Science consistency review on the southern Sierra national forests

The draft revised Sierra, Sequoia and Inyo national forest plans include aggressive restoration programs across the forest, including logging areas of existing old forest structure to protect old forests and associated wildlife species.  The Forest Service has asked (unidentified) reviewers to look at the draft forest plans and draft EIS and address these questions in the first science consistency review conducted under the 2012 planning rule (it is an optional process under associated agency policy):

1. Has applicable and available scientific information been considered?

2. Is the scientific information interpreted reasonably and accurately?

3. Are the uncertainties associated with the scientific information acknowledged and documented?

4. Have the relevant management consequences, including risks and uncertainties, been identified and documented?

Here are some of the topics being addressed:

• Vegetation: Forest Resilience, Seral stage distribution, Effects of post-disturbance harvest, and Impacts on native vegetation.

• Fire and Fuels: Fuels management and community protection, Current fuel loading, Current and future wildfire trends, Effectiveness of treatments for fuel reduction.

• Wildlife and Habitat: Impacts to wildlife and their habitats, terrestrial and aquatic, Protection of old forest and associated species, Threatened and endangered species habitat requirements and availability, Species of Conservation Concern habitat requirements and availability.

• Climate Change: Current and projected trends, Effects on wildlife habitats and populations, Effects on carbon sequestration and carrying capacity

Given the debate on this blog surrounding these issues, the results should be interesting.  However there is no commitment here to any public release or discussion of the results.  The comment period on the draft EIS closes August 25th.  The results of this review were scheduled to be available in August.  “The technical experts (on the planning team) will review the report, consult and address any concerns from the review team, and incorporate any recommendations that would benefit the final EIS.” 

Given the debate on this blog surrounding these issues, the results should be interesting.  However there is no commitment here to any public release or discussion of the results.  The comment period on the draft EIS closes August 25th.  The results of this review where scheduled to be done in August.  “The technical experts (on the planning team) will review the report, consult and address any concerns from the review team, and incorporate any recommendations that would benefit the final EIS.”

Here is the revision website.

3 Comments

  1. Funny you should ask about this. Here’s what the DEIS for the revised plan says:

    “Features Common to Alternatives B, C, and D

    “Consideration of the Southern Sierra Nevada Fisher Conservation Strategy and the Interim California Spotted Owl Conservation Assessment

    “Although specific plan direction varies, alternatives B, C, and D include plan direction to incorporate the findings and recommendations of the “Southern Sierra Nevada Fisher Conservation Strategy” (Spencer et al. 2016) and the “Draft Interim Recommendations for the Management of California Spotted Owl Habitat on National Forest System Lands” (USDA FS 2015).

    “Following publication of a California spotted owl conservation assessment (in development) and the publication of additional key habitat information (a general technical report on the natural range of variation of mixed conifer forests), a California spotted owl conservation strategy will be developed, and may highlight management recommendations very different or similar to current standards and guidelines. While we cannot anticipate the final contents of the conservation strategy, it will seek to balance short and long term owl needs, and better address the long-term resiliency and sustainability of owl habitat across its range. Thus, additional conservation, restoration, resiliency, and sustainability-focused plan components may be added to incorporate the conservation strategy recommendations when they become available.”

    They aren’t saying how the timing will work in relation to the final forest plan decision, but with all of the steps to be completed it looks like their strategy might be to put out a forest plan first, and answer questions later. But maybe they are sincere about being willing to do the plan all over again right away using the new best available science.

    • There are still people out there who want lower diameter limits, which effectively eliminate timber sales as a management tool. In the northern Sierra Nevada, SPI will continue to thrive, thinning their own massive land holdings and bidding (non-competitively) on USFS salvage sales. In the southern Sierra Nevada, the lone lumber mill, Sierra Forest Products, could fold at any time. As the amount of actual nests are reduced, through inevitable wildfires and bark beetles, the owl populations will continue to plummet. Especially within the Giant Sequoia National Monument, where management has, effectively, ceased, on 300,000 acres.

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