[Federal Register: November 3, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 213)]
[Notices]               
[Page 65284-65285]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr03no08-17]                         

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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.

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[[Page 65284]]



DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
Black Hills National Forest, Bearlodge Ranger District, Sundance, 
WY--Rattlesnake Forest Management Project

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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

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SUMMARY: The Forest Service will prepare an environmental impact 
statement (EIS) on a proposal to implement multiple resource management 
actions in the Rattlesnake Project Area to implement the amended Black 
Hills National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan. The proposed 
action includes approximately 11,000 acres of commercial timber 
harvest, 5,000 acres of non-commercial vegetation management, 6,000 
acres of prescribed burning, three miles of road construction, road 
improvements, and watershed improvements. Prescribed burning is 
proposed in a roadless area.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received 
by December 3, 2008. The draft EIS is expected to be available for 
public review in March 2009, and the final EIS is expected to be 
completed by June 2009.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Rattlesnake Project, c/o Content 
Analysis Group, 172 E. 500 S., Bountiful, UT 84010. Fax number: (801) 
397-1605. Electronic mail: bhnfcontentanalysisgroup.com. Comments may 
be hand-delivered to the Bearlodge Ranger District office, 101 South 
21st Street, Sundance, Wyoming, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 
p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding Federal holidays.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Elizabeth Krueger, Resource Planner, 
Bearlodge Ranger District, Black Hills National Forest. Telephone 
number: (307) 283-1361.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Purpose of and Need for Action

    The purpose of actions proposed under the Rattlesnake Forest 
Management Project is to provide biologically diverse ecosystems, 
protect basic resources, and provide for sustained commodity uses by 
reducing crown fire hazard and wildfire threats to private property, 
reducing risk of mountain pine beetle infestation, producing commercial 
timber now and creating conditions for future timber production, 
conserving and enhancing big game winter range, enhancing forest 
structural diversity, and conserving and enhancing late successional 
landscapes.

Proposed Action

    The Rattlesnake Project Area covers approximately 42,171 acres of 
National Forest System land and 3,935 acres of interspersed private 
land east of Sundance, Wyoming. To reduce wildfire hazard, the Forest 
Service proposes to thin pine stands, construct fuel breaks, reduce 
fuels adjacent to populated areas and across the landscape, reduce pine 
competition with aspen and birch stands, and conduct prescribed 
burning. To reduce risk of beetle infestation, activities would include 
thinning and regeneration of pine stands. To produce commercial timber 
and create conditions for future timber production, proposed activities 
include regeneration and shelterwood removal in pine stands, thinning 
of merchantable and submerchantable pine, and reduction of burr oak 
competition. To conserve and enhance winter range, activities would 
include uneven-age management of pine stands, reduction of pine and oak 
competition with desirable forage, and prescribed burning. To enhance 
forest structural diversity, the proposal includes regeneration harvest 
in pine and conservation of stands that could develop into late 
successional forest. Road construction, repair, and improvement would 
occur in support of these activities. New roads would be closed 
following harvest, and existing roads not part of the National Forest 
System could also be closed in conjunction with this project. To 
conserve and enhance late successional landscapes (management area 
3.7), the Forest Service would conduct prescribed burning. Other 
proposed enhancement activities include watershed improvement through 
road and stream rehabilitation.
    The Rattlesnake Project Area includes the 7,944-acre Sand Creek 
Roadless Area. Most of the Sand Creek area is unsuitable for timber 
harvest, and new road construction is prohibited in much of the area by 
Forest Plan direction, severely limiting opportunities for mechanical 
treatment. The Forest Service considers access to the area by 
commercial equipment impractical at this time and has chosen to focus 
on objectives that could be achieved by non-commercial means. As a 
result, the only action proposed in the Sand Creek Roadless Area is 
prescribed burning (2,386 acres), with the purpose of promoting late 
successional forest attributes.

