Medford Record of Decision and Resource Management Plan

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Medford Record of Decision

Medford District Resource Management Plan Table of Contents:

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Record of Decision for the Medford District Resource Management Plan


INTRODUCTION

This Record of Decision adopts and approves for immediate implementation the Medford District Resource Management Plan (RMP). The RMP is based on a combination of this office's August 1992 Draft Resource Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (Draft RMP/EIS) and the October 1994 Proposed Resource Management Plan/Final Environmental Impact Statement (PRMP/FEIS). The RMP is a modification, in response to public comment and protest, of the Proposed RMP presented in the October 1994 document. It is supported by the February 1994 Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) on Management of Habitat of Late-Successional and Old-Growth Forest Related Species Within the Range of the Northern Spotted Owl and is consistent with 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 (ROD). The RMP addresses resource management on 866,278 (Master Title Plat) acres of BLM-administered land and 4,672 acres of reserved mineral estate administered by Bureau of Land Management in the Medford District, which is within Jackson, Josephine, Douglas, Curry, and Coos counties, Oregon.

The approved resource management plan responds to the need for a healthy forest and rangeland 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, BLM-managed lands are primarily allocated to Riparian Reserves, Late Successional Reserves, the Applegate Adaptive Management Area, Connectivity/Diversity Blocks and General Forest Management Areas. The 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 R-1, which may be found at the end of this Record of Decision.

ALTERNATIVES CONSIDERED AND RATIONALE FOR DECISION

Seven alternatives for management of the Bureau administered lands and resources in the Medford District were analyzed in the PRMP/FEIS, and nine other alternatives in the FSEIS.

No Action: This alternative would not change the BLM management direction established in the current Jackson/Klamath and Josephine Management Framework Plans and associated timber management and 1984 Medford Grazing Management FEIS.

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 the contribution of timber production on Oregon and California Revested Railroad lands to community stability, consistent with a variety of other land uses. Public domain lands with non-timber values and uses of greater importance than timber production would be managed primarily for those values and uses.

Alternative C: This alternative would emphasize retention and improvement of biological diversity while providing a sustained yield of timber to contribute to economic stability.

Alternative D: This alternative would emphasize management for plant and animal habitat diversity, dispersed non-motorized recreation opportunities, and scenic resources. It would include a variety of other resource values or use including some timber production.

Alternative E: This alternative would emphasize protection of older forests, and management and enhancement of values or uses, such as dispersed, non-motorized recreation activities and scenic resources.

The Proposed Resource Management Plan: This alternative would emphasize ecosystem management. 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 while providing commodities in support of local, regional, and national economies.

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 p. 1-4:

The need for forest habitat is the need for a healthy forest ecosystem with habitat that will support populations of native species and includes protection for riparian areas and waters. This need was reflected by President Clinton at the April 2, l993, Forest Conference in Portland, Oregon.
 
The need for forest products from forest ecosystems is 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. This need also was reflected by President Clinton at the Forest Conference.

The Congressionally directed purposes for managing 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 adopted 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 (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.

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 is the best alternative for providing a sustainable level of human use of BLM-administered resources while still meeting the need to maintain and restore the late-successional and old-growth forest ecosystem. We therefore selected the PRMP as the management direction that best responds to the purpose and need for the proposed action.

This conclusion is based 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. The PRMP provides the greatest protection of aquatic habitat, since it provides for wider riparian reserves and more protective measures for perennial and intermittent streams than other alternatives.

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 therefore makes no specific provision for the recovery of those species. In addition, it reflects a very low level of riparian habitat protection. In view of these factors, 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.

Alternative C would produce approximately the same level of timber supply as the PRMP but would provide somewhat less protection for riparian-dependent species and consequently less connectivity between reserves that aid in the dispersal of terrestrial species. According the to PRMP/FEIS, p. 4-57: "Riparian zones also provide connectivity between blocks of suitable habitat when the uplands have been harvested. These links would be far less effective in alternatives A, B, C, and the NA than they would be under alternatives D, E, and the PRMP. In conclusion, the adverse effects of removing riparian zone habitat would be greatest under alternative A and slightly less under alternatives NA, B, and C. Of primary importance is the loss of riparian zones along first and second order streams...."

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 Chapter 4 of the PRMP/FEIS. Based upon the PRMP/FEIS and all of the information in the record, the PRMP will continue to meet the needs of species influenced by federal land management activities. It also meets the requirements of the Endangered Species Act for the conservation of listed species. Finally, it meets the requirements of laws directing the management of these lands 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 the elements of the environment, and requirements for coordinated planning and consultation.

In addition, the PRMP offers advantages that the other alternatives do not -- its inclusion of adaptive management and an adaptive management area. Adaptive management involves experimentation, identifying new information, evaluating it, accounting for it in discretionary decisions, and determining whether to adjust plan direction. The object is to improve the implementation and achieve the goals of the selected alternative. The PRMP is the only one that specifically allocates an adaptive management area (the Applegate Adaptive Management Area) which may be used to develop and test new management approaches to achieve the desired acological, economic, and other social objectives. The Applegate Adaptive Management Area offers the opportunity for creative, voluntary participation in forest management activities by willing participants. It is recognized that this will take time, effort, and a good-faith commitment to the goal of improved forest management. Many of the potentially participating communities and agencies have different capabilities for joining this effort. Our approach to implementing this initiative will recognize and reflect these differences as we seek to encourage and support the broadest possible participation.

