[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 98 (Wednesday, May 21, 2014)]
[Pages 29158-29159]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-11736]



Forest Service

Dakota Prairie Grasslands; North Dakota; Environmental Impact 
Statement for Greater Sage-Grouse Grasslands Plan Amendment

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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


SUMMARY: In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969, as amended (NEPA), the Federal Land Policy and Management act of 
1976, as amended (FLPMA), and the Resources Planning Act of 1974, as 
amended by the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (NFMA), the 
Forest Service intends to prepare an environmental impact statement 
(EIS) to amend the Dakota Prairie Grasslands Land and Resource 
Management Plan (DPG LRMP). This notice is announcing the beginning of 
the scoping process to solicit public comments and identify issues 
relative to the greater sage-grouse. This analysis will be the basis of 
the record of decision.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received 
by July 7, 2014. The draft environmental impact statement is expected 
November 2014, and the final environmental impact statement is expected 
June 2015.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to: Dennis Neitzke, Grasslands 
Supervisor, 1200 Missouri Avenue, Bismarck, ND 58504. Comments may also 
be sent via email to: [email protected] or via 
facsimile to: 701-989-7299.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information and/or to have 
your name added to our mailing list, contact Cristi Corey-Luse, 
Environmental Coordinator, phone 559-359-5608 or email 
[email protected]. Persons who use a telecommunications device for 
the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 
1-800-877-8339 to contact the above individual during normal business 
hours. The FIRS is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to leave a 
message or question with the above individual. You will receive a 
replay during normal business hours. In all correspondence, please 
include your name, address, and organization name if you are commenting 
as a representative of an organization.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: In March of 2010 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service (USFWS) published a ``warranted, but precluded'' Endangered 
Species Act-listing-petition decision for the greater sage-grouse. 
Inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms was identified as a significant 
factor in the USFWS finding on the petition to list the species. The 
USFWS concluded that existing regulatory mechanisms to protect greater 
sage-grouse, ``. . . afford sufficient discretion to the decision 
makers as to render them inadequate to ameliorate the threats to the 
[greater sage-grouse].'' The major threat in regards to actions 
authorized on national forest system and other public lands is habitat 
modification. Habitat modification on Federal lands includes threats 
from infrastructure (fences, powerlines, and roads), recreation, 
mining, energy development, grazing, fire, invasive species, noxious 
weeds, conifer encroachment, and climate change.

Purpose and Need for Action

    The purpose of the project is to determine what management 
direction (that is, regulatory mechanisms) should be incorporated into 
the DPG LRMP to conserve, enhance, and/or restore sagebrush and 
associated habitats to contribute to the long-term viability of the 
greater sage-grouse. This is needed to address the recent ``warranted, 
but precluded'' ESA decision from the USFWS by addressing needed 
changes in the management and conservation of greater sage-grouse 
habitats on lands managed by the Dakota Prairie Grasslands within the 
State of North Dakota.

Proposed Action

    The Forest Service is proposing to amend the DPG LRMP by adding to 
or changing some of the management direction (that is, regulatory 
mechanisms) that would reduce, eliminate, or minimize threats to the 
greater sage-grouse on National Forest System lands that are considered 
priority and general habitat for the greater sage grouse. A planning 
area map is provided in the scoping document (see ``Scoping Process'' 
subsection below).
    Based on threats identified in the USFWS decision on the petition 
listing for the greater sage-grouse, the proposed management direction 
would address at a minimum the following resource areas and resource 
uses on national forest system lands: Recreation management, fire and 
fuels management, rangeland management, invasive species, rights-of-way 
management, special uses, transportation system and facilities 
management, minerals management (locatable, fluid, and saleable), 
habitat restoration/vegetation management, and renewable energy 
    Specific desired conditions, goals, objectives, standards, and 
guidelines amendments to the LRMP, although not yet developed, would 
focus on creating specific habitat objectives for the greater sage-
grouse. These desired conditions, goals, objective, standards, and 
guidelines would relate to the following areas:
     Activity restricting seasonal time frames;

[[Page 29159]]

