[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 209 (Friday, October 30, 2009)]
[Notices]
[Pages 56174-56176]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-26064]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Shasta Trinity National Forest, South Fork Management Unit, 
California Rattlesnake Fuel Reduction and Forest Health Project

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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

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SUMMARY: The Hayfork District of the Shasta Trinity National Forest is 
proposing to use vegetation treatments to reduce risks from fire, 
improve forest health, and provide forest products on approximately 
6,028 acres within the Rattlesnake watershed on the South Fork 
Management Unit of the Shasta Trinity National Forest. The active 
management needed in the Rattlesnake Fuel Reduction and Forest Health 
Project (Rattlesnake project) area to reduce fuels and stocking levels 
through thinning requires the removal of trees and biomass, some of 
which have commercial value. An estimated 33 million board feet of 
merchantable sawtimber, and an estimated 35,092 bone dry tons of 
biomass are expected to be removed. Providing wood products to meet 
regional and national needs is consistent with Forest Plan goals, 
standards and guidelines. The initial economic analysis shows that the 
average diameter and quantity of the material treated under this 
project would generally be insufficient to support a viable timber sale 
in today's market. The Forest Service will analyze these vegetation 
treatments within the constraints of the Shasta Trinity National Forest 
Land and Resource Management Plan, 1995.
    The proposed Rattlesnake project is in the vicinity of the Post 
Mountain and Forest Glen communities in southern Trinity County, 
California. The project area is within portions of the Wildland Urban 
Interface (WUI) boundaries for both of these communities and within the 
Hayfork Adaptive Management Area (AMA), and Management Area 19, Indian 
Valley/Rattlesnake, of the Shasta-Trinity Land and Resource Management 
Plan (USFS 1995, p. 4-64 & 4-65).
    The project includes acreage in Township 1 North, Range 7 East, 
Sections 25 and 36, Township 1 North, Range 8 East, Sections 19-21, and 
28-

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33, Township 1 South, Range 7 East, Sections 1 and 12, Township I 
South, Range 8 East, Sections 4-9, 16-21 and 28-29, Humboldt Meridian; 
Township 30 North, Range 12 West, Sections 35, 34, 32, Township 29 
North, Range 12 West, Sections 1-19, 22, 23, Township 29 North, Range 
11 West, Sections 29, and 31-32, Mount Diablo Meridian. The project is 
located in Trinity County, 10 air miles south of Hayfork, California 
and 3 air miles east of Post Mountain, California.

DATES: Comments must be received no later than 30 days after 
publication of this notice in the Federal Register. The draft 
environmental impact statement is expected in the spring of 2010 and 
the final environmental impact statement is expected the winter of 
2010.

ADDRESSES: Please send written comments to Sandy Mack, TEAMS USFS 
Enterprise Unit, 1801 N. First, Hamilton, MT 59840-3114. Electronic 
comments may be submitted via e-mail to: comments-pacificsouthwest-shasta-trinity-yollabolla-hayfork@fs.fed.us with ``Rattlesnake 
Project'' as the subject.
    Comments received in response to this solicitation, including names 
and addresses of those who comment, will be 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: Sandy Mack, Project Team Leader, TEAMS 
USFS Enterprise Unit, 1801 N. First, Hamilton, MT 59840. Phone (406) 
375-2638. Or contact Donna Harmon, South Fork Management Unit District 
Ranger, P.O. Box 159, Hayfork, CA 96041, (530) 628-5227. Information 
about this project is posted on the forest Web site (http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/shastatrinity/projects).
    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 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Purpose and Need for Action

