[Federal Register: May 28, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 101)]
[Notices]               
[Page 25483-25485]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr28my09-26]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest; Evanston-Mountain View 
Ranger District; Utah; Blacks Fork Salvage Project

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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

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SUMMARY: The Evanston-Mountain View Ranger District of the Uinta-
Wasatch-Cache National Forest proposes to treat about 3,000 acres of a 
variety of vegetation types within the 39,800 acre Blacks Fork project 
area, located in Summit County, Utah approximately 20 miles southeast 
of Evanston, Wyoming. Proposed treatments include timber harvest, 
prescribed fire, and mechanical thinning. This proposal is being 
developed in direct response to the continuing mountain pine beetle 
epidemic in the area and its potential long-term impacts on the Blacks 
Fork area.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received 
by June 24, 2009. The draft environmental impact statement is expected 
November 2009 and the final environmental impact statement is expected 
March 2010.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to: Blacks Fork Salvage Project, Attn: 
Stephen Ryberg, P.O. Box 1880, Evanston, WY 82931. Comments can also be 
hand delivered Monday through Friday 8 to 4:30 at the following 
address: 1565 Highway 150 suite A located in Evanston, Wyoming. In 
addition, comments can be submitted electronically to: comments-
intermtn-wasatch-cache-evanston-mtnview@fs.fed.us or submitted via 
facsimile to 307-789-8639.
    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

[[Page 25484]]

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: Stephen Ryberg, District Ranger or Amy 
Barker, Environmental Coordinator at 307-789-3194.
    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 primary purpose of this project is to salvage dead lodgepole 
pine. Associated with this site is the removal of mistletoe infested 
trees within the treatment units which will prevent infection onto the 
lodgepole pine that will regenerate in the salvaged openings. The need 
for action now is due to the ongoing mountain pine beetle epidemic and 
resulting mortality. Trees rapidly lose value as sawtimber once they 
are dead and begin to dry and decay. Salvaging dead conifers will 
provide commercial timber that contributes to a sustainable level of 
goods and services within area communities. The Wasatch-Cache Revised 
Forest Plan (2003) directs the use of timber harvest where allowed, to 
contribute to the economy while achieving properly functioning 
conditions of vegetation and watersheds.
    A second purpose of this project is to provide wildlife habitat 
improvements to aspen, willow, and lodgepole habitat components. There 
is concern about the loss of aspen to conifer encroachment adjacent to 
riparian areas, wetlands, and beaver ponds. Stimulating aspen 
regeneration via salvage harvest and/or prescribed fire will improve 
beaver habitat, riparian hardwood health, and wetland hydrologic 
functions. There is a need to treat willow to increase vigor and age 
class diversity to improve wildlife browse. Salvaged lodgepole pine 
units will regenerate evenly to create large and dense lodgepole pine 
stands for future goshawk habitat.
    A third purpose of this project is to reduce overall fuel loadings 
in treated stands. This reduction in fuel loading within treated stands 
is expected to result in a more patchy mosaic of burn conditions 
(compared to large expanses of heavy fuels across the landscape) for 
future wildfires, producing a more resilient landscape. Defensible 
space/fuel breaks created around or on the upwind side of the developed 
sites at the Lyman Lake Youth Camp, access road, and campground will 
alter local fire behavior and help alleviate concerns regarding 
protection of structures and visitors in the event of a wildfire. 
Salvaging lodgepole pine in the units adjacent to these developments 
and treating the resulting slash will further modify large fire 
behavior in this general vicinity.

Proposed Action

    The proposed project includes treatment over approximately 3,000 
acres of aspen, mixed aspen/lodgepole, and willow communities using 
timber harvest, prescribed fire, and mechanical fuels treatments.
    Timber salvage harvest would be used over approximately 1,880 acres 
of the lodgepole pine and mixed lodgepole pine/aspen. Salvage of the 
dead and removal of the beetle infested and/or dwarf mistletoe infected 
trees would result in treatments with essentially all but the snags 
removed. Snags would be left in clumps and islands to keep them wind 
firm and intact. Regeneration of lodgepole pine and/or aspen can be 
expected within the treatment units.
    Approximately 560 acres (primarily aspen-conifer communities) of 
the 1,880 salvage acres described previously would also be treated with 
prescribed fire in a mosaic pattern following the timber harvest. This 
will help stimulate aspen regeneration by causing at least 60% 
mortality in the aspen overstory. Slash from the logging operations 
would create a fuel bed sufficient to carry the fire.
    Approximately 980 acres of the mixed aspen and conifer type would 
be burned, in a mosaic pattern to stimulate aspen and mixed aspen/
lodgepole regeneration in patches. Approximately 40% to 80% of these 
acres would be burned with sufficient intensity to create these 
patches. A focus in this is to burn areas near old beaver ponds to 
recreate favorable habitat conditions and restore hydrologic function 
in these areas.
    Approximately 90 acres of willow, along the river's edge would be 
treated with fire to create openings and patches for young willows to 
become established.
    Approximately 50 acres near Lyman Lake campground and youth camp 
will be treated by thinning, hand felling, and piling of ladder fuels 
and dead wood to create defensible space/fuelbreaks. This is likely to 
be mostly small, non-commercial material, but there may be some 
commercial size trees treated as well (such as larger trees overhanging 
buildings).
    The Blacks Fork project area has a fairly extensive road system in 
place and most of the general treatment areas are accessible. However, 
approximately 12.0 miles of temporary roads may be constructed to 
access specific treatment units. Of the 12.0 miles, about 3.0 miles are 
old logging roads (2 track) that are not considered system roads. While 
these are considered new construction, analysis should recognize that 
the prism is in place and construction thus will result in less soil 
disturbance. Following treatments, all temporary roads would be 
obliterated, the road prism returned to contour, and the surface 
revegetated. Surface roughening and slash will be used on the 
obliterated sections to reduce erosion potential while vegetation 
becomes established.
    Approximately 1.1 miles of FS Road 80064 that is currently 
open to four wheel drive traffic would be improved to accommodate 
salvage logging traffic. Approximately 1.2 miles of the Brush Creek 
Road (8 1657) would be also used. Approximately 3.0 miles of 
the Horse Creek Road (885 13) and 0.7 miles of Road 
84090 would also be improved and used.
    The Brush Creek portion of the analysis area contains mixed 
National Forest System land and private land ownership. Access to this 
area has been via an old decaying wood bridge which was overlaid with a 
newer railcar bridge in 2001. The Brush Creek road was built by private 
parties roughly 40 years ago to access their lands south of the West 
Fork Blacks Fork, however, they constructed the bridge and portions of 
their access road on National Forest System lands. While the area is 
currently accessable using the railcar bridge, this type of bridge is 
not an engineered structure and thus cannot be certified by Forest 
Service engineers as safe for travel. Until it is replaced with a 
permanent engineer rated bridge, proper easements cannot be executed 
between the private landowner and the Forest Service to provide legal 
access to the area. The current location of the bridge abutments 
constrain water flow in the West Fork Blacks Fork channel resulting in 
downstream erosion of the south bank. These abutments are rotting

