[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 153 (Friday, August 8, 2014)]
[Pages 46396-46400]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-18809]



Forest Service

Intermountain Region, Boise National Forest, Idaho City Ranger 
District; Idaho; Becker Integrated Resource Project

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.


SUMMARY: The Forest Service will prepare an Environmental Impact 
Statement (EIS) to disclose the environmental consequences of 
implementing alternatives considered for the Becker Integrated Resource

[[Page 46397]]

Project. The 19,327 acre Becker project area falls within the Crooked 
River Watershed. The area is located approximately 18 miles northeast 
of Idaho City, Idaho, and about 48 miles northeast of Boise, Idaho, in 
Boise County. The primary travel routes in the project area include 
State Highway 21 and National Forest System (NFS) roads 336, 362, 384, 
385, 393 and 394. The proposal includes 10,624 acres of vegetation 
management and fuels treatments, closing 24 miles of NFS roads to 
public motorized use, decommissioning an additional 30.8 miles of NFS 
and unauthorized roads, designating 23.7 miles of new motorized trail 
for vehicles less than or equal to 50 inches in width, authorizing 41.4 
miles of non-motorized summer trails, authorizing 55.7 miles of non-
motorized winter trails, including a winter motorized restriction area 
surrounding the winter non-motorized trails, and removing barriers on 
23 culverts to improve fish passage. The project documents are 
available electronically on the project Web page located at: 

DATES: Project scoping was initiated with publication of a legal notice 
in the newspaper of record, the Idaho Statesman, on May 7, 2014. This 
initial scoping period ended on June 9, 2014. Following review of 
comments received and additional review with the interdisciplinary team 
(IDT), the Responsible Official has decided to proceed with preparation 
of an EIS. As a result, additional comments concerning the scope of the 
analysis will be accepted for an additional 30 days following 
publication of this NOI. Comments must be received by September 8, 
2014. The publication date in the Federal Register is the only means 
for calculating the comment period. The draft environmental impact 
statement is expected in December 2014, and the final environmental 
impact statement and Record of Decision (ROD) are expected in June 
    This project is being planned under authorization of the Pre-
decisional Administrative Review Process defined by 36 CFR part 218. 
This new rule replaces the previous project decision appeal rules 
defined in 36 CFR part 215. The new rule provides the public an 
opportunity to comment and express concerns on projects before 
decisions are made, rather than after. The Forest Service believes this 
aligns with our collaborative approach to forest management and 
increases the likelihood of resolving those concerns, resulting in 
better, more informed decisions.
    Individuals and entities who submit specific written comments at 
this stage and/or already provided comments during the earlier comment 
period from May 7 through June 9, 2014, will be eligible to object. An 
additional comment opportunity will also be provided during the comment 
period for review of the Draft EIS (DEIS) and those who provide 
specific written comments during this comment period will also be 
eligible to object. For more information on 36 CFR Part 218, see the 
Federal Register, Volume 78, No. 59, March 27, 2013

