A Brief History: Forest Service
Large-Scale Studies and Decisions
in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range

Note: Please add significant events that affect planning for the national forests in the Sierra Nevada to this timeline.

Context


Stretching along a north-south axis for more than 400 miles, the Sierra Nevada Mountains form one of the longest continuous mountain ranges in the lower 48 states. The Forest Service manages nearly 11.5 million acres of land under the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan. The Forest Plan is a Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) formulated and promulgated pursuant to the National Forest Management Act (NFMA). See 16 U.S.C. § 1604. NFMA requires the Forest Service to provide for, and to coordinate multiple uses of the national forests, including “outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, wildlife and fish, and wilderness.” 16 U.S.C. § 1604(e)(1). An LRMP adopted pursuant to NFMA guides all management decisions within the forests subject to that LRMP. Individual projects are developed according to the guiding principles and management goals expressed in the LRMP. See Ohio Forestry Ass’n, Inc. v. Sierra Club, 523 U.S. 726, 729-31 (1998). The original Forest Plans were prepared under the 1982 Planning Rule which was revised after decades and released as the 2012 Planning Rule.

Forest Plan Dates


Forest
Year of original Record of Decision
Year(s) of Plan Revision(s)
Eldorado
1989

Inyo
1988

Lassen
1993

Modoc
1991

Plumas
1988

Sequoia
1988; Mediated Settlement Agreement 1990

Giant Sequoia National Monument Plan
2012

Sierra
1992

Stanislaus
1991

Tahoe
1990

Lake Tahoe Basin
1988



Highlights of the Timeline


June, 1990: The northern spotted owl is listed as a Threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. This prompts concern about the status of the California spotted owl in the Sierra Nevada range and in southern California.
July, 1992: The California Spotted Owl: A Technical Assessment of its Current Status report (PSW-GTR-133; CASPO Technical Report) is released by an interagency scientific committee. The report raises concern over the effects of intensive timber harvest practices allowed in the forest plans along with the threat of loss from wildfires to the large and old trees that provide habitat for the California spotted owl. They recommend an Interim Approach that focuses on treating understory fuels while protecting large and old trees.
January, 1993, California Spotted Owl Sierran Province Interim Guidelines (CASPO Interim Guidelines): This regional environmental assessment amended the forest plans for the 10 Sierra Nevada national forests in Region 5 to adopt interim direction similar to the CASPO Technical Report’s recommended Interim Approach. Intended to be in place for 2 years.
1993 – 2012, Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group (HFQLG):
  • 1993 Grassroots organization “Quincy Library Group” organizes to develop the “Community Stability Proposal”
  • 1998 Congress passes the Forest Recovery Act, with a pilot project for Northern California which includes the Lassen National Forest, the Plumas National Forest, and the Sierraville Ranger District of the Tahoe National Forest
  • 2012 The Forest Recovery Act expires
1994 Kings River: Wild and Scenic and Special Management Area Implementation Plan (KRSMA) (Sierra and Sequoia National Forests).
1995: California Spotted Owl (CalOwl) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to replace the Interim Guidelines released for public comments. Based on public comment a Revised DEIS is prepared
1996 Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP):
June, 1996, Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP): The Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project, a study commissioned by Congress, concluded that the environment had been severely degraded and stated: “The aquatic/riparian systems are the most altered and impaired habitats in the Sierra.”
1997: CalOwl Revised DEIS released. Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) committee chartered to address concerns over integration of information from SNEP report. Chief of the Forest Service directs Regional Forester to develop a strategy to ensure ecological sustainability. Revised DEIS withdrawn. Regional Forester convenes an interdisciplinary team to develop the Sierra Nevada Framework for Conservation and Collaboration. This became known as the "Framework".
2001 Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment: A Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision recommending amendments to the Forest Plans was issued. The amendments were intended, among other things, to conserve and restore aquatic and riparian ecosystems. In January, 2001, the Forest Service adopted a modified version of the preferred alternative recommended in the 2001 FEIS. This is referred to as the “2001 Framework.” To resolve the more than 200 appeals filed against the 2001 Framework, in November of 2001, the Chief of the Forest Service affirmed the decision but asked the Regional Forester to review certain elements of the 2001 Framework.
March, 2003: After an extensive 15-month review that included many public meetings, field trips and technical meetings with experts, the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment: Management Review and Recommendations report is issued. This report looked at six specific areas related to the 2001 Framework. A primary consideration was to make recommendations to improve implementability of the plan direction.
