The beginning of state management of national forests

A group of Western senators, including Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, both R-Idaho, have introduced a bill to allow states to implement their own conservation plans to protect sage grouse and their habitats, in lieu of federal management.

Congress would be allowing states to override the decisions by the Forest Service and BLM to amend their plans to protect sage grouse, which would amount to letting states take over planning for national forests to the extent that it can be tied to sage grouse in any way.

7 thoughts on “The beginning of state management of national forests”

  1. This might allow for some innovation, as is the case with the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds. This was an effort to forestall federal regulation and show the feds that the state could manage fish and habitat. Its reliance on voluntary action on the part of landowners has shown that states can go their own ways with good results.

    • Voluntary measures are not working:

      Burnett et al. (2007) suggested that widespread recovery of coho salmon in the OC Coho
      Salmon ESU is unlikely unless habitat improved in areas of high intrinsic potential on private
      lands. The effects of timber harvest on fish and habitat is likely most pronounced on private and
      state lands. Requirements for management of riparian zones on these lands are less than on
      federal lands. Current forest practice regulations reduce the size of the streamside riparian area
      to less than that needed to maintain the full suite of ecological processes provide by riparian
      areas and allows for the removal of trees from within this zone, which further reduces ecological
      effectiveness. Additionally, there is no requirement for protection on small intermittent streams,
      which are important sources of wood (Reeves et al. 2003, May and Gresswell 2003, Bigelow et
      al. 2007), on private lands. These streams are given consideration on a portion of each stream on
      state lands. Botkin et al. (1995) and the IMST (1999) found these regulations to be insufficient
      to improve or recover habitat that is currently degraded.

      In summary, habitat complexity across the ESU did not improve over the period of
      consideration (1998–2008). Road densities are high and affect stream quality through
      hydrologic effects like runoff and siltation and by providing access for human activities. Beaver
      activities, which are thought to produce highly productive coho salmon rearing habitat, appear to
      be reduced, and recovery of beaver populations could be impaired by their classification as a
      nuisance species. Stream habitat restoration activities may be having a short-term positive effect
      in some areas and passive efforts to restore landscape condition may be effective on much longer
      time periods than is considered here, but the quantity of impaired habitat and the rate of
      continued disturbance appears at this time to be outstripping the efforts to restore complex
      instream habitat20.

      Stout, H.A., P.W. Lawson, D. Bottom, T. Cooney, M. Ford, C. Jordan, R. Kope, L. Kruzic, G.Pess, G. Reeves, M. Scheuerell, T. Wainwright, R. Waples, L. Weitkamp, J. Williams, and T. Williams. 2011. Scientific conclusions of the status review for Oregon Coast coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). Draft revised report of the Oregon Coast Coho Salmon Biological Review Team. NOAA/NMFS/NWFSC, Seattle, WA.

  2. Totally different thing to have the states overseeing private land management, which is what the Oregon Plan is (as far as I know). I assume the federal land managers have exercised their traditional authorities as part of their “coordinated actions.”

    There are plenty of examples of voluntary action and state management of wildlife not producing “good results” (if listing under ESA is not considered a good result) – sage grouse being one of them. The Oregon Plan example does emphasize the importance of “strong scientific oversight,” and monitoring which should be part of any discussion (or legislation) of conservation strategies.

  3. Here’s the Colorado state conservation plan for sage grouse.

    It seems to me that there are likely generally high-level discussions between govs and federal agency higher-ups re: listings, so it’s likely that states have a voice already.
    Here’s an example:

    One might wonder whether this influencing of federal decisions occurs more frequently and with greater success, between admins of the same party affiliation?

  4. Sage grouse has been an interesting (not entirely partisan) political story. As noted in the article, four western governors supported the current situation. One of the four, Wyoming’s governor, is Republican. In fact, Wyoming has intervened in support of the federal decision in one of the lawsuits. While the Democratic Nevada governor supports the current plans, the attorney general is a Republican, and he is suing the U.S. on behalf of the state. Idaho also sued the state, and their lawsuit was dismissed. Co-sponsors of the house bill to give states authority to rescind the federal plan include Republican representatives from Colorado, Wyoming and Nevada (and Washington, where I think the state is supportive of the plan). In Montana, the Democratic governor was “disappointed” in the federal decision, but the state is not actively opposing it (the issue in Montana is greater on private lands where state efforts were lauded by USDI). Montana’s Republican senator is a co-sponsor of the state management bill, but the Democratic senator is not. (Utah is solidly against the federal plans.)

  5. “… habitat complexity across the ESU did not improve over the period of consideration (1998–2008).”

    I do not have data at my finger tips at the moment to refute that, but I have seen many restoration projects that have been very effective — rebuilt crossings, restored side channels, tons and tons of large wood added to streams.

  6. I, like Steve, have been on the ground and seen miles of improvements that have drastically improved stream habitat. I have also been in the water in several of these projects and seen the increase in fry in these project areas. How much effect did ocean conditions and invasive species factor into the data set regarding habitat improvement? If the criteria is that the structure of habitat has not improved, then either the data set was not a good cross section or there was a flaw in the control. Within a 60 mile radius of my location there has been no less than 30 miles of restoration projects on State, Private, and Federal ownership.


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