[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 220 (Friday, November 14, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 68287-68289]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-27015]


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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Office of the Secretary

[AAK6006201 1562100DD AOR3030.999900]


National Environmental Policy Act: Implementing Procedures; 
Additions to Categorical Exclusions for Bureau of Indian Affairs (516 
DM 10)

AGENCY: Department of the Interior.

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: This notice announces proposed additions to the categorical 
exclusions (CE) included in the Departmental Manual 516 DM 10. The 
three proposed CEs pertain to limited timber harvesting on Indian 
lands.

DATES: Comments are due by December 15, 2014.

ADDRESSES: Send comments to Marvin Keller, NEPA Coordinator--Bureau of 
Indian Affairs, 12220 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, VA 20191, email: 
Marv.Keller@bia.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Marvin Keller, NEPA Coordinator--
Indian Affairs, (406) 247-7963 or (703) 390-6470.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

[[Page 68288]]

Background

    The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires Federal 
agencies to consider the potential environmental consequences of their 
decisions before deciding whether and how to proceed. The Council on 
Environmental Quality (CEQ) encourages Federal agencies to use 
categorical exclusions (CE) to protect the environment more efficiently 
by reducing the resources spent analyzing proposals which generally do 
not have potentially significant environmental impacts, thereby 
allowing those resources to be focused on proposals that may have 
significant environmental impacts. The appropriate use of categorical 
exclusions allow the NEPA review, in the absence of extraordinary 
circumstances that merit further consideration, to be concluded without 
preparing either an environmental assessment (EA) or an environmental 
impact statement (EIS) (40 CFR 1500.4(p) and 40 CFR 1508.4).
    Harvesting timber on Indian lands, as defined in 25 CFR 163.1 
allows landowners to realize value from lands held in trust for them by 
the Federal Government or subject to restrictions against alienation. 
The National Indian Forest Resources Management Act, and its 
implementing regulations, require the Secretary, with the participation 
of the landowners, to undertake forest land management activities on 
Indian forest lands, including the approval of timber harvests. As a 
result of the need for federal permits and contracts, such projects are 
federal actions that require compliance with the NEPA. The Bureau of 
Indian Affairs (BIA) has typically conducted NEPA reviews of actions 
associated with timber harvesting by preparing EAs. The addition of CEs 
to cover these three categories of small actions will allow for a more 
efficient NEPA review because those EAs resulted in findings of no 
significant impacts which were substantiated over time. The three 
proposed CEs were developed based on CEs currently used by the United 
States Forest Service (FS), as described in FS regulations 36 CFR 220, 
and adopted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), as described the 
Departmental Manual, 516 DM 11. The BIA relied on the experience of the 
FS and BLM and applied its expertise to benchmark these CEs and 
determined these are appropriate to establish as BIA CEs.

Proposed Categorical Exclusions

    The Department of the Interior (DOI) proposes to add three CEs to 
the BIA chapter of the Departmental Manual 516 DM 10.5. The CEs are for 
limited timber harvest and cover the following actions: (1) Harvesting 
live trees not to exceed 70 acres, requiring no more than 0.5 mile of 
temporary road construction; (2) Salvaging dead or dying trees not to 
exceed 250 acres, requiring no more than 0.5 mile of temporary road 
construction; and (3) Commercial and non-commercial sanitation harvest 
to control insects or disease not to exceed 250 acres, requiring no 
more than 0.5 miles of temporary road construction. The intent of these 
CEs is to improve the efficiency of routine environmental review 
process for small scale timber projects on Indian land. Each proposed 
action must be reviewed for extraordinary circumstances that would 
preclude use of this categorical exclusion. The DOI list of 
extraordinary circumstances under which a normally excluded action 
would require further analysis and documentation in an EA or EIS is 
found at 43 CFR 46.215. If a proposed forest management project is 
within the activity described in one of these proposed CEs, then these 
12 DOI listed ``extraordinary circumstances'' will be considered in the 
context of the proposed project to determine if they indicate the 
potential for effects that merit additional consideration in an EA or 
an EIS. If any of the DOI 12 extraordinary circumstances indicate such 
potential, the CE would not be used.

