Related to a proposal to further extend the deadline for surveying 7 species of fungi, Survey and Manage, Northwest Forest Plan
USDA Forest Service
USDI Bureau of Land Management
The Forest Service and BLM postponed for one fiscal year the deadline for surveying for 32 species in the "category 2 survey and manage" and "protection buffer" categories. Now the agencies propose to further postpone surveys for 7 of these 32 species, because it is still not feasible to survey for them.
All 7 species are fungi. Survey protocols for these species may require 5 or more years of surveys to have a high likelihood of locating sites occupied by the species. Without this additional extension the agencies cannot undertake ground-disturbing activities in the intervening 5 or more years, which would frustrate the goals of the Northwest Forest Plan to continue a supply of goods and services while protecting ecosystem health. To mitigate risks to these 7 species, surveys would be conducted according to "single season" or "reasonable effort" survey protocols as discussed in the following sections, but the full 5 or more years of surveys would not be completed.
The agencies have determined that this additional postponement will not create or raise risks to these 7 species beyond what was originally projected. For this reason, there is no need to supplement or revise the Environmental Assessment (EA) prepared in 1998.
On February 26, 1999, the USDA Forest Service and USDI Bureau of Land Management jointly decided, after preparing an Environmental Assessment (Environmental Assessment to Change the Implementation Schedule for Survey and Manage and Protection Buffer Species, October 1998) and Decision Notice/Finding of No Significant Impact (DN/FONSI) to postpone for one year the survey schedule for 32 Survey and Manage and Protection Buffer species. This delay in the survey schedule was caused by the technical infeasibility of surveys and was supported by a finding that the delay would not substantially increase risk to these species.
According to the EA, postponing surveys for a year would not substantially increase the risk to long-term viability of any of these 32 species. Risk to these 32 species was minimized because the Northwest Forest Plan ultimately placed more land in reserve allocations than had originally been expected, timber harvest levels had been below estimates made at the time the Northwest Forest Plan was adopted, only a very small percentage of the land area of the Northwest Forest Plan would be affected in fiscal year 1999, and there were additional protection measures because of Component 1 ("manage known sites") of survey and manage (Northwest Forest Plan, C-4).
Since the beginning of fiscal year 1999 the survey feasibility problems for 25 of the 32 species were resolved, as species identification and differentiation problems were resolved. Surveys are now being conducted prior to ground-disturbing activities according to approved survey protocols for these 25 species.
The remaining 7 fungi species may require 5 or more years of surveys to have a high likelihood of locating sites occupied by the species, and therefore still have feasibility problems for completion of pre-project surveys. See Table 1 for a list of these species.
|Sowerbyella (Aleuria) rhenana||Fungus|
Table 1. Seven Survey and Manage and Protection Buffer species proposed for schedule delay.
The level of planned ground-disturbing activity that actually was implemented in fiscal year 1999 was substantially less than what was estimated in the EA. The EA estimated that 740 million board feet of timber would be offered as a result of the Proposed Action in the EA. The amount of timber actually awarded in FY 1999 was 254 million board feet, approximately one-third of what was projected in the EA. (See Attachment 1, which also addresses how this remaining volume was converted to an acreage estimate.)
Additionally, the EA projected 35,200 acres of prescribed fire in FY 1999, but the actual accomplishment was only 12,338 acres. (See Attachment 2.)
Because the level of planned activities was substantially lower in fiscal year 1999 than what was originally analyzed in the EA, and because fewer species are being proposed for schedule change, the effects are expected to be no greater than what was previously understood.
The remaining 7 species would also benefit from new sites found during FY 1999 and other aspects of the Northwest Forest Plan (Late-Successional Reserves, Riparian Reserves, application of the Aquatic Conservation Strategy, and the marbled murrelet reserves). "Single season" survey protocols have been developed for these 7 species and will be conducted prior to ground disturbing activities except in one instance where surveys will only be completed in part of the range of one species (Sarcosoma mexicana).
