[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 155 (Thursday, August 13, 2009)]
[Notices]
[Pages 40809-40811]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-19451]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Washington; Forest-Wide Site-
Specific; Invasive Plant Management Environmental Impact Statement

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 document and disclose the potential environmental 
effects of proposed invasive plant treatments. The Proposed Action is 
to apply a combination of herbicide, mechanical, manual, cultural and 
biological treatment methods to control invasive plants on 
approximately 15,246 acres on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in 
Washington. The proposed action includes treatment of invasive species 
on 216 acres within congressionally designated wilderness areas on the 
Forest. The Proposed Action would also establish criteria for 
responding to the spread of infestations into currently unoccupied 
areas.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of this analysis must be received 
by September 10, 2009. The draft environmental impact statement is 
expected January 2010 and the final environmental impact statement is 
expected summer 2010.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Jodi Leingang, Naches Ranger 
Station, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, 10237 Highway 12, Naches, 
WA 98942 Comments can also be sent via e-mail to okawen_forestwide_invasives__eis@fs.fed.us or via facsimile to (509) 653-2638, 
Attention: Jodi Leingang.
    Comments received in response to this solicitation, including names 
and addresses of those who comment, will become part of the public 
record for this proposed action. Comments submitted anonymously will be 
accepted and considered; however, anonymous comments will not provide 
the respondent with standing to participate in subsequent 
administrative review or judicial review.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jodi Leingang, Naches Ranger Station, 
10237 Highway 12, Naches, WA 98942; 509-653-1450.
    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 pm, Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Purpose and Need for Action

    The Wenatchee National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan 
(LRMP, 1990) requires that existing populations of invasive species 
(termed ``noxious weeds'') be contained, controlled or eradicated as 
the budget allows (page IV-89). The Okanogan National Forest Land and 
Resource Management Plan (LRMP, 1989) requires that noxious weeds be 
controlled to the extent practical with a priority on treatment of new 
infestations (LRMP, page 4-45). The Pacific Northwest Region's Invasive 
Plant Program for Preventing and Managing Invasive Plants Record of 
Decision (PNW ROD, 2005), an amendment to the Wenatchee and Okanogan 
LRMPs, directs that invasive plant populations be prioritized for 
treatment and a long term strategy be developed for restoring/
revegetating invasive plant sites (PNW ROD, page 20).
    Invasive plants on the Forest are compromising the ability for the 
Forest Service to manage for healthy native ecosystems. Invasive plants 
create a host of environmental and other effects, most of which are 
harmful to native ecosystem processes, including: displacement of 
native plants; reduction in functionality of habitat and forage for 
wildlife and livestock; loss of threatened, endangered, and sensitive 
species; increased soil erosion and reduced water quality; alteration 
of physical and biological properties of soil, including reduced soil 
productivity; changes to the intensity and frequency of fires; high 
cost (dollars spent) of controlling invasive plants; and loss of 
recreational opportunities.
    New and existing invasive plant populations on the Forest require 
analysis to implement new or more effective and cost-efficient 
treatments, including the Regional EIS updated list of herbicides. The 
most recent inventory shows that 15,246 acres are infested on the 
Forest. There are likely additional infestations that are not yet 
discovered, and these, as well as known sites, will continue to expand 
and spread every year without effective treatment. Without action, 
invasive plant populations will become increasingly difficult and 
costly to control and will further degrade native ecosystems.
    The purpose of this action is to provide a rapid and more 
comprehensive, up to date approach to control and eradicate invasive 
plants on the Forest. The purpose of controlling or eradicating weed 
populations is to maintain or improve the diversity, function and 
sustainability of native plant communities, and other resources that 
depend on them. Specifically, there is a need to: (1) contain and 
reduce the extent of invasive plants at existing inventoried sites, and 
(2) quickly detect and rapidly respond to new and changing invasive 
plant populations.

Proposed Action

    The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Supervisor proposes to treat 
currently existing invasive species on 15,246 acres across the 
Okanogan-

[[Page 40810]]