ADDRESSES: Written, facsimile, hand-delivered, verbal, and electronic 
comments concerning this project will be accepted. Specific written 
comments must be submitted to: Boise National Forest, Idaho City Ranger 
District, Attention: District Ranger, P.O. Box 129, Idaho City, ID 
83631; or by fax to 208-392-6684. The office hours for those submitting 
hand-delivered comments are: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 
excluding holidays. Oral comments may also be provided at the Idaho 
City Ranger District office during normal business hours via telephone 
208-392-6681 or in person. However; please be aware that to have 
standing to object, specific written comments must be provided at some 
point during this comment period, the comment period on the DEIS, or 
previously provided during the initial scoping period initatied on May 
7, 2014.
    Comments may also be submitted through the Becker Integrated 
Resource Project Web page at www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa--project--
exp.php?project=18922. To submit comments using the Web form select 
``Comment on Project'' under ``Get Connected'' on the right panel of 
the project's Web page.
    Email comments must be submitted in a format such as an email 
message, plain text (.txt), rich text format (.rtf), Adobe (.pdf) and 
Word (.doc) to comments-intermtn-boise-idaho-city@fs.fed.us. Please put 
``Becker Integrated Resource Project'' in the subject line of email 
comments. Comments must have an identifiable name attached or 
verification of identity will be required. A scanned signature may 
serve as verification on electronic comments.
    Comments or requests received in response to this publication, 
including names and addresses of those who respond, will be part of the 
public record for this proposed action.
    Comments received in response to this request will be available for 
public inspection on the ``Public Comment Reading Room'' at the project 
Web site: www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa--project--exp.php?project=18922.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Randall Hayman, Forest Planner, Boise 
National Forest at the email address above or by phone at 208-373-4157.
    Individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) 
may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 
between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The 19,327-acre Becker project area falls 
within the Middle Crooked River Watershed (HUC 17050110503), formerly 
named the Beaver-Edna watershed, and Pikes Fork (HUC 17050110502) 
subwatersheds; both subwatersheds are part of the larger Crooked River 
Watershed. The area is located approximately 18 miles northeast of 
Idaho City, Idaho, and about 48 miles northeast of Boise, Idaho, in 
Boise County . The following primary drainages and streams are located 
in the project area: Crooked River, Whoop-Um-Up Creek, Lamar Creek, 
Beaver Creek, Pikes Fork Creek, Banner Creek, Little Beaver Creek, and 
Edna Creek. The Pilot Peak mountain landform lies in the southwest 
corner of the project area, State Highway 21 bisects the area, Banner 
Ridge lies along the north end, and Crooked River and Lamar Creek 
roughly form the southern boundary of the project area.
    Purpose and Need for Action: Four purposes have been identified for 
the project: (1) Contribute to the restoration of low- to mid-elevation 
forests in the project area; forests that fall within the non-lethal 
and mixed1 fire regime. Modifying forest densities, tree size classes, 
and species composition and breaking-up the horizontal and vertical 
wildland fuel continuity will reduce the risk of uncharacteristic 
stand-replacement wildfire and improve forest resiliency. Moving 
conditions toward those that are more representative of the desired 
condition for the fire regimes in the project area will benefit 
wildlife habitat restoration, as well as provide greater assurance that 
forested overstory cover in this landscape, which attracts recreational 
users to the area, is sustained over time; (2) Improve watershed 
conditions by reducing motorized route-related impacts to water 
resources, fish, soil, and wildlife and associated habitats while 
providing for a safe and efficient transportation system necessary to 
meet long-term management needs. (Travel Analysis Process Report for 
the Becker

[[Page 46398]]

