Management Indicator Species Plan Amendment

Note: See additional information about MIS and the history of wildlife monitoring in the forests of the Sierra Nevada on this page of our website.

June 4, 2012: We have reached a settlement with the Forest Service in our legal dispute regarding wildlife monitoring. An independent peer-review of the Forest Service’s indicator species and monitoring plan will be conducted and directed by the Conservation Biology Institute, an independent non-profit research center based in Corvallis, Oregon. 

Black Backed Woodpecker

This story begins in 2007. Here's the background:

The Forest Service is attempting to minimize their forest monitoring requirements by altering the management indicator species (MIS) lists that are tracked across all Sierra Nevada National Forests. The 2001 and 2004 Framework requires the Forest Service to monitor and track the outcome of management activities approved by the Forest Service upon wildlife and the long-term health of the habitats that they depend upon for survival.

We are deeply concerned that the revision of existing monitoring requirements will have significant environmental consequences and will weaken protection for species and the biological diversity of the Sierra Nevada. If the wildlife monitoring requirements currently in place were ever implemented, there would be data available now to help the Forest Service make better decisions about potential impacts from logging projects. Scientific analysis of cause and effect should be the basis of wildlife management, but without field collected data, the agency can only guess at the effects of its activities upon wildlife.

Appendix E of the 2001 Sierra Nevada Framework required that the Forest Service develop a monitoring program for a wide variety of essential and important wildlife species within the National Forests of the Sierra Nevada. This important list of MIS within Appendix E survived the Bush Administration's dismantling of the 2001 Sierra Nevada Framework. The existing monitoring requirements for MIS and related species are an essential part of land management plans and provide a valuable safety net to reduce the likelihood of plan implementation having significant adverse environmental impacts.

The Forest Service in Region 5 is attempting to sidestep this most important tool for gauging management impacts and environmental health. The monitoring of wildlife species including sensitive species and management indicator species is one of the few ways land managers can be held accountable for the effects of their decisions. Monitoring has long been the under-funded “step-child” of the forest planning process until recently when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of environmental plaintiffs on two key cases in California. The Red Star Fire Salvage and the Power and Fred’s Fire Salvage cases affirm that forest plan monitoring for habitat and population trends is the law. Region 5 is now attempting to circumvent important monitoring requirements in the 2001/2004 Sierra Nevada Framework by amending the forest plans of the 11 Sierra Nevada national forests to significantly weaken forest monitoring requirements.

The Record of Decision for the proposed amendment was released on December 14, 2007. After reviewing the comments of Sierra Forest Legacy and numerous other conservation organizations, and concerned citizens the Forest Service maintained their support for the proposed changes to species monitoring in the Sierra Nevada.

Sierra Forest Legacy along with the Sierra Club, Forest Issues Group, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Foothills Audubon Society and the Center for Biological Diversity submitted an appeal on February 4, 2008 to this misguided decision. Subsequently,on August 25, 2008, the Forest Service issued its denial of all issues raised by the public appeals.

On September 9, 2008, after exhausting all other attempts to persuade the Forest Service of the scientific and legal deficiencies of weakening MIS monitoring requirements in the Sierra-wide forest management plans, Legacy filed suit on September 9 to restore meaningful monitoring to the region. Read the lawsuit at the top of the "Resources" column to the right, and read the press release here.