Purpose and Need
As discussed in the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on Management of Habitat for Late-Successional and Old-Growth Forest Related Species Within the Range of the Northern Spotted Owl (hereafter referred to as the SEIS), the RMP responds to two needs: the need for forest habitat, and the need for forest products.
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, 1993, 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 Resource Management Plan (RMP) was developed after consideration of the following:
The RMP was developed under the requirements of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) through the use of an interdisciplinary planning process. This RMP is written in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and related Council on Environmental Quality regulations.
Management of the Oregon and California revested railroad lands (O&C) is governed by a variety of statutes, including the O&C Lands Act, FLPMA, the Endangered Species Act, and the Clean Water Act. The O&C Lands Act requires the Secretary of the Interior to manage O&C lands for permanent forest production; however, such management must also be in accord with sustained-yield principles. Further, that Act requires that management of O&C lands protect watersheds, regulate streamflow, provide for recreational facilities, and contribute to the economic stability of local communities and industries. The Act does not require the Secretary to harvest all old-growth timber nor all commercial timber as rapidly as possible or according to any particular schedule. The Secretary has discretion to determine how to manage the forest on a sustained-yield basis that provides for permanency of timber production over a long-term period. The Secretary must necessarily make judgments, informed by as much information as possible, about what kind of management will lead to permanent forest production that satisfies the principle of sustained yield.
O&C lands must also be managed in accordance with other environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act. Some provisions of these laws take precedence over the O&C Lands Act. For instance, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires the Secretary to ensure that management of O&C lands will not likely result in jeopardy to listed species or destruction or adverse modification of their critical habitat. The ESA directs the Secretary and all federal agencies to utilize their authorities to carry out programs for the conservation and recovery of listed species. Section 5(a) of the Act also directs that: "the Secretary, and the Secretary of Agriculture with respect to the National Forest System, shall establish and implement a program to conserve fish, wildlife, and plants, including those which are listed as endangered species or threatened species pursuant to Section 4 of this Act" (16 U.S.C. § 1534[a]). Although several northern spotted owl recovery plans have been proposed, the Secretary has not yet adopted final recovery plans for either the northern spotted owl or the marbled murrelet. The SEIS ROD's late-successional and riparian reserve concepts are important building blocks in the development of recovery plans to achieve the conservation and recovery of those species.
One purpose of the Endangered Species Act is the preservation of ecosystems upon which endangered and threatened species depend. A forward-looking land management policy would require that federal lands be managed in a way to minimize the need to list species under the ESA. Additional species listings could have the effect of further limiting the O&C Lands Act's goal of achieving and maintaining permanent forest production. This would contribute to the economic instability of local communities and industries, in contravention of a primary objective of Congress in enacting the O&C Lands Act. That Act does not limit the Secretary's ability to take steps now that would avoid future listings and additional disruptions.
Protection of watersheds and regulation of streamflow are explicit purposes of forest production under the O&C Lands Act. Riparian reserves, including those established on O&C lands under the RMP, are designed to restore and maintain aquatic ecosystem functions. Together with other components of the aquatic conservation strategy, riparian reserves will provide substantial watershed protection benefits. Riparian reserves will also help attain and maintain water quality standards which are a fundamental aspect of watershed protection. Both riparian reserves and late-successional reserves will help regulate streamflows by moderating peak streamflows and attendant adverse impacts to watersheds.