Forest Service, USDA.
Notice of intent.
The Forest Service intends to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) to analyze and disclose the environmental effects of implementing resource management activities that include fuelbreak construction consisting of a strategic system of defensible fuel profile zones (DFPZs), group selection harvests, and riparian restoration projects on the Almanor Ranger District in the Lassen National Forest. These activities are part Start Printed Page 71089of a 5-year pilot project to test and demonstrate the effectiveness of certain resource management activities designed to meet ecologic, economic, and fuel reduction objectives on the Lassen National Forest as well as on the Plumas National Forest and on the Sierraville Ranger District of the Tahoe National Forest. This notice applies only to the Lassen National Forest; however, all three National Forests were named in the Record of Decision (ROD, August 1999) for the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group (HFQLG) Forest Recovery Act Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). The ROD amended the management direction in the Land and Resource Management Plans for these three National Forests. The need for the ROD and FEIS was generated from the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group (HFQLG) Forest Recovery Act (Act) of October 21, 1998.
Comments concerning the scope of the analysis should be received in writing on or before December 29, 2000.
Send written comments to Susan Jeheber-Matthews, Almanor District Ranger, P.O. Box 767, Chester, CA, 96020.Start Further Info
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Mary Lou Mini, Interdisciplinary Team Leader or Judy Welles, Interdisciplinary Team Silviculturist, telephone: (530) 258-2141.End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information
To accomplish the purpose of the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group (HFQLG) Forest Recovery Act, resource management activities included in the proposed Mineral Forest Recovery project and DFPZ construction, group selection harvests, and riparian restoration projects. The proposed project is located in Tehama County, California, within the Almanor Ranger District of the Lassen National Forest in all or portions of Sections 1-3, T.28N., R.3E., Sections 1-4, 9-15, 22-26, 33-36, T.29N., R.3E., Sections 3, 4, 6-10, 15-21, 28, 29, 31-33, T.29N., R.4E., Sections 26, 27, 34-36, T.30N., R.3E., and Section 31, T.30N., R.4E., MDM.
The Mineral Forest Recovery Project area is one of five sub networks established to implement a DFPZ network on the District. The purpose of DFPZs in this area is to reduce the number of acres that would be burned by high-intensity stand-replacing fires. DFPZs are needed in this area in order to improve suppression efficiency by creating an environment where wildfires would burn at lower intensities and where fire fighting production rates would be increased. DFPZs are strategically located strips of land on which forest fuels, both living and dead, have been modified in order to reduce the potential for a sustained crown fire and to allow fire suppression personnel a safer location from which to take action against a wildfire. Fuels treatment strategies would focus on the alteration or reduction of surface fuels, ladder fuels, and canopy closure in order to effectively alter fire behavior and severity. Treatment methods will include thinning timbered stands, hand or machine piling of excessive forest fuels, and prescribed fire. The Mineral Forest Recovery Project proposes to construct 3,700 acres of DFPZ's in the Mineral project area including an estimated 2,700 acres that would be thinned.
Group selection harvests would be implemented to promote diversity in stand age and structure. Root disease centers of dwarf mistletoe infected areas would be targeted for group selection, as well as those stands that are even-aged in structure. Some understocked areas would also be regenerated using the group selection prescription. Group selection would be implemented on an estimated 550 acres within the Mineral Forest Recovery Project area. Fuels treatment would occur on 460 acres within group selections.
New construction of permanent and temporary roads would be needed to economically access stands requiring treatment for DFPZ and group selection harvest. Within the project area, 5.9 miles of permanent new road construction and 5.6 miles of temporary road construction would be implemented for this purpose. New construction of permanent roads would be added to the Forest transportation system. Temporary roads would be obliterated upon completion of use.
Riparian restoration projects would include erosion control treatment on existing landings and skidtrails, and on eroding streambanks that are contributing sediment to the streams. Treatment of existing roads would be implemented as part of an overall riparian restoration strategy to reduce impacts caused by roads. Impacts include erosion and increased runoff from inadequately or poorly drained roads, especially those located close to streams and with poorly designed drainage structures and stream crossings. Road treatments would include road relocation (1.6 miles of new construction, all of which is included in the new construction mentioned above), reconstruction (9.8 miles of existing roads for DFPZ and group selection access), and decommissioning (12.2 miles). Reconstruction activities would also include improvement or relocation of three existing in-channel water sources.