Restoration Project (USDA Forest Service, May 2014)); (3) Improve and 
enhance the quality and diversity of recreational opportunities in the 
Middle Crooked River and Pikes Fork subwatersheds by reducing risk of 
loss of forested overstory cover, providing for a variety of recreation 
experiences, and reducing the potential for conflicts between motorized 
and non-motorized recreational users; and (4) Support the local and 
regional economies by providing enhanced recreational opportunities by 
utilizing wood products from the suited timber base, and by 
implementing forest restoration activities.
    Proposed Action: In the context of Boise National Forest Plan 
desired conditions (Forest Service 2010b, Appendices A and E), the 
cumulative effects of past and present disturbances, fire suppression, 
and management actions have resulted in departed forested stand and 
landscape patch conditions. These departed conditions have increased 
the risk of uncharacteristic forest stand-replacing wildfires; reduced 
quantity and quality of habitat for wildlife species of conservation 
concern associated with non-lethal fire regimes (e.g., white-headed 
woodpecker); and redistributed habitat for wildlife species whose 
source habitat is associated more with mixed1 fire regimes (e.g., 
flammulated owl) in areas where it historically would not have 
occurred. Habitat has generally increased in the mixed1 fire regime 
patches and decreased in the non-lethal patches.
    To address Purpose #1, vegetation restoration utilizing (1) 
commercial timber harvest activities would be conducted on about 3,243 
acres utilizing tractor and tractor/off-road jammer logging systems; 
(2) miscellaneous wood products would be removed through thinning on an 
additional 1,547 acres; and (3) non-commercial thinning of small 
diameter trees would occur on an additional 3,452 acres, mostly within 
existing plantations, with no product removal. Total acres proposed for 
mechanical vegetative treatment would be 8,242, of which about 25% 
would be within riparian conservation areas (RCAs) as defined in the 
Boise National Forest Plan, Appendix B. Approximately 5.7 miles of 
temporary roads are anticipated to be constructed to support commercial 
timber harvest activities.
    Both activity fuel treatments (i.e., fuels resulting from 
mechanical treatments) and natural fuels treatments would occur on 
approximately 9,796 acres. Activity fuels treatments include 
combinations of (1) chip, lop and scatter, handpile and burn, and/or 
burn concentrations; (2) whole tree yard to landings, lop and scatter, 
handpile and burn and/or burn concentrations; and (3) yard bole 
material to landings, handpile and burn concentrations, and lop and 
scatter. Natural fuels treatments include both direct and indirect 
application of prescribed fire. Within 3-5 years following mechanical 
treatments and completion of initial activity fuel activities, follow-
up restoration prescribed fire treatments are anticipated to be applied 
across approximately 10,624 acres of the 19,327 acre project area.
    To address Purpose #2, approximately (1) 4.9 miles of NFS 
roads would be reconstructed; (2) 1.3 miles of new road would be 
constructed; (3) 3.9 miles of unauthorized routes would be added to the 
transportation system; (4) 23.3 miles of NFS roads and 7.5 miles of 
unauthorized routes would be decommissioned; and (5) 6.9 miles of NFS 
roads would be converted to trails. As a result of road treatments, the 
78.1 miles of roads currently open to public use for full size vehicles 
would be reduced to 53 miles. However, as discussed under Purpose 
#3 below, 23.7 miles of new motorized trail would be developed 
and open to public motorized use for vehicles less than or equal to 50 
inches in width. Thus, total miles of roads and trails open to public 
motorized use would be 76.4 miles, a net reduction of routes open to 
public motorized use of 1.4 miles from the current situation.
    In addition to the road management activities identified above, 23 
aquatic organism passage barriers (culverts within existing roads) 
would be treated to remove barriers. This includes removal or 
replacement of 7 culverts within priority critical bull trout habitat 
and another 15 culverts outside priority critical bull trout habitat. 
In addition, 1 culvert would be treated through outlet pool 
modification in order to eliminate barrier concerns.
    To address Purpose #3, new motorized and non-motorized 
trail opportunities will be developed and/or authorized. These trail 
systems will take advantage of existing NFS roads and/or unauthorized 
routes to the extent practicable in order to minimize the need for new 
trail construction and associated disturbance. Overlap of the motorized 
and non-motorized system and shared use on NFS roads open to full size 
motor vehicle public use will be minimized to reduce potential user 
conflicts, user safety issues, and improve the overall quality of the 
recreation experience for all user groups. Specifically, (1) a new 23.7 
mile motorized trail will be designated with supporting trailhead 
facilities; (2) 41.7 miles of summer non-motorized trails would be 
authorized; and (3) 55.7 miles of winter non-motorized trails would be 
authorized. To further reduce conflicts and potential safety issues 
between motorized and non-motorized winter recreationists and improve 
the quality of the overall quality of the non-motorized recreation 
experience within the project area, the winter motorized restriction 
area east of Highway 21 in the project area would be extended to areas 
adjacent to the non-motorized trail system west of Highway 21 and in 
the southern portion of the project area.
    To address Purpose #4, several of the aspects of the 
proposed action will provide support to local and regional economies 
including (1) by accomplishing Purposes #1 and #3, 
improvements and sustainability of the recreational use and experience 
within the Becker project area will continue to provide recreational 
user support, resulting in both direct and indirect benefits to local 
and regional economies; (2) wood products will also be an output of 
accomplishing Purpose #1. Specifically, it is expected the 
following wood products would be generated, (a) 6-8 million board feet 
of sawlogs, (b) a quarter million board feet of post and pole material, 
(c) more than 1,700 cords of fuelwood, and (d) more than 42,000 tons of 
woody biomass would be provided; and (3) other restoration activities 
are anticipated to generate economic outputs to support local and 
regional economies. This includes contract work for (a) road 
realignment, construction, reconstruction, and maintenance; (b) 
motorized and non-motorized recreational trail realignment, 
construction, reconstruction, and maintenance; (c) aquatic organism 
passage culvert replacement, removal and/or improvements; (d) non-
commercial tree thinning; (e) installation of road closure barriers 
(seasonal and long term); and (f) activity fuel treatments, both 
mechanical and prescribed fire.
    In addition to the actions developed to specifically address 
Purposes #1 through #4, an amendment to the Forest Plan 
standard 0763 is proposed to (1) add a modification Visual Quality 
Objectives (VQOs) to the motorized trail proposed to be designated; (2) 
partial retention VQOs to the winter and summer non-motorized trails to 
be authorized; (3) partial retention VQOs around the recreational Yurts 
in the project area; and (4) change the foreground retention 
requirement along Highway 21 to partial retention to allow

