[Federal Register: October 10, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 198)]
[Notices]               
[Page 60231-60233]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr10oc08-34]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
Conejos Peak Ranger District, Rio Grande National Forest; 
Colorado; Rio de los Pinos Vegetation Management Project

AGENCY: Forest Service, Rio Grande National Forest, USDA.

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

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SUMMARY: The project analyzes salvage harvesting of spruce beetle 
killed and infested trees on timber production areas in the Rio de los 
Pinos watershed. This project will provide an opportunity to improve 
and relocate the Los Pinos Trailhead (Trail 736). This area 
was analyzed under the County Line Vegetation Management Project in 
June 2005, however changing forest conditions have warranted further 
analysis. An EA was initiated in 2007, and comments received during 
scoping and controversy surrounding similar projects on the Rio Grande 
National Forest indicate that an environmental impact statement (EIS) 
should be prepared.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received 
by 30 days from the date of this notice. The draft environmental impact 
statement is expected December 12, 2008 and the final environmental 
impact statement is expected February 2, 2009.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Mr. Jack Lewis, Team Leader, Rio 
Grande National Forest, Conejos Peak Ranger District, 15571 CR T.5, 
LaJara, CO 81140. Electronic mail (e-mail with subject, Rio de los 
Pinos comments) may be sent to comments-rocky-mountain.rio-grande-
conejos-peak@fs.fed.us and a FAX may be sent to (719) 274-6301.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Same as above.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Purpose and Need for Action

    The purpose of this action is to implement the Rio Grande National 
Forest's Forest Plan by making live and dead timber available to the 
timber industry as part of the Rio Grande National Forest's timber sale 
program.
    This proposal has been initiated because existing conditions vary 
from the Desired Conditions defined in Forest Plan MAP 5.13. This 
disparity indicates a need for improved forest stand conditions, 
reforestation of areas severely impacted by spruce beetle, reducing 
long-term fuel buildup in areas severely impacted by spruce beetle, 
salvage of dead trees before they lose their economic value, and 
provision of wood products to benefit the local and regional economy.
    When seeking to reduce the standing dead fuel component, the goal 
is to reduce the duration and intensity of a potential wildland fire, 
thus influencing the severity of its impact. Standing dead fuel is 
expected to become heavy down fuel within 20-50 years.

Proposed Action

    The Rio Grande National Forest proposes to salvage Engelmann spruce 
trees that have been killed by, or are infested with, spruce beetle.

[[Page 60232]]

Additionally, we propose to perform \1/4\ to 5 acre patch cuts across 
the salvage units to enhance visual resources, and to regenerate areas 
heavily impacted by the spruce beetle by planting Engelmann spruce 
seedlings within the Rio de los Pinos Analysis Area. The proposed 
treatments would contribute toward providing a sustained yield of 
forest products from the Rio Grande National Forest and would ensure 
meeting or moving toward Forest Plan Desired Conditions for Management 
Area Prescriptions (MAP) 5.13. This proposed action would begin in 
2009-2010.
    Salvage harvesting of Engelmann spruce would occur on approximately 
607 to 878 acres. Anywhere from 38 to 60 trees per acre 8 
DBH and above will remain in the salvage units for scenic resources. 
Patch cuts would occur on approximately 60 acres, harvesting both 
Engelmann spruce and Subalpine fir. Ground-based logging systems would 
be utilized on the entire area, yielding 8-13.1 MMBF (16,000-26,200 
ccf) timber volume. After harvest, reforestation would occur on approx. 
200 acres of non-stocked and under-stocked areas. The exact planting 
area would depend how well existing natural regeneration meets Forest 
Plan stocking requirements.
    Under this proposal, trees 8 inches DBH and larger would be 
considered for harvest. With the exception of the patch cuts, all live 
non-beetle infested trees not interfering with operations would be 
left. Rehabilitation of areas experiencing heavy spruce mortality would 
occur through natural and artificial regeneration.
    Most of the treatment areas are accessible using the existing 
transportation system. Some road reconstruction, maintenance, and 
reopening one or more old unclassified roads would be required. Upon 
project completion, all classified roads that were closed to motor 
vehicle travel prior to the project would remain closed. Classified 
roads that are presently closed and old roads that would be 
reconstructed for log haul would be rehabilitated by subsoiling and 
seeding according to Project Design Criteria to reduce resource impacts 
and to put the road templates back into resource production.
    Actions proposed in this EIS will provide an opportunity to 
relocate and improve the Los Pinos trailhead (Trail 736) which 
currently has little parking space and is only accessible by high 
clearance vehicles.