    The purpose and need for the Rattlesnake project is reflected in 
the following three interrelated objectives:
     Reduce hazardous fuel conditions to reduce the potential 
for adverse impacts from wildfire to Forest System land, including 
within riparian and late successional reserves, and neighboring private 
land.
     Improve forest health and resiliency, including within 
riparian and late successional reserves.
     Provide timber products to help support the economic 
structure of local communities, and supply regional and national needs, 
when the materials removed to meet the first two objectives have 
commercial value.
    The Rattlesnake project area overlaps the Trinity Pines/Post 
Mountain and the Forest Glen wildland urban interfaces, and is within 
five miles of Peanut to the north and Wildwood to the east. These 
dispersed residential communities are identified in the Trinity County 
Community Wildfire Protection Plan as having values ``at risk'' from 
wildfire. The town of Hayfork is approximately ten miles north of the 
project area. Both the National Fire Plan and the Ten-Year 
Comprehensive Strategy for Reducing Wildiand Fire Risks to Communities 
and the Environment place a priority on working collaboratively within 
communities in the WUI to reduce their risk from large-scale wildfire.
    The project area receives high concentrations of dry lightning, as 
was experienced extensively in 2008. The Trinity County wildfires of 
2008 burned 266,157 acres in three major complexes. It resulted in the 
death of 10 wildland firefighters, and required 15 mandatory evacuation 
orders for over 1,400 homes. The Rattlesnake project area straddles 
Highway 36 which serves as a main ingress, egress route for residents 
during a fire. The highway also provides added potential for human 
caused fires.
    In addition to the neighboring residential communities at risk, 
there are forest resources in the project area that are also at risk 
from uncharacteristically severe fire. These resources include non-
perennial stream corridors, late successional reserves, and high 
investment resources, such as tree plantations and the Bridgeville-
Cottonwood 60 KV transmission line. Two roadless areas cross into the 
project area on the western edge (South Fork) and to the southern edge 
(Chinquapin) of the project. The Shasta-Trinity National Forest Late 
Successional Reserve Assessment identifies the potential for large, 
high intensity fire as a primary concern within the South Fork Late 
Successional Reserve (RC-330) which enters into the southern tip of the 
project area.
    The Rattlesnake project is designed to strategically connect with 
fuel treatments implemented through the Post Mountain Stewardship 
project, and those planned in the Salt Timber Harvest and Fuel Hazard 
Reduction project. These projects are similar to the Rattlesnake 
project, but are not connected actions.
    Over half of the Rattlesnake project area, 55 percent, currently 
has moderate to high potential for crown fires. This is significant 
because crown fires normally are highly destructive, difficult to 
control, and present the greatest safety hazard to firefighters and the 
public. The desired condition is for fuels in the project area to 
support a surface fire, rather than a crown fire.
    Approximately 57 percent of the Rattlesnake project area would have 
control problems in the event of a fire because of the current fuel 
conditions, measured by projected flame lengths greater than eight 
feet. Control efforts by hand crews would likely be effective in only 
14 percent of the project area and would be ineffective in the 
remaining 86 percent of the area. The desired condition is for flame 
lengths to be four feet or less in the project area so that direct 
attack with hand crews would be possible. This is particularly 
important given the project area's proximity to neighboring 
communities. The Shasta-Trinity National Forest Late Successional 
Reserve Assessment also identifies a desired condition of flame lengths 
less than four feet.
    The project area needs fuel breaks to provide firefighters with a 
strategic place to defend against an oncoming fire.
    Currently, stands in the Rattlesnake project area are overstocked. 
These dense stands contain excessive surface fuels, ladder fuels 
consisting of dense midstory and understory trees and shrubs, and 
continuous canopies of hardwood and conifer overstory trees. 
Competition for limited water, nutrients and sun in many highly stocked 
timber stands in the Rattlesnake project area has reduced the vigor, 
growth and resiliency to insects and disease of mixed conifer species. 
Thinning to accelerate growth is a priority, particularly in younger 
mid-successional stands in the South Fork Late Successional Reserve. 
The desired condition is for overstocked stands to be thinned to a 
relative stand density approximately 35% to 55%.
    The purpose and need for the Rattlesnake project are consistent 
with Management Plan Goals 3, 10, 11, 
34, 35, 36, 39, and 40 
Shasta-Trinity Land and Resource Management Plan (USFS 1995, p. 4-5 and 
4-6).

Proposed Action

    The Rattlesnake project proposes vegetative management on a total 
of 6,028 acres in order to improve forest health, reduce risks from 
fire, and provide forest products. Approximately

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396 acres of brush field would be burned and 5,540 acres would be 
thinned. Thinning would include:
     Thin from below: 3,610 acres,
     Hand thin to 10 inch diameter at breast height (dbh): 92 
acres,
     Shaded fuel break: 1,707 acres of thin from below in a 
shaded fuel break,
     Shaded fuel break--thin to 8 inch dbh: 135 acres within 
perennial riparian reserves that intersect fuel breaks, but outside of 
the equipment exclusion zone,
     Plantation pre-commercial thin: 88 acres.
    Sub-merchantable fuel would be reduced in all treatment units to 
desirable levels of between 5 and 10 tons of downed material per acre 
depending on the Forest Plan land allocation for the area.
    Approximately 6.7 miles of new temporary roads would be needed to 
access units. Approximately 65.6 miles of system roads will require 
pre-haul maintenance, such as blading. Approximately 13.5 miles of 
system roads will require more earthwork and sight distance clearing 
before they can be safely used as haul roads. Approximately 2.4 miles 
of unclassified routes, would require brushing and re-shaping for use 
with this project, and then decommissioned after use. Approximately 21 
miles of system road and 7 miles of unclassified routes would be 
decommissioned after use for this project. Treatments are expected to 
produce 33 million board feet (mmbf) of potentially merchantable saw 
timber and 35,092 tons of biomass.

Responsible Official

    J. Sharon Heywood, Forest Supervisor, Shasta-Trinity National 
Forest.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    The Forest Supervisor will decide whether to implement the proposed 
action, take an alternative action that meets the purpose and need, or 
take no action.

Scoping Process--Public Comment

    This notice of intent initiates the scoping process, which guides 
the development of the environmental impact statement. The project will 
be included in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest's quarterly schedule 
of proposed actions (SOPA). Information on the proposed action will 
also be posted on the forest Web site (http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/shastatrinity/projects) and advertised in the Record Searchlight--a 
local newspaper.
    It is important that reviewers provide their comments at such times 
and in such manner that they are useful to the agency's preparation of 
the environmental impact statement. 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 appeal or judicial review.

    Dated: October 21, 2009.
Donna F. Harmon,
South Fork Management Unit District Ranger, Shasta-Trinity National 
Forest.
[FR Doc. E9-26064 Filed 10-29-09; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-11-M