Sierra Nevada Framework Management Indicator Species
Appendix E of the 2001 Sierra Nevada Framework required that the Forest Service develop a monitoring program for a wide variety of keystone and important wildlife species within the National Forests of the Sierra Nevada.
Monitoring is essential in order to collect data about the health of populations of wildlife in the Sierra. Without monitoring, we can only guess at the impacts of management activities.
Management Indicator Species are chosen either due to their rarity, their restriction to a particular unique habitat, or because they are more common and widespread. The health of their populations are supposed to provide an "indicator" of each habitat's health in response to management activities. Management activities usually refers to logging, road building, and other forest uses that generally are detrimental, such as OHV recreation or livestock grazing.
The monitoring requirements, and the list of Management Indicator Species (MIS) within Appendix E, survived the Bush Administration's dismantling of the 2001 Sierra Nevada Framework and were carried over into the plan's revisions of 2004. These existing monitoring requirements for MIS and related focus 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 on the habitats of these wildlife species. Such monitoring is the heart of NFMA's requirements for maintaining viability for all native wildlife in our national forests.
It is important to remember that our nation's bedrock national environmental legislation such as NEPA (1969), ESA (1973), and NFMA (1976) were all passed in response to recognition that the nation had to take action to prevent massive extinctions from occurring. Back then, our rivers and streams were grossly polluted, the nation's roads and byways were filled with trash, our sky was filthy with smog, and birds were dying off by the millions due to toxic chemicals in the environment. We live in a cleaner world today. Logging has been restricted on national forest lands to a level that may sustain some generalist species, but plants and animals associated with mature forests, old growth, and pristine meadows are still rapidly disappearing. Species of plants and animals that require regular fire such as the black-backed woodpecker in the photo below, are also at risk due to the destructive effects of post-fire "salvage" logging. Without regular field monitoring we will never know what we may be losing and we will not be able to respond appropriately in time to save species from extinction.
There are currently 52 species on the MIS list for the Sierra Nevada. Some of these species, such as the bald eagle, mule deer and Northern goshawk, are on the lists for all ten Sierra Nevada National Forests. Others, such as the wolverine and California condor only appear on the list for one national forest in the Sierra Nevada.
In response to public concerns about the impacts of Forest Service logging policies, and with declining wildlife populations more evident each year, the Forest Service's response is now to minimize their forest monitoring requirements.
Sierra Forest Legacy is deeply concerned that a revision of existing monitoring requirements will have significant environmental consequences, resulting in weakening existing protection for species and further reducing the biological diversity of the Sierra Nevada. The Forest Service has never put forth a serious effort to implement monitoring programs required by the forest plans. There should be monitoring data available today, that could illuminate the real impacts of Forest Service management, if the Forest Service had diligently acted upon the monitoring requirements from both the original forest plans and/or the 2001 Framework. Instead, the agency increasingly relies upon computer generated models that present ambiguous data that is subject to endless debate--while wildlife continue to decline in the public's forests.
Original Forest Plan MIS list for Sierra Nevada Forests
The species listed below are the collective list of management indicator species in the original forest plans for the eleven national forests of the Sierra Nevada. Each of the eleven forest plans made firm commitments to collecting a minimum amount of population information for the species that were relevant for their region. The forests were also supposed to publish an annual monitoring report each year, summarizing the status of MIS. In the last twenty years, only a handful of annual reports have ever been submitted, and for most species, there was never any monitoring data collected whatsoever. The new MIS lists found in the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment (Sierra Framework, 2001 and revision in 2004) can be downloaded here.
Chinook salmon, Central Valley spring run
Cutthroat trout, Lahontan
Cutthroat trout, Paiute
Goose Lake Redband trout
Great grey owl
Little Kern Golden trout
Lost River Sucker
Greater sandhill crane
Sierra Nevada Red fox
Spotted owl, California
Spotted owl, Northern
Steelhead trout, Central Valley winter run
Western grey squirrel