[Federal Register: July 17, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 138)]
[Notices]               
[Page 41028-41030]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr17jy08-31]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
Santa Fe National Forest, New Mexico, Motorized Travel Management 
Plan

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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

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SUMMARY: The Santa Fe National Forest (Forest) will prepare an 
environmental impact statement to designate a system of roads, trails, 
and areas open to motorized travel by class of vehicle and time of 
year, in accordance with the Agency's 2005 Travel Management Rule. As 
part of the proposal, the Forest will also address the use of motor 
vehicles for dispersed camping and big game retrieval. Once a decision 
is made about which roads, trails, and areas will be open to motorized 
use, motorized travel off the designated system will be prohibited. The 
designated roads, trails, and areas will be published on a motor 
vehicle use map, which will serve as the primary tool for compliance 
and enforcement.
    This notice summarizes the proposal, opportunities for public 
participation, decisions to be made, and estimated dates for 
publication of documents associated with the project.

DATES: Comments about the proposal should be submitted within 45 days 
of the date of publication of this notice in the Federal Register. The 
Forest expects to publish the draft environmental impact statement in 
June 2009 and the final environmental impact statement in September 
2009. For public meeting dates, refer to the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION 
section.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Julie Bain, Project Leader, Santa 
Fe National Forest Travel Management Planning, 1474 Rodeo Road, Santa 
Fe, NM 87505. Fax comments to (505) 438-7834. Send electronic comments 
to comments-southwestern-santafe@fs.fed.us with ``Travel Management'' 
in the subject line. Electronic attachments must be in one of the 
following formats: .doc, .rtf, .txt, or .pdf.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
    Process Information: Julie Bain, Project Leader, Santa Fe National 
Forest, at (505) 438-7829 or sftravelmgt@fs.fed.us.
    Technical Information: Diane Taliaferro, Recreation Program 
Manager, Santa Fe National Forest, at (505) 438-7823 or 
sftravelmgt@fs.fed.us.
    The proposed action, maps, and other pertinent information about 
this project can be found on the Forest's Web site: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/sfe/travelmgt/index.html.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 
    Background: People use motor vehicles to access the Santa Fe 
National Forest for a number of activities, such as hiking, horseback 
riding, hunting, camping, sightseeing, viewing wildlife, fishing, and 
collecting firewood or other forest products. People also use vehicles 
for administrative and commercial activities such as logging, grazing 
management, and utility maintenance.
    The Forest Service has identified four major threats to the 
national forests and grasslands: (1) The risk of catastrophic fire, (2) 
the loss of open space, (3) invasive species, and (4) unmanaged 
recreation, including the effects of unmanaged off-highway vehicles 
(OHVs). In response to the latter, on November 9, 2005 the Forest 
Service published final travel management regulations governing OHVs 
and other motor vehicles on national forests and grasslands.
    The Travel Management Rule requires that national forests designate 
a system of roads, trails, and areas open for motor vehicle use by 
class of vehicle, and if appropriate, by time of year. The designated 
roads, trails, and areas will be published on a motor vehicle use map 
for the public's use. After routes and areas are designated and the 
motor vehicle use map published, motor vehicle use not in accordance 
with these designations will be prohibited. The Travel Management Rule 
also addresses the use of vehicles to access campsites and retrieve big 
game.
    Proposed Action: The full text and maps of the proposed action are 
located on the Forest's Web site at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/sfe/travelmgt/index.html. Under the proposed action, the Forest would do 
the following: Change forest policy regarding motorized travel, 
designate a system of roads, trails, and areas, designate motorized 
access to dispersed camping, and limit the motorized retrieval of 
downed big game to the designated system. Each action is described 
below.
    Forest Policy: The Santa Fe National Forest proposes to amend its 
current forest plan direction so that it complies with the Travel 
Management Rule and to update language related to management of the 
transportation system. The proposed action would:
     Designate a system of roads, trails, and areas open to 
motor vehicle use by the public by class of vehicle and time of year 
pursuant to section 212.51.
     Prohibit travel off the designated system pursuant to 
section 251.13.
     Remove the minimum open road density standard from all 
management areas.
     Amend the maximum open road density standard for specific 
units within management areas not meeting the open road density 
currently listed in the forest plan.
     Remove quantitative goals for road construction, 
reconstruction, and decommissioning.
    Roads: To reduce the negative effects to national forest system 
lands and resources from excessive or poorly situated roads and still 
provide

