TESTIMONY OF CYNTHIA U. BARRY, ASSISTANT REGIONAL DIRECTOR - ECOLOGICAL SERVICES, FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE, SUBCOMMITTEE ON DEPARTMENT OPERATIONS, OVERSIGHT, NUTRITION, AND FORESTRY, REGARDING IMPLEMENTATION OF THE NORTHWEST FOREST PLAN
June 21, 1999
On behalf of our Director, Jamie Rappaport Clark, I welcome this opportunity to discuss both the successes and challenges experienced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a result of the role we play in implementing the Northwest Forest Plan.
Initiated by President Clinton in 1993, the Northwest Forest Plan is a comprehensive and collaborative approach in managing over 24 million acres of Federal lands throughout the Pacific Northwest over a 100 year period. From the late 1980s into the early 1990's, numerous lawsuits and other challenges had restricted or nearly halted timber harvest on Federal lands in the Pacific Northwest. The lawsuits and the listing of the northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet, and other species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) have had major impacts on resource management and socio-economic trends in the region. As a result of the Fish and Wildlife Service's responsibilities under the ESA, we play a major role in the implementation of the Plan.
The ecosystem-based plan has led to a fundamental change in Federal agency relationships in the Northwest, as well as the federal relationships with our partners in the states, tribes, and the general public. To date, no other large-scale management effort has been implemented to accomplish such diverse goals as those included in the Northwest Plan. These include economic and employment assistance, perpetuation of a sustainable and viable timber economy, and long-term conservation benefits to over one thousand species of plants and animals, among them the northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet, and many at-risk salmonid species. This unique Plan presents a whole new array of resource management opportunities and challenges.
The Role of the Service in the Northwest Forest Plan
The Fish and Wildlife Service operates as a full partner under the Memorandum of Understanding that guides Federal agency participation in the Northwest Forest Plan and is dedicated to its role in helping to produce the positive, measurable results that are beginning to be realized. Among the many important contributions the Service has made toward Plan implementation is the streamlining of the Section 7 consultation process under the ESA, coordination with other land management agencies in developing and implementing recovery programs for endangered species, promotion of efforts to improve Forest Plan management of unlisted, rare species and coordination of economic revitalization efforts such as Jobs-in-the-Woods.
The Northwest Forest Plan represents a unique application of the emerging principles of ecosystem and adaptive management. The Service is a key participant in long-term monitoring programs which are a hallmark of the adaptive management approach. Consequently, our ability to observe success or failure relies upon our ability to monitor the implementation of the Forest Plan. For example, by determining how listed and rare species are responding to the Plan's management programs, appropriate and timely adjustments can be made in order to utilize the most effective strategies for species conservation. Such is the case with the northern spotted owl, whose populations on Federal land have shown positive change according to recent demographic analyses.
Finally, the Fish and Wildlife Service has sought to aid in both community revitalization and economic stabilization through the Jobs-In-The-Woods program which provides employment for displaced timber workers while successfully carrying out riparian habitat improvement and watershed restoration. Many of the Jobs-In-The-Woods activities are in voluntary cooperation with private landowners, resulting in improved habitat and fish passage on both private and Federal lands.
Forest Plan Accomplishments
The Northwest Forest Plan is also a process which will aid in accomplishing many Service goals in the region, including ecosystem management goals, improvement of interagency cooperation, and improvement in species and habitat conservation. The Forest Plan provides a forum that supports the development and implementation of major new approaches to ecosystem and multi-species management. The Service has an active role in efforts to address emerging concepts and needs such as large-scale landscape monitoring and use of new technology.
One accomplishment realized under the Northwest Plan is the development of a streamlined Section 7 consultation process under the ESA. This process relies upon the Forest Plan to encourage early interagency cooperation in the planning and implementation of actions that may affect listed species. The result is reduced impacts to listed species, less controversy, and better use of government resources. Through intensive interagency planning and collaboration, the Fish and Wildlife Service is completing most forest-related formal consultations within 45 days and informal consultations within 20 days. This Section 7 streamlining process is being used as a model in other parts of the country.
Another accomplishment is that the Fish and Wildlife Service is a major partner in the development and implementation of a monitoring plan that addresses questions unique to large-scale ecosystem management plans such as that for the Northwest region. We are directly involved in evaluation and monitoring activities to measure effects of agency actions at the ecosystem scale. Results from the compliance portion of the monitoring program indicate that the Federal agencies are committed to plan implementation and are proceeding in a manner consistent with the Plan directives, information that is critical to the ESA. The Service has also played a major role in developing a status and trends monitoring program to measure the effectiveness of the Forest Plan on the conservation of listed species and other resources.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has also placed major emphasis on the development of habitat conservation plans (HCPs) under the ESA with private landowners in the Northwest region. To date, we have completed thirteen HCPs ranging in size from small to very large tracts covering over 3 million acres. In addition, over 30 HCPs covering another 4.5 million acres are in development. While current species conservation efforts, through the development of HCPs, are based on ecosystem and multi-species approaches, past plans mainly focused on the conservation of single species, such as the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet. As part of an accepted HCP, the permittee receives "No-Surprises" assurances for each covered species, and may include unlisted species, for the duration of the permit. Our goal is to insure the permittee will have no additional land use restrictions or financial compensation requirements for species covered by the permit. With the recent listing of several salmon stocks in the Northwest as either threatened or endangered, coordination with the National Marine Fisheries Service on salmonid preservation and restoration is also a major focus.
