[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 83 (Wednesday, April 30, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 24372-24375]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-09823]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Revision of Land Management Plan for the Francis Marion National 
Forest, SC

AGENCY: U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

ACTION: Notice of Intent To Revise the Land and Resource Management 
Plan and prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the 
Francis Marion National Forest (Francis Marion).

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: As directed by the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), the 
U.S. Forest Service is preparing the Francis Marion's revised land 
management plan (forest plan) and will also prepare an EIS) for this 
revised forest plan. This notice briefly describes the nature of the 
decision to be made, a 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 
December 1995. The existing forest plan will remain in effect until the 
revised forest plan takes effect.

DATES: Comments concerning the proposed action provided in this notice 
will be most useful in the development of the draft revised forest plan 
and EIS if received June 16, 2014. The agency expects to release a 
draft revised forest plan and draft EIS for formal comment by February 
1, 2015 and a final revised forest plan and final EIS by April 30, 
2016.

ADDRESSES: Comments may be submitted on-line at https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public//CommentInput?Project=40695 or sent via email to: 
comments-southern-francismarion-sumter@fs.fed.us. or via facsimile to 
(803) 561-4004. Electronic comments should include ``FM Plan Revision'' 
in the subject line. Written comments may be sent or delivered to: 
Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests, Attn: FM Plan Revision, 
4931 Broad River Road, Columbia, S.C. 29212.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Planning Team Leader Mary Morrison, 
Planning Staff Officer Michelle Burnett or Public Affairs Specialist 
Tammy Terrell Robinson, Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests at 
(803) 561-4000. Information on this revision is also available on the 
Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests' Web site at http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/scnfs/fmplan. Individuals who use 
telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal 
Information Relay Service (FIRS) at (800) 877-8339. Please call 8 a.m.-
noon and 1 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Eastern Time Monday through Friday, except on 
federal holidays.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

A. Lead and Cooperating Agencies

    The U.S. Forest Service is the lead agency on revision of the 
forest plan.

B. Name and Address of the Responsible Official

    The responsible official who will approve the Record of Decision is 
Forest Supervisor John Richard ``Rick'' Lint, Francis Marion and Sumter 
National Forests, 4931 Broad River Road, Columbia, S.C. 29212.

C. Nature of the Decision To Be Made

    The Francis Marion is preparing an EIS to revise the existing 
forest plan. The EIS process informs the Forest Supervisor so that he 
can decide which alternative best meets the public's diverse needs 
while conserving the forests' resources as required by the NFMA and the 
Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act.
    The revised forest plan will:
     Describe the strategic intent of managing the Francis 
Marion into the next 10 to 15 years and address the identified needs to 
change the existing land management plan. Section D of this notice 
provides a description of the preliminary need to change and a 
description of the proposed action.
     Provide management direction in the form of desired 
conditions, objectives, suitability determinations, standards, 
guidelines and a monitoring program.
     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.
     Provide a description of the plan area's distinctive roles 
and contributions within the broader landscape.
    Some decisions will not be made within the revised forest plan. The 
following are several examples:
     The authorization of project-level activities on the 
Francis Marion is not a decision made in the forest plan but

[[Page 24373]]

occurs through subsequent project specific decision-making.
     While some strategic guidance may be provided, decisions 
that might be associated with a Travel Management Plan under 36 CFR 
part 212 (such as the designation of routes and trails for motorized 
vehicle travel, equestrian and mountain bike use, as well as the 
management of individual roads) 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.

