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UFWDA Community Forum  |  Regional Focus - News and Local Events  |  Northwest  |  Topic: or - Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement. « previous next »
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Todd Ockert
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« on: September 09, 2007, 12:46:47 pm »

[Federal Register: August 27, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 165)]
[Notices]               
[Page 48982-48984]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr27au07-17]                         

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

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
Off-Highway Vehicle Travel Management Plan

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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

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

SUMMARY: The Mt. Hood National Forest (Forest) will prepare an
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to document and disclose the
potential environmental effects of establishing and designating a
system of roads, trails and areas for off-highway vehicles (OHV). The
Proposed Action will change OHV access through much of the Forest in
order to meet the intent of the Travel Management; Designated Routes
and Areas for Motor Vehicle Use; Final Rule that was published on
November 9, 2005 (70 FR 216). The Proposed Action focuses on travel
management within six proposed OHV areas and motorized access to
dispersed (undeveloped) camping. Within each area, specific OHV routes
are proposed by motor vehicle class, and new trails are proposed for
construction where they would create trail loop opportunities. A Forest
Plan Amendment would be required to achieve the purpose and need, and
implement the Proposed Action.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of this analysis must be received
no later than October 1, 2007 to ensure they are fully incorporated
into the Draft EIS. Two public meetings are scheduled as follows.
    1. September 11, 2007 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in Portland, OR.
    2. September 12, 2007 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in Hood River, OR.

ADDRESSES: Submit written comments to Jennie O'Connor, Off-Highway
Vehicle Travel Management Plan Leader, Mt. Hood National Forest, 6780
Highway 35, Parkdale, Oregon 97041. Electronic comments can be
submitted to comments-pacificnorthswest-mthood@fs.fed.us. The meeting
locations are:
    1. University Place Hotel and Conference Center in the Willamette
Falls Room (310 SW Lincoln Street, Portland, OR 97201).
    2. Best Western Hood River Inn in the Riverview Room (1108 East
Marina Way, Hood River, OR 97031).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jennie O'Connor, Natural Resource
Planner, Mt. Hood National Forest, 6780 Highway 35, Parkdale, Oregon
97041 or by e-mailing jmoconnor@fs.fed.us or by calling (541) 352-6002
x634.

[[Page 48983]]


SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Need for the Proposal

    One purpose of this project is to designate routes for off-highway
vehicle (OHV) use by class of vehicle (excluding over-snow vehicles)
and time of year. Another purpose of this project is to determine where
licensed motor vehicles will continue to be allowed to drive off roads
to access dispersed (undeveloped) camping. By meeting these purposes,
the Mt. Hood National Forest will comply with 36 CFR parts 212, 251,
261, and 295--Travel Management; Designated Routes and Areas for Motor
Vehicle Use; Final Rule [Federal Register, Vol. 70, No. 215 (2005)] for
off-highway vehicle (OHV) use. The final rule states that we ``must
strike an appropriate balance in managing all types of recreational
activities. To this end, a designated system of roads, trails, and
areas for motor vehicle use established with public involvement will
enhance public enjoyment of National Forests while maintaining other
important values and uses of NFS [National Forest Systems] lands''
(page 28265). This National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process
will only address OHV use and motorized access to dispersed camping;
subsequent NEPA processes may address access and travel management
issues.
    In order to comply with the OHV and motorized access to dispersed
camping portions of the Final Travel Management Rule, there is the
underlying need for:
     Designating and/or constructing OHV routes and areas (as
appropriate) within the identified six areas to provide recreation
opportunities;
     Changing the current management direction in the Mt. Hood
Land and Resource Management Plan to comply with the Final Travel
Management Rule;
     Balancing recreation opportunities for OHV use with other
recreational uses of the National Forest and resource sustainability;
and
     Designating areas where licensed vehicles will continue to
be allowed to drive off roads for the purpose of accessing dispersed
camping.