Accomplishment of the Plan's economic stabilization goals in the Northwest region are proceeding through implementation of the Jobs-In-The-Woods Program, which provides employment for displaced timber workers. Most Jobs-In-The-Woods projects are cooperative and voluntary ventures with other Federal and State governments, or local groups. Over the past 5 years, we have provided approximately $14 million dollars through the Forest Plan's Economic Adjustment Initiative in support of projects to improve riparian habitat, restore watersheds, enhance fish passage, and promote forest ecosystem projects. Through its investment, the Service has leveraged an additional $9.3 million dollars from our partners for project completion, including removal of 242 fish passage barriers, improvement of 2,258 acres of wetland and riparian habitat, enhancement of 156 stream-miles of fish habitat, and installation of 73 livestock crossing and watering facilities. These efforts have made the Jobs-in-the-Woods program, which has employed over 977 workers, a success story.
Activities in southwest Oregon provide local examples of successful collaboration resulting from Plan implementation. The Fish and Wildlife Service's Roseburg field office in Southwest Oregon was co-located with the Forest Service's Umpqua National Forest Supervisor's Office and the National Marine Fisheries Service's field office. Federal and State agencies in Southwest Oregon are also developing a Memorandum of Understanding which will facilitate the dissemination of technical assistance to the local watershed councils, which are key local partners in ecosystem restoration. Coordination has also led to improved habitat and conservation planning for listed species and has resulted in improved land management decisions to address other forest species and ecosystems. We are excited about the enhanced interagency cooperation generated by the Northwest Plan. Early Service involvement in the project planning process has resulted in improved project design, improved our understanding of project effects, reduced negative effects on listed species and reduced ESA Section 7 consultation timelines.
Finally, the Forest Plan has increased opportunities for the Fish and Wildlife Service to work with our non-federal partners in the region on habitat restoration projects. The Forest Plan establishes Provincial Advisory Committees (PAC) consisting of representatives from states, local and county governments, environmental and conservation groups and tribes which are chartered to provide input on Plan implementation. The Southwest Oregon PAC has been leading efforts for landscape scale analysis and to make local land management information available to the public. For example, the PAC has its own internet web page where citizens can access information on management activities associated with the Forest Plan in their area. The Service and its Federal partners, through the Provincial Interagency Executive Committee (PIEC), are also developing a watershed restoration strategy addressing local river basins which will coordinate Federal and non-federal activities.
While the successes highlighted in my testimony are noteworthy, challenges still abound. Successful implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan is a high priority for the Fish and Wildlife Service, but a commitment on the part of both the Service and Congress must be sustained over the long-term. Implementation is only in the fifth year of a Plan that looks ahead 100 years. Given the complexity and scope of implementation, considerable and continued resource support will be required. The very nature of the adaptive management approach dictates that we must anticipate change, rather than presume existing management approaches will remain adequate as new information becomes available. For example, large-scale ecosystem monitoring is emerging as an important component of the Forest Plan. However, past and current monitoring techniques will not meet future needs. New monitoring protocols are being developed which include the use of new technologies, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing technology, to collect, manage, and interpret new information. Sufficient funding for long-term monitoring is a necessity for successful adaptive management.
Further, standards and guidelines were established to mitigate potential effects of the Forest Plan on 400 little-known, rare, or endemic species associated with late-successional forests identified in the plan. The guidelines are designed to protect species, gather new information, and modify protection for species as warranted by new data. Over the first five years of implementation, Federal agencies have gathered significant new information on many of these species and, as a result, are proposing changes to the original standards and guidelines. The Fish and Wildlife Service is participating in an interagency effort to develop a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) examining the use of a more effective adaptive management process for implementing changes to the species covered under these guidelines.
Another challenge comes as a result of the recent listings of several fish species in the Pacific Northwest, including the bull trout, under the ESA. Because of the listings, the Service's consultation workload will increase substantially. Participating agencies are working to develop guidelines to address the complex issues associated with salmon and aquatic ecosystem degradation. However, considerable effort and resources will be needed to address these complex issues.
Finally, new challenges will arise with Northwest Forest Plan implementation in management of Late Successional Reserves (LSRs). Protection and enhancement of late successional and old-growth forest ecosystems, as well as the present well-being and future recovery of listed species, are dependent on maintaining the functional integrity of the LSRs. The Fish and Wildlife Service is working with other Federal agencies and our non-governmental partners to address these issues.
The Northwest Forest Plan represents a unique and major change in the way resources are managed. It addresses resource issues at a variety of scales and across a variety of ownerships, requiring new and innovative approaches. It is a precedent-setting approach requiring integrated management across agency jurisdictions, addressing existing and future environmental issues for an entire ecological region. The Fish and Wildlife Service is actively pursuing efforts with its Federal and non-federal partners to meet these challenges while promoting economic initiatives, sustaining timber harvest, and restoring the ecological integrity of fish and wildlife resources. We believe the Forest Plan agencies have been extremely successful in working toward the accomplishment of the Plan's goals, given that we are only in the fifth year of a plan that looks ahead 100 years. We look forward to working with our partners in seeing the Forest Plan implemented in the future.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared testimony. I would be pleased to respond to any questions you and other Members of the Subcommittee might have.
Disclaimer: All statements are not the opinions or position of those testifying, rather they are the official positions taken by the Administration.