Background

    The Rattlesnake Project area encompasses the area of the Cement 
Project. The Forest Service approved the Cement Project on February 20, 
2004. The project was litigated. Following a July 2005 wildfire that 
substantially altered forest conditions in the Cement Project area, the 
Forest Service withdrew the project. The complaint was subsequently 
dismissed in April 2006.
    In the course of the withdrawal of the Cement Project decision and 
dismissal of the complaint, the Forest Service made several commitments 
regarding any new proposal in the Cement Project Area. These 
commitments pertained to addressing certain changed conditions; 
developing the range of alternatives; and soliciting and considering 
public comment on the new proposal. The Forest Service intends to honor 
these commitments in the analysis process for the Rattlesnake Project.
    The Rattlesnake Project Area includes the Cement Project Area but 
is a new and separate proposal from the earlier Cement Project. Initial 
planning for the Rattlesnake Project began in October 2007 with a 
review of existing forest conditions and amended Forest Plan direction 
for management of the area. Circumstances affecting National Forest 
System lands in the Rattlesnake Project Area have changed substantially 
since 2004. (1) The Phase II Amendment to the Forest Plan was approved 
on October 31, 2005. This amendment altered management direction for 
the

[[Page 65285]]

Black Hills National Forest, including the Rattlesnake Project area, by 
adding broad-scale objectives increasing management emphasis on 
hazardous fuels, forest structural diversity, and habitat for rare 
species. These changes directly affect the type and extent of 
vegetation management actions the Forest Service takes in the Black 
Hills. (2) The Cement Fire of July 2005 burned 2,079 acres of National 
Forest System land in the Rattlesnake Project area. Approximately 77 
percent of this area burned at moderate or high intensity, resulting in 
the mortality of an estimated 1,925,300 cubic feet of sawtimber. (3) 
Population adjacent to the Rattlesnake Project Area has increased in 
the last four years with subdivision of the Red Canyon Ranch. These 
developments could be affected by hazardous fuel conditions in the 
project area. (4) Mountain pine beetle populations have increased 
dramatically in an area about five miles south of the Rattlesnake 
Project area, causing high levels of pine mortality on several hundred 
acres. This infestation has the potential to spread to the Rattlesnake 
area. (5) The Forest Service has issued new regulations implementing 
the National Forest Management Act. These new regulations replace 
earlier direction under which the Cement Project decision was analyzed 
and approved. The new planning regulations make it clear that they have 
minimal application at the project level. This project would be 
conducted in accordance with the requirements of the new regulations.

Responsible Official

    Steve Kozel, District Ranger, Bearlodge Ranger District, Black 
Hills National Forest, 101 South 21st Street, PO Box 680, Sundance, 
Wyoming 82729.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    The decision to be made is whether to approve the proposed action 
or alternatives at this time. No Forest Plan amendments are proposed.

Scoping Process

    Comments and input regarding the proposed action are being 
requested from the public and other interested parties in conjunction 
with this notice of intent. The comment period will be open for thirty 
days, beginning on the date of publication of this notice of intent. A 
public meeting will be held on November 13, 2008, 6-8 p.m., at the 
Bearlodge Ranger District Office, 101 S. 21st St., Sundance, Wyoming. 
Response to the draft EIS will be sought from the interested public 
beginning approximately in March 2009.

Comment Requested

    This notice of intent initiates the scoping process, which guides 
development of the environmental impact statement. It is our desire to 
involve interested parties in identifying the issues related to 
proposed activities. Comments will assist in identification of key 
issues and opportunities to develop project alternatives and mitigation 
measures.
    Early Notice of Importance of Public Participation in Subsequent 
Environmental Review: A draft EIS will be prepared for comment. The 
comment period on the draft EIS will extend 45 days from the date the 
Environmental Protection Agency publishes the notice of availability in 
the Federal Register. This notice is expected to appear in February 
2009.
    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 EISs 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 EIS stage but that are not 
raised until after completion of the final ETS 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 EIS.
    To assist the Forest Service in identifying and considering issues 
and concerns on the proposed action, comments on the draft EIS should 
be as specific as possible. It is also helpful if comments refer to 
specific pages or chapters of the draft EIS. Comments may also address 
the adequacy of the draft EIS 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: October 23, 2008.
Craig Bobzien,
Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. E8-26131 Filed 10-31-08; 8:45 am]

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