be at this stage. If funding shrinks, the problem could become worse and the plan could become more vulnerable to direct challenge.
In addition, the novelty of the plan has worn off, the initial implementation tasks have largely been completed, and many of the employees who were involved in the initial phases have moved on. There is a danger that the agencies will lose interest in the plan, forget why it is important, or develop other funding priorities.
A failure to carry through with plan implementation would be extremely unfortunate. The plan represents a new way of doing business that is far preferable to the old way. Moreover, the plan is the first large-scale, multi-agency effort to develop a systematic ecosystem approach that reconciles competing ecologic, economic, and social interests. Further, an unusual combination of factors suggested that this was a virtually ideal situation in which to attempt such an approach: lawsuits had created a stalemate; many of the relevant parties were ready for a new solution; the issues were clearly defined; 24 million acres of relatively homogeneous federal forest land defined the area to be addressed; and the Administration was willing to make the plan a high priority in terms of leadership, commitment, and financial support. Also, other state, tribal, and private parties were faced with similar issues about satisfying statutory mandates for clean water, clean air, and biological diversity while achieving economic utilization of their property; the potential existed for developing complementary plans that served the needs of both federal and non-federal landowners.
If the Northwest Forest Plan cannot be sustained over the long term, it could send a signal to agency personnel that they should discourage any innovative attempts to develop collaboration across a landscape or to break out of the mold of traditional, fragmented agency decision-making. That would be tragic. Every effort should be made to continue the progress of the Northwest Forest Plan and to achieve its full potential.
In the early 1990s, the forests on federal land in the Pacific Northwest were a major battleground. They were the focal point of the debate over whether human needs for economic growth take precedence over stewardship responsibilities for the natural world. The issue was portrayed as jobs versus environmental protection, humans versus owls. Feelings were strong on both sides of the issue, and tension in the region was extraordinary.
A series of court-ordered injunctions brought timber sales in federal forests to a virtual standstill. The political, legal, and economic situation was repeatedly described as one of "logjam," "impasse," and "gridlock." According to the Administration of President Bush, an "avalanche of litigation" seeking to "exploit the conflicting mandates of laws passed by Congress governing the management of our federal forest lands" had halted the federal timber harvest program, negatively affecting timber workers, mill owners, and local communities. The Bush Administration asked Congress to change the laws, but there was no agreement in Congress on what to do, and there appeared to be little hope for solution in the foreseeable future.
That was the situation confronting the Clinton Administration when it came into office in early 1993. In April of that year, President Clinton convened a "forest conference" in Portland, Oregon, to address the human and environmental needs served by federal forests of the Pacific Northwest and northern California. The President, Vice-President and many of the Cabinet members spent an entire day listening to all points of view. At the conclusion of the conference, the President pledged to end the deadlock. He proposed that a new, balanced and comprehensive long-term policy be crafted for 24 million acres of public land. The policy was aimed at meeting five principles:
• Where sound management policies can preserve the health of forest lands, sales should go forward. Where this requirement cannot be met, we need to do our best to offer new economic opportunities for year-round, high wage, high skill jobs.
• The long-term health of our forests, our wildlife, and our waterways must be protected.
• Efforts must be, in so far as we are wise enough to know it, scientifically sound, ecologically credible, and legally responsible.
• The plan should produce a predictable and sustainable level of timber sales that will not degrade or destroy the environment.
• Federal agencies must work together and work for the people to achieve these goals.
An interagency, interdisciplinary team of expert scientists, economists, sociologists, and others was assembled. It was led by Dr. Jack Ward Thomas, who was later named Chief of the Forest Service. After three months of intensive work, which included the review and evaluation of all fully-developed proposals for management of federal forests within the range of the northern spotted owl, the team produced a report assessing in detail ten options. A second team developed options for dealing with economic dislocation that could result from reduced timber harvests.
A third team, chaired by the author of this report, developed a report on the interagency coordination that would be required to implement an ecosystem-based approach to forest management. This agency coordination team identified a number of factors that had contributed to the gridlock and made it difficult for the federal agencies to work together. These included: laws that established inconsistent agency mandates; lack of agreed-upon common goals or shared mission; management incentives based solely on timber production; inability to adapt rapidly from an emphasis on commodity production to a social setting that increasingly valued ecological protection; court rulings; technological constraints; structural problems with respect to agency budgets; and lack of trust -- among federal agencies and within individual agencies.
The agency coordination team proposed a new way of thinking and a new way of doing business for federal land managers and regulatory agencies that would involve:
• A shift to an ecosystem approach that crosses jurisdictional boundaries and puts in place: planning based on watersheds rather than agency boundaries; active and meaningful public participation; and a balanced approach to commodity production that accommodates both commodity outputs and ecosystem viability.
• A commitment to improved interagency processes, including: a variety of interagency groups; structured linkages with the economic development activities in the region; a streamlined consultation process under the Endangered Species Act; establishment of an interagency geographic information system; establishment of a coordinated, flexible budget process; and modification of planning processes to accommodate the constantly changing circumstances in which the agencies operate and to allow increased opportunity for input by state, tribal and local governments, local communities, and other interested parties.
• Increased adaptive management efforts through an approach that: is amenable to continual reevaluation and adjustment; provides a monitoring system to measure progress toward goals; and creates adaptive management areas that are to be used for intensive ecological experimentation and social innovation.
• Agency revitalization that involves: shared implementation of a common resource management mission; delegation of authority to the field or regional levels; personnel incentives that reward managers for actions leading to forest health; and other shared objectives for the ecosystem.
The agency coordination team concluded that "bold changes are required" in how agencies relate to one another and to the states, tribes, private landowners, and communities and people in the region, and proposed many specific actions that subsequently were adopted and implemented in the region.
On July 1, 1993, President Clinton announced "The Forest Plan for a Sustainable Economy and a Sustainable Environment," a comprehensive forestry, economic development and agency coordination package that provides: a new forest management plan that enables sustainable harvests, protects key water supplies, and establishes a comprehensive system of reserves to protect old growth ecosystems; new economic assistance intended to help local workers, businesses and communities to create family-wage jobs, offer new economic opportunities, and facilitate the region's long-term economic health; new opportunities for people in the region to participate in decisions; and improved coordination among federal agencies responsible for managing federal lands.
To implement the necessary high level of coordination and cooperation among agencies, the principal departments or agencies involved in the Northwest Forest Plan signed in October 1993 a Memorandum of Understanding. Signatories included the White House Office on Environmental Policy (now the Council on Environmental Quality), the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Signers of the Memorandum of Understanding agreed to:
• Develop a cohesive vision and shared sense of mission for the management of federal forest lands which balances multiple objectives;
• Improve their ability to adapt to change, such as new scientific understanding or changing societal values, in a cohesive manner;
• Cultivate greater trust, coordination, and cooperation among federal agencies, within individual agencies, and between federal agencies and non-federal interests;
• Address inconsistencies among statutory mandates;
• Improve integrated application of agency budgets to maximize efficient use of funds for overlapping or related efforts;
• Improve the sharing of information and the pooling of agencies' technology and expertise; and
• Coordinate ecosystem management activities in concert with federal, state and local programs for economic, labor, and community assistance.
The Memorandum of Understanding established several coordinating groups to develop, support, and oversee the implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan for federal forests within the range of the northern spotted owl. An Interagency Steering Committee in Washington, D.C., was to establish overall implementation policies. A Regional Interagency Executive Committee, consisting of the regional heads of the principal federal agencies involved in implementing the Plan, was to be the focal point for cross-agency management strategy in the region. A Regional Ecosystem Office was to staff the regional executives and handle consistency and implementation issues associated with the Plan. Local interagency teams were to coordinate analysis at the province level. Additional interagency groups were to focus on information management and research and monitoring.
The Memorandum of Understanding also recognized the importance of participation by states, tribes, and others in the decision-making process at both the regional and province levels. Subsequently, this participation was formalized through the creation of an Intergovernmental Advisory Committee and twelve Provincial Advisory Committees. All of these were chartered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
The joint interagency goals established in the Memorandum of Understanding, and the interagency implementation groups, were radical for the region and for the country.
The multi-agency approach was further cemented in April 1994, when the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior issued a joint Record of Decision that culminated the extensive environmental impact assessment process for the Northwest Forest Plan. Choosing a slightly modified version of what has come to be known as Alternative 9 of the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, the Secretaries signed a Record of Decision that amended or was incorporated into the planning documents for nineteen national forests and seven Bureau of Land Management districts, thus adopting a common management approach to the land those agencies administer throughout the Pacific Northwest ecological region. The Northwest Forest Plan also affects the management of lands in the region administered by the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Department of Defense. The management direction in the Record of Decision consists of extensive Standards and Guidelines, including land allocations, that comprise a comprehensive ecosystem management strategy.
Three significant transformations took place in the Pacific Northwest as a result of the Northwest Forest Plan that, had nothing else been accomplished, made the effort worthwhile. The first was breaking the economic logjam that resulted from the court-ordered halt in the sale of federal timber in the region by putting in place an unprecedented ecosystem-based approach to management of the federal lands. The second was use of federal lands for threatened and endangered species conservation in a way that allowed more discretion and flexibility in regulatory programs affecting private lands. The third was a dramatic change in agency culture in which otherwise disparate federal agencies structured their science, planning, and management to take place in an interagency, and even intergovernmental, arena. All three accomplishments fundamentally altered the way the agencies relate to each other and to the public.
Ending the Impasse. As indicated above, prior to the Northwest Forest Plan, proposed levels of timber harvests, with their associated support to local economies, had run headlong into environmental concerns. These concerns focused on the northern spotted owl, which had received formal protection under the Endangered Species Act. But the concerns were much broader, including other officially protected species such as the marbled murrelet, anticipated protections that were likely to be extended to anadromous fish species such as salmon, and scores of other potentially threatened plant and animal species. Indeed, the controversy reflected a deep division of sentiment in the region and throughout the country as to whether federal forests should be managed primarily for the production of timber or whether they should be managed to protect biodiversity and to meet the rapidly expanding demand for recreational opportunities.
The team that assessed the options for forest management was directed to take an ecosystem-based approach. That concept recognizes that forests are complex networks of biological systems connected and dependent on each other, and that people are an integral part of those ecosystems. The objective was to come up with a plan that satisfies the environmental laws (including the requirements for "listed" species under the Endangered Species Act), provides for an interconnected system of old growth, and, subject to those constraints, produces the greatest sustainable economic and social benefits for the region. The resulting analysis, which required the consideration of impacts on more than one thousand plant and animal species, as well as on economic and social factors, was without parallel.
Within months after release of the Northwest Forest Plan, the injunctions on timber sales were lifted, clearing the way for agencies to plan new sales and undertake other management actions, for the first time in three years. In December 1994, the Northwest Forest Plan was upheld by one of the same courts that enjoined the federal government in earlier years. The court specifically endorsed the ecosystem approach, noting:
"The agencies for years had operated independently and sometimes in conflict. In the current plan they cooperated and have analyzed not just individual species but ecosystems. . . . Given the current condition of the forests, there is no way the agencies could comply with the environmental laws without planning on an ecosystem basis."
Since then, the agencies have continued to prevail in most subsequent legal challenges, allowing the Plan to move forward. The new program under the Northwest Forest Plan struck a balance between the many competing interests in the region and established predictable, regular, timber harvests. This does not mean that everyone in the region is happy with the balance that was struck. They are not, and the Plan continues to be attacked by some individuals or groups -- some contending that it establishes too high a level of environmental protection, others that it does not do enough. As one Member of Congress recently noted:
"There's 100 percent agreement ... that we all love our national forests. But 50 percent of us love them vertical, and the rest want to see them horizontal."
Nonetheless, the Plan has survived, timber sales are occurring, and a regional framework is in place to protect biodiversity and provide clean water. These are major accomplishments.
Regulatory and Economic Stability. The Northwest Forest Plan provided increased regulatory and economic stability for owners of state and private lands, in addition to providing a predictable timber supply program on federal lands.
Before the Northwest Forest Plan, there was a great deal of uncertainty among state and private landowners in the region concerning the extent to which they would be allowed to harvest timber on their property without violating the "take" prohibitions of the Endangered Species Act. They were also concerned that an agency might later declare their land "critical habitat" for a threatened or endangered species. These uncertainties led some landowners to harvest their timber prematurely to avoid any unknown restrictions that might be imposed in the future.
It was partly out of the concern of private landowners, and partly because federal forest lands were so extensive in the region, that the Fish and Wildlife Service limited critical habitat designation for the northern spotted owl to federal lands, excluding all private, Indian, and state lands.
Following the Forest Conference, the interagency groups working on the Northwest Forest Plan were instructed to take an ecosystem approach to forest management that particularly addresses "maintenance and restoration of biological diversity," and to "suggest innovative ways federal forests can contribute to economic and social well-being." Further, in developing a program for federal lands, the "impact of protection and recovery of threatened and endangered species on non-federal lands within the region of concern should be minimized."
The Northwest Forest Plan was constructed so as to promote the restoration and maintenance of biological diversity. The Record of Decision states that "our decision will provide for habitat of an amount and distribution that will support the continued persistence of the northern spotted owl," and that "adoption of these standards and guidelines will not jeopardize the continued existence of any listed species under the Endangered Species Act." These conclusions are based on a finding that the decision results in:
"approximately 80 percent of the approximately 8.5 million acres of medium and large late-successional conifer forests in the planning area being within land allocations that do not allow for programmed timber harvest. ... In addition, some 42 percent of the areas within the late-successional reserves designated under our decision are dominated by such forest types. Late-successional reserves will provide large continuous blocks in which silvicultural treatments are severely limited, protecting species associated with late-successional and old-growth forest habitat ...."
Thus, the Northwest Forest Plan assured that federal lands contribute their full share for owl conservation. The extensive habitat protection on federal land under the plan has allowed the agencies that are responsible for enforcing the Endangered Species Act to permit more intensive economic utilization of nearby state and private lands than would otherwise have been possible.
Because of the assurance of habitat protection on federal land, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service have been able to enter into large-scale "habitat conservation plan" agreements with public and private landowners. In the range of the northern spotted owl, habitat conservation plans approved by the Fish and Wildlife Service include: Washington Department of Natural Resources (1,660,000 acres in Washington State); Oregon Department of Forestry (615,000 acres in Oregon); Plum Creek Timber Company (170,000 acres in Washington); Weyerhauser (two agreements totaling 600,000 acres in Oregon); and Simpson Timber Company (383,000 acres in northern California).
These habitat conservation plans, along with the "no surprises" and "safe harbor" initiatives, are positive developments that complement the Northwest Forest Plan in protecting the diversity and health of ecosystems across the landscape. The "no surprises" policy provides regulatory assurances to the holder of an incidental take permit issued under section 10(a) of the Endangered Species Act that no additional land use restrictions or financial compensation will be imposed, even if unforeseen circumstances arise. The "safe harbor" policy provides incentives for private and other non-federal property owners voluntarily to conserve the habitats of threatened and endangered species.
In addition to the habitat conservation plans, the Fish and Wildlife Service intends to issue in early 1999 a final rule under section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act to provide relief for "take" of northern spotted owls for private landowners with small holdings. This rule will also be based on the assumption that federal lands will provide for most of the needs of the spotted owl over its range.
These regulatory provisions give states and businesses that rely on natural resources the predictability they need to service the interests of their employees, communities, customers, and shareholders. Like the Northwest Forest Plan, they strike a balance between impacts resulting from timber harvests and conservation of threatened species. Because of the contributions that federal lands are making toward species conservation under the Northwest Forest Plan, these provisions can be used more extensively than otherwise might have been possible, thereby easing the need for restrictions on non-federal lands and giving state and private landowners the flexibility and predictability they need to take a long-term approach to the management of their lands.
Change in Federal Agency Culture. The Northwest Forest Plan is producing a radical and massive change in federal agency culture. The essence of the new culture may be characterized as one vision for the region, one Administration policy, one set of actions, one set of procedural requirements, and one science.
The initial, and most immediate, change took place in agency operations, in how agency personnel do their day-to-day jobs. Prior to the Northwest Forest Plan, federal resource managers were guided by their own agency's vision and policies, undertook actions pursuant to their own agency's mission, followed their own agency's procedures, and grounded their decisions in mission-oriented science. In contrast, agencies now are generally operating in concert to implement the multiple objectives of the Northwest Forest Plan.
This process begins at the top. The regional executives involved in all aspects of implementing the Northwest Forest Plan meet as a group each month to discuss policy issues and exchange information of interest, and they are in regular contact at other times. Among regional executives, personal relationships and trust have been increased due to getting to know each other and having open, candid discussions. In addition, key implementation activities are discussed regularly with representatives of three states, tribes, and counties.
The changeover to interagency cooperation has been rocky at times, and it does not necessarily represent an easier way of planning and making decisions, at least in the short term. In some ways, the structure of the Northwest Forest Plan is more complex and more burdensome than the traditional way of doing business on an agency-by-agency basis with a focus on narrow goals, objectives and missions.
However, through the process, participants have seen many benefits of interagency and intergovernmental cooperation, including: improved relationships and trust among the personnel of different federal agencies and non-federal entities; a better sense of each others' missions, cultures, and mandates; more acceptable and more supportable decisions; unified decisions that allow agencies to follow joint, or at least parallel, implementation paths; multi-agency "buy-in" even on decisions that are made unilaterally by one agency; and joint directives to the field units of several agencies. Agencies have made progress in leveraging their funds more effectively, moving toward common data bases and standards for management, monitoring, and research activities, and maximizing their limited resources.
Over time, by doing business in this new way and experiencing these successes, a transformation has been taking place in agency culture. It shapes how agency personnel approach problems, how they view the world, and how they perceive their role in the broader scheme of things. As they implement the Northwest Forest Plan, all of the affected agencies are players, and all contribute something to the overall effort.
Agency identification becomes less important in this environment. No longer does each agency consider its decisions in a relative vacuum, sometimes in competition with and possibly to the detriment of another agency. Instead, key regional government business is conducted in an interagency, and to some degree an intergovernmental, arena, and interagency planning is perceived as the appropriate way to do business. The Northwest Forest Plan has fostered an atmosphere in which participating agencies are encouraged to bring problem areas out into the open and discuss them with a view toward finding a consensus solution. Agencies continue to discharge their statutory responsibilities, but the emphasis is on the collective vision. This collective focus is especially apparent at the meetings of the regional executives and the activities of the Regional Ecosystem Office, where employees of various agencies work on the ecosystem aspects of the Northwest Forest Plan.
The real payoff has been in terms of outcomes. Traditional narrowly-focused, polarized, and competitive approaches were partly responsible for the impasse that had engulfed the Pacific Northwest. They constituted a major barrier to resolving the impasse. It was not until agencies, responding to the leadership of the President and to the need to work together to overcome adverse judicial decisions, moved beyond their own limited perspectives, and took collective aim at a common goal, that the region was able to begin moving again -- toward a sustainable flow of timber sales and toward judicious protection of ecological resources.
Prior to the Northwest Forest Plan, the timber program had been subject to a number of injunctions and to a process that often resulted in a need to start project planning over again. The inefficiency and the additional expense involved in that process, though hard to quantify, are huge. Viewed narrowly, the current planning process may be regarded as more cumbersome than normal agency processes. However, viewed against the historical framework of stop-and-start planning, the current process represents considerable progress.
The interagency and intergovernmental cooperation structures are still functioning in the region after nearly five years. That fact alone is remarkable, because there are so many aspects of traditional agency culture that mitigate against cooperative efforts. Not only are the original participants insistent on maintaining the interagency cooperation structure, but agencies that were not originally part of the Northwest Forest Plan have begun to participate as well, and stand ready to join as official partners if the Memorandum of Understanding is renewed. Also, though the coordination process originally was designed to carry out the specific mandates of the Northwest Forest Plan, participating agencies have agreed to expand the interagency collaboration and implementation concept to bring to the table additional issues that affect the Northwest Forest Plan but that were not originally mentioned in the Memorandum of Understanding.
In 1996, the Office of Forestry and Economic Assistance reported widespread agreement with an observation made by a Forest Service employee: "While developing effective coordination has sometimes been halting and difficult, there is no doubt that agencies are working more closely together and understanding each other more fully. This cannot but reap benefits that go far beyond the scope of the Northwest Forest Plan." Many who participated in the Northwest Forest Plan go further in their praise of the approach and suggest that interagency and intergovernmental cooperation has become a feature so positive and so pervasive that there is little possibility of turning back the clock and going back to the old way of doing business -- even if the Northwest Forest Plan itself were to disappear. The issues are too interrelated, and people now have the realistic expectation of contributing something from their own perspective to a common goal.
However, it should be noted that the transformation remains a work in progress. Agencies still respond to their own constituencies and their own statutory mandates. Not everyone embraces the idea that the new way constitutes progress. In addition, even now, many individuals express the view that while their own agency is committed to collaboration, they do not feel that other agencies share that commitment fully. Trust and willingness to work collaboratively can easily break down unless the process continues to be supported strongly by national and regional agency executives.
Change of this magnitude takes time and constant attention. If the change is to be sustained to such an extent that the new agency culture truly replaces the old, it requires continued effort.
Other Interagency and Intergovernmental Achievements
Many accomplishments of the Northwest Forest Plan resulted from the new pattern of interagency collaboration. Most would not have occurred at all under the old system, or if they did, would have been done separately and independently by one or more agencies with relative disregard for other agencies. Even if some type of formal coordination were required under the previous system, it often would have been formalistic and combative. Further, it is highly unlikely that the old way of operating would have produced decisions that survived judicial scrutiny as has the Northwest Forest Plan. Some examples of the benefits of interagency and intergovernmental processes associated with the Northwest Forest Plan are summarized below.
Timber Sales. Historically, timber operators in the Pacific Northwest could expect a relatively constant supply of federal timber from year to year. Agency forestry plans established allowable sale quantities as an amount that could be sustainably produced within planning constraints. Congress typically adopted these quantities as targets and funded their accomplishment. From 1980 through 1988, federal timber sales were steady at about six billion board feet each year. Harvest rates varied annually because purchasers of federal timber had from one month to five years (depending on the length of the contract) to harvest the timber they had purchased.
Starting around 1980, sales and harvest rates took some unusual turns as a result of markets, legislation, and litigation. The recession of the early 1980s resulted in a large accumulation of uncut timber under contract. Harvest from federal lands dropped to a low of about 2.5 billion board feet in 1982; the operators had paid high prices for the stumpage, but would lose money if they harvested the trees in a depressed lumber market. In the middle to late 1980s, legislation was passed that enabled purchasers who had paid prices that could not be recovered at then current market conditions to "buy out" their uncut timber sale contracts.
