[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 249 (Friday, December 28, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 76449-76451]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-31274]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Los Padres National Forest, California; Strategic Community 
Fuelbreak Improvement 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 (EIS) to evaluate and disclose the predicted effects of the 
proposed Strategic Community Fuelbreak Improvement Project, designed to 
enhance community protection from wildfire within the wildland urban 
interface threat zone. Historically used strategic firelines \1\ would 
be improved and maintained as fuelbreaks.\2\ The project treatments 
would cover approximately 24 miles of fuelbreaks and a 64-acre treated 
unit for a total of 544 acres. Treatments would include the use of 
machine and/or hand thinning, machine and/or hand piling and pile 
burning or chipping; and mastication. The project is located in 
Monterey County, California, on the northern portion of the Monterey 
Ranger District of the Los Padres National Forest. The project's legal 
description is: portions of Township (T) 18South (S), Range (R) 2East 
(E), 3E, 4E; T.19S, R.2E, 4E; T.20S, R.2E, 3E; Mount Diablo Meridian.
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    \1\ Fireline is a loose term for any cleared strip used in 
control of a fire; the portion of a control line from which 
flammable materials have been removed by scraping or digging down to 
the mineral soil.
    \2\ Fuelbreaks are strategically located wide blocks, or strips, 
on which a heavy fuel loading has been changed to one of lower fuel 
loading.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis will be received 
for 45 days from date of publication in the Federal Register. The draft 
environmental impact statement is expected in November 2013 and the 
final environmental impact statement is expected in April 2014.

[[Page 76450]]


ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Los Padres National Forest, 
Monterey Ranger District, 406 South Mildred, King City, CA. 93930, 
attention: Jeff Kwasny. Comments may also be sent via facsimile to 831-
385-0628, or via email to: comments-pacificsouthwest-los-padres-monterey@fs.fed.us.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jeff Kwasny, Project Team Leader, at 
831-667-1126.
    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: 

Collaboration

    The Monterey Ranger District initiated an informal collaborative 
group called Firescape Monterey to exchange information and work 
together towards agreement on conservation goals. Firescape Monterey is 
comprised of community and stakeholder partners who promote a multi-
jurisdictional approach for protecting property affected by wildfire 
and promoting a healthy resilient ecosystems through collaborative 
stewardship. While facilitated and guided by the Fire Learning Network, 
and a focus on ecological restoration, participants in Firescape 
Monterey have identified five key landscape values: Fire Adapted Human 
Communities, Natural and Wilderness Qualities, Biodiversity, Cultural 
Resources, and Watersheds.
    Firescape Monterey will continue to work towards collaborative and 
financially supported efforts among all land managers to accelerate the 
pace of landscape restoration, and the Los Padres National Forest will 
focus its current efforts on this strategic commmunity fuelbreak 
project.

Purpose and Need for Action

    The purpose and need for this project is to: increase wildland fire 
suppression efficiency when in proximity to communities and related 
infrastructure, reduce wildfire risk to life and property, reduce 
suppression costs, and reduce adverse fire suppression impacts on the 
landscape.
    The number of homes built within the wildland-urban interface (WUI) 
on the periphery of the Monterey Ranger District (MRD) has grown 
significantly, increasing the extent and complexity of WUIs. In 2008, 
27 homes were lost to wildfire within the WUI of the MRD. Conditions 
for extreme fire behavior can exist during any season on the Los Padres 
National Forest. The complex interaction between weather, topography, 
and fuels drive fire behavior. Rapid rates of spread and fireline 
intensities may exceed the capability of ground and aerial fire 
resources in any fuel type when the elements of slope, wind and solar 
radiation align on a fire. Historically, when a wildfire begins on the 
MRD within or outside of wilderness, fire suppression efforts focus on 
a series of geographic ridges that lie strategically between National 
Forest and communities at risk. The size, location, and direction of a 
wildfire dictates the miles of bulldozer constructed firelines needed 
on strategic ridges.
    Currently, conditions of the soil biota and plant communities on 
these historic firelines are in varying stages of succession due to 
repeated bulldozer activity during fire suppression activities. By 
proactively designing and establishing Strategic Community Fuelbreaks, 
we can reduce the need for mechanized equipment during subsequent 
wildfires and allow for ecological restoration. Native vegetation, such 
as perennial grasses and forbs released as a result of treatments, with 
low fuel volume or reduced flammability will be retained. Due to their 
strategic location and alignment, it is likely that when the next 
wildfire threatens the adjacent at-risk communities mechanical 
equipment would be used to re-open these lines for fire suppression 
activities.

Proposed Action

    The proposed action is to re-establish and maintain 24.1 miles of 
historically used fuelbreaks--all of which originated as firelines--
within the wildland urban interface threat zones on National Forest 
System lands; approximately 7.5 miles within wilderness and 16.6 miles 
outside of wilderness. Fuelbreak treatments would be as follows:

Non-Wilderness

    Fuelbreaks would be constructed and maintained every 3-5 years with 
a combination of hand thinning with chainsaws, hand and machine piling, 
pile burning and mastication.