D. Need To Change and Proposed Action

Preliminary Need To Change

    The purposes and needs for revising the current forest plan are as 
follows: (1) The forest plan is more than 15 years old; (2) since the 
forest plan was approved in December 1995, 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) extensive public and employee involvement, along with 
science-based evaluations, have helped identify the preliminary need to 
change the existing forest plan. What follows is a summary of the 
themes developed for the preliminary identified need to change. A more 
fully developed description of the preliminary need to change is 
available for review on the plan revision Web site at http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/scnfs/fmplan.
    The preliminary need to change statements include questions about 
how the Francis Marion will manage terrestrial plants, terrestrial 
animals, rare species (including threatened, endangered and candidate 
species and species of conservation concern), old growth 
characteristics, riparian areas, water quality, aquatic species and 
habitat, wood products, scenery, recreation opportunities (hiking, 
mountain biking, off-highway vehicle use, horseback riding), areas to 
be evaluated for possible wilderness recommendations, wilderness, 
forest health, roads, minerals, fire, lands, air quality, special uses 
and the contributions of the forest to local economies. A number of 
concerns involve impacts to the Francis Marion from outside the 
forest's boundary. These concerns include climate change, sea-level 
rise, non-native invasive species, increasing development adjacent to 
the Francis Marion, increasing demands for use of the Francis Marion 
(e.g., salable minerals, private access), increasing demands for access 
to the forest, and increasing law enforcement problems due to trespass 
or unauthorized roads.
    The following six themes emerged during a series of public meetings 
from October 2012 through September 2013. These themes are broad 
concepts relating to public preferences and forest management needs and 
will be used while revising the forest plan. Then, the planning team 
reviewed the information in their assessments and developed statements 
that describe specific needs for changing the existing forest plan. 
Next, a management emphasis statement for each theme was developed and 
the statements were linked with the theme it addressed. This process 
recommends a preliminary need to change the existing forest plan; 
however, it does not include every topic that will be addressed in the 
final forest plan.
    Theme 1: Maintain, improve, or restore the unique landscapes and 
features on the Francis Marion National Forest. Having more than 
260,000 acres of natural landscapes that are adjacent to the Atlantic 
Ocean and the major metropolitan area of Charleston, South Carolina, 
many of the natural features on the forest are unique in local and 
regional settings. These landscapes form important ecological and 
historical centerpieces for the surrounding area adjacent to the 
national forest. For example, the restored longleaf pine ecosystems on 
the national forest not only provide habitat for animals, such as the 
endangered red cockaded woodpecker but also provide outstanding scenery 
of open pine stands of trees with grasses and rare plants. Wetland 
drainage, stream and other hydrologic modifications have altered 
habitats and function. The restoration of aquatic ecosystems, 
watersheds, and riparian areas are included under this theme. 
Watersheds are lands around rivers, lakes and streams, and riparian 
areas are lands along rivers, lakes and streams.
    Theme 2: Improve the quality of life and health for stakeholders. 
Stakeholders have said that interacting with the forest environment 
improves their quality of life, health and well-being. Stakeholders 
also cited important aspects of improving their livelihoods to include: 
Getting away from congestion and reducing stress; enjoying the benefits 
of silence; becoming healthier through exercising; learning about the 
natural environment; and sustaining income and other basic needs for 
living.
    Theme 3: Respond to challenges. Stakeholders are keenly interested 
in how the forest plan would address the major challenges of today. 
Among those challenges are: How to maintain fire-adapted natural 
systems in the face of severe restrictions on the use of prescribed 
fire in areas adjacent to development; the invasion of non-native 
species, such as the degradation of ecosystems caused by feral hogs; 
and management challenges, such as reducing conflicts among recreation 
users, especially during a time of budget reductions. Additionally, 
responding to major disturbances such as sea level rise, hurricanes and 
storm evacuations, floods, and severe wildfire is important for the 
stability of local communities.
    Theme 4: Share operational and planning resources among partners; 
keep ongoing collaborative efforts vibrant and develop new ones. 
Sharing resources with partners and integrating into other planning 
efforts were important to stakeholders. Especially during this time of 
expanding communication technology, stakeholders are interested in 
having a forest plan that considers stakeholder contributions that can 
``make a bigger pie'' and make possible the idea of ``doing more with 
less.''
    Theme 5: Develop a monitoring strategy that provides information 
for rapid responses to changing conditions. The framework for the 2012 
planning regulations includes a rapid response system for dealing with 
risks and uncertainties. A broad scale and local level monitoring 
strategy is needed to respond to changing conditions. Stakeholders are 
interested in how the careful crafting of a broad scale monitoring 
program can provide information for local level adjustments on the 
national forest. Moreover, stakeholders would like to know how other 
government agencies' and non-governmental entities' information can be 
used to support a robust adaptive management system.
    Theme 6: Integrate and coordinate resource management. Stakeholders 
and national forest managers want an integrated approach to managing 
the various natural resources and multiple uses of the national forest. 
The basic premise for this theme is how the desired conditions for 
landscapes and compatible multiple uses are packaged in discrete 
management areas that would derive to most benefit for the American 
public while protecting sensitive areas.

