Record of Decision for the Coos Bay District Resource Management Plan


Prepared by Bureau of Land Management, Coos Bay District, North Bend, Oregon.

Introduction

This Record of Decision adopts and approves for immediate implementation the Coos Bay District Resource Management Plan, based on the combination of the August 1992 Draft Resource Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (DRMP/EIS) and the September 1994 Proposed Resource Management Plan/Final Environmental Impact Statement (PRMP/FEIS). The Record of Decision (ROD) is also supported by, and consistent with, the February 1994 Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on Management of Habitat of Late-Successional and Old-Growth Forest Related Species Within the Range of the Northern Spotted Owl (SEIS) and its associated April 1994 interagency Record of Decision for Amendments to Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management Planning Documents Within the Range of the Northern Spotted Owl. The Resource Management Plan (RMP) addresses resource management on approximately 329,700 acres of BLM-administered land and 12,150 acres of reserved mineral estate administered by Bureau of Land Management in the Coos Bay District, which are primarily in Coos, Curry, Douglas and Lane counties, Oregon.

The approved Resource Management Plan responds to the need for a healthy forest ecosystem with habitat that will contribute toward and support populations of native species, particularly those associated with late-successional and old-growth forests. It also responds to the need for a sustainable supply of timber and other forest products that will help maintain the stability of local and regional economies, and contribute valuable resources to the national economy on a predictable and long-term basis. As guided by the April 1994 interagency Record of Decision for Amendments to Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management Planning Documents Within the Range of the Northern Spotted Owl, BLM-managed lands are primarily allocated to Riparian Reserves, Late-Successional Reserves, Connectivity/Diversity Blocks and General Forest Management Areas. An Aquatic Conservation Strategy will be applied to all lands and waters under BLM administration. Major land and resource allocations of the approved Resource Management Plan are displayed in Table 1, which is at the end of this ROD.

Alternatives Considered and Rationale for Decision

There were seven alternatives analyzed in the FEIS for management of the BLM-administered lands and resources in the Coos Bay District, and nine other alternatives were analyzed in the final SEIS. The following is a brief description of each alternative analyzed in the FEIS.

The Proposed Resource Management Plan - This alternative would emphasize ecosystem management. Resources would be managed with an emphasis on retention of late-successional forests, restoration and/or maintenance of watershed conditions, protection of special status and other species requiring special attention, and a variety of other land uses. It would also respond to public comments, incorporate land use allocations and management direction from the interagency Record of Decision noted above, and allow the BLM to manage the natural resources under its jurisdiction to maintain healthy, diverse and productive ecosystems.

No Action - This alternative would entail no change from the management direction established in BLM's current Management Framework Plans (except where Congress has since enacted legislation prescribing different management direction for specific geographic areas or transferring specific lands to the administration or ownership of other parties).

Alternative A - This alternative would emphasize a high production of timber and other economically important values on all lands to contribute to community stability.

Alternative B - This alternative would emphasize timber production to contribute to community stability, consistent with the variety of other land uses, on O&C and Coos Bay Wagon Road lands. Public domain lands having greater importance for nontimber values and uses other than timber production, however, would be managed primarily for the maintenance of those nontimber values and uses.

Alternative C - This alternative would provide timber production to contribute to community stability consistent with the variety of other land uses. It would emphasize retention and improvement of natural biological diversity.

Alternative D - This alternative would emphasize management and enhancement of values such as diversity of wildlife habitat, dispersed nonmotorized recreation opportunities, and scenic resources, consistent with a variety of other land uses including some timber production. Spotted owl habitat would be protected in accordance with the Interagency Scientific Committee Conservation Strategy for the Northern Spotted Owl.

Alternative E - This alternative would emphasize protection of older forests, and management and enhancement of values such as dispersed nonmotorized recreation opportunities and scenic resources. A sustained yield of timber would be produced consistent with the emphasis on these other values.

Rationale

The proposed action responds to multiple needs, the two primary ones being the need for forest habitat and the need for forest products. As stated in the PRMP/FEIS, on page 1-4:

The Congressionally directed purposes for managing the BLM-administered lands include both conserving the ecosystems upon which species depend, and at the same time providing raw materials and other resources that are needed to sustain the health and economic well-being of the people of this country. To balance these sometimes conflicting purposes, we adopt the alternative that will both maintain the late-successional and old-growth forest ecosystem and provide a predictable and sustainable supply of timber, recreational opportunities, and other resources at the highest level possible. The Proposed Resource Management Plan Alternative (PRMP) best meets these criteria.

The PRMP, unlike all of the other action alternatives, applies the same criteria for management of habitat on both Forest Service and BLM lands. This was done in order to accomplish most efficiently the dual objectives discussed above — that is, achieving the biological results required by law, while minimizing adverse impact on timber harvests and jobs. The inefficiencies involved in applying different criteria on Forest Service and BLM land have been noted in previous analyses. For example, in the Report of the Scientific Analysis Team ("SAT Report"), the team found that BLM's plans were relatively high-risk, when compared to the plans of the Forest Service, in terms of conserving the northern spotted owl. As a result, the SAT found that in order for the Forest Service to "make up for significantly increased risks," it would have to dramatically increase the size of protected areas on Forest Service land (SAT Report, pages 12-13).

