[Federal Register: April 11, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 69)]
[Notices]               
[Page 18198-18202]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr11ap07-32]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
Tahoe National Forest, CA, Tahoe National Forest Motorized Travel 
Management EIS

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION:  Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement.

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SUMMARY: The Tahoe National Forest (TNF) will prepare an Environmental 
Impact Statement to disclose the impacts associated with the following 
proposed actions: (1) The addition of approximately 50 miles of 
existing unauthorized routes to the current system of National Forest 
System (NFS) trails currently open to the public for wheeled motorized 
vehicle use. (2) The addition of one 60 acre area, where use of wheeled 
motorized vehicles by the public would be allowed anywhere within that 
area. (3) Allowing non-street legal vehicle use on approximately 3 
miles of an existing NFS road where such use is currently prohibited, 
(4) The prohibition of wheeled motorized vehicle travel off designated 
NFS roads, NFS trails and areas by the public except as allowed by 
permit or other authorization.

DATES: The Notice of Intent is expected to be published in Federal 
Register on April 13, 2007. The comment period on the proposed action 
will extend 30 days from the date the Notice of Intent is published in 
the Federal Register. Completion of the Draft Environmental Impact 
Statement (DEIS) is expected in September 2007 and the Final 
Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) is expected in January 2008.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to: Travel Management Team, Tahoe 
National Forest, 631 Coyote Street, Nevada City, California, 95959.

[[Page 18199]]


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: David Arrasmith, Tahoe National 
Forest, 631 Coyote Street, Nevada City, California, 95959. Phone: (530) 
478-6143. E-mail: darrasmith@fs.fed.us.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Over the past few decades, the availability and capability of 
motorized vehicles, particularly off-highway vehicles (OHVs) and sport 
utility vehicles (SUVs) has increased tremendously. Nationally, the 
number of OHV users has climbed sevenfold in the past 30 years, from 
approximately 5 million in 1972 to 36 million in 2000. California is 
experiencing the highest level of OHV use of any state in the nation. 
There were 786,914 ATVs and OHV motorcycles registered in 2004, up 330% 
since 1980. Annual sales of ATVs and OHV motorcycles in California were 
the highest in the U.S. for the last 5 years. Four-wheel drive vehicle 
sales in California also increased by 1500% to 3,046,866 from 1989 to 
2002.
    Unmanaged OHV use has resulted in unplanned roads and trails, 
erosion, watershed and habitat degradation, and impacts to cultural 
resource sites. Compaction and erosion are the primary effects of OHV 
use on soils. Riparian areas and aquatic dependent species are 
particularly vulnerable to OHV use. Unmanaged recreation, including 
impacts from OHVs, is one of ``Four Key Threats Facing the Nation's 
Forests and Grasslands.'' (USDA Forest Service, June 2004).
    On August 11, 2003, the Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest 
Service entered into a Memorandum of Intent (MOI) with the California 
Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission, and the Off-Highway 
Motor Vehicle Recreation Division of the California Department of Parks 
and Recreation. That MOI set in motion a region-wide effort to 
``Designate OHV roads, trails, and any specifically defined open areas 
for motorized wheeled vehicles on maps of the 19 National Forests in 
California by 2007.''
    On November 9, 2005, the Forest Service published final travel 
management regulations in the Federal Register (FR Vol. 70, No. 216-
Nov. 9, 2005, pp. 68264-68291). This final Travel Management Rule 
requires designation of those roads, trails, and areas that are open to 
motor vehicle use on National Forests. Designations will be made by 
class of vehicle and, if appropriate, by time of year. The final rule 
prohibits the use of motor vehicles off the designated system as well 
as use of motor vehicles on routes and in areas that are not consistent 
with the designations.
    On some NFS lands, long managed as open to cross-country motor 
vehicle travel, repeated use has resulted in unplanned, unauthorized, 
roads and trails. These routes generally developed without 
environmental analysis or public involvement, and do not have the same 
status as NFS roads and NFS trails included in the forest 
transportation system. Nevertheless, some unauthorized routes are well-
sited, provide excellent opportunities for outdoor recreation by 
motorized and non-motorized users, and would enhance the National 
Forest system of designated roads, trails and areas. Other unauthorized 
routes are poorly located and cause unacceptable impacts. Only NFS 
roads and NFS trails can be designated for wheeled motorized vehicle 
use. In order for an unauthorized route to be designated, it must first 
be added to the forest transportation system.
    In 2005, the TNF completed an inventory of unauthorized routes on 
NFS lands as described in the MOI and identified approximately 2,500 
miles of unauthorized routes. The TNF then used an interdisciplinary 
process to conduct travel analysis that included working with the 
public to identify proposals for changes to the existing TNF 
transportation system. Roads, trails and areas that are currently part 
of the TNF transportation system and open to wheeled motorized vehicle 
travel will remain designated for such use except as described below 
under the Proposed Action. This proposal identifies needed changes 
(vehicle restrictions, additional motorized trails and areas, etc.) to 
the Tahoe National Forest NFS roads, NFS trails and areas on NFS lands 
in accordance with the Travel Management Rule (36 CFR part 212).

