[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 34 (Friday, February 18, 2011)]
[Notices]
[Pages 9537-9540]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-3698]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Sequoia National Forest; California; Piute Mountains Travel 
Management Plan

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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

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SUMMARY: The Sequoia National Forest proposes to develop a travel 
management plan for the Piute Mountains, located in northeast Kern 
County, California. The Piute Mountains, with a mixed conifer and pine 
forest, are included in the eastside Sierra Nevada ecosystem. The 
project area for this analysis includes 77,679 acres of National Forest 
System land in the Piute Mountains part of the Sequoia National Forest. 
There are an additional 7,170 acres of private land within the Piute 
Mountains. The Piute fire burned

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approximately 37,000 acres within the Piute Mountains in 2008.
    The Sequoia National Forest intends to prepare an environmental 
impact statement (EIS) to evaluate the possible effects associated with 
the proposed action which will add approximately 125 miles of existing 
roads and trails to the National Forest Transportation System (NFTS), 
and close approximately 5 miles of NFTS roads and trails, 4.5 miles of 
which are currently open only to motorcycle, and close 0.5 mile of 
roads open to all vehicles (Table 1). The proposed action includes an 
amendment to the Sequoia National Forest Land and Resource Management 
Plan that would change approximately 7,175 acres of semi-primitive non-
motorized (SPNM) recreation land to semi-primitive motorized.

DATES: Comments concerning the proposed action must be received by 
March 21, 2011. The Forest Service expects to release the draft 
environmental impact statement in mid October 2011, and the final 
environmental impact statement by the end of December 2011.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to: Warren Niemi, Environmental 
Coordinator, Sequoia National Forest, 1839 South Newcomb Street, 
Porterville, California 93257. Mr. Niemi's phone number is 559-784-
1500, extension 1137. Comments may also be sent via e-mail to comments-pacificsouthwest-sequoia@fs.fed.us or via facsimile to (559) 781-4744.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: 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: 

Background

    As a result of the Piute fire, the Piute Mountains were removed 
from the travel management analysis included in the Sequoia National 
Forest Motorized Travel Management Environmental Impact Statement 
released in October 2009. The Piute fire burned part of the project 
area being evaluated in the environmental impact statement between June 
28 and July 25, 2008. Approximately 37,000 acres were burned. A 
majority of the non-system trails not included in the NFTS, within the 
fire burn area were proposed for addition to the NFTS as part of the 
Sequoia National Forest Motorized Travel Management EIS. A series of 
heavy rain events occurred in the area following the Piute Fire, 
causing excessive runoff and flash flooding. Early evaluations 
indicated that erosion was intense in much of the burned area. After 
review and consultation with the travel management interdisciplinary 
team, the Forest Supervisor decided to remove the Piute Mountains area 
from the Motorized Travel Management Proposed Action and other 
alternatives being evaluated. Only the prohibition of cross-country 
travel was considered in the Piute Mountains by the Motorized Travel 
Management EIS.
    The use of motor vehicles in the Kern River Ranger District of the 
Sequoia National Forest has increased in recent years. Increased 
recreational vehicle use has led to the development of non-system off 
highway vehicle (OHV) trails, and has increased the potential for 
disagreements arising between motorized and non-motorized users of the 
Sequoia National Forest, in addition to complaints from private and 
Tribal property owners regarding trespassing, noise, stock, and fences. 
OHV use can also result in areas of degraded soil, water, and 
vegetation.