Analysis

    The BIA forestry and environmental staff reviewed the NEPA 
procedures of both the BLM and the FS, who have similar forest 
management practices, which have similar environmental effects. The 
BIA, BLM, and FS often manage lands within the same landscape or 
watershed. Similar soils and climates on forest lands result in the 
agencies managing the same forest species. Each agency employs similar 
management policies with respect to meeting requirements for NEPA and 
other environmental statutes.
    While the agencies have separate enabling legislation and missions, 
each requires that forest lands be managed according to sustainedyield 
and multiple use principles. The BIA has the additional responsibility 
of assisting their tribal partners in reaching their objectives of 
self-determination on Indian lands. As part of their land management 
responsibilities, the agencies are further required to meet the 
requirements of environmental laws including NEPA, Clean Water Act, 
Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, and the National Historic 
Preservation Act when making decisions. Additionally, regulations for 
each agency require preparation of forest or land management plans 
designed to achieve the goals and objectives of environmental laws and 
regulations prior to initiating actions such as those contained in 
these proposed CEs. The similarities of the forest management practices 
of the BIA, BLM, and FS, make the adoption of the CEs a logical step to 
ensure consistency in NEPA compliance across the three agencies. The 
review for extraordinary circumstances, which BIA normally conducts for 
all CEs, ensures that measures would continue to be taken to identify 
and reduce any significant impacts.
    The BIA review team examined previous analyses conducted by FS and 
BLM when they developed their CEs. The FS revised its NEPA procedures 
to include these three CEs on July 29, 2003. The FS codified its NEPA 
procedures on July 24, 2008, and the CEs are now included in 36 CFR 
Section 220.6. The BLM reviewed the FS administrative record that was 
relied upon when the FS changed its NEPA procedures and adopted the 
same three CEs on August 4, 2007.
    The BLM and FS found that the three categories of actions covered 
by the CEs do not individually or cumulatively have significant effects 
on the human environment. The BLM and FS findings were predicated on 
data representing the expert judgment of the responsible officials who 
made the original findings and determinations for the 154 FS projects 
reviewed, the resource specialists who validated the predicted effects 
of the 154 reviewed activities after the projects were completed, and a 
belief that the profile of past timber harvest activities drawn from 
their database represented the agency's past practices and was 
indicative of their future activities. Following the CEQ guidance 
published in the Federal Register on December 6, 2010, the BIA analyzed 
the FS information, as well as the review conducted by BLM, and 
determined that based on the comparability of the actions the expected 
effects of BIA forestry activities should be comparable to those of the 
FS and BLM.

Public Comments

    To be considered, any comments on this proposed addition to the 
list of categorical exclusions in the Departmental Manual must be 
received by the date listed in the DATES section of this notice at the 
location listed in the ADDRESSES section. Comments received after that 
date will be considered only to the extent practicable. Comments, 
including names and addresses of respondents, will be part of the 
public

[[Page 68289]]

record and available for public review at the BIA address shown in the 
ADDRESSES section, during business hours, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday 
through Friday, except holidays. Before including your address, 
telephone number, email address, or other personal identifying 
information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire 
comment--including your personal identifying information--may be made 
publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to 
withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we 
cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Text of Proposed Addition to 516 DM 10