[[Page 46399]]

for accomplishment of vegetation restoration activities.
    Possible Alternatives: Additional alternatives may be developed 
that include one or more of the following components: (1) Adding acres 
for vegetation restoration over that identified in the proposed action 
in areas accessible from the existing transportation system to improve 
management efficiency and economic return to support other restoration 
work; (2) retention of larger diameter trees greater than or equal to 
18 inches diameter, throughout the project area; (3) reducing the 
amount of soil, water and wildlife habitat impact by reducing the acres 
of ground base logging systems and converting those acres to helicopter 
yarding systems; (4) similarly, use helicopter yarding systems around 
the non-motorized summer trail system to reduce the need to re-open 
roads that have vegetated in and, in their current condition, provide 
for a quality recreational experience; (5) open access roads to the 
yurts for use by renters either seasonally or yearlong, that were 
closed under the proposed action; (6) develop the motorized trail for 
use by vehicles less than or equal to 60 inches in width, rather than 
limiting it to less than or equal to 50 inches in width; (7) eliminate 
the proposed motorized trail system to reduce impacts on soil, water, 
fish and wildlife habitat; (8) reroute proposed motorized trail 
locations out of RCAs to the extent practicable; (9) provide a greater 
separation between the motorized and non-motorized trail systems to 
minimize the noise impacts on the quality of the non-motorized 
recreation experience; and (10) include a seasonal closure from May 1 
to June 15 to all mechanized equipment on seasonally closed motorized 
roads/trails and non-motorized trails east of Highway 21 and north of 
Beaver Creek to minimize disturbance to big game during the calving 
    Responsible Official: The Responsible Official is the Forest 
Supervisor for the Boise National Forest, Cecilia R. Seesholtz.
    Nature of Decision to be Made: The six decisions to be made 
include: (1) Should vegetation maintenance and restoration treatments 
(mechanical and fire) in the Project area be implemented, and if so, 
which forested stands should be treated, and what silvicultural 
prescriptions and methods should be applied? (2) Should the 
transportation system be managed within the Project area as recommended 
in the Travel Analysis Process Report for the Becker Restoration 
Project (USDA Forest Service, May 2014), and if so, which road 
management treatments should be implemented? (3) Should recreation 
management activities in the Project area be implemented, and if so, 
which motorized and/or non-motorized proposed trails/trailhead 
improvements should be implemented, including: (a) Should the proposed 
motorized trail be designated as a motorized recreation trail per 36 
CFR 212.51, subpart B, and if so, which portions and for what type of 
vehicle use? (b) Should the proposed non-motorized trails be 
authorized, and if so, which portions and for what type of recreation 
user? (c) Should motorized winter restrictions (i.e., area restriction) 
be added to the winter travel map per 36 CFR 212.51, subpart C, and if 
so, which portions? (4) Should culvert treatments be implemented to 
improve access to aquatic habitat in the Project area, and if so, which 
culverts should be removed or replaced? (5) What design features and/or 
mitigation measures should be applied to activities to mitigate 
undesirable effects? (6) Should Forest Plan standard 0763 be amended to 
add and/or modify VQOs around proposed trails and along Highway 21, and 
if so, which VQOs should be added and/or modified?
    Preliminary Issues: Eleven preliminary issues have been identified: 
(1) Tractor-jammer logging destroys ground cover, exposes mineral soil 
to erosion, and compacts soils from reduced absorption and increased 
runoff. Logging systems that result in the lightest ecological impacts 
on the forest should be used (e.g. helicopter and cable or skyline 
systems); (2) Re-opening roads/trails used by mountain bikers, hikers, 
and equestrians, and staff to allow for log hauling and forest 
thinning, will change the road/trail surface, remove existing 
vegetation within the road prisms, changing their overall character. 
This will impact the quality of the recreation experience for the users 
of these trails; (3) Construction of new roads, including temporary 
roads, are not appropriate in already heavily roaded or degraded 
ecosystems; (4) Removal of trees greater than 18 inches in dbh, unless 
there are site-specific exceptions, may impact the retention and/or 
requirement of old forest habitat components such as snags, down trees 
and understory vegetation; (5) If the public access roads to the 
Skyline (Road 362F) and Stargaze (Road 394B) yurt summer parking spots 
are closed, summer use will drop dramatically if the public has to walk 
in 1.5 to 2 miles from Highway 21; (6) 50 inch width limit on proposed 
ATV trails does not take into account the increased popularity of UTV 
vehicles. UTV's are not limited to utilitarian duties any longer. Most 
manufacturers produce sport versions with high popularity. Most ATV 
users are migrating to UTV usage; (7) New trails in the RCA will impact 
riparian function and process, particularly given the existing high 
road densities in the project area; (8) Designation of a motorized 
trail that overlaps portions of the non-motorized trails to be 
authorized will result in user conflicts and reduce the quality of 
experience for the non-motorized users; (9) Designation of the proposed 
motorized trail will not be consistent with wildlife and aquatic 
resource objectives; (10) Use of the non-motorized trail system during 
the spring results in big game disturbance during critical periods 
(i.e., calving); and (11) Winter motorized travel restrictions should 
not be a part of this project. No evidence is shown that there is a 
need to designate winter non-motorized trails which include winter 
motorized travel restrictions in areas around those trails.
    Permits and Licenses that may be Required: The following permits 
may be required to implement the Proposed Action under the Clean Water 
Act: (1) CWA Section 404 Permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; 
(2) Stream Alteration Permit from the Idaho Department of Water 
Resources; (3) Water Quality Standards Short Term Activity Exemption 
from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ); (4) National 
Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit from the U.S. 
Environmental Protection Agency; (5) CWA Section 401 Certification from 
IDEQ; (6) Conditional use permit and road maintenance agreement from 
affected County; and (7) Other permits from Idaho Transportation 
Department and/or other entities.
    Early Notice of Importance of Public Participation in Subsequent 
Environmental Review: A Notice of Availability (NOA) will be published 
in the Federal Register and a legal notice will be published in the 
newspaper of record for the Boise National Forest, the Idaho Statesman, 
to inform the public when the DEIS is available for review and comment. 
The DEIS will be distributed to all parties who responded during the 
scoping period initiated on May 7, 2014, and in response to this NOI to 
prepare an EIS, or who otherwise notified the Agency at some point 
prior to release of the DEIS of their interest to receive information 
pertaining to this proposal.
    The DEIS is expected to be published in December 2014. The comment 
period on the DEIS will end 45 days following the date of publication 
of the notice of availability (NOA) in the Federal

