[Federal Register: February 18, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 31)]
[Page 7585-7587]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Forest Service

Ochoco National Forest, Lookout Mountain Ranger District; Oregon; 
Canyon Fuels and Vegetation Management Project EIS

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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


SUMMARY: The Ochoco National Forest is preparing an environmental 
impact statement (EIS) to analyze the effects of managing fuels and 
vegetation within the 31,500-acre Canyon project area, which is 
approximately 20 miles east of Prineville, Oregon. The project area 
includes National Forest System lands in the Upper Ochoco Creek 
Watershed. The alternatives that will be analyzed include the proposed 
action, no action, and additional alternatives that respond to issues 
generated through the scoping process. The Ochoco National Forest will 
give notice of the full environmental analysis and decision making 
process so interested and affected people may participate and 
contributes to the final decision.

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DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received 
by March 20, 2009. The draft environmental impact statement is expected 
to be completed and available for public comment in September 2009. The 
final environmental impact statement is expected to be completed in 
December 2009.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Bill Queen, District Ranger, 
Lookout Mountain District, Ochoco National Forest, 3160 NE Third 
Street, Prineville, Oregon 97754. Alternately, electronic comments may 
be sent to comments-pacificnorthwest-ochoco@fs.fed.us. Electronic 
comments must be submitted as part of the actual e-mail message, or as 
an attachment in plain text (.txt), Microsoft Word (.doc), rich text 
format (.rtf), or portable document format (.pdf).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Rob Rawlings, Project Leader, or Marcy 
Boehme, Environmental Coordinator, at 3160 NE Third Street, Prineville, 
Oregon 97754, or at (541) 416-6500, or by e-mail at rrawlings@fs.fed.us 
or nboehrne @J.fed.us. Responsible Official: The responsible official 
will be Jeff Walter, Forest Supervisor, Ochoco National Forest, 3160 
NE., Third Street, Prineville, Oregon 97754.

    Purpose and Need. The Lookout Mountain Ranger District has 
determined that there is a need for fuels and vegetation management 
activities in the project area by comparing the existing condition to 
the desired conditions described in the Ochoco National Forest Land and 
Resource Management Plan. The existing condition of the Upper Ochoco 
Creek Watershed was evaluated in 2004 and documented in the Upper 
Ochoco Creek Watershed Analysis. Generally speaking, the Watershed 
Analysis determined that vegetation conditions in the watershed have 
departed from the historic condition in several ways. Important 
departures include changes in timber species compositions, a reduction 
in singlestratum late and old structured forest, an increased risk of 
large-scale loss of forest to wildfire, an increased risk of insect 
infestation and/or disease that can impact timber stands, and a decline 
in the condition of riparian vegetation.
    The purpose and need for this proposal is to (1) Maintain and 
increase the abundance of late and old structure (LOS) stands; (2) 
reduce fuels and the potential for high-intensity wildfires; (3) 
maintain conditions that currently support low-intensity fires; (4) 
reduce the susceptibility of the landscape to large-scale infestation 
by insects and disease; (5) enhance hardwood communities, such as aspen 
and cottonwood; (6) increase riparian vegetation and large tree 
structure in Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas (RHCAs); and (7) 
increase earlyseral species composition.
    Proposed Action. The proposed action includes a variety of 
management strategies and activities, including commercial thinning 
with follow-up precommercial thinning and/or slash treatment (4,859 
acres), precommerical thinning with slash treatment (5,494 acres), 
juniper cutting with slash treatment (1,397 acres), hardwood and 
riparian vegetation treatment (236 acres), and underbuming where no 
other treatments are proposed (1,989 acres). Implementation of the 
proposed action would require some connected actions; these include 
headcut repair and stream restoration at five locations, road 
construction (19.5 miles) and road reconstruction (13.2 miles).
    Issues. Preliminary issues identified include the potential effect 
of the proposed action on wildlife habitat, water quality, fish 
habitat, visual quality, and recreational use. In addition, the team 
will analyze the cumulative effects of this proposed action where it 
overlaps with the effects of other activities.
    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 parts 215 
and 217. 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 September, 2009. 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 December, 2009.
    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 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 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.
    In the final EIS, the Forest Service is required to respond to 
substantive comments received during the comment period for the draft 
EIS. The Forest Service is the lead agency and the responsible official 
is the Forest Supervisor, Ochoco National Forest. The responsible 
official will decide whether and how to conduct fuels and vegetation 
management activities in the Canyon planning area. The responsible

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official will also decide how to mitigate impacts of these actions and 
will determine when and how monitoring of effects will take place.
    The Canyon Fuels and Vegetation Management Project decision and the 
reasons for the decision will be documented in the record of decision. 
That decision will be subject to Forest Service Appeal Regulations (35 
CFR Part 215).

    Dated: February 11, 2009.
William R. Queen,
District Ranger.
[FR Doc. E9-3363 Filed 2-17-09; 8:45 am]