This limited survey approach for these 7 species may do little to protect these species, however, due to the low likelihood of finding individuals. These species require specific conditions to show identifying features (such as fruiting bodies). Those conditions are unpredictable and, for some species, may not occur for many years. While surveys may locate some individuals if localized conditions are right, conditions may not be right in other places in any given year. To have a high likelihood of finding these species surveys may need to be done for several years over a variety of climatic conditions.
Postponing the survey deadline for these 7 species would have resource program effects (i.e., timber harvest) that more closely resemble the effects anticipated by the Northwest Forest Plan (EA, pp. 13 and 16).
There is now a proposal to extend the survey schedule for 7 species of fungi until such time as either (1) the decision is made to eliminate or change the pre-project survey requirement for these species pursuant to a proposal now being analyzed in a supplemental environmental impact statement, or (2) the level of disturbance, as described in the October 1998 EA, is reached.
"Single season" survey protocols have been developed for these 7 species and will be conducted prior to ground-disturbing activities across the range of each species, except that surveys will not be conducted for Sarcosoma mexicana within the Oregon Coast Range and Oregon Willamette Valley physiographic provinces.
FINDING whether there is new information since the October 1998 EA and the
February 1999 decision bearing on the risk to long-term viability of the 7 species
The Regional Mycologist looked for new information that may have arisen since October 1998, bearing on the question whether a further extension for these 7 species is likely to create any additional risk to the long-term viability of these species (Attachment 3).
The conclusions of the Regional Mycologist were based primarily on information provided by professional judgment and personal experience. "There is no new field information … since October 1998 that would change the potential risk for the 7 fungi species as reviewed in question 4 in the Analysis of Species for Proposed Change in Survey Schedule in April 1998." Because Sarcosoma mexicana has been found commonly in the Oregon Coast Range and Oregon Willamette Valley physiographic provinces he concludes that single season surveys, "…are not needed for this species in these physiographic provinces."
(See Attachment 4.)
For this reason, we find there is no new information relevant to an effect on the long-term viability of these 7 species that might be caused by extending the deadline for surveys as
FINDING whether the analysis in the October 1998 EA is still valid
Agency staff has analyzed the question whether the analysis in the October 1998 EA is still valid. The conclusions of staff were based primarily on information provided by agency databases, professional judgment, and personal experience. Staff made the following conclusions:
- According to the October 1998 EA, the Northwest Forest Plan ultimately placed more land in reserve allocations than had originally been expected in the FEMAT analysis. This is still true because the reserve allocations (Late Successional Reserves and Riparian Reserves) have not changed. In addition, areas have been set aside as buffers around Category 1 "survey and manage species" and 0.5-mile radius protection circles have been established around occupied marbled murrelet habitats (Northwest Forest Plan ROD, C-10). These reserves preserve the habitat for these 7 species, as well, if they are present.
- Timber sales awarded and the level of prescribed fire for fiscal year 1999 were below estimates made at the time the 1-year extension was adopted on February 26, 1999. This means additional acres of ground-disturbing activity could occur without creating any additional risk to the long-term viability of these 7 species. As described in Attachments 1 and 2, a total of approximately 55,716 additional acres could be disturbed (32,854 remaining acres from the timber harvest estimate and 22,862 remaining acres from the prescribed fire estimate) without exceeding the assumed level of impacts from the October 1998 EA,
- There were additional protection measures because of Component 1 ("manage known sites") of survey and manage. Surveys done in fiscal year 1999 found additional sites for technically feasible species as well as for the 7 listed fungi species. In turn, habitat was protected around these sites for these Component 1 species. This additional protected habitat will also benefit these 7 species where they are present.
