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Six Rivers National Forest, NOI for EIS

Federal Register Notice here: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/E8-30047.htm

[Federal Register: December 19, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 245)]
[Notices]
[Page 77601-77605]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr19de08-49]

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Six Rivers National Forest, California, Lower Trinity and Mad
River Travel Management EIS

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Six Rivers National Forest (Six Rivers NF) will prepare an
Environmental Impact Statement to disclose the impacts associated with
the following proposed actions:
1. The prohibition of cross-country motor vehicle travel (with the
exception of snowmobiles) off designated National Forest NFTS (NFTS)
roads and trails by the public except as allowed by permit or other
authorization.
2. Make a non-significant amendment to the Six Rivers NF Land and
Resource Management Plan (Six Rivers Forest Plan) to conform with the
Travel Management Rule (36 CFR Part 212 Subpart B).
3. Add approximately 58 miles (206 segments) of existing
unauthorized routes to the NFTS as motorized trails open to the public
for motor vehicle use by vehicle class and season of use.
4. Approximately 7 miles (5 segments) of existing NFTS roads are
proposed for dual management as both a Maintenance level 1 (closed)
road and as a motorized trail open to vehicles 50'' or less in width.
5. Make the following change to NFTS roads: Allow both highway
licensed vehicles and non-highway licensed vehicles to use
approximately 25\1/2\ miles (17 segments) of existing NFTS roads
currently open to highway licensed vehicles only.
6. Make the following changes to NFTS trails:
a. Allow motor vehicles 50 inches or less in width on approximately
4 miles (1 segment) of existing NFTS trail currently open to
motorcycles.
b. Convert approximately 6 miles (2 segments) of existing NFTS
motorized trails to NFTS non-motorized trails.

DATES: The comment period on the proposed action will extend 45 days
from the date the Notice of Intent is published in the Federal
Register. Completion of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (draft
EIS) is expected in spring 2009 and the Final Environmental Impact
Statement (final EIS) is expected in summer 2009.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to: Travel Management Team, Six Rivers
National Forest, 1330 Bayshore Way, Eureka, CA 95501. Electronic
comments, in acceptable plain text (.txt), rich text (.rtf), or Word
(.doc) may be submitted to comments-pacificsouthwest-six-
rivers@fs.fed.us. Please insure that ``Travel Management'' occurs in
the subject line.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Leslie Burkhart, Six Rivers National
Forest, 1330 Bayshore Way, Eureka, CA 95501. Phone: 707-441-3520. E-
mail: comments-pacificsouthwest-six-rivers@fs.fed.us with ``Travel
Management'' in the subject line.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

[[Page 77602]]

