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Monitoring the Health of the Sierra Nevada

A California condor.

Protections for California condors were removed by the 2007 provision. Condors are so large that they can be mistaken for a small, distant airplane—which possibly occurs more often than they are mistaken for other species of bird.

Scott Flaherty / U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

What's at Stake

Management indicator species serve as bellwethers for other species with the same special habitat needs or population characteristics; thus, monitoring MIS are an important way to assess the general health of forest wildlife and habitat.

Case Overview

The 1982 National Forest Management Regulations require the Forest Service to identify and monitor the populations of various management indicator species (MIS) in national forests. MIS species serve as a bellwether for other species with the same special habitat needs or population characteristics; thus, monitoring MIS are an important way to assess the general health of forest wildlife and habitat.

In December 2007, the Forest Service amended forest plans for all ten national forests in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The amendment significantly reduces the number of MIS monitored and requires MIS monitoring only at the forest planning level, which would exclude site-specific projects thus increasing the risk that logging and other destructive activities pose to wildlife species. The amendment would have significant environmental impacts because it would allow numerous stalled logging projects to proceed and because it terminates monitoring requirements designed to ensure the viability of key species. Additionally, the amendment did not specify the frequency, extent or duration of monitoring, nor did it prescribe measures to mitigate adverse effects to MIS.

In September 2008, Earthjustice challenged the amendment as it violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act and increased the risk of management activities that would adversely affect wildlife and habitat. In August 2009, the district court granted an early judgment in favor of the Forest Service. Earthjustice appealed and both groups came to a settlement.

Case Updates

September 9, 2008 | Legal Document

Sierra MIS complaint

Lawsuit to restore indicator species management plans in Sierra Nevada national forests.

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