[Federal Register: January 15, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 10)]
[Notices]               
[Page 2477-2480]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr15ja10-21]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
Plan Development for Kiowa, Rita Blanca, Black Kettle and 
McClellan Creek National Grasslands, Colfax, Harding, Mora and Union 
Counties, NM; Dallam, Gray and Hemphill Counties, TX; Cimarron and 
Roger Mills Counties, OK

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement 
in conjunction with development of a new land and resource management 
plan.

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SUMMARY: As directed by the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), the 
USDA Forest Service (FS) is preparing the Kiowa, Rita Blanca, Black 
Kettle and McClellan Creek National Grasslands land and resource 
management plan (plan) and will also prepare an environmental impact 
statement (EIS) for this new plan. Currently, the National Grasslands 
named above receive management direction from the 1985 Cibola National 
Forest plan. However, the new plan will provide direction specific to 
the National Grasslands only, while the 1985 plan will continue to 
provide direction for the forested, mountain districts of the Cibola 
National Forest until it is revised in the future. This notice briefly 
describes the nature of the decision to be made; the proposed action 
(the new plan) and need for change from the 1985 plan specific to the 
National Grasslands, and information concerning public participation in 
the new plan development. It also provides estimated dates for filing 
the EIS and the names and addresses of the responsible agency official 
and the individuals who can provide additional information. Finally, 
this notice briefly describes the applicable planning rule and how work 
done on the plan revision under the 2008 planning rule will be used or 
modified for completing this plan revision.
    Thus, the new plan will supersede, for the National Grassland units 
only, the plan previously approved by the Regional Forester on July 15, 
1985 and as amended. The 1985 plan amendments relative to the National 
Grasslands designated new electronic sites; identified eligible Wild 
and Scenic Rivers; addressed travel management issues and oil and gas 
leasing stipulations, and the need for additional Management Indicator 
Species (MIS). The 1985 amended plan will remain in effect for the 
National Grasslands until the new plan takes effect. When the Record of 
Decision for the new Kiowa, Rita Blanca, Black Kettle and McClellan 
Creek National Grasslands plan and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) 
and Final Plan is signed by the Responsible Official, the 1985 plan 
will be amended after 30 days have passed to remove only those portions 
that apply to the National Grasslands. Again, the 1985 plan as 
currently amended will still apply to the rest of the Cibola National 
Forest until it is revised.

DATES: Comments concerning the need for change provided in this notice 
will be most useful in the development of the new plan and draft EIS if 
received by February 15, 2010. The agency expects to release a draft 
Grasslands plan and draft EIS for formal comment by fall 2010 and a 
final National Grasslands plan and final EIS by summer 2011. See the 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION--Public Involvement section for information 
on future public meeting dates.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to: Cibola National Forest, 2113 Osuna 
Rd. NE., Albuquerque, NM 87113. Comments may also be sent via e-mail to 
comments-grasslandsplan@fs.fed.us.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Champe Green (Forest Planner), Cibola 
National Forest and Grasslands, 2113 Osuna Rd., NE., Albuquerque, NM 
87113; champegreen@fs.fed.us; (505) 346-3900. Information on this new 
plan is also available at Cibola National Grasslands Web site: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/cibola/plan-revision/national_grasslands/index.shtml.
    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:

Name and Address of the Responsible Official

    Corbin Newman, Regional Forester, Southwestern Region, 333 Broadway 
SE., Albuquerque, NM 87102.

Nature of the Decision To Be Made

    The Kiowa, Rita Blanca, Black Kettle and McClellan Creek National 
Grasslands, managed by the Cibola National Forest, are preparing an EIS 
to develop a new plan pertaining to the National Grasslands portion of 
the Forest only. The EIS process is meant to inform the Regional 
Forester so that he can decide which National Grasslands plan 
alternative best meets the need to achieve quality land management 
under the sustainable multiple-use management concept, meet the diverse 
needs of people, and conserve the National Grasslands' resources, as 
required by the NFMA and the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act (MUSYA).
    The new plan will describe the strategic intent of managing the 
National Grasslands into the next 10 to 15 years and will address the 
need for change described below. The new plan will provide management 
direction in the form of goals (desired conditions), objectives, 
suitability determinations, standards, guidelines, and a monitoring 
plan, including identification of MIS. It may also make new special 
area recommendations for wilderness, research natural areas, and other 
special areas.
    As important as the decisions to be made is the identification of 
the types of decisions that will not be made within the new plan. The 
authorization of project-level activities on the National Grasslands is 
not a decision made in the National Grasslands plan but occurs through 
subsequent project specific decision-making. The designation of routes, 
trails, and areas

[[Page 2478]]

for motorized vehicle travel is not considered during plan development, 
but is addressed in the concurrent, but separate, Environmental 
Assessment (EA) for public motorized travel planning on the Kiowa and 
Rita Blanca National Grasslands and the Motor Vehicle Use Map for the 
Black Kettle and McClellan Creek National Grasslands. Some issues 
(e.g., hunting regulations), although important, are beyond the 
authority or control of the National Grasslands and will not be 
considered. In addition, some issues, such as wild and scenic river 
suitability determinations, may not be undertaken at this time but 
addressed later as a future National Grasslands plan amendment. The 
National Grasslands will also not change the August 2008 plan amendment 
for oil and gas stipulations, and these standards will be carried 
forward in the new plan as they are currently stated in the amended 
1985 plan.

