[Federal Register: March 24, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 55)]
[Notices]               
[Page 12304-12306]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr24mr09-30]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Washington; Motorized Travel 
Management

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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

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SUMMARY: The Forest Supervisor of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National 
Forest (OWNF) gives notice of the intent to prepare an Environmental 
Impact Statement (EIS) on a Proposed Action to implement 36 CFR Parts 
212, 251, 261, and 295; Travel Management: Designated Routes and Areas 
for Motor Vehicle Use; Final Rule (Travel Management Rule) to designate 
a system of roads, trails, and areas that are open to motor vehicle 
use. Creating a new motor vehicle travel plan is necessary to improve 
management and enforcement of off-highway vehicle (OHV) travel policy 
on the Forest. Existing travel rules that were established in the 
current Forest Plans did not anticipate the rapid increase in off-
highway vehicle use or the types of user conflicts and resource impacts 
that have occurred in recent years. This notice announces the beginning 
of scoping, describes the specific elements to be included in a new 
travel plan, describes the decisions to be made, and estimates the 
dates for filing the draft and final EIS. This notice also provides 
information concerning public participation, and the names and 
addresses of the agency officials who can provide information.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis should be received 
by May 7, 2009 so they can be fully considered. The draft environmental 
impact statement is scheduled for completion by December 2009. The 
final EIS is scheduled to be completed by July 2010.

ADDRESSES: Submit written comments to: Travel Management Planning Team, 
Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, 215 Melody Lane, Wenatchee, 
Washington, 98801. Electronic comments may be sent to: OkaWen-Travel-
Management@fs.fed.us.
    It is important that reviewers provide their comments at such times 
and in such a way that they are useful to the agency's preparation of 
the EIS. Therefore, comments should be provided prior to the close of 
the comment period and should clearly articulate the reviewer's 
concerns and contentions. The submission of timely and specific 
comments can affect a reviewer's ability to participate in subsequent 
administrative review or judicial review.
    Comments received in response to this solicitation, including names 
and addresses of those who comment, will be part of the public record 
for this proposed action. Comments submitted anonymously will be 
accepted and considered; however, anonymous comments will not provide 
the respondent with standing to participate in subsequent 
administrative review or judicial review.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Questions about the proposed action 
may be directed to Bob Stoehr, Planning Team Leader at Okanogan-
Wenatchee National Forest, 215 Melody Lane, Wenatchee, Washington, 
98801; or by telephone: (509) 664-9384.
    Individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) 
may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 
between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Purpose and Need for Action

    The magnitude and intensity of motor vehicle use have increased to 
the point where currently unrestricted cross-country motor vehicle use 
is no longer able to protect resources. Unmanaged off-highway vehicle 
(OHV) use has resulted in unplanned roads and trails, erosion, 
watershed and habitat degradation, and impacts to cultural resource 
sites. Compaction and erosion are the primary effects of OHV use on

[[Page 12305]]