Background

Over the past few decades, the availability and capability of motor
vehicles, particularly off-highway vehicles (OHVs) and sport utility
vehicles (SUVs) has increased tremendously. Nationally, the number of
OHV users has climbed sevenfold in the past 30 years, from
approximately 5 million in 1972 to 36 million in 2000. The ten states
with the largest population also have the most OHV users. California
has 4.35 million OHV users accounting for almost 11% of the U.S. total
(Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation in the United States, Regions and
States: A National Report from the National Survey on Recreation and
the Environment (NSRE) Cordell, Betz, Green and Owens June 2005). There
were 786,914 all terrain vehicles (ATVs) and OHV motorcycles registered
in 2004, up 330% since 1980. Annual sales of ATVs and OHV motorcycles
in California were the highest in the U.S. for the last 5 years. Four-
wheel drive vehicle sales in California also increased by 1500% to
3,046,866 from 1989 to 2002.
Unmanaged 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 soils. Riparian areas and aquatic dependent species are
particularly vulnerable to OHV use. Unmanaged recreation, including
impacts from OHVs, is one of ``Four Key Threats Facing the Nation's
Forests and Grasslands.'' (USDA Forest Service, June 2004).
On August 11, 2003, the Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest
Service entered into a Memorandum of Intent (MOI) with the California
Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission, and the Off-Highway
Motor Vehicle Recreation Division of the California Department of Parks
and Recreation. That MOI set in motion a region-wide effort to
``Designate OHV roads, trails, and any specifically defined open areas
for motor vehicles on maps of the 19 National Forests in California by
2007.'' 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). Subpart B of the final Travel Management
Rule requires designation of those roads, trails, and areas that are
open to motor vehicle use on National Forests. Route designations will
be made by class of vehicle and, if appropriate, by time of year. The
final rule allows for motor vehicle use only on designated system
routes and in designated areas.
On some National Forest System lands, long managed as open to
cross-country motor vehicle travel, repeated use has resulted in
unplanned, unauthorized, roads and trails. These routes generally
developed without environmental analysis or public involvement, and do
not have the same status as National Forest System roads and National
Forest System trails included in the NFTS. Nevertheless, some
unauthorized routes are well-sited, provide excellent opportunities for
outdoor recreation by motorized and non-motorized users, and would
enhance the National Forest System of designated roads, trails and
areas. Other unauthorized routes are poorly located and cause
unacceptable impacts. Only NFTS roads and NFTS trails can be designated
for motor vehicle use. In order for an unauthorized route to be
designated, it must first be added to the NFTS.
In accordance with the MOI, the Six Rivers NF completed an
inventory of unauthorized routes on National Forest System lands and
identified over 250 miles of unauthorized routes. The Six Rivers NF
then used an interdisciplinary process to evaluate the routes that
included working with the public to determine whether any of the
unauthorized routes should be proposed for addition to the Six Rivers
NFTS in this proposed action. The route evaluation identified a number
of routes which could be considered in this or future decisions on the
NFTS as a part of travel management on the Lower Trinity and Mad River
Ranger Districts of the Six Rivers National Forest. Roads and trails
(there are no areas) that are currently part of the Six Rivers NFTS and
are open to motor vehicle travel will remain designated for such use
except as described below under Proposed Action. This proposal focuses
only on the prohibition of motor vehicle travel off designated routes
and needed changes to the Six Rivers NFTS, including the addition of
some unauthorized routes to the Six Rivers NFTS and minor changes to
the existing motor vehicle restrictions. The proposed action is being
carried forward in accordance with the Travel Management Rule (36 CFR
Part 212, Subpart B).
In accordance with the Travel Management Rule, following a decision
on this proposal, a Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) will be published for
both the Lower Trinity Ranger District and Mad River Ranger District of
the Six Rivers NF. These MVUMs will identify all roads and trails that
are designated for motor vehicle use. The MVUMs shall specify the
classes of vehicles and, if appropriate, the times of year for which
use is designated. Unauthorized routes not included in this proposal
are not precluded from future consideration for addition to the NFTS
and inclusion in a MVUM. Future decisions associated with changes to
the MVUMs may trigger the need for documentation of environmental
analysis.

Purpose and Need for Action

The following needs have been identified for this proposal:
1. There is a need for regulation of unmanaged cross-country motor
vehicle travel by the public. The proliferation of unplanned,
unauthorized, non-sustainable roads, trails, and areas created by
cross-country travel adversely impacts the environment. The 2005 Travel
Management Rule, 36 CFR Section 212, Subpart B, provides for a system
of NFS roads, NFS trails, and areas on National Forest System lands
that are designated for motor vehicle use. After roads, trails, and
areas are designated, motor vehicle use off designated roads and trails
and outside designated areas is prohibited by 36 CFR 261.13. Subpart B
is intended to prevent resource damage caused by unmanaged motor
vehicle use by the public. In accordance with national direction,
implementation of Subpart B of the travel management rule for the Six
Rivers National Forest is scheduled for completion in 2009.
2. There is a need for the Six Rivers Forest Plan to conform to the
Travel Management Rule, 36 CFR 212, Subpart B. A review of the Six
Rivers Forest Plan has found that OHV use is restricted to designated
routes but there is no general prohibition of motor vehicle travel off
of designated roads and trails.
3. There is a need for limited changes to the Six Rivers NFTS to:
a. Provide motor vehicle access to dispersed recreation
opportunities (camping, hunting, fishing, hiking, horseback riding,
etc.). A substantial portion of known dispersed recreation activities
are not typically located directly adjacent to NFTS roads or NFTS
motorized trails. Some dispersed recreation activities depend on foot
or horseback access, and some depend on motor vehicle access. Those
activities accessed by motor vehicles are typically accessed by short
spurs that have been created primarily by the passage of motor
vehicles. Many such unauthorized ``user-created'' routes are not
currently part of the NFTS. Without adding them to the NFTS and
designating them on a MVUM, the regulatory changes noted above would
make continued use of such routes

