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UFWDA Community Forum  |  Regional Focus - News and Local Events  |  Southwest  |  Topic: Motorized TMP, Coconino N.F. Coconino and Yavapai Counties, AZ « previous next »
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« on: July 25, 2007, 11:51:22 am »

[Federal Register: July 25, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 142)]
[Notices]               
[Page 40827-40829]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr25jy07-33]                         

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
Motorized Travel Management Plan, Coconino National Forest;
Coconino and Yavapai Counties, AZ

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Coconino National Forest will prepare an environmental
impact statement (EIS) to disclose the effects of designating a system
of roads, trails and areas for motorized vehicle use, thereby
developing a motorized travel management plan. Such a plan is needed to
meet new National travel management regulations and to improve the
management and enforcement of motor vehicle use on National Forest
Service lands. This notice describes the components to be included in
the motorized travel plan, proposed forest plan amendment, decisions to
be made, estimated dates pertaining to the project, information
concerning public participation, and the responsible agency official.
The project area is defined by the boundaries of the Coconino National
Forest, and includes the Peaks, Mormon Lake, Red Rock, and Mogollon Rim
Ranger Districts.

DATES: Written comments to be considered in the preparation of the
draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) should be submitted within
45 days of the date of publication of this Notice of Intent in the
Federal Register. The DEIS is expected to be published in the summer of
2008. The final environmental impact statement (FEIS) and record of
decision (ROD) is expected to be available by early 2009.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Nora Rasure, Forest Supervisor,
ATTN: TMR, 1824 S Thompson St, Flagstaff, AZ, 86001, Fax: (928) 527-
3620, E-mail: comments-southwestern-coconino@fs.fed.us.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jim Beard, Project Leader, 1824 S
Thompson St, Flagstaff, AZ, 86001, (928) 527-3600. Additional
information about this project can be found at http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino/tmr.shtml
.


SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On November 9, 2005, the Forest Service
published final travel management regulations governing off-highway
vehicles (OHV) and other motor vehicles on national forests and
grasslands. The new regulations amended part 212, subpart B of part
251, subpart A of part 261, and removed part 295 of title 36 of the
Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). These three regulations are referred
to together as the TMR (Travel Management Rule). The TMR was developed
in response to the substantial increase in use of OHVs on National
Forest System lands and related damage to forest resources caused by
unmanaged OHV use over the past 30 years. The regulations implement
Executive Order (EO) 11644 and EO 11989 regarding off-road use of motor
vehicles on Federal lands.
    The regulations provide ``for a system of National Forest System
(NFS) roads, NFS trails, and areas of NFS lands that are designated for
motor vehicle use. Motor vehicle use off designated roads and trails
and outside of designated areas is prohibited (36 CFR 212.50).''
Designated routes and areas shall be identified on a motor vehicle use
map (MVUM) and made available to the public. Currently, the Coconino
National Forest does not restricted motor vehicles to designated roads,
trails or areas; cross-country motorized travel is generally permitted
except in areas that are signed closed or restricted to seasonal use.
    In order to comply with the new travel management regulations, the
forest initiated a forestwide travel analysis in 2006. The intent of
the travel analysis process was to help the forest determine the
minimum transportation system necessary to provide safe and efficient
travel and for administration, utilization, and protection of NFS lands
(36 CFR 212.5(b)). Key to this process, the forest hosted several open
houses in northern and central Arizona during the fall of 2006 and
attended additional meetings since then, as requested, in order to
collect ideas regarding motorized forest travel from local citizens,
forest users, state, county, local and tribal governments, and other
Federal agencies. The proposed action represents a synthesis of public
comment and Forest Service specialist recommendations gathered during
the travel analysis process.

Purpose and Need for Action

    The purpose of this project is to designate a socially,
economically, and environmentally sustainable forest transportation
system that will accommodate motorized access needs on the Coconino
National Forest. There is a need for amending Coconino Forest Plan
direction to prohibit cross-country motorized travel and remove the
road density direction. There is a need for reducing the number of
roads across the forest and to close roads that conflict with resource
protection goals outlined in the Coconino Forest plan (1987, as
amended). There is a need to continue providing limited motorized use
off of designated routes to existing dispersed camping sites/areas.
This action responds to the new travel regulations at 36 CFR 212.

