Defending the Northwest Forest Plan

The Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP), covering 24 million acres of public lands, is arguably the most ecologically sound multiple use forest management plan in the world. However, this landmark plan has joined the growing list of environmental protections that have been attacked by the Bush administration. In 2003, changes were made to two important provisions of the Plan: the survey and manage requirement (which focuses on protections for non-ESA listed species) and the Aquatic Conservation Strategy (ACS). Although the administration framed the changes as "clarifications," they would have essentially hobbled critical protections for sensitive aquatic species.

In 1993, with the adoption of the Northwest Forest Plan and its Aquatic Conservation Strategy, many key salmon watersheds received much-needed protection from historic and ongoing logging activities—the very same activities that precipitated the listing of salmon, steelhead, and other native fishes under the Endangered Species Act. The Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP), covering 24 million acres of public lands, is arguably the most ecologically sound multiple use forest management plan in the world.

The Aquatic Conservation Strategy (ACS) is the first and best example of an ecologically-based approach to managing watersheds and streamside forests on federal lands in the nation.

The ACS is a science-based strategy with the goal of restoring and maintaining the ecological function and processes of watersheds and aquatic ecosystems across 24 million acres of public lands within the Northwest Forest Plan area.  It appropriately limits logging and road construction where the most harm results—for example, next to salmon streams and on steep slopes—while simultaneously allowing for active restoration through road decommissioning and other beneficial activities. 

At its core lie four essential components to help recover threatened and endangered salmon and other aquatic species.Rocks in a stream

  • Key Watershed designation and management
  • Watershed Restoration
  • Riparian Reserve designation and protection
  • Watershed Analysis.

Also a list of nine "Aquatic Conservation Strategy Objectives" constitute the watershed health goals that the ACS aims to attain. These objectives comprise the heart of the conservation strategy -- they describe the components of a healthy watershed that the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are required to manage for under the Northwest Forest Plan. More importantly, each project must be consistent with these objectives in order for the strategy to truly meet the goals of the Plan. To download a list of these objectives, click here.

If the ACS is to achieve its goal of salmonid recovery in the Northwest Forest Plan area it needs to be faithfully implemented, not further weakened at the expense of the region’s watersheds and the human and natural communities they support.  However, the ACS was one of the many environmental protections that was attacked by the Bush administration.

Read a recent publication co-authored by PRC's Chris Frissell regarding the Northwest Forest Plan and current proposals to revise the Plan and its reserve strategy.

Western Oregon Plan Revisions

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) currently manages almost 2.6 million acres in western Oregon under the Northwest Forest Plan and its Aquatic Conservation Strategy.  But now, the BLM has eliminate the ACS and replaced the strategy with only limited, inadequately managed riparian buffers.  This plan is a recipe for dirty water and dead fish.  Click here to read more about the plan and our legal challenge of it. 

Failed Amendments of the Aquatic Conservation Strategy

In 2003, the Bush Administration amended the Aquatic Conservation Strategy, making significant changes to the ACS's protections, but downplaying their affects by calling the changes mere "clarifications."  Fortunately, the court saw through this deception in response to our challenge to the changes, together with other conservation organizations.  As a result, the original ACS remains in place today.  Click here to read about the 2003 failed amendments and our lawsuit that put a stop to these changes.


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