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UFWDA Community Forum  |  Regional Focus - News and Local Events  |  Northwest  |  Topic: Black Hills NF Rattlesnake FMP « previous next »
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« on: November 25, 2008, 05:06:30 pm »

[Federal Register: November 25, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 228)]
[Notices]               
[Page 71600-71601]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr25no08-35]                         

========================================================================
Notices
                                                Federal Register
________________________________________________________________________

This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains documents other than rules
or proposed rules that are applicable to the public. Notices of hearings
and investigations, committee meetings, agency decisions and rulings,
delegations of authority, filing of petitions and applications and agency
statements of organization and functions are examples of documents
appearing in this section.

========================================================================



[[Page 71600]]



DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
Black Hills National Forest, Bearlodge Ranger District, Sundance,
WY--Rattlesnake Forest Management Project

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Revised Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact
Statement.

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

SUMMARY: This notice of intent revises the previously published notice
of intent for the Rattlesnake Project (73 FR 65284, Nov. 3, 2008). Due
to a printing error, the previously published notice contained an
incorrect electronic mail address. This notice corrects the address and
extends the comment due date.
    The Forest Service will prepare an environmental impact statement
(EIS) on a proposal to implement multiple resource management actions
in the Rattlesnake Project Area to implement the amended Black Hills
National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan. The proposed action
includes approximately 11,000 acres of commercial timber harvest, 5,000
acres of non-commercial vegetation management, 6,000 acres of
prescribed burning, three miles of road construction, road
improvements, and watershed improvements. Prescribed burning is
proposed in a roadless area.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received
by December 22, 2008. The draft EIS is expected to be available for
public review in March 2009, and the final EIS is expected to be
completed by June 2009.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Rattlesnake Project, c/o Content
Analysis Group, 172 E. 500 S., Bountiful, UT 84010. Fax number: (801)
397-1605. Electronic mail: bhnf@contentanalysisgroup.com. Comments may
be hand-delivered to the Bearlodge Ranger District office, 101 South
21St Street, Sundance, Wyoming, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30
p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Elizabeth Krueger, Resource Planner,
Bearlodge Ranger District, Black Hills National Forest. Telephone
number: (307) 283-1361.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Purpose of and Need for Action

    The purpose of actions proposed under the Rattlesnake Forest
Management Project is to provide biologically diverse ecosystems,
protect basic resources, and provide for sustained commodity uses by
reducing crown fire hazard and wildfire threats to private property,
reducing risk of mountain pine beetle infestation, producing commercial
timber now and creating conditions for future timber production,
conserving and enhancing big game winter range, enhancing forest
structural diversity, and conserving and enhancing late successional
landscapes.

Proposed Action

    The Rattlesnake Project Area covers approximately 42,171 acres of
National Forest System land and 3,935 acres of interspersed private
land east of Sundance, Wyoming. To reduce wildfire hazard, the Forest
Service proposes to thin pine stands, construct fuel breaks, reduce
fuels adjacent to populated areas and across the landscape, reduce pine
competition with aspen and birch stands, and conduct prescribed
burning. To reduce risk of beetle infestation, activities would include
thinning and regeneration of pine stands. To produce commercial timber
and create conditions for future timber production, proposed activities
include regeneration and shelterwood removal in pine stands, thinning
of merchantable and submerchantable pine, and reduction of bur oak
competition. To conserve and enhance winter range, activities would
include uneven-age management of pine stands, reduction of pine and oak
competition with desirable forage, and prescribed burning. To enhance
forest structural diversity, the proposal includes regeneration harvest
in pine and conservation of stands that could develop into late
successional forest. Road construction, repair, and improvement would
occur in support of these activities. New roads would be closed
following harvest, and existing roads not part of the National Forest
System could also be closed in conjunction with this project. To
conserve and enhance late successional landscapes (management area
3.7), the Forest Service would conduct prescribed burning. Other
proposed enhancement activities include watershed improvement through
road and stream rehabilitation.
    The Rattlesnake Project Area includes the 7,944-acre Sand Creek
Roadless Area. Most of the Sand Creek area is unsuitable for timber
harvest, and new road construction is prohibited in much of the area by
Forest Plan direction, severely limiting opportunities for mechanical
treatment. The Forest Service considers access to the area by
commercial equipment impractical at this time and has chosen to focus
on objectives that could be achieved by non-commercial means. As a
result, the only action proposed in the Sand Creek Roadless Area is
prescribed burning (2,386 acres), with the purpose of promoting late
successional forest attributes.