[[Page 41029]]

motorized access, the Santa Fe National Forest proposes to designate 
2,309 miles of the existing 4,924 miles of roads for motorized travel 
by the public by class of vehicle and season of use. This would reduce 
the number of miles authorized for motor vehicle use from the existing 
direction by 2,615 miles, equal to a 53% reduction.
    The 2,309 miles proposed for designation includes 17 miles of 
unauthorized roads, 90 miles of closed forest roads, 9 miles of 
previously decommissioned roads, 73 miles of non-system roads, and 7 
miles of undetermined roads. The remaining 2,113 miles proposed for 
designation are existing forest roads.
    Motorized Trails: To provide opportunities for managed motorized 
recreation, the Santa Fe National Forest proposes to designate 247 
miles of trail for motorized use. One hundred and five miles would be 
for ATVs and motorcycles, and 142 miles would be for motorcycles only. 
Additionally, approximately 2,040 miles of roads, some of which are 
coincident with trails, would also be available for use by ATVs and 
motorcycles.
    This proposal would close some existing trails to motorized use, or 
not designate some trails, that are currently being used for such. It 
would designate approximately 71 miles of unauthorized trails. The 
proposal would convert the following miles of road to trail: 49 miles 
of closed forest roads, 13 miles of previously decommissioned roads, 7 
miles of non-system roads, and 1 mile of undetermined road. The 
remaining 103 miles proposed for designation are existing forest 
trails.
    Motorized Areas: To reduce the negative effects caused by vehicles 
traveling cross-country, the Santa Fe National Forest proposes to 
designate approximately 50 acres for motorized cross-country use. 
Cross-country motorized travel outside of these areas will be 
prohibited.
    On the Jemez Ranger District, the Forest proposes 12 small areas 
totaling approximately 40 acres for motorcycle use. To access these 
areas, people would use designated motorized single-track trails. A 
trials motorcycle group has used these areas for competitive events 
under a special use permit for the last several years. Their 
attractiveness for cross-country travel lies in the large boulders and 
rocky terrain, where riders test their technical abilities at slow 
speeds.
    On the Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District, the Forest proposes ten 
areas, generally one acre or less to provide motorized dispersed 
camping in locations that are already well used for this activity. The 
Travel Management Rule does not differentiate among types of uses 
within a designated area, so vehicle use would not be limited to 
camping.
    Motorized Access to Dispersed Camping: To reduce the risk of future 
damage to natural and heritage resources, the Santa Fe National Forest 
proposes to designate motorized access to dispersed camping.
    The Forest used three methods to designate access to motorized 
dispersed camping: (1) Designating specific routes leading to dispersed 
campsites; (2) designating areas; and (3) designating corridors along 
certain roads pursuant to section 212.51(b). Parking safely next to the 
side of a designated road and using non-motorized means to get to a 
campsite will continue to be allowed throughout the Forest. The 
Forest's intent is to designate access to those areas where people are 
already camping, unless substantial resource damage is occurring.
    The Forest proposes to designate 150-foot corridors on either side 
of 437 miles of road and 8 miles of trail, and 300-foot corridors on 
either side of the road along 71 miles of road. The roads leading to 
dispersed campsites beyond these designated distances are proposed 
individually for designation.
    Motorized Access to Retrieve Downed Big Game: Recognizing that any 
OHV use off designated roads and trails has the potential to stimulate 
additional unintended use and subsequent habitat degradation, the Santa 
Fe National Forest proposes to limit the use of motor vehicles to 