soils. Riparian areas and aquatic-dependent species are particularly 
vulnerable to OHV use. In addition, some national forest visitors 
report their ability to enjoy quiet recreational experiences is 
affected by visitors using motor vehicles, resulting in user conflicts. 
Current regulations prohibit trail construction and operation of 
vehicles in a manner damaging to the land, vegetation or wildlife. 
However, these regulations have not proven sufficient to control 
proliferation of routes or environmental damage.
    On November 9, 2005 the Forest Service published final travel 
management regulations in the Federal Register (FR Vol. 70, No. 216, 
Nov. 9, 2005, pp 68264-68291). This final Travel Management Rule 
requires designation of roads, trails and areas that are open to motor 
vehicle use on National Forest System lands. Designations will be made 
by class of vehicle and, if appropriate, by time of year. Motor vehicle 
use off designated roads and trails and outside designated areas would 
then be prohibited by 36 CFR 261.13. The rule was adopted because of a 
number of resource and social concerns related to motorized travel that 
were detailed in the rule.
    The following needs have been identified for this proposal:
    1. There is a need to designate a sustainable system of roads, 
trails and areas open to motor vehicles (except winter over-the-snow 
use) that will provide legal public access, enhance regulation of 
unmanaged motor vehicle travel, protect resources, and decrease 
motorized conflicts on national forest system lands. This project will 
not analyze or make any changes to current winter over-the-snow 
motorized use.
    2. There is a need to change the National Forest System of roads 
and trails to designate motor vehicle route access to dispersed 
recreation activities and to designate corridors for motorized access 
to dispersed camping. Some dispersed recreation activities (e.g. 
camping, fishing, horseback riding) depend on motor vehicle access. 
Those activities are often accessed by short spurs that have been 
created by the passage of motor vehicles. Many such unauthorized 
``user-created'' routes are not part of the national forest 
transportation system. If these access routes are not added to the 
transportation system and designated on the motor vehicle use map, or 
if corridors for motorized accesss to dispersed camping are not 
designated, regulatory changes noted above would prohibit use of these 
routes and preclude motor vehicle access to many dispersed recreation 
activities.
    3. There is a need to provide diverse motor vehicle recreation 
opportunities, such as for 4x4 vehicles, motorcycles, ATVs and 
passenger cars. There is also a need to provide opportunities for OHVs 
operated by both licensed and unlicensed drivers. Part of this 
diversity includes designating a system of reasonably safe ``motorized 
mixed use'' national forest roads that recognizes Washington state law 
that allows for non-highway legal OHVs and unlicensed operators. 
Currently, there is a small number of specific roads authorized ofr 
motorized mixed use. State law provides for the operation of OHVs on 
non-highway roads on the national forest if the Forest Service 
authorizes such use. This ``motorized mixed use'' allows concurrent use 
of a road by highway legal and non-highway legal vehicles.
    4. Current language in the Okanogan National Forest Land and 
Resource Management Plan (1989) and the Wenatchee National Forest Land 
and Resource Management Plan (1990) (Forest Plans) needs to be amended 
by deleting forest plan standards and gudelines that are not consistent 
with the Travel Management Rule.
    It will be a benefit for the Forest Service and public to have 
greater certainty about which roads and trails are part of the managed 
system of motorized and non-motorized routes. Greater certainty will be 
provided by improved ability to prioritize and budget for road and 
trail maintenance and to evaluate public safety hazards; improved 
ability to focus on how and where to sustain and improve motorized and 
non-motorized recreation opportunities on the Okanogan-Wenatchee 
National Forest; improved ability to coordinate public access across 
different land ownerships; improved public understanding and adherence 
to travel rules, thus reducing the development of user-created routes; 
and improved ability to reduce mortorized route and use impacts to 
other resources values and Forest users.

Proposed Action

    Based on the purpose and need for action and as a result of the 
recent travel analysis process which the Okanogan-Wenatchee National 
Forest began in 2006, the OWNF proposes the following changes to motor 
vehicle use on specific roads, trails and areas within the non-
wilderness portion of the Forest. The proposed action will:
    1. Designate a system of roads, trails and areas open for motor 
vehicle use by vehicle class and season of use.
    2. Designate corridors and motorized routes for access to dispersed 
recreation.
    3. Designate roads for motorized mixed use.
    4. Amend the Okanogan Forest Plan and the Wenatchee Forest Plan to 
designate roads, trails and areas open to motor vehicle use and 
prohibit motorized travel off designated routes.
    This proposed action is a starting point for discussions concerning 
travel management on the OWNF, and alternatives to the proposed action 
will be developed based on concerns raised by the public during 
scoping. Details of the proposed action follow.
    1. The designation of 22.4 miles of new or currently unauthorized 
motorized trails to the National Forest System (NFS) of motorized 
trails and two areas open to motorized cross-country travel.
    2. The designation of motorized use by OHVs only on 115 miles of 
NFS roads that are currently managed as closed to highway legal 
vehicles.
    3. The designation of 498.2 miles of NFS roads for motorized mixed 
use.
    4. The designation of 1,674 access routes on the NFS of roads and 
trails to allow motorized vehicle access to dispersed recreation.
    5. The designation of 698 miles of corridors (300 feet on each side 
of the road centerline) along NFS roads to allow motorized access to 
dispersed camping.
    6. Once a system of roads, trails, and areas is designated as open 
to motor vehicles, then motor vehicle use off the system would be 
prohibited by regulation (36 CFR 261.13).
    The proposed action does not analyze, restrict, nor make any 
changes to the management of motorized winter over snow recreation. The 
following uses are exempted by the Travel Management Rule and from the 
proposed motor vehicle use designations:
    1. Aircraft;
    2. Watercraft;
    3. Over-snow vehicles;
    4. Limited administrative use by the Forest Service;
    5. Use of any fire, military, emergency, or law enforcement vehicle 
for emergency purposes;
    6. Authorized use of any combat or combat support vehicle for 
national defense purposes;
    7. Law enforcement response to violations of law, including 
pursuit; and
    8. Motor vehicle use that is specifically authorized under a 
written authorization under Federal law or regulations.
    When a decision on the travel management proposal is made, the OWNF 
will produce a motor vehicle use map (MVUM) depicting roads, trails, 
and areas that are open to public

