[Federal Register: December 8, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 236)]
[Notices]               
[Page 74455-74456]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr08de08-23]                         


[[Page 74455]]

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
Intermountain Region, Boise, Payette, and Sawtooth National 
Forests; ID; Amendment to the 2003 Land and Resource Management Plans: 
Wildlife Conservation Strategy (Forested Biological Community)

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Correction of notice of intent (NOI) to prepare an 
environmental impact statement (EIS).

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SUMMARY: On September 14, 2007, the Forest Service published an NOI to 
prepare an EIS to disclose the environmental effects of proposed 
nonsignificant amendments to the three Southwest Idaho Ecogroup (SWIE) 
2003 Land and Resource Management Plans (Forest Plans). The September 
2007 NOI noted that amendments to the 2003 Forest Plans for the Boise, 
Payette, and Sawtooth National Forests (NFs) will add, and/or modify 
existing, management direction, as needed, to implement a 
comprehensive, Forest Plan-level, wildlife conservation strategy (WCS). 
This NOI is being corrected to reflect a delay of more than a year in 
filing the draft EIS. This corrected NOI also provides notice of a 
change in the approach to the amendment process, in that the amendment 
process now has been tentatively divided into four phases, each 
supported by its own environmental impact statement.

DATES: Comments concerning this first proposed environmental analysis 
must be received within 30 days following the date of publication of 
this NOI. The draft ETS is expected to be available in spring 2009 for 
a 45-day public comment period. The final EIS and three Records of 
Decision (RODs), one for each Forest Plan, are expected to be completed 
by summer 2009.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Randall Hayman, Forest Planner, 
Boise National Forest; 1249 South Vinnell Way, Suite 200; Boise, Idaho 
83709; or by fax at 208 373-4111; or you may hand-deliver your comments 
to the Boise Forest Supervisor's Office, located at 1249 South Vinnell 
Way, Suite 200, Boise, during normal business hours from 7:30 a.m. to 
4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding Federal holidays. 
Electronic comments must be submitted in a format such as an e-mail 
message, plain text (.txt), rich text format (.rtf), or Word (.doc) to: 
comments-intermtn-boise@fs.fed.us.
    Comments received in response to this solicitation, including names 
and addresses of those who comment, will be part of the public record 
for this proposed action. Comments submitted anonymously will be 
accepted and considered; however, anonymous comments will not provide 
the respondent with standing to appeal the subsequent decision.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Randall Hayman, Forest Planner, Boise 
National Forest at the address above. 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: Separate RODs for revised Forest Plans were 
issued in July 2003 for the Boise, Payette, and Sawtooth NFs. The RODs 
implemented Alternative 7, as identified in the single 2003 final EIS 
that disclosed the environmental effects of the seven alternatives. 
Forest Implementation of the three revised Forest Plans began in 
September 2003.
    On September 14, 2007, the Forest Service published an NOT to 
prepare an EIS to disclose the environmental effects of proposed 
nonsignificant amendments to the three SWIE 2003 Forest Plans (Federal 
Register, Vol. 72, No. 178, pp. 52540-52542). In late 2007, following a 
long summer of wildfire, the Responsible Officials for the proposed 
amendments recognized that, since the Forest Plans were first 
implemented in 2003, all three Forests have experienced extensive 
wildfires that may have substantially changed vegetative conditions in 
many areas from those that existed in 2003. Because this change could 
affect the type of amendments needed, the three Forests decided to 
delay preparation of the proposed Forest Plan amendments and EIS so 
that vegetation baseline conditions could be updated and incorporated 
in the WCS and amendment process.
    This vegetative baseline update and integration into the WCS 
analysis processes will be completed in the winter of 2009 and 
incorporated into the draft EIS for the forested biological community, 
to be released spring 2009, along with important new information 
concerning wildlife species and their habitat relationships. 
Consequently, this NOT is being corrected to reflect a delay of more 
than a year in filing the draft EIS, which was originally expected to 
be available in mid- to late-winter 2008 (FSH 1909.15, 21.2).
    The September 14, 2007, NOT identified that all habitats across 
major biological communities on each of the three NFs would be 
addressed in a single environmental analysis. However, because the WCS 
and related amendments must address many species and associated 
habitats and, therefore, be extremely complex, the amendment process 
has now been divided into four phases, each with an individual 
environmental impact statement. The first phase will address the 
forested biological community, with subsequent phases slated to address 
rangeland; unique combinations of rangeland and forest; and riparian/
wetland biological communities. This corrected NOT, which reflects the 
change in the approach to the amendment process, has been prepared for 
the EIS addressing the forested biological community in the first 
phase.
    Purpose and Need for Action: Assessments supporting Forest Plan 
revision in 2003 identified more habitat areas in need of restoration 
for a variety of species within each planning unit than could be moved 
toward desired conditions by natural processes or management activities 
within the 10- to 15-year planning period. As a result, the 2003 Forest 
Plans for the Boise, Payette, and Sawtooth NFs identified that 
maintaining and restoring habitats for species of concern should be 
prioritized based upon the greatest risks to the persistence of certain 
species (Boise and Payette Forest Plans, p. 11-10 and Sawtooth Forest 
Plan, p. 11-9).
    To address this need, each Forest Plan included a wildlife 
objective, WIOB03, to prioritize wildlife habitat to be restored at a 
mid- or Forest-scale, using information from sources such as species 
habitat models and fine scale analyses. The WCS currently being 
developed includes a prioritization framework for implementation of 
this forest plan direction that managers can use to help focus limited 
resources and funds for restoration on areas most important to species 
of concern.
    WCS assessments completed to date indicate that most species of 
concern associated with the forested biological community are linked to 
habitats found in late-seral multi- or singlestoried montane and lower 
montane forests, including in some cases ``old forest'' habitat. 
Historically, these habitats contained an abundance of large diameter 
trees and snags (>20 inches diameter at breast height [d.b.h.]) with 
cavities important to species nesting, foraging or both.
    Preliminary findings suggest there has been an overall reduction in 
the abundance of large trees and snags across most habitats, and the 
subsequent quality of these habitats, over the last 100 years. Of 
particular concern is the