     Buffers of protection around important habitats;
     Vegetative cover requirements; and
     Mitigation requirements for predator perches.
    The decisions based on this analysis may make changes in the lands 
available for oil and gas leasing, as well as changes in the 
stipulations applied to lands that are made available for leasing. 
There may also be changes to the lands determined suitable for linear 
rights-of-way corridors for powerlines and pipelines.
    Any decisions will recognize valid existing rights. The decisions 
will be limited to making land use planning direction specific to the 
conservation of habitat of the greater sage-grouse on approximately 
96,000 acres of habitat (66,000 of priority habitat and 30,000 of 
general habitat) on the Medora District of the Little Missouri 
    Finally, the LRMP amendment would address the objectives identified 
in the USFWS Conservation Objectives Team report.
    The purpose of the public scoping process is to determine relevant 
issues related to the conservation of the greater sage-grouse and its 
habitat that will influence the scope of the environmental analysis, 
including alternatives, and guide the process for developing the EIS.
    As allowed at 36 CFR 219.17(b)(2), ``. . . with respect to plans 
approved or revised under a prior planning regulation, including the 
transition provisions of the reinstated 2000 rule (36 CFR part 219, 
published at 36 CFR parts 200 to 299, revised as of July 1, 2010), plan 
amendments may be initiated under the provisions of the prior planning 
regulation for 3 years after May 9, 2012, and may be completed and 
approved under those provisions . . .''.
    As allowed at 36 CFR 219.17(b)(2), the responsible official has 
opted to initiate and complete this proposed plan amendment consistent 
with transition provisions of the reinstated 2000 rule. Determination 
as to whether the amendment is significant or not significant will be 
based on Forest Service direction at the time of the decision. Based on 
current direction found in Forest Service Manual 1926.52, the amendment 
is expected to be not significant.

Possible Alternatives

    Under the no-action alternative the LRMP would not be amended to 
incorporate new or change existing regulatory mechanisms. There are no 
other alternatives to the proposed action identified at this time.

Lead and Cooperating Agencies

    The Forest Service is the lead agency, and has invited the BLM, 
North Dakota Game and Fish Department, USFWS, Natural Resources 
Conservation Service, Bowman-Slope Soil Conservation District, to 
participate as cooperating agencies. Other Federal, State, and local 
agencies that may be interested or affected by the Forest Service's 
decision on this proposal, may request or be requested by the Forest 
Service to participate as a cooperating agency also.

Responsible Official

    The responsible official is Dennis Neitzke, Grasslands Supervisor, 
Dakota Prairie Grasslands, 1200 Missouri Avenue, Bismarck, ND 58504.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    Based on the analysis conducted and represented in the EIS and 
project record, the responsible official will decide whether or not to 
amend the LRMP as described in the proposed action, or in one of the 
alternatives to the proposed action, or by combining elements of the 
proposed action and alternatives to create a decision that best meets 
the purpose of conserving, enhancing, and/or restoring habitats to 
provide for the long-term viability of the greater sage-grouse.

Scoping Process

    This notice of intent initiates the scoping process, which guides 
the development of the environmental impact statement. The scoping 
document is posted on the Dakota Prairie National Grasslands public Web 
site at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/dpg/. During the scoping period the 
Forest will solicit comments from interested parties and the public. 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. 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, the Forest Service would not be able to provide the respondent 
with subsequent environmental documents. This proposal has been listed 
on the Dakota Prairie Grasslands Schedule of Proposed Actions since 
May, 2014.

Early Notice of Importance of Public Participation in Subsequent 
Environmental Review

    As required under 36 CFR 219.17(b)(2), this proposed plan amendment 
is subject to the pre-decisional administrative review process 
(``objection procedure'') set forth in 36 CFR Part 219 Subpart B. Only 
those individuals and entities who have submitted substantive formal 
comments related to the proposed plan amendment during opportunities 
for public comment may file an objection. Objections must be based on 
previously submitted substantive formal comments attributed to the 
objector, unless the objection concerns an issue that arises after the 
opportunities for formal comment (36 CFR 219.53). Comments are 
considered substantive when they are within the scope of the proposal, 
are specific to the proposal, have a direct relationship to the 
proposal, and include supporting reasons for the responsible official 
to consider (36 CFR 219.62). Formal comments received from an 
authorized representative(s) of an entity are considered those of the 
entity only. A member of an organization must submit substantive formal 
comments independently to be eligible to file an objection in an 
individual capacity (36 CFR 219.53(b)). Substantive formal comments 
must be written comments submitted to, or oral comments recorded by, 
the responsible official or designee during an opportunity for public 
participation and attributed to the individual or entity providing them 
(36 CFR 219.62). For this proposal, the opportunities for public 
participation are the 45-day-scoping-comment period announced by this 
notice of intent and the 90-day-comment period that begins when the 
Environmental Protection Agency publishes the notice of availability of 
the draft EIS in the Federal Register.

    Dated: May 2, 2014.
Dennis D. Neitzke,
Grasslands Supervisor.
[FR Doc. 2014-11736 Filed 5-20-14; 8:45 am]