[[Page 46400]]

Register. The publication date in the Federal Register is the only 
means for calculating the comment period for the DEIS. The Final EIS 
and draft ROD are anticipated to be released in March 2014 for the 
objection filing period. The Final FEIS and ROD are anticipated to be 
released in June 2014.
    The Forest Service believes, at this early stage, it is important 
to give reviewers notice of several court rulings related to public 
participation in the environmental review process. First, reviewers of 
the DEIS must structure their participation in the environmental review 
of the proposal so that it is meaningful and alerts an agency to the 
reviewer's position and contentions. Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. 
v. NRDC, 435 U.S. 519, 553 (1978). Also, environmental objections that 
could be raised at the scoping, DEIS, or objection filing stage but 
that are not raised until after completion of the final environmental 
impact statement and final decision may be waived or dismissed by the 
courts. City of Angoon v. Hodel, 803 F. 2d 1016, 1022 (9th Cir. 1986) 
and Wisconsin Heritages, Inc. v. Harris, 490 F. Supp. 1334, 1338 (E.D. 
Wis. 1980). Because of these court rulings, it is very important that 
those interested in this proposed action participate by the close of 
the formal comment periods identified above so that substantive 
comments and objections are made available to the Forest Service at a 
time when they can be meaningfully considered and are able to respond 
to them in the final environmental impact statement and decision.
    To assist the Forest Service in identifying and considering issues 
and concerns on the proposed action, comments should be as specific as 
possible; to have standing to object during the objection filing 
period, specific written comments must be provided as defined at 36 CFR 
part 218. Reviewers may wish to refer to the Council on Environmental 
Quality Regulations for implementing the procedural provisions of the 
National Environmental Policy Act at 40 CFR 1503.3 in addressing these 

    Dated: July 31, 2014.
Cecilia R. Seesholtz,
Forest Supervisor, Boise National Forest.
[FR Doc. 2014-18809 Filed 8-7-14; 8:45 am]