[Federal Register Volume 70, Number 92 (Friday, May 13, 2005)]
[Notices]
[Pages 25524-25525]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 05-9452]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Cibola National Forest; New Mexico; Canadian River Tamarisk 
Control Project

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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

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SUMMARY: The Department of Agriculture, Forest Service has initiated 
the process to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the 
Canadian River Tamarisk Control Project on the Cibola National Forest, 
Kiowa National Grassland. The proposed action would restore the 
hydrologic function of the Canadian River by eradicating tamarisk (salt 
cedar) along the river corridor and tributaries, covering 16 miles 
(approximately 540 acres) that occur on Federal administrative lands. 
This proposal includes the use of a helicopter to aerially apply the 
herbicide imazapyr (common trade names Arsenal and Habitat) along with 
an approved surfactant and drift control agent, and/or use mechanical 
treatments and backpack sprayers to apply the same herbicide to cut 
stumps in designated areas. The objective is to eradicate tamarisk from 
this section of the Canadian River and promote the re-establishment of 
native riparian vegetation and habitat conditions for wildlife.
    Salt cedar has actively invaded the riparian area along the 
Canadian River, replacing native plants and wildlife. The Canadian 
River supplies irrigation water to thousands of acres of agriculture 
land, provides for recreational opportunities, and is home to several 
indigenous wildlife species. Tamarisk is listed by both the State of 
New Mexico Department of Agriculture and the Federal government as a 
noxious weed. The State of New Mexico has identified tamarisk as a 
species that is causing an ecological crisis in several river systems 
throughout the state, including the Canadian River. Land owners both 
above and below the National Grassland segment of the Canadian River 
are in the process of treating their lands to control tamarisk using 
the same types of treatment methods. This effort would be coordinated 
with those other treatment efforts within this watershed.
    Tamarisk is known to cause a change in ecological conditions that 
tend to eliminate native species and reduce water delivery, due to its 
ability to transpire large amounts of water during the growing season. 
Herbicide treatments have been shown to be an effective and efficient 
method for eradicating tamarisk and returning the riparian habitat to a 
healthy functioning ecosystem that is beneficial to both the biotic and 
human environments.
    The Canadian River Canyon has been identified as an inventoried 
roadless area. The Canadian River also has eligibility status as a 
scenic river under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and outstanding 
remarkable values would be protected until a decision is made on the 
future use of the river and adjacent lands or until an action is taken 
by Congress to designate the river as such.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received 
by June 15, 2005. The draft environmental impact statement is expected 
to be published in October, 2005, and the final environmental impact 
statement is expected in December 2005.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Deborah Walker, NEPA Coordinator; 
Cibola National Forest; 2113 Osuna Road NE; Albuquerque, NM 87113 or 
FAX to 505-346-3901. Copies of the proposed action, project location 
map, or the Environmental Impact Statement, when available, may be 
obtained from the Cibola National Forest; 2113 Osuna Road, NE; 
Albuquerque, NM 87113; or from the Kiowa National Grassland; 714 Main 
Street; Clayton, NM 88415, or from the Forest Web site at 
www.fs.fed.us/r3/cibola/projects/index.shtml.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information, mail 
correspondence to Deborah Walker, NEPA Coordinator; Cibola National 
Forest; 2113 Osuna Road NE; Albuquerque, NM 87113 or phone 505-346-
3888.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Purpose and Need for Action

    The purpose of the Canadian River Tamarisk Control project is to:
    1. Restore the hydrologic function of the Canadian River by 
eradicating tamarisk along the river corridor and tributaries using 
methods that have proven to be both safe and effective.
    2. Re-establish native riparian species and the habitat it provides 
for wildlife.
    3. Coordinate activities with adjacent landowners both above and 
below the Kiowa National Grassland boundary in an effort to control 
tamarisk within the entire Canadian River corridor.