Need for Change and Proposed Action

    According to the NFMA, plans are to be revised on a 10 to 15 year 
cycle. The purpose and need for developing a new National Grasslands 
plan is: (1) The 1985 plan does not address many of the unique local 
features of the National Grasslands because it was developed primarily 
for the forested, mountain districts of the Cibola National Forest; (2) 
the 1985 plan is over 20 years old, and (3) since 1985, there have been 
changes in economic, social, and ecological conditions, new policies 
and priorities, and new information generated by monitoring and 
scientific research.
    Extensive public, agency, and interagency collaborations, along 
with science-based evaluations, have identified the need for change in 
the 1985 plan by developing a National Grasslands-specific plan. This 
need for change has been organized into three topics that focus on the 
sustainability of ecological, social, and economic systems: (1) 
Ecosystem Diversity, (2) Managed Recreation, and (3) Human Influences 
on the National Grasslands. The need for change is described fully 
through an Analysis of Management Situation (AMS), which is comprised 
of the Comprehensive Evaluation Report (CER) and its supplement, both 
of which are available on the Forest's Web site: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/cibola/plan-revision/national_grasslands/index.shtml.
    The proposed action is to develop a new National Grasslands-
specific plan that addresses the above three topics.

Topic 1--Ecosystem Diversity

    Since the 1985 plan was implemented, ecological monitoring and new 
scientific information have advanced the agency's knowledge and 
understanding of vegetation and its range of historical variation, 
ecological processes, and habitat requirements of native fauna of the 
National Grasslands. Similarly, since 1985, new issues have emerged, 
such as the unwelcome introduction of non-native plants and animals and 
changes in climate.
     The vegetation types found on the National Grasslands are 
altered remnants of what were once found across the southern Great 
Plains. In the new plan, there is a need to provide management 
direction that will maintain or accelerate movement of vegetation types 
toward conditions within the historical range of variation (HRV), 
recognizing that past events may limit the ability to achieve full 
restoration.
     There are invasive plants present on the National 
Grasslands that have the potential to affect ecosystem structure, 
composition, and processes. Currently, there are no known invasive 
animals. The new plan needs to provide management direction addressing 
the unwelcome introduction, spread, and control of invasive plants and 
animals.
     The new plan needs to provide direction on anticipating 
and responding to changes in the climate, relative to National 
Grasslands management.
     During the new plan development, there may be a need to 
reevaluate and update the MIS list. MIS are species whose population 
trends could possibly indicate the effects of FS management activities.

Topic 2--Managed Recreation

    The 1985 plan does not clearly and specifically address issues 
related to recreation and scenic resources that play a vital role in 
supporting social and economic sustainability on the National 
Grasslands. The new plan needs to provide direction that is more 
specific to the Grasslands relative to management of motorized, 
dispersed and developed recreation opportunities, areas of high scenic 
quality and assessment and possible designation of special areas. 
Relevant law, policy, regulation and other FS direction developed since 
1985 also needs to be incorporated by reference into the new plan, and 
redundancies removed.
     The demand for day-hiking, particularly on scenic and 
interpretive trails, continues to increase on the National Grasslands. 
The new plan needs to provide more direction on management of dispersed 
recreation.
     There are components of the 1985 plan which are redundant 
with existing FS Handbook and Manual direction. Redundancies will be 
absent from the new plan, and current Handbook and Manual direction 
will be incorporated by specific reference.
     There is a need for the revised plan to reflect and 
support direction from the implementation of the Travel Management 
Rule. The new National Grasslands plan is being developed concurrently 
with the Travel Management Study EA for the Kiowa and Rita Blanca 
National Grasslands, but the new plan will not be pre-decisional to the 
findings of the EA or the resultant motor vehicle use map.
     There is a need for the new plan to provide direction to 
manage for recreation opportunities in a variety of different settings 
and levels of development, from large, developed recreation settings 
with many facilities, to primitive settings.
     There is a need for the new plan to provide direction that 
management of scenic resources be based on objectives for specific 
areas, particularly those areas identified as having high scenic 
quality.
     Plan direction addressing opportunities for visiting, 
touring, and enjoying guided and interpretive activities related to 
unique scenery, historic/cultural sites, wildlife, and formally-
designated sites (such as eligible Wild and Scenic Rivers, Historic 
Trails and Scenic Byways) needs to be included in the new plan.
     The development of the new plan will assess the need for 
additional special area designations such as potential wilderness, an 
eligible Wild and Scenic River, or potential research natural areas 
(RNA) and provide direction.

