[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 27 (Thursday, February 9, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 6778-6780]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-3004]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests; Idaho; Clear Creek 
Integrated Restoration Project

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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

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SUMMARY: The Forest Service gives notice of its intent to prepare an 
Environmental Impact Statement for the Clear Creek Integrated 
Restoration Project. The Proposed action would use a combination of 
timber harvest, pre-commercial thinning, prescribed fire and 
reforestation to achieve the desired range of age classes, size 
classes, vegetative species distributions habitat complexity 
(diversity) and landscape pattern across the forested portions of the 
project area. Road decommissioning, culvert replacement and road 
improvements are also proposed to improve watershed health. The EIS 
will analyze the effects of the proposed action and alternatives. The 
Nez Perce-Clearwater Forests invites comments and suggestions on the 
issues to be addressed. The agency gives notice of the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis and decision making process on 
the proposal so interested and affected members of the public may 
participate and contribute to the final decision.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received 
by February 15th, 2012. The draft environmental impact statement is 
expected in February 2013 and the final environmental impact statement 
is expected in November 2013.

ADDRESSES: Send written or electronic comments to Attn: Lois Foster, 
Interdisciplinary Team Leader; 903 3rd St.; Kamiah, ID 83536; FAX 208-
935-4257; Email comments-northern-nezperce-moose-creek@fs.fed.us.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lois Foster, Interdisciplinary Team 
Leader, (208) 935-4258.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The objective of the Clear Creek Integrated 
Restoration Project is to manage forest vegetation to restore natural 
disturbance patterns, improve long term resistance and resilience at 
the landscape level; restore natural fire regimes and reduce

[[Page 6779]]

fuels; improve watershed conditions; improve elk habitat effectiveness; 
improve habitat for early seral species; and maintain habitat 
structure, function, and diversity. Outputs (timber) from the proposed 
action will be used to offset treatment costs and support the economic 
structure of local communities and provide for regional and national 
needs.
    The Purpose and Need for the Proposal is:

Vegetation and Wildlife Habitat Improvement

    Purpose: Trend vegetation species composition, structure, and 
distributions toward desired conditions described in the Forest Plan.
    Need: The project area has a high proportion of grand fir/Douglas 
fir habitat. These habitats tend to be more susceptible/vulnerable to 
insects and diseases and grand fir is unlikely to survive in wildfire. 
There is a need to trend the area towards a more diverse and resilient 
forest structure by creating a range of age classes, size classes, 
habitat complexity (diversity) and disturbance patterns that more 
closely emulate natural mixed severity disturbance. Shifting tree 
species composition by retaining and planting early seral species 
(i.e., ponderosa pine, western larch and western white pine) in managed 
areas would help trend the area toward or maintain desired habitat 
conditions and would make these habitats more resistant and resilient 
to change agents such as insects, disease, and fire.
    Historical logging practices and fire suppression have created a 
landscape that is more highly fragmented than what would be expected 
through natural disturbance. Ladder fuels have increased and there has 
been a shift to shade tolerant species. Habitat structure and patch 
sizes of young forests are simplified and smaller than what would have 
been created through natural disturbance. Edges of patches are straight 
and even. There is a need to increase diversity within previously 
harvested areas to begin restoring long-term habitat quality for 
sensitive and old growth associated species.
    There is a shortage of young forest habitats on this landscape. Age 
classes are dominated by middle-aged and mature forest habitats. Forest 
management would increase high quality early seral wildlife habitats by 
retaining large trees and promoting establishment of tall shrubs and 
hardwood trees by using variable retention regeneration harvest. This 
would benefit wildlife species using early seral habitats such as: 
Neotropical migratory birds, resident birds, small mammals, and big 
game species in the short term. Tree retention would help maintain 
habitat structure and complexity needed by old growth associated 
species in the long-term.

Goods and Service

    Purpose: To utilize timber outputs produced through restoration 
activities to support the economic structure of local communities and 
provide for regional and national needs. (Forest Plan page II-1)
    Need: The need to provide a sustained yield of resource outputs is 
directed in the Forest Plan. Much of the area consists of grand fir 
dominated stands that have insect and disease infestations that are 
contributing to increased tree mortality, or are at risk from stand 
replacing events. Stands proposed for treatment are currently losing 
volume and value due to insects and disease. Harvest of the timber 
would provide materials to local industries.

Fire Regime/Natural Disturbance Restoration and Fuel Reduction

    Purpose: Reduce ladder fuels created by shade-tolerant species and 
create more natural patch sizes by emulating mixed severity fire. 
(Forest Plan page II-2)
    Need: Effective fire suppression in this area began in the 1930's. 
As a result, there has been vegetative shift to less fire resistant 
species, and an increase in ladder fuels that can contribute to the 
risk of high intensity and potentially resource damaging wildfire. Some 
portions of the project area have been identified as being up to five 
times outside of their normal fire return intervals. Past harvest 
patterns do not emulate natural disturbance patterns nor do they 
emulate natural habitat structure. There is a need to increase patch 
sizes to shift age and size class distributions to increase high 
quality early seral wildlife habitats. Landscape burning and timber 
harvest that mimics natural fire would help increase forest resilience, 
help reduce risk of wildfires, and help create high quality habitats 
that would benefit neotropical migratory birds, resident birds, small 
mammals, and big game species. Fire dependent wildlife species would 
benefit from landscape burning.

