[Federal Register: April 30, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 82)]
[Notices]               
[Page 21205-21206]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr30ap07-35]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
Pacific Southwest Region, Regional Office, California, Sierra 
Nevada Forests--Management Indicator Species Amendment

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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

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SUMMARY: The Pacific Southwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service 
proposes to adopt a common list of Management Indicator Species (MIS) 
and associated monitoring strategies by amending the Land and Resource 
Management Plans (LRMPs) for the Eldorado, Inyo, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas, 
Sequoia, Sierra, Stanislaus, and Tahoe National Forests and Lake Tahoe 
Basin Management Unit. These will likely be non-significant forest plan 
amendments.

DATES: To be most effective, comments concerning the scope of the 
analysis should be received by May 21, 2007. Public scoping for this 
analysis, originally expected to be documented in an Environmental 
Assessment, began on February 21, 2007. Unless response to this notice 
raises concerns not yet expressed, the draft environmental impact 
statement is expected in late May 2007 and the final environmental 
impact statement is expected in July 2007.

ADDRESSES: Send comments to the Forest Service at the following 
addresses. Hardcopy mail: U.S. Forest Service, 1323 Club Drive, 
Vallejo, CA 94592, ATTN: Brenda Kendrix. Electronic mail: 
comments-pacificsouthwest-regional-office@fs.fed.us, Subject Line: Sierra Nevada 

Forests MIS Amendment. Use Rich Text Format (.rtf) or Word (.doc).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information contact Diana 
Craig, Interdisciplinary Team Leader, at U.S. Forest Service, 1323 Club 
Drive, Vallejo, CA, or at the e-mail address above.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Purpose and Need for Action

    This proposed action responds to a need for a more suitable and 
manageable list of MIS, while maintaining a sufficient number of 
species to cover the range of habitats in the Sierra Nevada affected by 
Forest Service management activities. Monitoring and recent judicial 
interpretations have led to the conclusion that the Forest plan 
provisions related to MIS and MIS monitoring are in need of 
reconsideration. Specifically, some MIS currently identified in the 
LRMPs are problematic because (1) no tested monitoring methodology 
exists or the methodology is prohibitively expensive, (2) some MIS 
currently identified in the LRMPs are not strongly linked to habitats 
or ecosystem components that are affected by national forest management 
activities, or (3) some MIS do not occur on or occur only incidentally 
on a Forest and, therefore, neither populations nor habitat 
relationships can be monitored for MIS objectives.
    In addition, the current lists provide no coordination or 
standardization across the Sierra Nevada Forests. Each national forest 
has a different, and often unrelated, MIS list. Often forest scale 
information does not provide the most meaningful biological data. 
Maintaining a monitoring program on each individual forest is not 
strategic and is an inefficient use of money and resources.
    The purpose of this action is to improve the ability of the 
national forests to provide for the diversity of plant and animal 
communities, as identified in the National Forest Management Act 
(NFMA). This will be accomplished by identifying MIS for the 10 
national forests (1) that are clearly linked to habitats or ecosystem 
components that are affected by national forest management activities, 
and (2) for which population or habitat status and change can be 
effectively and affordably monitored and evaluated.

Proposed Action

    The Forest Service proposes to adopt common list of MIS and 
associated monitoring strategies by amending, via non-significant 
forest plan amendment, the LRMPs for the ten Sierra Nevada National 
Forests in the Pacific Southwest Region (Eldorado, Inyo, Lassen, Modoc, 
Plumas, Sequoia, Sierra, Stanislaus, and Tahoe National Forests and 
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit). These ten national forests occur in 
Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Inyo, Kern, 
Lassen, Madera, Mariposa, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, 
Sierra, Siskiyou, Tulare, Tuolumne, Yuba, and Douglas Counties in 
California and Esmeralda and Mineral Counties in Nevada.
    This action will replace the existing MIS lists and associated 
monitoring strategies identified in the LRMPs for each of the 10 
national forests. Other MIS-related parts of the LRMPs (e.g., habitat 
objectives, desired conditions, standards and guidelines) will NOT be 
changed by this proposal; therefore, habitat and species-specific 
protection measures will continue for all current MIS.
    The proposed action will have the following components: (1) Major 
habitats or ecosystem components that are affected by national forest 
management activities on the ten national forests; (2) suitability and 
feasability criteria to assess whether a species meets the identified 
need; (3) MIS for major habitats or ecosystem components identified in 
component 1; and (4) appropriate monitoring strategies for each 
identified MIS (habitat or population monitoring, including the 
specific type of population monitoring).

Possible Alternatives

    Public comment has suggested an alternative analyzing all species 
identified as MIS in Appendix E of the 2001 Final Environmental Impact 
Statement for the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment (2001 SNFPA FEIS) 
and associated monitoring. We will analyze this alternative, called 
SNFPA Appendix E, in detail.

[[Page 21206]]

Responsible Official

    Bernard Weingardt, Regional Forester, Pacific Southwest Region, 
U.S. Forest Service, 1323 Club Drive, Vallejo, California 94592, is the 
Responsible Official.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    The Responsible Official will decide whether to amend by adopting a 
common list of MIS and associated monitoring strategies for each of the 
10 LRMPs as proposed, to amend with an alternative MIS list and 
associated strategies, or retain the existing MIS lists and associated 
monitoring strategies. Although non-significant Forest Plan amendments 
are normally signed by Forest Supervisors, the Regional Forester for 
the Pacific Southwest Region will be the Deciding Officer for this 
decision.

Scoping Process

    The analysis of this proposed action was originally expected to be 
documented in an Environmental Assessment (EA). Formal scoping for this 
analysis began on February 21, 2007 when a scoping letter was sent to 
over 4,000 addresses. The Forest Service used the last known 
distribution list of the 2004 Sierra Nevada Forests Plan Amendment 
Record of Decision because the current amendment covers roughly the 
same area and communities of interest. An open house was held on March 
23, 2007. The proposed action was first published in the Schedules of 
Proposed Actions for each of the ten Forests for the Second Quarter of 
Fiscal Year 2007. An Internet Web site (http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/snfmisa
) displays comprehensive information about the project. This 

notice of intent offers the opportunity to comment to a larger 
audience.

Preliminary Issues

    Comments about implementing the existing monitoring requirements in 
the Sierra Nevada Forests Plan Amendment and concerns that those 
requirements should not be weakened will drive development of an 
alternative as described above in the Possible Alternatives section.

Comment Requested

    This notice of intent continues the scoping process which now 
guides the development of an 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 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 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)

    Dated: April 24, 2007.
Beth G. Pendleton,
Deputy Regional Forester, Pacific Southwest Region.
 [FR Doc. E7-8160 Filed 4-27-07; 8:45 am]

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