The buy-out program contributed to a decline in the supply of federal timber under contract, as did modifications in contract rules that required harvest within three years after the sale. Judge Dwyer issued the first regional injunction on timber sales in 1989, which led to further declines in the supply of federal timber under contract to a 1993 level of 2.5 billion board feet, down from the high of over 20 billion board feet ten years earlier. By 1992, new federal timber sales had virtually stopped.
The Northwest Forest Plan aimed at once again providing a stable timber-sale program, albeit at lower levels, and with modified priorities. Sustainability under the Northwest Forest Plan depends upon a recalculated land base that balances habitat protection and timber harvest. Unlike the earlier focus primarily on timber growth and harvest, the new balancing concept of sustainability emphasizes the kind and amount of habitat needed to assure the long-term viability of aquatic systems and terrestrial species, in particular those associated with late-successional and old-growth forest habitats. Estimates of timber sale levels are characterized as probable sale quantities, reflecting the uncertainty associated with estimating yield within the planning requirements of the Northwest Forest Plan.
Under the Northwest Forest Plan, only commercial forest land within the matrix and portions of adaptive management areas can produce volume that can satisfy a regulated timber volume objective and be used to calculate probably sale quantity. Some categories of timber sale accomplishments were expected over and above the amounts associated with probable sale quantity. For example, volume from late-successional reserves and riparian reserves was not to be considered as regulated and therefore was to be counted in addition to probable sale quantity.
Timber-sale planning under the Northwest Forest Plan also differs in several ways from sale planning of the past. It requires: watershed analyses in key watersheds before any activity can take place; compliance with revised Standards and Guidelines for laying out timber sales, such as protection of riparian reserves, location and retention of special habitats, and meeting guidelines for green-tree and snag retention; and increased involvement of regulatory agencies and other interested parties early in the planning process.
Under the Northwest Forest Plan, about four million acres, or 16 percent of the federal lands, are available for regulated timber harvest and thus contribute to probable sale quantity. It was originally anticipated that federal lands could contribute sustainable harvests at about 1.1 billion board feet per year over the 10-year life of the Northwest Forest Plan. Completion of final forestry plans for northern California National Forests and Oregon Bureau of Land Management Districts in late 1994 resulted in a more accurate estimate of sustainable harvest level of 1.0 billion board feet, with approximately 905 million board feet from regulated harvests, and an additional 10 percent expected from "other wood," which includes cull, salvage, and other similar products.
The Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have been working hard to meet their annual timber sale levels under the Northwest Forest Plan. The task has been difficult. They had to start from the beginning, because sale planning and preparation had nearly stopped for three years during the injunctions and land management objectives were substantially changed. As a result, the agencies committed to meeting 60 percent of the probable sale quantity in 1995, 80 percent in 1996, and 100 percent in 1997.
The agencies exceeded their goal in 1995 and 1996, offering 620 and 869 million board feet respectively. The 1997 accomplishment of 924 million board feet fell somewhat short of the goal primarily because of unexpected controversy associated with replacement timber volume under the terms of the 1995 Rescissions Act and within municipal watersheds on national forests, and the loss of records when the Forest Service Oakridge Ranger Station was burned. However, additional volume was produced by enhancement activities within reserves because these treatments were given a higher priority by the agencies than originally planned. Correspondingly, accomplishments within the matrix are slightly below plans because of continuing local controversy.
The Rescissions Act was a complicating factor in the implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan. That act required the Forest Serviced and Bureau of Land Management to make or release a number of timber sales, including many so-called "section 318" sales located within areas that had been designated as "late-successional" or "riparian reserves" under the Northwest Forest Plan. (Section 318 of the fiscal year 1990 Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act required the agencies to offer certain amounts of timber in Washington and Oregon during fiscal years 1989 and 1990; a number of proposed sales under this provision were subsequently suspended for spotted owl or marbled murrelet concerns.)
The release of the suspended section 318 sales raised complex issues, including whether the sales altered overall habitat conditions on the lands subject to the Northwest Forest Plan to such an extent that it would diminish the ability of conservation strategies adopted by the Record of Decision to achieve their intended objectives. Also at issue was whether the harvest effects of Rescissions Act sales created a need to develop ecosystem-wide amendments to the Standards and Guidelines.
Ultimately the potential ecological impact of Rescissions Act sales was reduced. A decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the action of the agencies in using a particular protocol to detect the presence of nesting marbled murrelets and in prohibiting harvests where that protocol indicated the existence of nesting murrelets. Other court decisions further curtailed the number of Rescissions Act sales actually harvested. In addition, impacts were lessened by the discovery of additional nesting birds, as well as by agency efforts to negotiate contract modifications with purchasers and otherwise to mitigate sale effects or provide replacement volume. The Rescissions Act resulted in the harvest of 2,032 acres located within late-successional reserves, 1,102 acres within riparian reserves, and 4,064 acres in key watersheds. These figures represent approximately 0.03 percent, 0.04 percent, and 0.04 percent of the total acreage in those categories.
A review conducted by the agencies concluded that although Rescissions Act harvests in key watersheds and riparian reserves constituted a short-term departure from the aquatic conservation strategy of the Northwest Forest Plan at the site scale, and although "local sale effects may delay recovery or offset restoration efforts in certain watersheds," nonetheless, "these local effects will not adversely affect the overall efficacy of the aquatic conservation strategy at the ecosystem-wide scale." Similarly, the impact on the terrestrial conservation strategy was judged not to be significant at an ecosystem-wide scale. Fundamental ecological assumptions were determined to be unchanged, and the agencies concluded that there was no need to develop amendments to the Standards and Guidelines.
Recently, the Forest Service has indicated that annual timber sale levels will be reduced for eight of the thirteen national forests in Oregon and Washington that are subject to the Northwest Forest Plan. The bulk of these reductions (57 million board feet) relate to the correction of errors, based on new information from applying on the ground the requirements in the Record of Decision. Examples of new information include finding more miles of streams, identification of additional "inoperable" slivers of land between riparian reserves, and errors in the original modeling of probable sale quantities. Additional reductions may be proposed and analyzed through the plan amendment process. These reductions would be for such factors as changes in objectives for adaptive management areas, extension of rotations, changes in regeneration schedules, and increasing residual volume in matrix areas based on resource values.
Further reductions could occur in the fiscal year 1999 and 2000 annual programs, depending on how certain issues are resolved that relate to the schedule for "survey and manage" activities.
Northwest Economic Adjustment Initiative. The Northwest Economic Adjustment Initiative was designed to recognize the plight of and directly help those workers, businesses, tribes, and communities in northern California, Oregon, and Washington that were affected by reductions in federal timber harvests. This initiative is also a new way of doing business: the federal government works in partnership with state, tribal, and local officials, and representatives of the nonprofit and private sectors, to identify priority needs and then streamline assistance to help retrain dislocated workers, encourage and support investment and business retention and expansion, and develop infrastructure and much-needed professional capacity for economic development in hard-pressed communities.
The federal financial commitment, announced as part of the Northwest Forest Plan, is to make $1.2 billion available to the region over five fiscal years, beginning in October 1993. Seven federal departments with 16 different programs are participating financially; three other federal agencies participate in the initiative by providing technical assistance and leadership. The initiative has been funded largely without additional appropriations for the participating agencies, though Congress has played a significant role in ensuring the availability and use of monies for certain programs within the region. The amounts available exceeded $248 million in fiscal year 1994, $268 million in 1995, $209 million in 1996, and $203 million in 1997.
The initiative brings four broad types of assistance to the region: assistance to individuals aimed at the intermediate-term effects of retraining dislocated workers and supporting their families; assistance to business and industry aimed at existing businesses and diversifying the business base throughout the region; assistance in developing the community infrastructure and technical capacity to help communities make the transition to an economically and environmentally sustainable future; and ecosystem investment aimed at providing short-term jobs, through a "Jobs in the Woods" program that works to restore the region's watersheds to environmentally sustainable conditions.
The region enjoys several advantages as a result of the initiative. The clearest advantage is that federal agencies reprioritize the use of funds to favor projects in communities and areas that are affected by changes in federal forest policy. Without the initiative, available funds would not likely have been targeted to provide assistance in timber-affected communities. A second advantage comes from the programs that are funded partly or wholly from national sources. Without the initiative, such funds would likely not have reached the region. Third, funds that are passed through to state agencies allow the states the flexibility to develop their unique priorities and uses, and to adjust those priorities and uses through experience.
An additional advantage comes from increased coordination and planning among federal agencies, and between federal agencies and state, tribal, and local governments. These agencies are undergoing their own culture changes and are improving their ability to work collectively and more effectively towards a common goal.
It is much easier to tally the dollars available and spent on initiative programs than it is to determine the direct impact of those dollars on individuals, businesses, and communities. However, an early estimate by state and federal officials responsible for the different programs in the initiative was that 14,799 job-related effects resulted from the federal monies spent during fiscal year 1995. Such effects include: workers finding employment after completing training programs; workers whose jobs were saved as a result of federal spending; job opportunities created during the year; and job opportunities expected to be created in future years. An additional 1,743 jobs were associated with the loan guarantees made by the Small Business Administration in the region during the same year.
The region has benefitted greatly from the Northwest Economic Adjustment Initiative. On the other hand, it is also true that the expectations of some in the region have not been fulfilled. The region as a whole remains economically healthy, and some individuals and communities have adapted well to the new situation. However, there is no question that many are worse off than they were when federal timber sales were at higher levels than under the Northwest Forest Plan.
Aquatic Conservation Strategy. A significant feature of the Northwest Forest Plan is the four part approach to protection and enhancement of the aquatic system of the region -- riparian reserves, key watersheds, watershed analysis, and watershed restoration. These components work together to maintain and restore the productivity and resiliency of riparian and aquatic ecosystems. The strategy focuses on watersheds as the fundamental building block of federal forest management. It encourages agencies to work together, across administrative boundaries, to manage resources on a watershed basis.
• Riparian Reserves. Riparian reserves are portions of watersheds where riparian-dependent resources receive primary emphasis and where special standards and guidelines apply. Riparian reserve requirements limit or prohibit activities that would retard or prevent meeting the goals of the aquatic conservation strategy. Riparian reserves are designed to protect the full suite of aquatic ecosystem functions and provide connectivity across the landscapes for terrestrial species.
Historically, the agencies have managed riparian areas as "streamside management units," in which practices that might affect water quality, fish, and other aquatic resources would be modified to meet water-quality goals for each class of stream. Under the aquatic conservation strategy, standards and guidelines are more broadly designed to maintain and restore riparian structures and functions of streams, benefit riparian-dependent and forest-based species other than fish, enhance habitat conservation for organisms dependent on these transition areas, and provide corridors that connect habitats and reserves.
The Northwest Forest Plan prescribed initial reserve widths for protected riparian areas, and specified standards and guidelines for timber management, road construction and maintenance, grazing, recreation, minerals management, fire and fuels management, research, and restoration activities. The initial boundary widths were intended to remain in effect until modified following watershed and site analysis and appropriate National Environmental Policy Act documentation. However, agencies have found it difficult to analyze all of the processes and functions that were intended to be protected in riparian reserves. Consequently, few boundaries have been changed. Instead, agencies seem to be using watershed analysis to define appropriate management activities within the reserves rather than changing the boundaries themselves.
The agencies are field testing a module developed by an interagency, interdisciplinary team for assessing riparian reserves at the watershed and site scales. The module is designed to guide analyses considered necessary for designing management actions within riparian reserves or changing reserve boundaries. Given the very large spectrum of organisms, processes and functions intended to benefit from the interim reserve widths, such studies are costly, particularly in view of the fact that sufficient data would be needed to convince those who may be negatively affected by a boundary change that such a change is warranted.
• Key Watersheds. Key watersheds are those that provide or are expected to provide high quality fish habitat and water quality. They are divided into two tiers. Tier 1 key watersheds are those that contribute directly to the conservation of anadromous salmonids, bull trout, and other resident fish species. Tier 2 key watersheds are sources of high quality water, though they may not contain at-risk fish species.
One fundamental purpose for establishing key watersheds was to secure and restore aquatic habitat strongholds by reducing road densities and the associated legacy of adverse sediment, hydrologic and habitat fragmentation impacts associated with roads. The Record of Decision provides that for each mile of new road constructed in a key watershed, at least one mile of road should be decommissioned.
The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have actively decommissioned roads to achieve a net reduction in road miles in key watersheds in response to this Northwest Forest Plan objective. The agencies are in the process of compiling data, by key watershed and administrative unit, to demonstrate the level of road reduction achieved to date.
• Watershed Analysis. Watershed analysis provides information at the watershed scale as the foundation for management actions such as stream and river enhancement projects, timber sales, and roads. Intended to provide managers with a basis for their decisions by serving as a systematic way to understand and organize ecosystem information and identify needed management actions, watershed analysis is also useful for helping people think on a landscape scale.
The following interagency products were developed with these objectives in mind, and are being implemented:
• An initial set of guidelines for incorporating watershed analysis into agency operations during the early period of implementation.
• An interagency process for selecting watersheds for priority attention, as well as for developing and selecting restoration projects to be funded in those watersheds. This resulted in a coordinated approach, generating maximum benefits with the resources available each year. These efforts are continuing at the watershed and provincial levels.
• A common methodology for conducting watershed analyses entitled Ecosystem Analysis at the Watershed Scale: Federal Guide for Watershed Analysis. Interagency use of this guide has increased the consistency with which watershed condition is assessed. The guide has also been adopted as the standard in watershed-scale ecosystem analysis east of the Cascade mountains.
• An accompanying set of analytical methods for approaching selected technical aspects of watershed analysis.
• A working draft approach to adjusting riparian reserve boundaries that is currently being tested.
The Forest Service conducted analysis for 98 watersheds in fiscal year 1995, 79 watersheds in 1996, and 67 watersheds in 1997, covering a total of over 15 million acres. The Bureau of Land Management in western Oregon conducted analyses on 550,197 acres in fiscal year 1995, 429,480 acres in 1996, and 294,997 acres in 1997. By the end of the current fiscal year, watershed analyses will have been completed for 79 percent of the area covered by the Northwest Forest Plan.
Although much has been done, it should be pointed out that for watershed analyses to be most effective, they should be capable of aggregation at the province, river basin, or other larger scale. The watershed analyses that have been done to date do not lend themselves to such aggregation. The federal regional executives made a conscious decision to give more discretion to Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management line officers to deal with local problems by making watershed analyses "issue driven." Under the Watershed Analysis Guide, line officers were given the authority to define the issues to be addressed in each watershed and to decide how to answer the core set of questions. This process produced differences in the information that was collected and the way it was described. If the agencies are to move toward the "seamless web" of information advocated elsewhere in this report, the differences in watershed analyses will have to be addressed.
• Watershed Restoration. The watershed restoration program has dual goals: economic health and watershed health. The economic goal is to provide meaningful, family-wage jobs for local displaced timber workers. The watershed health goal is to work to restore the region's aquatic, riparian, and terrestrial habitats. The Record of Decision states that restoration activities should focus on protecting anadromous fish habitat, restoring riparian vegetation, and restoring instream habitat complexity.
While much of the aquatic conservation strategy is designed to protect natural ecosystem processes and functions to encourage natural recovery over time, the Northwest Forest Plan includes a watershed restoration component to help bridge the time gap in natural restoration by addressing priority restoration needs proactively. Watershed restoration is designed to restore currently degraded habitat conditions. The most important components are control and restoration of road-related runoff and sediment production, restoration of riparian vegetation, and restoration of in-stream habitat complexity.
Restoration programs have focused initially on arresting road-related erosion and silvicultural treatments in riparian reserves to restore large conifer canopies. Road-related restoration efforts include, in addition to road decommissioning and closures: storm damage repairs; road resurfacing; and culvert replacements to allow the passage of fish, flood flows, bedload, and woody debris. Riparian reserves have been treated through precommercial and commercial thinning and hardwood conversion to promote more rapid development of large conifers for large woody debris recruitment and shade. Instream restoration work to restore habitat complexity, such as large wood placement or creation of off-channel rearing habitat, has also been accomplished. However, the effects of these projects are recognized as inherently short term, and are generally accompanied by upslope and riparian restoration to achieve longer-term restoration benefits.
Much of the watershed restoration work has been accomplished through the Jobs in the Woods Program, with funding through the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Environmental Protection Agency. Emergency flood repair funding has been used to address many miles of road problems and stream road crossings. A variety of funding sources, including those related to timber sale mitigation, have been used to fund watershed restoration efforts.
The agencies currently lack a system for systematic tracking of watershed analysis and restoration accomplishments under the Northwest Forest Plan. An early attempt was made to develop a consistent reporting system for Jobs in the Woods projects. However, that system does not allow tracking of the specific geographic locations in which restoration has occurred, nor does it appear to include fiscal year 1997 restoration projects. This remains a significant shortcoming in the implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan, because many of the benefits and accomplishments of Northwest Forest Plan activities cannot be demonstrated.
It is possible, however, to identify dollars spent on the restoration projects. Jobs in the Woods funding has amounted to slightly over $31 million annually in fiscal years 1994 through 1997. Numerous contracts directed at local impacted communities provided displaced timber workers and others with new jobs restoring watersheds, riparian zones, and fish habitats.
Water Quality. According to the Forest Service, the Northwest Forest Plan represents "an unrivaled level of protection of water quality." The Environmental Protection Agency adds, "the full implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan is a cornerstone of the recovery of water quality on federal lands" within Northwest watersheds.
A good explanation of the relationship between water quality and the Northwest Forest Plan comes from a recent report to Congress by the General Accounting Office. The report notes that under the Plan, "riparian areas vital to protecting and enhancing aquatic and terrestrial resources are now preserved." In addition, timber harvesting and the construction of associated roads are carried out in a way that mitigates the adverse effects of those activities on water quality. More specifically:
"...[T]imber harvesters have developed methods to remove timber from hillsides that are less damaging to the soil than older practices. These newer practices leave trees and large, woody debris in riparian buffers to trap and filter sediment before it reaches streams. Additionally, new forest roads are designed to be more stable and to reduce the potential for failure. Finally, road drainage systems have been improved to reduce the amount of water and sediment delivered to streams."
The General Accounting Office also points out that prior to the Northwest Forest Plan, timber harvesting practices, and associated road construction, were not always designed to protect water quality. Those practices left a "legacy of water quality degradation" and continue to cause water quality problems. However, the Northwest Forest Plan is addressing those problems through watershed restoration efforts.
"Restoration efforts include controlling and preventing road-related runoff and sediment production by closing and stabilizing (decommissioning) some roads and upgrading others, by removing soil from locations where there is a high potential for erosion, modifying road drainage systems to reduce the extent to which the road functions as an extension of the stream network, and reconstructing stream crossings. These efforts also include restoring riparian vegetation and, to prevent instream erosion, adding back large, woody debris into the streams from which it was removed."
Streamlined Consultation Procedures. Consultation procedures under the Endangered Species Act have been streamlined by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service, with the aim of reducing the likelihood of conflicts between listed species and proposed agency actions. Under the procedures, regulatory and land management agencies can assume that most proposed actions will not jeopardize listed species if these actions are consistent with guidance, such as the Northwest Forest Plan, that has already undergone section 7 consultation under the Endangered Species Act.
Under the streamlined process, there is a systematic interagency approach to issue identification and resolution. Interagency consultation guidelines are reviewed annually to incorporate new regional guidelines and national policies that have been issued during the year. In addition, the land management agencies have agreed upon early and active involvement in project planning by the regulatory agencies. This early involvement has reduced resource conflicts relative to the Endangered Species Act, facilitated consultation by the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, and provided greater assurance to the management agencies in their resource planning.
As a result of these streamlined procedures, consultation time frames for the Fish and Wildlife Service have been greatly reduced in the region, from over 135 days per timber sale consultation before the Northwest Forest Plan, to an average of no more than 60 days for formal consultations and 30 days for informal consultations. Recent consultations have averaged 32 days for formal consultations and 10 days for informal consultations.
All agencies are also moving toward a more programmatic and province-scale approach to consultations in the hope that it will further reduce staff time and workload and provide the land management agencies with greater certainty in project implementation. Although time frames on individual projects, such as timber sales, are shorter than before, the shift from project-by-project consultation to a larger-scale programmatic approach has not been easy. More time has been required to develop new methods, data bases, and other tools. However, the long-term benefits from this new approach should greatly exceed the short-term costs.
Data Management and Resource Information. The Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team in 1993 found that the agencies' historical pattern of dealing with environmental issues on an individual site or planning unit basis left the region with data that were inconsistent from place to place and difficult to use with precision for analyses of natural resources issues at larger scales. There were few data standards among and within agencies, and only the most rudimentary understanding of the information required to deal with landscape issues on an interagency or ecosystem basis.
To correct these data and information deficiencies, an Interorganizational Resource Information Coordination Council was informally initiated in 1993 to assist agencies in improving geographic analysis and mapping capability for addressing regional policy issues. Two years later, the group was formalized as a subcommittee of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee. It has served as a focal point for discussing multi-agency geographic information issues related to resource management. Each member was to maintain an awareness of the availability, strengths, and weaknesses of his or her agency's data as a basis for building a regional data set that would provide a context on which to build future maps and conduct map-related analyses.
Within the first few years of the Northwest Forest Plan, individuals from the participating federal agencies, the States of California, Oregon, and Washington, and tribal representatives came together with determination to improve resources data. Accomplishments include:
• Vegetation Data Standards. Substantial progress has been made on terrestrial data issues. The federal agencies have agreed on 14 core standards for characterizing vegetation, and all of the land management agencies are using these standards in the same way for new environmental assessments. A comprehensive effort to map current forest vegetation in support of Northwest Forest Plan monitoring efforts is in progress. The State of Oregon Department of Forestry has formally adopted the standards as well.
Though existing assessments were not updated to meet the new standards, and though they still represent different approaches, future vegetation data will become increasingly standardized as new assessments replace old ones.
• Fish and Hydrography Data Standards. The federal agencies adopted an initial core set of common aquatic standards. This is an important step, though the development of aquatic standards has lagged behind the development of terrestrial standards because less was known about aquatic species and their habitat requirements than about some terrestrial species, such as the northern spotted owl, and their habitat requirements. Fish listings under the Endangered Species Act, and the attendant needs to identify habitat requirements of the fish species, have occurred only recently.
