[Federal Register: December 15, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 241)]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest; Wisconsin, Northwest Sands
AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.
ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement.
SUMMARY: The Washburn Ranger District intends to prepare an
environmental impact statement (EIS) to disclose the environmental
consequences of proposed pine barren restoration project. The Northwest
Sands Project area is approximately 25,900 acres in size; about 125
acres of this is not National Forest System land. The project area is
located in Bayfield County, approximately six miles northeast of Iron
River, Wisconsin. The legal description of the area includes lands
lying within the National Forest boundary within T.49 N, R.7 W, Section
23-26, 35, 36; T.49 N, R.6 W, Section 19-22, 27-33; T.48 N, R.8 W,
Section 12, 13, 24, 25, 36; T.48 N, R.7 W, Section 1-5, 7-11, 14-23,
26-36; T.48 N, R6 W, Sections 2, 4-6, 10-16, 21-27; and T.47 N, R.7 W,
Sections 3-6, 8-10, 15-17, 20-22. See the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION
section for the purpose and need for the action.
DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis should be received
by January 10, 2008 to receive timely consideration. The draft
environmental impact statement is expected in March
2009, and the final environmental impact statement is expected in June
ADDRESSES: Send written comments to District Ranger Spring Rosales,
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forests, Washburn Ranger District, P.O.
Box 578, Washburn, WI 54891. For further information, mail
correspondence to Jennifer Maziasz, Project Leader; Washburn Ranger
District, P.O. Box 578, Washburn, WI 54891.
Purpose and Need for Action
The main goal of this project is to restore the pine barrens
ecosystem. This includes the restoration of the structure and species
composition of the vegetation; the creation of habitat conditions
needed for wildlife; and to the extent possible, the re-creation of
natural disturbance processes, such as fire, which are essential
components of a properly functioning pine barrens ecosystem. For this
phase of the restoration effort, the following specific needs were
identified: (1) Restore the vegetation species composition and
structure that typified the pine barrens that existed under a natural
disturbance regime; (2) Re-establish fire as a process in the
restoration of the pine barrens ecosystem; (3) Restore small, open
areas and ``pocket barrens'' as a component of the overall landscape;
(4) Improve habitat for wildlife species that rely on the pine barrens
ecosystem; (5) Rehabilitate the closed ATV play area located in the
pine barren management area; and (6) Provide a road system that meets
the long term transportation needs, fosters the restoration of the pine
barrens ecosystem and reduces overall road density.
In order to address the needs identified above, approximately 6,250
acres would be harvested to the desired density of trees for the
structure of a pine barren ecosystem. Of the 6,250 approximately 1,800
acres of harvest is considered sub merchantable (<4 inches in diameter)
or low quality. Approximately 14,850 acres of prescribed fire would be
conducted to re-establish fire as a process in the restoration of the
pine barrens ecosystem. In order to restore small, open areas and
pocket barrens approximately 285 acres would be mechanically treated
either by harvest, brushing and (or) prescribed burning.
The proposed treatment activities described above would greatly
improve habitat conditions for wildlife associated with barrens
habitat. As part of those activities, the following actions and design
features would be incorporated to enhance the effectiveness of the
project in providing favorable habitat conditions for certain species:
(1) Three sites (approximately 100 acres) would be managed as refugia
for the chryxus arctic and tawny crescent spot butterfly. (2) At least
one one-acre patch of recently burned dead trees would be maintained at
all times on the landscape to provide favorable habitat for black-
backed woodpeckers. (3) 4,800 acres of the open barrens habitat
component would be managed as a contiguous large patch to benefit
A closed ATV play area (20 acres in size) would be rehabilitated by
restoring native ground cover, planting trees, and reshaping major
rills and gullies. To provide a road system that meets the long term
transportation needs and fosters the restoration of the pine barrens
ecosystem the following road actions are proposed: Decommission
approximately 55 miles of roads (49 of the 55 miles are currently
closed on the ground by overgrown vegetation and (or) berms); convert 1
mile to trail; convert 3 miles to fireline; re-construct (on existing
corridors such as old roads or fireline) 17 miles of temporary road;
and construct an estimated 6 miles of temporary road to facilitate the
initial timber harvest.
Three alternatives to the Proposed Action are being developed in
response to public comments received. One alternative increases the
quantity and reduces the desired brush cover of the open barrens
component (<1 tree per acre) of the pine barren ecosystem. This would
result in some additional harvest and mechanical treatment, and
increasing the frequency/intensity of prescribed fire in the open
barrens designated area. In the two other alternatives implementation
of timber harvesting activities and subsequent treatments would occur
over a longer period of time. Both alternatives modify the rate of
harvest to include multiple harvests (verses 1 harvest entry in the
proposed action) over a 15 year period to a selected numbers of stands.
One alternative also delays the prescribed burning in the multiple
harvest stands and the other does not. This potentially would result in
a difference in the flexibility of implementation of the project, wind
firmness of the residual trees, risk of invasive species infestation,
and the overall economics of the management activities.
The responsible official for this project is Spring Rosales,
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forests, Washburn Ranger District, P.O.
Box 578, Washburn WI 54891.
The Chequamegon-Nicolet Forest began the scoping process for this
project as an environmental assessment during February 2008. Persons
and organizations on the District's mailing list were sent information
packages, and a notice was placed in the newspaper of record. The
project is listed in the Chequamegon-Nicolet Schedule of Proposed
Actions, and is viewable on the Forest Web page at http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/cnnf/
. Click on ``Project Proposals and Decisions,''
then ``Northwest Sands Project.''
The following issues will be analyzed in the EIS: effects of the
proposed activities on soils, water, air quality, Regional Forester
Sensitive Species plants and wildlife, and non-native invasive species.
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
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 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 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.
Authority: 40 CFR 1501.7 and 1508.22; Forest Service Handbook
1909.15, Section 21.
Dated: December 1, 2008.
[FR Doc. E8-29439 Filed 12-12-08; 8:45 am]
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