Topic 3--Human Influences on the National Grasslands

    The 1985 plan does not provide adequate direction to the National 
Grasslands regarding the management and monitoring of livestock 
grazing; the placement, maintenance or rehabilitation of energy 
development sites; the use of planned or unplanned fire; nor the 
allowance of special uses (i.e., mineral extraction, utility corridors, 
fuelwood harvesting, research activities). There are also many 
components of the 1985 plan which duplicate existing FS Handbook and 
Manuel direction. The new plan should provide direction for management 
of these land uses and economic opportunities:

[[Page 2479]]

     The new plan needs to provide management direction to the 
livestock grazing program that incorporates adaptive management toward 
ecosystem-based desired conditions.
     Because of increasing interest in alternative energy 
enterprises such as wind farms in the proximity of the National 
Grasslands, the new plan needs to provide direction for guiding energy 
development on the National Grasslands, while protecting natural 
resources, heritage sites and scenery.
     There is a need to provide direction in the new plan for 
the rehabilitation of disturbed sites, such as oil and gas pads and 
roads, after operations have ceased, in order to protect soil 
productivity and re-establish vegetative cover.
     The new plan needs to provide direction to the process of 
obtaining legal road access to National Grassland units, access that 
meets public, private landowner and management needs.
     Because of the projected increase and changes in the type 
of energy developments in the region and the land ownership pattern of 
the National Grasslands, the new plan needs to provide direction on the 
permitting of utility easements and related special uses.
     There are many special uses of the National Grasslands 
that provide economic support to local communities. The new plan needs 
to provide direction for accommodating the removal of miscellaneous 
products for commercial, non-commercial and Tribal use, such as wood 
products, plants, grass seed, or other materials.
     The new plan needs to provide direction on the non-
commercial use of common mineral materials, so that resources can be 
adequately protected.
     The new plan should provide direction on the management of 
firewood and fuelwood harvesting and gathering on the National 
Grasslands.
     There is a need for the new plan to provide direction on 
opportunities to conduct research on the National Grasslands, 
regardless of whether a research natural area is established.
     The checkerboard pattern of the National Grassland units 
and private land, along with the types of fuels found on the National 
Grasslands, create a fire environment which is very different from 
forests of the intermountain west. The new plan needs to provide 
direction for applying management strategies for responding to wildland 
fires and using prescribed fire on National Grassland units to avoid 
loss of life or significant property damage.
     The new plan needs to provide updated direction on the 
stabilization and preservation of historic structures and Traditional 
Cultural Properties. The new plan should also provide direction on the 
role of heritage sites in economic development.

Public Involvement

    Extensive public involvement and collaboration related to revising 
the National Grasslands plan has already occurred and is ongoing. 
Informal discussions with the public regarding needed changes to the 
1985 plan began with a series of public meetings in 2006. This input, 
along with science-based evaluations, was used to determine the needs 
for change identified above. Additional meetings, correspondence, news 
releases, comment periods, and other tools have been utilized to gather 
feedback from the public, forest employees, Tribal governments, Federal 
and State agencies, and local governments. The most recent public 
involvement was a series of public meetings held in March 2009 to 
solicit input and comment on potential desired conditions, which had 
been developed based upon previous public collaboration. The Forest 
desires to continue collaborative efforts with members of the public 
who are interested in the National Grasslands management, as well as 
Native American Tribes, Federal and State agencies, local governments, 
and private organizations.
    Future public meetings to gather input on the working draft plan 
and potential alternatives are tentatively scheduled for late winter or 
spring 2010. The dates, times, and locations of these meetings will be 
posted on the Forest's Web site:  http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/cibola/plan-revision/national_grasslands/index.shtml.
    The information gathered at these meetings will help guide the 
development of the draft plan and draft EIS. Once the draft plan and 
draft EIS are compiled and released (tentatively scheduled for 
September 2010), members of the public will have 45 days to submit 
comments. After consideration of comments, a final proposed plan and 
final EIS will be released in early 2011. We anticipate using the 2000 
planning rule pre-decisional objection process (36 CFR 219.32) for 
administrative review.
    At this time, the Cibola National Forest is seeking input on the 
need for change and the proposed action to develop a new National 
Grasslands-specific plan: Did we miss any substantive issues or 
concerns? 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 revised plan and the EIS. Therefore, comments on the 
proposed action (need for a new plan) and needs for change will be most 
valuable if received by February 15, 2010, and should clearly 
articulate the reviewer's concerns. The submission of timely and 
specific comments can affect a reviewer's ability to participate in 
subsequent administrative or judicial review.
    Comments received in response to this solicitation, including the 
names and addresses of those who comment will be part of the public 
record. Comments submitted anonymously will be accepted and considered.

