Decision to Delay the Effective Date for Surveying 7 "Survey and Manage" and Protection Buffer Species
Bureau of Land Management Districts and Field Offices in Oregon and California within the
range of the Northern Spotted Owl
The decision has been made to further delay the effective date by which surveying would be necessary for 7 "survey and manage" and protection buffer fungi species, until such time as either (1) the decision is made to eliminate or modify survey requirements 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 Environmental Analysis, is reached. This decision is needed because surveys for these 7 species continue to be infeasible.
The effect of this decision is to create an opportunity for timber sales and other activities to
continue without raising risk to the populations of these species. The Bureau of Land
Management (BLM) will be able to continue its management activities more in line with what
was anticipated in the Northwest Forest Plan (NFP).
"Survey and Manage" refers to one of the elements of the NFP. See Record of Decision for Amendments to Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management Planning Documents Within the Range of the Northern Spotted Owl (NFP Record of Decision, pages 36-37) and Standards and Guidelines for Management of Habitat for Late-Successional and Old-Growth Forest Related Species Within the Range of the Northern Spotted Owl (NFP, C-4).
"Protection Buffer" refers to another element of the NFP. Protection is required for individuals of certain species, pursuant to management recommendations for each species, if they are discovered during surveys (NFP, C-11, C-26). Survey and Manage and Protection Buffer are two of the strategies adopted in the NFP to ensure habitat of an amount and distribution that will support the continued persistence of these species.
The NFP, adopted in April 1994, created a ramp-in schedule for surveying these species. By summer 1998 it became apparent that it was not technically feasible to survey for 32 of the species for which surveys were to begin by fiscal year 1999 (beginning October 1, 1998). The Forest Service (FS) and BLM proposed to defer surveys for these 32 species. Reasons given for this proposal were that the NFP, itself, provided for schedule changes. Information learned since 1994 was simply not sufficient to formulate adequate Survey and Manage protocols for these 32 species. While substantial progress had been made since 1994, and survey and manage protocols had been developed for most of the 80 species for which Survey and Manage became mandatory by October 1, 1998, it was not technically feasible to survey for these 32 species.
The FS and BLM analyzed that proposal in an Environmental Assessment (EA) published in October 1998: Environmental Assessment to Change the Implementation Schedule for Survey and Manage and Protection Buffer Species. The proposal was analyzed by Survey and Manage taxa specialists, field biologists, and botanists. 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 was avoided because the NFP ultimately placed more land in reserve allocations than had originally been expected, timber harvest levels had been below estimates made at the time the NFP was adopted, only a very small percentage of the land area of the NFP would be affected in fiscal year 1999, and there were additional protection measures because of Component 1 ("manage known sites") of Survey and Manage (NFP, C-4).
The EA was made available for public review and comment. Comments did not indicate that any changes to the proposal were warranted. Some commenters provided additional information on the 32 species. Many comments questioned the sufficiency of the EA process to change the survey schedule originally described in the NFP. Several commenters questioned the agencies' assessment of risk to species and a few suggested an additional alternative that would postpone surveys for a longer period of time, or only survey for the 12 species considered to be at "high risk" from a further delay.
On the basis of the EA and comments received, the agencies published a joint Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on February 26, 1999. Principal reasons given for finding no significant impact were that
Following the EA and FONSI, the agencies signed a joint decision on February 26, 1999 to select Alternative 2 in the EA, which was "to postpone the survey schedule for 32 of the FY 1999 Component 2 Survey and Manage species for a period of one year." Principal reasons given for this decision were that:
The delay expired at the end of fiscal year 1999, on September 30, 1999. During the period of
delay, the agencies resolved technical feasibility issues for 25 of the 32 species. Surveys for
these species are now technically feasible and are currently being conducted prior to ground-disturbing activities throughout the species' ranges. Surveys are still not feasible for the
remaining 7 species.
