This decision adopts an integrated strategy for vegetation management that is aggressive enough to reduce the risk of wildfire to communities in the urban-wildland interface while modifying fire behavior over the broader landscape. With the careful placement of thinning projects, we can make significant progress in reducing the threat of catastrophic fires to wildlife and watersheds.
My decision vitally improves the land and resource management plans (LRMPs) for the Sierra Nevada national forests based on Alternative S2, as described in the Final SEIS. This Record of Decision (ROD) replaces the January 2001 ROD for the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment (SNFPA 2001 ROD) in its entirety. All of the management direction for this decision is included in this document (Appendix A). The SEIS represents an analysis and planning document and does not provide management direction.
I am making this decision in the aftermath of the tragic southern California fire season where 26 people died, over 3,600 homes were destroyed, and peoples’ lives were turned upside down. In addition, precious wildlife habitat was destroyed. These catastrophic events, which I personally witnessed for 11 days, could also occur in the Sierra Nevada. I will not let that happen on my watch. These events may happen again anyway, because our forests are unnaturally overstocked. But there are reasonable changes that can be made to the SNFPA to help prevent them. I am determined to make those improvements.
In my judgment, the changes are not large, but they are extremely important. This decision retains the overall goals of the SNFPA 2001 ROD and its land allocations. It retains the overall strategy for addressing the fire situation in the Sierra in combination with key components of the conservation strategy for old forest dependent species. The integrated strategy includes methods of thinning of trees and brush removal, known as “fuels treatments,” that is, reducing the amount of burnable material. Fuels treatments will occur more effectively on roughly the same number of acres and cover only 25-30% of the landbase. However, I am changing the way management occurs in those treated areas and directing field personnel to develop projects that make sense from an ecological and financial perspective. I expect that they will make the right decisions in the design and implementation of projects consistent with the direction and intent of this decision…