[[Page 77603]]

illegal and would preclude access by the public to many dispersed
recreation activities.
b. Provide a diversity of motorized recreation opportunities (4x4
vehicles, motorcycles, ATVs, SUVs, passenger vehicles, etc.). It is
Forest Service policy to provide a diversity of road and trail
opportunities for experiencing a variety of environments and modes of
travel consistent with the National Forest recreation role and land
capability (FSM 2353.03(2)). Implementation of Subpart B of the Travel
Management Rule will severely reduce acres and miles of motorized
recreation opportunities relative to current levels. As a result, there
is a need to consider limited changes to the NFTS.
In making any limited changes to the National Forest Transportation
system, the Six Rivers NF will be considering criteria contained in
Subpart B of the Travel Management Rule, which include the following:
A. Impacts to natural and cultural resources.
B. Public safety.
C. Access to public and private lands.
D. Availability of resources for maintenance and administration of
roads trails and areas that would arise if the uses under consideration
are designated.
E. Minimizing damage to soil, watershed, vegetation, and other
forest resources.
F. Minimizing harassment of wildlife and significant disruption of
wildlife habitat.
G. Minimizing conflicts between motor vehicles and existing or
proposed recreational uses of NFS lands or neighboring federal lands.
H. Minimizing conflicts among different classes of motor vehicle
uses of NFS lands or neighboring federal lands.
I. Compatibility of motor vehicle use with existing conditions in
populated areas, taking into account sound, emissions, and other
factors.
When making any limited changes to National Forest System Roads,
the Six Rivers NF will also consider the following:
1. Speed, volume, composition and distribution of traffic on roads.
2. Compatibility of vehicle class with road geometry and road
surfacing
3. Maintaining valid existing rights of use and access (rights-of-
way)

Proposed Action

1. The prohibition of cross-country motor vehicle travel (with the
exception of snowmobiles) off designated National Forest NFTS (NFTS)
roads, trails, and areas by the public except as allowed by permit or
other authorization.
2. Make a non-significant amendment to the Six Rivers Forest Plan
to conform to the Travel Management Rule, Subpart B. The text of
Recreation Standard and Guideline for Motorized Recreation 18-21, Six
Rivers Forest Plan, p. IV-124, which currently reads ``OHV use is
restricted to designated routes'' shall be replaced in its entirety
with the following text ``Prohibit motor vehicle travel (with the
exception of snowmobiles) off designated roads, trails and areas except
as allowed by permit or other authorization.''
3. Additions to the National Forest NFTS. The Six Rivers NF
currently manages and maintains approximately 526 miles of NFTS roads
and no NFTS motorized trails on the Lower Trinity Ranger District; and
manages and maintains approximately 871 miles of NFTS roads and 36
miles of NFTS motorized trails on the Mad River Ranger District. Based
on the stated purpose and need for action and route evaluation, the Six
Rivers National Forest proposes to add approximately 19 miles (62
segments) of existing unauthorized routes to its NFTS as motorized
trails on the Lower Trinity Ranger District; and to add approximately
39 miles (144 segments) of existing unauthorized routes to its NFTS
motorized trails on the Mad River Ranger District open to the public
for motor vehicle use by vehicle class and season of use. A summary of
the additional NFTS motorized trails are listed below by Ranger
District. Note that no additional motorcycle trails are proposed for
the NFTS.

