[Federal Register: June 28, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 124)]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Little Slate Project; Nez Perce National Forest, Idaho County, ID
AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.
ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement.
SUMMARY: The USDA, Forest Service, Nez Perce National Forest will
prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) to document analysis
and disclose the environmental impacts of implementing watershed
improvement activities and timber harvest and within the Little Slate
project area. Actions include: Construction of temporary roads, road
reconstruction, road decommissioning of existing roads that are no
longer needed, trail relocation and watershed, riparian and soil
restoration. Individuals interested in actions of this nature are
encouraged to submit comments and become involved in the planning
DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis should be received
at the address below on or before July 20, 2007. The draft
environmental impact statement is expected to be released for public
comment in November 2007 and the final environmental impact statement
is expected to be completed in May 2008.
ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Jane Cottrell, Forest Supervisor,
1005 Highway 13, Grangeville, ID 83530, or via facsimile to 208-983-
4099. Comments may be sent via e-mail to comments-northern-nezperce-
. The subject line must contain the name ``Little Slate
Project'', for which you are submitting comments or address with ATTN:
Little Slate on written correspondence.
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.
All comments, including names and addresses, when provided, are
placed in the record and are available for public inspection and
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jennie Fischer, Team Leader, Nez
Perce National Forest, 1005 Highway 13, Grangeville, ID 83530, or phone
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Little Slate project area is located on
the Nez Perce National Forest in northern Idaho within Idaho County.
The project area lies approximately 14 air miles northeast of Riggins,
Idaho and 25 air miles south of Grangeville, Idaho. The project area
encompasses approximately 35,000 acres and includes Upper and Middle
Little Slate Creek, Boulder Creek, Van Buren, Turnbull, and Rubie Creek
subwatersheds, which are tributaries to Slate Creek, which flows
directly into the Lower Salmon River. The project area also includes
small portions of John Day, Allison Creek and White Sand Creek.
Purpose and Need for Action
There is a need to improve watershed conditions, manage and restore
forest vegetation, and reduce hazardous fuels. Components of this
project include: Timber harvest, fuels reduction, watershed and soil
restoration, mine reclamation and access management (roads and trail).
The actions proposed for implementation would treat vegetation,
including the use of timber harvest, through the following activities:
Forest vegetation would be treated using a combination of methods
on approximately 4,104 acres. This combination would result in some
regeneration (clearcut) harvest (2,165 acres), shelterwood harvest (649
acres), and commercial thinning (1290 acres). Ground based logging
systems would be used and post-harvest activity fuels treated.
Approximately 17.4 miles of temporary road would be constructed to
access the timber harvest areas described above, and decommissioned
following activities. Approximately 4.9 miles of road reconstruction
would occur on the 643 road for hauling. Approximately 72
miles of existing roads would be reconditioned (deferred maintenance
activities) and for watershed improvement prior to use for the
activities. A combination of slashing and burning on approximately 860
acres would be used to enhance Whitebark pine regeneration in four high
elevation areas. Broadcast burning 1,329 acres following harvest
activities and allow backing of fire into riparian area within
lodgepole pine areas. Re-develop a Forest Service rock source would
provide material for this project and others across the forest (1
As part of this project, activities would be implemented to meet
Forest Plan requirements for upward trend in fish habitat and water
quality. The amount of watershed restoration work required to produce
an upward trend has not yet been determined. These following activities
would maintain or improve watershed conditions in the subwatersheds in
the project area.
Reducing water quality impacts on existing roads, including those
planned for use under this project through road reconditioning. Reduce
impacts from Trails, 88, 303, 308 through
relocation (2.85 miles), new construction (2.9 miles) and
decommissioned (3.2 miles). Reduce impacts and maintain Trail
133. Decommission approximately 47 miles of existing road
using techniques ranging from abandonment, or re-contouring. Restore
soil productivity and watershed function on approximately 30 acres of
previously impacted areas. Improve channel morphology, floodplain
function and instream habitat through riparian restoration on
approximately 2.5 miles of Little Slate Creek. Planting riparian areas
with native grasses, forbs and woody species where needed to promote
bank stability and/or streamside shade. Approximately 20-50 acres would
be treated to stabilize and reduce gully and surface erosion a result
of historic grazing on sensitive soils near Nut Basin point. Channel
stabilization (5 sites) where channel headcutting is occurring, in
riparian areas with historic mining activity. Mine rehabilitation to
reduce erosion and water quality impacts at 10 inactive placer sites.
