The Freeman Project on the Plumas National Forest is a project which proposes to treat 5,792 acres in a project area of approximately 15,000 acres. Specifically the project would involve the construction of 3,037 acres of defensible fuel profile zones, 458 acres of which are located in the Wildland Urban Interface, 174 acres of group selection logging, and 2,419 acres of thinning treatments.
The project area provides important habitat for sensitive and imperiled species including the California spotted owl, the American marten, and the Pacific fisher. The Freeman Project is also located in the vicinity of two Areas of Concern for the California spotted owl. The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) states that the Freeman Project Wildlife Analysis Area includes 41,388 acres of Forest Service land, containing 24,900 acres of suitable habitat, but the Forest Service proposes to eliminate over 3,000 acres of this habitat through logging within DFPZs, and thinning areas and groups that will remove trees up to 30" diameter in many stands.
The environmental impacts of this project will be significant. The FEIS estimates that 3,416 acres of nesting and foraging habitat for the California spotted owl, approximately 14 percent of the current nesting and foraging habitat within the Wildlife Analysis Area, will be rendered unsuitable. The plan would also render 631 acres of owl home range core areas unsuitable for owl occupancy. The FEIS also projects that approximately 3,416 acres of habitat for the marten and fisher will be rendered unsuitable, which could destroy den sites and reduce north-south habitat connectivity. This habitat reduction is particularly problematic given that the marten has not been detected in the project area in recent years, thereby raising the likelihood that this area may presently act as a barrier to habitat connectivity within the Plumas National Forest.
Although we support the goal of reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire, the Forest Service has failed to demonstrate that the intensity of proposed logging is needed to achieve this goal. The significant adverse impacts of this project and the unacceptable degradation and elimination of so many acres of important wildlife habitat have made it impossible to support.
Sierra Forest Legacy has appealed the Record of Decision and FEIS for the Freeman Project and that appeal has been denied by the Forest Service. We are still hopeful that some agreement can be reached on this project that would ensure the protection of key wildlife habitat will also ensure effective fuels reduction.