Purpose and Need for Action

    The following needs have been identified for this proposal:
    1. There is a need for regulation of unmanaged wheel motorized 
vehicle travel by the public. The Travel Management Rule, 36 CFR part 
212, provides policy for administering the Forest transportation system 
including the designation of NFS roads, trails and areas, and the 
prohibition of cross-country travel.
    2. There is a need for the prevention of resource damage caused by 
unmanaged wheeled motorized travel by the public. The Tahoe National 
Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Amended 2005) contains a 
Forestwide Standard and Guideline which states in part ``Prohibit 
wheeled vehicle travel off of designated routes, trails, and limited 
off highway vehicle (OHV) use areas.'' The proliferation of unplanned, 
non-sustainable roads, trails and areas degrades the environment.
    3. There is a need for limited changes to the TNF transportation 
system to:
    3.1 Provide wheeled motorized access to dispersed recreation 
opportunities (camping, hunting, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, 
etc.).
    3.2 Provide a diversity of wheeled motorized recreation 
opportunities (4X4 Vehicles, motorcycles, ATVs, passenger vehicles, 
etc.).
    3.3 Provide the minimum transportation system needed for safe and 
efficient travel by the public and for administration, utilization and 
protection of NFS lands 36 CFR 212.5(b).
    It is Forest Service policy to provide a diversity of road and 
trail opportunities for experiencing a variety of environments and 
modes of travel consistent with the National Forest recreation role and 
land capability (FSM 2353.03(2)).
    In meeting these needs, any changes to the NFS roads, motorized 
trails and areas should also achieve the following purposes:
    A. Avoid impacts to cultural resources.
    B. provide for public safety.
    C. Provide for a diversity of recreational opportunities.
    D. Assure adequate access to public and private lands.
    E. Provide for adequate maintenance and administration of 
designations based on availability of resources and funding to do so.
    F. Minimize damage to soil, vegetation and other forest resources.
    G. Avoid harassment of wildlife and significant disruption of 
wildlife habitat.
    H. Minimize conflicts between wheeled motor vehicles and existing 
or proposed recreational uses of NFS lands.
    I. Minimize conflicts among different classes of wheeled motor 
vehicle uses of NFS lands or neighboring federal lands.
    J. Assure compatibility of wheeled motor vehicle use with existing 
conditions in populated areas, taking into account sound, emissions, 
etc.
    K. Have valid existing rights of use and access (rights-of-way).

Proposed Action

    1. Motorized Trail Additions--The TNF currently manages and 
maintains approximately 2,640 miles of NFS road and 760 miles of NFS 
motorized trails. Based on the stated purpose and need for action, and 
as a result of the recent

[[Page 18200]]

travel analysis process, the TNF proposes to add approximately 50 miles 
to its NFS motorized trails, bringing the total National Forest system 
of motorized trails to approximately 810 miles. The additional 
motorized trails are listed below along with the permitted vehicle 
class and season of use.

