[Federal Register: May 11, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 91)]
[Notices]               
[Page 26775-26776]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr11my07-21]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
National Forest System Land Management Planning

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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

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SUMMARY: The Forest Service is giving notice of its intent to prepare 
an environmental impact statement to analyze and disclose potential 
environmental consequences associated with a National Forest System 
land management planning rule. This environmental impact statement is 
being prepared in partial response to an order dated March 30, 2007, in 
which the United States District Court in Citizens for Better Forestry 
et al. v. USDA (N.D. Calif.) enjoined the USDA from implementation and 
utilization of the National Forest land management planning rule 
published in 2005 until the agency complies with the court's order.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received 
by June 11, 2007.

ADDRESSES: Comments may be sent via e-mail to 
planningrulenoi@fscomments.org.

    Written comments concerning this notice should be addressed to 
Planning Rule NOI Comments, P.O. Box 162969, Sacramento, CA 95816-2969, 
or via facsimile to (916) 456-6724.
    All comments, including names and addresses, when provided, are 
placed in the record and are available for public inspection and 
copying.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dave Sire, (202) 205-1006, 
dsire@fs.fed.us or Regis Terney, (202) 205-1552, rterney@fs.fed.us.


    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.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    This action responds in part to an order dated March 30, 2007, by 
the United States District Court in Citizens for Better Forestry et al. 
v. USDA (N.D.

[[Page 26776]]

Calif.). The court enjoined the USDA from implementing and utilizing 
the 2005 Rule until it complies with the court's opinion regarding the 
Administrative Procedures Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the 
National Environmental Policy Act.
    While the Agency is not in agreement with the Court's decision, it 
has decided, in the interest of moving forward with land management 
planning, to prepare an environmental impact statement to comply with 
the court order.

Estimated Dates

    The draft environmental impact statement is expected June, 2007, 
and the final environmental impact statement is expected November, 
2007.

Purpose and Need for Action

    The 2005 Rule at 36 CFR part 219 resulted from a review of the 
National Forest System Land Management Planning Rule issued on November 
9, 2000 (2000 Rule) by Forest Service personnel at the direction of the 
Office of the Secretary. The review affirmed much of the 2000 Rule and 
the underlying concepts of sustainability, monitoring, evaluation, 
collaboration, and use of science. Although the 2000 Rule was intended 
to simplify and streamline the development and amendment of land and 
resource management plans, the review concluded that the 2000 Rule was 
neither straightforward nor easy to implement. The review found the 
following:
    (1) The 2000 rule has both definitions and analytical requirements 
that are very complex, unclear, and, therefore, subject to inconsistent 
implementation across the agency;
    (2) Compliance with the regulatory direction on such matters as 
ecological sustainability and science consistency checks would be 
difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish; and
    (3) The complexity of the 2000 rule makes it difficult and 
expensive to implement.
    Based on the review and over two decades of experience with land 
management plans, the Agency promulgated a new planning rule that 
improved upon the 2000 rule by providing a planning process that was 
more readily understood and that was within the Agency's capability to 
implement. The 2005 Rule also responded to additional needs identified 
through public comments received during the rulemaking. Under the 2005 
rule:
    (1) Land management plans are strategic in nature;
    (2) Are adaptive and based on current information and science;
    (3) Guide sustainable management of National Forest System lands; 
and
    (4) The public is involved in planning; and
    (5) Planning must comply with all applicable laws, regulations, and 
policies.

Proposed Action

    The Agency expects to publish a rule for comment in late June.

Possible Alternatives

    Other than the Proposed Action and a No Action alternative, 
additional alternatives to this proposed action have not yet been 
identified. Issues with and alternatives to the proposed action will be 
framed during the internal and external scoping and public comment 
periods in the NEPA process.

Responsible Official

    The responsible official is Mark Rey, Under Secretary for Natural 
Resources and Environment, USDA, 1400 Independence Ave., SW., 
Washington, DC 20250.

Nature of Decision to be Made

    The responsible official will promulgate a land management planning 
rule based on an alternative that meets the agency's purpose and need.

Scoping Process

    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 process, the 
Forest Service solicits public comment on the nature and scope of 
environmental, social, and economic issues that should be analyzed in 
the draft environmental impact statement. Scoping will include review 
of comments previously collected during promulgation of the 2005 
planning rule (70 FR 1022), agency planning directives (72 FR 4478, 71 
FR 10956, 71 FR 5124), and the Agency categorical exclusion for land 
management planning (71 FR 75481). The nature and scope of the analysis 
for the draft environmental impact statement will focus on the process 
for development, revision, and amendment of land management plans, and 
alternatives to it. Because of the extensive amount of public comment 
received on the 2005 planning rule, planning directives, and the Agency 
categorical exclusion for land management planning, no public meetings 
are planned for this scoping effort.

Comment Requested

    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 decisionmaking 
process. Furthermore, specific and substantive comments will facilitate 
meaningful review and consideration. 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, 553 (1978). Dept. of Transportation v. Public 
Citizen, 541 U.S. 752, 764 (2004).

    Dated: April 27, 2007.
Gregory Smith,
Acting Deputy Chief, National Forest System.
 [FR Doc. E7-9078 Filed 5-10-07; 8:45 am]

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