[Federal Register Volume 67, Number 167 (Wednesday, August 28, 2002)]
[Notices]
[Pages 55194-55195]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 02-21882]


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Notices
                                                Federal Register
________________________________________________________________________

This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains documents other than rules 
or proposed rules that are applicable to the public. Notices of hearings 
and investigations, committee meetings, agency decisions and rulings, 
delegations of authority, filing of petitions and applications and agency 
statements of organization and functions are examples of documents 
appearing in this section.

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Federal Register / Vol. 67, No. 167 / Wednesday, August 28, 2002 / 
Notices

[[Page 55194]]



DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Pacific Northwest Region Invasive Plant Project; Colville, 
Okanogan, Wenatchee, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie, Olympic and Gifford Pinchot 
National Forests in Washington, and Columbia River Gorge National 
Scenic Area, Malheur, Fremont, Deschutes, Ochoco, Rogue River, 
Siskiyou, Mt. Hood, Siuslaw, Umpqua, Umatilla, Willamette, Wallowa-
Whitman, and Winema National Forests in Oregon

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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) to amend Forest Plan direction to enhance our ability 
to protect native ecosystems from invasive, non-native plants. This 
action will build on the Region's existing program by improving our 
ability to prevent the introduction of invasive plant species, improve 
detection and rapid response to new infestations, and control of 
existing populations.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of this analysis should be 
received no later than September 30, 2002.

ADDRESSES: Submit written comments to Natural Resource Staff; Invasive 
Plant Team, Forest Health Protection Group; Pacific Northwest Regional 
Office, P.O. Box 3623, Portland, OR 97208-3623.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Eugene Skrine, Team Leader, Invasive 
Plant Project, Pacific Northwest Regional Office, PO Box 3623, 
Portland, OR 97208-3623 or by calling (503) 326-4310.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Need for the Proposal

    Approximately 400,000 acres of National Forests and Grasslands are 
reported to be degraded in the Pacific Northwest Region by infestations 
of invasive, non-native plants. This infestation has a high potential 
to expand and further degrade forest and grasslands. Invasive plants 
spread across landscapes, unimpeded by ownership boundaries. Infested 
areas represent potential seed sources for continuation of the invasion 
on neighboring lands. Infestations can be eliminated, controlled or 
exacerbated through utilization of specific management practices. 
Invasive species create a host of environmental and other effects, most 
of which are harmful to native ecosystem biodiversity and processes, 
including:
     Displacement of native plants.
     Reduction in functionality of habitat and forage for 
wildlife and livestock.
     Threats to populations of threatened, endangered and 
sensitive species.
     Alteration of physical and biological properties of soil, 
including productivity.
     Changes to the intensity and frequency of fires.
     High monetary cost of controlling/managing invasive 
plants.
     Loss of recreational opportunities.
    Current regional management direction addressing invasive plant 
prevention, early detection, treatment, inventory and monitoring, and 
subsequent site restoration needs to be expanded and clarified. There 
is a critical need for the development of clear, and comprehensive 
Forest Plan standards and guidelines that allow more timely and more 
effective management and prevention practices for projects and programs 
in the Pacific Northwest Region.
    Executive Order 13112 Invasive Species (Feb. 1999) provides 
direction that Federal agencies shall: (1) Prevent the introduction of 
invasive species; (2) detect and respond rapidly to and control 
populations of such species in a cost-effective and environmentally 
sound manner; (3) monitor invasive species populations accurately and 
reliably; (4) provide for restoration of native species and habitat 
conditions in ecosystems that have been invaded. This EIS and 
subsequent site-specific NEPA analysis will implement this Executive 
Order.
    The 1988 Vegetation Management EIS and Record of Decision (ROD), 
and the 1989 Mediated Agreement focused on competing vegetation in 
forest plantations. The ROD identifies prevention as the preferred 
strategy for vegetation management, and provides direction for 
analyzing prevention strategies for projects. However, neither the ROD, 
nor the Mediated Agreement, thoroughly addressed the numerous issues 
specific to preventing and treating invasive plants, nor do they 
identify standards or practices that could be applied to prevent 
invasive plants from becoming established.
    The 1988 Record of Decision (ROD) specified and specifically 
limited the type and range of tools available for the treatment of 
competing and unwanted vegetation. Neither the ROD nor the Mediated 
Agreement provides a mechanism for adapting its requirements and 
adopting new technologies. The use of biological agents and prescribed 
fire as control mechanisms were not fully examined. Herbicides approved 
for use in the ROD were developed before 1980. Today, new herbicides 
are available that appear to be more effective on target plants, and 
potentially less hazardous to humans and wildlife.
    Given the seriousness of the current invasive species situation, 
National Forest managers need more operational flexibility with reduced 
process, greater cost-effectiveness and timely responsiveness, without 
increasing environmental risks. A new roadmap for prevention and site 
restoration, as well as a new and expanded toolbox, including; 
biological, fire, mechanical, manual, cultural, and chemical tools, are 
critical to successfully managing our invasive plant problem. New 
Forest Plan standards and guidelines will significantly enhance our 
ability to deal effectively with this threat to the integrity and 
productivity of the National Forests in the Pacific Northwest Region.

