[Federal Register Volume 66, Number 163 (Wednesday, August 22, 2001)]
[Notices]
[Pages 44111-44114]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 01-21185]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Roadless Area Protection; Interim Direction

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice; request for comment.

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SUMMARY: The Forest Service has issued two Interim Directives to its 
workforce reserving to the Chief, with some exceptions, authority to 
approve timber harvest and road construction and reconstruction in 
roadless areas. The intended effect is to stabilize roadless management 
in light of pending litigation. Public comment is invited and will be 
considered in developing any final policy.

DATES: Interim Directives No. 2400-2001-3 and 7710-2001-2 were issued 
July 27, 2001. Comments must be received in writing by October 22, 
2001.

ADDRESSES: Written comments concerning these Interim Directives should 
be sent to Content Analysis Team, Forest Service, USDA, Attention: 
Roadless Interim Directives, P.O. Box 221150, Salt Lake City, UT, 
84122; via email to roadless_id@fs.fed.us; or via facsimile to 801-296-
4088, Attention: Roadless Interim Directives.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jody Sutton, Program Coordinator, 
Content Analysis Team, at telephone number (801) 527-1023.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    On January 12, 2001, the Department of Agriculture published a 
final rule entitled 36 CFR part 294, Special Areas; Roadless Area 
Conservation (66 FR 3244). Originally scheduled to take effect on March 
12, the Secretary of Agriculture extended the effective date until May 
12, 2001, to permit the new Administration to review the rule (66 FR 
8899; February 5, 2001).
    Over the same period, eight lawsuits, involving seven states in six 
judicial districts and four federal circuits were

[[Page 44112]]

filed against the January 12, 2001, rule. On May 10, 2001, the Idaho 
District Court granted the preliminary injunction requested in Kootenai 
Tribe of Idaho v. Veneman and State of Idaho v. U.S. Forest Service. 
The court enjoined the Forest Service from implementing ``all aspects 
of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule'' as well as a section of the 
November 2000, forest planning rule that addresses the inventory and 
evaluation of roadless areas during the forest plan revision process. 
The Idaho District Court's decision to grant a preliminary injunction 
has been appealed and is now pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of 
Appeals.

Need for Interim Direction

    In the face of the legal controversy and uncertainty, and with the 
endorsement of the Secretary, on June 7, 2001, I issued a memorandum to 
agency top officials concerning interim protection of inventoried 
roadless areas. I emphasized that ``the Forest Service is committed to 
protecting and managing roadless areas as an important component of the 
National Forest System'' and that ``the best way to achieve this 
objective is to ensure that we protect and sustain roadless values 
until they can be appropriately considered through forest planning.'' 
As part of that memorandum, I indicated I would be issuing interim 
direction regarding timber harvest and road construction in inventoried 
roadless areas until a forest plan amendment or revision considers the 
long-term protection and management of unroaded portions of inventoried 
roadless areas. I also indicated that the interim directives would 
provide for exemptions along the lines of those in the roadless rule.
    Subsequently, I have issued two Interim Directives addressing 
approval of activities in roadless areas--one to Forest Service Manual 
(FSM) 2400 Chapter Zero Code, which covers timber harvest decisions, 
and another to FSM Chapter 7710, which governs decisions on road 
construction and reconstruction in roadless areas.

Content of the Interim Directives

    The two Interim Directives issued to implement the policy decisions 
contained in the June 7 memorandum are integrated into pre-existing 
direction on timber sales and road management in inventoried roadless 
areas. They assign responsibilities for actions related to roadless 
areas. The Interim Directives reserve to the Chief the authority to 
approve, with some exceptions, proposed road construction, 
reconstruction or timber harvest projects in inventoried roadless areas 
until revision of a land and resource management plan or the adoption 
of a plan amendment that has considered the protection or other 
management of inventoried roadless areas as defined in FSM 7712.16a. 
The Interim Directives also assign to Regional Foresters the 
responsibility to review and determine if proposed road construction, 
road reconstruction, or timber harvest projects in inventoried roadless 
areas that are not within the Regional Forester's decision authority 
should be recommended and forwarded to the Chief for approval.

Conclusion

    The Forest Service is committed to providing adequate opportunities 
for the public to comment on administrative directives that are of 
substantial public interest or controversy, as provided in the 
regulations at 36 CFR part 216. Because it was important to provide 
Forest Service units with interim direction to ensure consistent 
management of roadless areas, the agency issued these Interim 
Directives and made them effective immediately. However, pursuant to 36 
CFR 216.7, the Forest Service is now also requesting public comment on 
these Interim Directives. All comments will be reviewed and considered 
in determining any final policy. A copy of each ID appears at the end 
of this notice.

    Dated: August 9, 2001.
Dale N. Bosworth,
Chief.

Forest Service Manual Interim Directives

    Note: The Forest Service organizes its directive system by 
alphanumeric codes and subject headings. Only those sections of the 
FSM that are the subject of this notice are set forth here. Those 
who wish to see the entire chapter to which the Interim Directives 
apply may do so at http://www.fs.fed.us/im/directives.

