[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 39 (Wednesday, February 27, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 13315-13316]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-04498]



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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Bridger-Teton National Forest; Wyoming; Teton to Snake Fuels 
Management Project

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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

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SUMMARY: The Forest Service is preparing an environmental impact 
statement (EIS) to document the potential effects of the Teton to Snake 
Fuels Management Project. The analysis will evaluate and disclose the 
effects of treating National Forest land to reduce the potential fire 
behavior within the wildland-urban interface to better protect 
threatened values, to improve firefighter safety, and to allow fire to 
play a more natural role in the ecosystem. Treatments include 
understory thinning and prescribed fire some of which are located 
within the Palisades Wilderness Study Area (WSA) and Inventoried 
Roadless Areas (IRAs). Connected actions necessary to implement the 
proposed treatments include road maintenance, reconstruction, temporary 
road and landing construction and obliteration, and construction of 
fire control lines where needed to contain prescribed fire treatments. 
No road work or commercial vegetation treatments would occur within the 
WSA. Road maintenance would occur in a small portion of the Phillips 
Ridge IRA but no reconstruction would occur. The project is located in 
Teton and Lincoln Counties, Wyoming, west of the Jackson Hole valley 
and Snake River corridor, and east of the Caribou-Targhee National 
Forest.
    The Teton to Snake Fuels Management Project was previously scoped 
and anyalyzed through an environmental assessment (EA) process. The EIS 
alternatives developed to date are the same as those in the EA. Public 
comments received on the original Proposed Action, Alternative 2, 
included support of the project as proposed, but also concerns that the 
proposed treatments constitute human manipulation in the WSA which 
could adversely affect wildlife, wilderness character, and eligibility 
for future designation in the National Wilderness Preservation System. 
Concern about proposed thinning treatments in the IRAs was also 
expressed. Requested modifications included reducing the amount of 
prescribed burning and eliminating all thinning treatments in the WSA 
and IRAs. Additionally concern was expressed that the proposed action 
could have adverse effects to habitat for boreal owls and goshawks, as 
well as reduce old growth habitat. The Forest Service responded to 
these concerns by developing a new alternative (Alternative 3--Reduce 
Potential Impacts to Special Areas and Wildlife Habitat), which reduces 
activities in the WSA and IRAs and avoids goshawk habitat, whitebark 
pine, boreal forest, and old growth habitat. Changes include dropping, 
reconfiguring, and reducing the size of units, and changing treatment 
prescriptions. In addition to the above resource concerns, units were 
modified or dropped if they also had potential impacts to visual 
quality, implementation difficulty, or topography that could slow an 
advancing wildfire. Also considered was the proximity of hazardous 
fuels to homes and to other fuel reduction projects that could 
contribute to reducing fire behavior in the project area. The Jackson 
Ranger District may be contacted for specific treatment unit revisions 
made in developing Alternative 3.

DATES: Comments submitted during the scoping period for the 
environmental assessment (EA) beginning in 2010 will be brought forward 
into the EIS analysis so there is no need to re-submit them. New 
comments would be most useful if they present new information or 
describe specific unwanted effects of implementing Alternative 3. 
Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received by April 
1st, 2013. The draft environmental impact statement is expected in July 
2013 and the final environmental impact statement is expected September 
2013.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Dale Deiter, District Ranger, USDA 
Forest Service, Bridger-Teton National Forest, 25 Rosencrans Lane, P.O. 
Box 1689, Jackson, WY 83001. Comments may also be sent via email to 
comments-intermtn-bridger-teton-jackson@fs.fed.us or via facsimile to 
(307) 739-5450. Verbal comments must be received in person at the 
Jackson Ranger Station, 25 Rosencrans Lane, Jackson, WY, or by 
telephone at (307) 739-5431 during normal business hours (8:00 a.m.-
4:30 p.m.).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Visit our projects Web site at http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/btnf/projects or contact Jason Lawhon, North Zone 
Fuels Assistant Fire Management Officer, phone (307) 739-5431 or email 
jdlawhon@fs.fed.us.
    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 of this project is to (1) reduce wildland fire threat 
to residential areas, (2) allow Forest managers to transition from 
suppressing most fires to a more natural fire regime, and (3) improve 
firefighter and public safety.
    The project area lies within the wildland-urban interface (WUI) as 
identified by Teton County's Community Wildfire Protection Plan. As per 
the National Fire Plan, the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management 
Strategy, and the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, the Forest Service 
has made the commitment to protect human communities from wildfires 
originating on public lands by implementing hazardous fuel reduction 
projects on Federal lands within the WUI. A fire behavior assessment 
conducted in 2010 revealed that 42 percent of the area within one-
quarter mile of residential areas and the Bonneville Power 
Administration powerline could produce flame lengths over 4 feet, and 
25 percent of this same area could produce crown fires and potential 
spotting up to a mile ahead of the fire. Wildfires are difficult to 
suppress under these conditions, particularly with the prevailing winds 
pushing fire toward the resdiential areas bordering the project area on 
the east. Additionally, there is a need to remove some snags in close 
proximity to homes, where firefighters would be located, to promote 
safety during firefighting activities.
    Wilderness policy dictates that the Forest Service shall ``reduce, 
to an acceptable level, the risks and consequences of wildfire within 
wilderness or escaping from wilderness.'' Most of the project area is 
located within the Palisades Wilderness Study. There is a need to 
reduce potential fire behavior along the National Forest boundary to 
reduce the threat of wildfire spreading to residential areas, and to 
provide the opportunity for wildfire to play a more natural role in the 
ecosytem. The Wyoming Wilderness Act requires that the Palisades WSA be 
managed to preserve wilderness character, which includes allowing 
natural processes of ecological change, such as fire, to operate freely 
to the extent possible. However, this can only occur if fire managers 
feel they have a reasonable chance of keeping the fire from escaping 
off of National Forest System lands.