Proposed Action

    For the purposes of this project and notice, ``route'' is a general
term that refers to a road or motorized trail mapped to a location on
the ground. The term ``road'' or ``trail'' is defined as a National
Forest System road or trail that is designated for motor vehicle use
pursuant to 36 CFR 212.51. A ``user-created'' or ``unauthorized'' route
is a road or motorized trail not designated for motor vehicle use
pursuant to 36 CFR 212.51. User-created routes have generally developed
without agency authorization, environmental analysis, or public
involvement and do not have the same status as NFS roads or tails
included in the forest transportation system. To meet the project's
purpose and need, the following actions are proposed:
    Close 1,500 miles of existing open roads. In this case, close means
it will be closed to public travel. Some of these roads will be
retained for periodic administrative use only (maintenance Level 1) and
others will be decommissioned (removed from the forest inventory). The
most relevant

[[Page 40828]]

aspect of this action is closing the road to public travel. Decisions
to obliterate decomissioned roads are outside the scope of this project
because they require further site-specific environmental analysis and
clearances before being undertaken;
    Add 40 miles of user-created routes to the forest transportation
system. These routes will be managed as roads and will be open to
public travel;
    Allow roadside parking within one vehicle length from the edge of
the road surface;
    Prohibit motorized travel off of designated routes for the purpose
of big game retrieval;
    Allow motor vehicles to travel 100 feet off designated routes for
the purpose of accessing existing dispersed camping sites. User-created
routes that access additional existing dispersed camping sites beyond
the 100 foot limit will also be designated for motorized use. These
routes will be shown as spur roads on the MVUM. Existing dispersed
campsites will be displayed on a supplementary map to the MVUM and/or
signed on the ground; and
    Amend the Coconino National Forest Plan to prohibit off-road
driving on the entire forest, remove road density by vegetation type
direction, and remove any references to ``off-road driving'' currently
in the plan in order to be consistent with the language and intent in
36 CFR 212.
    This action, in conjunction with existing motorized trails and the
Cinder Hills OHV area, will result in approximately 3,950 miles of
designated NFS routes and one 13,711-acre area generally open to motor
vehicles on the Coconino National Forest. Roads within existing
seasonal closure areas (Nordic Center, Wing Mountain, Pine Grove,
Rattlesnake, Woods, Cottonwood Basin, Anderson Mesa/Antelope, Lower
Lake Mary Bald Eagle closure) will continue to only be open seasonally
to motor vehicles.

Possible Alternatives

    In addition to the Proposed Action, the No Action alternative will
be analyzed. The Forest Service is required to analyze the ``No
Action'' alternative under the provisions of NEPA (40 CFR 1502.14). No
Action will consider the effects of not making any changes to forest's
current road system and not prohibiting motorized cross-country travel.
Additional alternatives may be developed in response to significant
issues brought up during public scoping.

Responsible Official

    The responsible official for this project is the Coconino National
Forest Supervisor.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    Items in this decision include: Changes to the existing road
system; changes to existing motorized trails and areas open to cross-
country motorized travel; the distance motor vehicles may travel off of
specific designated routes for the purpose of dispersed camping; and
language and content changes to the Coconino Forest Plan via a forest
plan amendment. The decision will be based on a consideration of the
environmental effects of implementing the proposed action or
alternatives developed in response to significant issues. The Forest
Supervisor may select the proposed action, an alternative analyzed in
detail, or a modified proposed action or alternative within the
project's range of alternatives.

