The Slapjack Project on the Plumas National Forest is described as a fuels reduction project which involves the logging of approximately 3,671 acres of defensible fuel profile zones, 148 acres of individual tree selection, and 219 acres of group selection.
The areas identified for group selection are particularly concerning because most of these groups represent high quality habitat for the California spotted owl, and are located within owl home range core areas. Other aspects of the proposal which Sierra Forest Legacy identified in our analysis of the project are:
- While the Draft EIS proposes six alternatives, all of the alternatives are virtually identical. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) clearly requires that the Forest Service consider a range of reasonable alternatives and the six offered did not constitute a reasonable range.
- There is substantial evidence indicating that it is not necessary to reduce canopy cover to 40 percent or below or to remove trees up to 30” dbh, as proposed in the Slapjack project, to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire.
- The Slapjack EIS failed to analyze in detail an alternative with 50 percent canopy cover retention and a logging diameter limit of 20”, or any alternatives involving less intensive logging than proposed.
- NEPA also requires that an alternative be offered that is based on the 2001 Sierra Nevada Framework. The Slapjack Project failed to offer such an alternative.
- The Slapjack FEIS failed to take a hard look at the project’s impacts on the California spotted owl and its habitat.
- The Forest Service is required by its own regulations and management plans to monitor the populations of management indicator species and other wildlife. Yet, the FEIS fails to obtain this fundamental monitoring data.
- The Slapjack project proposes to log up to 480 trees greater than 30” diameter for reasons of “operability”.
- Monitoring data for snags in the project area was not disclosed and large snags are an essential habitat element for many wildlife species including California spotted owl, northern goshawk, and woodpeckers.
In November, 2006, SFL appealed the decision.
Sierra Forest Legacy's appeal was subsequently denied by the Forest Service. Seeking injunctive relief from the court, SFL sought to halt implementation of the Slapjack project--along with Empire and Basin in the QLF project area--in the fall of 2007. Denied relief by the District court, SFL appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where a favorable decision was rendered in May 2008. The appellate court found, among other things, that the Forest Service is operating under a conflict of interest whereby revenue generated from logging old growth trees is influencing decisions about which trees are cut and where they are cut. In undeniably clear language, Judge Noonan wrote in his concurrence:
"The financial incentive of the Forest Service in implementing the forest plan is as operative, as tangible, and as troublesome as it would be if instead of an impartial agency decision the agency was the paid accomplice of the loggers."
Read the full decision here.
Read background history, and current developments in the Framework litigation, here.