Conservation of aquatic biodiversity in the context of multiple-use management on national forest system lands.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service (USFS) manages 193 million acres of public lands across 43 states and Puerto Rico. The original intent behind reserving lands managed by the USFS was to improve and protect forests, secure favorable conditions for water flows, and furnish a continuous supply of timber for the nation. Through time national forests have evolved, so they are managed for a broad array of uses. Differing expectations have led to conflicts between aquatic conservation and other aspects of the USFS' mandate. In the 1990s, these conflicting goals came to a head with the listing of the northern spotted owl Strix occidentalis caurina and the need to better protect streams that fostered populations of anadromous salmonids. To better balance these conflicting uses, the agency placed additional emphasis on conserving and restoring aquatic systems by integrating conservation concepts into the forest planning process. If the USFS is to succeed in protecting and restoring aquatic biodiversity, it must continue to address traditional challenges such as minimizing the effects of timber harvest, roads, grazing, and mining on aquatic systems while improving policies and practices regarding contemporary challenges such as climate change and invasive species.