Amendment to forest plan being considered by Feds

Amendment to forest plan being considered by Feds

19 March 2008

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USA — The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest is initiating the “scoping” process under the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for a project that would amend both of the Forest’s Land and Resource Management Plans (LRMPs) to allow for the full range of Appropriate Management Responses (AMR) for the management of wildland fires. These responses range from aggressive fire suppression to Wildland Fire Use.

The intent of this scoping notice is to inform the public, to identify environmental issues at an early stage, and encourage involvement in the planning process. Several policies have been developed in recent years that increase the emphasis on using naturally ignited wildland fires to achieve resource objectives. This management response is referred to as “Wildland Fire Use” (WFU). When the LRMPs were developed, language regarding fire management was fairly vague. WFU is mentioned briefly for Wilderness Areas, but not for the remainder of the Forest.

There is a need for fire to be a management “tool” to help obtain resource goals across the entire landscape of the Forest. Existing direction from the LRMPs does not recognize the resource benefits that fire can provide, except in wilderness. It is my goal to allow more acres to be affected by fire, with less intensity, to obtain desired ecological conditions. AMR is the current term used to encompass the range of possible responses to unplanned fires. AMR includes both suppression and WFU responses.

Both responses allow the same range of potential management actions on the ground. The main difference is that suppression responses emphasize cost containment and minimizing damage, while WFU responses emphasize maximizing resource benefits. AMR includes a full range of management tools in which naturally ignited fires can be allowed to burn under pre-determined conditions in specific areas. The LRMP typically identifies where on the landscape WFU is an option, and where it is not. The Fire Management Plan (FMP) identifies the prescriptive criteria and implementation procedures to use for determining whether a given ignition will be managed for resource benefits and gives general direction and guidance on how a fire is to be managed.

Areas available for the complete range of AMR vary, based on a number of factors including values at risk, fuel conditions, and time of year. Forest Plan amendment(s) are proposed that would revise the Forest Plan Standards and Guidelines to allow for the consideration of a full range of AMR for the management of fires, to include Wildland Fire Use, throughout the entire Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. Terminology in the Standards and Guidelines throughout the two Forest Plans would be updated to meet current Forest Service fire terminology and policy. The scope of this project is to include the entire Forest and would utilize existing data, information, and analyses to conduct the analysis.

The Proposed Action is an administrative action involving the modification and changing of the wording for management direction and Standards and Guidelines regarding AMR. It is anticipated that this change would result in the increase in an average annual amount of burned acres. This effect would be programmatically and qualitatively analyzed by resource specialists in terms of the attainment of desired conditions.

This Proposed Action will not include nor analyze effects associated with any change not related to fire and AMR.

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