                                           Motorized Trails Additions
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                         Length       Permitted vehicle
              Route ID                  (miles)             class                      Season of use
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
YRN-11..............................         0.24  ALL...................  Yearlong.
YRN-5abc............................         0.30  ALL...................  Yearlong.
YRN-1...............................         1.22  ALL...................  Yearlong.
YRN-2...............................         1.40  ALL...................  Yearlong.
YRN-4...............................         0.60  ALL...................  Yearlong.
YRN-6...............................         0.79  ALL...................  Yearlong.
SV-P4...............................         1.12  ALL...................  Yearlong.
YRN-M3b.............................         2.65  Motorcyle only........  Yearlong.
SV-P12..............................         0.59  ALL...................  Yearlong.
SV-P13..............................         0.90  ALL...................  Yearlong.
SV-P14..............................         0.37  ALL...................  Yearlong.
SV-P14a.............................         0.27  ALL...................  Yearlong.
SV-P15..............................         1.16  ALL...................  Yearlong.
SV-P17..............................         0.57  ALL...................  May 2 to October 31.
SV-P5...............................         0.41  ALL...................  Yearlong.
SV-P7e..............................         0.82  ALL...................  Yearlong.
SV-P7w..............................         0.53  ALL...................  Yearlong.
SV-P19..............................         0.17  ALL...................  Yearlong.
SV-P8...............................         0.31  ALL...................  Yearlong.
YRM-M4..............................         0.26  Motorcycle only.......  Yearlong.
SV-P18..............................         0.59  ALL...................  Yearlong.
TKN-J10.............................         0.37  ALL...................  Yearlong.
TKN-J2..............................         0.67  ALL...................  Yearlong.
TKN-J3..............................         0.38  ALL...................  Yearlong.
TKN-J9..............................         1.79  ALL...................  Yearlong.
TKN-J12.............................         0.69  ALL...................  Yearlong.
TKN-J13.............................         1.68  ALL...................  Yearlong.
TKN-M3..............................         2.83  Motorcycle only.......  Yearlong.
TKN-M1..............................         3.50  Motorcycle only.......  Yearlong.
TKN-J4..............................         3.36  ALL...................  Yearlong.
TKN-J5..............................         1.37  ALL...................  Yearlong.
TKN-J6..............................         0.17  ALL...................  Yearlong.
YRS-AF..............................         0.33  ALL...................  Yearlong.
YRS-F1..............................         1.07  ALL...................  Yearlong.
YRS-G3..............................         0.38  ALL...................  Yearlong.
TKN-J14.............................         0.72  ALL...................  Yearlong.
YRS-SF5.............................         3.94  Motorcycle only.......  Yearlong.
YRS-SF6.............................         2.37  Motorcycle only.......  Yearlong.
YRS-B12.............................         0.12  Motorcycle only.......  May 2 to October 31.
YRS-B7..............................         0.24  Motorcycle only.......  May 2 to October 31.
TKS-M9..............................         2.97  Motorcycle only.......  Yearlong.
ARM-13..............................         0.78  ALL...................  May 2 to October 31.
ARM-2...............................         0.51  Vehicles 50'' or less   May 2 to October 31.
                                                    in width.
ARM-5...............................         0.79  ALL...................  May 2 to October 31.
ARM-7...............................         0.70  ALL...................  May 2 to October 31.
ARM-3...............................         2.31  Vehicles 50'' or less   Yearlong.
                                                    in width.
ARM-3a..............................         1.49  Vehicles 50'' or less   Yearlong.
                                                    in width.
TKS-11..............................         0.91  ALL...................  Yearlong.
                                     ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total...........................        51.71                          .....................................
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    2. Motorized Open Area Addition--The Tahoe National Forest 
currently has four areas designated open to wheeled motorized vehicle 
use. The Tahoe National Forest proposes to designate one additional 
area which would create a total of five areas open to wheeled motor 
vehicle use forest wide. The additional motorized area is listed below 
along with the permitted vehicle class and season of use.

