Author Topic: Ak - Environmental Impact Statement on Recreational Use of Off-Road  (Read 1205 times)

Offline Todd Ockert

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[Federal Register: December 21, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 245)]
[Page 72754-72755]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access []



National Park Service

Environmental Impact Statement on Recreational Use of Off-Road
Vehicles Along Nine Trails in the Nabesna Area of Wrangell-St. Elias
National Park and Preserve

AGENCY: National Park Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.


SUMMARY: The National Park Service (NPS) is preparing an EIS on the
recreational use of off-road vehicles (ORV) along nine trails in the
Nabesna area of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. The
purpose of the EIS is to evaluate a range of alternatives for managing
recreational off-road vehicle use on the following trails: Caribou
Creek, Lost Creek, Trail Creek, Reeve Field, Boomerang Lake, Soda Lake,
Suslota Lake, Copper Lake and Tanada Lake. The EIS will be used to
guide the management of recreational ORV use on these trails in the
Nabesna area of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. It may
also form the basis for either a special regulation to designate ORV
routes and areas or a compatibility finding to issue permits for ORV
use in accordance with current regulations. The EIS will assess
potential environmental impacts associated with a range of reasonable
alternatives for managing recreational ORV impacts on park resources
and values such as soils, vegetation, wetlands, wildlife, visitor
experience, scenic quality, cultural resources and subsistence
    In addition to the No Action alternative, this EIS will evaluate a
proposed action that would authorize recreational ORV use on trails
that can be maintained to a standard that reduces or eliminates adverse
impacts. Other alternatives include: authorizing recreational ORV use
on some or all nine trails after making improvements to address
degraded conditions along trail alignments, and not authorizing
recreational ORV use on any trails. Public input is sought on this
range of alternatives.

[[Page 72755]]

    This EIS is being prepared in accordance with the requirements of
the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C.
4331 et seq.), and its implementing regulations at 40 CFR part 1500.
    Scoping: The NPS requests input from federal and state agencies,
local governments, private organizations, recreational users, and the
public on the scope of issues to be addressed in this EIS. Scoping
comments are being solicited. NPS representatives will be available to
discuss issues, resource concerns and the planning process at public
scoping meetings. Scoping meetings will be held in Anchorage,
Fairbanks, Tok, Glennallen, and Slana, Alaska in early 2008. When
public meetings have been scheduled, their dates, times, and locations
will be announced in local newspapers and posted on the NPS Planning,
Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) Web site at

    Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be
aware that your entire comment--including your personal identifying
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can
ask us to withhold your personal identifying information from public
review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. We will
always make submissions from organizations or businesses, and from
individuals identifying themselves as representatives of or officials
of organizations or businesses, available for public inspection in
their entirety.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of this EIS should be received 60
days after the last scoping meeting referenced above. The draft EIS is
projected to be available to the public in early 2009. Electronic
comments may be submitted to the NPS Planning, Environment, and Public
Comment (PEPC) Web site at Written

comments also may be mailed or faxed to the address and phone number
provided below.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Meg Jensen, Park Superintendent,
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, P.O. Box 439, Copper
Center, Alaska 99573. Telephone (907) 822-5234, Fax (907) 822-7259.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The 13.2 million acre Wrangell-St. Elias
National Park and Preserve was established in 1980 at which time the
nine trails under evaluation were already in existence and had use. As
part of the general management planning for the park, ORVs were
determined to be a means of surface transportation traditionally
employed by local rural residents engaged in subsistence uses. In 1983,
the park began issuing permits for recreational use of these trails
initially in accordance with 36 CFR 13.14(c) which was replaced by 43
CFR 36.11(g)(2) in 1986. The park annually issues approximately 200
recreational permits largely for sport hunters traveling to preserve
areas. Subsistence users and inholders (there are 784,000 acres of non-
federal lands within the park) also use ORVs on these trails. They are
also used by hikers, and in the winter by skiers, mushers and trappers.
Snowmachines are the typical motorized use in the winter months. Over
the history of the park, research has been conducted to assess the
conditions of the trails and to experiment with a variety of trail
hardening materials.
    On June 29, 2006, the National Parks Conservation Association,
Alaska Center for the Environment, and The Wilderness Society
(Plantiffs) filed a lawsuit against the NPS in the United States
District Court for the District of Alaska regarding recreational ORV
use on the nine trails that are the subject of this EIS. The plaintiffs
challenged the NPS issuance of recreational ORV permits asserting that
the NPS failed to make the finding required by 43 CFR 36.11(g)(2), that
such ORV use is compatible with the purposes and values of the Park and
Preserve. They also claimed that the NPS failed to prepare an
environmental analysis of recreational ORVs.
    In the May 15, 2007, settlement agreement, the NPS agreed to
endeavor to complete an EIS and Record of Decision (ROD) by December
31, 2010, during which time the NPS can issue permits authorizing
recreational use of ORVs on the Suslota Lake Trail, Tanada Lake Trail,
and a portion of the Copper Lake Trail only when the ground is frozen.
The NPS may continue to issue permits for recreational ORV use of the
remaining six trails through the year 2010.
    The litigation and settlement did not change the use of ORVs by
local rural residents engaged in subsistence uses. The trails remain
open to other uses such as hiking, skiing, or horseback riding. Prior
to the 2007 summer/fall season, all recreational ORV permit holders
were contacted and apprised of the situation.
    Executive Order 11644, issued in 1972 and amended by Executive
Order 11989 in 1977, states that federal agencies allowing ORV use must
designate the specific areas and trails on public lands on which the
use of ORVs may be permitted, and areas in which the use of ORVs may
not be permitted. Agency regulations to authorize ORV use shall provide
that designation of such areas and trails will be based upon the
protection of the resources of the public lands, promotion of the
safety of all users of those lands, and minimization of conflicts among
the various uses of those lands. Executive Order 11644 was issued in
response to the widespread and rapidly increasing use of ORV on the
public lands--``often for legitimate purposes but also in frequent
conflict with wise land and resource management practices,
environmental values, and other types of recreational activity.''
Therefore, the purpose of this EIS is to consider alternative
management strategies for the recreational use of ORVs consistent with
the park's enabling legislation and other applicable laws and

    Dated: December 12, 2007.
Tim A. Hudson,
Acting Regional Director, Alaska.
 [FR Doc. E7-24853 Filed 12-20-07; 8:45 am]

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