[Federal Register: September 5, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 173)]
[Notices]               
[Page 51784-51785]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr05se08-19]                         


[[Page 51784]]

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
Ashland Ranger District Travel Management Planning, Custer 
National Forest; Powder River and Rosebud Counties, MT

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice; intent to prepare environmental impact statement.

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SUMMARY: The Forest Service plans to prepare an Environmental Impact 
Statement (EIS) to disclose the effects of designating National Forest 
System roads, trails, and areas available for public motorized use on 
the Ashland Ranger District (District), Custer National Forest. The 
decision will determine whether to add to or remove routes from the 
current network of National Forest System roads, trails, and areas for 
public motorized use on the District; designate the season of use and 
type of vehicle use for each road, trail, and area designated for 
public motorized use; and identify dispersed vehicle camping 
designations.
    Once a decision is made, a Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) will be 
prepared and distributed in compliance with the Forest Service's 2005 
Motorized Travel Management Rule (36 CFR 212). The MVUM will show all 
routes and areas that are designated for public motorized use on the 
District. The MVUM will be the primary tool used for enforcement of 
motorized vehicle use designations on the ground. Those routes not 
designated on the MVUM will be legally closed to public motorized 
travel. This decision on motorized travel does not include motorized 
over-the-snow travel.

DATES: The draft environmental impact statement is planned to be 
released in October 2008 and the final environmental impact statement 
is planned for release in May 2009. The project was initially 
distributed for public scoping and comment November 26, 2007 through 
January 25, 2008.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Ashland Ranger District Travel 
Management Plan, Custer National Forest, 1310 Main Street, Billings, MT 
59105 or call (406) 657-6205 extension 225.
    If you prefer, you can submit comments on the Internet at comments-
northern-custer-ashland@fs.fed.us by typing on the subject line 
``Ashland RD Travel Management Plan.''

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Doug Epperly, Project Coordinator, at 
(406) 657-6205 ext. 225.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:
    Purpose and Need for Action: The purpose of the proposal is to 
designate a system of roads, trails, and areas for public motorized use 
(excluding over-the-snow travel) on the District, while minimizing the 
adverse resource impacts of those designations. The system of roads, 
trails, and areas to be designated will be consistent with the laws, 
regulations, and policies governing the management of National Forest 
System lands. Specifically, this includes the Forest Service's 2005 
Motorized Travel Management Rule (36 CFR 212); the 2001 Off-Highway 
Vehicle Record of Decision and Plan Amendment for Montana, North 
Dakota, and Portions of South Dakota (hereafter Tri-State OHV Plan); 
the subsequent Forest Plan Amendment Number 39; the 1992 Ashland Travel 
Plan; and the Custer National Forest and National Grasslands Land and 
Resource Management Plan (hereafter referred to as the Forest Plan, 
1986).
    The Chief of the Forest Service, in response to public comments on 
the 2005 Motorized Travel Rule, established timeframes for completing 
the route designation process nationally, including completing the 
District route designation by the end of September 2009.
    Proposed Action. The proposed action is to designate roads, trails, 
and areas open to public motorized use, designate dispersed vehicle 
camping, and identify routes necessary for administrative use on the 
District (NFS lands). The route, trail, and area designations will also 
set specific seasons of use, where appropriate, and specify the type of 
vehicle use (e.g., highway legal vehicle, ATVs). The Forest Service 
will produce a Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) depicting those routes 
which are open to the general public for motorized use.
    No Action Alternative. The No Action alternative would be to 
designate the current District system motorized roads for public 
motorized use, but would not address existing unauthorized (i.e., non-
system) routes or the lack of legal public right-of-way access for 
roads that cross private lands. A National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA) decision is not required to designate roads, trails, and areas 
for public motorized use that are currently part of the National Forest 
System of roads, trails and areas. Alternatives to the Proposed Action 
and No Action will depict differing combinations of routes to remain 
open to motorized travel.
    A consequence of the no action alternative is that the existing 
non-system routes currently being used would not be available for 
public motorized use. Decommissioning or obliterating these routes, 
which may involve ground disturbing activities, is not a part of the 
Proposed Action or alternatives, and would generally require separate 
and site specific NEPA decisions regarding the implementation aspects 
of road closures. The environmental consequences of having routes 
closed to motorized travel will be evaluated in this environmental 
analysis.
    Identification of new routes that would meet the goals and 
objectives for a motorized transportation system on NFS lands will not 
be a part of this travel management planning effort, but may be 
identified as an opportunity and would require separate, site-specific 
NEPA decisions to implement ground disturbing activities associated 
with new route construction.
    Responsible Official: The Responsible Official is Steve E. 
Williams, Forest Supervisor, Custer National Forest, 1310 Main Street, 
Billings, MT 59105.
    Nature of Decisions To Be Made: Based on the purpose and need for 
the proposed action, the Forest Supervisor will evaluate the Proposed 
Action and other alternatives in order to make the following decisions 
for the specific National Forest System lands:
     Determine any non-system routes that should be converted 
to system roads or trails;
     Determine the roads, trails, and areas that should be 
designated for public motorized travel; and,
     Determine the season and/or type of use for those routes 
open to public motorized travel; and,
     Determine if change in the extent and nature of dispersed 
vehicle camping is warranted.
    Scoping Process: Public scoping was initiated November 26, 2007 and 
was concluded January 25, 2008. Public meetings were held in Ashland, 
Broadus, Miles City, and Billings, Montana in December 2007 to discuss 
the scoping document. The Forest Service received over 60 letters, 
personal comments, or phone calls.
    The Forest Service has considered all public scoping comments and 
concerns that have been submitted, as well as resource related input 
from the interdisciplinary team and other agency resource specialists. 
This input will be used to identify issues to consider in the 
environmental analysis. A comprehensive list of key issues will be 
determined before the full range of alternatives is developed and the 
environmental analysis is begun.
    Persons and organizations commenting during the initial scoping 
will remain on the mailing list for future

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information about Ashland Ranger District Travel Management Planning.
    The Responsible Official has determined that an Environmental 
Impact Statement is the appropriate NEPA document for this analysis.
    Comments Requested: Given that scoping has been conducted and that 
public meetings have been conducted, comments are not being requested 
at this time.
    Early Notice of Importance of Public Participation in 
SubsequentEnvironmental Review: A draft environmental impact statement 
will be prepared for public comment. The comment period on the draft 
environmental impact statement will be 45 days from the date that the 
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publishes the notice of 
availability in the Federal Register.
    Written comments are preferred and should include the name and 
address of the commenter. Comments submitted for this proposed action 
will be considered part of the public record.
    The Forest Service believes it is important to give reviewers 
notice of several court rulings related to public participation in the 
environmental review process. Reviewers of draft environmental impact 
statements must structure their participation in the 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 US. 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, 409 F. Supp. 1334, 1338 (E.D. Wis. 1980)). 
Because of these court rulings, it is very important 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 the 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 alternative 
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 EnvironmentalPolicy Act at 40 
CFR 1503.3 in addressing these points.

    Dated: August 29, 2008.
Steve E. Williams,
Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. E8-20586 Filed 9-4-08; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3410-11-M