Plants, animals and people, oh my! Three elements key to shaping forest plans

Have you heard of a Species of Conservation Concern? If you’re familiar with the 2012 Planning Rule or involved in forest plan revisions, chances are you’re very familiar with this term. If not, then it’s important to know that a Species of Conservation Concern – or SCC – is a plant or animal for which we have concerns about its ability to live and thrive within a national forest.

An SCC is specific to the Forest Service and comes from the 2012 Planning Rule and Forest Service Handbook. These regulations provide criteria for us to determine if we should be concerned about certain species’ ability to remain on a landscape covered by a forest plan for a long time. If we are concerned, then we design elements of a forest plan to provide the habitat conditions necessary for an SCC to persist on the forest.

You might be familiar with another, similar but different term: Regional Forester’s sensitive species (RFSS). The RFSS comes from agency policy (Forest Service Handbook 2670) on managing threatened, endangered, and sensitive species. We apply this policy on a project-level basis rather than a forest-planning level. While the goal of both lists is to prevent species from being federally listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, the SCC list has more comprehensive and defined criteria for inclusion than the RFSS, making it less likely that a species in need of help will be overlooked. 

Another difference between the lists is our management approach to using the lists. Under the RFSS list we manage forest resources to maintain species viability, which was often too difficult to measure at the forest level to know if we were being successful. Under the SCC list we manage forest resources to provide the type of habitat and other conditions that the species need to persist on the forest.

So why should you care about this now?

On July 29, the Inyo, Sequoia and Sierra National Forests shared draft proposed species of conservation concern lists as part of our land and resource management plan revision process. We are asking the public for input that may provide additional scientific information that could affect these proposed SCC lists.  We will review the feedback we receive, asking ourselves if the input offers valid scientific information we have yet to consider. If so, we may remove or add species from the list based on the valid scientific information. Such changes will be documented in the SCC list released in either the draft forest plans or the final forest plans.

Will we manage SCCs and the Regional Forester’s Sensitive Species at the same time on these early adopter forests?  The intention is that the SCCs will replace the RFSS once the Record of Decision is signed for the revised forest plans; however, the Regional Forester’s Sensitive Species list will remain in effect until the FSM 2670 policy is revised. It’s important to realize that each forest will have its own SCC list, once the forest revises its plan.

You can find out more about SCCs and how these creatures shape forest plan revisions at our webpage: http://go.usa.gov/37tD3

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