Purpose and Need for Action

    The purpose behind the Piute Mountains travel management project is 
to evaluate motor vehicle recreation opportunities in the Piute 
Mountains, while maintaining the natural and cultural resources present 
in those parts of the Piute Mountains managed by the Forest Service. 
The following needs for the Piute Mountains travel management plan have 
been identified by the project's interdisciplinary team:
    1. The Sequoia National Forest has a need to provide greater 
diversity of motorized recreational opportunity for a variety of 
vehicles used by forest visitors. There is a need to provide motor 
vehicle access to dispersed recreation sites used for camping, hunting, 
sightseeing, horseback riding, hiking, rock climbing, rock hounding, 
and vegetation and firewood collecting. Forest Service policy calls for 
providing forest users with diverse road and trail opportunities for 
experiencing a variety of environments and modes of travel consistent 
with the national forest recreation role and land capability as stated 
in Forest Service Manual 2353.03(2).
    2. Provide diverse opportunities for vehicles capable of off 
highway travel.
    3. Evaluate the Piute Fire burn area regarding roads and trails, 
and natural and cultural resources.
    4. Evaluate the forest transportation system needs of forest users, 
private and Tribal property owners, and special use permit holders 
within the Piute Mountains.
    5. Establish consistency with the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum 
(ROS) semi-primitive non-motorized setting located within the Piute 
Mountains as established in the Sequoia National Forest Land and 
Resource Management Plan (LRMP) and its amendments. There are currently 
five NFTS motorcycle trails, totaling approximately13 miles, located 
within the project area semi-primitive non-motorized area. The Sequoia 
National Forest LRMP states that no OHV roads and trails will be 
designated within established semi-primitive non-motorized areas.
    6. Determine if the Long Canyon/Dry Meadows Trail No. 34E31 should 
continue to be managed for motor vehicle use. Trail No. 34E31 provides 
a north south trail in the northern Piute Mountains as obligated by the 
July 1990 Mediated Settlement Agreement to the Sequoia National Forest 
LRMP (pages 99-101). Trail No. 34E31 extends northward from Dry Meadows 
to the Forest boundary. Motorized use on Trail No. 34E31 was allowed to 
continue until a determination is made regarding its future. Trail No. 
34E31 is currently located within a semi-primitive non-motorized area. 
The Mediated Settlement Agreement states that if a trail can 
accommodate OHV use, the boundary of the semi-primitive non-motorized 
area shall be adjusted (page 100). The Mediated Settlement Agreement 
also states that an environmental analysis shall be completed to 
evaluate forest resources, with emphasis on soils, wildlife and the 
Long Canyon Research Natural Area (page 100).
    7. There is a need to evaluate the compatibility of motor vehicle 
use on the Bright Star Trail No. 34E34 with existing conditions, 
including trespass and sound, in the vicinity of the Liebel property.
    The Sequoia National Forest will consider the following criteria 
presented in Subpart B of the Forest Service Travel Management Rule of 
2005 during the environmental analysis regarding proposed changes to 
the forest transportation system. These considerations include:
     Possible impacts to natural and cultural resources;
     Public safety;
     Access to public and private lands;
     Availability of resources to maintain and administer 
roads, trails and use areas if actions proposed are undertaken;
     Minimizing damage to soil, watersheds, vegetation and 
other forest resources;

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     Minimize disturbance of wildlife and disruption of 
wildlife habitat;
     Minimize the potential for disagreement between the 
various users of forest lands;
     Recognize the possible consequences of conflicting forest 
uses; and
     Compatibility of motorized and non-motorized uses of 
forest lands.
    The Sequoia National Forest will also consider the speed, volume, 
composition and distribution of forest road traffic, the compatibility 
of vehicle class and forest road design features, and the maintenance 
of existing rights-of-way, during the environmental analysis.