[[Page 12306]]

motorized travel. The MVUM would be the primary tool used to determine 
compliance and enforcement with motor vehicle use designations on the 
ground. Currently, motorized travel on the OWNF is permitted unless 
designated closed. Following the decision and publication of the MVUM, 
motorized travel on the OWNF would be closed unless designated open.
    Additional details and a full description of the proposed action 
can be found on the Internet at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/okawen/travel-management. In addition, maps and details will be available for viewing 
at Forest Service offices in Republic, Tonasket, Okanogan, Winthrop, 
Chelan, Entiat, Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Cle Elum, Naches, and North 
Bend, Washington. Maps will also be available for viewing at public 
libraries in Tonasket, Omak, Okanogan, Twisp, Winthrop, Chelan, Entiat, 
Wenatchee, Cashmere, Leavenworth, Cle Elum, Ellensburg, Naches, Tieton, 
Selah and Yakima, Washington.

Possible Alternatives

    A full range of alternatives will be considered, including the 
proposed action, no action, and additional alternatives that respond to 
issues generated during the scoping process. The no action alternative 
would maintain current allowances and restrictions for OHV use and 
motorized cross-country travel described in the current Okanogan and 
Wenatchee National Forest Plans and Okanogan National Forest Travel 
Plan. All alternatives would comply with the Okanogan and Wenatchee 
National Forest Plans.

Lead Agency

    The Forest Service will be the lead agency in accordance with 40 
CFR 1501.5(b), and is responsible for preparation of the environmental 
impact statement (EIS).

Responsible Official

    The Forest Supervisor for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, 
Rebecca Lockett Heath, will be the responsible official for this EIS 
and its Record of Decision. As the Responsible Official, the Forest 
Supervisor will document the decision and reasons for the decision in 
the Record of Decision. That decision will be subject to Forest Service 
Appeal Regulations (36 CFR Part 215).

Nature of the Decision To Be Made

    The Responsible Official will decide whether to adopt and implement 
the proposed action, an alternative to the proposed action, or take no 
action to:
    1. Designate where and under what conditions motor vehicles can be 
used on specific roads, trails and areas.
    2. Designate where and under what conditions motorized access for 
dispersed recreation would be allowed.
    3. Designate where and under what conditions motorized mixed use 
would be allowed on NFS roads.
    4. Determine whether or under what conditions to amend the Forest 
Plans.

Preliminary Issues

    Preliminary issues identified during the earlier public involvement 
process include the following:
    1. Motorized use on specific roads and trails may affect: Wildlife 
(in particular grizzly bear and other focal species potentially 
affected by travel corridor disturbance), soil erosion (compaction and 
sedimentation), fish and aquatics species (sedimentation), and riparian 
habitat;
    2. Motorized use on specific roads or trails may cause social 
conflicts between different recreational user groups;
    3. Mixed motorized use on National Forest System roads may affect 
the safety of all users;
    4. Motorized use on specific roads and trails may affect the 
resources and noise level on adjacent private land.

Scoping Process

    This notice of intent (NOI) initiates the scoping process, which 
guides development of the environmental impact statement.
    The OWNF held 13 public meetings in central Washington and in the 
Seattle, Washington area in 2006 and 2007 to help develop the proposed 
action. These meetings were used to identify potential issues and 
potential components of the proposed action.
    The Forest Supervisor is seeking public and agency comment on the 
proposed action to identify issues that arise from the proposed action. 
These issues may lead to other alternatives, or additional mitigation 
measures and monitoring requirements.
    Comments are most valuable if they are site-specific. Comments 
about existing or proposed conditions on individual routes, desired 
motorized or non-motorized recreation opportunities, uses and impacts, 
and route designations are being sought.
    Public meetings to explain and gather comments about the proposed 
action will be held at the following locations and dates from 5 p.m. 
until 8:30 p.m.:
    Ellensburg, WA, April 6, Hal Holmes Community Center.
    Yakima, WA, April 7, Howard Johnson Ballroom.
    Cashmere, WA, April 8, Apple Annie Antique Gallery.
    Okanogan, WA, April 9, Okanogan County Agriplex.
    Seattle, WA area: To be announced and posted on the Travel 
Management Web site (http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/okawen/travel-management).

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 EIS will be 45 days from the 
date the Environmental Protection Agency publishes the notice of 
availability in the Federal Register. The draft EIS is expected to be 
filed with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and to be 
available for public review in December 2009. The final EIS is expected 
to be completed by July 2010.
    To assist the Forest Service in identifying and considering issues 
and concerns about 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 statement. 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.

    Dated: March 18, 2009.
Rebecca Lockett Heath,
Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. E9-6385 Filed 3-23-09; 8:45 am]

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