The northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1990 (USFWS 1990). Providing adequate amounts of suitable forest cover to sustain the subspecies was a major component of the first recovery plan for northern spotted owls (USFWS 1992) and a driver in the basic reserve design and old-forest restoration under the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP, or Plan) (USDA and USDI 1994). The reserve design included large contiguous blocks of late-successional forest, which was expected to be sufficient to provide habitat for many interacting pairs of northern spotted owls. As such, the selection of reserves generally favored areas with the highest quality old-growth forests, but some areas of younger forest were also included with the expectation that they would eventually develop suitable forest structure characteristics and contribute to spatial patterns that would sustain spotted owl populations.
In this chapter, we describe expectations of the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP, or Plan) and review recent science on the ecology and status of the marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus), with an emphasis on the portion of the species’ range that falls within the Plan area. The conservation strategy embodied in the NWFP evolved from designation and protection of a large number of relatively small management areas to an approach based primarily on the designation of fewer large areas, each designed to conserve functioning late-successional and old-growth ecosystems. These were intended to support multiple pairs of northern spotted owls (Strix occidentalis caurina) and murrelets, and to conserve habitat for other species associated with older forests.
Given the need to conserve forest biodiversity and produce forest products, President Clinton’s vision for the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP, or Plan) was that it would provide “a balanced and comprehensive strategy for the conservation and management of forest ecosystems, while maximizing economic and social benefits from forests” (USDA and USDI 1994: E-1). The Plan was expected to support the production of a predictable, sustainable level of timber and nontimber resources from federal forests to contribute to the stability of local and regional economies over the long term (Charnley et al. 2006a). The Plan also aimed to help rural communities affected by cutbacks in federal timber production by providing economic assistance programs to promote long-term economic development and diversification and minimize the adverse effects of job loss from reductions in timber harvesting (Dillingham 2006).
The Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP, or Plan) signified a movement away from intensive focus on timber management that was common through the 1980s and toward an ecosystem management approach, which aims to conserve ecological conditions and restore natural resources while meeting the social, cultural, and economic needs of present and future generations (Brussard et al. 1998). The NWFP emerged in response to expanded scientific knowledge about forests and shifting public values about resources and their management. An important goal of the NWFP was to protect forest values of late-successional, old-growth, and aquatic ecosystems. These may include amenity values (scenery, quality of life), environmental quality (clean air, soil, and water), ecological values (biodiversity), public-use values (outdoor recreation, education, subsistence use), and spiritual values (cultural ties, tribal histories) (Donoghue and Sutton 2006). This synthesis looks at the latest research on many of these forest values and adds to our thinking about how the NWFP has contributed to their protection.
This chapter synthesizes literature about the relation between federal forest management and low-income and minority populations, as defined by Executive Order (E.O.) 12898 (February 16, 1994)—“Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations” (Clinton 1994). The order requires federal land managers to identify and address any disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects of agency programs, policies, and actions on minority and low-income populations. In this chapter, we use the term “environmental justice populations” to refer to populations protected by E.O. 12898 in matters of environmental justice (defined below). The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service and U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) primarily address environmental justice in their land and resource management planning processes. For example, the Forest Service 2012 planning rule2 requires responsible officials to “encourage participation by youth, low-income, and minority populations” (p. 21167) throughout all stages of the planning process, and, under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, preparation of an environmental impact statement that includes impacts on low-income and minority populations.
In this chapter, we review scientific information regarding the conservation and restoration of forest ecosystems on public lands within the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP, or Plan) area that harbor special value for American Indian tribes and individuals. We highlight advances in understanding how changes in climate, fire, hydrology, vegetation, and resource management regimes have affected tribal ecocultural resources and how land management can promote ecocultural resources in the future. In particular, we examine how distinctive strategies for engaging tribes in restoring ecocultural resources can uphold both tribal rights and federal responsibilities, while supporting other federal land management goals.
In this chapter, we examine the scientific basis of the assumptions, management strategies, and goals of the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP, or Plan) relative to the ecology of old-growth forests, forest successional dynamics, and disturbance processes. Our emphasis is on “coarse-filter” approaches to conservation (i.e., those that are concerned with entire ecosystems, their species and habitats, and the processes that support them) (Hunter 1990, Noss 1990). The recently published 2012 planning rule has increased emphasis on land management rooted in ecological integrity and ecosystem processes, using coarse-filter approaches to conserve biological diversity (Schultz et al. 2013). Fine-filter approaches (e.g., species centric), which are also included in the 2012 planning rule, are discussed in other chapters. We synthesize new findings, characterize scientific disagreements, identify emerging issues (e.g., early-successional habitat and fire suppression effects) and discuss uncertainties and research needs. We also discuss the relevance of our findings for management. Climate change effects on vegetation and disturbance and possible responses (adaptation and mitigation) are addressed mainly in chapter 2 of this report. Although, our effort is primarily based on published literature, we bring in other sources where peer-reviewed literature is lacking, and we conduct some limited analyses using existing data. We are guided by the NWFP monitoring questions, those from federal managers and our reading of the past three decades of science.
This chapter focuses mostly on terrestrial conditions of species and biodiversity associated with late-successional and old-growth forests in the area of the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP). We do not address the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) or marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus)—those species and their habitat needs are covered in chapters 4 and 5, respectively. Also, the NWFP’s Aquatic and Riparian Conservation Strategy and associated fish species are addressed in chapter 7, and early-successional vegetation and other conditions are covered more in chapters 3 and 12.
The Aquatic Conservation Strategy (ACS) is a regional strategy applied to aquatic and riparian ecosystems across the area covered by the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP, or Plan), encompassing broad landscapes of public lands administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) (USDA and USDI 1994a). The ACS was developed during the analysis (FEMAT 1993) that led to the NWFP, but its foundation was a refinement of earlier strategies: the Scientific Panel on Late-Successional Forest Ecosystems (“The Gang of Four”) (Johnson et al. 1991), PacFish (USDA and USDI 1994b), and the Scientific Analysis Team (Thomas et al. 1993).
Long-term monitoring programs and research related to Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP, or Plan) goals, strategies, and outcomes provide an unprecedented opportunity to examine how the scientific basis and socioecological context of the Plan may have changed during the 23 years since its implementation. We also have a prime opportunity to reassess how well the goals and strategies of the Plan are positioned to address new issues.