[Federal Register: December 4, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 234)]
[Notices]               
[Page 73902-73904]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr04de08-16]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
Clearwater National Forest; Idaho; Upper Lochsa Land Exchange EIS

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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

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SUMMARY: In April 2006 the Forest Service received a proposal from 
Western Pacific Timber LLC (WPT) in which a major exchange of land was 
proposed. The WPT proposal included approximately 40,000 acres of 
checkerboard land intermingled with the Clearwater National Forest near 
Powell, Idaho. These checkerboard lands are of interest to the Forest 
Service because they encompass the headwaters of the Lochsa River and 
hold outstanding values for many fish and wildlife species. The 
checkerboard lands also hold significant cultural resources including 
the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and Nez Perce Tribe treaty 
area.
    In September 2008 the Clearwater National Forest completed a 
feasibility analysis of the proposed exchange as a first level screen 
to review forest management plans, identify public benefit, identify 
availability of resources to complete the proposed exchange, identify 
title and property descriptions and identify potential support and 
opposition. The outcome of the feasibility analysis was a 
recommendation to enter into an Agreement to Initiate a land exchange 
with WPT. The agreement, signed by both parties in September, specifies 
the roles and responsibilities of each party involved in the exchange.
    In the proposed land exchange the Forest Service would acquire 
approximately 39,371 acres of land in the upper Lochsa River drainage 
in exchange for up to approximately 28,212 acres of National Forest 
System (NFS) land. It is anticipated that this is more than adequate 
federal acreage to complete an equal value land exchange. The NFS lands 
are located on the Clearwater, Nez Perce and Idaho Panhandle National 
Forests.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis should be received 
by January 5, 2009. The draft environmental impact statement is 
expected Summer 2009, and the final environmental impact statement is 
expected Spring 2010.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to: Tom Reilly, Forest Supervisor, 
Clearwater National Forest, c/o Teresa Trulock, Project Manager, 903 
3rd Street, Kamiah, Idaho 83536. Electronic comments may be sent to 
comments-northem-clearwater@fs.fed.us with the subject line ``Upper 
Lochsa Land Exchange''. Acceptable formats are MS Word or RTF.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Teresa Trulock, Project Manager at the 
Clearwater National Forest (208) 935-4256.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Purpose and Need for Action

    The purpose of this proposed land exchange is to consolidate land 
ownership in the upper Lochsa River drainage to provide more efficient 
and effective resource management. This purpose can be achieved by 
exchanging parcels of federal lands for WPT lands. The current 
ownership pattern has a considerable effect on how the Forest Service 
manages NFS lands in the upper Lochsa River drainage. Over the years, 
differing management practices on the private lands have influenced 
resource management decision on the NFS lands. The mixed ownership 
pattern also reduces the ability to apply ecosystem management 
principles across the landscape. More effective conservation and 
management of natural resources can be achieved by consolidating these 
lands and managing the ecosystem as a whole. For example, current 
ownership results in an inability to use fuel and topography to engage 
fires on a cost effective basis. Also more efficiency can be gained by 
reducing administrative costs associated with boundary maintenance and 
cost share roads.
    In general the land exchange provides the opportunity for the 
Forest Service to acquire checkerboard lands which encompass the 
headwaters of the Lochsa

[[Page 73903]]

River, and hold outstanding values for aquatic and terrestrial species 
along with significant cultural resources.

Proposed Action

    The Forest Service proposes to exchange up to 28,212 acres, more or 
less, of NFS land for approximately 39,371 acres of WPT land. The lands 
included in this proposed exchange are located within Benewah, 
Clearwater, Latah, Shoshone, Bormer, Kootenai and Idaho Counties.
    The proposed federal lands are 46 scattered tracts of land ranging 
in size from the 6.35 acre FS district compound in Elk City, Idaho to a 
contiguous tract approximately 7,680 acres northeast of Elk City. 
Forty-three of the NFS tracts are relatively small (from 6.35 to about 
1,300 acres) and for the most part are timbered. The three remaining 
NFS tracts are relatively large. One large block of land near Elk River 
on the Clearwater NF is about 6,000 acres. This is timbered land 
intermingled with private timber lands and has one common border with 
other NFS lands. Two large blocks on the Nez Perce NF near Elk City are 
approximately 3,200 and 7,680 acres, are timbered and are contiguous to 
other NFS lands except on one side which borders private timberlands or 
BLM. Federal lands proposed for trade are characterized by intermingled 
ownerships, irregular boundaries, and inholdings.
    The WPT lands proposed for exchange are checkerboard lands 
intermingled with Clearwater National Forest lands in the upper Lochsa 
River drainage. For the past 50 years, WPT lands were managed primarily 
for timber production. For the most part these lands currently meet 
State Best Management Practices for timber production lands. The 
proposed action would authorize the transfer of land ownership and 
management authority, including the mineral estate, between the two 
parties. The proposed action would not authorize any site-specific 
management activities by either party.