The agencies developed a stream identification and data preparation system that significantly enhances the capability to share and cross reference aquatic and hydrology data among organizations. Prior to the Northwest Forest Plan, each agency divided streams along the watercourse in a different way, and maps could not be compared directly across agencies. Now, the agencies label stream reaches with a unique latitude and longitude identifier, and they have agreed on a hierarchical subdivision of river basins and watersheds, in which all agencies will use the "fifth field" hydrologic unit code as their basic unit of watershed analysis. Essentially, this means that the agencies will be working from the same set of maps. The States of Oregon and Washington have adopted the stream identification standards, and Oregon has adopted the watershed as a basic unit of analysis.
• Mapping Framework Data at a Common Scale. The federal agencies coordinated with the States of Oregon and Washington to produce thematic maps covering the two states at a scale of 1:24,000. Framework map themes include transportation (such as roads and railway lines), hydrology (such as streams and rivers), topography, ownership and public land survey. The federal agencies, states and localities pooled funds to purchase digital files from the U.S. Geological Survey to be used in the maps.
To support decisions under the Northwest Forest Plan, mapping efforts have been initiated or completed on: updated Northwest Forest Plan land use allocation boundaries; updated northern spotted owl suitable habitat; known nesting sites of the owl and murrelet; sites of Rescissions Act timber sales; interagency delineation of fifth field watersheds; known sites of "survey and manage" species; and stream survey sites. Under the Western Oregon Digital Image Project, the Bureau of Land Management is completing a project to map current forest vegetation in western Oregon to interagency data standards, for use by all of the participating entities.
• Information Sharing Activities. Several information management reports were produced. Information Needs Assessments helps partner agencies define common data requirements that will be standardized and cooperatively supported. Data Sharing and Distribution Strategies Across a Multi-Agency Distribution Network examines the use of the Internet to support information sharing. The IRICC Interagency Electronic Mail Guide provides a technological solution to facilitate electronic communications.
These accomplishments are substantial. However, as will be explained later in this report, much work remains to be done. The agencies are still a long way from achieving the "seamless data base" that was originally envisioned. There is some concern that the energy that attended the data management effort at the outset has been dissipated and that additional personnel and direction are required.
Research and Monitoring. The Standards and Guidelines for Management of Habitat for Late-successional and Old-growth Forest Related Species Within the Range of the Northern Spotted Owl requires three different types of monitoring, each aimed at different management questions. The first, implementation monitoring, seeks to determine whether the procedural requirements in the Standards and Guidelines were carried out. The second, effectiveness monitoring, evaluates whether application of the management plan actually achieved the goals that were intended. The third, validation monitoring, goes yet a further step; it determines whether the underlying management assumptions, or the hypothesized relationships that were assumed by the management plan, are valid. Monitoring, in this broad context, must have a strong basis in research, for validation and interpretation of monitoring results.
Monitoring by its nature is a long-term proposition. Even so, short-term monitoring accomplishments have occurred. Implementation monitoring has been conducted to determine the extent to which the management actions have been put into place on the ground in a manner consistent with the Standards and Guidelines. Some effectiveness monitoring pre-dates the Northwest Forest Plan; for example, measurements of northern spotted owl birth and death rates have been taken since the early to mid-1980s. These studies are continuing at the ecosystem scale under the Northwest Forest Plan. Plans have been developed to conduct effectiveness monitoring at the ecosystem scale for other interests, including the marbled murrelet as well as the health of old-growth habitat itself. Moreover, under the coordinated leadership of the research agency executives, effectiveness monitoring plans are under development for several key topical areas, including aquatic and riparian areas, biodiversity and "survey and manage" species, tribal and trust resources, and social and economic effects. Finally, some initial thought has been given to ways in which to conduct validation monitoring.
All monitoring conducted for the Northwest Forest Plan is intended to measure effects of all agencies' actions at the ecosystem scale -- in this case, the scale of the Northwest Forest Plan. This is a significant departure from traditional monitoring that is conducted on an agency-by-agency basis at various scales that coincide with individual agency jurisdictions or with specific project boundaries. Agencies will continue to monitor their own project activities at the project scale. However, if the potential of the Northwest Forest Plan is achieved, agencies will be able to use common approaches and scales, and to apply ecosystem-scale monitoring results to their own uses.
There have been several major highlights of research and monitoring over the last five years:
• Interagency Organizations. Various interagency teams have been established. For instance, the research and monitoring committee has, among other things, reviewed and reported on the degree to which research activities ongoing at the time of the Record of Decision should continue. A research and monitoring group has facilitated increased involvement of the research agency executives in the development of scientifically credible research and monitoring plans. A regional team -- the regional implementation monitoring team -- and parallel province-level teams have conducted reviews of timber sales, roads and restoration projects. These extensive federal interagency and intergovernmental groups have increased the level of understanding and trust among the participants as Northwest Forest Plan projects are implemented.
• Implementation Monitoring. In 1996, a pilot implementation monitoring effort evaluated a sample of FY 1995 timber sales and found a compliance rate of about 95 percent with the Standards and Guidelines contained in the Record of Decision. Furthermore, adverse ecological effects associated with instances of non-compliance appeared to be minimal at the regional scale.
A 1997 implementation monitoring review is nearing completion. The 1997 program examined not only timber sales but roads and restoration projects as well. Though the report is not yet final at the time of this report, indications are that compliance with the Standards and Guidelines during 1997 continued to exceed 95 percent.
Plans to continue this effort into the next year are in progress. The proposed 1998 implementation monitoring program consists of two parts. The first will be continued review of timber sales and associated roads, with sales stratified by size and administrative unit. The second, to be established initially as a pilot effort, is an implementation module for assessing compliance and progress towards actions to address the landscape or watershed scale Standards and Guidelines.
It would be useful in future implementation monitoring assessments to determine whether non-compliance represents random events, or whether there are patterns that should be addressed, such as localities or types of standards and guidelines that represent higher levels of non-compliance.
• Effectiveness Monitoring. The agencies developed an effectiveness monitoring framework, described in a report entitled Effectiveness Monitoring for the Northwest Forest Plan. Modules for late successional and old-growth forests, the northern spotted owl, and the marbled murrelet have been finalized as part of the effectiveness monitoring plan and are being implemented. Monitoring plans for aquatic and riparian systems and American Indians and their culture are under development. The research executives and the Regional Ecosystem Office are developing directions for initiating alternative development efforts dealing with biodiversity, "survey and manage" species, and social and economic effects. Through the process of developing and initiating implementation of the framework, the group achieved a high level of interagency agreement and cooperation, and the various agencies accepted non-traditional roles and responsibilities in their contributions toward the overall monitoring effort.
Though the agencies have made progress in preparing for effectiveness monitoring, as well as validation monitoring, it should be noted that progress has been slow in the actual implementation of these types of monitoring, as noted elsewhere in this report.
• Strategic Research Plan. The agencies developed and published in early 1998 a draft Strategic Research Plan to Support Implementation of the Pacific Northwest Forest Plan. As in the case of management generally, agencies tend to conduct research that is focused on, and often limited to, their own missions and programs. Thus, the benefit of this strategic plan is that it identifies the areas of research necessary to meet the broader objectives of the Northwest Forest Plan and provides a framework for interagency coordination. Though it is still in draft form, research agencies are proceeding to implement the strategic research plan in 1998 under the advice of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee and the direction of the Regional Interagency Executive Committee. Updates and revisions to the strategy are expected on an annual basis.
Late-Successional Reserves. The Northwest Forest Plan is built in part around a system of late-successional reserves, designed to protect late-successional and old-growth-dependent species of concern over the long run. The agencies developed a single, joint interagency process for reviewing proposed actions in reserves and a single, joint standard for reserve assessments.
The assessments are to guide future agency actions in reserves, incorporating the eight elements specified in the Standards and Guidelines. A joint interagency work group developed guidance to help field units incorporate the required elements into project plans. The agencies also developed two sets of criteria to exempt precommercial and commercial thinning projects in late-successional reserves from subsequent project-level review by the Regional Ecosystem Office. Additional exemptions are included within individual assessments. To date, assessments for 5.5 million acres in late-successional reserves (approximately 74 percent of the total late-successional reserve acreage) have been completed and reviewed.
Adaptive Management Areas. The Record of Decision established adaptive management areas as unique areas in which federal agencies can work together with each other, other organizations, tribes, local and state governments, and the public, to meet an area's specific goals and objectives. According to the Standards and Guidelines, the areas are "landscape units designed to encourage the development and testing of technical and social approaches to achieving desired ecological, economic, and other social objectives." The areas "provide a diversity of biological challenges, intermixed land ownerships, natural resource objectives, and social contexts." In these areas, localized, idiosyncratic approaches would "provide managers with flexibility, discretion, and opportunity to adapt practices to local circumstances." Connections to local communities were to be fostered. It has been said that adaptive management areas "offer both the responsibility and the opportunity to begin to learn how to more effectively manage the regional landscape" and that "creative, learning-based management of adaptive management areas is essential to the long-term, successful implementation" of the Northwest Forest Plan. Adaptive management areas are settings in which guidelines may be "examined, tested, and potentially modified for application across the wider landscape."
There are currently ten adaptive management areas throughout the Northwest Forest Plan area, most on Forest Service lands and about half involving shared management with the Bureau of Land Management.
The Record of Decision provides that all adaptive management areas are to have a plan that contains ten elements: a shared vision of the adaptive management area; knowledge required to meet the objectives of the area; the strategy that will be used to guide implementation, restoration, monitoring, and experimental activities; a short-term timber sale plan and long-term projections; methods, approaches, and content for educating participants and stakeholders; identification of the various communities that will be involved in the adaptive management area activity; community strategies, resources, and partners that will be used to advance ideas for the adaptive management area; coordination mechanisms that will be used; a funding plan; and a plan for integrating community strategies and technical objectives. For some managers, there is only limited understanding of how the adaptive management areas "relate to the wider scheme of forest management and especially to the implementation of ecosystem management."
Plans for adaptive management areas lag behind expectations. However, plans for seven areas have been submitted and reviewed by a work group that was chartered to review such plans and to assist the regional federal executives in interpreting relevant policy issues that arise from the plans. More will be said on adaptive management in the section of this report on "future directions."
Northern Spotted Owl. While the ultimate impact of implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan will contribute significantly to the recovery of the northern spotted owl, it must be remembered that the owl is a long-lived species that dwells in a forest environment that changes very slowly over time. The most recent range-wide analysis of demographic data on spotted owl population trends pre-dates the Northwest Forest Plan and indicates a continuing downward trend. The first range-wide results from spotted owl demographic or population trend studies conducted since implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan are due to be reported early in 1999.
It is expected that the population of owls will continue to decline as habitat is lost. These losses will occur as habitats outside the late-successional reserves are harvested to support the local timber demand. However, over the next 50 years, the spotted owl habitat removed under the implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan is expected to be replaced by habitat regenerating within the protected reserves. As habitat inside the reserves improves, the amount of habitat throughout the owl's range, and corresponding owl populations, are expected to stabilize and eventually increase.
"Survey and Manage." The Northwest Forest Plan had as one of its primary ecological goals the development of land use allocations and other standards and guidelines for the management of habitat for species associated with late-successional and old-growth forests. Some of those lesser known species (including some amphibians and mammals, as well as bryophytes, mollusks, vascular plants, fungi, lichens, and arthropods) presented a particularly difficult challenge, because so little is known about their abundance, location, life cycle needs, and habitat associations.
To accommodate lesser-known species, the Plan incorporates an ecosystem-wide, interagency approach to surveying for them and recommending appropriate management actions (hence the term "survey and manage") when these species are located. Under prior administrative arrangements, this could have led to an agency-by-agency approach. Instead, under the Northwest Forest Plan, an interagency team has been developing joint interagency survey methods and management recommendations.
An interagency and intergovernmental data base reflecting the location of all known sites has been developed and distributed to all field units covered by the Northwest Forest Plan for their use as they develop and implement actions such as timber sales under the Plan. In addition, proposed standardized search protocols have been published for use for several species groups. A geographic "interagency species management system," which provides location and habitat information, has been developed and will be operational in the near future.
The commitment to coordinate in advance through the interagency workgroup process has been of benefit to managers, who otherwise would have to develop and justify survey and management protocols on their own -- an almost insurmountable task. It significantly reduces the risk of individual agencies adopting separate and potentially inconsistent approaches, and it increases the likelihood that these little-known species will be preserved over the long term.
The development of survey protocols, and the cataloging of life histories, habitat requirements, and species ranges, remain a challenge. Even with the interagency coordination, for a minority of the "survey and manage" species the agencies have been unable to develop survey protocols, conduct surveys, and develop recommendations for managing habitat. The difficulties have arisen in part due to the fact that only a few experts can identify some of the species using laboratory techniques, the lack of in-depth knowledge about the methods to identify and detect the presence of the species, and the need in the case of some species to conduct surveys over a number of years. Moreover, some species appear to be improperly classified.
The authors of the Standards and Guidelines understood that these difficulties might arise, and suggested flexibility to change the schedules as experience dictates. It is likely that the agencies will consider whether changes should be made in the near term to deal with schedule requirements relating to some species. It is also likely that the agencies will propose a broad review and analysis to address the larger issues raised by "survey and manage" and "protection buffer" implementation. This would include collecting and summarizing new information, evaluating potential changes, and conducting a public review process.
Several unique aspects of the political and economic environment that existed in the Pacific Northwest prior to implementing the Northwest Forest Plan are unlikely to exist in many other regions, nor would they be desirable. The level and intensity of the crisis in the region dictated the greatest commitment from the highest levels of government, for the problem had become impossible for the region to resolve on its own. The direct and personal involvement of the President, Vice President, and several cabinet members was necessary to get the issue off dead center. It is possible that little of the interagency collaboration would have occurred had it not been imposed in a top-down fashion, starting with the President and Vice President, and continuing with the interagency Memorandum of Understanding and the Record of Decision signed jointly by the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior.
While many resource problems might benefit from the high-level attention that was given to Pacific Northwest forests, the top-down approach used in the Northwest may be inappropriate in many situations. Furthermore, the extent and complexity of interagency coordination and public participation that was incorporated into the Northwest Forest Plan may be too elaborate, and perhaps too costly, to replicate in most other areas.
On the other hand, the thrust of the effort in the Pacific Northwest is toward balancing economic, social, and ecological interests, toward landscape-level planning, toward collaborative agency efforts, and toward broader public participation. Surely that thrust represents the wave of the future -- and not just in the Northwest. The Northwest Forest Plan marks a fundamental change in the way agencies carry out their missions, and, accordingly, it should be a reference point for other agency efforts involving conflict in resource management.
Some of the specific elements of the Northwest Forest Plan that could, in varying degree, be implemented elsewhere, are summarized below:
Development of an Interagency "Vision"
Because of the depth and intractability of the controversy in the Pacific Northwest that existed in the early 1990s, a top-down approach to establishing a vision for the region was probably the only viable alternative. Any effort to make simplistic choices among the many competing visions was bound to fail, as was simple encouragement to "cooperate." Thus, in this instance, a single strong voice was needed to end the crisis and facilitate movement toward a common goal.
That common goal was provided initially by President Clinton, when he established a vision for the region and articulated the principles on which implementation would be based. All subsequent activities aimed at implementing the Northwest Forest Plan have followed this vision, and all federal agencies have been directed to march to the same drummer.
Many other situations will not require such a strongly-directed, top-down approach to establishing a vision for the ecosystem. More likely the varied participants in an ecosystem might explore common interests, common goals, and from these articulate a common outcome -- a desired condition for the ecosystem upon which they can all agree and toward which they can move in some collective way.
Whatever the approach to developing a common vision, and whatever its level of complexity, the mere existence of an jointly-conceived ecosystem vision is key to interagency and intergovernmental cooperation. It allows the varied interests in a region to identify the steps that need to be taken, to divide up the tasks among themselves so that the actions of any one participant complement the others and move everyone toward the same goal, and to measure the relative success of their actions.
Regional Executive Forums
It would appear that, for a regional ecosystem project to have any chance at success, the participating agencies' regional executives must stand solidly behind the effort. Based on the experience of the Northwest Forest Plan, it would not be enough for regional executives merely to approve of interagency collaboration for their subordinates. Regional directors or comparable executives of the federal agencies in the affected region should themselves have regular and systematic exchanges of information about plans, priorities, and problems. In other words, they should show commitment by example.
Such executive-level coordination could help clarify the respective contributions to ecosystem activities of federal agencies with varying missions, such as land management, resource management, regulation, research, infrastructure, technical assistance, and funding. It would also strengthen executive-level support for the interagency activities of field personnel, and provide a base of support for ecosystem budget requests generated at the field level.
In the Pacific Northwest, the Regional Interagency Executive Committee was formed as one of the organizational structures under the Memorandum of Understanding. Such a formal method of establishing coordination at the regional executive level may not be necessary elsewhere, but some sort of signed agreement among the agencies would seem to provide a higher level of credibility to the effort and tend to show a longer-term commitment than an informal arrangement. Though the Regional Interagency Executive Committee was formed to address the implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan, the executives soon found themselves discussing a variety of other shared issues, in addition to the Plan.
Scheduling meetings of regional agency heads on a regular basis can help prevent, or at least anticipate, the kinds of intractable problems that might otherwise occur. This kind of organization provides a level of support and legitimacy to interagency coordination at the field and scientific level that is often lacking. The administrative and policy support of regional executives, such as provided by the Regional Interagency Executive Committee, would be useful in many other regions of the country. Without such a definitive management commitment, even the best intended coordination mechanisms may be destined to fail.
Interagency Staffing Arrangements
For difficult problems for which agencies can develop a common and shared set of goals, a joint staff office may make sense. In the Pacific Northwest, the agencies created the Regional Ecosystem Office with a small, full-time staff, to provide staff support to the Regional Interagency Executive Committee in its implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan. A separate office was considered appropriate because of the large size of the management area, the broad scope of resource issues, and the mix of land management and regulatory agencies with diverse statutory missions that affect the management of federal forest land.
An office that staffs interagency activities has the advantage of not being identified with any particular agency. The actual "employees" of the joint office are typically selected from a number of participating agencies. To be most effective, they should identify primarily with the interagency goal or task, rather than their own agency's mission. Clearly, such an office must balance its interests and identification. In serving the needs of the participating agencies, it must be independent enough to serve the interagency, joint purpose. However, it should not become so independent that it becomes a separate bureaucracy with which agencies no longer identify.
In the Pacific Northwest, the Regional Ecosystem Office has been found most useful for: facilitating the development of coordinated interagency problem-solving approaches on difficult issues; staffing the regional public advisory committee activities; coordinating ecosystem scale analyses when needed; interagency dispute resolution; policy interpretation; strategic planning; coordinating the work of specialized committees; and helping to coordinate the activities of the province teams.
If this kind of shared staffing arrangement is applied elsewhere, its size and responsibility should reflect the nature and complexity of the interagency tasks. The staff could be as small as a single individual, or quite large, depending on the situation.
Streamlining of Regulatory Processes
The northern spotted owl, listed as threatened in the Pacific Northwest, was at the heart of the controversy facing the region when the Northwest Forest Plan was initiated. The procedures under the Endangered Species Act associated with this and other species had also become contentious. One example of success under the Northwest Forest Plan is the greatly improved consultation process between land management agencies and the agencies administering the Endangered Species Act. The streamlining of the consultation procedures under the Act and the establishment of interagency teams to work together on required consultations early in the planning process have resulted in quicker processing times and better decisions on the ground. Shifting to larger-scale and more programmatic approaches to addressing the Endangered Species Act has greatly facilitated agency planning.
Such streamlining could be used elsewhere. It need not be limited to processes or issues associated with the Endangered Species Act. Indeed, whenever any procedure becomes so cumbersome that the procedure itself contributes to a regional ecosystem problem, an interagency attempt at streamlining the process would be useful, provided that the intent of the regulation is not compromised.
Under the Northwest Forest Plan, regional and provincial advisory committees were chartered consistent with the Federal Advisory Committee Act to enable federal agencies to obtain information and advice from state, tribal, and local governments at the regional level, and from a broader array of stakeholders, including private interests, at the province level. With varying degrees of success, this approach has been useful for two-way communication between federal agencies and others with an active stake in the region's future. Advisory committees could be implemented elsewhere to encourage and facilitate communication between federal agencies and the participating community.
The Applegate Partnership in western Oregon, one of the most successful such arrangements, existed before the Northwest Forest Plan. It offers many lessons about the formation and maintenance of partnerships between the federal government and non-federal parties. One participant noted several factors contributing to the success of the Applegate Partnership. Of primary importance was that agency representatives were risk takers and had the ability to listen and to recognize past mistakes of their agencies. Other factors of success included: people who could "leave their baggage behind" and focus on the common good; involvement of industry representatives who were creative, visionary, and good communicators; and technical support by federal agencies, especially for geographic information systems.
Forest issues that posed a threat to the Applegate community tended to generate a sense of common concern, and especially so if there had not been a history of polarization regarding the issue. People seemed to work best when they were committed to resolving the community issue and felt a sense of shared responsibility. Crisis situations or litigation tended to make the work of advisory bodies more difficult.
In some other provinces, local individuals were not interested in participating in an advisory committee, at least initially, because they perceived the arrangement as an attempt by federal agencies to increase control over private lands. This shows the importance of communicating a clear and non-threatening message at the outset in order to avoid alienating key stakeholders. It also demonstrates the value of grass-roots efforts that begin out of local perception of a common problem, achieve a level of success, and only later seek federal participation as partners. Clearly, a "one size fits all" approach to partnerships is not appropriate.
The Federal Advisory Committee Act presents particular challenges, whether in the Pacific Northwest or elsewhere. Under the ecosystem approach, it is desirable to consider non-federal governmental entities as full partners, particularly where considerations affect more than just federal land. Under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, non-federal governmental entities and other stakeholders on advisory committees are considered to be advisors to federal agencies.
In the systematic search for public input, both regional and provincial advisory committees were constituted under the Northwest Forest Plan. A much simpler arrangement, with as little as one group at one level, might work perfectly well in other areas.
Cost and Continuity of Funding
No attempt was made for this report to quantify the costs, efficiencies, or long-term benefits associated with implementing the Northwest Forest Plan. On the one hand, it is likely that the Plan imposes significant additional financial costs and time burdens upon the federal land management agencies, especially in the short run. For example, it took more than a year to develop the methodology for conducting watershed analyses. Significant resources have been required to apply the methodology to complete hundreds of watershed analyses covering millions of acres. Likewise, completing the assessment process for three quarters of the 7.5 million acres of late-successional reserves has been expensive. Additional costs are being incurred for the survey and manage program, timber sale layout and administration, implementation monitoring, and other activities.
