[Federal Register: December 15, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 241)]
[Notices]               
[Page 75996-75998]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr15de08-26]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest; Wisconsin, Northwest Sands 
Project

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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

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SUMMARY: The Washburn Ranger District intends to prepare an 
environmental impact statement (EIS) to disclose the environmental 
consequences of proposed pine barren restoration project. The Northwest 
Sands Project area is approximately 25,900 acres in size; about 125 
acres of this is not National Forest System land. The project area is 
located in Bayfield County, approximately six miles northeast of Iron 
River, Wisconsin. The legal description of the area includes lands 
lying within the National Forest boundary within T.49 N, R.7 W, Section 
23-26, 35, 36; T.49 N, R.6 W, Section 19-22, 27-33; T.48 N, R.8 W, 
Section 12, 13, 24, 25, 36; T.48 N, R.7 W, Section 1-5, 7-11, 14-23, 
26-36; T.48 N, R6 W, Sections 2, 4-6, 10-16, 21-27; and T.47 N, R.7 W, 
Sections 3-6, 8-10, 15-17, 20-22. See the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION 
section for the purpose and need for the action.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis should be received 
by January 10, 2008 to receive timely consideration. The draft 
environmental impact statement is expected in March

[[Page 75997]]

2009, and the final environmental impact statement is expected in June 
2009.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to District Ranger Spring Rosales, 
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forests, Washburn Ranger District, P.O. 
Box 578, Washburn, WI 54891. For further information, mail 
correspondence to Jennifer Maziasz, Project Leader; Washburn Ranger 
District, P.O. Box 578, Washburn, WI 54891.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Purpose and Need for Action

    The main goal of this project is to restore the pine barrens 
ecosystem. This includes the restoration of the structure and species 
composition of the vegetation; the creation of habitat conditions 
needed for wildlife; and to the extent possible, the re-creation of 
natural disturbance processes, such as fire, which are essential 
components of a properly functioning pine barrens ecosystem. For this 
phase of the restoration effort, the following specific needs were 
identified: (1) Restore the vegetation species composition and 
structure that typified the pine barrens that existed under a natural 
disturbance regime; (2) Re-establish fire as a process in the 
restoration of the pine barrens ecosystem; (3) Restore small, open 
areas and ``pocket barrens'' as a component of the overall landscape; 
(4) Improve habitat for wildlife species that rely on the pine barrens 
ecosystem; (5) Rehabilitate the closed ATV play area located in the 
pine barren management area; and (6) Provide a road system that meets 
the long term transportation needs, fosters the restoration of the pine 
barrens ecosystem and reduces overall road density.

Proposed Action

    In order to address the needs identified above, approximately 6,250 
acres would be harvested to the desired density of trees for the 
structure of a pine barren ecosystem. Of the 6,250 approximately 1,800 
acres of harvest is considered sub merchantable (<4 inches in diameter) 
or low quality. Approximately 14,850 acres of prescribed fire would be 
conducted to re-establish fire as a process in the restoration of the 
pine barrens ecosystem. In order to restore small, open areas and 
pocket barrens approximately 285 acres would be mechanically treated 
either by harvest, brushing and (or) prescribed burning.
    The proposed treatment activities described above would greatly 
improve habitat conditions for wildlife associated with barrens 
habitat. As part of those activities, the following actions and design 
features would be incorporated to enhance the effectiveness of the 
project in providing favorable habitat conditions for certain species: 
(1) Three sites (approximately 100 acres) would be managed as refugia 
for the chryxus arctic and tawny crescent spot butterfly. (2) At least 
one one-acre patch of recently burned dead trees would be maintained at 
all times on the landscape to provide favorable habitat for black-
backed woodpeckers. (3) 4,800 acres of the open barrens habitat 
component would be managed as a contiguous large patch to benefit 
sharp-tailed grouse.
    A closed ATV play area (20 acres in size) would be rehabilitated by 
restoring native ground cover, planting trees, and reshaping major 
rills and gullies. To provide a road system that meets the long term 
transportation needs and fosters the restoration of the pine barrens 
ecosystem the following road actions are proposed: Decommission 
approximately 55 miles of roads (49 of the 55 miles are currently 
closed on the ground by overgrown vegetation and (or) berms); convert 1 
mile to trail; convert 3 miles to fireline; re-construct (on existing 
corridors such as old roads or fireline) 17 miles of temporary road; 
and construct an estimated 6 miles of temporary road to facilitate the 
initial timber harvest.

Possible Alternatives

    Three alternatives to the Proposed Action are being developed in 
response to public comments received. One alternative increases the 
quantity and reduces the desired brush cover of the open barrens 
component (<1 tree per acre) of the pine barren ecosystem. This would 
result in some additional harvest and mechanical treatment, and 
increasing the frequency/intensity of prescribed fire in the open 
barrens designated area. In the two other alternatives implementation 
of timber harvesting activities and subsequent treatments would occur 
over a longer period of time. Both alternatives modify the rate of 
harvest to include multiple harvests (verses 1 harvest entry in the 
proposed action) over a 15 year period to a selected numbers of stands. 
One alternative also delays the prescribed burning in the multiple 
harvest stands and the other does not. This potentially would result in 
a difference in the flexibility of implementation of the project, wind 
firmness of the residual trees, risk of invasive species infestation, 
and the overall economics of the management activities.

Responsible Official

    The responsible official for this project is Spring Rosales, 
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forests, Washburn Ranger District, P.O. 
Box 578, Washburn WI 54891.

Scoping Process

    The Chequamegon-Nicolet Forest began the scoping process for this 
project as an environmental assessment during February 2008. Persons 
and organizations on the District's mailing list were sent information 
packages, and a notice was placed in the newspaper of record. The 
project is listed in the Chequamegon-Nicolet Schedule of Proposed 
Actions, and is viewable on the Forest Web page at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/cnnf/. Click on ``Project Proposals and Decisions,'' 
then ``Northwest Sands Project.''

Preliminary Issues

    The following issues will be analyzed in the EIS: effects of the 
proposed activities on soils, water, air quality, Regional Forester 
Sensitive Species plants and wildlife, and non-native invasive species.

Comment 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

[[Page 75998]]

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.
    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: December 1, 2008.
Jeanne Higgins,
Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. E8-29439 Filed 12-12-08; 8:45 am]

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