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extent of reductions in single-storied late-seral and old forest 
habitats within the lower montane forests over the last 100 years that 
were previously dominated by large ponderosa pine trees and snags. 
These changes over the last 100 years are largely due to stand 
replacement wildfires, historical timber harvest, fire exclusion and 
increases in human occupancy and use.
    There is a need to reconsider Forest Plan direction in response to 
new information and changed resource conditions:
     Forestwide and management area objectives need to consider 
the WCS habitat prioritization framework currently being developed.
     Management prescription MPC 5.2 allocations may need to be 
reallocated to management prescriptions with desired conditions 
consistent with habitat conservation, maintenance and restoration.
     Forest plan standards and guidelines pertaining to large 
tree-dominated habitat (e.g., wildlife standard WIST01) and large snags 
need to be reviewed to assure that these habitat components are 
conserved, maintained or restored, especially in lower montane and 
montane forests.
     There is a need to evaluate whether Forest Plan direction 
should be added that specifically addresses conservation of the subset 
of large tree-dominated habitat in lower montane forests called ``old 
forest'' habitat.
    Impacts resulting from increases in human occupancy and use in 
priority habitat areas for species of concern need to be considered.
    Proposed Action: The Proposed Action is threefold:
    (1) Develop a Forest Plan Wildlife Conservation Strategy (WCS) that 
provides the information needed to improve Forest Plan strategies in a 
way that focuses limited funds and resources toward the highest 
priority habitats and species of concern, while minimizing threats to 
those species or habitats;
    (2) Determine if amendments to Forest Plan management direction 
and/or other components of the three Forest Plans are needed to reflect 
findings and priorities identified in the WCS; and
    (3) Update the wildlife assessments pertaining to 36 CFR 219.19 
(1982), as needed, to reflect findings in updated analyses supporting 
the WCS, as well as outcomes anticipated from implementing the amended 
Forest Plans.
    Responsible Officials: The Responsible Officials are the three 
Forest Supervisors for the Boise, Payette, and Sawtooth NFs.
    Nature of Decision To Be Made: The Responsible Officials will 
review the final ETS and determine if the 2003 Plan for her respective 
Forest should be amended and/or modified, or if the current Forest Plan 
should remain unchanged.
    Scoping Process: This corrected notice of intent continues the 
scoping process, which guides development of the ETS. Written comments 
must be received within 30 days following publication of this NOI in 
the Federal Register. Providing comments within this time period 
ensures that they will be available to the Forest Service at a time 
when it can meaningfully consider them during preparation of the 
specific proposed amendments and Draft EIS.
    Beginning in December 2008, information about and status updates of 
this amendment process will be available on the Web site, http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://fs.usda.gov/boise (click on ``Wildlife Conservation Strategy'').
    It is important that reviewers provide their comments at such times 
and in such manner that they are useful to the agency's preparation of 
the EIS. Therefore, comments should be provided prior to the close of 
the comment period and should clearly articulate the reviewer's 
concerns and contentions. The submission of timely and specific 
comments can affect a reviewer's ability to participate in subsequent 
administrative appeal or judicial review.

    Dated: December 2, 2008.
Cecilia R. Seesholtz,
Forest Supervisor, Boise National.
[FR Doc. E8-28915 Filed 12-5-08; 8:45 am]

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