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Notice

Little Belt-Castle-Crazy Mountains Travel Management Plan EIS, Lewis and Clark National Forest; Cascade, Judith Basin, Meagher, Wheatland, Sweetgrass, and Park Counties, MT

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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This document has been published in the Federal Register. Use the PDF linked in the document sidebar for the official electronic format.

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AGENCY:

Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION:

Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement.

SUMMARY:

The Forest Service will prepare an environmental impact statement on a proposal to develop a travel management plan to regulate motorized and non-motorized travel on roads and trails on lands administered by the Belt Creek, Judith Musselshell, and White Sulphur Ranger Districts of the Lewis and Clark National Forest. Approximately 924,800 acres of National Forest System lands are contained within the analysis area. The purpose of the project is to evaluate the impacts of motorized and non-motorized travel within the planning area, and to identify and select an alternative that allows recreational use and enjoyment of the National Forest System lands, minimizes resource damage, reduces adverse effects to terrestrial and aquatic species, and mitigates or reduces conflicts between types of uses. Needs for securing additional legal public access routes to reach National Forest System lands may be identified and discussed, but no decision will be made on acquiring specific routes.

DATES:

Comments concerning the scope of the analysis should be received on or before October 24, 2005 (approx. 30 days after publication in the Federal Register).

ADDRESSES:

Send written comments to Lesley W. Thompson, Forest Supervisor, Lewis and Clark National Forest, 1101 15th Street North, Box 869, Great Falls, MT 59401. People sending comments electronically can do so by putting “Little Belt-Castle-Crazy Mountains Travel Plan” on the subject line of their e-mail to comments-northern-lewisclark@fs.fed.us.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Dick Schwecke, EIS Team Leader (406) 791-7700.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

The project addresses travel management planning on three of the seven mountain ranges managed partly or entirely by the Lewis and Clark National Forest. The Little Belt-Castle-Crazy Mountain project includes approximately 924,800 acres, which is about 50% of the land area managed by the Lewis and Clark National Forest. The purpose of this project is to evaluate the impacts of motorized and non-motorized travel on existing roads and trails within the planning area. The Forest Service intends to identify action alternatives that provide for public access, use, and enjoyment of the Lewis and Clark National Forest, while also minimizing resource damage, reducing adverse effects to terrestrial and aquatic species, and mitigating or reducing conflicts between types of uses. The project is intended to focus on identifying the types of use and season of use that would be appropriate on roads, trails, and specific areas within the mountain ranges to be analyzed.

Public Involvement

The Forest Service will be seeking information, comments and assistance from Federal, State and local agencies and other individuals or organizations who may be interested in, or affected by, the proposed action. Comments received will be included in the documentation for the EIS. The public is encouraged to take part in the process and is encouraged to visit with Forest Service officials at any time during the analysis and prior to the decision. 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. The scoping process will include identifying: potential issues, significant issues to be analyzed in depth, alternatives to the proposed action, and potential environmental effects of the proposal and alternatives.

Estimated Dates for Filing

The Draft EIS for the Little Belt—Castle—Crazy Mountains Travel Management Plan is expected to be available for public review by June 2006. The comment period on the draft EIS will be 60 days. It is very important that those interested in the management of this area participate at that time. The final EIS is scheduled to be completed by December 2006. In the final EIS, the Forest Service is required to respond to 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 a decision regarding the proposal.

The Reviewers Obligation to Comment

The Forest Service believes it is important to give reviewers notice at this early stage 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, 533 (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. (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 60-day comment period on the Draft EIS 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 statements.

To assist the Forest Service in identifying and considering issues and concerns on the proposed action, comments on the draft environmental impact statements should be as specific as possible. It is also helpful if comments refer to specific pages or chapters of the draft statements. Comments may also address the adequacy of the draft environmental impact statements or their merits of the Start Printed Page 55816alternatives formulated and discussed in the statements. Reviewers may wish to refer to the Council on Environmental Quality Regulations for implementing the procedural provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act at 40 CFR 1503.3 in addressing these points.

Comments on the draft EIS should be directed to the responsible official: Lesley W. Thompson, Forest Supervisor, Lewis and Clark National Forest, 1101 15th Street North, Great Falls, MT 59401.

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Dated: September 13, 2005.

Lesley W. Thompson,

Forest Supervisor.

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[FR Doc. 05-18532 Filed 9-22-05; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3410-11-M