[Federal Register Volume 62, Number 127 (Wednesday, July 2, 1997)]
[Notices]
[Page 35782]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 97-17276]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Record of Decision for Revision of Black Hills National Forest 
Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan); Black Hills National 
Forest; Custer, Fall River, Meade, Lawrence, Pennington Counties, SD; 
Crook and Weston Counties, WY

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of decision.

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SUMMARY: On June 24, 1997, Elizabeth Estill, Regional Forester, Rocky 
Mountain Region, signed a Record of Decision (ROD) for the Revised 
Forest Land and Resource Management Plan for the Black Hills National 
Forest. This decision rescinds the March 13, 1997 decision revising the 
Plan because of a problem with an incomplete record. After receiving 
the full record, and after further consideration, the earlier decision 
is reissued unchanged. While the new decision makes no substantive 
change to the prior decision, it does have consequences. The new 
decision restarts the administrative appeal clock and also the 
effective date of the Revised Forest Plan.

EFFECTIVE DATE: This decision is effective August 1, 1997 (NFMA, 16 USC 
1604(J)). A legal notice is also being published in the Denver Post, 
Denver, Colorado.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John Rupe, Forest Planning Team 
Leader, 605-673-2251.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On May 28, interested organizations which 
participated in the public scoping process for the Revision, issued a 
request to the Chief of the Forest Service to vacate the March 13 
Record of Decision (ROD), based, in part, on issues connected to the 
availability and finalization of the analysis of the public comment 
record prior to issuance of the decision.
    The March 13 ROD discussing public involvement stated: ``Individual 
responses to each comment have been prepared and are available upon 
request.'' When commentors sought copies of these individual responses, 
the Forest staff discovered that computer software malfunctions had 
occurred leaving the database incomplete. Upon further investigation, 
it was discovered that some of the promised individual responses had 
not even been prepared when the earlier ROD was signed. Upon discovery 
of the situation, the Regional Forester directed the Forest Supervisor 
to complete the record and resubmit it for review. The Forest 
Supervisor submitted the complete record for the Regional Forester's 
review on June 13.
    The following explains the public involvement process to put this 
decision in context. The Forest Service received approximately 5,400 
comments on the Draft Revised Plan and Draft Environmental Impact 
Statement (DEIS). The comments were reviewed individually and 
individual responses were to be prepared for the record. However, the 
Forest Supervisor chose not to include the individual responses to each 
comment in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). For public 
disclosure with the FEIS, comments were grouped into subject matter 
areas along with Forest Service responses to the broader concerns which 
were expressed.
    This evaluation of the public comment was included in Appendix A to 
the FEIS. This Appendix explained how public comments were evaluated 
and responses were prepared in accordance to 40 CFR 1503.4(a). The only 
type of comment which was not fully addressed prior to the March 13 
decision was the type that the Forest Service concluded ``do not 
warrant further agency response'' under the regulations. The 
regulations do require that the agency explain why it has concluded 
that the comments don't warrant further agency response. This step had 
not been completed for all comments when the earlier ROD was signed. 
This final step has now been completed.
    As a result of an additional interdisciplinary team review, the 
Forest Supervisor concluded that all comments in the database were 
addressed in the FEIS or ROD, and recommended to the Regional Forester 
that individual responses to public comment should not affect the 
disposition of the March 13 decision.
    After reviewing the record, the Regional Forester has concurred 
with the findings of the Forest Supervisor. Moreover, the Regional 
Forester has determined that the findings of the review reaffirm the 
March 13 decision in its entirety.
    Following are the specific features of the decision:

--It incorporates the March 13 decision in its entirety, including all 
rationale, elements, findings and implementation schedules.
--To date, the Forest Supervisor has implemented the revised Forest 
Plan through the issuance of nine project decisions. All decisions are 
currently in respective appeal periods and subject to administrative 
appeal under 36 CFR 217.10(c). None of these actions would be 
implemented before the effective implementation date of this decision. 
Moreover, the decision results in no changes or alternations in the 
Revised Plan or supporting FEIS. Therefore, the Regional Forester has 
determined that no adjustments or stays of these nine project level 
analyses or decisions will occur as a part of this action.
--There are an additional six projects with decisions pending. These or 
any other new decisions issued under the Revised Plan will not be 
implemented until thirty days from this notice.

    The effective implementation date for this decision will occur 30 
days from this notice. A legal notice is also being published in the 
Denver Post, Denver, Colorado.
    This decision is subject to administrative review pursuant to 36 
CFR 217. Any appeal of this decision must be fully consistent with 36 
CFR 217.9 and be filed in duplicate with the Chief, USDA--Forest 
Service, P.O. Box 96090, NFS, 3NW, Appeals Office, Washington, DC 
29909-6090. The appeal must be filed within 90 days from the date this 
decision is published in the Denver Post. Anyone concerned about the 
decision is urged to contact the Forest Supervisor before submitting an 
appeal. It may be possible to resolve the concern in a less formal way.

    Dated: June 26, 1997.
Joe L. Meade,
Acting Deputy Regional Forester.
[FR Doc. 97-17276 Filed 7-1-97; 8:45 am]
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