The decision is made to further delay the effective date by which surveying would be necessary for 7 Survey and Manage fungi species and Protection Buffer species, until such time as either (1) the decision is made to eliminate these species as Survey and Manage species or Protection Buffer species pursuant to a proposal now being analyzed in an Environmental Impact Statement, or (2) the level of disturbance as described in the October 1998 Environmental Analysis, 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. (See attached "findings" document for rationale.)
|Sowerbyella (Aleuria) rhenana||Fungus|
Table 1. 7 Survey and Manage and Protection Buffer species for which the survey deadline is extended.
BLM will implement this plan maintenance for existing Resource Management Plans (RMPs) for the Salem, Eugene, Coos Bay, Roseburg, and Medford Districts, and the Klamath Falls Field Office of the Lakeview District (all of Oregon); as well as the Redding Field Office, Arcata Field Office, King Range National Conservation Area, and Ukiah Field Office within the grouping of independent Northern California Field Offices known as NORCAL. This change in survey schedule will refine the previously approved decisions in these plans based on a minor change in data (43 CFR 1610.5-4). Such a change in survey schedule will not result in a change in the scope of resource uses or a change in the terms, conditions, and decisions of the existing RMPs, and therefore a plan amendment is not required (43 CFR 1610.5-5). As explained below, the purpose of this action is to maintain the scope of resource uses identified in the existing RMPs.
This decision is a short-term strategy for meeting the dual objectives of the NFP. A long-term strategy has been proposed and is currently being analyzed in a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for Survey and Manage and Protection Buffer species: Amendment to the Survey and Manage, Protection Buffer, and other Mitigating Measures Standard and Guidelines. A Notice of Intent to prepare the SEIS was published in the Federal Register on November 25, 1998. A draft SEIS was released to the public in December 1999.
This decision is based on the attached findings, to the effect that the conclusions in the EA and
FONSI are still valid. Other related environmental documents taken into account include: the
RMPs listed above and their supporting National Environmental Policy Act documents; the
Record of Decision for Amendments to Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management
Planning Documents Within the Range of the Northern Spotted Owl, also known as the NFP, and
the supporting Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on Management of Habitat
for Late-Successional and Old-Growth Forest Related Species Within the Range of the Northern
RATIONALE FOR THE DECISION
The actual acreage of disturbance was substantially less in fiscal year 1999 than what was expected at the time the one-year extension was made on February 26, 1999. This means that the risk to the 7 species has been even lower than expected. For this reason there is an opportunity to extend the survey schedule for the 7 species.
Surveys for 7 species are still not feasible. The protocols would require five years of surveys to achieve a "high likelihood" of finding individuals. This is "infeasible" because the agencies cannot survey according to five-year protocols in one year. For this reason the agencies would be barred from undertaking projects which include ground-disturbing activities until those surveys were completed. This is simply not anticipated in the NFP, and thus a change is warranted.
The effects to species by extending the survey schedules through this decision will be no greater than what was described in the EA because surveys are being delayed for fewer species and the total acreage impacted will not exceed that which was disclosed in the EA.
This decision will allow continuation of planned management actions such as timber harvest and prescribed fire without substantially increasing risks to any survey and manage and protection buffer species. This will help achieve the two primary goals of the NFP: providing sustainable timber harvests; and maintaining and restoring healthy old-growth ecosystems and habitat for populations of native fish, wildlife, and plants (NFP ROD, pages 2, 26, 61).
This decision is based on the most current scientific data available. New information related to species and survey requirements was obtained from field observations following four years of implementation of the NFP, consultation with agency experts for the taxonomic groups, and materials obtained from herbaria and museums. New information since the
February 26, 1999, extension has resulted in resolving the feasibility issues for 25 species. No new information suggests that further delaying the surveys for these 7 species will increase the risk to any of these 7 species.
Surveys for the 7 species will be done as previously discussed during the extension under "single season" survey protocols. These surveys are likely to find some individuals of these species, which will then be protected under the Management Recommendations for these species.