On the other hand, considerable benefits have accrued to the agencies and to the regional economy. For example, development and implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan enabled the agencies in the Pacific Northwest to lift the various injunctions on timber sales. The reduction of delays related to litigation, and the associated litigation costs, are substantial. Also significant is the reduction in time required for interagency consultation. This may be attributable, in part, to some of the new analysis and assessment processes that have been developed.
There are other significant benefits associated with managing the federal forest lands on a sustainable basis. Recreation and fisheries benefits are expected to climb over the years as a result. Moreover, by assigning the federal lands a larger portion of the conservation burden for species dependent upon late-successional and old-growth habitats, the Northwest Forest Plan has provided the framework for relieving private, state, county, and tribal lands of some management constraints that otherwise would have been imposed under existing laws. The use of habitat conservation plans and "section 4(d) rules" by both the National Marine Fisheries Service and Fish and Wildlife Service are possible because of the Northwest Forest Plan's reliance on federal lands for conservation purposes, and because of the atmosphere of collaboration associated with implementation of the Plan.
Having a stable source of federal agency funding is generally recognized as a critical component of a successful regional ecosystem plan. Funding needs to continue long enough to support not only the initial transition tasks but also the additional land management activities associated with long-term implementation of the Plan.
Linking Science with Management
The active use of the best scientific knowledge is a fundamental principle of ecosystem management. Science is particularly crucial for describing the structure and functions of the ecosystem, assessing vulnerability to stress, identifying ecosystem processes needed to achieve the vision, establishing restoration techniques, and monitoring ecosystem changes.
The Northwest Forest Plan from the outset made an attempt to integrate science with management and to incorporate the process of adaptive management, which relies on scientific monitoring data. Numerous examples are contained in the Standards and Guidelines that were an integral part of the Record of Decision signed by the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior. In addition, the Memorandum of Understanding provided for a Research and Monitoring Committee among the interagency coordination structures that would implement the Northwest Forest Plan. The membership of the Regional Interagency Executive Committee has evolved to include the regional research executives from various agencies. Moreover, the Northwest Forest Plan proposed the designation of adaptive management areas to allow experimentation with approaches that combine scientific, economic, and social objectives.
The participants in the Northwest Forest Plan also learned that integrating science with management and policy in an ecosystem management context is not always easy. While scientists are trained in traditional disciplines, ecosystem management requires the application of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to understand interactions among physical, chemical, biological, geological, social, and economic components within an ecosystem. The ecosystem approach requires broad knowledge of ecological structure and process, resource requirements for sustainable economies, resource availability and quality, potential responses to resource utilization, vulnerability, response to stress, and potential for recovery, all at multiple scales in space and time.
Because of these traditional difficulties in linking integrating science into agency decision making, it is desirable to have formal mechanisms to inject the science focus into the management activities and to ensure that science/policy coordination occurs. A formal structure provides a two-way forum for managers to explain their issues and information needs, and for scientists to explain the results of their work.
Whatever the mechanism used, it is important that ecosystem management activities in other regions of the country design science activities into the management process in a way that links the two as partners. Both are needed to achieve a common goal.
Data Standards, Data Synthesis, and Mapping
Many ecosystem-wide problems could benefit from common resource data bases and joint mapping efforts. One of the most exciting efforts in the Pacific Northwest was the Interorganizational Resource Information Coordinating Council, a volunteer group of scientists and managers that is attempting to create a coordinated geographic information system. Such attempts elsewhere to integrate or coordinate the technical and mapping data of several federal and non-federal agencies would most certainly result in long-term efficiencies for participating agencies.
Regional data synthesis and mapping must be based in a common set of standards that: allow data to be tiered, or aggregated upward or downward at a range of map scales; allow for direct comparison of land and resources across agencies and jurisdictions; and allow the production of regional ecosystem maps. This, as the agencies have experienced in implementing the Northwest Forest Plan, is easier said than done. Even if the regional agencies agree on standards for the Northwest Forest Plan, those standards might not be accepted at the national level, in other regions, or at different scales.
If ecosystem management is attempted in other regions of the country, participants should first determine what questions need to be answered and what data will be needed at what scale and in what format. When the participants agree on the data needs, they can then move toward development of common data standards.
Coordination can be promoted through personnel exchanges under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act and other mechanisms. Each federal agency tends to have one or two predominant academic disciplines represented on its staff, and sometimes a dearth of important supporting disciplines. Under the Northwest Forest Plan, there have been personnel exchanges among federal agencies and with states. In an era of tight budgets, a vigorous exchange program can help agencies adapt to changing needs, gain a broader perspective, and reduce duplication of effort.
The accomplishments of the Northwest Forest Plan are significant, and should not be diminished by identification of areas in which the effort has fallen short. The objectives of the Plan were ambitious, and catapulted the agencies into new and unfamiliar arenas of interagency cooperation. In general, the policies, procedures, and organizational structure established in the Memorandum of Understanding and Record of Decision have worked well. That more needs to be done is predictable and expected.
The revised Memorandum of Understanding that is attached to this report, and that is being circulated for signature, either incorporates the recommendations contained in this report or provides the flexibility to implement them.
Broadening the Focus of Implementation
The current Memorandum of Understanding addresses forest management on federal lands in the Pacific Northwest within the range of the northern spotted owl. It establishes a "framework for cooperative planning, improved decision making, and coordinated implementation" of the forest ecosystem management component of the Northwest Forest Plan on those federal lands. The limitation to federal lands was intentional. From the beginning of the planning effort, it was recognized that the management plan should be limited to the federal lands and that the implementation effort should focus on those lands. There were two primary reasons for that.
The first reason is that private landowners, states, tribes, and local governments would have been rightly concerned about any effort by the federal government to develop land management plans whose application would extend to non-federal lands. The timber issue was emotionally charged, and any indication that the federal government intended to tell private landowners what to do on their land would have doomed the effort from the outset.
Second, the circumstances of 1993 must be kept in mind. The situation was one in which injunctions had brought timber sales on the federal forests to a virtual standstill. The federal agencies had been enjoined from conducting additional timber sales on their lands, and there was a need to act quickly and decisively to establish a plan that would comply with the environmental laws and permit the injunctions to be lifted and timber activities on the federal lands to resume. Any effort to sit down with the states, tribes, counties, and private landowners to develop complementary planning across federal and non-federal boundaries would have been problematic -- in terms of time, complexity, and the willingness of other parties to participate.
For these and other reasons, the forest management plan was developed for the federal lands; in particular, the Record of Decision amended or was incorporated into the planning documents for nineteen national forests and seven Bureau of Land Management districts.
Similarly, the initial implementation effort, including the 1993 Memorandum of Understanding, focused almost entirely on those same federal lands. The new Standards and Guidelines established rules, procedures, and analyses necessary to protect biodiversity and guide timber sales on those lands. The new plan required conducting watershed analyses and late-successional reserve assessments, establishing watershed restoration priorities, developing research and monitoring plans, revising data management and resource information systems, developing protocols for "survey and manage" species, and a host of other activities -- all for the federal lands covered by the plan. As a practical matter, the agencies were forced to limit their attention almost exclusively to the forest management program on federal lands. The existing Memorandum of Understanding reflects that reality.
Now the situation has changed in two respects. First, while much implementation work remains, the initial implementation tasks have largely been accomplished. Systems have been put in place, many consistency issues have been resolved, and the timber program has resumed.
Second, it is apparent that a number of activities on state, tribal, or private land are now taking place that affect, or overlap with, what is happening on federal lands pursuant to the Northwest Forest Plan. For example, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering a number of habitat conservation plans on private land that interrelate with habitat protection on federal land under the Northwest Forest Plan. The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has announced proposed new listings of salmon species that require consideration of the impact on salmon of activities on both federal and non-federal land. The Environmental Protection Agency is currently working with the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to develop specific strategies for meeting Clean Water Act section 303 requirements and ensuring that drinking water sources are protected. The Governor of Oregon announced a statewide salmon and watershed plan whose information requirements overlap with activities under the Northwest Forest Plan. Washington State is developing a salmon plan and has set up an intergovernmental group to address salmon and water quality issues. California is also beginning to develop salmon conservation plans and has bioregional and biodiversity councils whose scope overlaps with that of Provincial Advisory Committees operating under the Northwest Forest Plan.
As a result, federal officials, as well as state, tribal, and county representatives, have raised the question as to whether it is now time to broaden the focus of the implementation effort to increase the emphasis on collaborative planning across federal and non-federal boundaries. No one is suggesting that the Northwest Forest Plan should be applied on non-federal land, but they are recommending better dialogue and a sharing of information in order to achieve mutual objectives of federal and non-federal landowners.
During interviews conducted for this review, this single issue was raised with greater frequency than another issue. Many urged that a close look be taken at other activities taking place on the landscape and at the possibilities for achieving synergies and increased efficiencies, as well as for obtaining better information on the cumulative effects of future changes. In addition to the federal land managers, state, county, and tribal members of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee also expressed a strong desire that such issues be addressed as part of the Northwest Forest Plan implementation effort.
The Bureau of Land Management suggests that the Regional Interagency Executive Committee, Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, and Provincial Advisory Committees serve as forums for discussing the full range of significant federal, state, and local initiatives envisioned by the Memorandum of Understanding, including habitat conservation plans, land exchange proposals, and state and federal recovery efforts such as the Oregon Plan.
While there may be relative agreement on the need for considering such broader concerns, some executives have suggested that the process of determining how to efficiently accomplish such changes is likely to be controversial.
In the discussion that follows, this potential for greater coordination among federal agencies on activities that affect the implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan is treated separately from possibilities for closer coordination with state, tribal and county partners.
Federal Interagency Coordination. The original Memorandum of Understanding addresses this topic in its statement of purpose. Signatory agencies agreed to: develop a shared sense of vision; improve their ability to adapt to change in a cohesive manner; cultivate greater trust, coordination, and cooperation; improve integrated application of agency budgets; share information, technology and expertise; and coordinate ecosystem management activities. To some extent, these objectives have been realized, but more could be done.
For example, conservation agreements included in habitat conservation plans for private landowners are frequently "tiered" to land management commitments on adjacent federal lands. Many of the areas covered by the habitat conservation plans are adjacent to federal forest land and were developed from an ecosystem perspective, including consideration of conservation measures being implemented on federal land. However, there is often little discussion with federal land managers about how the habitat conservation plans could affect (positively or negatively) the flexibility of land managers.
The close linkages between the Northwest Forest Plan and federal activities under the Endangered Species Act on nearby private land strongly suggest that there should be increased coordination among all relevant federal agencies concerning the effects of their actions on each other. Two obvious places where this could occur are the Regional Interagency Executive Committee and the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee.
Coordination with Related State, Tribal, or Local Efforts. Though the existing Memorandum of Understanding was aimed primarily at providing a mechanism for coordination among federal agencies, an attempt has been made throughout implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan to coordinate with non-federal entities as well.
Before and during implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan, the States of California, Oregon, and Washington initiated programs of their own, aimed at goals similar to and in some cases parallel to those of the Northwest Forest Plan. For example, under a program known as the "Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds," the State of Oregon has been moving toward its own geographically-targeted, resource-based approach to managing natural resources. It is designed to restore the healthy function of Oregon's natural aquatic systems, with an emphasis on anadromous species such as salmon and steelhead. The Oregon Plan is a multi-faceted plan with a focus on forest and salmon issues. It is built upon some of the same premises -- partnerships, links with landowners, collaborative management, integrated planning, and monitoring of progress -- as the Northwest Forest Plan.
State conservation initiatives such as the Oregon Plan are consistent with the announced intent of the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service "to make the Endangered Species Act more flexible and open to all who may be able to assist in the recovery of species that may be in danger of extinction." Indeed, the National Marine Fisheries Service decided not to "list" Oregon coast coho salmon under the Endangered Species Act, finding that the Oregon Plan would constitute an adequate coho conservation strategy. Another example is the withdrawal by the agencies of a proposal to protect Atlantic salmon in seven Maine rivers by "listing" them under the Endangered Species Act, relying instead on a cooperative recovery effort led by the State of Maine.
The lawfulness of the National Marine Fisheries Service's decision not to "list" Oregon coastal coho in reliance on the Oregon Plan was challenged, and recently a federal magistrate held the agency's action invalid. The magistrate's order directed the National Marine Fisheries Service to issue a new decision on the question of whether coastal coho should be "listed" under the Endangered Species Act, and when a request for a stay pending appeal was denied, the Service was forced to "list" the salmon as "threatened." However, in doing so, the Service reiterated its fundamental position that "implementation of the Oregon salmon plan is the right thing to do."
The decision of the magistrate is being appealed by both the State of Oregon and the federal government. In the meantime, the magistrate's action raises questions about the ability of the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service to rely on state conservation plans in making "listing" decisions. It also raises the possibility that the Oregon Plan may be modified in some respects. Oregon's Governor Kitzhaber has stated that it remains his intention "to proceed with full implementation" of the plan. But even if the specifics of the plan are changed, the current Oregon Plan remains a useful example to describe the types of coordination that make sense in Oregon and elsewhere.
The State of Washington is moving forward with its own initiatives that overlap the Northwest Forest Plan. Washington's Governor recently established a joint cabinet and intergovernmental group to address salmon and water quality issues. Moreover, the state's legislature appropriated $35 million to initiate statewide efforts to restore habitats for threatened steelhead and trout habitat. The State of Washington is dealing with salmon not primarily as a forestry issue but as an agricultural and urban issue. To the extent that salmon is a forestry issue, Washington State officials indicated that they intend to deal with it through the State's Timber, Fish, and Wildlife Policy Committee, which was created by the timber industry and tribes about ten years ago to deal with riparian protection.
A related development in Washington is the organization of a "Tri-County Salmon Recovery Workplan" for King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties. The effort involves a variety of county, private, and environmental interests, working in coordination with the State of Washington, tribes, and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Work will include construction of the scientific baseline for watersheds in the area, preparation of a conservation strategy for Puget Sound chinook salmon within those counties, and development of a monitoring program. Under consideration is a potential umbrella "4(d)-like rule," including linkages to individual habitat conservation plans. The group intends to identify ways for private landowners or businesses to participate in 4(d) rule coverage. As the group recognizes: "The region is best served if water supply, water quality, and fisheries are enhanced through a cooperative, collaborative process that reduces conflicts through better understanding of each interest."
California is implementing a $43 million habitat restoration and watershed planning effort and has agreed to reduce salmon harvests significantly and to review state forest practice rules. The Oregon Plan and the commitments by California were cited in the recent decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service not to list steelhead trout in Northern California and the Oregon Coast.
Collectively, the states and the federal regulatory agencies are all moving toward a collaborative approach. In the view of the Western Governors' Association, "most declining species can be restored to health only through a federal-state partnership that involves private landowners and interested parties in decision making ...." As the western governors explained:
"Currently over 43 state conservation agreements exist and another 20 are being developed. The ESA allows for a species to not be listed when a state conservation agreement addresses and removes the factors that are causing the species' decline.... Under state conservation plans, governors have formed coalitions of state, federal, tribal, private and non-profit interests to conserve species through voluntary, but scientifically reviewed, monitored, and reported efforts that federal agencies ... have determined will conserve the species. Financial and other resources are leveraged that go far above and beyond actions required under a baseline of regulation. States and their communities retain control over their destiny instead of the courts, while conservation is elevated in public discourse and made a clear state priority."
It makes good sense for the federal agencies to cooperate with state efforts to achieve shared goals. In addition, many of these initiatives will proceed with or without federal collaboration. The realistic choice for the federal agencies may be whether to sit on the sidelines until the Endangered Species Act or another federal law requires their participation, or to become an early participant and help the effort in a way that benefits all participants. This is not to say that such federal/non-federal collaboration will be easy, but in appropriate cases the opportunities for efficiencies and for achieving mutual objectives would seem to outweigh any difficulties.
Increased collaboration could take many forms, but it is likely to involve the following areas. These were developed with the Oregon Plan in mind, but they could apply to other state, tribal, or local initiatives.
• Information Systems Management. One of the continuing concerns of federal and state agencies is management of information collected from these efforts. Information must be stored and managed in a way that provides for accessibility and usability by the many stakeholders involved with the initiatives. At present, information generally continues to be collected and stored in fragmented systems, which reduces the usefulness of the information. Several groups can be working the same issue without clear direction and leadership. The state and federal agencies could collaboratively develop protocols, standards, storage sites, etc., to gain maximum efficiencies from limited investment in this arena. Long-term dedicated leadership could be identified and funded. The breadth of the concern, such as the area within which salmon live, will establish the appropriate scale of required coordination.
• Monitoring. To achieve closer collaboration between the Northwest Forest Plan and non-federal initiatives such as the Oregon Plan, standardized monitoring protocols could be developed that cross agency needs. Oregon is developing protocols for monitoring under its plan. The federal agencies are working on monitoring protocols under the Northwest Forest Plan. These efforts could benefit from close coordination where information needs are the same or similar. Site selection could be closely coordinated. With limited resources for monitoring, it is desirable to decide who is doing what, where, using what protocols, and at what scale. Without this, the information system is inefficient and less than fully useful.
• Watershed Assessment/Analysis. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are conducting watershed analyses under the Northwest Forest Plan. Protocols for these analyses have been developed and are being followed. Oregon is developing a watershed assessment manual for use by watershed councils. The State of Washington has used a standardized watershed analysis process for several years. The information from the federal analyses could be useful to watershed councils to integrate into their watershed assessments. In appropriate situations, it may be desirable for watershed analysis to be conducted jointly by the federal agencies, and if possible, with their state partners.
• Technical Assistance. Limited technical assistance provided for local efforts by federal and state agencies should be strategically allocated to get the best return on investment. This could involve prioritization of the local needs in terms of how the local actions would contribute to overall Northwest Forest Plan objectives, and assigning resources to technical assistance activities based on those priorities, to the extent consistent with statutory limitations.
• Strategic Investments. Millions of dollars are being spent annually on watershed protection and restoration efforts. While some discussion about better coordinating these expenditures has occurred in various forums, funding decisions continue to be made independently by those who provide the funding. This is an area where strategic targeting of resources could result in greater benefit to all parties in a watershed.
Oregon has implemented a watershed management program with local watershed councils serving as the catalysts for assessments, action plans, monitoring, outreach, and education. The Northwest Forest Plan uses the provincial committee structure to gain advice on implementation. Formalizing the relationship between local state-sponsored councils and the provincial executive and advisory committee structure would provide for more direct coordination of local efforts with federal efforts.
Tribal governments have also been concerned with management of information, particularly with respect to the need to collect data using standardized procedures wherever possible to enable assessment at different scales. Tribes have been leaders in pushing for standards and consistent protocols. At the same time, tribes have expressed concern regarding the safeguarding of sensitive information, such as the location of culturally important sites.
The federal partners should address how they will improve their working relationships and how federal efforts, including ecosystem restoration efforts under the Jobs in the Woods program, will be more fully integrated and coordinated with state, tribal, and local initiatives. They should make clear that collaboration with the non-federal initiatives is within the intended scope of the Northwest Forest Plan whenever such collaboration would be consistent with the objectives of federal participants. However, as the Bureau of Land Management points out, without continued Jobs in the Woods funding, federal agency contributions to the success of non-federal initiatives will necessarily be severely limited.
Because all of the federal Northwest Forest Plan agencies are also part of the Oregon Plan implementation team, the Oregon Plan represents a relatively simple coordination problem. Comparable initiatives could be organized differently and present different collaboration mechanisms. The federal agencies should lend their collective support to such initiatives. The Regional Interagency Executive Committee, with input from the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, should develop the specific details of how such collaboration will be carried out.
Regional interagency cooperation in general, and adaptive management in particular, require consistent and current data across the entire landscape as well as the ability to process that data into information that can be used across agency and land ownership boundaries. While the agencies have moved in that direction, they are still a long way from common ecosystem maps and an integrated system of comparable and consistent data across agencies. They have yet to agree to a full set of core data that would represent the information that would answer the critical issues that have not yet been addressed under the Northwest Forest Plan.
There are many reasons why progress has been slower than originally expected. At the time the Northwest Forest Plan was adopted, none of the participating agencies had a fully implemented, operational GIS-based information system. The agencies were focused on building systems that could support their agency missions, which were broader than the Northwest Forest Plan. The regional executives made a decision not to have one common data management or GIS team. They decided in general to leave the data specialists within their agencies and to ask them to coordinate their work. Each group of specialists, and the managers establishing their priorities, tend to focus first on their own agency's agenda. It is easy for them to see interagency data standardization as another layer of effort that takes away from their more pressing work in support of individual agency missions. Because the potential payoff of data standardization is not immediate, the work is often deferred, particularly when an agency is faced with budget downsizing and cannot undertake all the projects it would like. Other interagency initiatives (such as the interior Columbia Basin effort) have created additional demands for the same group of GIS and information management specialists. Inconsistencies in system technology are also a limiting factor.
Another reason why progress has been somewhat slow has to do with the education and training of natural resource professionals. They have been taught in schools of forestry, wildlife, and biology to use independent judgment in the types of data they require. An additional complicating factor is the broad spectrum of agency cultures and predominant disciplines represented in the agencies. Moreover, the Northwest Forest Plan has created a need to analyze on an ecosystem scale that is virtually unprecedented among federal natural resource agencies, thus requiring new methods and tools. Further, issue analysis is almost always scale dependent. It remains a challenge to identify the appropriate scale at which to analyze issues and reach interagency agreement on core data needs. Finally, individual agencies may be reluctant to agree on core data because of a concern that their budgets cannot support the additional data collection activities that would be required once the broader effort is launched.
Differences between agency cultures and professional disciplines have resulted in a myriad of languages to describe the natural resources of the region. At times it is difficult for one agency to understand what another agency is describing due to differences in terminology, measurement protocol, and data. It is no wonder that decision makers have a difficult time pondering alternative courses of actions when the information provided is unclear, inconsistent and inconclusive.
Much of the work on standardized and common mapping was centered in the Interorganizational Resource Information Coordinating Council. This organization is comprised primarily of volunteers; its accomplishments are largely due to their unusually high commitment and persistence. Such efforts can work in the short run but are difficult to sustain over the long term. Since the Northwest Forest Plan effort began, the agencies involved have lost many talented specialists in geographic information systems and information management through retirements, downsizing, and changing agency priorities.
