[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 48 (Wednesday, March 12, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 13984-13986]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-05374]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Revision of Land Management Plan for the Nantahala and Pisgah 
National Forests

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of Intent to Revise the Land and Resource Management 
Plan and prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.

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SUMMARY: As directed by the National Forest Management Act, the USDA 
Forest Service is preparing the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests' 
revised land management plan (forest plan) and will also prepare an 
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for this revised forest plan. This 
notice briefly describes the nature of the decision to be made, a 
general proposed action based on the preliminary identified need to 
change the existing plan, and information concerning public 
participation. It also provides estimated dates for filing the EIS and 
the name and address of the responsible agency official and the 
individuals who can provide additional information. Finally, this 
notice identifies the applicable planning rule that will be used for 
completing this plan revision. The revised forest plan will supersede 
the existing forest plan that was approved by the Regional Forester in 
1987, and significantly amended in 1994. The existing forest plan will 
remain in effect until the revised forest plan takes effect.

DATES: Comments concerning the preliminary need for change and proposed 
action provided in this notice will be most useful in the development 
of the draft revised forest plan and EIS if received by April 28, 2014. 
The agency expects to release a draft revised forest plan and draft EIS 
for formal comment by April 1, 2015 and a final revised forest plan and 
final EIS by June 30, 2016.

ADDRESSES: Comments may be sent via email to: https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public//CommentInput?Project=43545 or via facsimile to 
828-257-4263. Send or deliver written comments to: National Forests in 
North Carolina, Attention: Nantahala and Pisgah Plan Revision Team, 
160A Zillicoa Street, Asheville, NC 28801.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ruth Berner, Forest Planner, National 
Forests in North Carolina, 160A Zillicoa Street, Asheville, NC, (828) 
257-4862, or at NCplanrevision@fs.fed.us. Information regarding this 
revision is also available at the National Forests in North Carolina 
Web site: www.fs.usda.gov/goto/nfsnc/nprevision. 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:

A. Lead and Cooperating Agencies

    The USDA Forest Service is the lead agency on revision of the 
forest plan and the Bureau of Land Management is designated as a 
cooperating agency in the plan revision.

B. Name and Address of the Responsible Official

    The responsible official who will approve the Record of Decision is 
Kristin Bail, Forest Supervisor for the National Forests in North 
Carolina, 160A Zillicoa Street, Asheville, NC 28801.

C. Nature of the Decision To Be Made

    The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests (NFs) are preparing an 
EIS to revise the existing forest plan. The EIS process is meant to 
inform the Forest Supervisor so that she can decide which alternative 
best meets the diverse needs of people while conserving the forests' 
resources, as required by the National Forest Management Act and the 
Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act. The revised forest plan will describe 
the strategic intent of managing the Nantahala and Pisgah NFs into the 
next 10 to 15 years and will address the identified need to change the 
existing land management plan. A description of the preliminary need 
for change is provided below. The revised forest plan will provide 
management direction in the form of desired conditions, objectives, 
suitability determinations, standards, guidelines, and a monitoring 
program. It may make changes to the structure and delineation of the 
Management Areas described in the existing plan, along with possible 
changes to administratively designated areas and recommendations for 
changes to other designations. The revised forest plan will also 
provide a description of the plan area's distinctive roles and 
contributions within the broader landscape. It is also important to 
identify the types of decisions that will not be made within the 
revised forest plan. The authorization of project-level activities on 
the forests is not a decision made in the forest plan but occurs 
through subsequent project specific decision-making. Though some 
strategic guidance may be provided, the designation of routes and 
trails for motorized vehicle travel, equestrian and mountain bike use 
are not considered during plan revision, but will be addressed through 
subsequent planning processes. Some issues (e.g., hunting regulations), 
although important, are beyond the authority or control of the National 
Forest System and will not be considered. No decision regarding oil and 
gas leasing availability will be made, though standards will be brought 
forward or developed that would serve as mitigations should an 
availability decision be necessary in the future. No decision will 
likely be made regarding the management of individual roads, such as 
might be associated with a Travel Management plan under 36 CFR Part 
212.