We have reviewed the alternatives discussed in the PRMP/FEIS and their predicted environmental, economic and social consequences, and the risks and safeguards inherent in them. The PRMP in the PRMP/FEIS is the best alternative for providing a sustainable level of human use of the forest resources while still meeting the need to maintain and restore the late-successional and old-growth forest ecosystem. We therefore select the PRMP as the management direction that best responds to the purpose and need for the proposed action as expressed in the PRMP/FEIS.

We base our conclusion on a number of factors. Although management under Alternatives A, B, or the No-Action Alternative would provide higher levels of timber supply than the PRMP, those alternatives would not provide adequate assurance that the processes and functions of late-successional and old-growth forest ecosystems would be maintained and restored, and would not provide adequate assurance that the riparian habitat essential for many aquatic and terrestrial species would be maintained and restored. All alternatives, except Alternative E and the PRMP, would have a negative long-term impact on the northern spotted owl. The PRMP would have a beneficial impact on more Special Status Animal Species than any other alternative. See PRMP/FEIS, pages 4-68 through 4-86. The PRMP "provides the greatest protection of aquatic habitat" by providing wider Riparian Reserves and more protective measures for perennial and intermittent streams than other alternatives. See PRMP/FEIS, page 4-60.

The No-Action Alternative is based on plans that existed prior to the listing of both the northern spotted owl and the marbled murrelet, and it makes no specific provision for the recovery of those species. In addition, it reflects a relatively low level of riparian habitat protection. In view of these factors, we think it is unlikely that Alternatives A and B and the No-Action Alternative would be deemed to satisfy the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.

The impacts to many species, and groups of species, of fish, wildlife and plants are complex and difficult to summarize in this Record of Decision. They are described in detail in the PRMP/FEIS. Based upon the PRMP/FEIS and all of the information in the record, we have determined that PRMP will continue to meet the needs of species influenced by federal land management activities. We find it meets the requirements of the Endangered Species Act for the conservation of listed species. It also meets the requirements of laws directing the management of these forests for sustainable multiple uses, including the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, and the Oregon and California Lands Act. Moreover, it meets the requirements of acts that protect elements of the environment, and requirements for coordinated planning and consultation.

The PRMP allows silvicultural activities, such as thinning young stands in Late-Successional Reserves, when those activities will enhance late-successional conditions. Compared to the other alternatives, the PRMP will in the future provide the best network of old-growth forests.

The Environmentally Preferable Alternative

Environmental preferability is judged using the criteria suggested in the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), which is guided by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The CEQ has stated that "The environmentally preferable alternative is the alternative that will promote the national environmental policy as expressed in NEPA's Section 101. Generally, this means the alternative that causes the least damage to the biological and physical environment; it also means the alternative which best protects, preserves, and enhances historic, cultural, and natural resources." (Council on Environmental Quality, "Forty Most Asked Questions Concerning CEQ's National Environmental Policy Act Regulations (40 CFR 1500-1598), Federal Register Vol. 46, No. 55, 18026-18038, March 23, 1981: Question 6a.)

NEPA's Section 101 establishes the following goals:

The PRMP would allow for the smallest amount of directly human-induced effects on the physical environment. It would provide approximately 136,800 acres to be managed for the retention and development of older forests (Late-Successional Reserves) and 6,600 acres to be managed for the maintenance of older forest characteristics (Connectivity/Diversity Blocks). Approximately 89,600 acres would be managed as Riparian Reserves. (See PRMP/FEIS, Figure S-2, page S-15.) The PRMP has more positive estimated effects on wildlife habitat than any other alternative. (See PRMP/FEIS, Table 4-8, page 4-37.) In the long-term, the conditions of riparian zones on BLM-administered lands are expected to improve under the PRMP more than any other alternative. (See PRMP/FEIS, page 4-47.) Based on the probable sale quantity estimates, BLM forests in the planning area would produce about 5.3 million cubic feet (i.e., 32 MMBF) of timber annually under the PRMP. (See PRMP/FEIS, Table S-1, page S-22.) Based on these factors, we conclude that the PRMP is the "environmentally preferable alternative."

Implementation

Decisions in this plan will be implemented over a period of years. The rate of implementation is dependent on the BLM's budgeting process. General priorities for overall management will be developed through long-term budgeting processes and in consultation with other agencies, tribes and government units. Specific priorities for geographic subunits or for individual programs or projects will be established, in large part, after local watershed analysis, Late-Successional Reserve assessments, and further environmental analysis are completed, as appropriate. Those priorities will be reviewed annually to help develop the work plan commitments for the coming years. The procedures to implement, called Management Actions/Direction, are shown in the approved plan by major land use allocations and by resource program. Although the RMP implementing actions are described by individual resources, most activities will be consolidated and considered in interdisciplinary, multi-resource activity plans and based on watershed analyses.