NFTS Motorized Trail Additions--Lower Trinity Ranger District
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Subject to
Trail type Proposed addition (miles) Permitted vehicle classes Year-round Seasonal mitigations
(miles) (miles) (miles)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
High Clearance.......................... 5........................... Trails open to high clearance 3 2 1
wheeled vehicles.
<=50''.................................. 14.......................... Trails open to wheeled vehicles <1 14 12
50 inches or less in width.
Motorcycle.............................. none........................ Trails open to vehicles with two N/A N/A N/A
in-line wheels.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


NFTS Motorized Trail Additions--Mad River Ranger District
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Subject to
Trail type Proposed addition (miles) Permitted vehicle classes Year-round Seasonal mitigations
(miles) (miles) (miles)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
High Clearance.......................... 30.......................... Trails open to high clearance 25 5 14
wheeled vehicles.
<=50''.................................. 9........................... Trails open to wheeled vehicles 8 1 2
50 inches or less in width.
Motorcycle.............................. none........................ Trails open to vehicles with two N/A N/A N/A
in-line wheels.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The existing unauthorized routes proposed as additions to the Six
Rivers NFTS as motorized trails occur across both Districts within many
land allocations and resource emphasis areas; this includes proposed
motorized trails within Late Successional Reserves, Inventoried
Roadless Areas, and Key Watersheds as summarized in the following
tables.

[[Page 77604]]



Trail Additions Within Areas of Interest--Lower Trinity Ranger District
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Management areas of interest
--------------------------------------------------------------
Trail type Proposed addition Inventoried
total (miles) Late successional roadless areas Key watershed
reserve (miles) (miles) (miles)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
High Clearance................ 5................ 1.7 none............. 1.9
<=50''........................ 14............... 2.4 none............. 5.9
Motorcycle.................... none............. N/A N/A.............. N/A
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Trail Additions Within Areas of Interest--Mad River Ranger District
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Management areas of interest
--------------------------------------------------------------
Trail type Proposed addition Inventoried
total (miles) Late successional roadless areas Key watershed
reserve (miles) (miles) (miles)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
High Clearance................ 30............... 10.3 1.9.............. 2.4
<=50''........................ 9................ 2.5 1.3.............. 1.3
Motorcycle.................... none............. N/A N/A.............. N/A
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

4. Co-location of Motorized Trail on NFTS roads closed year-round.
Approximately 7 miles (5 segments) of existing NFTS roads are proposed
for dual management as both a Maintenance level 1 (closed) road and as
a motorized trail open to vehicles 50'' or less in width. Approximately
7 miles (4 segments) would be located on Lower Trinity Ranger District
to expand motorized recreation opportunity by linking proposed
motorized trails in the Waterman Ridge and Hennessy Ridge networks.
Approximately 0.2 mile (1 segment) would be located on the Mad River
Ranger District to provide access to a dispersed camp.
5. Limited Changes to the National Forest NFTS Roads. The Six
Rivers National Forest proposes the following changes to NFTS roads to
expand motorized trail opportunities, including increasing potential
loops by using existing NFTS roads as links or connections within
proposed networks of motorized trails: Allow both highway licensed
vehicle and non-highway licensed vehicle use on approximately 8 miles
(5 segments) of existing NFTS roads currently open to highway legal
vehicles only on the Lower Trinity Ranger District. Allow both highway
licensed vehicle and non-highway licensed vehicle use on approximately
17\1/2\ miles (12 segments) of existing NFTS roads currently open to
highway legal vehicles only on the Mad River Ranger District. Of these
changes, all but approximately 2\1/2\ miles (1 segment) on the Mad
River Ranger District, are subject to California Vehicle Code
regulations that include the requirement of a licensed operator
operating the vehicle.
6. Limited Changes to NFTS Trails. The Six Rivers National Forest
proposes the following changes to NFTS trails: Allow wheeled vehicles
50 inches or less in width on approximately 4 miles (1 segment) of
existing NFTS trail currently open to motorcycles to augment the Pilot
Creek motorized trail network on the Mad River Ranger District. Convert
approximately 6 miles (2 segments) of existing NFTS motorized trails to
NFTS non-motorized trails on the Mad River Ranger District because of
safety concerns on a segment of Devil's Backbone and due to lack of use
and potential adverse resource effects on the Bradburn Trail.
Maps and tables detailing the proposed action can be found at
http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/sixrivers/projects/ohv/. In addition, maps will
be available for viewing at:
Six Rivers National Forest Supervisor's Office, 1330
Bayshore Way, Eureka, CA 95501; phone: 707-442-1721.
Lower Trinity Ranger District, Highway 96 (2 miles North
of Willow Creek), Willow Creek, CA 95573; phone: 630-629-2118.
Mad River Ranger District, Highway 36 (28 miles east of
Bridgeville), Bridgeville, CA 95526; phone: 707-574-6233.