[[Page 24374]]

Proposed Action

    The Proposed Action is to revise the forest plan to address the 
statements identified in the preliminary need to change the existing 
forest plan. Responding to challenges and opportunities, along with 
monitoring the implementation of the forest plan requires not only 
coordination across boundaries, but also a collaborative approach in 
the development of forest plan direction. Alternatives to the proposed 
action will be developed to address the significant issues that will be 
identified through scoping. The proposed action includes management 
approaches on the following resource topics:
     Ecosystem Diversity (terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems) 
Restoring and maintaining a variety of native ecosystems on suitable 
sites is the foundation of our planning efforts. We plan to accomplish 
this primarily through vegetation management programs that result in 
improved habitats for a variety of plants and animals (including 
threatened and endangered species and species of conservation concern) 
and increased resilience to potential effects from climate change. Our 
management approach focuses on restoring and maintaining composition, 
structure, function and connectivity for terrestrial and aquatic 
ecosystems. Current guidelines on managing these ecosystems require 
that we consider ecological integrity and diversity as follows:
    1. What is needed to maintain or restore the ecological integrity 
of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and watersheds in the plan area, 
including plan components to maintain or restore their structure, 
function, composition and connectivity.
    2. What is needed to maintain or restore the diversity of 
ecosystems and habitat types including:
    (a) Key characteristics associated with terrestrial and aquatic 
ecosystem types;
    (b) Rare aquatic and terrestrial plant and animal communities; and
    (c) Native tree species diversity, similar to that which exists in 
the plan area.
     Species Diversity (threatened, endangered and candidate 
species and species of conservation concern) Management strategies for 
sustaining species diversity emphasize ecological conditions that: 
Protect and promote improved habitat conditions for federally-listed 
species; and Support a diversity of native plant and animal species in 
the long term. Our overall approach for managing species diversity is 
achieved in cooperation with state, federal and private partners, and 
focuses on: Maintaining and restoring composition, structure, fire 
regimes and connectivity; Reducing non-native invasive species; 
Returning native ecological systems to appropriate sites; and Restoring 
historic fire regimes to the landscape.
     Physical Environment (watersheds and soil, water and air 
quality) We propose to develop desired conditions and objectives for 
maintaining, restoring and monitoring the soil, water and air resources 
on the Francis Marion. Our management options vary with the resource 
and our ability to manage. National forest lands on the Francis Marion 
encompass only a small percentage of the streams and associated 
drainage areas within the coastal plain of the state. In addition, much 
of the impacts to air and water resources are due to activities outside 
of the area that the Forest Service manages. Therefore, our strategy is 
to focus on sustaining and improving watershed areas within national 
forest control while working cooperatively with other agencies and 
landowners to improve statewide watershed health and water, soil and 
air quality.
     Healthy Forests (vegetation management, climate change, 
non-native invasive species, prescribed burning, lands and special 
uses) Our overall strategy for achieving healthy forests is to use a 
combination of vegetation management practices including prescribed 
burning to restore and maintain resilient native ecosystems. Desired 
conditions for the different ecological systems are the primary context 
for the health of forests on the Francis Marion. The emphases in this 
plan include:
     Maintaining and restoring fire adapted ecosystems and 
longleaf pine;
     Maintaining moderate stand densities in pine and pine-
hardwood stands;
     Regenerating stands to either restore more desired species 
such as longleaf pine and/or to create young age forest stands for 
ecological sustainability; and
     Controlling non-native invasive plant species and insect 
and disease outbreaks.
     Infrastructure (roads, facilities, trails) Focusing on 
safety and maintenance of existing infrastructure (roads, trails and 
facilities) is the management strategy for the Francis Marion, which 
includes backlogged repairs and upgrades, improvements for 
environmental protection, disposal of facilities that are no longer 
needed and rehabilitation of user-created trails and roads. We 
anticipate limited infrastructure additions depending on funding 
availability.
     Recreation, Cultural Resources and Forest Setting 
(wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, hunting, fishing, roadless, 
scenery) Management strategies for providing outdoor recreation 
opportunities, protecting heritage sites and maintaining a natural 
forest setting require balancing the increasing demand for more uses 
with protecting and maintaining existing desirable conditions. The 
Francis Marion National Forest provides a diverse range of quality 
natural and recreation opportunities in partnership with people and 
communities. The forest's niche is showcasing the diverse ecosystems 
that abound on the coastal plain through dispersed recreation 
opportunities. The Forest Service has a significant public stewardship 
responsibility for cultural resources in our care. Through public 
service the Forest Service provides opportunities to enhance cultural 
resources in our care and to learn about the past.
     Economic Benefits The management strategies for the 
Francis Marion National Forest are to produce a steady flow of benefits 
which are essential to sustaining life and fulfilling basic human needs 
and desires. These benefits stem from a number of provisioning, 
regulating, cultural and supporting services produced by biophysical 
and ecological processes within the forest. Collectively known as 
ecosystem services, these environmental goods and services are 
complexly linked to the health and vitality of human and ecological 
communities. The forest's provision of ecosystem services promotes 
human health and well-being at local, regional, and global scales. 
Although the Francis Marion National Forest will not be managed for 
predetermined levels of ecosystem services, the revised Forest plan 
will be developed to sustain and promote the production of previously 
identified ecosystem services. The Francis Marion National Forest will 
strive to foster inclusion and strengthen the connection between people 
and the National Forest in its planning process. The forest will 
actively engage and collaborate with neighboring communities, partners, 
other agencies, and representatives from Native American and Gullah/
Geechee Nations to develop a collective vision for the National Forest 
in the future.
    The need to change themes and proposed actions represent efforts to 
integrate and balance many of the concerns that have been identified to 
date and accomplish the following:

[[Page 24375]]

     Serve as a starting point for framing future discussions 
in proceeding with the Francis Marion plan revision; and
     Lend to discussions that would identify additional issues 
and need to change statements, different alternatives, different land 
allocations, changes in objectives, changes in suitable uses and 
different levels of analysis needed
    A more fully developed description of the proposed action is 
available for review on the plan revision Web site at http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/scnfs/fmplan.

E. Public Involvement

    Two public meetings held in October and November 2012 were focused 
on identifying public concerns, special areas and key contacts. Two 
public meetings, focusing on sustainable recreation and ecological 
sustainability, were held in February 2013 and August 2013. These 
public meetings 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. A combined total of 
more than 130 participants attended the meetings.
    Comments received from the public meetings and from an online 
commenting tool, along with information obtained from the assessment, 
were used to develop the preliminary need to change statements. A draft 
assessment was released to the public in December 2013. Comments that 
have already been received and any other comments relating to the 
assessment that may be received following the publication of this 
notice will be considered in completing the assessment and in 
describing the Affected Environment section of the EIS. We expect to 
post the completed assessment report on our Web site (http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/scnfs/fmplan) within four months after the scoping 
period closes.

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 
Francis Marion is seeking input on the proposed action. From these 
comments, the Forest Service will identify issues that will serve as a 
focus for developing a draft forest plan and alternatives to be 
analyzed in the EIS.

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;
     Used to further develop the proposed action; and
     Used to 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 June 
16, 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 Francis Marion and 
Sumter National Forests' Web site at http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/scnfs/fmplan 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 Francis Marion began 
with the publication of a Notice of Initiation in the Federal Register 
on September 30, 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 
Francis Marion National Forest will be subject to the objection process 
identified in 36 CFR 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 the Francis Marion's proposed action 
are posted on the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests' Web site 
at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/scnfs/fmplan. 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 
Forest Service 2012 planning rule.

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

    Dated: April 24, 2014.
John Richard Lint,
Forest Supervisor, Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests.
[FR Doc. 2014-09823 Filed 4-29-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-ES-P