Valid Existing Rights

This plan will not repeal valid existing rights on public lands. Valid existing rights are those rights or claims to rights that take precedence over the actions contained in this plan. Valid existing rights may be held by other federal, state or local government agencies, or by private individuals or companies. Valid existing rights may pertain to mining claims, mineral or energy leases, rights-of-way, reciprocal right-of-way agreements, leases and permits, and water rights.

Administrative Actions

Various types of administrative actions will require special attention beyond the scope of this plan. Administrative actions are the day-to-day transactions required to serve the public and to provide optimum use of the resources. These actions are in conformance with the plan. They include, but are not limited to: permits or sales for traditional or special forest products; competitive and commercial recreation activities; lands and realty actions, including issuance of grants, leases, and permits, and resolution of trespass; facility maintenance; law enforcement and hazardous material removal or mitigation; enforcement and monitoring of permit stipulations; cadastral surveys to determine legal land or mineral estate ownership; and engineering support to assist in mapping, designing and implementing projects. These and other administrative actions will be conducted at the resource area, district or state level, sometimes in partnership with other landowners or agencies or entities. The degree to which these actions are carried out will depend upon BLM policies, available personnel, funding levels, and further environmental analysis and decision making, as appropriate.

Mitigation and Monitoring

All protective measures and other management direction identified in the plan will be taken to avoid or mitigate adverse impacts. These measures will be taken throughout implementation. All practical means to avoid or reduce environmental harm will be adopted, monitored and evaluated, as appropriate.

Monitoring will be conducted as identified in the approved plan. Monitoring and evaluations will be utilized to ensure that decisions and priorities conveyed by the plan are being implemented, that progress toward identified resource objectives is occurring, that mitigating measures and other management direction are effective in avoiding or reducing adverse environmental impacts, and that the plan is maintained and consistent with the ongoing development of BLM State Office, regional, and national guidance.

Public Involvement

A notice announcing the formal start of the Coos Bay District RMP planning process was published in the Federal Register (Vol.51, No.167) on August 28, 1986, in the local news media, and a mailer to all known interested parties. A series of planning brochures and documents were distributed over the entire planning period to provide public input and feedback opportunities in the development of planning issues, goals, objectives and data needs for the Coos Bay District planning effort.

In January, 1991, approximately 350 copies of the Coos Bay District Summary of the Analysis of the Management Situation and preliminary alternatives were mailed to interested agencies, organizations and individuals. This document described a variety of alternatives (most of which had similar objectives) to comparable alternatives in the other five ongoing BLM western Oregon RMP/EISs.

On August 20, 1992, a Notice of Availability of the Draft Coos Bay District Proposed Resource Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement was published in the Federal Register (Vol. 57, No. 162) by the BLM, in addition to an August 21, 1992 (Vol. 57, No. 163) notice by the Environmental Protection Agency. Newspaper and other media were also notified of the document availability; the length of the comment period; and the date, time and locations of public meetings. The DRMP/DEIS or the Summary was sent to approximately 1,800 individuals, organizations and agencies. A total of 25 persons attended the meetings. A total of 196 letters and 799 form letters or resolutions signed by 1,115 people were received by the end of the extended comment period.

A summary of public involvement associated with the July 1993 Draft and February 1994 Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on Management of Habitat of Late-Successional and Old-Growth Forest Related Species Within the Range of the Northern Spotted Owl is included on pages 58-73 of the April 1994 interagency Record of Decision for Amendments to Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management Planning Documents Within the Range of the Northern Spotted Owl and is hereby incorporated by reference.

On November 22, 1994, a Notice of Availability of the Final Coos Bay District Proposed Resource Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement was published in the Federal Register (Vol. 59, No. 224) by the BLM. In addition, a November 25, 1994 notice by the Environmental Protection Agency (Vol. 59, No.226) initiated the official protest and public comment period. Newspaper and other media were also notified of the document availability; the length of the protest period; and the dates, time and locations of public meetings. The PRMP/FEIS or the summary was sent to approximately 570 individuals, organizations and agencies. A total of two persons attended the meetings. Four letters were received by the District Manager. There were no objections or recommendations by the Governor on behalf of any State or local government entities. There are no known inconsistencies with officially approved or adopted natural resource related plans, policies or programs of applicable State or local governments or Indian tribes.

The official period to protest the proposed plan closed on December 27, 1994. Five valid protests on the proposed Coos Bay District RMP were received, reviewed, and resolved by the Director. As a result of the protests and four comment letters, a number of non-substantive changes have been made in the text of the approved plan to reflect typographical corrections, improve clarity, or demonstrate consistency with various regulatory procedures or policies.

Recommendation

With full knowledge of the commitment to resource and ecosystem management represented by the plan, I recommend the adoption of the Coos Bay District Resource Management Plan.

_________________________________ _____________
Cary Osterhaus Date

District Manager, Coos Bay District

State Director Approval

I approve the Coos Bay District Resource Management Plan as recommended and hereby declare that, effective October 1, 1994, the annual productive capacity (allowable harvest level) of the South Coast - Curry Master Units is 5.3 million cubic feet.

This document meets the requirements for a Record of Decision as provided in 40 CFR 1505.2.

_________________________________ _____________
Elaine Zielinski Date

State Director, Oregon/Washington
Bureau of Land Management