[[Page 25485]]

and the original wooden bridge stringers and deck are beginning to fall 
into the stream channel. Constructing the bridge so the structure does 
not impede water flow, particularily during periods of high water, will 
be beneficial to the aquatic habitats. As part of the proposed action 
the West Fork Blacks Fork bridge will be replaced to provide access to 
salvage the lodgepole pine stands in Section 18, which are heavily 
infested by mountain pine beetles. Over the long term, it would provide 
access for the private property owner while allowing fire access, and 
other types of administrative uses on the National Forest by the Forest 
Service. This road has been gated for many years and this would 
continue if the bridge were replaced. The road would be periodically 
maintained to prevent erosion and deterioration of the road prism. The 
execution of easements would establish legal access and also provide 
for future maintenance.
    There are five basic techniques that will be used to contain 
prescribed fire in the treatment units. Fire will be used alone or in 
conjunction with commercial timber harvest to achieve a mosaic of 
burned and unburned patches within some of the units. Specific methods 
of line control will be specified in the burn plan. Construction of 
line will use the minimum necessary disturbance. The following 
estimates of miles of each kind of fire line are approximate, but 
represent the upper end (most line construction) for control lines. It 
is likely that firing techniques will be utilized more and constructed 
lines less than the estimates given.
    At least 3.9 miles of unit perimeter will utilize terrain features 
in conjunction with the firing patterns to selectively burn portions of 
the units. Natural features such as rock outcrops, openings, and wet 
riparian/stream corridors, will serve as anchors for utilizing firing 
techniques. In particular, Blacks Fork will function as the west 
fireline for most of the eastern burn unit. Created features such as 
areas where timber has been harvested may also be appropriate for 
control lines, depending on fuel conditions.
    Up to about 0.3 miles of handline (averaging 24 to 36 inches wide 
and cleared to mineral soil) will be built and rehabilitated. Where 
vegetation is short and light, such as in sage and grass, fireline 
constructed by hand will be used to anchor the burning. Line will be 
appropriately rehabilitated (by mulching, seeding, and/or water 
barring, as needed) following completion of the burning to prevent 
erosion.
    Approximately 1.0 miles of machine line could be used. Heavy 
equipment will be used to construct fireline where fuels are larger 
than feasible for handline, and natural features/firing techniques are 
not adequate for control. Line will average 72 to 96 inches in width 
and be cleared to mineral soil. Possible equipment includes (but is not 
limited to) bulldozers, rubber tired skidders, trail cats, and tracked 
excavators. Following burning, the lines will be rehabilitated (seeded 
and water barred as needed, and where available woody debris may be 
scattered along for microsite protection).
    Approximately 0.9 miles of skid trails (including incidental 
machine line) will be used as fire containment lines. In timber sale 
units that have burning as secondary treatments skid trails for log 
removal will be placed along the perimeter and used also for 
containment of the fire. Skid trails are generally about 96 inches in 
width and have mineral soil exposed throughout much of their surface. 
As in the machine line, these will be rehabilitated following burning 
to prevent erosion. In small portions where it is not feasible to skid 
along the boundary then machine line will be built.
    Approximately 4.1 miles of Forest System Road will be used for fire 
containment. Where existing roads coincide with burn unit boundaries 
these will be used as fire lines, such as along the eastern boundary of 
the eastern burn unit.

Possible Alternatives

    In addition to the Proposed Action, a no action alternative will be 
considered. This alternative would simply continue current management 
without the actions of this proposal. Other alternatives may be 
developed in response to issues generated during the scoping process.

Responsible Official

    Evanston-Mountain View District Ranger.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    The decision to be made is whether or not to implement vegetation 
treatments in the Blacks Fork project area, and if so, to what degree 
and where.

Preliminary Issues

    Preliminary issues are the effects of treatments on wildlife 
habitat, and the effects of insect and disease outbreaks on current 
forest health.

Scoping Process

    This notice of intent initiates the scoping process, which guides 
the development of the environmental impact statement.
    It is important that reviewers provide their comments at such times 
and in such manner that they are useful to the agency's preparation of 
the environmental impact statement. 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 appeal or judicial review.

    Dated: May 19, 2009.
Stephen M. Ryberg,
District Ranger.
[FR Doc. E9-12124 Filed 5-27-09; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3410-11-M