[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 151 (Wednesday, August 6, 2014)]
[Pages 45759-45761]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-18553]

[[Page 45759]]



Forest Service

Angeles National Forest; Los Angeles County, CA Williamson Rock/
Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT) Project EIS

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.


SUMMARY: The Angeles National Forest proposes to provide limited, 
managed recreational activities in the vicinity of Williamson Rock. The 
proposed action would include allowing access to the Pacific Crest 
National Scenic Trail (PCT) and limited access to Williamson Rock for 
rock climbing, while protecting the federally listed mountain yellow-
legged frog (MYLF) and other unique resources. The area has been closed 
to the public since 2006, either by Forest Order or court injunction, 
to protect the MYLF.
    The project was originally proposed as an environmental assessment, 
and an opportunity for public scoping comments was provided from 
December 18, 2013 through January 24, 2014. Preliminary issues 
identified during scoping indicated that there may be significant 
effects resulting from the proposed action. Responsible official, 
Forest Supervisor Thomas A. Contreras, has decided to prepare an EIS 
instead of an EA for this project. The proposed action in the EA has 
been modified for the EIS.

DATES: Comments on the proposed action should be submitted within 30 
days of the date of publication of this Notice of Intent in the Federal 
Register. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is expected to 
be available for public review in Spring 2015 and the Final EIS is 
expected in Fall 2015.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by one of the following methods:
     Mailed to the Angeles National Forest; Attn: Jose 
Henriquez, Williamson Rock/PCT ID Team; 701 N. Santa Anita Avenue, 
Arcadia, CA 91006;
     Delivered to the address shown above during business hours 
(M-F 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.);
     Submitted electronically, in common formats (.doc, .pdf, 
.rtf, .txt), to: comments-pacificsouthwest-angeles@fs.fed.us with 
Subject: Williamson Rock.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jose Henriquez, 701 N. Santa Anita 
Avenue, Arcadia, CA 91006; (626) 574-5277. A scoping package, maps and 
other information are online at: http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=43405.

    General Background: Williamson Rock is a well-known High Country 
recreation area used predominately for rock climbing, located within 
the Santa Clara-Mojave Rivers Ranger District, in upper Little Rock 
Canyon. It has been utilized by climbers since the 1960's and is 
regarded as one of the unique rock climbing resources in southern 
California, due to its mild summer temperatures and close proximity to 
urban centers. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT) traverses 
the project area, paralleling and periodically crossing Little Rock 
Creek and its tributaries for approximately 2 miles. The mountain 
yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa--MYLF) occupies habitat in Little Rock 
Creek, within the Williamson Rock area. The area is also home to a 
nesting pair of peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus), as well as a 
Forest Service Sensitive plant species, Johnston's buckwheat (Eriogonum 
microthecum var. johnstonii).
    Purpose and Need for Action: The Forest Service continues to 
receive high demand for the resumption of recreation opportunities in 
the Williamson Rock area. Specifically, there is a need for the public 
use and enjoyment of the PCT where it passes through the project area, 
in accordance with the management objectives specified in the PCTA/
Forest Service Memorandum of Understanding and PCT Comprehensive 
Management Plan. Consistent with the Angeles National Forest Land 
Management Plan recreation goals and objectives, there is also a need 
for a quality, sustainable rock climbing opportunity at Williamson 
    In achieving these needs, this proposal and any alternatives must 
achieve the following purposes:
     Provide protective measures for the federally listed MYLF, 
and the Primary Constituent Elements of the Designated Critical Habitat 
in the project area.
     Protect other listed or otherwise unique resources in the 
Williamson Rock area (specifically: Peregrine falcon, Johnston's 
buckwheat, and an eligible Wild and Scenic River).
     Monitor recreation activity to manage compliance of 
natural resource protective measures.
    Proposed Action: In meeting the needs for action, the following 
measures are proposed:
    1. Implement long-term closure of Little Rock Creek corridor and 
adjacent areas.
     Implement a long-term closure of the stream corridor (10 
meters beyond high water mark) within MYLF Designated Critical Habitat 
(DCH) and adjacent areas between the stream corridor and CA-2 within 
Section 12, T. 3N, R. 10W and Section 7, T.3N, R. 11W as shown on maps 
#1 and #2 (see http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=43405). These are areas that have historically 
provided direct human access into the DCH, or contain climbing routes 
within the stream habitat. The closure would include all stream-based 
rock climbing routes (e.g. the ``Stream Wall'' and ``London Wall''), as 
well as the area of ``user-created'' braided trails and paths along 
scree slopes between CA-2 and Williamson Rock. Exceptions to this 
closure are as follows:
    [cir] Exception: The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT) is 
within the proposed closure area, and would remain open year around 
(see further discussion of the PCT below).
    [cir] Exception: The Long Trail, a new system trail which would 
access the Williamson Rock Visitor Use Permit Area, would be within the 
proposed closure boundaries, and would remain open from August 1 to 
November 15 to people having a valid Visitor Use Permit (see further 
discussion of the Long Trail below).
    2. Implement a visitor use permit system and seasonal closures for 
the Williamson Rock Visitor Use Permit Area.
     Designate a day-use Visitor Use Permit Area that 
encompasses the Williamson Rock Trailhead and parking, the Long Trail, 
and the Williamson Rock climbing areas as shown on maps #1 and 
#2 (see http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=43405). Visitors to this area would be required to 
obtain a Visitor Use Permit through the National Recreation Reservation 
Service (NRRS).
     A seasonal closure of the Visitor Use Permit Area would be 
implemented from November 16 to July 31, to minimize impacts to MYLF 
and/or peregrine falcons.
     During the open season (August 1 to November 15), Visitor 
Use Permits would be reserved in advance through NRRS online or by 
calling the NRRS toll-free number. Permits would not be issued by local 
Forest Service offices.
     At least one Forest Service site manager with citation 
authorization would be onsite each day that the Visitor Use Permit Area 
is open. Funding for this site management would be provided by a 
combination of grants, partner contributions, user fees, and federal 
budget allocations.
     The Forest Service would use the NRRS system to provide 
permit users