Scoping Process

    Scoping is an ongoing procedure used to identify important issues
and determine the extent of analysis necessary for an informed decision
on a proposed action. This Notice of Intent serves as formal initiation
of the scoping process. The Forest Service is seeking comments from
individuals, organizations, and local, state and Federal agencies that
may be interested in or affected by the proposed action. Comments may
pertain to the nature and scope of the environmental, social, and
economic issues, and possible alternatives related to the development
of the motorized travel plan and EIS. A copy of the proposed action has
been sent to potentially affected persons and those that have expressed
an interest in this project during the travel analysis process. Others
may have their names added to the project mailing list at any time by
submitting a request to: Jim Beard, Project Leader, 1824 S Thompson
St., Flagstaff, AZ, 86001, E-mail:
coment-southwestern-coconino@fs.fed.us.

    A series of open houses are scheduled to further explain the
proposed action and to provide an opportunity for public input. Open
houses are planned at the following locations and dates:

July 31, Flagstaff, AZ, Sinagua High School, 5-8 p.m.
August 1, Happy Jack, AZ, Happy Jack Lodge, 5-8 p.m.
August 2, Camp Verde, AZ, Cliff Castle Casino, 5-8 p.m.
August 4, Flagstaff, AZ, Sinagua High School, 12-5 p.m.

Preliminary Issues

    During the public collaboration phase of the travel analysis
process, an issue was brought forward about the lack of motorized
trails in the forest, especially after the forest prohibits cross-
country motorized travel. The Coconino National Forest can consider
alternatives to designate additional motorized trails to the forest
transportation system. More specific route location information will be
required in order to fully develop and analyze this alternative. New
routes will be assessed using both 36 CFR 212.55(b) criteria for
motorized trails, as well as consistency with Coconino Forest Plan
management direction.
    Other issues brought forward during the travel analysis process
included off-road access for firewood gathering and grazing allotment
management. As per the TMR, motor vehicle use authorized under a permit
is exempted from the route and area designations. The necessity of
using motor vehicles off of designated routes should be articulated in
the permit and where necessary, would be analyzed and authorized under
a separate NEPA decision (it is outside the scope of this project).
    Additional issues during travel analysis included off-road access
for big game retrieval and dispersed camping. The forest is not
proposing to allow motor vehicles off of designated routes for big game
retrieval because our preliminary analysis found that the proposed
transportation system will provide adequate and reasonable access to
hunters within all game management units across the forest; 79 percent
of the forest will remain within 0.5 miles of a designated open road.
The proposed action includes limited use of motor vehicles off of
designated routes for the purpose of dispersed camping and addresses
issues related to dispersed camping access.
    An issue regarding motorized access to non-motorized areas by
people with disabilities is addressed by existing Federal laws,
regulations, and policies, which do not require areas that prohibit
motor vehicle use to make exceptions because a person has a disability.
Any wheelchair or mobility device, as defined by the American with
Disabilities Act (ADA), may continue to be used wherever foot travel is
permitted.

Comment Requested

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

[[Page 40829]]

Early Notice of Importance of Public Participation in Subsequent
Environmental Review

    A DEIS will be prepared for comment. The comment period on the DEIS
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 stage, it is important to give
reviewers notice of several court rulings related to public
participation in the environmental review process. First, reviewers of
a draft EIS 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 EIS stage but that are not raised
until after completion of the final EIS 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 EIS.
    To assist the Forest Service in identifying and considering issues
and concerns on the proposed action, comments on the draft EIS 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 EIS 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 National 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. Comments submitted
anonymously will be accepted and considered; however, those who submit
anonymous comments will not have standing to appeal the subsequent
decision under 36 CFR part 215. Additionally, pursuant to 7 CFR
1.27(d), any person may request the agency to withhold a submission
from the public record by showing how the Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) permits such confidentiality.
    Persons requesting such confidentiality should be aware that, under
the FOIA, confidentiality may be granted in only very limited
circumstances, such as to protect trade secrets. The Forest Service
will inform the requester of the agency's decision regarding the
request for confidentiality, and if the request is denied, the agency
will return the submission and notify the requester that the comments
may be resubmitted with or without name and address within a specified
number of days.

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

    Dated: July 18, 2007.
Nora B. Rasure,
Forest Supervisor, Coconino National Forest.
[FR Doc. 07-3618 Filed 7-24-07; 8:45 am]

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