Decision To Be Made
The decision to be made is whether to implement the proposed action as described above, to meet the purpose and need for action through some other combination of activities, or to take no action at this time.
Responsible Official and Lead Agency
The USDA Forest Service is the lead agency for this proposal. District Ranger Susan Jeheber-Matthews is the responsible official.
Tentative or Preliminary Issues and Possible Alternatives
An anticipated public issue with the Mineral Forest Recovery Project is the proposal to implement resource management activities within suitable California spotted owl habitat. In order to fully test the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act on the Almanor Ranger District (e.g., implement contiguous DFPZs on the landscape), it is necessary to analyze and implement the resource management activities outlined in the Act within suitable habitat for the California spotted owl. The Mineral Forest Recovery Project proposed action includes projects within suitable habitat.
The Record of Decision for the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act FEIS stated that California spotted owl habitat would be avoided at the site-specific project level until a new California spotted owl habitat management strategy is released. The decision to implement resource management activities within suitable owl habitat in the Mineral Forest Recovery Project area will be based upon one or more of the following three actions:
(1) A decision is made on the Sierra Nevada Conservation Framework (that would amend the Lassen NF Land and Resource Management Plan) that defines a new owl strategy and allows the implementation of resource management activities as outlined in the Act, or;
(2) A new California spotted owl viability assessment is completed providing direction encompassing the species' range and the Lassen NF Land and Resource Management Plan is amended to include the new owl strategy, or;
(3) A site-specific California spotted owl strategy would be developed and implemented for this project resulting in Start Printed Page 71090a non-significant amendment to the Lassen NF Forest Plan.
Alternatives currently being considered for the Mineral Forest Recovery Project include: (a) No action; (b) the proposed action as outlined above, and; (c) an alternative, based on the proposed action, that does not enter into suitable California spotted owl habitat.
Comments from the public and other agencies will be used in preparation of the draft EIS. The scoping process will be used to identify questions and issues regarding the proposed action. An issue is defined as a point of dispute, debate, or disagreement relating to a specific proposed action based on its anticipated effects. Significant issues brought to our attention are used during an environmental analysis to develop alternatives to the proposed action. Some issues raised in scoping may be considered non-significant because they are: (1) Beyond the scope of the proposed action and its purpose and need; (2) already decided by law, regulation, or the Land and Resource Management Plan; (3) irrelevant to the decision to be made; or (4) conjectural and not supported by scientific or factual evidence.
While public participation in this analysis is welcome at any time, comments received within 30 days of the publication of this notice will be especially useful in the preparation of the draft EIS.
Identification of Permits or Licenses Required
No permits or licenses have been identified to implement the proposed action.
Estimated Dates for Filing
The draft EIS is expected to be filed with the Environmental Protection Agency and available for public review in March 2001. The comment period on the draft EIS will be 45 days from the date of the Environmental Protection Agency publishes the notice of availability of the draft EIS in the Federal Register.
The Reviewers Obligation To Comment
The Forest Service believes, at this early stage, it is important to give reviewers notice of several court rulings related to public participation in the environmental review process. First, reviewers of draft statements must structure their participation in the environmental review of the proposal so that is meaningful and alerts an agency to the reviewer's position and contentions. Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. v. NRDC, 435 U.S. 519, 553 (1978). Also, environmental objections that could be raised at the draft environmental impact statement stage but that are not raised until after completion of the final environmental impact statement may be waived or dismissed by the courts. City of Angoon v. Hodel, 803 F.2d 1016, 1022 (9th Cir. 1986) and Wisconsin Heritages, Inc. v. Harris, 490 F. Supp. 1334, 1338 (E.D. Wis. 1980). Because of these court rulings, it is very important that those interested in this proposed action participate by the close of the 45 day comment period so that substantive comments and objections are made available to the Forest Service at a time when it can meaningful consider them and respond to them in the final environmental impact statement.
To assist the Forest Service in identifying and considering issues and concerns on the proposed action, comments on the draft environmental impact statement should be as specific as possible. It is also helpful if comments refer to specific pages or chapters of the draft statement. Comments may also address the adequacy of the draft environmental impact statement or the merits of the alternatives formulated and discussed in the statement. Reviewers may wish to refer to the Council on Environmental Quality Regulation of implementing the procedural provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act at 40 CFR 1503.3 in addressing these points.Start Signature
Dated: November 16, 2000.
Edward C. Cole,
[FR Doc. 00-30017 Filed 11-28-00; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-11-M