Applicable Planning Rule

    Preparation of the new plan was underway when the 2008 National 
Forest System land management planning rule was enjoined on June 30, 
2009, by the United States District Court for the Northern District of 
California (Citizens for Better Forestry v. United States Department of 
Agriculture, 632 F. Supp. 2d 968 (N.D. Cal. June 30, 2009)). On 
December 18, 2009, the Department reinstated the previous planning 
rule, commonly known as the 2000 planning rule in the Federal Register 
(Federal Register, Volume 74, No. 242, Friday, December 18, 2009, pages 
67059 through 67075). The transition provisions of the reinstated rule 
(36 CFR 219.35 and appendices A and B) allow use of the provisions of 
the National Forest System land and resource management planning rule 
in effect prior to the effective date of the 2000 Rule (November 9, 
2000), commonly called the 1982 planning rule, to amend or revise 
plans. The Cibola National Forest has elected to use the provisions of 
the 1982 planning rule, including the requirement to prepare an EIS, to 
complete its plan revision. Prior to the enjoinment of the 2008 
planning rule, the National Grasslands had been working to revise the 
1985 plan. Informal revision efforts began in the summer of 2006, with 
collaborative discussions regarding the need to change the plan.
    A formal Notice of Initiation to revise the forest plan was 
published on September 19, 2008, in the Federal Register, Vol. 73, No. 
183, p. 54363. That notice also requested review on the CER, the 
Ecological Sustainability Report, and the Socio-economic Assessment 
(documents that provide evaluations of social, economic, and ecological 
conditions and trends in and around the forest).
    The Forest had begun collaborative development of forest plan 
components during the fall of 2008. The latest set of plan components, 
the Working Draft

[[Page 2480]]

Land Management Plan, will be made available for review and comment in 
the spring of 2010. The CER was further supplemented in December 2009 
to conform to the Need for Change AMS requirements of the 1982 rule 
provisions. The needs for change previously identified in the CER have 
been verified by this supplementary information; no new needs for 
change were identified.
    Although the 2008 planning rule is no longer in effect, information 
gathered prior to the court's injunction is useful for completing the 
plan revision using the provisions of the 1982 planning rule. The 
Cibola National Forest has concluded that the following material 
developed during the plan revision process to date is appropriate for 
continued use in the revision process:
     The CER was completed in September 2008. It forms the 
basis for need to change the existing Forest Plan and the proposed 
action for the plan revision to develop a National Grasslands-specific 
plan.
     The Kiowa, Rita Blanca, Black Kettle and McClellan Creek 
National Grasslands CER Supplementary Document to meet AMS 
Requirements, December 2009 (as described above).
     The Ecological Sustainability Report (ESR) that was 
completed in August, 2008 will continue to be used as a reference in 
the planning process as appropriate to those items in conformance with 
the 2000 planning rule transition language and 1982 planning rule 
provisions. This is scientific information and is not affected by the 
change of planning rule. This information will be updated with any new 
available information.
     The Socio-economic Sustainability Report that was 
completed in August 2008 is not affected by the change in planning rule 
and will continue to be used as a reference in the planning process. 
This information will be updated with any new available information.
     The Kiowa National Grassland Potential Wilderness 
Evaluation Report for the Canadian River Potential Wilderness Area, 
completed in October 2008.
     USDA FS, Southwestern Region, Mid-Scale Vegetation 
Analysis, June 2009 (BKMC NG); November 2009 (KRB NG); an inventory of 
current vegetation conditions.
     USDA FS, Southwestern Region, Potential Natural Vegetation 
Types, 2008. A simulation of vegetation inventory pre-European 
settlement, which functions as the reference condition for current 
analysis.
     USDA Cibola National Forest, Kiowa and Rita Blanca 
National Grasslands, Geographic Area Assessments, v. 1, 1999.
     USDA Cibola National Forest, Black Kettle and McClellan 
Creek National Grasslands, Geographic Area Assessments, v. 1, 2000.
    All of the above described documents are either available on the 
Forest's Web site: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/cibola/plan-revision/national_grasslands/index.shtml or by contacting the Cibola National 
Forest at the address provided in the Address section of this notice.
    As necessary or appropriate, the above listed material will be 
further adjusted as part of the planning process using the provisions 
of the 1982 planning rule.

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1600-1614; 36 CFR 219.35 (74 FR 67073-
67074).

    Dated: January 11, 2010.
Nancy Rose,
Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. 2010-689 Filed 1-14-10; 8:45 am]
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