[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 66 (Tuesday, April 7, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 18598-18599]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-07886]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Roadless Area Conservation; National Forest System Lands in 
Colorado

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare a supplemental environmental impact 
statement.

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SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of Agriculture is initiating a 
supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) to propose 
reinstatement of the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception of the 
Colorado Roadless Rule. The exception would allow for temporary road 
construction for coal exploration and/or coal-related surface 
activities in a 19,100-acre area defined as the North Fork Coal Mining 
Area. The Forest Service will use the SEIS to address specific 
deficiencies identified by the District Court of Colorado in High 
Country Conservation Advocates v.

[[Page 18599]]

United States Forest Service (D. Colo. June 27, 2014).

DATES: Comments must be received in writing by May 22, 2015.

ADDRESSES: Comments may be submitted electronically at https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public/CommentInput?Project=46470. In 
addition written comments can be submitted via hard-copy mail to: 
Colorado Roadless Rule, 740 Simms Street, Golden, CO 80401.
    All comments, including names and addresses, are placed in the 
record and are available for public inspection and copying.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ken Tu at 303-275-5156. Individuals 
using telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal 
Information Relay Services at 1-800-877-8339 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. 
Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On July 3, 2012 (77 FR 39576), the U.S. 
Department of Agriculture promulgated the Colorado Roadless Rule, a 
state-specific regulation for management of Colorado Roadless Areas. 
This Rule addressed State-specific concerns while conserving roadless 
area characteristics. One State-specific concern was to avoid 
foreclosing exploration and development of coal resources on the Grand 
Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests. The Colorado 
Roadless Rule addressed this by defining a 19,100-acre area as the 
North Fork Coal Mining Area, and developing an exception that allows 
temporary road construction for coal-related activities within that 
defined area.
    In July 2013, High Country Conservation Advocates, WildEarth 
Guardians, and Sierra Club challenged the Forest Service's decision to 
consent to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) modifying two existing 
coal leases, the BLM's companion decision to modify the leases, BLM's 
authorization of an exploration plan in the lease modification areas, 
and the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception of the Colorado Roadless 
Rule. In June 2014, the District Court of Colorado found the 
environmental documents supporting the four decisions to be in 
violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) due to 
analysis deficiencies. In September 2014, the District Court of 
Colorado vacated the lease modifications, the exploration plan, and the 
North Fork Coal Mining Area exception of the Colorado Roadless Rule (36 
CFR 294.43(c)(1)(ix)).
    This supplemental NEPA process will only address the Colorado 
Roadless Rule. The lease modifications and exploration plan 
authorization will be addressed in future environmental analyses, if 
needed.

Purpose and Need

    The purpose and need for this supplemental EIS is to provide 
management direction for conserving roadless characteristics within the 
area while addressing the State interest in not foreclosing exploration 
and development of the coal resources in the North Fork Coal Mining 
Area.

Proposed Action

    The proposed action for the Colorado Roadless Rule supplemental is 
to reinstate the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception as written in 36 
CFR 294.43(c)(1)(ix). In addition, the Forest Service is proposing to 
administratively correct the North Fork Coal Mining Area boundary to 
remedy clerical errors.

Alternative to the Proposed Action

    The other alternative being considered is the no-action 
alternative, which is the continuation of current management following 
the District Court ruling to vacate the North Fork Coal Mining Area 
exception. The Colorado Roadless Rule contains a severability clause 
(36 CFR 294.48(f)), which allows the rest of the Rule to remain in 
effect. Therefore, the District Court of Colorado's ruling only changed 
management of Colorado Roadless Areas in the North Fork Coal Mining 
Area. Currently, the North Fork Coal Mining Area is being managed the 
same as other non-upper tier Colorado Roadless Areas. Valid existing 
coal leases would operate according the terms of their leases.

Cooperating Agencies

    The Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the BLM will 
participate as cooperating agencies in the preparation of the SEIS.

Responsible Official

    The Responsible Official for the rulemaking and SEIS is the 
Secretary of Agriculture or his designee.

Decision To Be Made

    The Responsible Official will determine whether to reinstate the 
North Fork Coal Mining Area exception, or continue to manage the area 
without the exception. In addition, the Forest Service will determine 
if corrections to the North Fork Coal Mining Area boundary should be 
made to adjust for clerical errors.

Scoping Process

    The Forest Service is seeking public comments for 45 days from the 
publication date of this notice. Comments should be limited to issues 
related to the proposed action, which is limited only to reinstating 
the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception of the Colorado Roadless 
Rule. The Forest Service is not seeking comments on the other portions 
of the Colorado Roadless Rule, roadless area boundary modifications, or 
other roadless areas in Colorado.
    Due to the extensive public participation process that occurred 
with the development of the Colorado Roadless Rule, no public meetings 
are planned for this 45 day scoping effort. However, public meetings 
may be held in Denver and Paonia, Colorado after the release of the 
Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) and proposed 
rule.

Estimated Timeline

    The SDEIS and proposed rule is estimated to be released in early 
fall 2015. The Supplemental Final EIS is estimated spring 2016.

Brian Ferebee,
Deputy Regional Forester, Rocky Mountain Region.
[FR Doc. 2015-07886 Filed 4-6-15; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE CODE 3410-11-P