Wilderness

    In accordance with the Wilderness Act, enabling legislation, and 
Forest Service Policy, fuelbreaks would be constructed manually using 
chainsaws, hand piling and pile burning and then maintained every 3-5 
years with traditional tools through a combination of hand thinning, 
hand piling and pile burning. A monitoring and adaptive management 
program will be developed to evaluate the rate of vegetative regrowth 
on the treated fuelbreaks to determine if available workforce is 
sufficient to maintain fuelbreak integrity with traditional tools or 
whether additional administrative actions, such as use of chainsaws, 
will be needed to assist in maintenance.
    Strategic Community Fuelbreak locations and dimensions \3\ are as 
follows:
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    \3\ Fuelbreak widths are maximum values. The actual widths may 
be limited by factors such as width of the ridge and/or proximity to 
the wilderness boundary.
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(1a) Palo Colorado Vicinity--Non-Wilderness
    Establish a maximum 150 foot wide fuelbreak on the historic 
fireline adjacent to the Skinner Ridge Trail (FDT 1E04) between 
Bottchers Gap and Skinner Ridge, a distance of 1.3 miles.
    Establish a maximum 150 foot wide fuelbreak on the historic 
fireline along Skinner Ridge between the wilderness boundary in Section 
18 (near Turner Creek) and Pico Blanco Boy Scout Camp, a distance of 
2.8 miles.
    Establish a fuelbreak that overlaps the existing Mescal Ridge Road, 
covering 25 feet north of the road edge to 75 feet south of the 
adjacent ridge center. The fuelbreak would be a maximum of 
approximately 300 feet wide by 0.6 miles long.
(1b) Palo Colorado Vicinity--Wilderness
    Establish a maximum 150 foot wide fuelbreak on the historic 
fireline between the wilderness boundary in Section 18 (just south of 
the Turner Creek trailhead) and Devils Peak, a distance of one mile.
(2a) Palo Colorado to Big Sur Vicinity--Non-Wilderness
    Establish a maximum 150 foot wide fuelbreak on the historic 
fireline between the National Forest boundary at Post Summit, across 
Cabezo Prieto ridge, and where the Mt.Manuel Trail (FDT 2E06) crosses 
the wilderness boundary in Section 20, a distance of 2.8 miles.
(2b) Palo Colorado to Big Sur Vicinity--Wilderness
    Establish a maximum 150 foot wide fuelbreak on the historic 
fireline between Post Summit and the Little Sur River, a distance of 
1.8 miles.
    Establish a maximum 150 foot wide fuelbreak on the historic 
fireline from where the Mt. Manuel Trail (FDT 2E06) crosses the 
wilderness boundary in Section 20 to the Big Sur Wild River boundary, a 
distance of 0.8 miles.

[[Page 76451]]

(3) Big Sur Vicinity--Non-Wilderness
    Establish a fuelbreak along the historic fireline adjacent to and/
or encompassing the North Coast Ridge Road (FDR 20S05) between the 
Terrace Creek Trailhead (FDT 3E220) and Anderson Peak on National 
Forest System lands, a distance of 6.8 miles. The maximum width between 
the Terrace Creek Trailhead and Cold Springs will be 150 feet; maximum 
width between Cold Springs and the Tanbark Trail will be 300 feet; 
maximum width between the Tanbark Trail and Anderson Peak will be 150 
feet.
    Establish a 150 foot wide fuelbreak on Partington Ridge adjacent to 
and/or encompassing the Deangula Trail (FDT 2E07) between the North 
Coast Ridge Road (FDR 20S05) and the National Forest boundary, a 
distance of 0.8 miles.
    Establish a fuelbreak encompassing the Tan Bark Trail between the 
North Coast Ridge Road (FDR 20S05) and the Forest Boundary, a distance 
of 0.8 miles. Commencing at the North Coast Ridge Road and traveling 
west towards the National Forest boundary, the first approximate 600 
feet in length will be a maximum of 300 feet wide. The remaining length 
to the Forest boundary will be a maximum of 150 feet wide.
(4a) Cachagua and Jamesburg Vicinity--Non-Wilderness
    Establish an anchor point through the use of prescribed fire and/or 
hand thinning with chainsaws, hand and machine piling, pile burning, 
and mastication around the Chews Ridge Lookout Tower and the Monterey 
Institute for Research and Astronomy Observing Station. Acreage is 
approximately 64 acres.
    Establish a 150 foot wide fuelbreak on the historic fireline along 
Chews Ridge between the Chews Ridge Lookout Tower and north 0.7 miles 
to the wilderness boundary.
(4b) Cachagua and Jamesburg Vicinity--Wilderness
    Establish a 150 foot wide fuelbreak on the historic fireline along 
Hennicksons/Chews Ridge on National Forest System lands between the 
National Forest boundary above Los Padres Dam and the wilderness 
boundary near Tassajara Road, a distance of 3.9 miles.

Responsible Official

    Peggy Hernandez, Forest Supervisor, Los Padres 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.

Preliminary Issues

    At issue is the effects on wilderness character for the proposed 
7.5 miles of maintained fuelbreak within the Ventana wilderness. 
Wilderness character is not intended to be all-inclusive nor a 
predetermined set of potential impacts. Additional issues may occur as 
a result of the scoping process.

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 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 support, concerns and contentions.
    Include the following information with your comments: your name, 
mailing address, email (optional), and telephone number; the project 
name: Strategic Community Fuelbreak Improvement Project; and site-
specific comments about the proposed action, along with supporting 
information you believe will help identify issues, develop 
alternatives, or predict environmental effects of this proposal. The 
most useful comments provide new information or describe unwanted 
environmental effects potentially caused by the proposed action. If you 
reference scientific literature in your comments, you must provide a 
copy of the entire reference you have cited and include rationale as to 
how you feel it is pertinent to the Strategic Community Fuelbreak 
Improvement Project.
    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, however, will 
be accepted and considered.

     Dated: December 18, 2012.
Peggy Hernandez,
Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. 2012-31274 Filed 12-27-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-11-P