Proposed Action

    The Sequoia National Forest proposes the following changes to the 
current forest transportation system. The proposed action is based upon 
the purpose and need for the project, and the results of an evaluation 
of motor vehicle use within the Piute Mountains. Public input gathered 
in a series of five meetings held in Kernville was used to develop the 
proposed action which would:
    1. Add approximately 121 miles of existing non-system routes to the 
National Forest Transportation System (NFTS) as trails open to 
motorcycles only;
    2. Add approximately 3 miles of existing non-system routes to the 
NFTS as trails open to all public vehicles;
    3. Add approximately 0.1 miles of existing non-system route to the 
NFTS as road open to all public vehicles.
    4. Change the status of approximately 3 miles of closed NFTS road 
to NFTS trail open to all public vehicles.
    5. Change the status of approximately 1 mile of closed NFTS road to 
NFTS trail open to motorcycles only.
    6. Change approximately 10 miles NFTS roads closed to public 
vehicles to NFTS roads open to all public vehicles.
    7. Change approximately 0.5 miles NFTS road open to all to NFTS 
road closed to all public vehicles.
    8. Change approximately 0.7 miles NFTS road open to all to NFTS 
road open to highway legal vehicles only.
    9. Change approximately 0.4 miles of NFTS road open to highway 
legal vehicles only to NFTS road open to all public vehicles.
    10. Change approximately 2.1 miles of NFTS trail open to 
motorcycles only to NFTS trail open to all public vehicles.
    11. Change approximately 4.5 miles NFTS trail open to motorcycles 
only to NFTS trail closed to all public vehicles.
    12. Add non-system route U00125, approximately 0.5 miles in length, 
and located in the Greenhorn Mountains, as a NFTS road.
    13. Establish consistency with ROS settings and between the use of 
the Long Canyon/Dry Meadow Trail 34E31 and the 1990 Mediated Settlement 
Agreement by changing the ROS classification on 7,175 acres of semi-
primitive non-motorized land west of trail No. 34E31 to semi-primitive 
motorized. This would allow the continued motor vehicle use of NFTS 
trails 34E31, 34E41, and 34E52, and non-system trail U0013. This 
proposed action would require an amendment to the Sequoia National 
Forest Land and Resource Management Plan.

                                        Table 1--Summary of Mileage in Current Inventory and the Proposed Action
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                                                                           Road open to                    Trail open to
    Proposed action current inventory       Closed road    Road open to    highway legal   Trail open to    motorcycles    Closed trail     Total miles
                                                                all        vehicles only        all            only
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Existing Non-System Route...............  ..............             0.1  ..............             3.4           121.4  ..............           124.9
Closed Road.............................             7.9            10.0  ..............             2.8             1.0  ..............            21.7
Road Open to All........................             0.5            48.8             0.7  ..............  ..............  ..............            50.0
Road Open to Highway Legal Vehicles Only  ..............             0.4             4.5  ..............  ..............  ..............             4.9
Trail Open to Motorcycles Only..........  ..............  ..............  ..............             2.1            66.7             4.5            73.3
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    Total Miles.........................             8.4            59.8             5.2             8.3           189.1             4.5           275.3
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    Maps showing the existing and proposed forest transportation system 
in the Piute Mountains can be found at the Piute Mountains Travel 
Management Plan Web site http://fs.fed.us/r5/sequoia/projects/piutes-tm/index.html. The project maps are also available for viewing at: 
Forest Supervisor's Office, 1839 South Newcomb, Porterville, 
California, and Kern River Ranger District, 105 Whitney Road, 
Kernville, California.

Possible Alternatives

    Other alternatives will be developed based on significant issues 
identified during the scoping process for the environmental impact 
statement. Alternatives evaluated will need to respond to the specific 
condition of providing benefits equal to or better than the current 
condition. Alternatives being considered at this time include: (1) No 
Action, and (2) the Proposed Action.

Responsible Official

    The Forest Supervisor of the Sequoia National Forest, 1839 South 
Newcomb Street, Porterville, CA 93257, is the responsible official. A 
Record of Decision will be prepared by the responsible official 
documenting the decision and reasons for the decision. That decision 
will be subject to Forest Service appeal regulations (36 CFR part 215).

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    The Responsible Official will decide whether to adopt and implement 
the proposed action, an alternative to the proposed action, or take no 
action regarding the existing Piute Mountains forest transportation 
system. The Responsible Official will also decide whether to amend the 
Sequoia National Forest LRMP. The Sequoia National Forest will publish 
a Motor Vehicle Use Map identifying the roads, trails and areas that 
are designated for motor vehicle use. The Motor Vehicle Use Map will 
identify the classes of vehicles and, if appropriate, the times of year 
for which use is designated.

Scoping Process

    This notice of intent initiates the scoping process, which guides 
the development of the environmental impact statement.
    It is important that reviewers provide their comments at such times 
and in such manner that they are useful to the U.S. Forest Service in 
preparation of the environmental impact statement.

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Therefore, comments should be provided prior to the close of the 
comment period and should clearly articulate the reviewer's issues and 
contentions.
    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 also be 
accepted and considered.

    Dated: February 11, 2011.
Tina J. Terrell,
Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. 2011-3698 Filed 2-17-11; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-11-P