Responsible Official

Tyrone Kelley, Forest Supervisor, Six Rivers National Forest, 1330
Bayshore Way, Eureka, CA 95501

Nature of 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 make changes to existing prohibitions and allowances for
public motor vehicle travel within the existing Six Rivers NF NFTS and
prohibit cross country motor vehicle travel by the public off the
designated system. Once the decision is made, the Six Rivers NF will
publish two Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM) identifying the roads and
trails that are designated for motor vehicle use. The MVUMs shall
specify the classes of vehicles and, if appropriate, the time of year
for which use is designated. Future decisions associated with changes
to the MVUMs may trigger the need for documentation of environmental
analysis.
This proposal does not revisit previous administrative decisions
that resulted in the current NFTS. This proposal is focused on
implementing Subpart B of the Travel Management Rule. Previous
administrative decisions concerning road construction, road
reconstruction, trail construction, and land suitability for motorized
use on the existing NFTS are outside of the scope of this proposal.

Scoping Process

Public participation will be especially important at several points
during the analysis. The Forest Service will be seeking information,
comments, and assistance from federal, state, and local agencies and
other individuals or organizations who may be interested in or affected
by the proposed action.
The Six Rivers NF has been meeting with local elected officials,
Tribes, and community groups, including service and professional
organizations, to discuss the Travel Management Rule and travel
management on the Lower Trinity and Mad River Ranger Districts since
2005. In May and June of 2005,

[[Page 77605]]

public workshops were held in Eureka, Willow Creek, and Mad River, CA
to inform the public about the Travel Management Rule. In October 2007
and April, May, and June 2008, public workshops were held in those same
locations to gather information from the public about which routes they
use and their concerns. Additionally, maps of inventoried routes were
available on the Forest's Web site and Forest Service offices. The
public used these maps to provide input into the process.
The comment period on the proposed action will extend 45 days from
the date this Notice of Intent is published in the Federal Register.
The draft environmental impact statement is expected to be filed
with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and to be available for
public review by spring 2009. EPA will publish a notice of availability
of the draft EIS in the Federal Register. The comment period on the
draft EIS will extend 45 days from the date the EPA notice appears in
the Federal Register. At that time, copies of the draft EIS will be
distributed to interested and affected agencies, organizations, and
members of the public for their review and comment. It is very
important that those interested in the management of the Six Rivers NF
participate at that time.
The final EIS is scheduled to be completed in summer 2009. In the
final EIS, the Forest Service will respond to comments received during
the comment period that are: within the scope of the proposed action;
specific to the proposed action; have a direct relationship with the
proposed action; and include supporting reasons for the responsible
official to consider. Submission of comments to the draft EIS is a
prerequisite for eligibility to appeal under the 36 CFR part 215
regulations.

Comment Requested

This Notice of Intent initiates the scoping process which guides
the development of the environmental impact statement.
Early Notice of Importance of Public Participation in Subsequent
Environmental Review: A draft EIS will be prepared for comment. 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.
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 draft EISs 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. Hodel, 803 F.2d 1016, 1022 (9th Cir. 1986)
and Wisconsin Heritages, Inc. 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 EIS. 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.
Comments received, including the names and addresses of those who
comment, will be considered part of the public record on this proposal
and will be available for public inspection.

(Authority: 40 CFR 1501.7 and 1508.22; Forest Service Handbook
1909.15, Section 21)

Dated: December 12, 2008.
Tyrone Kelley,
Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. E8-30047 Filed 12-18-08; 8:45 am]

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