The agencies should renew their long-term commitments to this effort. If the Northwest Forest Plan is to achieve its potential, the agencies should commit mid-level management to develop and implement a cohesive information management strategy that supports Northwest Forest Plan activities, including monitoring, salmonid recovery, watershed restoration, and water quality, while meeting the information needs of individual organizations. They should establish explicit and measurable goals and milestones with which to measure progress and eventual success. And they should commit the expertise and long-term funding to describe an integrated information strategy and build the necessary partnerships to implement that strategy. Specialists from different agencies and disciplines must develop a common data and mapping "language" that would allow all participants to describe the same landscape in a manner that would be comprehensible to all of them. The data should be capable of aggregation with data from other specialists, agencies, and even public sources, and it should pass certain quality control requirements.
Intermediate or Province-Level Analysis
According to the Record of Decision, provincial teams will "provide or coordinate analyses at the province level that can provide the basis for amendments to Forest and District Plans and will provide monitoring reports for provinces." The report of the Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team explained that "implementing ecosystem management on federal lands" must use a "multi-scale" approach:
"The process must address issues and concerns generated as spatial scales ranging from regions, where conservation policy is formulated, to physiographic provinces, where management activities and strategies are coordinated, to smaller watersheds/landscapes where site-specific activities are planned and implemented."
The Team actually envisioned that there would be four planning scales (regional, province/river basin, watershed, and site), with "strategies developed at coarser scales provid[ing] context for and guid[ance] for implementation at finer scales, while information from finer scales provides feedback on assumptions and decisions made at coarser scales." The most comprehensive analyses were intended to be conducted at the watershed scale, and information from watershed analysis would be used "to design management alternatives to meet objectives that are compatible with watershed and ecosystem function, and to guide site-level planning ...."
The concept was that planning at mid-scales, province and watershed, allows consideration of the pattern of relevant physical processes and interactions among ecosystem components, including human activity. Those scales are sufficiently precise to be used for multiple project planning and yet provide a broad enough context to assess cumulative effects of federal and non-federal actions on forest health and on wide-ranging species such as salmon or owls.
Based on the same reasoning, the Committee of Scientists, appointed this year by the Secretary of Agriculture to provide guidance on land and resource planning, is recommending that "Forest Service efforts aimed at ecosystem protection and restoration should utilize watersheds as a fundamental landscape unit, to the extent practical, in both assessment and planning."
As indicated above, extensive watershed analyses have been conducted, but neither the watershed nor the province/river basin has been adopted as a basis for planning, in part because of the elaborate requirements for documentation and legal compliance at each "planning" level, and in part because existing regulations require or favor planning by administrative unit or region.
The need still exists for many agencies to use information at different scales, particularly those agencies with planning responsibilities under the National Forest Management Act and with consultation responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act. This is particularly important in addressing monitoring questions about the effectiveness of the Northwest Forest Plan. For example, ongoing consultations under the Endangered Species Act on timber sales in the Umpqua Basin highlighted the need to collaborate on larger-than-watershed scale analyses to assess cumulative effects of timber harvest on listed Umpqua River cutthroat trout and other fish species.
If common data standards are completed and if the agencies can move closer to their goal of developing a "seamless, current, and accessible information network to support ecosystem management," then conceivably the objectives of having intermediate-level planning scales could be satisfied without actually doing "planning" at those scales. However, several recent developments suggest that there may be significant benefits for an agency to do assessments, or even "planning," for timber sales at a level broader than individual timber sale sites.
The Deschutes National Forest. The Deschutes National Forest has pioneered, within the framework of the Northwest Forest Plan, a type of landscape planning for landscapes of 120,000 acres or more, combined with Geographic Information System analysis on a sub-watershed scale. The "Seven Buttes" project was born out of a need to understand both the large and small landscape at the same time. Working with a planning area of 155,000 acres, the planners sought to identify and prioritize the activities that the landscape needed for balance and sustainability. They looked at vegetation management in mature stands, pre-commercial thinning, underburning, road closures, campsite rehabilitation, road and trail rehabilitation, and other projects within these watersheds. They planned a dozen projects at once, rather than accomplishing the planning effort piecemeal over several years. That made it easier to analyze cumulative effects, and it allowed the planners to describe the "big picture" in a way that provided a context for the individual proposed actions and made it easier for them to explain to interested parties why those actions were reasonable.
They call the process a "landscape assessment plan," and it has several steps. The first is to identify the existing condition across the landscape, displaying numerically and graphically vegetation structural stages. This is done for the entire landscape, each watershed, each sub-watershed, and by plant association. That tells what habitat types exist on the landscape, where they are, and how much of each is present. The next step is to develop a clear picture of a desired future condition. The third step is to build "highest potential models" of any and all critical resource needs, showing alternative possibilities for the landscape. The existing condition is then compared with the desired future condition, revealing opportunities and needs for adjustment at the landscape, watershed, and sub-watershed levels. A team then completes site-specific planning based on ecosystem needs and priorities. Monitoring and incorporation of changed conditions, new analysis, and new information facilitate understanding the dynamic nature of the plan and allow it to be used to take snapshots of the future and work to prevent undesirable conditions from occurring.
Southwest Oregon Province. The Southwest Oregon Province Interagency Executive Committee has taken another approach toward an ecosystem perspective. The Committee recognized that federal information databases are not easily integrated even among federal agencies and are, therefore, difficult to evaluate and interpret. It also concluded that large numbers of watershed councils are requesting agency support but most are not quite sure what kind of support they need, and that agencies do not have a systematic approach to providing substantive support to watershed councils and are concerned that engaging in these watershed forums will consume too much of their staff resources.
Recognizing these difficulties, the Southwest Oregon Committee embarked in early 1997 on an effort to compile existing data integral to developing watershed restoration strategies on federally administered lands, using the Rogue watershed and Umpqua basin as initial areas of focus. At about the same time, the Oregon Plan was empowering local watershed councils to develop watershed restoration plans on non-federal lands. Federal agency managers agreed to offer their data compilation effort as an interagency support measure to the Oregon Plan.
Several scoping meetings were held with both federal and watershed council interests to develop key questions, identify key issues, and to organize and consolidate the necessary information layers that would aid decision makers in developing basin scale restoration strategies. In addition, the Provincial Interagency Executive Committee hired an interagency information manager to provide guidance on maintaining, documenting, distributing, and updating the watershed information.
One premise of the Committee was that organizing this type of information can be accomplished much more efficiently at larger scales, such as province or basin levels, which may contain hundreds of watersheds. Yet, initial implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan excluded this scale of organization by emphasizing the development of regional assessments on the one hand, and individual watershed analysis at the fifth field watershed scale on the other. Earlier organization of landscape information at larger scales might have reduced the per unit costs of watershed analysis and made the aggregation of such individual analysis easier.
The Committee is now close to the point of distributing easily accessible data sets to state and federal agencies and watershed councils in order to facilitate the development of watershed health strategies.
Based on its experience, the Southwest Oregon Province Interagency Executive Committee recommends that modifications be made in the Memorandum of Understanding that would facilitate such work in other provinces. It suggested that province organizations should be encouraged to develop multiple-ownership, multiple-jurisdictional information layers that support not only the Northwest Forest Plan, but also the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act, as well as the Oregon Plan and other initiatives.
According to the Committee, general guidance on province-level data integration efforts should be provided, with the objective of province-level data that are compatible with, and tier to, data at smaller and larger scales. Province-level analysis should adhere at least to the following criteria:
• Data and information should be based on joint data standards that tier to all appropriate federal agency standards and state level standards, and also have inter-province compatibility.
• Data should be managed for concurrent utility for larger scale analysis, fifth or sixth field watershed scale (1:24,000) analysis, and project-level analysis.
• It should be possible to aggregate all data for analysis at basin, province, state and larger scales.
Coastal Landscape Analysis and Modeling Study. As indicated above, one of the advantages of mid-scale assessment is that it provides a framework for evaluating the effectiveness of the long-term policies of both federal and non-federal entities. Private landowners are often understandably reluctant to provide information that would facilitate such an evaluation. However, tools are becoming available that bring the "landscape view" closer to reality.
An example is the Coastal Landscape Analysis and Modeling Study, often referred to as CLAMS. This collaborative study, involving the Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, Oregon State University, and other cooperators, is examining the ecological and socio-economic consequences of federal and state forest policies for different landowners in the Oregon Coast Province.
A goal of the study is information and models that will allow decision makers to predict potential outcomes of combinations of various state and federal land management policies and the likelihood that new policies will achieve intended goals. To reach this objective, the study will: characterize the current spatial pattern and historical dynamics of ecological and socio-economic components of the Coast Range ecosystem, such as forest cover, landscape structure, and landowner behavior in relation to economic changes; develop ecological and socio-economic models, measures, and linkages, such as the relationship of employment and income to timber harvest, fishing, and recreation; and project the aggregate effects of current forest and land use policies in the Coast Range on key resources and outputs, such as how ownership patterns affect ecological and economic conditions and outputs.
Much is made of adaptive management as an integral part of the Northwest Forest Plan. However, the potential for adaptive management under the Plan has not been fulfilled.
Conditions necessary for use of adaptive management include: a well defined baseline or description of starting conditions; new information of sufficient quantity and quality to satisfy the planning standards in applicable planning statutes; a willingness on the part of participating agencies to invest the resources needed to reassess and modify the direction of their program activities in light of the new information, regardless of whether the improved understanding would lead to more restrictive or more permissive management strategies; and planning regulations permissive enough to retain the incentive to adjust, refine, or modify agency land use plans to reflect new or changed circumstances.
Adaptive management generally requires that decisions for corrective action begin from the ground up, based on how management actions are affecting the resource. However, the Northwest Forest Plan was instituted from the top down, from the highest policy levels of government. While the concept of adaptive management was a key part of the plan, actually making adjustments, or adapting to changing conditions, has not been easy. Each proposed adjustment or change needs to be consistent with the goals of the overall Northwest Forest Plan, and would need to be adopted in full compliance with applicable planning statutes, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Forest Management Act, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, and with regulatory statutes, such as the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act.
The four-year-old Standards and Guidelines are now viewed by many as being inflexible, though the Standards and Guidelines were intended to provide the flexibility afforded by an adaptive management approach, in which on the ground refinements and mid-course corrections are made based on the results of effectiveness monitoring and new information. There has been uncertainty about which modifications would trigger National Environmental Policy Act documentation, biological assessments, biological opinions and other Endangered Species Act requirements, and public involvement activities, all of which involve a heavy administrative burden. Differences of opinion over when, and to what extent, adaptive changes would trigger these other requirements has led to a need for extensive and time-consuming negotiations as to what is required, and has further dampened the interest of field personnel in adaptive management. The ambiguities and uncertainties need to be resolved.
Even changes that appear reasonable within the scope of the Standards and Guidelines have to be incorporated into agency planning programs, which often lack the flexibility that the Standards and Guidelines assumed would be available. Further, each planning adjustment creates opportunities for litigation, with the resulting effect of reducing enthusiasm for change. It is not surprising, therefore, that agency personnel often have been reluctant to propose reasonable adaptations, even though such adaptations were intended to be built into the process.
Adaptive management tends to be resisted for other reasons as well. Some resource specialists felt that compromises were made to find a center point on which the Northwest Forest Plan was based. Now advocates of both environmental enhancements and commodity outputs see their role as protecting their interests from further erosion. In addition, the Standards and Guidelines and other materials such as the watershed analysis guides provide a known way to do business. In some situations, people have come to rely on the ease of known procedures over the more difficult tasks associated with adaptive management, such as evaluating, confronting, reformulating, and changing management styles. People opt for the familiar and the predictable over change and uncertainty. As some have noted, "the innovative and aggressive programs required to deliver on the promise of adaptive management might be seen as not worth the investment or risk, especially when public support and political will are problematic."
As part of one demonstration sale, research was being conducted on issues related to old growth, and timber cuts were proposed in a section of riparian zone. Though some scientists defended the legitimacy of the research question, Endangered Species Act protections for listed fish species were in place, and environmental organizations brought suit. In this kind of climate in which demonstration projects and research situations are being contested with the same fervor as other management decisions, an active adaptive management process is difficult.
The issue of adaptive management comes up in a variety of contexts under the Plan. In a previous section, the role of "adaptive management areas" was discussed, including the vision that those areas would be laboratories for "the development and testing of technical and social approaches to achieving desired ecological, economic, and other social objectives." The prognosis for adaptive management areas thus far is mixed. Useful work is being done, but some question whether the vision is likely to be fulfilled.
As contemplated by the Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team, watershed analysis was to be a basic building block for adaptive implementation. However, watershed analysis never formally became a planning level under the National Forest Management Act or a process under the National Environmental Policy Act. According to some participants, watershed analysis has become a procedural requirement -- a hoop to jump through, a mapping exercise, rather than something that sets the context for decision making. Now, some argue, the only apparent function of watershed analysis is to guide riparian reserve management, and many people question the return on investment for this effort. In addition, diminishing budgets and the need for quick decisions led to greater use of existing data, or at best the mere gathering of data without the additional step of integrating the data into a broader context.
A series of pilot watershed management areas was developed, but some feel their value was never fully realized due to a lack of real commitment to provide technical support up front and to provide for peer review or other scrutiny of the results to make them better. Furthermore, in the Augusta Creek area, a question was raised about the legality of using the watershed analysis process as a legally sufficient way of reclassifying land allocations. Unless watershed analysis can be a real factor in planning and decision making, it may lose much of its luster.
Similarly, some question the value of a late-successional reserve assessment. Those assessments were originally viewed as an opportunity for understanding the difference between current conditions and desired future conditions, and for viewing proposed and needed management actions in context with each other and with the overall late-successional reserve objectives for the future. Now, some managers question the utility of spending the time, effort, and resources necessary to do late-successional reserve assessments.
Currently, there is no regularly scheduled, structured, interagency review of information to determine the appropriate planning response to new information other than those processes associated with requirements of the National Forest Management Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. There appears to be a need to institute some form of evaluation process, coupled with a corresponding adaptation process that would allow agency personnel to terminate practices that are not working and establish new practices that might be more effective. This process would be particularly critical to the effective use of information collected through the monitoring program.
The concept of adaptive management should remain a key component of Northwest Forest Plan implementation. The agencies should commit to utilizing and strengthening adaptive management, including a recommitment to the original vision for adaptive management areas, as well as the supporting processes of watershed analysis and late-successional reserve assessment. Without such assessment tools for looking across jurisdictional boundaries, and across different scales, it will be difficult to effectively address some of the water quality problems, anadromous fish recovery needs, and other ecosystem needs at appropriate scales. These tools will be particularly important as the implementation effort is broadened to encompass collaborative planning across federal and non-federal boundaries.
The Northwest Forest Plan was not intended to be a static creation. It was intended to evolve, and if that evolution is not occurring in some areas, then corrective action should be taken. The agencies should review any perceived impediments to adaptive management, including whether agency planning processes are too inflexible or cumbersome to permit refinements or modifications of agency activities under the Plan. Where appropriate, those impediments, and possible remedies, should be discussed with the Interagency Steering Committee.
Three types of monitoring are detailed in the Standards and Guidelines:
Implementation monitoring -- Have we done what we set out to do?
Effectiveness monitoring -- Did our actions achieve our goals?
Validation monitoring -- Is there a cause and effect relationship between actions and goals?
To date, most of the research and monitoring resources have been allocated to the shorter-term activities associated primarily with implementation monitoring and, to some extent, to effectiveness monitoring. Several key modules for effectiveness monitoring are complete and are being implemented (northern spotted owls, marbled murrelets, and late-successional One key old growth habitat), while others (aquatic and riparian, biodiversity and "survey and manage" species, social and economic, and tribal) are being developed. Some are scheduled to be ready for pilot implementation within a year. It will not be possible to draw significant ecological conclusions at this scale until after information has been collected and analyzed for a number of years. Validation monitoring is an even longer-term proposition. Progress on validation monitoring with regard to the Northwest Forest Plan has lagged well behind the other two types of monitoring.
In his 1994 ruling, Judge Dwyer emphasized the importance of monitoring to the Northwest Forest Plan, noting: "Careful monitoring will be needed to assure that the plan, as implemented, maintains owl viability. New Information may require that timber sales be ended or curtailed." With regard to aquatic species, Judge Dwyer stated: "If the plan as implemented is to remain lawful the monitoring, watershed analysis, and mitigating steps called for in the [Record of Decision] will have to be faithfully carried out, and adjustments made if necessary." In reference to mitigation measures and monitoring under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Judge said that "Monitoring is central to the plan's validity. If it is not funded, or not done for any reason, the plan will have to be reconsidered."
While individual research projects have focused on key ecological concepts underlying the ecosystem approach of the Northwest Forest Plan, comprehensive planning for validation monitoring has not progressed as rapidly as contemplated. Many factors have contributed to this situation. One key factor is the long time frame involved. It will take years or decades for most results to be realized. This extended time frame does not lead to a sense of urgency. As long as implementation monitoring and key effectiveness monitoring modules are in place, validation monitoring has been viewed as lower in priority. Moreover, it is a stretch to agency cultures to embrace the full suite of monitoring activities within their organizations, and it is even harder to expand this capability to multiple agencies on the regional scale. In addition, the information management and sharing capability has not yet been fully developed. Most of the research and monitoring data is not readily available for easy retrieval for analysis and sharing.
One reason for the relatively slow progress is that attention has necessarily had to be paid to other urgent implementation tasks. Another might well be that no single party is responsible for making the monitoring capability a reality and a success. Another reason is that many do not fully understand what monitoring means or what is required to carry it out. For some agencies, the reason is simply one of additional requirements. Agencies continue to have responsibility for their mission-related monitoring programs. To the extent that Northwest Forest Plan monitoring requires additional data at different scales, it represents increased cost to the agencies but not necessarily an increase in the availability of data in support of traditional agency missions. For these reasons, monitoring is often funded or conducted on an ad hoc basis.
For monitoring to be successful, it may be necessary to consider institutionalizing monitoring as a legitimate resource program, comparable to other resource programs, with its own managers, its own staff with appropriate expertise, and its own base funding. Such a program would include a formalized process for data management, analysis, and routine reporting, linked in some way to resource decision making. Although agencies have been conducting monitoring activities for a long time, the complexity of large-scale ecosystem management requires a commitment to, and understanding of, monitoring as an integral part of resource management. This is particularly true under the Northwest Forest Plan because of the interagency nature of the staffing and funding to support the activity.
Of the three types of monitoring, validation monitoring presents possibly the greatest linkage with research activities. However, there seems to be a dichotomy between research and monitoring. Research tends to be identified with hypothesis and replication. It is often associated with gaining new knowledge, new approaches, or new theories. Monitoring is traditionally viewed as a sort of "tracking exercise," or the collection of data for some resource management purpose. In the arena of ecosystem management, the lines between research and monitoring become blurred, because of the level of cooperation required between researchers and managers to meet the broader program needs and the emphasis on common data bases, regional mapping, and adaptive management.
The Northwest Forest Plan is attempting to create strong and lasting links among resource management, monitoring, and research. Each is important to ecosystem management. Such linkages will require a strong intergovernmental commitment to information gathering and information sharing. Without such commitment, it is likely that the historical pattern of fragmented information gathering and sharing will continue.
Institutional responsibilities and accountability will have to be established. Resource managers will have to be involved in establishing the vision and the desired outcomes in the ecosystem. They must help frame the management questions that monitoring seeks to answer, and they must be involved in evaluating the results. Monitoring is essential for determining whether management actions have achieved their desired ends. Research managers also need to be involved. They can help determine key variables that are indicators of success, and can establish monitoring protocols that are most cost-effective. All three components -- management, research, and monitoring -- must be given priority in ecosystem management.
Though most of the discussion of monitoring has centered on federal actions as part of the Northwest Forest Plan, the agencies should be sensitive to the issue of credibility. Some of the non-federal participants have suggested that having the agencies monitor their own performance may not result in an unbiased assessment and that thought should be given to participation in monitoring by stakeholder groups or other non-federal entities, or even to independent evaluation of federal monitoring efforts.
The accomplishments of the Northwest Forest Plan, which have been substantial, reflect in part the concentrated efforts of the federal agencies in the region. They also reflect the Administration's support of agency budgets for implementing the Northwest Forest Plan. Overcoming the legacy of prior management required substantial new efforts and substantial new expenditures of time and money. There is a continuing need for coordinated interagency and intergovernmental actions in the foreseeable future because the Northwest Forest Plan is a long-term ecosystem management plan.
Agency appropriation and budget structures and systems have developed incrementally and through interaction among regional and national levels of the federal agencies and their associated Congressional committees. The type and amount of detail in these systems reflect the tension between the need of managers for flexibility and the need of Congress for accountability of public expenditures.
Ecosystem management has taken place within the current budget structures and processes in the Pacific Northwest. However, little progress has been made to ease coordination among agencies. Interagency activities and products as previously described in this report require interagency agreement as to how costs are to be shared among the agencies. Moreover, serious commitment to a decades-long monitoring program presents a unique challenge for an annual appropriations and budget cycle. In general, operating funds are available for federal agencies for a period of one or two years, while funds for construction and related capital expenditures might be available for an indefinite period. It is difficult to make long-term monitoring commitments out of operating funds, and yet the provisions of multi-year construction-type funding do not allow expenditure for monitoring projects.
Ecosystem management carries with it the need for agencies to coordinate their budgets in some way and to assure long-term predictability in funding. For the initial years of implementation, the Northwest Forest Plan effort has been blessed with high level interest, from the President and Vice President and key Cabinet officials. This interest was reflected in the President's budget, in which the Northwest Forest Plan was highlighted as one of a select number of major ecosystem initiatives. These high level expressions of interest and support, and continued involvement of the Council on Environmental Quality, have paved the way for priority funding to be directed to implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan. In addition, they have made it possible for budget proposals made within separate agencies at the regional level to maintain their relative priority as they moved to higher levels of review, from the bureau level to the Department level, to the Office of Management and Budget, and ultimately to the Congress.
The budgets of many federal agencies involved in the Northwest Forest Plan do not adapt easily to cooperative efforts and adaptive management. Often, budget line items are so finely defined that they allow little flexibility. For example, a Fish and Wildlife Service budget for Endangered Species Act activities that is divided into listing, recovery, private lands, and other specific categories may be useful to the agency for control and management, but it does not lend itself to multi-agency collaborative efforts, especially when other agencies have line items that are equally detailed but different. In addition, the committee structure of the Congress mitigates against joint or cooperative budgeting, and the annual budget cycle mitigates against long-term budget planning.
At the regional level, some success has been achieved in obtaining agreement on regional interagency budget priorities for Northwest Forest Plan activities, facilitated by the Regional Ecosystem Office. More needs to be done in the future. Initially, this will involve working with the participating agencies to establish annual priorities on activities to be accomplished, estimating future years' costs to do the work, and determining what agency or agencies would be responsible for what activities.