D. Need for Change and Proposed Action

    According to the National Forest Management Act, forest plans are 
to be revised on a 10 to 15 year cycle. The purpose and need for 
revising the current forest plan is (1) the forest plan is over 25 
years old, (2) since the forest plan was approved in 1987, there have 
been changes in economic, social, and ecological conditions, new 
policies and priorities, and new information based on monitoring and 
scientific research, and (3) to address the preliminary identified 
needs to change the existing

[[Page 13985]]

plan, which are summarized below. Extensive public and employee 
involvement, along with science-based evaluations, have helped to 
identify theses preliminary needs to change the existing forest plan.
    The Proposed Action is to revise the forest plan to address these 
identified needs to change the existing forest plan. Alternatives to 
the Proposed Action will be developed to address the significant issues 
that will be identified through scoping.
    What follows is a summary of the preliminary identified needs for 
change. A more fully developed description of the preliminary need for 
change, which has been organized into several resource and management 
topic sections, is available for review on the plan revision Web site 
at: www.fs.usda.gov/goto/nfsnc/nprevision.

Throughout the Plan

    There is a need for the revised plan to address how forest 
management in all resource areas should be prioritized given varying 
levels of money and personnel likely to be available over the course of 
the planning cycle.
    There is a need to reconsider the number, arrangement, boundaries 
of, and plan direction for the management areas.
    There is a need to recognize the role of the Nantahala and Pisgah 
NFs in supporting local economies.
    There is a need to include plan direction regarding potential 
climate change impacts.
    There is a need to incorporate opportunities for working across 
boundaries to manage landscapes with adjacent land managers such as 
state and federal partners and other land management entities.

Lands and Boundaries of the National Forest

    There is a need to ensure the revised plan contains sufficient 
direction for dealing with land adjustment opportunities.

Minerals and Energy

    There is a need to update and clarify plan direction regarding 
recreational metal detecting, mineral collection, and gold panning; 
direction for potential energy and mineral developments; and direction 
for managing geologic hazards.

Timber Production and Non-Timber Forest Products

    There is a need to reconsider which areas of the national forests 
are suitable for timber production, and there is a need to update plan 
direction for non-timber forest products.

Restoring Ecosystems and Rare Habitats

    There is a need to provide direction to proactively manage, 
maintain, or restore ecosystems, watersheds and rare habitats, to 
better control non-native invasive species, and to reconsider riparian 
area management.
    There is a need for management direction regarding municipal 
watersheds and groundwater.
    There is a need to include direction for improving aquatic passage 
in streams.

Wildlife Habitat

    There is a need to reconsider direction for wildlife habitat 
diversity provided in the 1987 Plan. Young forest is in short supply 
and other habitat components are in need of adjustment.
    There is a need to provide direction for managing elk habitat in 
anticipation of their expanding range.

Scenery

    There is a need to update the scenery management system.

Designated Areas

    There is a need to clarify and update plan direction regarding 
designated areas.
    There is a need to conduct an inventory and evaluation of potential 
additions to Wilderness and identify the eligibility of rivers for 
inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. There is a 
need to reconsider previous recommendations for Wilderness and update 
plan direction regarding management of Wilderness and Wilderness Study 
Areas, and other designated areas.

Roads

    There is a need to update plan direction for managing roads.

Cultural Resources

    There is a need to update plan direction for managing cultural 
resource sites.

Conservation Education

    There is a need for the plan to promote opportunities for 
conservation.

Recreation

    There is a need to be responsive to changing trends in regard to 
services, activities and types of facilities desired by the public, but 
balance those with fiscal reality. The trends in demographics such as 
the expectation for an older and more ethnically diverse population, 
the need to promote outdoor physical activities, especially among 
youth, and the desire to support local cultures and economies should 
all be considered in establishing a path forward for recreation 
management on Nantahala and Pisgah NFs.