- None of the 7 species are listed or proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act (EA, p. 3), and extending the deadline would have no effect on listed or proposed species or designated or proposed critical habitats (EA, p. 17). This information from the EA is still true. - Extending the survey deadline for these 7 infeasible species would not involve effects that are likely to be highly controversial (40 CFR 1508.27(b)(4)). "Controversy" refers to substantial dispute as to the size or nature of the effects of the action. The scientific basis for this schedule change has been evaluated in the EA (pp. 8-9, 14-16, and Appendix C) and effects under this extension will not exceed what was described in that analysis. The public was invited to comment on the original 1-year extension. A total of twelve substantive issues (relevant to the scope of the analysis) were identified from comments received from 72 individuals or representatives of organizations. The issues raised did not warrant a change in the original proposal for extension, or in the effects analysis. The number of comments received and the issues raised did not indicate that a high level of controversy exists over the effects of this action. This is still true. In the succeeding year, no new information was received by the agencies indicating a heightened controversy over the nature or extent of effect on these 7 species.
- Only a small percentage of the Northwest Forest Plan area was to be affected by management activities in fiscal year 1999. Under this proposal the percentage of area affected described in the EA would not be exceeded. Extending the deadline would extend the period during which surveys are not required, but would not increase the risk for these 7 species because the amount of management activity in the intervening year was less than originally expected, and the amount of management activity during the extension would not exceed the amount expected at the time the EA was written.
- The FS and BLM are preparing a supplemental environmental impact statement (Notice of Availability of the DSEIS in 64 Fed. Reg. 232 [12/3/99]) on proposals to change the Survey and Manage program. This proposed extension for 7 species would not preclude any potential outcomes from that EIS process. Future projects, including those that would occur without surveys under this extension, would be analyzed in an additional, site-specific NEPA process. "Single season" survey protocols will be followed prior to ground-disturbing activity.
For these reasons, we find that the conclusions in the October 1998 EA are still valid. No
supplemental analysis is indicated or warranted.
FINDING whether the conclusions in the February 1999 FONSI are still valid
Agency staff analyzed the question whether the conclusions in the February 1999 FONSI are still valid. The conclusions of the staff were based primarily on information provided by agency databases, professional judgment, and personal experience. Staff made the following conclusions:
- There would be no increase in risk to these 32 species, now 7 species, according to the October 1998 EA. This is still true because of the small percentage of area undergoing management activities, the fact that the agencies will be operating within the limits forecast in the October 1998 EA, and the additional protection of land areas under other aspects of the Northwest Forest Plan -- reserves and buffers around certain species.
- The agencies will conduct "single season" surveys for site-specific projects as mitigation for potential adverse impacts on individuals of these 7 species, but 5-year surveys would not be completed according to survey protocols.
For these reasons, we find that the conclusions in the February 1999 FONSI are still valid.
Extending the survey deadline for 7 species of fungi would have no impact beyond those found
to be "not significant" in the February 1999 FONSI.
FINDING of No Significant Impact
There is no new information since the EA of October 1998 or the FONSI of February 1999, that has not already been taken into account. The conclusions in the October 1998 EA are still valid, as applied to this proposal to extend the deadline as described. The conclusions in the February 1999 FONSI are still valid, as applied to this proposal. It is entirely logical that if it was not significant to extend the survey deadline for 32 species for one year, on the assumption that 740 mmbf of timber volume would be offered and 35,200 acres of prescribed fire would be initiated, that it likewise would not be significant to further extend the deadline for 7 of those same species assuming the same limitations of disturbance.
For these reasons, we find that the proposal to extend the deadline for surveying for these 7 species as described above is not a proposal for major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. An environmental impact statement need not, and will not, be prepared.
|/s/ Robert Devlin (for)
Regional Forester, Region 6
USDA Forest Service
|/s/ C. Wassinger (for)|
ELAINE Y. ZIELINSKI
State Director, Oregon/Washington
USDI Bureau of Land Management
|/s/ Bradley Powell
Regional Forester, Region 5
USDA Forest Service
|/s/ Al Wright|
ALFRED W. WRIGHT
Acting State Director, California
USDI Bureau of Land Management