When the agencies reach agreement, they will individually submit their budget requests through their normal budget submission processes. At each succeeding review level, there is the danger that the Northwest Forest Plan ecosystem portion of the budget will lose its identity and receive a lower priority compared with other budget priorities of the agency.
Though the existing process does not result in a unified, joint line-item budget proposal for the Northwest Forest Plan, it has succeeded thus far for several reasons, not the least of which is the high level of visibility and support from the regional executives on up to the President. However, over time, any number of things could threaten the long-term viability of the current budget process. The sense of urgency for the Northwest Forest Plan could wear off, partly as a result of its success. The current regional and national executives could be replaced with executives who place a lower value on interagency cooperation or who favor other priority issues. Other economic or political crises may arise that compete with the Northwest Forest Plan for limited appropriations.
The agencies should consider whether alternative, perhaps more systematic and unified, budget request mechanisms should be developed to assure long-term funding for aspects of the Northwest Forest Plan. Such budget requests could also include the Jobs in the Woods program, and the integral role its ecosystem restoration funding plays in the overall Northwest Forest Plan effort.
Ecosystem management at the scale represented in the Northwest Forest Plan requires significant time, budget, and personnel commitments by the agencies over an extended period. While the Northwest Forest Plan constitutes an important strategic advance in addressing the region's problems, it requires a great deal of effort for coordination and collaboration, and is particularly difficult during an era of down-sizing. The agencies need to be constantly alert for ways to hold down the costs of implementing the Northwest Forest Plan, to make implementation more efficient over the life of the Memorandum of Understanding, to secure funding for Northwest Forest Plan activities, and to restructure their work so that Northwest Forest Plan activities are not treated as separate and apart from their traditional responsibilities.
Funding Long-Term Monitoring
Some of the actions taken under the Northwest Forest Plan require long-term monitoring to determine success or failure and identification of corrective actions to move the outcomes back on target. As previously mentioned, this may require budget assurances of several decades. Currently, with the annual budgeting system, the cycles of budget fluctuations, and the multi-agency nature of funding, there is no way to assure long-term funding at the levels required. If funding is cut off prematurely, or if funding is available in some years but not in all, the benefits of monitoring will be lost.
Because of the way in which funding is justified, both in resource agencies and in universities, the distinction between research and monitoring is important, since a particular funding source may be appropriate for one or the other, but not both. Furthermore, some ecosystem management activities, such as work in the adaptive management areas, combine elements of research and monitoring and cannot be classified solely as one or the other. Research executives want to hand off monitoring to operational people, because it is not true research. At the same time, operational managers often see monitoring as a tangential exercise that takes away from resource management, which they view as their primary job. Monitoring seems to be the perennial loser in budget battles. Perhaps a crucial test for the Northwest Forest Plan over the long term is the commitment of managers, at all levels, to monitoring as a budgetary and substantive priority.
One way to approach the funding needs for long-term monitoring would be to develop a new appropriation account providing no-year funds devoted exclusively to long-term monitoring. Initial capitalization of the account could be accomplished by transferring currently appropriated monitoring funds from the research and national forest system or other operating accounts. Such an account would clarify the relative importance of the currently ambiguous status of monitoring. Creating a new, clearly defined and separately funded set of monitoring activities may give monitoring equal standing among the more traditional management and research activities. Another possibility would be to designate a percentage of a project's operational budget for monitoring.
Relationship to Economic Adjustment Initiative
In addition to recommended approaches for improving interagency coordination, there are two major substantive components of the Northwest Forest Plan: a forest management plan and a plan for economic adjustment and community assistance -- the Northwest Economic Adjustment Initiative. The existing Northwest Forest Plan Memorandum of Understanding anticipates a high level of coordination between the two parts of the overall Plan.
"The [Regional Interagency Executive Committee] will work together with the Multi-Agency Command group (MAC) of the Northwest Economic Adjustment Initiative to develop criteria and priorities for restoration projects or other ecosystem investment opportunities."
The Economic Adjustment and Community Assistance Memorandum of Understanding includes the following parallel provisions:
"...the Regional [Interagency] Executive Committee ... established for purposes of federal land management shall have the ultimate authority for the implementation of the watershed restoration projects and attendant 'jobs in the woods' efforts, except where Federal law vests such decisions in the States or elsewhere (e.g., the Clean Water Act). The Regional CERT [Community Economic Revitalization Team] and the [RIEC] shall work together to prepare a plan for implementing those projects that will promote (i) creation of family-wage jobs, a preference for displaced timber workers, integration with job training and placement programs, and minimal administrative overhead; and (ii) integration of these employment criteria with environmental criteria."
Forest ecosystem management has been the primary, and almost exclusive, attention of the federal executives of the key land management and regulatory agencies over the past four years. Little of the executives' time and attention has been spent integrating these actions with the effect of other Northwest Forest Plan activities, such as loans, grants, or other forms of worker and community assistance. Yet, Jobs in the Woods funding has played, and continues to play, a critical role in ecosystem restoration across jurisdictional boundaries.
Initially, the Administration decided to operate the forest management program parallel to, but largely separate from, the economic adjustment process. The two prongs of the Northwest Forest Plan report to different policy oversight bodies in Washington, D.C., -- forest management to the Interagency Steering Committee, and the economic initiative to the Multi-Agency Command.
Community Economic Revitalization Teams (CERTS) at the regional level and in the three states were established to coordinate program operations for the worker and community assistance programs in the region. Much like the Regional Interagency Executive Committee, the regional and state CERTS provided a forum for identifying goals and strategies as well as forging personal and institutional relationships essential to success in implementing a new approach to assisting communities and individuals.
One reason for the separation from the forestry agencies and programs was political. The forest management plan, necessary as it was to break the gridlock and establish a sustainable management approach, was not uniformly popular throughout the region. The plan faced substantial litigation in order to get the injunctions lifted and to sustain the legality of the plan on appeal.
The economic assistance package, however, was generally well received. Loans and grants were needed to assist communities in economic diversification and workers in being retrained. The Jobs in the Woods program provided for ecologically beneficial employment in the woods for unemployed or displaced timber workers and others.
Maintaining some degree of separation was thought to be desirable. However, some have argued that problems resulted from the implementation of the forestry and economic assistance on different tracks. For example, in a letter to the Chair of the Interagency Steering Committee, the non-federal members of the Klamath Provincial Advisory Committee stated that:
"The disconnect between attaining [Northwest Forest Plan] goals and the direction in which transitional Northwest Economic Initiative support funds have been spent has resulted in failure to stabilize timber dependent communities and has not created stable, family wage jobs promised to displaced timber workers (Jobs-In-The-Woods)."
Whatever the perception, the two initiatives were not completely disconnected. The Council on Environmental Quality has provided joint oversight for both the forest management and economic assistance aspects of the Northwest Forest Plan at the national level. At the regional level, for several years the Office of Forestry and Economic Development (later renamed as the Office of Forestry and Economic Assistance), headed by Tom Tuchmann, provided a linkage. The Office of Forestry and Economic Development has now been phased out, but other linkages remain. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have representatives on the regional and state Community Economic Revitalization Teams (CERTS). One member of the regional CERT is an ex officio member of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee. In addition, some other Intergovernmental Advisory Committee members are members of either the regional or state CERTs. One member of the Oregon State CERT is a member of the Adaptive Management Area Work Group, a subcommittee of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee. At the province level, there are similar overlaps between State CERTs and Provincial Advisory Committees.
Thus, there is substantial coordination now. The question is whether there should be more. Another factor to consider is that California (and perhaps other states) may allow the State CERT to lapse. If it is determined that coordination should be increased, a range of options exists. An extreme option would be to have the Regional Interagency Executive Committee oversee the coordination and implementation of all aspects of the Northwest Forest Plan, including both the ecosystem and economic initiatives. This could be done either by expanding the membership of the Committee to include the full range of agencies involved in both the ecosystem and economic aspects of the Plan, or by simply asking one of the existing member agencies to take the lead on specific coordination activities.
Another option would be the merger of the Regional Community Economic Revitalization Team with the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee. A third might be to assign additional staff to the Regional Ecosystem Office to provide staff support for economic development issues.
Another possibility is to approach the coordination issue primarily through the province level, using the Provincial Interagency Executives Committees, with advice from the Provincial Advisory Committees regarding the economic assistance and development programs.
The relationship between the two components of the Northwest Forest Plan would also benefit from a modification in the reporting of accomplishments. As part of the Northwest Economic Adjustment Initiative, the agencies have committed a large amount of funds and energy through the Jobs in the Woods program to implement restoration projects and assist the impacted workers and communities. Each participating agency tracks its expended efforts in general terms, such as dollars, contracts, and projects. However, with the maturing of the Northwest Forest Plan, it is necessary to explain the outcomes and results of these investments. It may be desirable for the agencies to develop and implement a tracking, monitoring, and reporting system to identify the improvements to the watersheds, habitats, rivers, and streams, and to the communities in the region, resulting from the expenditures and agency actions. The stream identification and data preparation system, developed by the agencies as part of the fish and hydrography data standard program, should provide a basis for this effort. Annual reporting would document the accomplishments that, until now, have remained unknown and unrecognized.
Government Performance and Results Act
Federal agencies are entering a new era of managing their programs and justifying their budgets on the basis of accountability for outcomes. For most people in the federal government, this requirement is the result of the Government Performance and Results Act. In the past, agencies requested appropriations and accounted for them on the basis of output goals that describe the level of activity or effort that will be produced, such as number of timber sales, number of endangered species listed, or number of resource management plans completed. The Government Performance and Results Act requires a new form of accountability based on outcome goals, which describe the intended result, effect, or consequence that will occur from carrying out a program or activity.
The Government Performance and Results Act requires that agencies produce strategic plans, with the initial plans due by September 30, 1997. The agencies involved in the Northwest Forest Plan have submitted their initial plans. Complementing the strategic plans are annual performance plans that set annual goals with measurable target levels of performance, and annual program performance reports that compare actual performance to the annual goals.
President Clinton at the Forest Conference in 1993 set forth principles that are consistent with the outcome requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act. These include: the long-term health of our forests, our wildlife, and our waterways; a predictable and sustainable level of timber sales and non-timber resources that will not degrade or destroy the environment; and new economic opportunities for year-round, high-wage, high-skill jobs when timber sales cannot proceed because of forest health concerns. Thus, the Northwest Forest Plan was based from its inception on the type of goals that were envisioned by the Government Performance and Results Act.
The agencies must comply individually with the requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act, whether or not they do so collectively for the Northwest Forest Plan. Currently, integration and coordination of strategic plans and performance plans takes place at the national level. Yet, because the Northwest Forest Plan is so clearly aimed at the outset toward outcome goals, it makes sense for Northwest Forest Plan planning to be conducted with a focus on outcomes rather than activities, in a way that is consistent with the requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act. The agencies should pay particular attention to outcomes as they begin a new round of revisions to their land management plans.
The Regional Ecosystem Office should be called upon to help the agencies integrate their strategic planning for activities pursuant to the Northwest Forest Plan. The Regional Ecosystem Office might, for example, prepare in a Government Performance and Results Act format its annual Northwest Forest Plan budget and activities planning exercises. Each agency could then extract its contributions to the Northwest Forest Plan and place them into its own annual performance plan. While this would help the individual agencies, the real benefit would be moving Northwest Forest Plan planning exercises in the direction of outcome thinking, which is the long-term goal of both adaptive management and effectiveness monitoring.
Interagency Steering Committee
Under both the Memorandum of Understanding and the Record of Decision, the Interagency Steering Committee, located in Washington, D.C., and chaired by the Director of the White House Office of Environmental Policy (now the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality), is to provide general oversight and guidance of regional activities. According to the Memorandum of Understanding:
"The Interagency Steering Committee will establish overall policies governing the prompt, coordinated, and effective implementation of the President's forest management plan by all relevant federal agencies and address and resolve issues referred to it by the Regional Executive Committee ...."
In practice, since the signing of the Record of Decision, the Interagency Steering Committee has played a more limited role than the quoted language would suggest. In part, this is because the "overall policies" were largely established by the Record of Decision and accompanying Standards and Guidelines. Once those were in place, there was little need for Washington to direct the effort on a regular basis. In addition, officials in Washington have tended to leave implementation issues in the hands of the regional executives wherever possible, rather than elevating the issues to Washington. Now, with the initial phase of implementation substantially complete, and with other regional and crisis-oriented issues vying for attention in Washington, there is even more motivation to resolve Northwest Forest Plan implementation issues at the regional or local level.
Another factor that has worked against regular direction from Washington is that the membership of the Interagency Steering Committee, other than the chair, has never been fixed. Early on, participants were a combination of assistant secretaries, agency directors, and others. Representation changed, depending on the issue being discussed, and over time, most participation (other than the chair) evolved to a lower level. In addition, in recent years, the group has functioned primarily in response to a specific situation requiring attention (such as the impact of Rescissions Act timber sales), rather than providing continuing guidance. Most direction from Washington now comes to regional directors from individual agency directors instead of from an interagency group.
In many cases, this devolution to the region is a natural development and a positive circumstance. However, there is another, less positive side. The Northwest Forest Plan started as a directive of the President and then as a commitment by Cabinet-level officers. The effort required shifting funds to the Pacific Northwest and committing agency personnel to an unprecedented level of interagency (and intergovernmental) work. Sustaining the effort requires that agency directors in Washington be involved. If they are to continue to make the Northwest Forest Plan a priority for their agencies, they need to believe that the Plan remains important. They need to hear about the achievements, the challenges, and future funding requirements.
It is desirable that this information be delivered on an interagency basis. A joint briefing emphasizes the interagency nature of the commitment and of the implementation process, and it encourages the regional officers to reach agreement on the message they want heard in Washington. An interagency forum is also the appropriate place to engage in joint problem solving on such issues as whether there are better ways to deal with coordination of long-term funding needs.
With these factors in mind, this report recommends that the membership of the Interagency Steering Committee be expanded to include agency directors. It would consist of the chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, relevant policy officials at the level of Under Secretary, Assistant Secretary, or Assistant Administrator, and the relevant agency directors. In addition, representatives of the Department of Justice, the Office of Management and Budget, and others would be involved as appropriate. In some situations, it may also be desirable to invite participation by one or more non-federal members of the regional or provincial advisory committees. It is further recommended that the group meet periodically (preferably twice a year) to (1) receive an interagency briefing on current issues, status of work, and anticipated problems, and (2) provide advice on issues referred by the regional executives. Meetings should be coordinated with the annual budget process.
The reconstituted Interagency Steering Committee may wish to include other national or regional initiatives as part of its portfolio. For example, briefings on the Northwest Forest Plan could be given the same day as briefings on the Columbia Basin, or budget processes and policies could be looked at more broadly than just those that relate to the Northwest Forest Plan. Consideration should also be given to establishing a "liaison" position -- someone in Washington who is responsible for keeping up with developments in the region and informing the appropriate people in Washington so that surprises are avoided.
Regional Interagency Executive Committee
The current Memorandum of Understanding describes the principal role of the Regional Interagency Executive Committee as follows:
"The Regional Interagency Executive Committee will serve as the senior regional entity to assure the prompt, coordinated and successful implementation of the President's forest management plan at the regional level. It will serve as the principal conduit for communications between the Interagency Steering Committee and the region."
The Memorandum goes on to say that the Regional Interagency Executive Committee will: appoint an interim interagency implementation team; work together with the Multi-Agency Command group of the Northwest Economic Adjustment Initiative to develop criteria and priorities for restoration projects; be accountable to the Interagency Steering Committee for establishment and oversight of the Regional Ecosystem Office, Research and Monitoring Committee, and provincial teams; and make recommendations for minimizing planning redundancies.
With respect to membership, the Memorandum of Understanding says only that the members will be the "regional representatives of the agencies signatory to the Memorandum of Understanding," and that in "appropriate situations this core group will consult with other federal and state agencies and tribes." However, since most of the signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding are Cabinet-level officers, the actual agency membership is not spelled out.
Since the Memorandum of Understanding was signed, the membership of the Regional Interagency Executive Committee has been expanded, primarily by adding three research agencies. Current membership consists of representatives of the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Environmental Protection Agency Office of Research and Development, and U.S. Geological Survey/Biological Resources Division.
In addition, concerns related to the Federal Advisory Committee Act resulted in the creation of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, and participation by the states, counties, and tribes now occurs through that committee rather than through the Regional Interagency Executive Committee.
In the revised Memorandum of Understanding, the members of the Regional Interagency Executive Committee are named and membership is expanded to include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The Secretary of the Army is an additional signatory.
As to chairmanship, the existing Memorandum of Understanding states that the chair shall alternate between the Regional Forester of the Forest Service and the State Director of the Bureau of Land Management. In practice, this has meant the Regional Forester for Region 6 and the State Director for Oregon/Washington have shared the position, though the wording leaves open the possibility that their counterparts in California could become chairman. On the advice of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, the regional executives have determined it is desirable to continue the flexibility of the current language.
As to mission, the description contained in the current Memorandum of Understanding remains largely valid. The revised Memorandum of Understanding indicates that the Regional Interagency Executive Committee will seek advice from the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee on (1) Northwest Forest Plan implementation on federal land and (2) better integration of forest ecosystem management activities among federal and non-federal governmental entities across jurisdictional boundaries.
Intergovernmental Advisory Committee
The Intergovernmental Advisory Committee is the primary vehicle by which the regional executives receive input from the states, tribes, and counties. It did not exist at the time the Memorandum of Understanding or Record of Decision were signed, but was created after concerns were raised about compliance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Section 204 of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 subsequently created an exemption for meetings between federal officials and state, local, and tribal officials for exchanging views, information, or advice related to shared responsibilities. This amendment relieved the burden of complying with Federal Advisory Committee Act restrictions in the context of many government-to-government collaborative activities. However, the exemption only applies to meetings between federal officials and "elected officers of state, local, and tribal governments (or their designated employees with authority to act on their behalf) acting in their official capacities." It does not appear that this language covers all current members of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee. As a result, it is anticipated that the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee will continue to be chartered.
The decision of the federal agencies to limit membership of the Regional Interagency Executive Committee to federal agencies only, and to create under the Federal Advisory Committee Act a separate institution for soliciting the advice of states, tribes, and counties, remains a sensitive issue for some non-federal members. When they were allowed to participate in Regional Interagency Executive Committee meetings, they felt they were part of the decision-making process. Now that they are relegated to a formal advisory group, they express concerns about whether their input is being sought in a way that can truly influence the resolution of policy issues, and they do not like the fact that the real decisions can be made in another forum.
During interviews with members of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, considerable concern was expressed by federal and non-federal members alike about the role of the institution, its appropriate agenda, and its membership. The discussion of these issues among the regional executives is ongoing, and the answers will be influenced greatly by the decision to broaden the scope of the implementation effort in order to increase the focus on complementary planning across the landscape.
A primary forum for such a broadening would be the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, where federal and non-federal members discuss policy questions at the regional level. As the implementation effort is broadened, the regional executives should consider whether the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee is appropriately structured to address the types of issues that will arise. In particular, some state members have suggested that if the states are to bring to the table possibilities for increasing coordination between the Northwest Forest Plan and their own management plans, they will need more than one representative on the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee. They also suggest that the balance between federal and non-federal members should be revised with the broader agenda in mind. One possibility is to create subcommittees to address specific issues, and consider different representations on the subcommittees than on the full committee. The revised Memorandum of Understanding provides flexibility to change the number of members of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, or to create subcommittees, as the situation may warrant.
Any system of representation necessarily sacrifices diversity in order to achieve efficiency. For example, a selected subset of county members are expected, perhaps unrealistically, to represent the interests of other counties. While this may be difficult, it is more efficient than a huge representative body that includes all counties, or all interests for that matter. The issue of representation by Indian tribes presents a different problem. Providing a limited number of tribal representatives is an efficient way of learning of tribal concerns. However, federal agencies are to deal with tribes on a government-to-government basis; thus, tribal representation on advisory committees does not relieve federal agencies from the obligation to work collaboratively with Indian tribes whenever their interests may be affected.
The Intergovernmental Advisory Committee is an important part of the implementation structure and is described in the revised Memorandum of Understanding. While there is widespread interest in continuing the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, its function and membership are still under discussion. Over the next few months, the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee must be rechartered, so decisions will have to be made about its membership and function. The language of the revised Memorandum of Understanding provides a large degree of flexibility to accommodate a range of options. Non-federal initiatives in the Pacific Northwest will continue to evolve. New situations will arise that present new opportunities for achieving efficiencies across the landscape and that require different forms of collaboration.
Non-federal members of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee have raised two sets of issues that the agencies should consider. The first deals with the frequency and content of meetings. According to some, meetings are being held less frequently, topics are dominated by issues that are mostly of interest to federal agencies, and attendance by federal executives has been sporadic, suggesting disinterest or preoccupation with other responsibilities. The second deals with the relative resources available to non-federal participants, who generally do not have the same level of financial resources that are available to federal members.
Separate Structure for California
Some of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee members from California have expressed concern that the current interagency structures do not adequately address the particular needs in their state. They contend that the issues concerning California land management agencies are different from many of the issues confronting the same agencies in Oregon and Washington. They also point out that many of the federal agencies have separate regional offices in California and that some of those offices are not as involved as they should be.
In addition, according to some California members, communications between the regional level and California province teams are not always ideal. The 12 Provincial Interagency Executive Committees communicate with the Regional Interagency Executive Committee through their members' regular agency channels. The Provincial Advisory Committees advise the provincial executives on coordinating the implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan. In most cases, the chairs of the Provincial Advisory Committees are Forest Service line officers. There is no direct communication provided for in the Northwest Forest Plan between the Provincial Advisory Committees and either the Regional Interagency Executive Committee or the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee.
Some of the California non-federal members of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee believe that if the federal regional executives in California were more directly involved with the state, county, and tribal governments and the California provincial entities, there would be improved implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan in that area. They have proposed an alternative California model for consideration.
The California alternative includes creating a subcommittee of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee for California, and could allow multiple state agencies at the table at the same time. A representative of the state has suggested that state members should include the Departments of Forestry and Fire Protection, Water Quality, and Fish and Game. Local economic development groups could participate, and the representation of tribes and counties could also be increased. The subcommittee would be formed to deal with Northwest Forest Plan implementation, but its proponents believe it should also be able to act as an organizing body for some activities outside the planning area that affect Northwest Forest Plan implementation.