Watershed Improvement

    Purpose: Reduce potential sediment inputs into the aquatic 
ecosystem from roads.
    Need: There are 283 miles of road within the project area, 200 of 
which are needed for current and future management. The remaining 83 
miles of road have been cleared for decommissioning under the SF/WF 
Clear Creek Road Decommissioning EA (2011). The roads needed for 
management can contribute sediment to streams through road surface 
erosion and potential culvert failures. Surface erosion occurs during 
spring snowmelt and rain events. Dirt coming off roads is diverted into 
ditchlines which are often directed into streams. Preliminary surveys 
show most roads in the area are drained by ditches. Culvert failures 
can result from undersized, damaged or rusting culverts which can plug 
with debris and then fail as water saturates the surrounding fill. 
Failures can contribute large pulses of sediment into streams. Surveys 
indicate at least 60 miles of road with culverts that are in need of 
replacement or cleaning. There is a minimum of 40 high or moderate 
priority culverts in need of replacement, and 12 in need of cleaning. 
There are an additional 40 low priority culverts in need of replacement 
and 15 in need of cleaning. The surveyed roads pose the highest risk to 
streams in the project area.
    The desired condition for roads is to have ditchlines that drain 
road surface water away from streams and onto forest the forest floor. 
All culverts at stream crossings are appropriately sized to allow for 
the passage of material within minimal risk of plugging.
    There is a need to drain roadside ditchline water away from streams 
by installing cross drain pipes near live stream crossings. The cross 
drain pipes collect ditchline water and direct it onto the forest 
floor. There is also a need to replace existing undersized, damaged, or 
rusting culverts on streams to minimize failure potential.
    The Proposed Action would:

Improve Forest Health, Provide Goods and Services, Reduce Fuels and 
Improve Wildlife Habitat

     Conduct ``variable retention'' regeneration harvest and 
post harvest burning activities on up to 2500 acres to create early 
sucessional plant communities and improve wildlife habitat while re-
establishing long-lived early seral tree species. Variable retention 
harvest would include areas of full retention (clumps), irregular 
edges, and retention of snags and legacy trees to provide structure and 
a future source of woody debris. Openings will likely exceed 40 acres.
     Commercially thin approximately 7810 acres to reduce stand 
densities improve forest health and reduce the chance of crown fire.
     Apply improvement harvest to approximately 311 acres (thin 
from

[[Page 6780]]

below) to remove encroachment and ladder fuels from ponderosa pine 
dominated stands.
     Construct a minimum temporary road system to carry out the 
proposed action. Roads would be decommissioned after use.
     Pre-commercially thin approximately 1865 acres to reduce 
stand densities improve forest health and reduce fuels.
     Restore approximately 42 acres of bunchgrass communities 
through prescribed burning and revegetation with native grasses to 
improve wildlife winter range through reestablishment of native grasses 
and forbs.
     Apply approximately 1,400 acres of low and mixed severity 
prescribed fire within the Clear Creek Roadless area to restore natural 
fire regimes, reduce fuels, improve wildlife habitat and create mosaic 
forest conditions. Proposed activities are consistent with Idaho 
Roadless Rule. There is no timber cutting planned within the Clear 
Creek Roadless area.

Reduce Sediment Production and Address Transportation Needs

     Conduct maintenance on or improve 100-130 miles of system 
roads including culvert installation or replacement, ditch cleaning, 
and riprap placement for drainage improvement. It may also include 
gravel placement, road grading and dust abatement.
     Additional site specific maintenance or improvements would 
occur to improve watershed conditions on up to 20 miles of roads 
outside of proposed treatment areas.
     Decommission 2-5 miles of system roads no longer 
considered necessary for transportation needs.
    Possible Alternatives the Forest Service will consider include a 
no-action alternative, which will serve as a baseline for comparison of 
alternatives. The proposed action will be considered along with 
additional alternatives that will be developed to meet the purpose and 
need for action, and to address significant issues identified during 
scoping.
    The Responsible Official is the Nez Perce-ClearwaterForest 
Supervisor. 12730 Highway 12, Orofinio, ID 83544.
    The Decision To Be Made is whether to adopt the proposed action, in 
whole or inpart, or another alternative; and what mitigation measures 
and management requirements will be implemented.
    The Scoping Process for the EIS is being initiated with this 
notice. The scoping process will identify issues to be analyzed in 
detail and will lead to the developemnt of alternatives to the 
proposal. The Forest Service is seeking information and comments from 
other Federal, State, and local agencies; Tribal Governments; and 
organizations and individuals who may be interested in or affected by 
the proposed action. Comments received in response to this notice, 
including the names and addresses of those who comment, will be a part 
of the project record and available for public review.
    Early Notice of Importance of Public Participation in Subsequent 
Environmental Review: A draft environmental impact statement will be 
prepared for comment. The second major opportunity for public input 
will be when the draft EIS is published. The comment period for the 
draft EIS will be 45 days from the date the Environmental Protection 
Agency publishes the notice of availability in the Federal Register. 
The Draft EIS is anticipated to be available for public review in 
February 2013.

    Dated: December 19, 2011.
Rick Brazell,
Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. 2012-3004 Filed 2-8-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-11-P