Questions & Answers
Aquatic Conservation Strategy
Final Supplemental EIS
Q) Why are you proposing changes to the Aquatic Conservation Strategy (ACS)?
A) Preferred Alternative A in the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) does not change the ACS. The Preferred Alternative would retain all components of the ACS strategy, including the protective measures in the standards and guidelines such as riparian buffer widths. The Final SEIS would amend the Northwest Forest Plan Record of Decision to clarify that:
∑The proper scales for Federal land managers to evaluate progress toward achievement of the ACS objectives are the fifth field watershed scale and broader. A fifth-field watershed ranges from approximately 20 to 150 square miles (20,000 to 100,000 acres).
∑No single project should be expected to achieve all ACS objectives.
∑Decision makers must design projects to follow the ACS. Project records must contain evidence that projects comply with relevant standards and guidelines in Sections C and D of Attachment A in the Northwest Forest Plan Record of Decision. Project records must also demonstrate how the decision maker used relevant information from applicable watershed analysis to provide context for the design and assessment of the project.
∑References to ACS objectives in the standards and guidelines in Sections C and D do not require that decision makers find that site-scale projects, in themselves, will fully attain ACS objectives.
ACS objectives are important and the agencies will monitor watersheds over time to help ensure that ACS objectives are attained.
Q) What were the changes between the Draft ACS SEIS and the Final ACS SEIS?
A)The Final ACS SEIS responds to the 1,200 comments received on the Draft SEIS. The Final SEIS includes three alternatives: No Action, Proposed Action, and Alternative A. The Preferred Alternative is Alternative A. The inclusion of Alternative A in the Final SEIS responds to comments received on the Draft SEIS by clarifying that ACS objectives will be attained at the fifth-field watershed scale and not at the project or site level.
Q) When will the Record of Decision be issued?
A) The Record of Decision will be issued in December.
Q) Why arenít 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?
A) 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.
Q) Will the language clarification lead to more projects being implemented?
A) The proposed clarification would 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 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 that would result from the proposed language change would be that managers would 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 youíve done under the plan?
A) No. The Biological Opinion for the Northwest Forest Plan is currently valid. However, the Forest Service and the BLM have reinitiated consultation with NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the Northwest Forest Plan through a new Biological Assessment (BA). The BA will review new information developed since the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan Record of Decision along with the proposed changes in the ACS Final SEIS. In addition, an interagency team made up of NOAA Fisheries, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service and BLM are developing 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. The BLM and Forest Service anticipate finalizing this new consultation process in the fall of 2003.
Q) Wonít this clarification in language reduce protections for fish and aquatic habitat?
A) 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 watershed scale, 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.