In addition to the subcommittee, some of the non-federal California members of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee have asked that representation from California be increased on both the full Committee and on the Regional Interagency Executive Committee. One suggested that the Regional Forester for Region 5 of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management State Director for California should also be eligible for chairmanship of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee. California representation could be increased either by explicitly providing that federal members represent their California counterparts if they are in a different agency region, or by adding seats to provide direct representation of California interests.
One person suggested that another appropriate level for stronger California involvement would be in the Interorganizational Resource Information Coordinating Council and the Regional Ecosystem Office. Involvement in these operational, as opposed to deliberative, bodies was argued to help not only the substantive outcomes of these organizations, but would also help bring in California input more completely into the central structures of the Northwest Forest Plan.
At the province level, some California members believe there is a potential conflict between some Provincial Advisory Committees, formed in 1995 under the Northwest Forest Plan, and some bioregional councils, biodiversity councils, watershed councils, or other ecosystem-based groups. In some cases, the participants in the existing committees and councils viewed the new advisory committees as undermining their efforts. They ask that language in a new Memorandum of Understanding be sufficiently flexible that (1) Provincial Interagency Executive Committees could obtain input not just from the Provincial Advisory Committees but also from other non-federal entities such as watershed councils, bioregional groups, or biodiversity councils, and that (2) Provincial Advisory Committees could include expanded state agency representation.
In support of these changes, proponents say that the changes would: increase attendance by state and local officials; increase participation by federal officials in California; increase involvement by existing local groups; make the process more open; provide better feedback from local people on federal decision making; provide a better fit with complementary state activities; and establish better working relationships for all those involved. On the negative side, proponents recognize that the changes would: provide additional demands for staff coordination; increase costs of travel; present the challenge of maintaining integration between the full Intergovernmental Advisory Committee and its California subcommittee; and for some federal officials, provide yet another meeting to attend.
The regional federal executives, acting with the advice of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, have decided to accept some of these recommendations. A California subcommittee of the Intergovernmental Advisory committee will be created.
According to a draft charter, the subcommittee will be comprised of Intergovernmental Advisory Committee members representing California federal, state, county, and tribal interests, plus "such other northern California federal, state, local, and tribal government representatives as they determine appropriate." The subcommittee will select its chair from among its members. Members of the California subcommittee who are also members of the full Committee will be expected to attend meetings of both groups.
"The subcommittee will ... (1) collaborate on implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan on federal lands in California within the range of the northern spotted owl, and (2) improve coordination and collaboration with federal, state, tribal, and local governments as they seek to implement management approaches that support or complement NFP goals. The subcommittee will work with California Provincial Committees or other local groups, as appropriate, to ensure that local provincial issues and concerns are addressed. The subcommittee will also work with the California Community Economic Revitalization Team, as appropriate, in coordinating economic adjustment initiatives within northern California."
The regional executives have also agreed that the Provincial Interagency Executive Committees should be encouraged to seek advice from non-federal entities when appropriate. The revised Memorandum of Understanding contains the flexibility to effectuate these changes.
Regional Ecosystem Office
In the view of many, the Regional Ecosystem Office has been critical to the success of the Northwest Forest Plan. Although the Office has no independent decision-making authority, and although its formal function is solely to serve as staff to the Regional Interagency Executive Committee, it is an office where representatives of eight agencies concentrate full time on how to make the interagency aspects of the Plan work and how to provide uniform guidance. The Regional Ecosystem Office has been a focal point for scientific, technical, administrative, and policy expertise. It has provided the Regional Interagency Executive Committee with "consistency" findings and has facilitated interagency work groups addressing specific topics of concern. It helps the Regional Interagency Executive Committee and the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee develop agendas, follows up to make sure that implementation assignments are carried out, focuses issues that require resolution by the Regional Interagency Executive Committee, and generally keeps the process moving forward.
At the same time, a number of people interviewed suggested that it is time to take a close look at the Regional Ecosystem Office and its role. Four years have passed since the Record of Decision. The initial implementation tasks have been substantially completed. Some types of issues that came up when the Plan was new have been resolved, and the need for consistency rulings has decreased. In general, the agencies are working together effectively.
Is the Regional Ecosystem Office still needed in its current form? Most interviewees answered this question affirmatively. The Regional Ecosystem Office is a symbol of the commitment to interagency process. In the view of some, it could send the wrong message to abolish the Office or curtail its work significantly. In addition, many believe that it remains invaluable to have an office where agency personnel work together to move the interagency planning effort forward. Field personnel often bring potential problems directly to the Regional Ecosystem Office, which is usually able to resolve those problems informally without having to involve the Regional Interagency Executive Committee. The fact that some field officers now want a sign-off by the Regional Ecosystem Office, even though that sign-off is not required, is a positive development indicating that the commitment to interagency process is taking root at all levels.
On the other hand, the Bureau of Land Management has suggested that consideration should be given to reducing the size of the Regional Ecosystem Office at some future date and transferring much of its work to interagency work groups. The majority of the regional executives do not believe that such a change should be made at this time. However, the issue may be revisited at a later date.
It is clear that the basic workload of the Regional Ecosystem Office is changing and should continue to change. In the future, the Office will be less involved in "nuts and bolts" implementation issues, and consistency issues will take a smaller amount of its time. It will be more involved in looking several years out and in developing strategic plans related to Northwest Forest Plan activities. It will continue to provide support for the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee and for interagency work groups. It will support implementation of data standards and evaluation of changes, new information, and adaptive management.
The Regional Ecosystem Office could facilitate the development of the landscape-scale analyses that were envisioned in the Record of Decision to have been accomplished by the province teams. Involvement of the Regional Ecosystem Office as an interagency forum for such analyses could contribute to their usefulness and acceptance.
Some California representatives on the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee suggest an additional task for the Regional Ecosystem Office: to provide greater consultation, involvement and coordination among the non-federal entities, particularly at the state level. Under some of these suggestions, the Regional Ecosystem Office would become involved in facilitating collaboration between the Provincial Advisory Committees and the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, and between the Provincial Interagency Executive Committees and the Regional Interagency Executive Committee. The revised Memorandum of Understanding provides the flexibility to make this change if deemed appropriate.
No significant modification of the Regional Ecosystem Office is proposed at this time. The Regional Interagency Executive Committee should continue to review the Regional Ecosystem Office periodically and change its staffing and assignments as the circumstances warrant.
The regional executives should reenforce the policy that agency representatives assigned to the Regional Ecosystem Office should be available primarily for work assignments related to implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan. Although representatives may be asked on occasion to help out with the work of their individual agencies, such assignments should not be their main emphasis.
The Record of Decision states that province teams will "provide or coordinate analyses at the province level that can provide the basis for amendments to Forest and District Plans and will provide monitoring reports for provinces." It also says that province teams will "encourage and facilitate information exchange and complementary ecosystem management among federal and non-federal managers."
The current Memorandum of Understanding describes "provincial teams" as follows:
"These teams will consist of representatives of federal agencies, states, tribes, and others. The Interagency Steering Committee and the Regional Interagency Executive Committee will determine the appropriate role for these teams at the level of physiographic provinces, adaptive management areas or particular watersheds."
In practice, the operations of the province teams have worked out differently than the Record of Decision or Memorandum of Understanding indicate. First, concerns about compliance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act resulted in the establishment of two types of province teams for each of the twelve provinces delineated by the Northwest Forest Plan -- a Provincial Interagency Executive Committee, consisting entirely of federal agency personnel, and a Provincial Advisory Committee, consisting of the federal members of the Provincial Interagency Executive Committee plus up to 22 additional members representing other federal agencies, states, tribes, counties, and a variety of private interests. The Provincial Advisory Committees are chartered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act and operate pursuant to the formal requirements of that Act.
Second, the province-level planning that was envisioned in the Record of Decision as the "basis for Forest and District Plans" (and that was expected to be the core of the work of the province teams) has not materialized. In the absence of that work, and absent coordinated direction from the Regional Interagency Executive Committee and the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, the Provincial Interagency Executive Committees and Provincial Advisory Committees have been left largely on their own to develop their own agendas and work on whatever projects are of the most interest to committee members.
In the case of the Provincial Advisory Committees, this has ranged from education to identifying watershed restoration projects and reviewing land management activities. Provincial Advisory Committees facilitate local involvement and exchange information about Northwest Forest Plan activities that are relevant to the province and non-federal initiatives in the province (such as actions of watershed councils). They advise the Provincial Interagency Executive Committee regarding direction at the province level and refine it to meet the biogeographical needs of the province. They advise the Provincial Interagency Executive Committee regarding the consistency of projects and analyses within and between provinces, and they produce province-level monitoring reports. They discuss the socio-economic impact of Northwest Forest Plan implementation.
Representatives of the Regional Ecosystem Office loosely follow the Provincial Advisory Committees' activities and attend some of their meetings, but there is no formal reporting relationship to the regional level for either the Provincial Interagency Executive Committees or Provincial Advisory Committees. When interviewed, several Provincial Advisory Committee members indicated that they would like to have stronger ties with the regional level and improved communication between Provincial Advisory Committees. In particular, suggestions included: more guidance from the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee or the Regional Interagency Executive Committee in establishing regional strategies; more attendance by Regional Ecosystem Office representatives; an annual workshop held by the Regional Ecosystem Office to educate Provincial Advisory Committees on Northwest Forest Plan activities and interpretation; clarification of the relationship between the regional Intergovernmental Advisory Committee and the Provincial Advisory Committees; and the opportunity to have input on policy issues that will affect management at the province level.
In commenting on this report, field personnel from the Bureau of Land Management cited the need to strengthen the link between Provincial Advisory Committees and the regional organizations. Conversely, the Forest Service suggested that more guidance from the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee is not desired by all Provincial Advisory Committees, and that the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee should provide additional attention or guidance only when asked for it.
These issues warrant serious consideration by the Regional Interagency Executive Committee. In addition, in broadening the focus of implementation to consider other initiatives on the landscape, much of the burden of carrying out that decision is likely to fall on the Provincial Interagency Executive Committees and Provincial Advisory Committees. For example, the ties between Provincial Advisory Committees and state-organized watershed councils are likely to be strengthened. If the Regional Interagency Executive Committee decides to increase collaboration with the state initiatives such as Oregon plan, it will require work at both the regional level (e.g., agreement on data standards, protocols, monitoring, and information-keeping and storage systems) and the province level (where most of the information will be developed).
Another area where the role of the Provincial Interagency Executive Committees and Provincial Advisory Committees could change is the interface with the Northwest Economic Adjustment Initiative, since most of the allocation decisions under the economic initiative start from the bottom up, not the top down. Maximizing the social and economic benefits achievable through the initiative and coordinating those benefits with forest health activities are tasks where the lead must be taken by the people in the field, those who best understand the social, economic, and ecological problems and opportunities at the project and province levels. In addition, there are specific standards, such as coarse wood levels, that could be clarified at the province level.
The revised Memorandum of Understanding describes the Provincial Interagency Executive Committees and Provincial Advisory Committees in a way that encourages their utilization in collaborative ecosystem management planning across federal and non-federal boundaries, but provides considerable room for adaptation and flexibility. Indeed, there should be room to utilize some other vehicle than the Provincial Interagency Executive Committee or Provincial Advisory Committee if it would provide a more efficient way to achieve the desired objectives and if it could be done consistently with the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
Research and Monitoring
In the current Memorandum of Understanding, the principal reference to research and monitoring is in the description of the Research and Monitoring Committee:
"This committee, composed of research scientists and managers from a variety of disciplines will provide advice to the Regional Interagency Executive Committee on implementation of the forest plan including adaptive management areas and watershed assessments. The Research and Monitoring Committee will review and evaluate ongoing research, develop a research plan to address critical natural resource commodity and non-commodity questions, and address biological, social, economic, and adaptive management research questions. It will also develop scientifically credible, cost-efficient monitoring plans. The Research and Monitoring Committee will report to the Regional Interagency Executive Committee."
Since the date of the Memorandum of Understanding, the structure for developing and implementing research and monitoring has changed significantly. First and foremost, the membership of the Regional Interagency Executive Committee was enlarged to include three research agencies -- the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the Forest Service, the Biological Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Office of Research and Development of the Environmental Protection Agency. This assures that research and monitoring will be given a position of prominence in the deliberations of the Regional Interagency Executive Committee, and it provides a natural focal point for leadership on research and monitoring issues. As a result, the role of the Research and Monitoring Committee is much more circumscribed than when the Memorandum of Understanding was signed.
In addition, an interagency working group called the Research and Monitoring Group represents the research agency executives in presenting an independent science perspective in intergovernmental forums. The Group reports to the research agency executives for science findings, interpretations, and positions. The Group also works with members of the Regional Interagency Executive Committee to facilitate the interface between science and management. The Group currently consists of three full-time scientists who are located in the Regional Ecosystem Office, and is supplemented by ad hoc and standing committees as needed to accomplish its goals. The Research and Monitoring Group facilitates intergovernmental activities to accomplish the following goals: scientific research on fundamental questions underlying basic assumptions of the Northwest Forest Plan; development of research and monitoring plans; communication of scientific findings, technical transfer, and opportunities to facilitate adaptive management; and independent scientific review, evaluation, and analysis.
Based on these changes, the language about research and monitoring in the current Memorandum of Understanding is being revised to delete the language on the Research and Monitoring Committee and substitute a description of the Research and Monitoring Group. The charter of the Research and Monitoring Group will also be revised. The combined effect of these modifications is to provide recognition of the importance of research as an independent task in implementing the Northwest Forest Plan, the appropriate role of science-based management, the need for a coordinated research and monitoring effort, and the importance of integrated relationships among science and resource policy makers and land managers.
Additional Organizational Changes
The revised Memorandum of Understanding also contains a paragraph on the Interorganizational Resource Information Coordinating Council, based on the Council's charter. The revised Memorandum of Understanding does not attempt to cover all the groups currently involved in implementing the Northwest Forest Plan. To do so might have the unintended effect of freezing the current organizational structure and rendering it inflexible. Instead, the revised Memorandum of Understanding includes precatory language encouraging the agencies to be creative and responsive to needs as they continue to deal with new problems and as the implementation structure evolves.
This report reflects the contributions of a large number of people, too numerous to name. At least 75 people contributed their time in interviews, providing insights into successes, problems, and future opportunities associated with the Northwest Forest Plan. Many of those interviewed serve on the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, the Regional Community Economic Revitalization Team, the original Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team, the Regional Interagency Executive Committee, the Regional Ecosystem Office, and other groups.
A number of these people drafted language on issues for which they had special expertise. An intergovernmental team evaluated specific implementation issues and proposed changes to the Memorandum of Understanding. The team's deliberations were helpful in providing clarity and context to some of the issues discussed in this report, particularly those having to do with broadening the focus of the implementation effort. In addition, many members of the Regional Interagency Executive Committee, the Regional Ecosystem Office, and the Provincial Advisory Committees provided comments on drafts of the report.
The need for an evaluation of the Northwest Forest Plan, and for assistance in revising the Memorandum of Understanding was first identified formally by the Pacific Northwest regional executives. I express special thanks to Elaine Zielinski, who as chair of the Regional Interagency Executive Committee has been of enormous assistance throughout the project, and to Kathleen McGinty, who as chair of the Interagency Steering Committee commissioned the project and expanded its scope to include ways in which the Forest Plan experience may be of value to other ecosystem efforts.
I am especially grateful for the unflagging efforts over these past few months of three persons. Harvey Doerksen of the Office of Policy Analysis at the Department of the Interior researched a variety of sources, drafted sections of the report, formatted, organized, and edited, and maintained an active dialogue with agency employees in the Pacific Northwest. For his patience with my unending stream of changes and suggestions, I am grateful. Linda Kucera has provided the critical link between the Washington Office and regional personnel, scheduling interviews, distributing drafts, obtaining comments, and in general keeping the entire process moving smoothly. Don Knowles, Executive Director of the Regional Ecosystem Office, was incredibly generous with his time and comments. Don helped to identify the key elements of a variety of issues, provided access to the most knowledgeable individuals, drafted language for the report, reviewed drafts, located people to assist with the effort, and negotiated changes among a variety of interests. His dedication to the interagency process and his openness to how that process might be improved are extraordinary.
Although I am deeply indebted to the many who contributed to the preparation of this report, including many who improved its accuracy, timeliness, and style, I take full responsibility for any errors that may remain.
I come away from this review with a heightened appreciation for all those involved in implementing the Northwest Forest Plan. The intergovernmental process is time-consuming and laborious, but it is a significant step forward, and an extremely talented group of people is working diligently to achieve the potential of the President's Plan. They deserve much more recognition than they receive, and they have my gratitude.
APPENDIX 1: GENESIS OF THE REPORT
The Memorandum of Understanding that set in motion the various interagency organizations and activities has a five-year life that expires in October 1998. In August 1997, recognizing that decisions would have to be made about whether to extend the Memorandum of Understanding and how future planning efforts should be refocused, the regional executives of six federal agencies and the regional research directors of three agencies requested a review of the existing Memorandum of Understanding and the accomplishments under it.
In their memorandum of August 29, 1997, the regional executives and research directors made the following request of the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and Chair of the Interagency Steering Committee:
"The [Regional Interagency Executive Committee] now requests your assistance in developing a review process, with options, leading to the revision and renewal (if appropriate) of the [Memorandum of Understanding]. The goal of the review process will be to continue to help focus interagency efforts. Specifically, we would appreciate the assistance of Jim Pipkin, Leader of the Agency Coordination Working Group, in this task. We recognize that 4 years have passed since the [Memorandum of Understanding] was developed and signed, and that we have collectively learned much about ecosystem management. We would like to consider [Memorandum of Understanding] expectations and compare them to accomplishments to date, including the use of objective data where available. We would also like to look at such issues as staffing for various implementing offices (the Regional Ecosystem Office, Research and Monitoring Committee, and the Interorganizational Resource Information Coordinating Council), public advisory committee functions and relationships (Intergovernmental Advisory Committee and Provincial Advisory Committees), implications from the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), and other issues as appropriate."
By memorandum of October 8, 1997, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality endorsed the evaluation effort and expressed her eagerness to understand the results of the work and its implications for continued coordinated implementation of ecosystem management not only in the Pacific Northwest but also to interagency coordination efforts in other regions of the country.
The report responds to the request of the regional executives as expanded by the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. It is based on interviews with approximately 75 people, including members of the Regional Interagency Executive Committee, the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, the Regional Community Economic Revitalization Teams, the original Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team, the Regional Ecosystem Office, and others. In addition, it includes input from an intergovernmental team assembled to look at certain issues connected with the review and from a wide variety of individuals and agencies who reviewed drafts of the report.
APPENDIX 2: REFERENCES
Many of the statements contained in this report were gleaned from interviews, tempered by the personal knowledge and experience of the author. Some language was provided by an intergovernmental work group assembled to assist in the revision of the Memorandum of Understanding. Additional materials were prepared by members of the staff of the Regional Ecosystem Office, and numerous comments were made by reviewers of the draft report. In all cases, the author reserved the right to edit the material provided by others. Much of the material in this report was obtained from existing sources, both published and unpublished.
The sources of specific referenced material are as follows, cited separately for each chapter of the report.
The quote regarding the biological diversity objectives of the Northwest Forest Plan is from: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service; U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Record of Decision for Amendments to Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management Planning Documents Within the Range of the Northern Spotted Owl, April 13, 1994 (hereafter referenced as Record of Decision), p. 50.
The quote regarding the plan for federal land that would minimize endangered species impacts on private lands is from: Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team, Forest Ecosystem Management: An Ecological, Economic, and Social Assessment, 1993-793-07, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, July 1993 (hereafter referenced as "FEMAT Report"), p. iii.
The situation in the Pacific Northwest perceived by the White House in 1992 is cited from a White House Press Release dated September 14, 1992.
The five policy principles for a new, balanced and comprehensive long-term policy are from a May 7, 1993 memorandum to the three forest conference interagency working groups (Ecosystem Management Assessment, Labor and Community Assistance, and Agency Coordination) from the Forest Conference Executive Committee. The memorandum is quoted in:
Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on Management of Habitat for Late-Successional and Old-Growth Forest Related Species Within the Range of the Northern Spotted Owl, Volume II - Appendices, Appendix C, "Letters of Direction," February 1994 (hereafter referenced as "Final SEIS"); and,
FEMAT Report," pp. 3-6.
General statements about and provisions of the Northwest Forest Plan are from a July 1, 1993 briefing packet from the White House entitled, The Forest Plan for a Sustainable Economy and a Sustainable Environment, and from a White House Press Release dated July 1, 1993. See also The Northwest Forest Plan: A Report to the President and Congress, by Thomas Tuchmann, Kent P. Connaughton, Lisa E. Freedman, and Clarence B. Moriwaki, edited by Martha H. Brookes, Portland, Oregon: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Forestry and Economic Assistance, December 1996 (hereafter referenced as the "Tuchmann Report"), Appendix A, pp. 231-238.
The proposals of the agency coordination team are cited from: Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on Management of Habitat for Late-Successional and Old-Growth Forest Related Species Within the Range of the Northern Spotted Owl, Appendix E, "Report of the Agency Coordination Working Group," July 1993, pp. E-3 to E-12.
References to the current Memorandum of Understanding are to the Memorandum of Understanding for Forest Ecosystem Management signed in October 1993 by the Director of the White House Office on Environmental Policy, the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere. The Memorandum of Understanding is printed in the Final SEIS, p. E-5.
Purpose of This Report
Regional Interagency Executive Committee, Memorandum to Kathleen A. McGinty, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, August 29, 1997.
McGinty, Kathleen A., Memorandum to the ten members of the Regional Interagency Executive Committee, October 8, 1997.
The quote in which the court endorsed the ecosystem approach is from Judge Dwyer's Order of December 21, 1994, 871 F.Supp. 1291, 1311 (W.D.Wash. 1994). The decision was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on April 11, 1996, 80 F.3d 1401 (9th Cir. 1996).
The member of Congress responsible for the tongue-in-cheek reference to the national forests is Representative Sam Farr (D-California), in a statement at a joint hearing of the House Resources Committee, House Budget Committee, and House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee, March 26, 1998, as reported in the Washington Post, March 31, 1998.
The final designation of 6.9 million acres of critical habitat for the northern spotted owl was published in the Federal Register on January 15, 1992.
The instructions of the Forest Conference Executive Committee to the Interagency Working Groups are quoted from the FEMAT Report, pp. ii and iii.
The quotes citing the conclusion that federal land management would not jeopardize the northern spotted owl or other listed species are from the Record of Decision, pp. 45-46.