Improving upstream passage for fish and other aquatic species at 6 road
crossing sites identified as being full or partial barriers. Improving
or removing road crossing (15 stream crossings) that may be undersized
to accommodate a 100-yr streamflows, including associated bedload and
debris; and prevent diversion of streamflow out of the channel and down
the road in the event of blockage.
Forest Plan Amendment
It is likely that a Forest Plan amendment would be needed to allow
implementation of timber harvest and fuel reduction activities in some
areas with past ground disturbance. This amendment would also be
Past activities have caused detrimental soil disturbance in some
areas proposed for timber harvest. The proposed amendment would state,
``Where detrimental soil conditions from past activities affect 15
percent or less of the activity area, a cumulative minimum of 85
percent of the activity area shall not be detrimentally compacted,
displaced, or puddled upon completion of activities'' and ``Where
detrimental soil conditions from past activities affect more than 15
percent of the activity area, the cumulative detrimental soil
disturbance from project implementation and past activities shall not
exceed the conditions prior to the planned activity and shall provide a
net improvement in soil quality.'' This would provide consistency with
Regional soil quality guidelines.
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 period, the
Forest Service solicits public comment on the nature and scope of the
environmental, social, and economic issues related to the rulemaking
that should be analyzed in depth in the Draft Environmental Impact
Statement. A scoping letter outlining these actions described here is
being mailed to over 400 interested individuals and organizations. In
addition, the Salmon River Ranger District will post notices within the
project area this summer along roads and trails solicit comments on the
proposal. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement will be mailed to
all those who responded during the scoping period.
The Interdisciplinary Team has identified preliminary issues
associated with potential effects on the proposed activities: On
threatened and endangered wildlife species and habitat; on old growth;
on soil productivity; on threatened, endangered and sensitive fish and
fish habitat; on the consistency with the anticipated total Maximum
Daily Load (TMDL) for the 303(d) listed streams in the Lower Salmon
River, on Inventoried Roadless Area or unroaded
areas; on Riparian Habitat Conservation Area; and on changes to public
access on roads and trails, including recreational and mining claim
The NEPA implementing regulations require that an Environmental
Impact Statement evaluate alternatives. possible alternatives to be
considered in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement include: No
activities in Inventory Roadless Areas and decommissioning of the end
of 2002 Road from the junction of the 2002C Road.
Additional alternatives may arise from public comments, analysis or
Decision To Be Made
The decisions to be made in response to this analysis include (1)
Are vegetation management and restoration activities needed and if so
where, what activities, when and how would they be implemented? (2)
What transportation systems (road and trail) are necessary in the
analysis area and how will they be managed? (3) Are the fish habitat
and water quality improvement activities for Forest Plan upward trend
requirements needed and if so where, when and how would they be
implemented? (4) What mitigation is needed to assure forest management
activities are consistent with the Nez Perce Forest Plan and
environmental law? (5) is the amendment, for soils, to the Nez Perce
Forest Plan necessary to implement the proposed actions and other
future activities? (6) What implementation and effectives monitoring is
The responsible official for this project is the Nez Perce Forest
Supervisor. Comments to this notice should be sent to the address and
contacts identified above and should be submitted within 30 days of
publication of this notice in the Federal Register. A Draft
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is expected to be available in
November 2007 and a Final EIS in May 2008. Should an action alternative
be selected, implementation would be initiated in the spring of 2009.
Implementation of any or all of the actions authorized with this
decision may occur utilizing the stewardship contracting authorities
granted in Section 347 of the 1999 Interior Appropriations Bill.
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 Register.
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 decision-making
process. Furthermore, the more specific and substantive the comments,
the better for reviewers and the agency alike. 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, 552 (1978). Dept. of
Transportation v. Public Citizen, 541 U.S. 752, 764 (2004).
Environmental concerns that could have been raised at the draft stage
may therefore be forfeited if not raised until after completion of the
Final Environmental Impact Statement. Comments on the draft should be
specific and should address the adequacy of the draft and the merits of
the alternatives discussed (40 CFR 1503.3).
Dated: June 22, 2007.
Jane L. Cottrell,
Forest Supervisor, Nez Perce National Forest.
[FR Doc. 07-3158 Filed 6-27-07; 8:45 am]
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