Rio Grande National Forest; Colorado; Revision of the Land
Management Plan for the Rio Grande National Forest
AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement.
SUMMARY: As directed by the National Forest Management Act, the USDA
Forest Service is preparing the revised land management plan (forest
plan) for the Rio Grande National Forest. The agency will prepare an
environmental impact statement (EIS) for the revised plan. The revised
forest plan will supersede the existing forest plan previously approved
by the responsible official for the Rio Grande National Forest in 1996.
The existing forest plan has been amended several times since its
approval. The existing forest plan, as amended, will remain in effect
until the revised forest plan is approved. The plan will be revised
under the 2012 Planning Rule and will provide for social, economic and
ecological sustainability within Forest Service authority and the
inherent capability of the plan area.
DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis will be accepted
throughout the entire plan revision process, however members of the
public who wish to establish standing to participate in the
administrative review process must submit substantive formal comments
on the plan revision within 45 days of the publication of the Legal
Notice in the Valley Courier in accordance with 36 CFR 219 Subpart B.
ADDRESSES: Comments may be sent in one of the following ways: (1) Via
the Forest Plan Revision email address: email@example.com
(2) send or deliver written comments to the Rio Grande National
Forest's Supervisor's Office, Attn: Forest Plan Revision, 1803 W.
Highway 160, Monte Vista, CO 81144.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Erin Minks, Forest Planner, firstname.lastname@example.org
, 719-852-6215 or Mike Blakeman, Public Affairs
, 719-852-6212. Information on plan
revision is also available at the forest Web site www.fs.usda.gov/riogrande
who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) may call the
Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 between 8
a.m. and 8 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.
Purpose and Need for Action
The purpose and need for revising the Rio Grande forest plan is
primarily the age of the current plan and a significant changed
condition on the forest. According to the National Forest Management
Act, forest plans are to be revised on a 10 to 15 year cycle. The
current forest plan is 20 years old and has been amended seven times.
Since the forest plan was approved in 1996, there have also been
significant changes in economic, social, and ecological conditions in
the plan area, including the infestation of 588,000 acres of the spruce
by the spruce beetle.
The purpose and need for revising the current plan is also to
incorporate new policies, priorities, information from monitoring
reports and scientific research as required under the 2012 Planning
Rule. The Rio Grande has completed monitoring reports annually from
1997 through 2013. The 2012 Planning Rule, which became effective May
9, 2012, requires inclusion of plan components that address social and
economic sustainability, ecosystem services, and multiple uses
integrated with the plan components for ecological sustainability and
species diversity. Social and economic management direction is needed
to provide people and communities with a range of social and economic
benefits for present and future generations. To meet the Planning
Rule's requirement to provide for ecological sustainability, management
direction is also needed that addresses ecosystem integrity and
diversity, including key ecosystem characteristics, in light of changes
in climate, land ownership and recreational use patterns, as well as
other threats and stressors to those ecosystems.
Revised plan components are needed that focus on maintaining or
restoring aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems to provide for species
diversity including threatened and endangered species, and species of
conservation concern. Additionally, updates and modifications to
management direction are needed to address suitability of certain areas
for particular uses, address access and sustainable recreation and
provide for the management of existing and anticipated uses. The 2012
Planning Rule also requires the identification of acreage suitable for
timber harvest on the forest, the re-evaluation of the maximum quantity
of timber that may be removed from the plan area, a description of the
proposed and possible actions related to the planned timber sale
program, timber harvesting levels, and the proportion of various
methods of forest vegetation management practices.
Most importantly, the purpose and need is to address the identified
needs to change the existing plan presented to the public in March 2016
and refined into an initial proposal in July 2016. These needs for
change were identified through the monitoring reports mentioned above,
internal staff recommendations, and the assessment phase of the
revision process which was initiated in December 2014 and completed in
March 2016. Extensive public and employee involvement, along with
science-based evaluations, have helped identify these preliminary needs
to change the existing forest plan. During the assessment phase alone,
over fifty public meetings were held in multiple forums to engage the
public on the current condition and potential needs to change the
management of the forest. Upon completion of the assessment phase, two
additional rounds of meetings were held on each district in March and
July of 2016 to discuss and further refine the needs for change and
initial proposal summarized in the proposed action items described
The Proposed Action is to revise the forest plan to address the
needs to change the existing forest plan presented to the public in
March 2016 and refined into the initial proposal in July of 2016.
The Rio Grande National Forest is proposing to establish a new
adaptive management framework that will guide development of the forest
plan direction and required components for the next 10 to 15 years.
This framework is designed to increase the responsiveness of forest
managers to changing conditions on the landscape, changes in higher
level direction, and new technologies that are not yet foreseen. This
framework was developed with the public through the spring and summer
of 2016 and includes an overarching geographic area layer above the
forest's existing management area layer, tiered to levels of active
management, the forest's discretion in said management, and the current
legal status of the land. This framework provides a vehicle for the
future plan to better communicate how the agency manages the forest, a
common theme heard throughout the public process.
The Proposed Action also includes forest-wide goals, objectives and
desired conditions tied to management areas, tiered to this management
framework and directed by the 2012 Planning Rule. Many of these
objectives and desired conditions are pulled from the existing 1996
Forest Plan but are organized differently to fit into this overall
adaptive management framework. To ensure for management accountability,
however, the forest will develop additional required plan components,
including standards, guidelines, and suitability determinations during
the scoping process and analysis to reflect this adaptive management
strategy while ensuring for ecosystem integrity, sustainability,
habitat connectivity and the viability of species of conservation
The Proposed Action identifies watersheds that are a priority for
maintenance and restoration. It also includes an estimate of what may
be suitable timber acreage for the next 10-15 years on the forest, as
well as proposal for fire management zones at the geographic level
reflecting the level of risk and benefit involved in managing fire for
The forest also intends to re-evaluate the suitability of national
forest lands to support other multiple uses, including over the snow
vehicle use, communication sites, and utility corridors during
analysis, following the development of alternatives to the proposed
action with the public.
The Proposed Action identifies 34 stream reaches to be taken into
analysis for potential inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic River
System first presented to the public in draft form in July 2016.
The forest is still evaluating areas for wilderness character
pursuant to Chapter 70 direction in the Forest Service Handbook
1909.12. The final decision will reflect the analysis of alternatives
developed during scoping and a broad range of recommendations.
The Proposed Action also describes a monitoring strategy as part of
the adaptive management framework while ensuring for accountability. It
identifies eight monitoring topics required by the 2012 Planning Rule,
describes a developing partnership with the State and Private Forestry
Forest Inventory and Analysis program to share information currently
being collected on the forest. It also establishes an expectation of an
annual information sharing meeting with the public to gauge the
implementation of the revised plan and any potential needs for change
which might require a forest-plan amendment or administrative change.
Specific monitoring questions to inform plan components will be
developed during scoping and refined during analysis.
Lead and Cooperating Agencies
Throughout the revision process the Rio Grande National Forest is
the Lead Agency. The following entities have been formally identified
as Cooperating Agencies: Bureau of Land Management, State of Colorado
Department of Natural Resources, the counties of Alamosa, Conejos,
Saguache, Hinsdale, Rio Grande, and Mineral, and the Navajo Nation.
Dan Dallas, Forest Supervisor, Rio Grande National Forest, 1803 W.
Highway 160, Monte Vista, CO 81144, 719-852-5941.Read the full notice... https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-09-12/html/2016-21837.htm