Data on the Habitat Conservation Plans are drawn largely from a prepared statement by Gerry Jackson, Assistant Director for Ecological Services, Fish and Wildlife Service, before the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, House Committee on Resources, on the impact and status of the Northern Spotted Owl on National Forests, March 19, 1998 (hereafter referenced as the "Jackson Testimony"). Supplemental data were provided by the Portland regional office of the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The "no surprises" and "safe harbor" initiatives, referenced in the Federal Interagency Coordination" section, are published as policies in the Federal Register.
"The No Surprises policy provides regulatory assurances to the holder of an incidental take permit issued under section 10(a) of the [Endangered Species Act] that no additional land use restrictions or financial compensation will be required of the permit holder with respect to species adequately covered by the permit, even if unforeseen circumstances arise after the permit is issued indicating that additional mitigation is needed for a given species covered by a permit." The full policy is found in: Federal Register, Vol. 62, No. 103, May 29, 1997, pp. 29091-29098.
The Safe Harbor policy provides "incentives for private and other non-Federal property owners to restore, enhance or maintain habitats or listed species." The policy is intended to encourage "property owners to voluntarily conserve threatened and endangered species without the risk of further restrictions pursuant to section 9 [of the Endangered Species Act.]" The full draft policy is found in: Federal Register, Vol. 62, No. 113, June 12, 1997, pp. 32178-32183.
The discussion of changes in agency culture is largely from the personal observations of the author, reinforced by interviews with participants in the process of implementing the Northwest Forest Plan. There are some, however, who urge caution about painting too optimistic a picture. These people agree that important changes are taking place, but emphasize that agency cultures have not yet reached the desired level in which interagency cooperation is a natural and unquestioned way of doing business.
Reference to widespread agreement with a statement by a Forest Service employee is from the Tuchmann Report, p. 56.
The discussion of timber sales is from the Tuchmann Report, pp. 101-106, supplemented and updated with information provided by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. Information on adjustment of annual timber sale levels in national forests in Washington and Oregon is from a presentation made by the Forest Service to the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee on August 6, 1998.
The Rescissions Act noted in the discussion of timber sales refers to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief and Rescissions Act of 1995, Pub. Law 104-19, §§2001(d), 2001(k)(1), 109 Stat. 194, 240. The review of the impact of Rescissions Act sales was conducted by the Regional Ecosystem Office. The results are contained in a memorandum ("Review of Rescission Act Section 2001(k) Timber Sales within the Geographic Area of the Northwest Forest Plan") dated April 21, 1997. The reference to "section 318" is to section 318 of the fiscal year 1990 Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, Pub. L. 101-121, 103 Stat. 701. The Ninth Circuit decision is Northwest Forest Resource Council v. Glickman, 97 F.3d 1161 (June 14, 1996).
The discussion of the Northwest Economic Adjustment Initiative was based on the Tuchmann Report, pp. 155-157, 161, and 175.
In addition to information provided by the Regional Ecosystem Office, two published sources, listed below, were used for information on the four-part Aquatic Conservation Strategy, including Riparian Reserves, Key Watersheds, Watershed Analysis, and Watershed Restoration:
The Tuchmann Report, pp. 79-86; and,
The Record of Decision, Attachment A, Standards and Guidelines for Management for Late-Successional and Old-Growth Forest Related Species Within the Range of the Northern Spotted Owl, April 13, 1994, pp. B-12 to B-15.
Quotations in the section on water quality are from a report of the U.S. General Accounting Office, Oregon Watersheds: Many Activities Contribute to Increased Turbidity During Large Storms, July 1998, GAO/RCED-98-220, pp. 34-36, 52.
The streamlined consultation procedures were first developed in 1995 and updated in 1997, as: Guidance for Streamlining Consultation Procedures Under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, February 24, 1997. The procedures were distributed to field managers of the Forest Service, USDC National Marine Fisheries Service, USDI Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service by memorandum dated February 26, 1997, signed by the respective state directors of the Bureau of Land Management and regional directors of the other agencies. Data on consultation time frames are from the Jackson testimony.
The section on Data Management and Resource Information was based initially on information supplied by the Bureau of Land Management. Additional detail on accomplishments was provided by the Regional Ecosystem Office.
The Research and Monitoring section is based on a variety of sources, primarily information provided by interviewees, with additional material from the Research and Monitoring Group and the Regional Ecosystem Office. A description of the three types of monitoring is found in the Record of Decision, Attachment A, pp. E-4 to E-10.
Data on the relative success of implementation monitoring are documented in:
Regional Implementation Monitoring Team, Research and Monitoring Committee, Regional Ecosystem Office, Results of the FY 1996 (Pilot Year) Implementation Monitoring Program for Management of Habitat for Late-Succession and Old-Growth Forest Related Species Within the Range of the Northern Spotted Owl, Final Report, March 3, 1997, pp. 25-26.
Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, issue summary on draft results of the FY 1997 implementation monitoring program report and proposed FY 1998 implementation monitoring program, May 7, 1998.
The nature and intent of Late-Successional Reserves are described in the Record of Decision, Attachment A, pp. C-11 to C-21. Information on accomplishments in late-successional reserves was provided by the Regional Ecosystem Office.
Adaptive Management Areas are described in the Record of Decision, Attachment A, pp. D-1 to D-17. Quotations are from: the Record of Decision, p. D-1; Adaptive Management Areas: Achieving the Promise, Avoiding the Peril, by George H. Stankey and Bruce Shindler, a PNW Research Station general technical report (PNW-GTR-394), 1997, pp. 2, 7; and Adaptive Management Areas: Roles and Opportunities for the PNW Research Station, by George H. Stankey and Roger N. Clark, a soon-to-be-published PNW general technical report, p. 7. Accomplishments through 1995 are summarized in the Tuchmann Report, pp. 116-122. Information on the current status of adaptive management area plans was provided by the Regional Ecosystem Office.
Information in the section on the northern spotted owl is taken from the Jackson Testimony.
The "Survey and Manage" approach is described in the Record of Decision, Attachment A, pp. C-4 to C-6. Information on current status was provided by the Regional Ecosystem Office.
The descriptions of the development of an interagency vision, personnel exchanges, and the discussion of the Applegate Partnership, drew from lessons learned from the Northwest Forest Plan experience by the Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force, as published in: The Ecosystem Approach: Healthy Ecosystems and Sustainable Economies, Volume I: Overview, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, November 1995, pp. 31-33, and 36. Other observations presented in this chapter are based on the personal experience of the author and on common themes identified in interviews.
Information on the "Oregon Plan" was provided by the Office of the Governor or is contained in: State of Oregon, The Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds: Restoring an Oregon Legacy Through Cooperative Efforts," Supplement I -- Steelhead, December 17, 1997.
Information on the decision of the National Marine Fisheries Service to "list" Oregon coastal coho is from a NMFS press release dated August 3, 1998 (NOAA 98-R140) and from press coverage of the comments of Oregon Governor Kitzhaber on the same date.
The quotation about the intent of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Fisheries Service to encourage others to assist in recovery efforts and to make the Endangered Species Act more flexible is from the "Statement of Cooperation Among U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the State of Maine," December 15, 1997.
References to the Washington "Tri-County" salmon recovery effort are from Convening Vision Statement & Principles for the Central Puget Sound ESA Response, dated June 15, 1998, and from a discussion draft of a workplan and timeline, dated May 1998.
Quotations from the Western Governors' Association are from WGA resolution 98-012, "State Conservation Agreements under the Endangered Species Act," June 30, 1998.
The references to the "multi-scale" approach in the section on Intermediate or Province-Level Analysis are from the Record of Decision, Attachment A, p. E-17, and from the FEMAT Report, Appendix V-I, Watershed Analysis and its Role in Ecosystem Management.
The reference to the recommendations of the Committee of Scientists is based on the Committee's draft report, Sustaining the People's Lands: Recommendations for Stewardship of the National Forests and Grasslands into the Next Century, July 15, 1998, p. 73.
The discussion on the Deschutes National Forest is from an information brochure: Sally Collins and Jim Golden, Deschutes National Forest, Seven Buttes: Puzzle Piece #1, February 1998.
Some of the descriptive information on the Southwest Oregon Provincial Interagency Executive Committee was provided by an intergovernmental group established by the regional executives to assist in the review of the Northwest Forest Plan.
The description of the Coastal Landscape Analysis and Modeling Study (CLAMS) is from unpublished material provided by the Forestry Sciences Laboratory in Corvallis, Oregon. The information is also available on the Laboratory's web site at: www.fsl.orst.edu:80/clams/.
The introductory material for the Adaptive Management section was provided by the Regional Ecosystem Office. The observations and conclusions are those of the author, based largely on statements made in interviews. The quotations are from: Adaptive Management Areas: Achieving the Promise, Avoiding the Peril, by George H. Stankey and Bruce Shindler, PNW-GTR-394, 1997, p. 7; and the Record of Decision, p. D-1.
Judge Dwyer's quote related to monitoring is from his Order of December 21, 1994, 871 F.Supp. 1291, 1311 (W.D.Wash. 1994).
Initial information for the section on Relationship to Economic Adjustment Initiative was provided by the Regional Ecosystem Office. The quotes from two memoranda of understanding are from the Memorandum of Understanding for Forest Ecosystem Management (referenced above), and from:
Interagency Memorandum of Understanding for Economic Adjustment and Community Assistance, signed in 1993 by the Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development, the Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Small Business Administration, the Director of the Office on Environmental Policy, the Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the Assistants to the President for Economic Policy and Domestic Policy.
The quoted letter was dated May 1, 1998, addressed to Katie McGinty, Chair of the Interagency Steering Committee from the Klamath Provincial Advisory Committee, and signed by 13 non-federal members.
The Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 is codified in 31 U.S.C. 1115(a)
Section 204 of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, which creates exemptions from the Federal Advisory Committee Act, is discussed in: Interagency Ecosystem Management Task Force, The Ecosystem Approach: Healthy Ecosystems and Sustainable Economies, Volume II: Implementation Issues, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, November 1995, pp. 77-78.
The draft charter of the California Subcommittee of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee was made available by the Regional Ecosystem Office.
APPENDIX 3: REVISED MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING
FOR NORTHWEST FOREST MANAGEMENT
This is an understanding among six parties:
The Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality
The Secretary of the Interior
The Secretary of Agriculture
The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
The Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere
The Secretary of the Army
In 1993, the President initiated a comprehensive Northwest Forest Plan to end the impasse over management of federal forest lands in the Pacific Northwest within the range of the northern spotted owl. With the signing of the Northwest Forest Plan Record of Decision in 1994, a framework and a system of Standards and Guidelines were established, using a new ecosystem approach to address resource management. By taking an innovative approach based on ecosystem and watershed management, while also addressing economic and social impacts, the Northwest Forest Plan transcends traditional administrative boundaries.
Successful implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan has required and continues to require unprecedented cooperation, coordination, and collaboration, among the participating federal agencies and with states, tribes, and local governments. This collaboration must continue.
The purpose of this Memorandum of Understanding is to establish and maintain an interagency framework to achieve two distinct goals. The first goal is cooperative planning, improved decision making, and coordinated implementation of the forest ecosystem management component of the Northwest Forest Plan on federal lands within the range of the northern spotted owl. The second goal is improved coordination and collaboration with state, tribal, and local governments as they seek to implement management approaches that support or complement the goals of the Northwest Forest Plan. Fulfillment of both of these goals is integral to the Administration's commitment to provide an ecosystem management approach that is scientifically sound, ecologically credible, and legally responsible.
Signatories to this Memorandum of Understanding agree to:
• continue to refine and implement a cohesive vision and shared sense of mission for the management of federal forest lands that balances multiple objectives, including the restoration and conservation of forest ecosystems and the production of sustainable economic and social benefits from the forests;
• improve their ability to monitor and evaluate their progress toward established goals, and to adapt to change, as appropriate, in a cohesive manner;
• cultivate greater trust, coordination, and collaboration among federal agencies, within individual agencies, and with state, tribal, and local governments;
• integrate the best scientific information available from research and monitoring into adaptive management decisions;
• build a seamless, current, and accessible information network to support ecosystem management on federal lands;
• share information, technology, and expertise, and pool resources, in order to make and implement better informed decisions related to ecosystem and adaptive management across jurisdictional boundaries;
• improve integrated application of agency budgets to maximize efficient use of funds toward the Northwest Forest Plan effort;
• coordinate Northwest Forest Plan activities with related or complementary efforts of state, tribal, and local governments;
• coordinate the ecosystem management aspects of Northwest Forest Plan implementation with the economic, labor, and community assistance aspects of the Northwest Forest Plan.
The following interagency groups will continue to develop, monitor, and oversee the implementation of the comprehensive forest management strategy for federal forests within the range of the northern spotted owl. They will support the development, implementation, and periodic adjustment of land and resource management plans of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. This agreement does not substitute for or alter the line authority of individual agencies.
It is the intent of this revised Memorandum of Understanding to describe the functions of only the primary coordination structures, with the understanding that the federal agencies may establish additional coordination mechanisms, and modify existing ones, as needed.
This Memorandum of Understanding is intended to enable and encourage the signatory agencies to be creative and to consider a full range of approaches to achieve intergovernmental cooperation and collaboration in support of the Northwest Forest Plan. The signatory agencies will use the interagency structures as forums to discuss the full range of significant federal, state, and local initiatives that relate to successful implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan.
The signatory agencies agree that continuity of membership in implementing groups is to be encouraged.
A. Interagency Steering Committee: The Interagency Steering Committee will serve as the Washington, D.C. interagency forum for policy guidance and coordination of the continued implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan by all relevant federal agencies, and will address and resolve issues referred to it by the Regional Interagency Executive Committee, described below. The Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality will serve as chair of the Interagency Steering Committee.
The Interagency Steering Committee shall be comprised of the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, relevant policy officials at the level of Under Secretary, Assistant Secretary, or Assistant Administrator, and the chief official of each of the agencies represented on the Regional Interagency Executive Committee. In addition, an offer of participation may be extended to representatives of the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Justice, and others as determined by the Chair. In appropriate situations, the Interagency Steering Committee may wish to hear from non-federal participants involved in regional or provincial advisory committees.
The Interagency Steering Committee will meet periodically, preferably twice each year, to receive from the Regional Interagency Executive Committee an interagency briefing on current issues, status of work, and anticipated problems, and to provide advice on issues referred by the regional executives. The Interagency Steering Committee may also address other national or regional ecosystem management initiatives of common concern to member agencies.
B. Regional Interagency Executive Committee: The Regional Interagency Executive Committee will serve as the senior regional entity to assure the prompt, coordinated, and successful implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan at the regional level, including ecosystem-scale monitoring and adaptive management. It will serve as the principal conduit for communications between the region and the national Interagency Steering Committee. It will be responsible for implementing the directives of the Interagency Steering Committee, reporting regularly on implementation progress, and referring issues relating to the policies or procedures for implementing the Northwest Forest Plan to the Interagency Steering Committee.
The Regional Interagency Executive Committee shall be comprised of the chief regional official or director (as appropriate) of the Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Marine Fisheries Service, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Pacific Northwest Research Station of the Forest Service, Office of Research and Development of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Biological Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey. (The last three are referred to hereafter as the "Research Executives.")
The Regional Interagency Executive Committee may alter this membership if it so chooses, and in appropriate situations, it will consult with other federal agencies, and state, tribal, and local governments.
The chair of the Committee will alternate between the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management representatives.
The Regional Interagency Executive Committee will seek advice from the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, constituted under the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, regarding implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan on federal land, and will coordinate with the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee for better integration of forest ecosystem management activities among federal and non-federal governmental entities across jurisdictional boundaries.
The Regional Interagency Executive Committee will coordinate with the Regional Community Economic Revitalization Team of the Northwest Economic Adjustment Initiative on ecosystem activities that are in concert with federal, state, and local programs for economic, labor, and community assistance. A primary goal of this coordination is to implement ecosystem restoration and other ecosystem investments that are consistent with priorities for community assistance.
The Regional Interagency Executive Committee will be accountable to the Interagency Steering Committee for establishment, oversight, and guidance of the Regional Ecosystem Office, Provincial Interagency Executive Committees, Provincial Advisory Committees, and other coordination and advisory groups that are intended to successfully implement the Northwest Forest Plan. The Regional Interagency Executive Committee may conduct periodic reviews of these groups and present recommendations for change to the Interagency Steering Committee.
C. Intergovernmental Advisory Committee: The Intergovernmental Advisory Committee will continue to be chartered under the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act to advise the Regional Interagency Executive Committee regarding implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan on federal lands and to provide a forum for better integration of forest ecosystem management activities among federal and non-federal governmental entities across jurisdictional boundaries. The Committee provides policy advice concerning Northwest Forest Plan issues including but not limited to: concerns of federal, state and local programs for economic, labor, and community assistance; interagency research and monitoring goals; complementary programs of federal, state, tribal, and local efforts to restore and maintain ecosystem health; and priorities for data management and applications.
The Intergovernmental Advisory Committee is comprised of: members of the Regional Interagency Executive Committee; representatives from state governments in California, Oregon, and Washington; representatives from governments of affected counties in California, Oregon, and Washington; representatives of tribal governments; and representation from regional and/or state Community Economic Revitalization Teams.
The Chair of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee will alternate annually between the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management representatives. The Committee may establish such working groups or subcommittees as it may find necessary. These working groups or subcommittees may include, consistent with the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, representatives of non-governmental organizations that have an interest in the implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan.
D. Regional Ecosystem Office: The Regional Ecosystem Office serves as a staff office for, and acts under the direction of, the regional executives acting as a collective body through the Regional Interagency Executive Committee. The Office will be responsible for developing, evaluating, and recommending resolution of consistency and implementation issues including but not limited to: geographic information systems, adaptive management guidelines, monitoring, research, late-successional reserves, "survey and manage" species, and interpretation of the Record of Decision by Provincial Interagency Executive Committees.
In support of implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan, and pursuant to an annual work plan developed in conjunction with the Regional Interagency Executive Committee, the Regional Ecosystem Office will:
• assist agencies in the development and implementation of both short and long-term plans for Northwest Forest Plan implementation and periodically provide a summary report on the status of Northwest Forest Plan implementation;
• facilitate coordination among, and/or provide support to, various work groups, including but not limited to work groups on: geographic information systems, adaptive management areas, monitoring, research, late-successional reserves, and "survey and manage" species.
• provide, as appropriate, a focal point for scientific, technical, administrative, and program support;
• facilitate the evaluation of major modifications to the Northwest Forest Plan conservation strategies or proposed changes to the Standards and Guidelines;
• facilitate periodic evaluation by the Regional Interagency Executive Committee of the interagency structure described in this section, and recommend modifications to the Regional Interagency Executive Committee as needed to improve interagency coordination and collaboration, adapt interagency structures to changing needs, and reflect progress in Northwest Forest Plan implementation;
• support the formulation and implementation of interagency geographic information systems and data standards;
• provide staff support to the operations of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee;
• provide, at the direction of the Regional Interagency Executive Committee, coordination and support for activities at the province level.
E. Research and Monitoring Group: The Research and Monitoring Group represents the Research Executives in presenting an independent science perspective in intergovernmental forums. The Group facilitates intergovernmental activities to accomplish the following goals:
• Scientific research on fundamental questions underlying basic assumptions of the Northwest Forest Plan;
• Development of research and monitoring plans;
• Communication of scientific findings, technical transfer, and opportunities to facilitate adaptive management;
• Independent scientific review, evaluation, and analysis.
The Research and Monitoring Group is comprised of scientists representing the research agencies, with members appointed by the Research Executives. The Group is responsible to the Research Executives for science findings, interpretations, and positions. The Group also works with members of the Regional Interagency Executive Committee to facilitate the interface between science and management. In those situations, the Group continues to be responsible to the Research Executives but coordinates with the Regional Interagency Executive Committee through the Regional Ecosystem Office. The Research and Monitoring Group will utilize standing and ad hoc committees as needed to accomplish the above goals. These committees will be established by the Research and Monitoring Group in cooperation with the Research Executives in situations involving science issues, or with the Regional Interagency Executive Committee on issues involving the integration of science and management.
F. Interorganizational Resource Information Coordinating Council: The Interorganizational Resource Information Coordinating Council, a subcommittee of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee, will, with the support of the Regional Interagency Executive Committee and the Regional Ecosystem Office, bring participating organizations together and assist those organizations in building a seamless, current, and accessible information network to support ecosystem management through: identification of key data sets; formulation of standards; establishment of data management priorities; applications, and data maintenance protocols; and recommendations for stewardship of regional data.
G. Province-Level Organizations: Provincial Interagency Executive Committees will be established for each of 12 provinces to support the successful implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan at the province level, under the general direction of the Regional Interagency Executive Committee. Each Provincial Interagency Executive Committee may, under guidance from the Regional Interagency Executive Committee, undertake specific activities within its province, to include but not limited to:
• Coordinating landscape analyses to assess the health and condition of watersheds and to consider socio-economic conditions in local communities.
• Sharing information to support better decisions regarding the health of the ecosystem, including watersheds and local communities.
• Identifying mutual goals, objectives, and priorities to support coordinated watershed restoration and conservation strategies.
• Sharing technology and expertise within the province.
• Coordinating and conducting monitoring within the province.
• Encouraging complementary ecosystem management among federal and non-federal landowners within the province while respecting the rights of non-federal landowners.
• Coordinating ecosystem management activities in concert with federal, state, tribal, and local programs for economic, labor, and community assistance.
Landscape-level data analysis (such as river basin assessments) and monitoring undertaken by the Provincial Interagency Executive Committees should be based on appropriate joint data standards that tier to regional or watershed scales.
Provincial Advisory Committees will continue to be chartered under the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Membership shall include representatives of federal, state, local and tribal governments, and a variety of other interests. Provincial Advisory Committees shall make recommendations to federal agencies through the Provincial Interagency Executive Committees regarding coordination and implementation of ecosystem strategies pursuant to the Northwest Forest Plan. They shall also participate, where appropriate, in collaborative planning at the province level across federal and non-federal boundaries. In appropriate cases, Provincial Interagency Executive Committees may find it desirable to use mechanisms other than, or in addition to, Provincial Advisory Committees in order to obtain advice from non-federal entities.
The term of this agreement is five years from the date of execution. The Regional Interagency Executive Committee will consider annually whether modifications to this agreement are appropriate.
Chair, Council on Environmental Quality
Secretary of the Interior
Secretary of Agriculture
Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency
Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere
Secretary of the Army
Date of Execution