January, 2004 Framework: A Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) and Record of Decision was issued, recommending changes to a few key areas (fuels management, livestock grazing, HFQLG) of the 2001 Framework. The preferred alternative was adopted in the 2004 SEIS. This is referred to as the “2004 Framework.” As a result of stakeholder campaigns, over 6,200 appeals are filed but they represent essentially 27 unique appeal letters. Appeals are dismissed and the decision affirmed. Litigation is filed by 3 parties, which is still ongoing.
December, 2004: General Technical Report 193, Proceedings of the Sierra Nevada Science Symposium. Proceedings of a 2002 Symposium that brought together scientists and managers to update science and policy in the Sierra Nevada range since the 1996 SNEP Report.
Giant Sequoia National Monument:
  • 1992 President Bush Proclamation
  • 2000 President Clinton Proclamation
  • 2004 First Giant Sequoia National Monument Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision
  • 2006 Giant Sequoia 2004 decision enjoined by Federal District Court Judge Charles Breyer, who remanded the plan to the Forest Service
  • 2012 Second Giant Sequoia National Monument Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision were completed
  • 2013 Resolution of Appeals to 2012 Decision
December, 2007: Sierra Nevada Forests Management Indicator Species Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision amended all 10 forest plans in the Sierra Nevada. In June, 2012 a litigation settlement was reached to conduct an independent review, which is ongoing.
March, 2009: General Technical Report 220: An Ecosystem Management Strategy for Sierran Mixed-Conifer Forests. A summary of recent information regarding resources and management of Sierra Nevada mixed-conifer forests. Emphasizes recognizing and considering ecological heterogeneity and considering resources at landscape scales.
March 2010: California Water Plan Update 2009. Collaborative plan for management of water across the state. Forest Service contributed to the Forest Management chapter.
June, 2010: California’s Forests and Rangelands: 2010 Assessment and Strategy Reports, Fire and Resource Assessment Program (FRAP). Report on state-wide conditions of forests and rangelands. It will be updated periodically.
August, 2010: The Dinkey Landscape Restoration Project on the Sierra National Forest is chosen to be part of the first nation-wide selection for the Collaborative Landscape Restoration Act.
February, 2012: The Burney-Hat Creek Basins Project on the Lassen National Forest and the Amador-Calaveras Consensus Group Cornerstone Project on the Eldorado and Stanislaus National Forests are chosen to be part of the second selection of Collaborative Landscape Restoration Program projects.
February, 2012: The Chief of the Forest Service selects 8 national forests nationally to serve as pilots for implementation of the new Planning Rule. In California, the Sierra, Sequoia and Inyo National Forests are selected as part of these “Early Adopter” forests to begin forest plan revision once the Planning Rule is finalized.
March 2012: General Technical Report 237, Managing Sierra Nevada Forests released. This is a companion report to GTR-220 that clarifies concepts, provides some updated information, and presents case studies in field implementation of restoration techniques and collaborative efforts.
April 2012: Final rule issued updating 36 CFR Part 219 regarding National Forest System Land Management Planning. This is commonly referred to as the 2012 Planning Rule and it replaces the 1982 Planning Rule and other Planning Rule revisions.
September 2012: New Giant Sequoia National Monument Management Plan, Record of Decision, and Final Environmental Impact Statement released after years of collaborative efforts with multiple agencies, the scientific community, and an engaged public to develop management direction based on public collaboration and current science. Appeals are currently being reviewed.
January 2013: Science Synthesis to Promote Resilience of Social-Ecological Systems in the Sierra Nevada and Southern Cascades released by the USFS Pacific Southwest Research Station to synthesize relevant peer-reviewed science that has become available since the development of the existing land and resource management plans. This draft document was opened for comments and will be finalized in the near future.

Subpart B Travel Management Decisions:


From 2008 to 2010 each Sierra Nevada forest completed a Subpart B Travel Management Decision. These amended the forest plans and made other decisions to implement the provisions of the 2005 Travel Management Rule (36 CFR Part 212, Subpart B).
Travel Management (Subpart B) Record of Decision Dates for the Sierra Nevada National Forests
Eldorado
3/31/2008
Inyo
8/17/2009
Lassen
1/28/2010
Modoc
11/10/2009
Plumas
8/30/2010
Sequoia
12/17/2009
Sierra
3/1/2010
Stanislaus
11/12/2009
Tahoe
9/21/2010
Lake Tahoe Basin
1998-2010 (Decisions on individual transportation sheds)

Sources


United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Opinion, No. 08-17565 D.C. No. 2:05-cv-00953-MCE-GGH, Pacific Rivers Council vs. Forest Service, 2/03/2012