USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region

Sierra Nevada Conservation Framework


During 1996, two major assessments were completed for the Sierra Nevada. First, the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP) was completed for Congress by a multi-disciplinary group of scientists - under the: leadership of the University of California. The SNEP report was delivered to Congress in May 1996. Shortly thereafter, the Forest Service completed a revised draft environmental impact statement (RDEIS) to address management of California spotted owl habitat and associated resources in the national forests of the Sierra Nevada.

During 1997, independent scientific review teams were chartered by the Secretary of Agriculture and the Senate Natural Resources Committee. The task of each team was to evaluate how well current science was incorporated into the development and evaluation of management options for Sierra Nevada national forests in the spotted owl RDEIS. Their reports have been completed.

In response to intense interest in the management of lands and natural resources in the Sierra Nevada, USDA Forest Service Regional Forester Lynn Sprague and Pacific Southwest Research Station Director Hal Salwasser are now working with other leaders to develop and initiate a Sierra Nevada Conservation Framework. The Framework will address major issues and needs identified in SNEP, the RDEIS, and the scientific reviews of the RDEIS with the overarching goal of sustaining the health, productivity and resilience of Sierra Nevada ecosystems in concert with meeting the needs of people and communities whose well being depends in various ways on the Sierra Nevada. A major objective for the Framework will be to develop broad consensus about management and land-use goals for the Sierra and identify courses of action to achieve those goals. These goals and courses of action can then be used by the Forest Service and others to guide their individual management programs.

The Sierra Nevada Conservation Framework will use products of both the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project and the spotted owl RDEIS as information resources. It will be developed through an open, public process that includes Federal and State agencies, counties, tribes and other groups with interests or responsibilities in the Sierra Nevada. Particular attention will be devoted to insuring full participation by local communities and coordination with other projects now underway or being considered such as the CalFed Bay Delta Project's upper watershed strategy, the Quincy Library Group, Lake Tahoe Watershed assessment, Firesafe California, and Giant Sequoia conservation. Strong collaboration between scientists and managers of all participating agencies and groups, building from the SNEP and CalFed experiences, will be another objective for the Framework. The University of California, California State University, the University of Nevada and other institutions of education and research will play important specific roles in the Framework.

The Conservation Framework will be completed by existing personnel from participating agencies and groups. It will address the major natural resource issues raised in the SNEP, DEIS, and scientific reviews such as water and riparian areas, forest fuels management and forest health, late-successional forests, wildlife associated with old forests, native biodiversity, sustainable production of natural resources, roads and roadless area management, and community vitality.

Research and education actions needed for successful implementation. It will also identify monitoring needed to support adaptive management. The research, education and monitoring will be used to identify priority projects for the Pacific Southwest Research Station,the University of California, and others.

The Conservation Framework will embrace an adaptive approach to resource management that monitoring and research to adjust management programs over time.

Another objective of the Framework will be to bridge planning processes between Federal, State, County and community levels in the various bioregions of the Sierra by providing range-wide coordination. Today, State, Federal, and local governments typically plan independently for programs within their responsibility. Yet major Sierra resources routinely cross jurisdictional boundaries such as water, air, wildlife, fires and fish. This project will explore how to better integrate planning among agencies and involve the public and local interests in setting future directions.

Program Participants

In early 1998, the Forest Service will convene meetings of the potential partners, including:

National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Environmental Protection Agency, Natural Resource Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Regional Council of Rural Counties, Calif. Assoc. of Resource Conservation Districts, The Resources Agency , Department of Forestry & Fire Protection, Department of Fish and Game, Department of Parks and Recreation, University of California and Tribal Governments.

The purpose of these meetings is to discuss what is needed in a Sierra Nevada Conservation Framework and craft a charter that identifies its purpose and need, scope, expected outcomes, and executive oversight process. The charter will be developed after reviewing lessons learned from SNEP, the RDEIS, scientific review, and regional-scale projects in other parts of the country. Other goals for these early meetings will be to determine how the project will involve the public and government agencies and how the major issues will be addressed.

Short-term Direction between now and the completion of the Conservation Framework, existing National Forest Land Management Plans will continue to guide management of national forests in the Sierra Nevada. However, short-term direction for issues such as old-growth forests, roadless areas, and aquatic/riparian resources may be considered by Forest Service officials to guide some operations during development of the conservation Framework.

Additional Information

For more information contact Mike Chapel at (530) 478-6203 OR (916) 498-5322,

Sierra Nevada January 22,1998

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