[Federal Register: May 11, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 91)]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
National Forest System Land Management Planning
AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.
ACTION: Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.
SUMMARY: The Forest Service is giving notice of its intent to prepare
an environmental impact statement to analyze and disclose potential
environmental consequences associated with a National Forest System
land management planning rule. This environmental impact statement is
being prepared in partial response to an order dated March 30, 2007, in
which the United States District Court in Citizens for Better Forestry
et al. v. USDA (N.D. Calif.) enjoined the USDA from implementation and
utilization of the National Forest land management planning rule
published in 2005 until the agency complies with the court's order.
DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received by June 11, 2007.
ADDRESSES: Comments may be sent via e-mail to <A HREF="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org
Written comments concerning this notice should be addressed to
Planning Rule NOI Comments, P.O. Box 162969, Sacramento, CA 95816-2969,
or via facsimile to (916) 456-6724.
All comments, including names and addresses, when provided, are
placed in the record and are available for public inspection and copying.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dave Sire, (202) 205-1006, <A HREF="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org
</A> or Regis Terney, (202) 205-1552, <A HREF="mailto:email@example.com.">firstname.lastname@example.org.</A>
Individuals 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.
This action responds in part to an order dated March 30, 2007, by
the United States District Court in Citizens for Better Forestry et al.
v. USDA (N.D. Calif.). The court enjoined the USDA from implementing and utilizing
the 2005 Rule until it complies with the court's opinion regarding the
Administrative Procedures Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the
National Environmental Policy Act.
While the Agency is not in agreement with the Court's decision, it
has decided, in the interest of moving forward with land management
planning, to prepare an environmental impact statement to comply with
the court order.
The draft environmental impact statement is expected June, 2007,
and the final environmental impact statement is expected November, 2007.
Purpose and Need for Action
The 2005 Rule at 36 CFR part 219 resulted from a review of the
National Forest System Land Management Planning Rule issued on November
9, 2000 (2000 Rule) by Forest Service personnel at the direction of the
Office of the Secretary. The review affirmed much of the 2000 Rule and
the underlying concepts of sustainability, monitoring, evaluation,
collaboration, and use of science. Although the 2000 Rule was intended
to simplify and streamline the development and amendment of land and
resource management plans, the review concluded that the 2000 Rule was
neither straightforward nor easy to implement. The review found the
(1) The 2000 rule has both definitions and analytical requirements
that are very complex, unclear, and, therefore, subject to inconsistent
implementation across the agency;
(2) Compliance with the regulatory direction on such matters as
ecological sustainability and science consistency checks would be
difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish; and
(3) The complexity of the 2000 rule makes it difficult and
expensive to implement.
Based on the review and over two decades of experience with land
management plans, the Agency promulgated a new planning rule that
improved upon the 2000 rule by providing a planning process that was
more readily understood and that was within the Agency's capability to
implement. The 2005 Rule also responded to additional needs identified
through public comments received during the rulemaking. Under the 2005 rule:
(1) Land management plans are strategic in nature;
(2) Are adaptive and based on current information and science;
(3) Guide sustainable management of National Forest System lands;
(4) The public is involved in planning; and
(5) Planning must comply with all applicable laws, regulations, and
The Agency expects to publish a rule for comment in late June.
Other than the Proposed Action and a No Action alternative,
additional alternatives to this proposed action have not yet been
identified. Issues with and alternatives to the proposed action will be
framed during the internal and external scoping and public comment
periods in the NEPA process.
The responsible official is Mark Rey, Under Secretary for Natural
Resources and Environment, USDA, 1400 Independence Ave., SW.,
Washington, DC 20250.
Nature of Decision to be Made
The responsible official will promulgate a land management planning
rule based on an alternative that meets the agency's purpose and need.
This Notice of Intent initiates the scoping process in compliance
with the National Environmental Policy Act and its implementing
regulations (40 CFR part 1500). As part of the scoping process, the
Forest Service solicits public comment on the nature and scope of
environmental, social, and economic issues that should be analyzed in
the draft environmental impact statement. Scoping will include review
of comments previously collected during promulgation of the 2005
planning rule (70 FR 1022), agency planning directives (72 FR 4478, 71
FR 10956, 71 FR 5124), and the Agency categorical exclusion for land
management planning (71 FR 75481). The nature and scope of the analysis
for the draft environmental impact statement will focus on the process
for development, revision, and amendment of land management plans, and
alternatives to it. Because of the extensive amount of public comment
received on the 2005 planning rule, planning directives, and the Agency
categorical exclusion for land management planning, no public meetings
are planned for this scoping effort.
Reviewers should provide their comments during the comment period.
Timely comments will enable the Agency to analyze and respond to them
at one time and to use them in the preparation of the environmental
impact statement, thus avoiding undue delay in the decisionmaking
process. Furthermore, specific and substantive comments will facilitate
meaningful review and consideration. Reviewers have an obligation to
structure their participation in the National Environmental Policy Act
process 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). Dept. of Transportation v. Public
Citizen, 541 U.S. 752, 764 (2004).
Dated: April 27, 2007.
Acting Deputy Chief, National Forest System.
[FR Doc. E7-9078 Filed 5-10-07; 8:45 am]
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