[[Page 45760]]

with educational information about the area, including regulations, 
human waste disposal requirements, and resource protection concerns and 
     A limited number of permits would be issued each day, 
based on site capacity (including parking capacity at the Kratka Ridge 
parking lot on CA-2). The permit system would be governed by an 
``either/or'' quota mechanism that would initially issue permits each 
day for no more than 90 persons to access the rock and no more than 30 
vehicles (based on available number of parking stalls) to park at the 
designated trail head.
     The number of visitor use permits issued would be adjusted 
up or down as determined by an adaptive management process that would 
consider the following three metrics/indicators:
    [cir] MYLF population reports
    [cir] Permit compliance
    [cir] Available funding for onsite Forest Service management
     Dogs and other domestic animals would be prohibited (PCT 
exempt), unless they are service animals covered under DOJ 28 CFR Part 
35.136--also applies to federal agencies under Section 504.
    3. Provide developed recreation facilities to access Williamson 
     Establish a system trail (approximately 1.2 miles in 
length) to the east side of Williamson Rock from the Kratka Ridge 
parking lot, partially using abandoned logging road segments and the 
user-created trail alignment currently referred to as the Long Trail 
(see map #2 at http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=43405 =43405).
     The Long Trail would cross Little Rock Creek in two places 
(referred to in this analysis as the 1st and 2nd crossings). At the 2nd 
crossing, install a removable 3'-4' wide by approximately 14' long 
stream crossing platform. The platform would be built so that it could 
be easily removed and re-installed based on the seasonal closure 
periods. See sample images of platform crossings in the fact sheet 
posted at http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=43405.
     At the 1st stream crossing, materials deposited over 
several years create an artificial bridge that would continue to be 
used as a stream crossing. The material keeps people out of the stream, 
and it has also been determined that removing the material could create 
more resource damage than if left in place.
     Place interpretive signage and barriers to discourage 
entry into closure areas and encourage resource protection.
     At the terminus of the Long Trail at Williamson Rock, 
install an information kiosk displaying a map of the existing climbing 
routes available for use, site use etiquette and rules, and clearly 
identified closed areas.
    4. Construct Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail bridge.
     Construct a bridge for PCT users at the point where the 
trail crosses Little Rock Creek within the closure area (SW \1/4\, 
Section 12, T. 3N, R. 10W). See map and image of proposed bridge 
location in the fact sheet posted at http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=43405.
    5. Manage human waste.
     Removal of human waste would be required in the Williamson 
Rock Visitor Use Permit Area and along the Long Trail corridor. Permit 
holders must bag and remove all human waste (feces) and toilet paper, 
and deposit in a disposal container to be installed at the Kratka Ridge 
trailhead/parking area. The presence of human waste in these areas 
would be monitored to determine compliance.
     Install a vault toilet at the Kratka Ridge trailhead/
parking area.
     Provide interpretive signing within the Visitor Use Permit 
Area, trailhead/parking area, and along the Long Trail regarding human 
waste disposal requirements.
     Hikers on the PCT would be required to deposit human body 
waste in cat-holes dug at least 100 feet from any surface freshwater 
source, and to remove toilet paper as trash.
    6. Implement botanical resource requirements (Include in all action 
     Sensitive plant species found within the project area 
shall be flagged and avoided prior to, and during construction 
     (1) All heavy equipment and vegetation maintenance tools 
(e.g., chain saws, hand clippers, pruners) shall be cleaned prior to 
entering National Forest System lands. (2) Any transport vehicles that 
have operated in an off-road area since that vehicle's last washing 
shall be cleaned prior to entering National Forest System lands.
     Cutting or removal of trees shall be done by or under the 
direction of a silviculturist.
     Install and maintain appropriate weed free erosion/
sediment control measures, as needed per the erosion control plan, 
throughout the duration of work activities. Wattles or hay bales shall 
be made of rice straw and netted in biodegradable material.
     If necessary, barriers will be installed or replaced to 
limit unauthorized off-highway vehicle activity after trail 
construction activities.
     During the growing season following trail construction, a 
survey for weed species would be conducted along the trail and 
associated disturbance areas to ensure that new/expanding weed species 
are removed/controlled.
    7. Prevent access to user-created trails.
     Install natural barriers at access points to user-created 
trails within the project area, to prevent use and encourage natural 
     Monitor trespass activity to determine if additional 
measures would be needed.
    8. Develop a monitoring and adaptive management plan.
     A monitoring and adaptive management plan for the closure 
area and Williamson Rock Visitor User Permit Area would be developed 
and adopted as a part of implementation, to determine appropriate use 
levels and seasons over time.
    Possible Alternatives: In addition to the proposed action, the EIS 
will evaluate the required No Action alternative and will likely 
consider other alternatives identified through the interdisciplinary 
process and public participation.
    Responsible Official: Thomas A. Contreras, Forest Supervisor, 
Angeles National Forest, Supervisor's Office, 701 N. Santa Anita 
Avenue, Arcadia, CA 91006.
    Nature of Decision to be Made: The responsible official will decide 
whether to adopt and implement the proposed action, or an alternative 
to the proposed action, or take no action with respect to the 
Williamson Rock/PCT project.