Possible Alternatives

    At a minimum, the following alternatives must be considered and 
evaluated appropriately. Proposed Action--Described above. No Action--
Under this alternative the proposed land exchange between the Forest 
Service and WPT would not occur. Purchase Alternative--Land exchange 
evaluations shall consider a purchase alternative in the environmental 
analysis and document the non-Federal party's position on the United 
States' direct purchase of all or portion of the proposed exchange 
parcels documented in the administrative record. Deed Restriction 
Alternative--An alternative that considers requiring specific deed 
restrictions on federal lands being conveyed to comply with legal, 
regulatory requirements, executive orders, policy, and/or to meet 
respective Forest Plan management requirements.

Responsible Official

    Thomas K. Reilly, Forest Supervisor, Clearwater National Forest, 
12730 Highway 12, Orofino, Idaho 83544.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    Authorization to permit land exchange between the Forest Service 
and Western Pacific Timber of up to 28,145 acres of NFS land for 
approximately 40,023 acres of Western Pacific Timber land. In the 
decision, the Forest Supervisor will answer the following questions 
based on the environmental analysis: (1) Whether the proposed action 
will proceed as proposed, as modified by an alternative, or not at all? 
(2) Whether the project requires any Forest Plan amendments. This 
decision will be documented in the Record of Decision for the Upper 
Lochsa Land Exchange Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). If the 
decision that is made would require an amendment to any of the Forest 
Plans, the analysis and documentation for the amendment will be 
included. The decision will be subject to appeal in accordance with 36 
CFR part 215.

Scoping Process

    The Forest Service is seeking information, comments, and assistance 
from individuals, organizations and federal, state, and local agencies 
that may be interested in or affected by the proposed action. The 
Clearwater National Forest has scheduled the preparation of an EIS to 
disclose the environmental effects of the proposed project and 
determine whether the proposed land exchange meets Forest Plan 
objectives. Public comments will be considered and disclosed in the 
environmental analysis documented in the Upper Lochsa Land Exchange 
EIS. The EIS will evaluate the proposed action, no action, purchase and 
deed restriction alternatives along with other alternatives that may be 
developed during this process.
    Public involvement was initiated November 7, 2008 by sending a 
scoping notice to parties on a mailing list prepared by the Clearwater 
National Forest. Public participation is being solicited by notifying 
in person and/or by mail known interested and affected parties. 
Announcements in area newspapers were used to give local notice of 
three public meetings held in Elk River, Moscow and Elk City, Idaho in 
late November 2008. A legal notice in the Lewiston Tribune and 
Spokesman Review, the newspapers of record for the Clearwater, Nez 
Perce and Idaho Panhandle National Forests, are being used to give the 
public general notice of the scoping period. The first formal 
opportunity to comment is to respond to the scoping notice or this 
Notice of Intent, which initiate the scoping process (40 CFR 1501.7). 
Scoping includes: (1) Identifying potential issues, (2) narrowing the 
potential issues and identifying significant issues from those that 
have been covered by prior environmental review, (3) exploring 
alternatives in addition to no action, and (4) identifying potential 
environmental effects of the proposed action and alternatives. Comments 
are invited on the proposed action, possible alternatives, and issues 
that should be considered. The Forest Service is asking for public 
comment by January 5, 2009. If you decide to comment on the Upper 
Lochsa Land Exchange proposal, please include the following: (1) Your 
name, address, and organization represented, if any; (2) title of the 
project for which comments are being submitted; and (3) specific facts 
and supporting reasons for the Responsible Official to consider. Those 
who comment will be put on the project mailing list.

Preliminary Issues

    The Forest Service has identified the following potential issues. 
No determination has been made as to which issues will be examined in 
detail in the environmental analysis. Your input will help identify 
additional issues related to the proposed action that may not be listed 
here. Impacts to Idaho County tax base from increased federal lands 
Treaty Rights.
     The loss of the Elk City Forest Service compound and 
associated impacts to the Nez Perce NF and the community of Elk City.
     Cultural Resources.
     Threatened and Endangered Species.
     Public Access.
     Timber Management.
    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

[[Page 73904]]

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 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: November 26, 2008.
Thomas K. Reilly,
Forest Supervisor, Clearwater National Forest.
 [FR Doc. E8-28670 Filed 12-3-08; 8:45 am]

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