[Federal Register: June 1, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 105)]
[Notices]               
[Page 30539-30540]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr01jn07-29]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
Shasta-Trinity National Forest; California; Gemmill Thin Project

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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

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SUMMARY: This notice for the Gemmill Thin project revises the first 
notice for the project which was published in the Federal Register on 
December 12, 2005 (page 73430). Comments received during the first 
comment period (December 12, 2006 to January 13, 2007) as well comments 
received during the comment period for this notice will be considered 
by the Responsible Official in the development of the draft 
environmental impact statement.
    The Shasta-Trinity National Forest proposes to improve, maintain 
and protect wildlife habitat for late-successional and old-growth 
associated species in the Chanchelulla Late-Successional Reserve on the 
South Fork Management Unit. The proposal includes thinning trees in 
overcrowded natural stands, thinning plantations and reducing the 
amount of existing fuels on a total of approximately 1,610 acres of 
National Forest System land. The project area is located on South Fork 
Management Unit in T.29 and 30 N., R.10 and 11 W., Mt. Diablo Meridian, 
northeast of the community of Wildwood, California and south of 
Chanchelulla Wilderness. Wildwood has bee listed as a Wildland Urban 
Interface (WUI), identifying it as a community at risk from the threat 
of wildfire and giving it higher priority for fuels reduction 
treatments. The Forest Land and Resource Management Plan allocates this 
area to Late-Successional Reserve, Riparian Reserve (wetlands and areas 
adjacent to streams), and Matrix (commercial timber harvest emphasis). 
The project area is within designated critical habitat for the Northern 
spotted owl (CA-36).

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received 
no later than 30 days after the publication of this notice in the 
Federal Register. The draft environmental impact statement is expected 
in July 2007 and the final environmental impact statement is expected 
in October 2007.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Gemmill Thin Comments, South Fork 
Management Unit, P.O. Box 159, Hayfork, CA 96041. Electronic comments 
can be sent via e-mail to: 
comments-pacificsouthwest-shasta-trinity-yollabolla-hayfork@fs.fed.us.


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: 
    Jeff Paulo, Gemmill Thin IDT Lead, South Fork Management Unit, 2555 
State Highway 36, Platina, CA 96076, Phone (530) 352-4211 or via E-mail 
at jpaulo@fs.fed.us, or visit the Shast-Trinity National Forest Web 
site at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/shastatrinity/projects.


SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Purpose and Need for Action

    Over the past 100 years the practice of excluding fire and the lack 
of thinning treatments in the Chancuelulla Late-Successional Reserve 
(LSR) have resulted in a forest ecosytem that is densely stocked and 
slow-growing. Overcrowded conditions in mature stands (80 to 100 years 
old) are causing a delay in the establishment of healthy functioning 
old-growth habitat. Overcrowded conditions in old-growth stands (100 to 
150 years old) do not promote long-term health and maintenance because 
the largest and oldest treesand their replacements are at risk of 
mortality due to the proximity and number of competing trees. In both 
cases, tree vigor is reduced because smaller trees are competing with 
larger trees for limited amounts of water, nutrients and sunlight. This 
leaves the ecosystem more prone to disease and less resilient to fire. 
Without treatment, overstocked stands are not likely to remain healthy 
or meet the need for more old-growth habitat in the LSR. Most of the 
existing plantations scattered throughout the LSR have never been 
thinned so they are also overcrowded and hindered in their development 
of future old-growth habitat characteristics.
    There is a need to thin overstocked mature stands that are 80-100 
years old. Fewer and healthier trees per acre would serve two purposes: 
(1) Increase the rate of development of old-growth habitat 
characteristics and (2) reduce the loss of existing and developing old-
growth habitat in the event of wildfire and outbreaks of disease. There 
is a need to thin below in old-growth stands over 100 years old. A 
thinning that leaves the oldest and largest trees would serve two 
purposes: (1) Decrease the risk of losing existing old-growth trees and 
(2) decrease the risk of losing future replacement old-growth trees.
    There is a need to thin plantations to increase their growing space 
and reduce density to levels where flames are not likely to reach the 
canopy of the adjacent overstory trees during a wildfire.
    There is also a need to spatially protect late-successional and 
old-growth habitat from the threat of fire that could start inside or 
outside the perimeter of the LSR. Current threats of fire include tree 
mortality from insect and disease in overcrowded stands, and natural or 
human-caused wildfire. The majority of private land closest to the 
Gemmill Thin project was harvested in the late 1960s to 1970s and more 
private harvesting is planned. Two public roads and a transmission line 
are within or directly adjacent to the project area. These linear 
features and past harvesting on private lands are associated with 
higher risk for fire starts that could affect the project area.