Background

    The Rattlesnake Project area encompasses the area of the Cement
Project. The Forest Service approved the Cement Project on February 20,
2004. The project was litigated. Following a July 2005 wildfire that
substantially altered forest conditions in the Cement Project area, the
Forest Service withdrew the project. The complaint was subsequently
dismissed in April 2006.
    In the course of the withdrawal of the Cement Project decision and
dismissal of the complaint, the Forest Service made several commitments
regarding any new proposal in the Cement Project Area. These
commitments pertained to addressing certain changed conditions;
developing the range of alternatives; and soliciting and considering
public comment on the new proposal. The Forest Service intends to honor
these commitments in the analysis process for the Rattlesnake Project.
    The Rattlesnake Project Area includes the Cement Project Area but
is a new and separate proposal from the earlier Cement Project. Initial
planning for the Rattlesnake Project began in October 2007 with a
review of existing forest conditions and amended Forest Plan

[[Page 71601]]

direction for management of the area. Circumstances affecting National
Forest System lands in the Rattlesnake Project Area have changed
substantially since 2004. (1) The Phase II Amendment to the Forest Plan
was approved on October 31, 2005. This amendment altered management
direction for the Black Hills National Forest, including the
Rattlesnake Project area, by adding broad-scale objectives increasing
management emphasis on hazardous fuels, forest structural diversity,
and habitat for rare species. These changes directly affect the type
and extent of vegetation management actions the Forest Service takes in
the Black Hills. (2) The Cement Fire of July 2005 burned 2,079 acres of
National Forest System land in the Rattlesnake Project area.
Approximately 77 percent of this area burned at moderate or high
intensity, resulting in the mortality of an estimated 1,925,300 cubic
feet of sawtimber. (3) Population adjacent to the Rattlesnake Project
Area has increased in the last four years with subdivision of the Red
Canyon Ranch. These developments could be affected by hazardous fuel
conditions in the project area. (4) Mountain pine beetle populations
have increased dramatically in an area about five miles south of the
Rattlesnake Project area, causing high levels of pine mortality on
several hundred acres. This infestation has the potential to spread to
the Rattlesnake area. (5) The Forest Service has issued new regulations
implementing the National Forest Management Act. These new regulations
replace earlier direction under which the Cement Project decision was
analyzed and approved. The new planning regulations make it clear that
they have minimal application at the project level. This project would
be conducted in accordance with the requirements of the new
regulations.

Responsible Official

    Steve Kozel, District Ranger, Bearlodge Ranger District, Black
Hills National Forest, 101 South 21st Street, PO Box 680, Sundance,
Wyoming 82729.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    The decision to be made is whether to approve the proposed action
or alternatives at this time. No Forest Plan amendments are proposed.

Scoping Process

    Comments and input regarding the proposed action are being
requested from the public and other interested parties in conjunction
with this notice of intent. The comment period will be open for thirty
days, beginning on the date of publication of this notice of intent.
Response to the draft EIS will be sought from the interested public
beginning approximately in March 2009.

Comment Requested

    This notice of intent initiates the scoping process, which guides
development of the environmental impact statement. It is our desire to
involve interested parties in identifying the issues related to
proposed activities. Comments will assist in identification of key
issues and opportunities to develop project alternatives and mitigation
measures.
    Early Notice of Importance of Public Participation in Subsequent
Environmental Review: A draft EIS will be prepared for comment. The
comment period on the draft EIS will extend 45 days from the date the
Environmental Protection Agency publishes the notice of availability in
the Federal Register. This notice is expected to appear in February
2009.
    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 EISs 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 EIS. 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.

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

    Dated: November 17, 2008.
Craig Bobzien,
Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. E8-27840 Filed 11-24-08; 8:45 am]

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