FSM 2400--Timber Management

Chapter--Zero Code

    Interim Directive No.: 2400-2001-3.
    Effective Date: July 27, 2001.
    Duration: This interim directive expires on January 27, 2003.
    Approved: Dale N. Bosworth, Chief.
    Date Approved: 7/19/2001.
    Posting Instructions: Interim directives are numbered consecutively 
by title and calendar year. Post by document at the end of the chapter. 
Retain this transmittal as the first page(s) of this document. The last 
interim directive was 2450-2001-2 to FSM 2450.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
------------------------------------------------------------------------
New Document....................  id_2400-2001-3....  3 Pages.
Superseded Document(s) (Interim   None.
 Directive Number and Effective
 Date).
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Digest: This Interim Directive (ID) implements the Chief's 1230/
1920 letter of June 7, 2001, regarding Interim Protection of Roadless 
Areas. See the corollary roadless area Interim Directive being 
simultaneously issued to FSM 7710.
    2404.11--Adds new paragraph 4 that reserves to the Chief the 
authority to approve certain proposed timber harvests in inventoried 
roadless areas as defined in FSM 7712.16a, until revision of a land and 
resource management plan.
    2404.15--Adds a new paragraph 13 that requires Regional Forester 
review and agreement on the purpose and need for timber harvests in 
roadless areas and assigns to Regional Foresters the responsibility to 
screen proposed timber harvests in inventoried roadless areas to 
determine those that should be recommended to the Chief for approval.

FSM 2400--Timber Management

Chapter--Zero Code

2404.11--Chief
    4. Reserves the authority to approve or disapprove proposed timber 
harvest in inventoried roadless areas (FSM 7712.16a), except for those 
listed in section 2404.15, paragraph 13. This reservation applies to 
all decisions to approve or disapprove harvest in inventoried roadless 
areas made on or after the effective date of this Interim Directive. 
This reservation applies until

[[Page 44113]]

revision of a land and resource management plan or adoption of a plan 
amendment that has considered the protection and management of 
inventoried roadless areas pursuant to FSM 1920. If a Record of 
Decision for a Forest Plan revision has been issued as of the date of 
this Interim Directive, then the provision for Chief's review does not 
apply. By official memorandum, the Chief may designate, on a case-by-
case basis, an Associate Chief or Deputy Chief to serve as the 
Responsible Official.
2404.15--Regional Forester
    13. Prior to the publication of a Notice of Intent to prepare an 
environmental impact statement that considers timber harvest in an 
inventoried roadless area (FSM 7712.16a), review and agree to the 
purpose and need statements (FSH 1909.15, Chapter 20). It is also the 
responsibility of the Regional Forester to review and recommend to the 
Chief the final environmental impact statement and record of decision 
for any timber harvest projects in inventoried roadless areas, except 
those described in the following paragraphs (a) through (d).
    a. The timber is generally small-diameter material and the removal 
of timber is needed for one of the following purposes:
    (1) To improve habitat for listed or proposed threatened and 
endangered species, or for sensitive species (FSM 2670), or
    (2) To maintain or restore the desirable characteristics of 
ecosystem composition and structure, for example, to reduce the risk of 
uncharacteristic wildfire effects.
    b. The cutting, sale, or removal of timber is incidental to the 
implementation of a management activity and not otherwise prohibited 
under the land and resource management plan.
    c. The cutting, sale, or removal of timber is needed and 
appropriate for personal or administrative use as provided for in 36 
CFR part 223.
    d. The harvest is in a portion of an inventoried roadless area 
where construction of a classified road and subsequent timber harvest 
have previously taken place, and the roadless area characteristics have 
been substantially altered by those activities.
    The delegation of authority to approve or disapprove the projects 
described in preceding paragraphs a through d remain unchanged by this 
Interim Directive.