Responsible Official

    Roberto Martinez, District Ranger, Conejos Peak Ranger District, 
15571 County Road T.5, La Jara, CO 81140.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    The EIS discloses the environmental consequences of implementing 
the proposed action and alternatives to that action. A separate 
Decision Notice (DN), signed by the Responsible Official, will explain 
the management and environmental reasons for choosing the selected 
alternative; discuss the rationale for rejecting other alternatives; 
and disclose how the decision responds to the relevant issues.
    The decision for the responsible officials to make in the DN is 
whether or not to implement some level of timber sale harvest and other 
activities described on all, part, or none of the Analysis Area given 
considerations of multiple-use goals and objectives. If the decision is 
made to authorize some level of harvest, the management framework will 
be described (including Standards and monitoring) to ensure that 
Desired Condition objectives are met or that movement occurs toward 
those objectives in an acceptable timeframe.

Scoping Process

    The Rio Grande National Forest invited public comment and 
participation regarding this project through the Schedule of Proposed 
Actions (SOPA), public notice in the Valley Courier (October 9, 2008)--
the newspaper of record, and a scoping letter sent to potentially 
concerned public, tribal governments, State and other Federal agencies 
(October 9, 2008). Comments received in these previous scoping efforts 
will be retained and considered in this EIS.
    An additional comment period will be provided during scoping for 
this EIS in the form of this notice in the Federal Register, the 
Schedule of Proposed Actions (SOPA), public notice in the Valley 
Courier--the newspaper of record, and letters sent to potentially 
concerned public, tribal governments, State and other Federal agencies.

Comment Requested

    This notice of intent initiates the scoping process which guides 
the development of the environmental impact statement. The Forest 
Service invites written comments on the proposed action, including any 
issues to consider, as well as any concerns relevant to the analysis. 
In order to be most useful, scoping comments should be received within 
30 days of publication of this Notice of Intent. Comments received in 
response to this notice, including names and addresses of those who 
comment, will be considered part of the public record on this Proposed 
Action and will be available for public inspection. If you wish to 
withhold your name or street address from public review or from 
disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), you must state 
this prominently at the beginning of your written comment. Such 
requests will be honored to the extent allowed by law, but persons 
requesting such confidentiality should be aware that under the FOIA, 
confidentiality may be granted in only very limited circumstances, such 
as to protect trade secrets. The Forest Service will inform the 
requester of the agency's decision regarding the request for 
confidentiality, and where the request is denied, the agency will 
return the submission and notify the requester that the comments may be 
resubmitted with or without name and address within a specified number 
of days. All submissions from organizations or businesses, and from 
individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of 
organizations or businesses, will be available for public inspection in 
their entirety. Comments submitted anonymously will be accepted and 
considered; however, those who submit anonymous comments will not have 
standing to appeal the subsequent decision under 36 CFR part 215.
    Comments and FS responses will be addressed and contained in the 
Final EIS.
    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 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

[[Page 60233]]

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 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.
    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, 36 CFR 220.5(b) and Forest 
Service Handbook 1909.15, Section 21.

    Dated: October 1, 2008.
Roberto Martinez,
District Ranger/Field Office Manager.
 [FR Doc. E8-24112 Filed 10-9-08; 8:45 am]

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