[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 225 (Tuesday, November 24, 2009)]
[Notices]
[Pages 61318-61319]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-28091]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Black Hills National Forest, Northern Hills Ranger District, 
South Dakota, Nautilus Project

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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

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SUMMARY: The Forest Service will prepare an environmental impact 
statement on a proposal to implement multiple resource management 
actions within the Nautilus Project area to implement the amended Black 
Hills National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan. The Nautilus 
Project area covers approximately 41,302 acres of National Forest 
System land and approximately 5,699 acres of interspersed private land 
northwest of Rapid City, South Dakota. Mountain pine beetle 
infestations are present within and adjacent to the project area. 
Therefore, the Nautilus environmental impact statement will be analyzed 
under the provisions of Title IV of the Healthy Forests Restoration 
Act. Proposed actions include a combination of vegetation and fuels 
treatments to reduce mountain pine beetle susceptibility, reduce fire 
hazard, improve watershed conditions, provide for a diversity of 
wildlife habitat, and provide for research forestry opportunities. The 
proposed action includes approximately 7,157 acres of commercial 
thinning, 7,311 acres of overstory removal, 10,954 acres of 
precommercial thinning, 2,134 acres of commercial seed cuts, 191 acres 
of group selection, 466 acres of individual tree selection, 764 acres 
of hardwood enhancement, 206 acres of meadow enhancement, 836 acres of 
old growth management, 354 acres of product-other-than-log thinning, 
and 411 acres of stand-alone prescribed burning, in addition, 
approximately 30,629 acres will be analyzed for prescribed burning 
following timber harvest although it is expected that approximately 
10,000 acres of that total will actually be burned over a 10-15 year 
period. Approximately 15 miles of new road construction would be 
necessary to carry out the proposed vegetation management actions.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis are requested by 
December 21, 2009. The draft environmental impact statement is expected 
to be available April 2010 and the final environmental impact statement 
is expected to be completed by July 2010.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to: Rhonda O'Byrne, District Ranger, 
Northern Hills Ranger District, 2014 North Main Street, Spearfish, SD 
57783. Telephone number: (605) 642-4622. e-mail: comments-rocky-mountain-black-hills-northern-hills@fs.fed.us with ``Nautilus Project'' 
as the subject.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Chris Stores, Assistant NEPA Planner, 
Northern Hills Ranger District, 2014 North Main Street, Spearfish, SD 
57783. Telephone number: (605) 642-4622.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Purpose of and Need for Action

    The purpose of and need for the actions proposed in the Nautilus 
project area is to reduce mountain pine beetle susceptibility, reduce 
fire hazard, improve watershed conditions, provide for a diversity of 
wildlife habitat, and provide for research forestry opportunities. All 
actions are intended to move toward or achieve related Forest Plan 
Goals and Objectives, consistent with Forest Plan Standards and 
Guidelines.

Proposed Action

    Proposed actions include the following:
    Reduce acres at high or medium susceptibility to mountain pine 
beetle by thinning stands and changing stand structure. Commercial and 
non-commercial (including prescribed burning) methods may be used.
    Reduce the acres at moderate-to-high fire hazard by thinning stands 
to decrease crown proximity and by reducing fuel accumulations. 
Thinning may use commercial or non-commercial methods. Fuel reduction 
treatments could include lopping, chipping, crushing, piling and 
burning, construction of fuel breaks, and broadcast prescribed burning.
    Improve watershed conditions through road closure, meadow 
enhancement, hardwood enhancement and mitigation of connected disturbed 
areas.
    Provide for a diversity of wildlife habitat through meadow 
enhancement, hardwood enhancement, seasonal road closures, and patch 
clear cuts to create open browsing areas.
    Provide for opportunities to conduct research forestry in the Black 
Hills Experimental Forest. Proposed treatments to implement research 
objectives over the next 10-15 years designed to examine the 
effectiveness of timber management techniques not typically conducted 
on the Black Hills National Forest.
    Road construction and maintenance activities necessary to access 
areas proposed for timber harvest. New roads would be closed following 
harvest and existing roads that are not in the National Forest System 
could also be closed in conjunction with this project.
    The Forest Service is the sole responsible agency for this project; 
no cooperators are participating in project planning.

Responsible Official

    Rhonda O'Byrne, District Ranger, Northern Hills Ranger District, 
2014 North Main Street, Spearfish, SD 57783.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    The decision to be made is whether or not to approve the proposed 
action or alternatives at this time. No Forest Plan amendments are 
proposed.

Scoping Process

    Comments and input regarding the proposed action are being 
requested from the public and other interested parties in conjunction 
with this notice of intent. The comment period will be open for thirty 
days, beginning on the date of publication of this notice of intent. An 
open house to gather comments from local individuals and groups will be 
held on December 2, 2009 at 5:30 PM MST at the Community Hall in Nemo, 
SD. Also, response to the draft EIS will be sought from the interested 
public beginning approximately in April 2010.

[[Page 61319]]

Comment Requested

    This notice of intent initiates the scoping process which guides 
the development of the environmental impact statement. It is our desire 
to involve interested parties and especially adjacent landowners in 
identifying the issues related to proposed activities. Comments will 
assist in identification of key issues and opportunities to develop 
project alternatives and mitigation measures.
    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 (beginning in April 2010) 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. Hanis, 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 of 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 (40 CFR 1501.7 and 1508.22; 
Forest Service Handbook 1909.15, Section 21).

    Dated: November 17, 2009.
Craig Bobzien,
Forest Supervisor, Black Hills National Forest.
[FR Doc. E9-28091 Filed 11-23-09; 8:45 am]
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