                                          Motorized Open Area Addition
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
              Area name                Acreage   Permitted vehicle class               Season of use
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Eureka Diggings.....................         60  ALL....................  Year Round.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


[[Page 18201]]

    3. Allowing non-street legal vehicle access to approximately 3 
miles of an existing NFS road where such use is currently prohibited--
TNF maintenance level 3, 4, and 5 roads are subject to the Federal 
Highway Safety Act. As a result, these roads are designated as open to 
highway legal vehicles only. Maintenance level 2 roads are currently 
designated as open to all vehicle classes. The TNF proposed the 
following change in vehicle class:

                                             Vehicle Class Addition
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                    Current permitted
                Road                    Length        vehicle class          Proposed permitted  vehicle class
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
843-37 French Lake Road.............        3.4  Highway Legal Only.....  All.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    4. Probition of wheeled motorized vehicle travel off the designated 
NFS roads, NFS trails and areas by the public except as allowed by 
permit or other authorization.
    Maps and tables describing in detail both the TNF transportation 
system and the proposed action can found at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/tahoe/.
 In addition, maps will be available for viewing at:

    1. Supervisor's Office, 631 Coyote Street, Nevada City, CA 95959.
    2. American River Ranger District, 22830 Foresthill Road, 
Foresthill, CA 95631.
    3. Yuba River Ranger District, 15924 Highway 49, Camptonville, CA 
95922.
    4. Sierraville Ranger District, 317 South Lincoln Street, 
Sierraville, CA 96126.
    5. Truckee Ranger District, 9646 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, CA 
96161.

Responsible Official

    Steven T. Eubanks, Forest Supervisor, Tahoe National Forest, 631 
Coyote Street, Nevada City, California 95959.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    The responsible official will decide whether to adopt and implement 
the proposed action, an alternative to the proposed action, or take no 
action to make change to the existing Tahoe National Forest 
Transportation System and prohibit cross country wheeled motorized 
vehicle travel by the public off the designated system.

Scoping Process

    Public participation will be especially important at several points 
during the analysis. The Forest Service will be seeking information, 
comments, and assistance from the Federal, State, and local agencies 
and other individuals or organizations who may be interested in or 
affected by the proposed action.
    The Notice of Intent is expected to be published in the Federal 
Register on April 13, 2007. The comment period on the proposed action 
will extend 30 days from the date the Notice of Intent is published in 
the Federal Register.
    The draft environmental impact statement is expected to be filed 
with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and to be available for 
public review by September 2007. EPA will publish a notice of 
availability of the draft EIS in the Federal Register. The comment 
period on the draft EIS will extend 45 days from the date the EPA 
notice appears in the Federal Register. At that time, copies of the 
draft EIS will be distributed to interested and affected agencies, 
organizations, and members of the public for their review and comment. 
It is very important that those interested in the management of the 
Tahoe National Forest participate at that time.
    The final EIS is scheduled to be completed in January 2008. In the 
final EIS, the Forest Service is required to respond to substantive 
comments received during the comment period that pertain to the 
environmental consequences discussed in the draft EIS and applicable 
laws, regulations, and policies considered in making the decision. 
Substantive comments are defined as ``comments within the scope of the 
proposed action, specific to the proposed action, and have a direct 
relationship to the proposed action, and include supporting reasons for 
the responsible official to consider'' (36 CFR 215.2). Submission of 
substantive comments is a prerequisite for eligibility to appeal under 
the 36 CFR part 215 regulations.

Comments Requested

    This notice of intent initiates the scoping process which guides 
the development of the environmental impact statement.
    Early Notice of Importance of Public Participation in Subsequent 
Environmental Review: A draft environmental impact statement will be 
prepared for comment. 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.
    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 environmental impact statements 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 environmental impact statement stage but that are not raised 
until after completion of the final environmental impact statement 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 environmental impact statement.
    To assist the Forest Service in identifying and considering issues 
and concerns on the proposed action, comments on the draft 
environmental impact statement should be as specific as possible. It is 
also helpful if comments refer to specific pages or chapters of the 
draft environmental impact statement. Comments may also address the 
adequacy of the draft environmental impact statement 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);


[[Page 18202]]


    Dated: April 5, 2007.
Steven T. Eubanks,
Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. 07-1779 Filed 4-10-07; 8:45 am]

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