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Notice

Freds Fire Restoration, Eldorado National Forest, El Dorado County, CA

Document Details

Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION:

Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement.

SUMMARY:

In October 2004, the Freds Fire burned approximately 7,700 acres on the Eldorado National Forest and on private timberlands. The project area for this analysis is the approximately 4,600 acre portion of the Freds Fire on National Forest System lands. The USDA, Forest Service, Eldorado National Forest will prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for a proposal to treat approximately 3,200 acres of fire killed and damaged trees in the Freds Fire burned area. The land allocations within the fire area, as identified in the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Supplemental EIS, are threat zone, defense zone, general forest, protected activity centers for spotted owls, spotted owl home range core areas, and riparian conservation areas adjacent to perennial, seasonal and ephemeral streams.

The purpose of the project is to: (1) Reduce long term fuel loading to reduce future fire severity and resistance to control; (2) improve roads and establish effective ground cover in severely burned areas to reduce erosion and sedimentation to streams in the short term, and to contribute to long term soil productivity; (3) recover the economic value of timber killed or severely injured by the fire, in an expeditious manner, for the purpose of generating funds to offset the cost of future restoration activities; and (4), reduce safety hazards to the public and forest workers.

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DATES:

Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received by January 12, 2005. The draft environmental impact statement is expected in March 2005 and the final environmental impact statement is expected in June 2005.

ADDRESSES:

Send written comments to John D. Berry, Forest Supervisor, Eldorado National Forest, 100 Forni Road, Placerville, CA 95667, Attention: Freds Fire Restoration.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Laura Hierholzer, Project Leader, Placerville Ranger District, 4260 Eight Mile Road, Camino, CA 95709, or by telephone at 530-647-5382.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Purpose and Need for Action

The fire burned with varying intensity. Many areas of the fire burned at high and moderate intensity, killing 75%-100% of the trees and completely consuming the duff and litter that protected the soil. In these areas, the fire resulted in high rates of soil erosion, sedimentation to streams, destruction of wildlife habitat for sensitive species, and loss of old forest characteristics. The fire killed tens of thousands of trees, that if left untreated will contribute to extremely high fuel loading over time. As these dead trees fall and fuel accumulates, future fires will be even more severe. Treating the dead and dying tree component of the landscape is the first step in reducing long term fuel loading and restoring the historic fire regime, thereby reducing the impacts of fires on the future forest and contributing to the restoration of old forest habitats. Without treatment to begin to restore the fire area, significant additional impacts to soil, water quality, cultural resources, and wildlife habitat are likely over the short and long term. This Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) addresses treating the dead and dying tree component of the landscape and improving rocks to reduce sediment delivery to streams. The process of removing dead trees would reduce soil erosion by immediately increasing effective ground cover (limbs, twigs, and small boles) and maintain soil productivity for tree growth.

Proposed Action

The proposed action would remove dead trees using ground based, skyline, and helicopter logging methods. Trees posing a safety hazard to the public and forest workers would be removed along roads, trails, residential and recreation areas. Roads would be reconstructed and improved to facilitate tree removal and to improve watershed condition. Approximately 1 mile of newly constructed road would be built. Slash and small dead trees would be treated to provide ground cover and reduce short term fuel loading. Protection would be applied to sensitive plants and wildlife species, and cultural resources.

The proposed action is consistent with the 1989 Eldorado National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan as amended by the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment Record of Decision (2004).

Nature of Decision To Be Made

The decision to be made is whether to adopt and implement the proposed action, an alternative to the proposed action, or take no action to remove fire killed and damaged trees in the project area, to undertake road improvements, or to implement fuel treatments.

Other alternatives will be developed based on significant issues identified during the scoping process for the environmental impact statement. All alternatives will need to respond to the specific condition of providing benefits equal to or better than the current condition. Alternatives being considered at this time include: (1) The Proposed Action and (2) No Action.

Scoping Process

Public participation will be especially important at several points during the analysis. The Forest Service will be seeking information, comments, and assistance from the Federal, State, and local agencies and other individuals or organizations who may be interested in or affected by the proposed action. To facilitate public participation, information about the proposed action will be mailed to all who express interest in the proposed action and notification of the public scoping period will be published in the Mountain Democrat, Placerville, CA.

Comments submitted during the scoping process should be in writing and should be specific to the proposed action. The comments should describe as clearly and completely as possible any issues the commenter has with the proposal. The scoping process includes:

(a) Identifying potential issues;

(b) Identifying issues to be analyzed in depth;

(c) Eliminating nonsignificant issues or those previously covered by a relevant previous environmental analysis;

(d) Exploring additional alternatives;

(e) Identifying potential environmental effects of the proposed action and alternatives.

A public meeting will be held on Thursday, January 13, 2005, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Pollock Pines Community Center, Sanders Drive, Pollock Pines, California.

Comment Requested

This notice of intent initiates the scoping process which guides the development of the environmental impact statement.

Early Notice of Importance of Public Participation in Subsequent Environmental Review

A draft environmental impact statement will be prepared for comment. The comment period on the draft environmental impact statement will be 45 days from the date the Environmental Protection Agency publishes the notice of availability in the Federal Register.

The Forest Service believes, at this early state, it is important to give reviewers notice of several court rulings related to public participation in the environmental review process. First, reviewers of draft environmental impact statements must structure their participation in the environmental review of the proposal so that it 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 meaningfully 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 Regulations for implementing the procedural provisions of the Start Printed Page 77177National Environmental Policy Act at 40 CFR 1503.3 in addressing these points.

Comments received, including the names and addresses of those who comment, will be considered part of the public record on this proposal and will be available for public inspection.

(Authority: 40 CFR 1501.7 and 1508.22; Forest Service Handbook 1909.15, Section 21.)

The final EIS is scheduled to be completed in June, 2005. In the final EIS, the Forest Service is required to respond to substantive comments received during the comment period that pertain to the environmental consequences discussed in the draft EIS and applicable laws, regulations, and policies considered in making the decision regarding this proposal.

John D. Berry, Forest Supervisor, Eldorado National Forest is the responsible official. As the responsible official he will document the decision and reasons for the decision in the Record of Decision. That decision will be subject to Forest Service appeal regulations (36 CFR part 215).

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Dated: December 17, 2004.

Kathryn D. Hardy,

Acting Forest Supervisor.

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[FR Doc. 04-28141 Filed 12-23-04; 8:45 am]

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