[Federal Register: May 13, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 93)]
[Notices]               
[Page 27490-27491]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr13my08-16]                         

========================================================================
Notices
                                                Federal Register
________________________________________________________________________

This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains documents other than rules 
or proposed rules that are applicable to the public. Notices of hearings 
and investigations, committee meetings, agency decisions and rulings, 
delegations of authority, filing of petitions and applications and agency 
statements of organization and functions are examples of documents 
appearing in this section.

========================================================================



[[Page 27490]]



DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
Idaho Panhandle/Kootenai/Lolo National Forests; Lincoln and 
Sanders Counties, MT; Boundary and Bonner Counties, ID; and Pend 
Oreille County, WA; Forest Plan Amendments for Motorized Access 
Management within the Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Recovery 
Zones

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare a supplemental environmental impact 
statement to amend land and resource management plans for the Idaho 
Panhandle, Kootenai and Lolo National Forests.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Forest Service will prepare a Supplemental Environmental 
Impact Statement (SETS) for Motorized Access Management within the 
Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Recovery Zones to present 
additional information on grizzly bear mortality and population trends 
and account for uncertainty in relevant grizzly bear research. The SEIS 
will include a detailed analysis of Alternative D Modified and 
Alternative E that reflect the current condition of habitat security 
for grizzly bears. The Notice of Availability of the Draft EIS was 
published in the Federal Register (66 FR 57717) on November 16, 2001 
and notice of the Final EIS (67 FR 11692) was published on March 15, 
2002. On March 24, 2004, the Record of Decision (ROD) was signed that 
amended the Forest Plans for the Kootenai, Lolo and Idaho Panhandle 
National Forests. The ROD amended the objectives, standards, and 
guidelines that address grizzly bear management within the Selkirk and 
Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Recovery Zones.
    Alternative E was selected for implementation, with the 
incorporation of terms and conditions of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service's (USFWS) Biological Opinion.
    On December 13, 2006, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy ruled 
against the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
in a lawsuit brought by the Cabinet Resource Group, Great Bear 
Foundation, Idaho Conservation League, Natural Resources Defense 
Council, and Selkirk Conservation Alliance. Judge Molloy ordered that 
the 2002 Final Environmental Impact Statement and 2004 Record of 
Decision be set aside as contrary to law and that the matter be 
remanded to the Forest Service for preparation of a new environmental 
analysis that complies with 40 CFR 1502.22 (a) and (b). As a result of 
an action considered no longer valid, on May 17, 2007, the USFWS 
withdrew its Biological Opinion for the Forest Service's proposed 
action.

DATES: Scoping is not required for supplements to environmental impact 
statements (40 CFR 1 502.9(c)(4)). There was extensive public 
involvement in the development of the proposed action, the 2001 Draft 
ETS and the 2002 Final EIS, and the Forest Service is not inviting 
comments at this time. The agency expects to file a Draft SETS with the 
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and make it available for public, 
agency and tribal government comment in July 2008. A Final SETS is 
expected to be filed in April 2009.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Paul Bradford, Forest Supervisor, 
Kootenai National Forest, 31374 U.S. Hwy 2 West, Libby, MT 59923-3022.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kirsten Kaiser, Grizzly Bear Access 
Amendment Interdisciplinary Team Leader (406) 283-7659.
    Responsible Officials: Ranotta McNair, Idaho Panhandle National 
Forests-Forest Supervisor; Paul Bradford, Kootenai National Forest-
Forest Supervisor; and Deborah Austin, Lob National Forest-Forest 
Supervisor.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Forest Service will supplement the Final 
EIS for Motorized Access Management within the Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak 
Grizzly Bear Recovery Zones to respond to the December 2006 court 
order. The SEIS will incorporate best and current scientific 
information available on grizzly bear mortality and population trends 
and account for the Wakkinen study's authors' uncertainty for bears' 
studied habitat. The SEIS will include a detailed analysis of 
Alternative D Modified and Alternative E that reflect the current 
condition of habitat security for grizzly bears. The analysis will 
result in a new decision that amends the Forest Plans of the Kootenai, 
Lolo and Idaho Panhandle National Forests; and the values that address 
grizzly bear management within the Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak Recovery 
Zones.
    The SEIS and the supporting environmental documents will be 
programmatic and will examine the effects of setting predetermined 
levels of human (motorized) access within grizzly bear recovery zones. 
Site-specific decisions on individual roads or trails will be addressed 
in project-level planning.