Wenatchee National Forest, including approximately 1,712 acres on the 
Chelan Ranger District, 1,968 acres on the Cle Elum Ranger District, 
2,346 acres on the Entiat Ranger District, 799 acres on the Methow 
Valley Ranger District, 3,299 acres on the Naches Ranger District, 
4,399 acres on the Tonasket Ranger District, and 723 acres on the 
Wenatchee River Ranger District. Infestations that occur on 216 acres 
within congressionally designated Wilderness areas would also be 
treated. The proposed invasive species treatments would begin in 2010 
and span the next 15 years. Under the proposed action those treatment 
methods and herbicides analyzed in the Pacific Northwest Region 
Invasive Plant Program: Preventing and Managing Invasive Plants, Final 
Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) (USDA 2005) would be used, along 
with one additional herbicide. Invasive plants would be treated using 
one or a combination of manual (e.g. hand-pulling, digging with hand 
tools, clipping), mechanical (e.g. mowing, weed whacking, road 
brushing, root tilling, steaming, infrared), cultural (e.g. competitive 
seeding/planting, mulching, adding soil amendments/fertilizer), 
biological, and chemical methods (e.g. spot spraying, wicking, and 
limited broadcast application). Proposed herbicide mixtures would 
include one or more of the following active ingredients: 
chlorosulfuron, clopyralid, glyphosate, imazapic, imazapyr, metsulfuron 
methyl, picloram, sethoxydim, sulfometuron methyl, and triclopyr. In 
addition to the herbicides analyzed in the 2005 Invasive Plant FEIS, 
the proposed action would include application of aminopyralid. 
Herbicide treatments would be part of the initial prescription for 
currently identified sites on 15,246 acres. On many sites, the use of 
herbicides would be expected to decline in subseuqent entries with 
manual, mechanical, biological and cultural methods becoming the common 
control measure over time. Therefore, within the 15,246 acres 
identified for chemical treatment; other treatments could also occur 
including; 450 acres of manual treatment, 350 acres of mechanical 
treatment, 1,750 acres of cultural treatment, and 3,500 acres of 
biological treatment. In other cases, although herbicide use would 
would continue as the preferred treatment method through time, the 
amount of herbicide applied would greatly diminish as the infestation 
is brought nearer to eradication. Infested acres would be treated with 
an initial prescription, and retreated in subsequent years, until 
control objectives are met. Site-specific treatment prescriptions would 
be developed based on the ability to eradicate, control, contain, 
suppress or tolerate an infestation. Selection of treatment methods and 
prioritization of sites would follow amended LRMP direction, and take 
into account the biology of the particular invasive species, its 
proximity to water and other sensitive resources (values at risk), and 
the size of the infestation.
    The Proposed Action would also allow for treatment of infestations 
that are not currently inventoried through an early detection/rapid 
response (EDRR) strategy and annual implementation planning. To these 
ends, this EIS will include analysis associated with the treatment of 
currently documented infestations (sites) as well as areas where 
invasive species are not currently present but are most likely to 
spread and establish over time. The EIS will include analysis of 
approximately 16,448 additional acres of treatment associated with 
EDRR. Ongoing inventories would continually locate and confirm 
infestation locations. Treatment recommendations for presently 
uninventoried infestations would be similar to that described for known 
infestations, in that, herbicides would be part of the initial 
prescription; with manual, mechanical, biological and cultural methods 
becoming the common control measure over time. Treatment prescriptions 
for these presently undocumented sites would be strict enough to ensure 
that adverse effects are minimized to remain within the scope of 
effects analyzed in this EIS, and still be flexible enough to adapt to 
changing conditions over time (i.e. adaptive management).
    The total number of acres of invasive species treatment that would 
be approved in this document and decision for known and EDRR is 31,694 
acres; 15,246 acres of presently known infestation and 16,448 acres 
under the early detection rapid response strategy. The number of acres 
treated in any given year would not exceed this total. However, 
provided the recent history of funding available to accomplish this 
work, it is very unlikely that we would treat the total in any given 
year. Monitoring would evaluate the effectiveness of past treatments 
and direct adaptive management needs over time.
    A connected action of the Proposed Action is the restoration of 
treatment sites with desirable vegetation to prevent re-infestation. 
The restoration objectives may be passive (allowing native plants to 
fill in a site) or active (any combination of seeding, mulching, or 
planting). Some sites will require active re-vegetation to achieve the 
desired future condition.
    In 2002, the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest adopted an invasive 
weeds prevention strategy which includes best management practices for 
the prevention of weed spread and introduction. These practices would 
continue to be an important part of the Forest's invasive species 
management strategy under the proposed action described above.
    This project does not include herbicide application directly to 
water, use of any pesticides other than herbicides, treatment of 
aquatic invasive plants (floating and submerged), or treatment of 
native vegetation.

Possible Alternatives

    The No Action alternative will serve as a baseline for comparison 
of alternatives. Under the No Action alternative, the Okanogan-
Wenatchee National Forest would continue to treat invasive plant 
species as authorized under existing National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA) documents including; current noxious weed, dry forest 
restoration, and other site-specific projects. Additional action 
alternatives may be developed to respond to significant issues, if any.

Responsible Official

    The responsible official for this project is the Okanogan-Wenatchee 
National Forest Supervisor Rebecca Lockett Heath.

Nature of the Decision To Be Made

    The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest Supervisor will decide 
whether or not invasive species will be treated on the Forest, and if 
so, what mitigation measures and monitoring requirements will be 
required for implementation.

Preliminary Issues

    Several analysis efforts related to the treatment of invasive 
species on National Forests in Washington and Oregon (Region 6) have 
been completed or are currently on-going at this time. Preliminary 
issues identified during the scoping process associated with these 
efforts have included: Human health/public and worker exposure to 
herbicides, effects of herbicide on native and non-target vegetation 
including threatened, endangered and special status plants, and the 
effects of herbicide on wildlife including threatened, endangered and 
special status animals and aquatic organisms, including special status 
fish.

[[Page 40811]]

Scoping Process

    This notice of intent initiates the scoping process, which guides 
the development of the environmental impact statement. To assist the 
Forest Service in identifying and considering issues and concerns about 
the proposed action, public comment opportunities will continue to be 
provided throughout the EIS process. In addition to taking written 
comments, the Forest Service will hold a series of public meetings 
across the Forest during the late summer/early fall of 2009 to ensure 
that those who are interested have every opportunity to provide 
additional information or comments and to identify any issues or 
concerns they may have relative to the proposed action.
    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 EIS. Therefore, comments should be provided prior to the close of 
the comment period and should clearly articulate the reviewer's 
concerns and contentions. The submission of timely and specific 
comments can affect a reviewer's ability to participate in subsequent 
administrative review or judicial review.
    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, respondents who submit anonymous comments will not 
be granted standing to appeal the subsequent decision under 36 CFR Part 
215 or judicial review. 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.

    Dated: August 7, 2009.
Stuart Woolley,
Acting Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. E9-19451 Filed 8-12-09; 8:45 am]
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