Proposed Action

    The Proposed Action will change OHV access through much of the
Forest in order to meet the intent of the Final Travel Management Rule.
The Proposed Action focuses on travel management within six proposed
OHV areas and motorized access to dispersed camping. All National
Forest System lands were considered by the Forest Service and members
of the public during a two-year long dialogue with the public. The six
areas resulted from this dialogue provide a balance between providing
recreational opportunities and protecting natural resources as required
by the Final Travel Management Rule.
    Within each area, specific OHV routes are proposed by motor
vehicles class, and new trails are proposed for construction where they
would create trail loop opportunities. Through the NEPA planning
process, the Forest Service will consider alternative OHV routes within
each of the six designated OHV areas. OHV use would be allowed only on
these designated routes.
    The six areas proposed for OHV use are listed below.
     McCubbins Gulch, Barlow Ranger District.
     Rock Creek, Barlow Ranger District.
     Gibson Prairie, Hood River Ranger District.
     Bear Creek, Hood River Ranger District.
     Peavine, Clackamas Ranger District.
     LaDee Flats, Clackamas Ranger District.
    The Forest Service's Proposed Action includes the following
features.
     Some roads identified in the Roads Analysis--Mt. Hood
National Forest (2003) as decision roads (not needed for management
purposes) would be converted to OHV trails and removed from the road
system in order to improve the safety of all users.
     New OHV trails would be constructed within these six areas
to connect existing roads and trails and to provide loop routes.
     Some decisions roads would be proposed to be closed, if
designating nearby routes would cause these roads to become a law
enforcement or natural resource problem. Approximately 12 miles of
roads are proposed to be closed.
     Mixed-use routes would be proposed in each area. Mixed-use
routes allow OHV and licensed motor vehicles to use the same routes.
     Classes of motor vehicles allowed would be designated for
all routes.
     An area within the Rock Creek OHV area would have some
restrictions on camp fires and overnight dispersed camping.
     A staging area would be identified within each OHV area.
The staging area would be a day-use area that serves as a trailhead for
motorized recreation. McCubbins Gulch Campground would continue to be
the staging area for this OHV area.
    In addition to OHV use, motorized access to dispersed camping will
be designated for the Forest. Licensed motor vehicles would be allowed
to leave the designated road system up to 150-feet from a proposed
designated route to access dispersed camping. Some routes are not
proposed in order to protect natural resources (e.g., sensitive
species) or to comply with existing management direction (e.g., no
motorized use in wilderness or some wild and scenic rivers).
    A Forest Plan amendment would be required to achieve the purpose
and need, and implement the Proposed Action. The Amendment would close
all areas and roads to OHV use, unless designated open; and would
discontinue all motorized use cross-country use, except allowing
licensed motorized access to dispersed camping in designated area.
    Interactive electronic maps and route data and other information
about the project are available on the Internet at: http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/mthood/projects/.
 Also, maps of the proposed areas and

additional information on the proposal are available by contacting
Jennie O'Connor, Mt. Hood National Forest (see above).

Proposed Scoping

    As directed by the National Environmental Policy Act (1969), the
Forest Service is now seeking comments from individuals, organizations,
local and state governments, and other 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 to the proposed action. Comments will
help the Forest Service assess the proposed action, develop
alternatives and prepare a draft environmental impact statement.
    The Forest Service will host two open houses to present and answer
questions about the proposed action. The meetings are scheduled for
September 11, 2007 in Portland from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and for
September 12, 2007 in Hood River from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Since there
will be no formal presentations at the open houses, please feel free to
come at any time during the meetings.

Preliminary Issues Identified to Date

    The potential for impacts/effects as a result of designating and
constructing OHV routes as well as motorized access to dispersed
camping are important considerations that need to be addressed in the
analysis. The following issues were identified during the preliminary
effects analysis and public input in designating the OHV routes, both
conducted in 2005.
     Soils: Sedimentation input from the disturbance next to
streams. Impacts to

[[Page 48984]]

cryptobiotic crust, which do not recover quickly.
     Fisheries: Presence of threatened, endangered and
sensitive aquatic species. Potential stream crossings by OHVs. Trails
located within riparian reserves.
     Botany: Impacts to sensitive plant, fungi, lichen and moss
habitat, if users venture off designated routes. Increased potential to
spread non-native invasive plants.
     Law enforcement: Capacity to enforce designated OHV routes
and ability to keep users to the designated routes.
     Fire and fuels: Increased potential for fire starts,
especially at staging areas.
     Recreation: Conflicts between user groups, particularly
non-motorized and motorized trail use.
     Social: Increased accidents, noise and crime due to
increased OHV use. Potential sanitation problems associated with the
more people. Conflicts with local residents.

Alternatives Considered

    The No Action alternative will serve as a baseline for comparison
of alternatives. This alternative will offer no treatment of affected
sites. It will be fully developed and analyzed. The proposed action, as
described above will be considered as an alternative. Additional
alternatives may be developed around the proposed action to address key
issues identified in the scoping and public involvement process.

Estimated Dates for Draft and Final EIS

    The draft EIS is expected to be filed with the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) and to be available for public comment by April
2007. The comment period on the draft EIS will be 45 days from the date
the EPA 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
the 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 objectives
that could be raised at the draft EIS stage but that are not raised
until after the 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 Heritage, Inc. v. Harris, 490 F. Supp. 1334 (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 the 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 (40
CFR 1503.3).
    Comments received in response to this solicitation, including names
and addresses of those who comment, will be considered part of the
public record on this proposed action and will be available for public
inspection. Comments submitted anonymously will be accepted and
considered; however, those who submit anonymous comments may 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 where 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.
    Comments on the draft EIS will be analyzed, considered, and
responded to by the Forest Service in preparing the final EIS. The
final EIS is scheduled to be completed in June 2008. The Responsible
Official will be Gary Larsen, Forest Supervisor of the Mt. Hood
National Forest. He will consider comments, responses, environmental
consequences discussed in the final EIS, and applicable laws,
regulations, and policies in making a decision regarding this proposed
action. The responsible official will document the decision and
rationale for the decision in the Record of Decision. It will be
subject to Forest Service Appeal Regulations (36 CFR part 215).

    Dated: August 17, 2007.
Gary L. Larsen,
Forest Supervisor, Mt. Hood National Forest.
[FR Doc. 07-4164 Filed 8-24-07; 8:45 am]

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