[Federal Register: June 17, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 117)]
[Notices]               
[Page 34314-34315]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr17jn08-69]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Bureau of Land Management

[OR-025-1110-MR-SSSS; 8-0118]

 
Notice of Intent To Amend the Three Rivers Resource Management 
Plan and Conduct Public Scoping

AGENCY: Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of the Interior.

ACTION: Notice of Intent.

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SUMMARY: In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969 and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, the Bureau 
of Land Management (BLM) Burns District in Burns, Oregon, intends to 
amend the Three Rivers Resource Management Plan (RMP) with an 
associated Environmental Assessment (EA) that also analyzes effects of 
undertaking the Greater Sage-grouse Habitat Improvement Project (GSHIP) 
located in Harney County, Oregon. The objective of the proposal is to 
improve sage-grouse habitat and reestablish once open sagebrush 
habitats encroached upon by western juniper. The BLM also intends to 
consider allowance for harvest of downed western juniper trees south of 
U.S. Highway 20 and west of Oregon State Highway 205 for fuel wood, 
posts and poles, and for commercial harvest of juniper boughs for use 
in holiday decorating. Allowance for harvest of downed juniper trees 
and juniper boughs would amend the Three Rivers RMP. By this notice, 
the BLM is announcing the beginning of the public scoping process.

DATES: Scoping comments will be accepted for 30 days following 
publication of this notice in the Federal Register. Public notice will 
be provided when the Draft RMP Amendment and associated EA become 
available later this year (2008). Written comments will also be 
accepted throughout the planning process at the address below.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments to GSHIP/RMP Amendment Lead, BLM 
Burns District Office, 28910 Highway 20 West, Hines, Oregon 97738; fax 
to (541) 573-4411; or e-mail to Joan_Suther@or.blm.gov. Comments, 
including the names and addresses of respondents, will be available for 
public review at the Burns District Office during regular business 
hours 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays, 
and may be published as part of the Decision. Before including your 
address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying 
information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire 
comment--including your personal identifying information--may be made 
publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to 
withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we 
cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so. Anonymous comments will 
not be considered. All submissions from organizations and businesses, 
and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or 
officials of organizations or businesses, will be available for public 
inspection in their entirety.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: GSHIP/RMP Amendment Project Lead, BLM 
Burns District Office, 28910 Highway 20 West, Hines, Oregon 97738; 
(541) 573-4503; Fax (541) 573-4411; e-mail Joan_Suther@blm.gov; or 
visit the Burns District Web site at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.blm.gov/or/districts/burns/plans/index.php.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The GSHIP project was developed from 
management objectives identified in the Three Rivers RMP. The Three 
Rivers Plan directs BLM to: ``* * * restore, maintain, or enhance the 
diversity of plant communities and wildlife habitat in abundances and 
distributions which prevent the loss of specific native plant community 
types or indigenous wildlife species habitat within the Resource Area'' 
(WL-7.2); ``* * * maintain, restore or enhance the habitat of 
candidate, State listed and other sensitive species to maintain the 
populations at a level which will avoid endangering the species and the 
need to list the species by either State or Federal governments'' (SSS-
2); and ``* * * maintain, restore or enhance the diversity of plant 
communities and plant species in abundances and distributions, which 
prevent the loss of specific native plant community types or indigenous 
plant species within the Resource Area'' (V-1).
    In addition to direction from the Three Rivers RMP, managers are 
directed to meet management objectives and guidelines set forth in the 
Greater Sage-grouse and Sagebrush-Steppe Ecosystems Management 
Guidelines (2001). These management objectives and guidelines include: 
``* * * maintain and enhance existing sage-grouse habitats, use 
mechanical treatment or prescribed fire to remove juniper where it has 
invaded into * * * sites with mountain big sagebrush and/or low 
sagebrush; and vegetation manipulations should benefit the long-term 
health of sage-grouse habitat.''
    Greater sage-grouse have been declining across much of their native 
range for decades due to habitat modification and fragmentation. 
Changes to habitat and habitat fragmentation have come from both 
natural and human causes. Human caused habitat change and fragmentation 
have resulted from urban sprawl, rangeland modification, and 
infrastructure development (i.e., power lines, highways, etc.). Natural 
habitat changes have been induced through fire, climate change, and 
succession; however, even natural causes have been influenced by man to 
some degree. One cause of sage-grouse habitat loss in the Three Rivers 
Resource Area is due to western juniper encroachment into what were 
once sagebrush dominated landscapes.
    Historic grazing practices (which removed fine herbaceous fuels) 
and fire suppression activities at the turn of the century reduced 
influence of the fire regime in the project area. Fire was the 
principal factor controlling conifer encroachment into shrub-grassland 
communities in the Intermountain West prior to Euro-American 
immigration (110 to 130 years ago) (West 1999; Miller and Tausch 2001). 
As frequency and size of fires across the landscape lessened, juniper 
expanded into shrub-grassland communities with an overall loss in 
ecosystem function and a dramatic alteration in historic biodiversity, 
hydrologic cycles, fauna, and nutrient cycling (Bates et al. 1998).
    Recent inventories of western juniper in eastern Oregon indicate 
juniper woodlands and savannahs cover an area of over five million 
acres (Gedney et al. 1999). Comparisons with data generated by earlier 
inventories suggest the area supporting western juniper has increased 
fivefold since 1936. Harney County is one of four counties in Oregon 
that contain more than one-half million acres of western juniper 
woodlands.
    Sage-grouse are sensitive to juniper encroachment and have been 
shown to avoid juniper communities for nesting

[[Page 34315]]

and winter habitat (Miller et al. 2005). Continued expansion of juniper 
will lead to further losses of suitable sage-grouse habitat. While the 
problem of juniper encroachment is prevalent across the Resource Area, 
the Glass Butte/Rye Grass area was selected to expand upon a small-
scale project completed there in 2006.
    Initial scoping (March 1 to April 1, 2007) for the GSHIP expressed 
interest from the public in harvesting downed juniper for fuel wood, 
posts and poles. Additional preliminary issues and management concerns 
identified by BLM personnel and the public include management of Air 
Quality, Water Quality, Migratory Birds, Special Status Species fauna 
and flora, Noxious Weeds, Cultural Heritage and Hazardous Materials.
    An interdisciplinary approach will be used to develop the EA in 
order to consider the variety of resource issues and concerns 
identified. Disciplines involved in the project will include (but not 
be limited to) those with expertise in management of the aforementioned 
resources.

    Dated: June 11, 2008.
Dana R. Shuford,
Burns District Manager.
 [FR Doc. E8-13582 Filed 6-16-08; 8:45 am]

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