Trails

    There is a need for the plan to better address the sustainability 
of the trail systems considering changing trends in use, conditions, 
and maintenance capacity.

Special Uses

    There is a need to update plan language regarding special use 
permitting. Language should be reexamined to determine if it conveys 
support for appropriate special uses of the national forest that 
provide public benefits, including economic and other community 
benefits, while ensuring forest resource impacts are minimized.

E. Public Involvement

    Fourteen public meetings from February 2013 through December 2013 
were held to solicit comments, opinions, data, and ideas from members 
of the public as well as representatives of other governmental and non-
governmental organizations. Attendance at the 14 meetings totaled over 
800 and over 1000 written comments were received.
    Comments were also received by email. Eight of the 14 meetings 
focused on information regarding the assessment phase of the plan 
revision process, while six of the 14 meetings focused on developing 
the preliminary need for change statements. Comments received from all 
of the 14 public meetings, along with information obtained from the 
assessment, were used to develop the preliminary need for change 
statements. A draft Assessment was released to the public in September 
2013 and comments received from the public since that time have been 
used to refine the Assessment. Any comments related to the Assessment 
received following the publication of this Notice may be considered in 
describing the Affected Environment part of the Environmental Impact 
Statement.

F. Issues and Preliminary Alternatives

    Information gathered during this scoping period, as well as other 
information, will be used to prepare the draft EIS. At this time, the 
Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests are seeking input on the Proposed 
Action. From these comments the Forest Service will identify issues 
that will serve as a focus for developing a proposed plan and 
alternatives to be analyzed in the EIS.

[[Page 13986]]

G. Scoping Process

    Written comments received in response to this notice will be 
analyzed to complete the identification of the need to change the 
existing plan, further develop the proposed action, and identify 
potential significant issues. Significant issues will, in turn, form 
the basis for developing alternatives to the proposed action. Comments 
on the preliminary need to change and proposed action will be most 
valuable if received by April 28, 2014, and should clearly articulate 
the reviewer's opinions and concerns. Comments received in response to 
this notice, including the names and addresses of those who comment, 
will be part of the public record. Comments submitted anonymously will 
be accepted and considered, however, see Section I concerning the 
Objection process and the requirements for filing an objection. Refer 
to the Forest's Web site (www.fs.usda.gov/goto/nfsnc/nprevision) for 
information on when public meetings will be scheduled for refining the 
proposed action and identifying possible alternatives to the proposed 
action.

H. Applicable Planning Rule

    Preparation of the revised forest plan for the Nantahala and Pisgah 
National Forests began with the publication of a Notice of Initiation 
in the Federal Register on October 3, 2013 [78 FR 61329] and was 
initiated under the planning procedures contained in the 2012 Forest 
Service planning rule (36 CFR 219 (2012)).

I. Decision Will Be Subject to Objection

    The decision to approve the Revised Land Management Plan for the 
Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests will be subject to the Objection 
process identified in 36 CFR Part 219 Subpart B (219.50 to 219.62). 
According to 36 CFR 219.53(a), those who may file an objection are 
individuals and entities who have submitted substantive formal comments 
related to a plan revision during the opportunities provided for public 
comment during the planning process.

J. Permits or Licenses Required To Implement the Proposed Action

    No permits or licenses are needed for the development of a Land and 
Resource Management Plan.

K. Documents Available for Review

    The complete Preliminary Need for Change document, the Assessment 
Report including specialist reports, summaries of the public meetings 
and public meeting materials, and public comments are posted on the 
Forest's Web site at: www.fs.usda.gov/goto/nfsnc/nprevision. As 
necessary or appropriate, the material available on this site will be 
further adjusted as part of the planning process using the provisions 
of the 2012 planning rule.

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1600-1614; 36 CFR Part 219 [77 FR 21260-
21273].

    Dated: March 3, 2014.
Julia K. Riber,
Acting Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. 2014-05374 Filed 3-11-14; 8:45 am]
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