January 15, 2021
Forest Service Releases Final Environmental Assessment and Decision
for Large Diameter Trees in Eastern Oregon
Portland, Ore. – The USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region has released a final environmental assessment and decision that amends forest plans on six national forests in eastern Oregon, revising a provision that prohibits harvesting trees larger than 21 inches in diameter.
The decision replaces the existing 21-inch standard with management policy focused on protecting old and large trees and increasing forest resistance to disturbance. The new policy reflects scientific and experiential learning over the past 25 years, innovative management approaches that collaborative groups have explored for decades, and 24 prior project-level amendments that addressed this issue and informed the analysis. The proposal also implements an adaptive management and monitoring program to track landscape outcomes and share information across forests and with interested people and organizations.
“This decision will help us to better manage forests for wildfires and other disturbances, and to protect old trees that are hard to replace once lost,” said Pacific Northwest Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa. “We look forward to continuing to work with everyone who has engaged with us on this issue through the monitoring program we will implement.”
Many forests in eastern Oregon are uncharacteristically dense. Tree species that are less resistant to wildfire and other disturbances are increasing relative to historical conditions. This contributes to higher tree mortality risks from insects, fire, drought, and other disturbances. Meant to be an interim measure, the Eastside Screens were created in 1995 to protect riparian areas, encourage a healthy mix of young and old trees, and maintain wildlife habitat and connectivity. Now 25 years later, the 21-inch standard is being reassessed in light of current forest conditions, the latest science, project-level amendments, and public feedback.
Forests affected by the project include the Deschutes, Fremont-Winema, Malheur, Ochoco, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests. The decision does not authorize any work on the ground; individual projects to authorize work will still be subject to established planning processes and opportunities for public engagement.
More information, including the final environmental assessment and decision notice, can be found on the Eastside Screens Plan Amendment homepage.