The amount of ground-disturbing activity will not exceed the amount as described in the EA, i.e.,
an additional 55,716 acres could be disturbed (32,854 remaining acres from the timber estimate
and 22,862 remaining acres from the prescribed fire estimate) including FS and BLM activities.
(The methodology for estimating these remaining acres is contained in the attached "findings"
The monitoring strategy for this decision is to tier to the existing monitoring plans and strategy in the NFP, and individual BLM districts, as detailed in the EA (p. 17). No additional monitoring is adopted in this decision.
APPLICABLE LAWS, REGULATIONS, AND POLICIES
This decision is guided by the provisions of the NFP in which agencies "may propose changes … which could include changing the schedule, moving a species from one survey strategy to another, or dropping this mitigation requirement for any species whose status is determined to be more secure than originally projected" (NFP ROD, p. 37) as experience is acquired with the Survey and Manage requirements.
On September 25, 1998, a scoping letter was sent out through each National Forest and BLM District within the area affected by this decision. These Forests and Districts mailed the scoping letter to their lists encompassing over 1,200 interested individuals, organizations, Federal agencies, and state, local, and Tribal governments. This letter notified the public that an EA was being prepared, the purpose of and need for the action, the proposed action, and an invitation to participate and make comment during the formal comment period.
The EA was issued for a 30-day formal comment period beginning October 7, 1998. A total of 72 individuals and representatives of organizations, agencies, and governments commented during this period. Their comments and the FS and BLM responses were categorized in 12 substantive issues. The summary of comments and responses is attached as Appendix G of the EA. A list of the individuals and organizations submitting comments on the EA is found in Appendix H.
No additional notice or opportunity for public comment was offered prior to this decision. There
is no requirement in statute or regulation for such notice and comment. There is no precedent for
notice and comment in this situation -- an extension of an action found not to significantly affect
the quality of the human environment. Agency staff analyzed this action and we have found the
information in the EA and conclusions in the FONSI to be still valid. No public purpose would
be served by another round of notice and comment.
ADMINISTRATIVE REVIEW OPPORTUNITIES
There are no opportunities for administrative review of this plan maintenance. The purpose of and expected result of the change in survey schedule is to maintain the basic decisions made in the existing RMPs as to the scope of resource uses. The terms of the Survey and Manage provisions of the existing RMPs included making changes in the schedule as experience was acquired. A change in the schedule was thus part of the existing decisions. A determination of exactly what the change of schedule should be is, therefore, simply a refinement to comport with actual experience and data and is not a change in the RMP decision itself. Neither the protect provisions of 43 CFR 1610 nor the appeal provisions of 43 CFR Part 4 apply to plan maintenance. This plan maintenance does not provide final authorization for any timber sale, restoration, or other on-the-ground action or project. Timber sales and other projects will undergo appropriate site-specific analysis and will comply with applicable regulatory requirements for public participation and administrative appeal.
PUBLIC NOTICE OF THIS PLAN MAINTENANCE
Notice of this decision will be published in the following newspapers: The Sacramento Bee, The Oregonian.
ADMINISTRATIVE OR SUPPORTING RECORD
Records documenting the preparation and review of this schedule change are available at:
|Survey and Manage Project|
c/o Regional Ecosystem Office
P.O. Box 3623
Portland, Oregon 97208-3623
For further information, please contact Cheryl McCaffrey, Bureau of Land Management, 1515 SW 5th Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97201. Cheryl may be reached by telephone at (503) 952-6050.
[9/1/03 NOTE: New Contact Information: Rob Huff, Bureau of Land Management, 333 SW 1st Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97204. Rob may be reached by telephone at (503)808-6479.]
By signing this Plan Maintenance Documentation, we exercise our respective authorities over only those portions relevant to our authority.
|/s/ C. Wassinger (for)
Date: March 8, 2000
| /s/ Al Wright
Date: March 13, 2000