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Proposed Action

    Alternative 3 proposes to treat 35 units totalling 14,281 acres 
through thinning (1,757 acres) and prescribed burning (12,524 acres). 
Thinning would favor large tree retention using the general priority 
order of whitebark and limber pine, aspen, Douglas-fir, lodgepole pine, 
Engelmann spruce, and subalpine fir. Thinning would leave 70 to 200 
trees per acre in the non-commercial units, and 60 to 140 trees per 
acre in the commercial units. Conifers in and around aspen clones would 
be thinned to release suppressed aspen. Residual branches, logs, and 
other resulting debris would be hand- or machine-piled and burned in 
the units or on the landings, or scattered to further reduce fuel 
concentrations in the project area. Ladder fuels would be pruned in 
some units. Snags would be removed as needed for firefighter safety in 
portions of 27 units located in close proximity to residential areas. 
Road reconstruction would occur on 1.3 miles of National Forest roads 
and a total of 1 mile of temporary road would be constructed and then 
obliterated after use. Routine maintenance would occur on 11.7 miles of 
roads. Approximately 27 landings would be used.
    Prescribed fire would reduce fire potential while creating a mosaic 
of burned and unburned areas. Ground and aerial ignition techniques 
would adhere to site-specific burn plans that identify parameters for 
weather, air quality, contingency resources, other resource concerns, 
equipment needs, and responses for potential escapes. Fire managers 
would use, and subsequently rehabilitate, up to seven miles of low-
impact fire control lines if needed to contain prescribed fire. Natural 
barriers to fire spread would be used where possible.
    Alternative 3 includes extensive project design features and best 
practices to avoid or reduce impacts to cultural resources, water 
resources, range, recreation, scenery, sensitive plants, air quality, 
soils, special areas, and wildlife.

Possible Alternatives

    At this time it is planned that the EIS will examine Alternative 1 
(No Action), Alternative 2 (Proposed Action originally scoped in 
December 2010 and modified after further analysis), and Alternative 3--
Reduce Potential Impacts to Special Areas and Wildlife Habitat 
(developed to address public concerns after original scoping period).

Preliminary Issues

    Key issues identified during the original public scoping include 
effects to the WSA, IRAs, and wildlife habitat. Additional public 
concerns addressed in the analysis include potential effects related to 
unauthorized motorized use, standing trees, spread of noxious weeds, 
road use, smoke, heavy equipment, and biodiversity.
    In March 2012, the Palisades WSA map used by the Forest Service for 
analysis of the Teton to Snake Fuels Management Project was questioned. 
In July 2012, Jackson District Ranger Dale Deiter put the project on 
hold until more clarity was obtained regarding the WSA boundary. Since 
then extensive record searches have occurred uncovering many valuable 
maps and memos. In addition, two public meetings were held with people 
interested in the boundary issue. Based on the best information 
available at this time, the Forest Service is proceeding with the RARE 
II map from 1977 (Roadless Area and Review Evalaution process). The map 
package is expected to be assembled in March 2013 and will be submitted 
to the Regional and Washington Offices of the Forest Service for review 
and approval. Upon approval, a certified boundary and legal description 
will be prepared by the Forest Service lands office with final approval 
from the Regional Forester. A decision on the Teton to Snake Fuels 
Management Project would only be made after the Palisades WSA boundary 
is approved.

Responsible Official

    Dale Deiter, District Ranger, Jackson Ranger District, Bridger-
Teton National Forest

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    The District Ranger will decide whether to implement one of the 
alternatives designed to meet the purpose and need for the project, or 
take no action.

Permits or Licenses Required

    A permit would be required from the State of Wyoming prior to any 
prescribed burning. The appropriate regulatory agencies will be 
consulted regarding national or state required permits associated with 
roads used in project implementation, and required permits obtained 
prior to implementation.

Scoping Process

    This notice of intent initiates the scoping process, which guides 
the development of the environmental impact statement. As noted above, 
comments submitted during the scoping period beginning in 2010 will be 
brought forward in the EIS so there is no need to re-submit them. New 
information and concerns describing site-specific unwanted effects 
related to Alternative 3 would be useful.
    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.
    Include the following information with your comments: Your name, 
address, email (optional), and telephone number; the project name: 
Teton to Snake Fuels Management Project; and site-specific comments, 
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 
the predicted site-specific effects supported by the literature.
    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 agency with the ability to provide you with project updates.

    Dated: February 21, 2013.
Dale Deiter
Jackson District Ranger.
[FR Doc. 2013-04498 Filed 2-26-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-11-P