[Federal Register: May 22, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 98)]
[Notices]               
[Page 23988-23990]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr22my09-33]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
Crescent Ranger District; Deschutes National Forest; Oregon; Rim-
Paunina Project

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

[[Page 23989]]


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

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SUMMARY: The USDA, Forest Service, will prepare an environmental impact 
statement (EIS) for a project called Rim-Paunina in the Walker Mountain 
area on the southern end of the Crescent Ranger District. The project 
focus is on developing and maintaining a diversity of wildlife habitats 
that are appropriate for an eastside dry forest environment. Potential 
actions include thinning of trees in variable densities and prescribed 
burning. This project also provides an additional opportunity for 
participation in a collaborative planning process with a diverse group 
of other interested stakeholders. The Rim-Paunina area is approximately 
a 45,000-acre watershed bordered by private industrial forest to the 
north and the Fremont/Winema National Forests to the south and east. It 
is mostly comprised of ponderosa and lodgepole pine forests with some 
mixed conifer on Walker Rim. It is located in T. 25-26 S, R. 8 E., 
Willamette Meridian. The alternatives will include the proposed action, 
no action, and additional alternatives that respond to issues generated 
through the scoping process. The agency will give notice of the full 
environmental analysis and decision making process so interested and 
affected people may participate and contribute to the final decision.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received 
by 30 days following the date that this notice appears in the Federal 
Register.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Chris Mickle, Team Leader, Crescent 
Ranger District, P.O. Box 208, Crescent, Oregon 97733, or submit to 
comments-pacificnorthwest-deschutes-crescent@fs.fed.us. Please put 
``Rim-Paunina Scoping'' in the subject line of your e-mail. You will 
have another opportunity for comment when alternatives have been 
developed and the Environmental Impact Statement is made available.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Chris Mickle, Team Leader, Crescent 
Ranger District, P.O. Box 208, Crescent, Oregon 97733, phone (541) 433-
3200.
    Responsible Official: The responsible official will be John Allen, 
Deschutes National Forest Supervisor, 1001 SW Emkay Drive, Bend, Oregon 
97701.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 
    Purpose and Need. The Forest Plan supports proactive management and 
enhancing the vigor of the forest, rather than reacting to an event 
(page 4-36). Therefore, the goal of this project is to utilize forestry 
techniques that disturb the forest at appropriate levels to create and 
maintain a diversity of habitats closer to what historically occurred. 
There is a need to decrease the density of trees to provide a variety 
of stand structures and compositions appropriate to the Rim-Paunina 
biophysical environment in order to increase resilience and provide 
habitat for a variety of species (flora and fauna) across the 
landscape. Also, given that the Forest Service should place equal 
consideration to all resources and non-consumptive values to ensure 
they are weighted equally, then there is a need to contribute to the 
local and regional economies by providing timber and other wood fiber 
products now and in the future.
    Proposed Action: The proposed action is to use silvicultural 
treatments, such as thinning of trees, to provide a diversity of 
habitats for Management Indicator Species more in line with historical 
conditions to maintain and enhance existing late and old structured 
stand characteristics, and encourage the development of such 
characteristics. This would occur on approximately 14,620 acres. Also, 
apply prescribed fire to fire dependent ecosystems to create habitat 
conditions that allow fire to perform its natural ecological function 
and more closely mimic natural processes that maintain white-headed 
woodpecker habitat on approximately 8,553 acres. Some of the prescribed 
burning acres are a subset of the tree thinning acres. These activities 
would apply scientifically sound Strategic Placement of Treatments (or 
SPOTS) on the landscape and maintain them through time to optimize 
diversity and juxtaposition of habitats. Opportunities resulting from 
vegetation management activities would offset costs and provide 
products to stimulate the economy.
    Comment: Public comments about this proposal are requested in order 
to assist in identifying issues, determine how to best manage the 
resources, and to focus the analysis. Comments received 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. 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. 
Additionally, pursuant to 7 CFR 1.27(d), any person may request the 
agency to withhold a submission from the public record by showing how 
the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) permits such confidentiality. 
Persons requesting such confidentiality should be aware that, under 
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. A draft EIS will be filed with the Environmental 
Protection Agency (EPA) and available for public review by Winter 2009/
2010. The EPA will publish a Notice of Availability (NOA) of the draft 
EIS in the Federal Register. The final EIS is scheduled to be available 
early spring 2010. The comment period on the draft EIS will be 45 days 
from the date the EPA 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 
a draft EIS 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 EIS may be waived or 
dismissed by the courts [City of Angoon 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 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 statement. Comments may also 
address the adequacy of the draft EIS of 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.

[[Page 23990]]

    In the final EIS, the Forest Service is required to respond to 
comments received during the comment period for the draft EIS. The 
Forest Service is the lead agency and the responsible official is the 
Crescent District Ranger, Deschutes National Forest. The responsible 
official will decide where, and whether or not to designate a trail 
system, staging areas, and close roads. The responsible official will 
also decide how to mitigate impacts of these actions and will determine 
when and how monitoring of effects will take place.
    The Ranger District is trying additional outreach with this 
project, seeking input from a group of interested citizens that are 
participating in an effort to work more closely together. The District 
and participants will try to develop a stronger shared understanding of 
what is needed to successfully maintain and improve wildlife habitat in 
the planning area. If you are interested in joining or have more 
questions about the process, please notify the District, or Phil Chang, 
Program Administrator, Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, 2363 
SW Glacier Place, Redmond, OR 97756; or phone (541) 548-9534.
    The Rim-Paunina Project decision and rationale will be documented 
in the Record of Decision. This project will be subject to Forest 
Service Appeal Regulations (35 CFR Part 215).

Holly Jewkes,
Crescent District Ranger.
[FR Doc. E9-11888 Filed 5-21-09; 8:45 am]

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