Proposed Action

    The USDA Forrest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, proposes to 
amend Forest Plan direction to enhance our ability to protect native 
ecosystems from invasive, non-native plants. This action will build on 
the Region's existing program by improving our ability to prevent the 
introduction of invasive plant species, improved detection and rapid 
response to new infestations, and

[[Page 55195]]

control of existing populations in a cost-effective and environmentally 
sound manner. In addition, this action will provide for restoration of 
native species and habitat in ecosystems that have been invaded. The 
proposed action would result in amendments to existing National Forest 
Land and Resource Management Plans, which earlier incorporated 
decisions made through the 1988 Record of Decision/FEIS for Managing 
Competing and Unwanted Vegetation, and the 1989 Mediated Agreement. 
This action would replace the portions of the Record of Decision and 
Mediated Agreement that addresses invasive species.

Proposed Scoping

    Public participation is an important part of the analysis. The 
Forest Service is seeking information, comments, and assistance from 
Federal, State and local agencies, tribes, and other individuals or 
organizations who may be interested in or affected by the proposed 
action. Comments submitted during the scoping process should be in 
writing. They should be specific to the action being proposed and 
should describe as clearly and completely as possible any issues the 
commentor has with the proposal. This input will be used in preparation 
of the draft EIS.
    In addition to this scoping, the public may visit Forest Service 
officials at any time during the analysis and prior to the decision. To 
facilitate public participation additional scoping opportunities will 
include: a scoping letter, public meetings (dates and locations yet to 
be determined), newsletters, and a Web site with address (http://
www.fs.fed.us/r6/invasiveplant-eis).

Preliminary Issues Identified to Date

    Preliminary issues that have been identified are:
     Invasive plant infestations are expanding and threatening 
the health and stability of native plant communities and ecosystems.
     The application of herbicides, as one potential treatment 
method, may pose risks to human health and the environment, including 
soil, water, native plants, fish, and wildlife resources.

Alternatives Considered

    The No Action alternative will serve as a baseline for comparison 
of alternatives. This alternative will be no change from current 
management of the Forests and will be fully developed and analyzed. The 
proposed action, as described above will be considered as an 
alternative. Additional alternatives may be developed around the 
proposed action to address issues identified in the scoping and public 
involvement process.

Estimated Dates for Draft and Final EIS

    The draft EIS is expected to be filed with the Environmental 
Protection Agency (EPA) and to be available for public comment by July 
2003. 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 
the 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 objectives 
that could be raised at the draft EIS stage but that are not raised 
until after the 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 Heritage, Inc. v. Harris, 490 F. Supp. 1334 (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 the comments refer to 
specific pages or chapters of the draft statement. 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 provision of the National Environmental Policy Act (40 
CFR 1503.3) in addressing these points.
    Comments received in response to this solicitation, 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 may 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 the 
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.
    Comments on the draft EIS will be analyzed, considered, and 
responded to by the Forest Service in preparing the final EIS. The 
final EIS is scheduled to be completed in December 2003. The Regional 
Forester for the Pacific Northwest Region is the responsible official 
and as such will consider comments, responses, environmental 
consequences discussed in the final EIS, and applicable laws, 
regulations, and policies in making a decision regarding this proposed 
action. The responsible official will document the decision and 
rationale for the decision in the Record of Decision. It will be 
subject to Forest Service Appeal Regulations (36 CFR part 215).

    Dated: August 21, 2002.
Richard W. Sowa,
Acting Deputy Regional Forester.
[FR Doc. 02-21882 Filed 8-27-02; 8:45 am]
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