A plan for the Sierra: 20 years in the making


1981 The U.S. Forest Service starts to consider the impact of intensive logging on the California spotted owl.

1984 The agency recognizes the California spotted owl as a "sensitive" species, vulnerable to extinction.

1991 Sacramento Bee reporter Tom Knudson writes a series on the forest-health crisis in the Sierra Nevada. "The Sierra in Peril" wins a Pulitzer Prize.

1991 A coalition of environmental groups, led by Craig Thomas (see story page 10), threatens to sue the Forest Service for failing to ensure survival of the California spotted owl.

1993 The Forest Service adopts interim guidelines meant to protect the owl. The guidelines, dubbed CASPO, prohibit logging trees over 30 inches in diameter because the bird prefers old-growth forests. The guidelines call for the Forest Service to devise an ecosystem strategy to protect the owl.

1993 After a federal judge shuts down logging in the Pacific Northwest, President Bill Clinton spearheads the Northwest Forest Plan (HCN, 7/26/93).

1996 Congress funds a team of scientists from all over California to assess the Sierra Nevada; they issue the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP).

1996 The Forest Service prepares a revised draft EIS which would have decreased logging in the Sierra Nevada from 1980s levels, but not enough to satisfy many; Agriculture Undersecretary Jim Lyons halts the plan on its way to the printer. The Clinton administration convenes a federal advisory committee, the Committee of Scientists, to review the abandoned plan.

1998 The SNEP assessment, the report from the Committee of Scientists, along with the Pacific Southwest Forest Report and the work on the discarded EIS provide the foundation for the Sierra Nevada Framework plan. Brad Powell arrives as Sierra Nevada Regional Forester.

1998 The Forest Service holds the first of over 60 public meetings and workshops in August, eventually involving about 1,500 people.

1999 The home stretch: EIS interdisciplinary team leader Steve Clauson moves from a hotel room into an RV in Sacramento to ramrod the plan to conclusion.

2000 Environmentalists petition the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the California spotted owl and the Pacific fisher under the Endangered Species Act.

Jan. 12, 2001 Final EIS released; Regional Forester Brad Powell signs the record of decision on the same day.

Jan. 20, 2001 George W. Bush takes office.

April 17, 2001 Just before the deadline, 234 appeals are filed against the Sierra Nevada plan.

Sept. 21, 2001 Deadline for Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth to rule on all appeals (160 days after the appeals deadline, though this deadline might be extended due to the heft of the appeals).


Copyright © 2001 HCN and Ann Brower

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