Moreover, the PRMP allows silvicultural activities, such as thinning young stands in late-successional reserves when those activities will enhance late-successional conditions. Even when compared to Alternative E (which in the short-term protects more old growth than the PRMP, the PRMP will in the future provide a better connected network of old-growth forest. Furthermore, when compared to Alternative E, the PRMP provides nearly twice as much timber harvest to contribute to the long-term stability of the local and regional economies.

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:

  • Fulfills the responsibility of this generation as trustee of the environment for succeeding generations;

  • Assures for all Americans productive and aesthetically and culturally pleasing surroundings;

  • Attains the widest range of beneficial uses of the environment without degradation or other undesirable and unintended consequences;

  • Preserves important natural aspects of our national heritage and maintains an environment which supports diversity and variety of individual choice;

  • Achieves a balance between population and resource use, which permits high standards of living and a wide sharing of life's amenities; and

  • Enhances the quality of renewable resources and approach the maximum attainable recycling of depletable resources.

Alternative E would allow for the smallest amount of directly human-induced effects on the physical environment. It would exclude timber management from most old-growth forest stands, preserving them from human management actions. It would set aside more existing older forest acres than any other alternative, 304, 500 acres. Alternative E would reserve for retention and development of older forest 593,500 acres of land, the most of any alternative. In the long-term, the percentage of acres in riparian zones in good condition on BLM-administered lands is expected to increase by 95% under both alternative E and the PRMP as compared to existing conditions. Based on the probably sale quantity estimates, BLM-administered lands in the planning area would produce about 5 million cubic feet (i.e. 31 MMBF)of timber annually under alternative E. Finally, alternative E provides for the highest possible designation of areas with amenity values such as potential wild and scenic rivers, potential areas of critical environmental concern, or areas with high scenic quality. Based on the above factors, we conclude that alternative E is the "environmentally preferable alternative."

IMPLEMENTATION

Decisions in this plan will be implemented over a period of years. The rate of implementation is tied to 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 sub-units or for individual programs or projects will be established after watershed analysis, late successional reserve assessments, adaptive management area plans and further environmental analysis is completed, as appropriate. Those priorities will be reviewed annually to help develop the work plan commitments for the coming years. The procedures to implement the RMP, called Management Actions/Direction, are shown in the approved plan on a decision-by-decision basis. Although the RMP implementing actions are described by individual resources, most activities will be consolidated and considered in inter-disciplinary, 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 rights-of-way, leases, agreements, 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 depends 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 is consistent with the ongoing development of BLM State Office, Regional and National guidance.

PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT

A notice announcing the formal start of the Medford District RMP planning process was published in the Federal Register in September 1986, in the local news media, and through a mass mailer to all known interested parties. A long series of planning brochures and documents was distributed over the entire planning period to provide public participation and response opportunities in the development of planning issues, goals, objectives and data needs for the Medford District planning effort.

In February 1991, copies of the Medford District Analysis of Management Situation (AMS) summary 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 ongoing five BLM western Oregon RMP/EISs.

On August 28, 1992, a Notice of Availability of the Draft RMP/EIS was published in the Federal Register by the BLM. Newspapers 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 Draft RMP/EIS was sent to approximately 1,200 individuals, organizations and agencies. A total of 176 persons attended the meetings. A total of 1,446 letters, form letters, or petitions was 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 (FSEIS) 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 Record of Decision and is hereby incorporated by reference.

On November 25, 1994, a Notice of Availability of the Proposed RMP/FEIS was published in the Federal Register by the BLM. In addition, a notice by the Environmental Protection Agency initiated the official 30-day protest and public comment period. Newspapers and other media were also notified of the document availability, the length of the protest period and the dates, time and locations of two public meetings. The PRMP/FEIS was sent to over 1,400 individuals, organizations and agencies. A total of nine persons attended the two public meetings. A total of 203 letters and form 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. Ten valid protests on the proposed Medford RMP were received, reviewed, and resolved by the Director. As a result of the protests (and 203 comment letters received at the Medford District Office) 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. These minor changes include: changes to the visual resource management class and rural interface area designation in the Cobleigh Road area; clarification of the timber harvest deferral in the Cascade/Siskiyou Ecological Emphasis Area; language revisions made to tighten the link between the approved RMP and the 1994 Record of Decision for Amendments to Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management Planning Documents Within the Range of the Northern Spotted Owl 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 (or Northwest Forest Plan/ROD); and finally, revisions were made that incorporate guidelines issued by the Regional Ecosystem Office since the issuance of the 1994 Record of Decision named above. Such guidelines may clarify or interpret the 1994 Record of Decision.

RECOMMENDATION

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

_______________________________ ____________________
David A. Jones Date

District Manager, Medford District, Oregon

APPROVAL

I approve the Medford Resource Management Plan as recommended and hereby declare that, effective October 1, 1994, the annual productive capacity (allowable harvest level) of the Jackson, Josephine, and that portion of the Klamath Master Unit in the Medford District is 9.7 MM 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