Scoping Process

    This notice of intent initiates the scoping process, which guides 
the development of the environmental impact statement. The Forest 
Service is soliciting comments from federal, state and local agencies 
and other individuals or organizations that may be interested in or 
affected by implementation of the proposed project.
    Public questions and comments regarding this proposal are an 
integral part of this environmental analysis process. Input provided by 
interested and/or affected individuals, organizations and governmental 
agencies will be used to identify resource issues that will be analyzed 
in the environmental impact statement. The Forest Service will identify 
significant issues raised during the scoping process, and use them to 
formulate alternatives, prescribe mitigation measures and project 

[[Page 45761]]

features, or analyze environmental effects.
    We are particularly interested in hearing about any potential 
issues, which are defined as points of discussion, dispute, or debate 
about the effects of the proposed action. Your participation will help 
the interdisciplinary team develop effective, issue-driven alternatives 
and mitigations to the proposed action as needed. It is important that 
reviewers provide their comments at such times and in such a 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.
    The project was originally proposed as an environmental assessment, 
and an opportunity for public scoping comments was provided between 
December 18, 2013 and January 24, 2014. The proposed action in the EA 
has been modified for the EIS. If you previously commented on the 
project, your comments have been and will continue to be considered in 
the development of alternatives. In order to move forward with this 
project, we ask that you do not repeat your comments. Following 
alternative development, the Forest Service will be providing another 
opportunity to comment on the alternatives and analysis. If you have 
any new comments, we welcome those at this time.
    Comments received in response to this solicitation, including names 
and addresses of those who comment, will be part of the public project 
record for this proposed action. Comments submitted anonymously will be 
accepted and considered; however, anonymous comments will not provide 
the agency with the ability to provide the respondent with subsequent 
environmental documents.

    Dated: July 29, 2014.
Thomas A. Contreras,
Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. 2014-18553 Filed 8-5-14; 8:45 am]