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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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Author Topic: Or - Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement.  (Read 423 times)
Todd Ockert
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« on: November 20, 2007, 11:10:25 am »

Umatilla National Forest, Grant County, OR Farley Analysis Area
Vegetation Management Project

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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

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SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of Agriculture--Forest Service proposes to
conduct vegetation management activities on approximately 17,500 acres
of upland forest sites in the Farley Analysis Area to restore
sustainable forest conditions in the Desolation Creek watershed. The
proposed action will use a range of mechanical harvest and non-harvest
thinning and prescribed fire activities to alter species composition,
stand structure, and fire regime condition class to re-create
conditions that are consistent with the historic range of variability
for forests of the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon, and to
capture the commercial value of forest raw materials for the benefit of
local economies.
    The Farley Analysis Area encompasses the Desolation Creek watershed
which covers 69,672 acres of diverse mountainous, mostly forested
landscapes ranging in elevation from 7,765 ft at its headwaters to 2810
ft at its confluence with the North Fork John Day River near Dale,
Oregon. It includes both National Forest and privately-owned lands;
private lands comprise about 18 percent of the total area, mostly at
lower elevations at the western end of the watershed.
    Development and implementation of these actions will be conducted
in accordance with the National Forest Management Act, National
Environmental Policy Act, Council on Environmental Quality regulations,
Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, and with the
Umatilla National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan and
scientific recommendations of the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem
Management Project.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received
by December 12, 2007. The Draft EIS is expected to be filed with the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and be available to the public
for review by February 2008. The Final EIS is scheduled to be completed
by April 2008.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to the Responsible Official, Kevin D.
Martin, Forest Supervisor, Umatilla National Forest, 2517 S.W. Hailey
Avenue, Pendleton, OR 97801. Send electronic comments to:
comments-pacificnorthwestumatilla@fs.fed.us.


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael A. Beckwith, Technical Writer-
Editor, North Fork John Day Ranger District, 401 Main Street, Ukiah, OR
97880, phone (541) 427-5335. E-mail: mabeckwith@fs.fed.us.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Purpose and Need. Since the early 1900s,
fire has been aggressively excluded from forest ecosystems throughout
the Nation. From the mid to late 1900s, timber harvest practices in the
interior Columbia Basin have emphasized removal primarily of mature
ponderosa pine. The result has been a shift in forest conditions toward
dense stands of Douglas and grand fir containing large amounts of dead
and decaying wood that now are subject to insect infestations, disease,
and very large wildfires, in contrast to the more open stands of fire-
adapted species (such as ponderosa pine) that would be expected to
occur historically.
    In addition, in 1996 the Bull, Summit and Tower wildfires in and
near the Farley Analysis Area involved mature lodgepole pine forests
that had experienced substantial insect mortality. These fires were
uncharacteristically intense and covered large areas (over 130,000
acres) because, as a result of past fire suppression and timber harvest
practices, the forests had become more dense (more trees per acre) and
contained a larger amount of dead wood than would have existed
historically. These fires resulted in greater loss of old forest
structure, wildlife cover and habitat, riparian structure and
vegetation, erosion and detrimental effects to soils over very large
areas than would have been anticipated historically.
    The Desolation Watershed Analysis (1999) found that almost 60
percent of upland-forest sites in the Farley area exhibit moderate or
high departures from the characteristic species composition, structure
and stand density conditions than would have existed historically.
These conditions are outside the range of historic variability for
forests in the Blue Mountains and are not sustainable over the long-
term, with the end result likely to be very large, destructive
wildfires. Therefore, the purpose and need for the Farley Vegetation
Management Project is to improve the long-term sustainability of upland
forests by reducing stand densities and fuel loads, restoring
appropriate species composition, altering forest structure and fire
regime condition class, regenerating mature lodgepole stands that
currently exist, and to capture the commercial value of raw wood
materials for the benefit of local economies.
    Proposed Action. The Forest Service proposes to conduct mechanical
harvest and non-harvest thinning, prescribed fire, fuels treatment, and
reforestation activities on approximately 17,460 acres in the Farley
Analysis Area in accordance with the resource management objectives and
standards set forth in the Umatilla National Forest Land and Resource
Management Plan (1990) and the scientific recommendations of the
Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project (1996). These
activities are anticipated to yield approximately 60,000 hundred cubic
feet of merchantable material. Approximately 100 miles of open and
seasonally open

[[Page 65290]]

roads will be required for the proposed action, including construction
of approximately 40 miles of new system and temporary roads, and
approximately 50 miles of reconstruction and maintenance of existing
forest system roads. Approximately 2 miles of existing road will be
closed and/or decommissioned at the conclusion of the proposed
activities.
    The proposed action requires amendments to the Forest Plan with
respect to connectivity among stands exhibiting old forest structure,
scenic values, and total area (at the specific stand, subwatershed and
watershed level) allowed to be in the less than 20 year old age class.
Implementation of the proposed actions could begin in late 2008.
    Possible Alternatives. Alternatives will include the proposed
action, no action, and additional alternatives that respond to issues
generated during the scoping process. The agency will give notice of
the full environmental analysis and decision-making process so
interested and affected people may participate and contribute to the
final decision.
    Scoping. Correspondence with tribes, government agencies,
organizations, and individuals who have indicated interest will be
conducted and input will be solicited.
    Preliminary Issues. Preliminary issues identified include the
potential effects of the proposed action on long-term forest conditions
and sustainability, fish and wildlife habitat, hydrology and water
quality, soils and scenic values.
    Comment. Public comments on this proposed action are requested to
identify issues and alternatives to the proposed action and to focus
the scope of the analysis. 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 will not have standing to appeal the subsequent decisions
under 36 CFR parts 215 or 217. 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 confidentially. Persons requesting such confidentially
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.
    Early Notice of Importance of Public Participation in Subsequent
Environmental Review. A draft EIS will be filed with the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) and made available for public review by January
2008. The EPA will publish a Notice of Availability (NOA) of the draft
EIS in the Federal Register. The final EIS is scheduled to be available
April 2008.
    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 impact statements must structure their participation in the
environmental review of the proposal so that it is meaningful and
alerts the 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 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. Reviews 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.
    In the final EIS, the Forest Service is required to respond to
substantive comments received during the comment period for the draft
EIS. The Forest Service is the lead agency and the responsible official
is Craig Dixon, District Ranger, North Fork John Day Ranger District,
Umatilla National Forest. The responsible official will decide where,
and whether or not to salvage timber, and remove potential hazard
trees. The responsible official will select the treatment
alternative(s) for the Farley Vegetation Management, as well as
potential mitigation and monitoring measures that may be needed. The
decision will be documented in a record of decision. The decision will
be subject to Forest Service Appeal Regulations (36 CFR part 215).

    Dated: November 14, 2007.
Kevin Martin,
Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. 07-5754 Filed 11-19-07; 8:45 am]

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