Proposed Action

    The Cibola National Forest, Kiowa National Grassland, proposes to 
apply imazapyr using aerial and backpack spray application methods to 
16 miles of the Canadian River and tributaries. Aerial application 
would be made using a helicopter with spray boom on an estimated 380 
acres where the tamarisk is very dense or where the stands are 
inaccessible to vehicles. Backpack spray (hand treatment) would be used 
after tamarisk has been cut with either chainsaws or tractor, and the 
herbicide is applied to the cut stump, or the herbicide is applied over 
the top of stems as a foliar application (estimated 160 acres). 
Backpack spray treatments would occur on Forest Service administered 
lands near the Mills Canyon campground and in areas where there is a 
predominance of native riparian vegetation that are accessible by 
existing roads or trails. A nonionic surfactant and drift control agent 
(vegetable oil based) would be mixed with imazapyr in order to improve 
effectiveness. An estimated 1 pound of acid equivalent of active 
ingredient would be applied per acre. Treatments would be applied 
between late July and late September. Re-treatments would be applied on 
a limited basis as needed to control re-sprouting tamarisk for up to 
five years following initial treatment. Dead trees would remain in 
place for a minimum of two growing seasons after which hazardous trees 
would be removed within the campground or other accessible places as 
needed for public safety.
    Rehabilitation efforts following treatment would include replanting 
with native riparian species (i.e., cottonwood, willow, or maple) and 
reseeding areas disturbed by equipment with native grasses in order to 
stabilize soil and provide ground cover, as needed.
    Resource protection measures that would be implemented as part of 
this proposal include protection of known

[[Page 25525]]

historical sites, campground closure during treatments, mechanical and/
or hand treatments near the campground, clean picnic tables following 
treatments, no operations during bird nesting season (April thru mid 
July), and use of best management practices to protect soil and water 
resources.

Possible Alternatives

    At this time, the only alternative to the proposed action is the no 
action alternative, which would not propose any treatments within the 
Canadian River corridor to eradicate tamarisk. Additional alternatives 
may be included based on issues received during public scoping.

Responsible Official

    The responsible official is Nancy Rose, Forest Supervisor, Cibola 
National Forest Supervisor's Office, 2113 Osuna Road NE, Albuquerque, 
NM 87113-1001.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    The decision to be made is whether to implement the proposed action 
as described above, to vary the design of the proposed action to meet 
the purpose and need through some other combination of activities, or 
to take no action at this time.

Scoping Process

    The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) emphasizes an early and 
open process for determining the scope of issues to be addressed and 
for identifying significant issues related to the proposed action. As 
part of the scoping process, the lead agency shall invite the 
participation of affected Federal, State, and local agencies, any 
affected Indian tribe, and other interested persons (40 CFR 1501.7). In 
order to meet the intent of the CEQ regulations, the Cibola Forest will 
implement the following steps to ensure an early and open public 
involvement process:
    1. Include the proposed action on the list of projects for annual 
tribal consultation. Address concerns identified during tribal 
consultation as part of the analysis.
    2. Submit the proposed action to the public during scoping, and 
request comments or issues (points of dispute, debate, or disagreement) 
regarding the potential effects.
    3. Include the proposal on the Cibola Schedule of Proposed Actions 
quarterly report.
    4. Provide an opportunity for the public to comment during an open 
public meeting in the community of Roy, New Mexico, which is closest to 
the project area. Date and location is yet to be determined.
    5. Use comments received to determine significant issues and 
additional alternatives to address within the analysis.
    6. Consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State 
Historical Preservation Office regarding potential affects to listed 
species and heritage sites.
    7. Prepare and distribute a draft environmental impact statement 
for a 45-day public comment period.

Comment Requested

    This notice of intent initiates the scoping process which guides 
the development of the environmental impact statement. Comments should 
focus on the nature of the action proposed and should be relevant to 
the decision under consideration. Comments received from the public 
will be evaluated for significant issues and used to assist in the 
development of additional alternatives.

Early Notice of Importance of Public Participation in Subsequent 
Environmental Review

    A draft environmental impact statement will be prepared for 
comment. The comment period on the draft environmental impact statement 
will be 45 days from the date the Environmental Protection Agency 
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 
draft environmental impact statements 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 environmental impact statement stage but that are not raised 
until after completion of the final environmental impact statement 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 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 environmental impact statement.
    To assist the Forest Service in identifying and considering issues 
and concerns on the proposed action, comments on the draft 
environmental impact statement should be as specific as possible. It is 
also helpful if comments refer to specific pages or chapters in the 
draft statement. Comments may also address the adequacy of the draft 
environmental impact statement 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: May 6, 2005.
Nancy Rose,
Forest Supervisor, Cibola National Forest.
[FR Doc. 05-9452 Filed 5-12-05; 8:45 am]
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