EPIC: Revisions for the Northwest Forest Plan on the Horizon?

Tom Wheeler, Environmental Protection Information Center Executive Director

Ancient forests once stood across the Pacific Northwest. Stalwart giants, moss-covered hardwoods, and a dense underbrush. These forests, nurtured by the warm, wet climate, supported an amazing diversity of life.

And then came Europeans and everything changed. Decades of logging largely stripped 

these ancient forests from the landscape. By the late 1980’s there wasn’t a whole lot left and what still remained was going fast. The critters that evolved to depend on these big, old trees were on the brink of extinction—most notably the poster child of old growth forests, the northern spotted owl. The owl was listed under the federal Endangered Species Act owing to a loss of its habitat. But the issue was far from resolved. Indeed, it was only heating up. A back-and-forth fight ensued between pro-timber interest on one side and pro-forest forces on the other.

The Clinton Administration intervened. By 1994, a strategy to both support logging and old-growth forests was developed: The Northwest Forest Plan. The Plan was a set of federal policies and guidelines that amended 26 land use plans, spanning 24 million acres of Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service-managed lands in Northern California, Washington and Oregon. As a single, regional, interagency plan, the Northwest Forest Plan allowed for an ecosystem management approach to account for the needs of multiple listed species across three states through a system of wildlife reserves. 

It has been 26ish years since the Northwest Forest Plan was adopted. Revisions to the land use plans which constitute the Plan are formally expected to begin in the next year or so. It is unclear the nature of these revisions. The Bureau of Land Management has already broken from the rest of the Northwest Forest Plan, amending the management plans for its forests within the Pacific Northwest. (So much for a single, landscape-level multi-agency plan!) Whispers within the Forest Service suggest something similar: breaking up the plan into smaller constituent pieces. 

California’s forests within the Plan are expected to undergo revision first as a block. These fire-prone forests will serve as “early adopters” to test the revision process before moving to other Forest Service lands in Oregon and Washington. Revisions offer both risks and opportunities. To risks, the Forest Service is under pressure by the timber industry to open more areas for logging. Under increasingly creative justifications, the reserve network could come at risk (something already achieved in revisions by the Bureau of Land Management). But there are also opportunities too. Since the ‘94 plan, there has also been 26 years of new science–all of which will need to be included into the plan so that our forest management is rooted in science. Of course, the difficulty of achieving a good, science-based plan depends on who wins in November….

Congrats to Eileen Cooper!


EPIC would like to extend a special congratulations to Eileen Cooper, winner of the EPIC Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement Award. Eileen is the first award winner from Del Norte County. You can read more about Eileen in this issue as she is also our Kin to the Earth!


Get Funky For The Forest At EPIC’s Forest Prom On May 9th!


EPIC’s “Forest” Prom will be held on Saturday, May 9th at the Veterans Hall in Arcata. This redwood car

pet affair will provide an experience you do not want to miss! Whether you never went to your High School Prom, desperately want a “do over”, or just want to have a good time, this event promises to create lasting memories for all in support of EPIC’s efforts to prot

ect and restore the forests of Northcoast California.



8:00 PM: Doors open for Cocktail Hour & Photo Booth

8:00 PM:

DJ Music- TBA

9:30 PM: Prom Forest Crown Commencement

10:30 PM: Music by Object Heavy


Tickets at the door: Student Tickets $15, Non-Student Tickets $20


Volunteers are needed to help with the production of this event. We are also accepting nominations for people who shine as environmental royalty by working hard to protect the special places of this area. If you are interested in getting involved or would like to nominate someone for the Forest Crown, please email rhiannon@wildcalifornia.org or call 707-822-7711.