FSM 7700--Transportation System

Chapter 7710--Transportation Atlas, Records, and Analysis

    Interim Directive No.: 7710-2001-2.
    Effective Date: July 27, 2001.
    Duration: This interim directive expires on January 27, 2003.
    Approved: Dale N. Bosworth, Chief.
    Date Approved: 07/23/2001.
    Posting Instructions: Interim directives are numbered consecutively 
by title and calendar year. Post by document at the end of the chapter. 
Retain this transmittal as the first page(s) of this document. The last 
interim directive was 7710-2001-1 to FSM 7710.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
------------------------------------------------------------------------
New Document....................  id_7710-2001-2....  4 Pages.
Superseded Document(s) (Interim   None.
 Directive Number and Effective
 Date).
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Digest: This Interim Directive (ID) implements the Chief's 1230/
1920 letter of June 7, 2001, regarding Delegation of Authority/Interim 
Protection of Roadless Areas. See corollary roadless area Interim 
Directive being simultaneously issued to FSM 2400. Interim Directive 
No. 7710-2001-1, effective May 31, 2001, remains in effect.
    7710.4--Adds a new paragraph that reserves to the Chief the 
authority to approve certain proposed road construction or 
reconstruction projects in inventoried roadless areas until revision of 
a land and resource management plan or the adoption of a plan amendment 
that has considered the protection or other management of inventoried 
roadless areas as defined in FSM 7712.16a. Provides that the Chief may 
designate other Washington Office officials to serve as Responsible 
Official for decisions that are to be made at the Chief's level.
    7710.42--Revises paragraph 3 to be consistent with the Chief's 
reservation of authority. In new paragraph 3a, the Regional Forester's 
authority to serve as Responsible Official on a road construction/
reconstruction project in contiguous unroaded areas is retained. In a 
new paragraph 3.b, the Regional Forester's authority as Responsible 
Official is limited to those environmental impact statements (EIS's) 
for road construction or reconstruction in inventoried roadless areas 
authorized by FSM 7712.16b, paragraph 2, and FSM 7712.16d.
    Adds a new paragraph 7 assigning to Regional Foresters the 
responsibility to review and determine if proposed road construction or 
reconstruction projects in inventoried roadless areas, that are not 
within the Regional Forester's decision authority should be forwarded 
to the Chief for approval.
    Also adds a new paragraph 8 assigning the Regional Forester the 
responsibility of reviewing and agreeing to the purpose and need 
statements for any Notice of Intent to prepare a draft EIS that 
considers road construction or reconstruction in inventoried roadless 
areas.
    7712.16a--Removes an incorrect citation to FSM 7705 from the 
definition of inventoried roadless areas.
    7712.16b--Revises paragraph 1a through 1c to add a reference to FSM 
7712.16d in the introductory phrase and to add references to the 
Responsible Official and the Chief to be consistent with changes in 
delegated authority in this ID.
    Adds a new paragraph 4 directing that road construction or 
reconstruction projects which meet compelling needs other than those 
specifically identified and described as examples in FSM 7712.16b, 
paragraph 2, may only be approved by the Chief.

FSM 7700--Transportation System

Chapter 7710--Transportation Atlas, Records, and Analysis

7710.4--Responsibility
    The Chief reserves the authority to approve or disapprove road 
construction or reconstruction in inventoried roadless areas, except 
those projects exempted under FSM 7712.16d and those projects which 
meet one of the compelling needs specifically described in FSM 
7712.16b, paragraph 2. This reservation of authority remains in effect 
as provided in FSM 7712.16c. When an inventoried roadless area road 
construction or reconstruction decision falls under the Chief's 
authority, the Chief, for purposes of administrative efficiency and 
timeliness, may designate, on a case-by-case basis by official 
memorandum, an Associate Chief, Deputy Chief, or an Associate Deputy 
Chief to serve as the Responsible Official.

[[Page 44114]]

7710.42--Regional Forester
    (It is the responsibility of the Regional Forester to:)
    3. Serve as the Responsible Official for the following:
    a. any environmental impact statement and decision on a road 
construction or reconstruction project in a contiguous unroaded area as 
authorized in FSM 7712.16b; and
    b. any environmental impact statement and decision on a road 
construction or reconstruction project in an inventoried roadless area 
authorized by FSM 7712.16b, paragraph 2, and FSM 7712.16d.
    7. Review and determine whether to recommend to the Chief the final 
environmental impact statement and accompanying decision document for 
any road construction or reconstruction project in inventoried roadless 
areas.
    8. Prior to the issuance of a Notice of Intent to prepare a draft 
environmental impact statement that considers road construction or 
reconstruction in an inventoried roadless area (FSM 1920.5), review and 
agree to the purpose and need statements.
7712.16a--Areas Subject to Interim Requirements
    1. Inventoried roadless areas are identified in a set of 
inventoried roadless area maps, contained in Forest Service Roadless 
Area Conservation, Final Environmental Impact Statement, Volume 2, 
dated November 2000, which are held at the National headquarters office 
of the Forest Service, or any update or revision of those maps.
7712.16b--Interim Requirements
    1. Except as provided for in FSM 7712.16c and 7712.16d, road 
construction or reconstruction in inventoried roadless and contiguous 
unroaded areas (FSM 7712.16a) may be authorized only if:
    a. The Responsible Official determines for the purposes of this 
section, that there is a compelling need for the road;
    b. A science-based roads analysis is conducted pursuant to FSM 
7712.1; and
    c. An environmental impact statement for the proposed action is 
prepared and approved by the Regional Forester, or the Chief. Road 
construction and reconstruction in inventoried roadless and contiguous 
unroaded areas constitute a significant environmental effect, as 
defined in the Council on Environmental Quality regulations (40 CFR 
part 1508) and the Forest Service Environmental Procedures Handbook 
(FSH 1909.15, sec. 05), and, therefore, requires the preparation of an 
environmental impact statement (FSH 1909.15, sec. 20.6). The 
environmental impact analysis provides the basis for the Responsible 
Official's decision on whether to construct or reconstruct a road in 
inventoried roadless or contiguous unroaded areas.
    4. Road construction or reconstruction projects which meet 
compelling needs other than those specifically identified and described 
as examples in FSM 7712.16b, paragraph 2, must be submitted to the 
Chief for review and approval.

[FR Doc. 01-21185 Filed 8-21-01; 8:45 am]
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