Purpose and Need for Action

    The purpose and need for action is to amend the three Forest Plans 
to include a set of motorized access and security guidelines that meet 
the agency's responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act to 
conserve and contribute to recovery of grizzly bears.
    More specifically, there were needs to comply with: (1) The 1994 
Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) Task Force Report; (2) the 
1995 Amended Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statements on the 
Kootenai and Lob National Forest Land and Resource Management Plans; 
(3) the 1995 decision by the Chief of the Forest Service on the Appeal 
of the Kootenai Forest Plan; and (4) the Stipulations of a 2001 
Settlement Agreement in a Lawsuit Challenging Implementation of the 
Interim Rule Set developed by the Selkirk/Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear 
Subcommittee of the IGBC.
    The Forest Supervisors are proposing to amend their respective 
Forest Plans regarding Forest Plan standards and monitoring 
requirements that respond to the recommendations of the Interim Access 
Management Strategy and Interim Access Management Rule Set developed by 
the Selkirk/Cabinet-Yaak Subcommittee of the IGBC. The decision to be 
made is whether to adopt the preferred alternative as designed and 
identified as Alterative E in the 2004 Record of Decision (ROD), or 
with different requirements, or to select another alternative.
    This amendment would result in a new appendix to the Idaho 
Panhandle and Lolo National Forest Land and

[[Page 27491]]

Resource Management Plans (Forest Plans). It would result in an 
addendum to the Kootenai National Forest, Forest Plan, Appendix 8.
    Copies of the environmental documents and 2004 ROD are available on 
the Kootenai National Forest internet Web site at: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fs.fed.us/rl/kootenai/projects/planning/documents/forest_plan/amendments/index.shtml. Documents may also be requested by contacting 
Kirsten Kaiser, Team Leader, at 406-283-7659.

Preliminary Issues and Alternatives

    Issues raised during the comment period on the DEIS centered around 
three main topics: (1) grizzly bear and best available science, 
specifically the science that was used in the environmental analysis 
and by the IGBC including the biological defensibility of the 55 
percent Core, 33 percent OMRD and 26 percent TMRD standards; (2) 
reductions in motorized public access; and (3) impacts to employment 
and income.

Early Notice of Environmental Review

    The Forest Supervisors are giving notice that the Idaho Panhandle, 
Kootenai, and Lolo National Forests are supplementing an existing 
environmental analysis for this proposed action so that interested or 
affected people can participate in the analysis and contribute to the 
final decision. The Forest Service is seeking comments from 
individuals, organizations, tribal governments, and Federal, State, and 
local agencies that are interested or may be affected by the proposed 
action. The draft SETS is intended to provide additional evaluation of 
current information on grizzly bears, and provide that information to 
the public. The public is invited to help identify issues and concerns 
related to the preferred alternative and the supplemental analysis 
documented in the draft SEIS.

Estimated Dates for Filing

    The draft SEIS is expected to be filed with the EPA and to be 
available for public review in July 2008. The comment period on the 
draft SEIS will be 45 days from the date the EPA publishes the Notice 
of Availability in the Federal Register. The draft SEIS will be 
distributed to all parties that received the 2002 FEIS and Record of 
Decision as well as to those who expressed interest.
    The final SEIS is scheduled to be completed by April 2009. In the 
final SEIS, the Forest Service is required to respond to comments 
received during the comment period that pertain to the environmental 
consequences discussed in the draft SEIS and applicable laws, 
regulations, and policies considered in making a decision regarding the 
proposal.

The Reviewer's Obligation To Comment

    The Forest Service believes it is important to give reviewers 
notice at this early stage 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 [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 90-day 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 preferred alternative and the supplemental 
analysis, comments on the draft SEIS should be as specific as possible. 
It is also helpful if comments refer to specific pages or sections of 
the draft SEIS. 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.

    Dated: May 1, 2008.
Paul Bradford,
Kootenai National Forest Supervisor
[FR Doc. E8-10408 Filed 5-12-08; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3410-11-M