Public comment sought on proposed changes to survey measures
in Northwest Forest Plan

Contacts:

Rex Holloway, Forest Service, 503-808-2241
Chris Strebig, BLM, 503-952-6003

PORTLAND, DEC. 3:  Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service managers today announced the release of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) to amend the "survey and manage" mitigation measures of the Northwest Forest Plan and the start of a 90-day comment period ending on March 3, 2000.

The document incorporates what the Forest Service and BLM have learned during the last five years about implementing the "survey and manage" provisions of the Northwest Forest Plan.  These provisions detail how the Forest Service and BLM should manage approximately 400 rare and little known species.

"We have learned a lot about survey and manage since we adopted the Northwest Forest Plan," said Nancy Graybeal, Acting Regional Forester.  "This draft document is designed to incorporate the most up-to-date science, better protect rare and little known species, and use the agencies' limited resources more efficiently."

When finalized, the document will provide new guidance on how the agency implements the survey and manage provisions.  It will also help resolve questions surrounding a U.S. District Court decision by Judge William Dwyer.

"Together with a tentative settlement agreement reached two weeks ago, this effort will help the agencies come into compliance with Judge Dwyer's decision and get the timber program and other projects back on track under the Northwest Forest Plan," according to Graybeal.

In August, Judge Dwyer ruled against the agencies' implementation of certain aspects of the survey and manage provisions and suspended a number of timber sales.  Two weeks ago, government negotiators reached a tentative agreement with the environmental plaintiffs in the case that would, if approved by the Court, provide an interim basis for moving projects forward until a final decision is made in the supplemental environmental impact statement.

"The environmental impact statement analyzes different ways to improve the efficiency and consistency of the survey provisions in the Northwest Forest Plan," adds Elaine Zielinski, BLM State Director for Oregon and Washington.

While retaining the overall survey and manage strategy, the impact statement analyzes alternatives that better identify the protections species need; clarify language in the Northwest Forest Plan; eliminate inconsistent or redundant direction; and establish a process for responding to new information more rapidly.

"We invite comments on the alternatives," adds Zielinski, who notes that the document is available on request from the SEIS Room at Regional Executive Office, P.O. Box 3623, Portland, OR 97208, or from local Forest Service or BLM District Offices in the Northwest Forest Plan area.  It can also be accessed directly on the Internet at www.blm.gov/or/plans/nwfpnepa.

SIDEBAR:  ABOUT THE NORTHWEST FOREST PLAN

The Northwest Forest Plan (adopted in 1994) responds to dual needs:  the need for forest products, and the need for habitat for more than 1,000 species associated with late-successional and old-growth forests.

The Northwest Forest Plan is a comprehensive ecosystem management strategy based on management direction, including a variety of land allocations.  The plan area covers about 24.4 million acres of federal land in western Oregon, western Washington, and northern California.  Approximately 30%, or 7.3 million acres, is under special designations made by Acts of Congress, such as Wilderness, National Parks, and Wild and Scenic Rivers.

The remaining 70% of these federal lands, all on BLM or National Forests, is divided into several land allocations under the Northwest Plan.  These are:

Matrix areas (about 4 million acres);
Adaptive Management Areas (about 1.5 million acres);
Riparian Reserves (about 1.5 million acres);
Administratively Withdrawn Areas (about 1.5 million acres); and
Late-successional Reserves (about 7.5 million acres)

Scheduled timber harvest is allowed in the matrix and adaptive management areas.  Although no scheduled harvest is allowed in the reserves, certain thinning and salvage sales and other multiple use activities may be permitted, provided they maintain or improve the characteristics and purposes of the reserves.