retrieve downed game to designated routes only. No corridors to 
retrieve big game with a motorized vehicle are being proposed.
    Responsible Official: The Responsible Official is the Forest 
Supervisor, Santa Fe National Forest, 1474 Rodeo Road, P.O. Box 1689, 
Santa Fe, NM 87504-1689.
    Nature of Decision To Be Made: Based on the environmental analysis, 
the forest supervisor will decide: (1) Which roads, trails, and areas 
will be designated for motorized use by the public by vehicle class and 
time of year; (2) where to designate motorized access for dispersed 
camping; and (3) whether to designate motorized access to retrieve 
downed game; and (4) what forest plan amendments to adopt.
    Scoping Process: This notice of intent initiates the scoping 
process that guides the development of the draft environmental impact 
statement. The Forest invites written comments and suggestions on the 
proposed action, including any issues to consider, as well as any 
concerns relevant to the analysis. The Forest encourages electronic 
correspondence on this proposed action. Forest staff will also conduct 
a series of public meetings:
    1. Mora-Cleveland area: Monday, July 28, 2008, 6-8:30 p.m., CHET 
Fire Department, Highway 518, Cleveland, New Mexico.
    2. Coyote: Tuesday, July 29, 2008, 6-8:30 p.m., Coyote Elementary 
School, W. Highway 96, Coyote, New Mexico.
    3. Las Vegas: Wednesday, July 30, 2008, 6-8:30 p.m., West Kennedy 
Hall, NMHU, University Avenue, Las Vegas, New Mexico.
    4. Jemez: Thursday, July 31, 2008, 6-8:30 p.m., Valles Caldera 
Conference Room, 18161 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico.
    5. Rowe-Pecos area: Saturday, August 2, 2008, 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 
Pecos Middle School Cafeteria, N. Highway 63, Pecos, New Mexico.
    6. Pe[ntilde]a Blanca: Tuesday, August 5, 2008, 6-8:30 p.m., 
Pe[ntilde]a Blanca Community Center Gym, 778 Highway 22, Pe[ntilde]a 
Blanca, New Mexico.
    7. Glorieta, Eldorado, Ca[ntilde]oncito, Hondo area: Wednesday, 
August 6, 2008, 6-8:30 p.m., Hondo Volunteer Fire Department, 645 Old 
Las Vegas Highway, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
    8. Cuba: Thursday, August 7, 2008, 6-8:30 p.m., Cuba Senior Center, 
16A Cordova Street, Cuba, New Mexico.
    9. Santa Fe: Tuesday, August 12, 2008, 6-8:30 p.m., Unitarian 
Universalist Congregation, 107 W. Barcelona Rd., Santa Fe, New Mexico.
    10. Los Alamos: Thursday, August 14, 2008, 6-8:30 p.m., Fuller 
Lodge, 2132 Central Avenue, Los Alamos, New Mexico.
    11. Espa[ntilde]ola: Monday, August 18, 2008, 6-8:30 p.m., 
Espa[ntilde]ola Ranger Station, 1710 N. Riverside Drive, 
Espa[ntilde]ola, New Mexico.
    12. Rio Rancho: Tuesday, August 19, 2008, 6-8:30 p.m., Destiny 
Center, 4401 Northern Blvd., NE., Rio Rancho, New Mexico.
    13. Albuquerque: Wednesday, August 20, 2008, 6-8:30 p.m., UNM 
Conference Center, Room B, 1634 University Blvd., NE., Albuquerque, NM.
    The meetings set aside time for informal discussions, a 
presentation, map review, and asking questions.
    Contacts at Ranger Districts: The district rangers listed below can 
answer site-specific questions on the proposal. Coyote Ranger District: 
Francisco Sanchez, (575) 638-5526. Cuba Ranger District: Jim Eaton or 
Derek Padilla, (575) 289-3264.
    Jemez Ranger District: Linda Riddle, (575) 829-3535. Pecos/Las 
Vegas Ranger District: Steve Romero, (505) 757-6121 or (505) 425-3535.

[[Page 41030]]

    Espa[ntilde]ola Ranger District: Sandy Hurlocker, (505) 753-7331.
    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 a minimum of 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 these court rulings, 
it is very important that those interested in this proposed action 
participate by the close of the comment period so that 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.

    Authority: 40 CFR 1501.7 and 1508.22; Forest Service Handbook 
1909.15, Section 21.

    Dated: July 2, 2008.
Daniel J. Jiron,
Forest Supervisor.
 [FR Doc. E8-16374 Filed 7-16-08; 8:45 am]

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