Questions and Answers
Aquatic Conservation Strategy
Record of Decision
Q) Why are you changing the Aquatic Conservation Strategy (ACS)?
This decision does not change the Aquatic Conservation Strategy. It retains all components of the ACS, including the protective measures in the standards and guidelines such as riparian buffer widths. The decision amends the Northwest Forest Plan to clarify that:
ACS objectives are important and the agencies will monitor watersheds over time to help ensure that ACS objectives are attained.
Q) Why weren’t the language clarifications related to the ACS and the Survey and Manage component of the Northwest Forest Plan being addressed in the same environmental impact statement and decision?
Due to the specificity of the proposed change in the ACS related language, the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service felt it would be more appropriate to analyze the proposal in a separate environmental impact statement and make a separate decision.
Q) Will this decision lead to more projects being implemented?
The decision will not result in an immediate increase in project implementation. As is currently the case, future projects will be analyzed and open to public comment and review as is required under the National Environmental Policy Act. Similarly, all projects conducted in areas where there are listed species will continue to be subject to the consultation requirements of the Endangered Species Act. Forest Service and BLM managers continue to be required to meet the requirements of the Northwest Forest Plan in developing their projects, including all the Northwest Forest Plan standards and guidelines.
The only difference from this decision is that managers no longer need to show consistency with ACS objectives for each project. Ultimately, we believe this change will allow projects to move forward in a manner more consistent with the initial intent of the Northwest Forest Plan.
Q) Is the Northwest Forest Plan biological opinion faulty, and does this call into question all the activities you’ve done under the plan?
No. The Forest Service and BLM did reinitiate consultation with NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the Northwest Forest Plan because of this language change. NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service felt that continued implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan, as amended by this decision, would not jeopardize endangered species in the plan area. This was described in the new biological opinions the Forest Service and BLM received from NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In addition, an interagency team made up of NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service and BLM have developed a new consultation method to be used for projects under the Northwest Forest Plan. The new consultation method will not use compliance with ACS as a surrogate for jeopardy analysis.
Q) Won’t this amendment reduce protections for fish and aquatic habitat?
No. The agencies will continue to follow all aspects of the ACS. The standards and guidelines, which include riparian buffers and other protective measures, remain intact and will continue to be implemented. By following the standards and guidelines, ACS objectives will be met over time.
By clarifying that ACS objectives are to be attained at the fifth-field watershed scale and larger, projects that have short-term impacts, such as watershed restoration projects and timber sales, will move forward as long as they comply with all of the protective measures specified in the standards and guidelines. The agencies will monitor sample projects and watersheds over time to assure attainment of ACS objectives.
Q) Why did you not select one of the alternatives from the FSEIS? Can you legally make a decision that was not first presented to the public?
The specific wording in the decision differs from the exact language of the alternatives considered in the FSEIS. We determined that the alternatives in the FSEIS did not provide sufficient clarity to fully achieve the intended purposes of this decision. The effects of the decision are within the range of effects predicted for the action alternatives analyzed in the FSEIS. We may make a decision that is within this range of effects.
Q) Why weren’t the language clarifications related to the ACS and changes to the Survey and Manage component of the Northwest Forest Plan addressed in the same environmental impact statement and Record of Decision?
Due to the specificity of the proposed change in the ACS related language, the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service felt it would be more appropriate to analyze the proposals in separate environmental impact statements and to release two Records of Decisions.
Q) Why was the Record of Decision signed at the secretarial level?
The original 1994 Northwest Forest Plan and a 2001 supplement to the Plan were both signed at the secretarial level.
Q) When will the decision be effective?
The decision is effective immediately and is not subject to protest or administrative appeal.