Proposed Action

    The proposed action would include the following treatments:
    1. Thinning treatments on approximately 750 acres of stands 80 to 
100 year old. Implement a thinning from below in 14 stands of mature 
mixed conifer and hardwood forest. These are stands that do not yet 
exhibit old-growth characteristics, but have the potential to attain 
them. In these treatment units, the largest and healthiest trees would 
be retained. A sufficient number of trees would be removed to a level 
that maintains or increases growth rates of mature trees and removes 
fuel ladders. The post treatment stand would average 50% to 60% tree 
canopy cover.
    2. Thinning treatments on approximately 530 acres of stands 100-150 
years old. Implement a thinning from below in 10 stands of old-growth 
mixed conifer and hardwood forest over 100 years old. The largest and 
oldest trees within each stand would be retained. A sufficient number 
of smaller trees would be removed to reduce the number of trees per 
acre to a level that provides an improved competitive advantage for the 
larger, older trees and removes fuel ladders that may threaten the 
remaining trees. The post treatment stands would average 60% or more 
tree canopy cover.
    3. Thinning treatments in approximately 45 acres of 20 year old 
plantations. Thinning and release treatments would be accomplished 
through mastication (grinding up excess trees) in three plantations. 
Sufficient numbers of trees would be removed to maintain an average of 
150 trees per acre, a level that maintains stand growth

[[Page 30540]]

rate and reduces the amount ladder fuels.
    4. Thinning from below to reconstruct fuelbreaks implemented 20 
years ago on approximately 260 acres of stands aged 80 to 150 years 
old. Implement a thinning from below to retain approximately 40% canopy 
closure, and remove most understory vegetation. Shaded fuelbreaks are 
approximately 150 to 300 foot-wide strips on which vegetation has been 
modified so that fires burning into them can be more readily 
controlled. The residual canopy closure provides sufficient shade to 
reduce the growth of brush species in the understory.
    5. Reduce hazardous fuels on approximately 25 acres of existing 
fuels buffers. All live trees would be retained. Dead trees under 10 
inches in diameter would be removed. These small dead trees and ground 
fuels would be concentrated for burning by hand-treatment methods.
    All proposed treatments would remove excess trees as commercial 
wood products wherever possible. No trees over 150 years old would be 
harvested. On approximately 1,460 acres small trees (5 to 10 inches in 
diameter) would be removed and most trees less than 5 inches in 
diameter would be removed as activity-generated fuels. The harvest 
systems used in the proposed action would include mechanized equipment, 
cable systems, and helicopter. There would be no road construction of 
new system roads. The project may include reconstruction of road 
segments, construction of short lengths of temporary roads and 
decommissioning of other roads. Based on public comment another 
alternative may be developed that places a diameter limit on all 
thinning.

Responsible Official

    J. Sharon Heywood, Forest Supervisor, Shasta-Trinity National 
Forest, 3644 Avtech Parkway, Redding, CA 96002. (530) 226-2500.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    The Forest Supervisor will decide whether to implement the proposed 
action, implement an alternative action that meets the purpose and need 
or take no action. The decision may include a non-significant forest 
plan amendment that permits treatment of stands older than 80 years 
within Late-Successional Reserves.

Scoping Process

    Notice of the proposed action will be published in the newspaper of 
record, the Redding Record Searchlight. It will also be published in 
the Trinity Journal. Scoping letters will be mailed to interested and 
affected public coincident with publication of this notice of intent in 
the Federal Register and information on the proposed action will be 
posted on the Forest Web site at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/shastatrinity/projects.
 The Trinity County Firesafe Council has reviewed this 

proposal and a public meeting was held at the Harrison Gulch Ranger 
Station on Wednesday, September 28, 2005. This notice of intent 
initiates the current scoping process, which guides the development of 
the environmental impact statement. Comments submitted during this 
scoping process should be in writing and should be specific to the 
proposed action. The comments should describe as clearly and completely 
as possible any issues the commenter has with the proposal. The results 
of scoping include: (a) Identifying potential issues, (b) identifying 
issues to be analyzed in depth, (c) eliminating non-significant issues 
or those previously covered by another environmental analysis, (d) 
exploring additional alternatives, and (e) identifying potential 
environmental effects of the proposed action and alternatives.

Preliminary Issues

    Potential issues identified during the first public comment period 
include:
     Development of an alternative with a diameter limit for 
harvesting
     The potential for increased vehicle use as a result of 
proposed road activities
     Decommissioning roads that provide access for public use 
and fire fighting

Early Notice of Public Participation in Subsequent Environmental Review

    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, 533 (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 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.

    Dated: May 25, 2007.
Scott G. Armentrout,
Deputy Forest Supervisor, Shasta-Trinity National Forest.
[FR Doc. 07-2718 Filed 5-31-07; 8:45 am]

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