[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 148 (Friday, August 1, 2014)]
[Pages 44738-44739]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-18142]



Forest Service

Umatilla National Forest, Supervisor's Office; Oregon; Kahler Dry 
Forest Restoration Project

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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


SUMMARY: The USDA, Forest Service will prepare an Environmental Impact 
Statement (EIS) to analyze impacts for vegetative treatment in the 
Kahler Creek area of the Heppner Ranger District of the Umatilla 
National Forest.
    The district has started an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the 
project, but has determined that an Environmental Impact Statement 
would be more appropriate for this project. Scoping for the EA was open 
for 30 days in March 2013 and numerous comments were received from the 
public. These comments were used to form the issues for the EA, and 
these issues will be carried over to the EIS.

DATES: The draft environmental impact statement is expected September 
2014 and the final environmental impact statement is expected February 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ann Niesen, District Ranger, Heppner 
Ranger District, P.O. Box 7, Heppner, OR 97836.
    Individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) 
may call the Federal Information

[[Page 44739]]

Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., 
Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.


Purpose and Need for Action

    Fire suppression and past harvest throughout the Kahler project 
area have caused a shift in stand density, structure, and species 
composition away from the range of variability historically associated 
with dry forests. In turn, this shift has altered the availability and 
distribution of habitat for terrestrial wildlife species, including 
Forest Plan Management Indicator Species and Region 6 Sensitive 
Wildlife Species. There is a shortage of old forest single stratum 
(OFSS) forest structure, which is characterized by a single overstory 
layer, with medium to large trees of early successional tree species 
such as ponderosa pine or western larch. Currently, only 6% of the 
forested land within the project area is classified as OFSS, whereas 
historically 40-60% of the forest would have been in this condition.
     Restore, maintain, and promote single stratum old forest 
structure, moving the area toward its historical range of structure, 
density, and species composition.
     Maintain and promote old trees (> 150 years old) 
throughout the project area.
     Provide a supply of commercial forest products to support 
and maintain local infrastructure.
     Reduce insect and disease risk, where currently outside 
the historical range, to dry upland forest stands and associated 
     Reestablish the character of a frequent fire regime to the 
landscape to aid in maintaining open stand conditions and fire-tolerant 
species, improve big game forage, and reduce conifer encroachment.
     Reduce encroachment of western juniper into areas where it 
did not historically occur to improve big game forage, the quality of 
grassland and steppe-shrubland habitat for wildlife, the diversity and 
productivity of riparian plant communities, and water availability for 
native vegetation.
     Provide, develop, and enhance effective and well-
distributed habitats throughout the Forest for all existing native and 
desired nonnative vertebrate wildlife species, particularly those 
associated with late and old structural stages in dry upland forest 
stands (e.g. white-headed and Lewis' woodpecker).
     Provide for a high level of potential habitat 
effectiveness at the landscape scale to meet the needs of big game in 
the winter range management area.
     Address habitat issues in big game winter range areas 
including the existing extent and distribution of cover, the quantity 
and quality of forage, and disturbance associated with roads and trails 
open to full-sized vehicles and OHVs.

Proposed Action

    The Kahler project proposes to use variable density thinning with 
skips and gaps to reduce tree density, shift species composition, and 
promote old forest structure across approximately 11,000 acres within 
the project area. There will be an option to remove select young (<150 
years old) grand fir and Douglas-fir trees that are 21 inches or 
greater in diameter and interacting with the crown of a desirable leave 
tree. Tree species preference will be for ponderosa pine and western 
larch. Diseased trees and those with severe mistletoe infestations will 
be targeted for removal where they are outside historical ranges. Trees 
may be removed using ground-based, skyline, or helicopter methods. 
Minimum snag and downed wood standards will be maintained. Thinning of 
western juniper (7 inches to 21 inches in diameter) may occur within 
commercial harvest units in order to reduce and/or eliminate its 
encroachment into upland forest stands and Class 4 riparian areas where 
it did not historically occur in order to maintain or improve the 
quality of upland forest habitat, the diversity and productivity of 
riparian plant communities, and water availability for native 
vegetation. The Proposed Action includes five amendments to the 
Umatilla Land and Resource Management Plan.

Possible Alternatives

    The Forest Service developed 3 alternatives in response to issues 
raised by the public:

 No Action
 Proposed Action
 Alternative to the Propsed Action

Responsible Official

    Kevin Martin, Forest Supervisor of the Umatilla National Forest 
will be the responsible official for making the decision and providing 
direction for the analysis.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    The responsible official will decide whether or not to authorize 
the proposal.

Preliminary Issues

    The Forest Service has identified four issues from previous 
     Issue 1: Thinning, juniper removal, prescribe fire and use 
of the road system have the potential to impact the quality, quantity 
and distribution (across the landscape and adjacent to open roads) of 
big game habitat within the analysis area. As a result, population 
levels and herd distribution may be impacted.
     Issue 2: Thinning would impact the quantity and 
distribution of dense multi-strata ponderosa pine and mixed conifer 
stands at the stand and larger landscape scale in the dry upland forest 
Potential Vegetation Group (Powell et al, 2007). Thinning may reduce 
the habitat for dense, multi-strata associated species of wildlife such 
as pileated woodpecker and other wildlife that utilize dense mixed 
conifer and ponderosa pine stands.
     Issue 3: Use of temporary roads and re-opening of existing 
closed roads has potential to increase sedimentation.
     Issue 4: Mechanical treatments in Class 4 RHCA's could 
increase sedimentation.


    John Evans, Project Manager, 72510 Coyote Road, Pendleton, OR 
    Ann Niesen, District Ranger, Heppner Ranger District, P.O. Box 7, 
Heppner, OR 97836.

    Dated: July 18, 2014.
Kevin Martin,
Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. 2014-18142 Filed 7-31-14; 8:45 am]