10.5 Categorical Exclusions

    H. Forestry.
    (11) Harvesting live trees not to exceed 70 acres, requiring no 
more than 0.5 mile of temporary road construction. Such activities:
    (a) Shall not include even-aged regeneration harvests or vegetation 
type conversions.
    (b) May include incidental removal of trees for landings, skid 
trails, and road clearing.
    (c) May include temporary roads which are defined as roads 
authorized by contract, permit, lease, other written authorization, or 
emergency operation not intended to be part of the BIA or Tribal 
transportation systems and not necessary for long-term resource 
management. Temporary roads shall be designed to standards appropriate 
for the intended uses, considering safety, cost of transportation, and 
impacts on land and resources and
    (d) Shall require the treatment of temporary roads constructed or 
used so as to permit the reestablishment by artificial or natural 
means, of vegetative cover on the roadway and areas where the 
vegetative cover was disturbed by the construction or use of the road, 
as necessary to minimize erosion from the disturbed area. Such 
treatment shall be designed to reestablish vegetative cover as soon as 
practicable, but at least within 10 years after the termination of the 
contract.
    Examples include, but are not limited to:
    (a) Removing individual trees for sawlogs, specialty products, or 
fuelwood.
    (b) Commercial thinning of overstocked stands to achieve the 
desired stocking level to increase health and vigor.
    (12) Salvaging dead or dying trees not to exceed 250 acres, 
requiring no more than 0.5 mile of temporary road construction. Such 
activities:
    (a) May include incidental removal of live or dead trees for 
landings, skid trails, and road clearing.
    (b) May include temporary roads which are defined as roads 
authorized by contract, permit, lease, other written authorization, or 
emergency operation not intended to be part of the BIA or Tribal 
transportation systems and not necessary for long-term resource 
management. Temporary roads shall be designed to standards appropriate 
for the intended uses, considering safety, cost of transportation, and 
impacts on land and resources and
    (c) Shall require the treatment of temporary roads constructed or 
used so as to permit the reestablishment, by artificial or natural 
means, of vegetative cover on the roadway and areas where the 
vegetative cover was disturbed by the construction or use of the road, 
as necessary to minimize erosion from the disturbed area. Such 
treatment shall be designed to reestablish vegetative cover as soon as 
practicable, but at least within 10 years after the termination of the 
contract.
    (d) For this CE, a dying tree is defined as a standing tree that 
has been severely damaged by forces such as fire, wind, ice, insects, 
or disease, such that in the judgment of an experienced forest 
professional or someone technically trained for the work, the tree is 
likely to die within a few years.
    Examples include, but are not limited to:
    (a) Harvesting a portion of a stand damaged by a wind or ice event.
    (b) Harvesting fire damaged trees.
    (13) Commercial and non-commercial sanitation harvest of trees to 
control insects or disease not to exceed 250 acres, requiring no more 
than 0.5 miles of temporary road construction. Such activities:
    (a) May include removal of infested/infected trees and adjacent 
live uninfested/uninfected trees as determined necessary to control the 
spread of insects or disease and
    (b) May include incidental removal of live or dead trees for 
landings, skid trails, and road clearing.
    (c) May include temporary roads which are defined as roads 
authorized by contract, permit, lease, other written authorization, or 
emergency operation not intended to be part of the BIA or tribal 
transportation systems and not necessary for long-term resource 
management. Temporary roads shall be designed to standards appropriate 
for the intended uses, considering safety, cost of transportation, and 
impacts on land and resources and
    (d) Shall require the treatment of temporary roads constructed or 
used so as to permit the reestablishment, by artificial or natural 
means, of vegetative cover on the roadway and areas where the 
vegetative cover was disturbed by the construction or use of the road, 
as necessary to minimize erosion from the disturbed area. Such 
treatment shall be designed to reestablish vegetative cover as soon as 
practicable, but at least within 10 years after the termination of the 
contract.
    Examples include, but are not limited to:
    (a) Felling and harvesting trees infested with mountain pine 
beetles and immediately adjacent uninfested trees to control expanding 
spot infestations (a buffer) and
    (b) Removing or destroying trees infested or infected with a new 
exotic insect or disease, such as emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned 
beetle, or sudden oak death pathogen.

    Dated: October 29, 2014.
Willie R. Taylor,
Director, Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance.
[FR Doc. 2014-27015 Filed 11-13-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-W7-P