[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 56 (Friday, March 24, 2017)]
[Pages 15020-15021]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-05826]

                                                Federal Register

This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains documents other than rules 
or proposed rules that are applicable to the public. Notices of hearings 
and investigations, committee meetings, agency decisions and rulings, 
delegations of authority, filing of petitions and applications and agency 
statements of organization and functions are examples of documents 
appearing in this section.


Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 56 / Friday, March 24, 2017 / 

[[Page 15020]]


Forest Service

Malheur National Forest, Blue Mountain Ranger District and 
Umatilla National Forest, North Fork John Day Ranger District; Oregon; 
Ragged Ruby 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 effects of upland 
restoration activities; watershed, fisheries, and wildlife restoration; 
bat gate installation; prescribed burning; road activities; and 
recreation system changes in the Ragged Ruby planning area.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received 
by 30 days from date of publication in the Federal Register, which 
initiates the project's scoping period. The draft environmental impact 
statement is expected January 2018 and the final environmental impact 
statement is expected July 2018.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Dave Halemeier, District Ranger, 
Blue Mountain Ranger District, c/o Sasha Fertig, P.O. Box 909, John 
Day, OR 97845. Comments may also be sent via email to [email protected], or via facsimile to 

Mountain Ranger District, 431 Patterson Bridge Road, P.O. Box 909, John 
Day, OR 97845. Phone: 541-575-3061. Email: [email protected].
    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 Ragged Ruby planning area encompasses 
approximately 34,000 acres in the Granite Boulder Creek and Balance 
Creek subwatersheds that drain into the Middle Fork John Day River. The 
legal description for the planning area includes Townships 10 and 11 
South, Ranges 33 and 34 East, Willamette Meridian, Grant County, 
Oregon. The full scoping package is available on the Malheur National 
Forest Web site: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=49392.

Purpose and Need for Action

    The purpose and need for the Ragged Ruby Project was developed by 
comparing the management objectives and desired conditions in the 
Malheur and Umatilla Forest Plans to the existing conditions in the 
Ragged Ruby planning area related to forest and watershed resiliency 
and function. The purpose and need is to: Maintain and improve 
landscape resiliency and manage for diverse forest composition, 
stocking levels, and pattern to maintain healthy ecological function 
and process within a complex disturbance regime of wildfire, drought, 
insects, and diseases; promote forest conditions that allow for the 
reintroduction of fire upon the landscape, thereby creating conditions 
that are conducive for firefighter safety, resource values, and private 
lands; improve aquatic resource conditions; improve wildlife habitat; 
improve one or more of the nine roadless area characteristics (as 
defined by the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule) within the Dixie 
Butte and Greenhorn Mountain inventoried roadless areas and restore the 
characteristics of ecosystem composition and structure within the range 
of variability that would be expected to occur under natural 
disturbance regimes of the current climatic period; and contribute to 
the social and economic health of those enjoying multiple uses in the 
Ragged Ruby planning area.

Proposed Action

    The proposed action includes:
    (1) Upland restoration on approximately 9,030 acres. Activities 
types include dry pine restoration, mixed conifer restoration, aspen 
restoration, scabland flat bunchgrass restoration, and whitebark pine 
and western white pine restoration. Upland restoration activities would 
help restore forest structure, composition, and density toward more 
resilient vegetative conditions.
    (2) Watershed, fisheries, and wildlife restoration that includes 
ecological riparian treatments (variable density thinning, openings, 
leave areas, tree tipping, and potential removal within riparian 
habitat conservation areas) and large wood treatments (placement of 
trees within streams and floodplains).
    (3) Bat gate installation at 2 mine adits using an existing road or 
pack stock.
    (4) Prescribed burning on up to 34,000 acres to restore and 
maintain an ecosystem that would thrive with the recurring disturbance 
of wildfire within the planning area. Treated stands would see a 
combination of burning piled material and underburning. Those stands 
not mechanically treated would be managed exclusively with the use of 
prescribed burning. As conditions and stand characteristics allow, 
natural ignitions within the planning area would be used to meet the 
objectives of prescribed burning.
    (5) Road activities that support implementing upland restoration 
and other project activities as well as road system changes. Road 
maintenance and reconstruction for haul would occur on open or 
temporarily opened roads to provide safe access and adequate drainage. 
Temporary roads (approximately 10 miles) would be constructed to access 
some timber harvest units, which would be rehabilitated following use. 
The following changes to the road system are proposed: decommissioning 
1.9 miles of road, closing 6.4 miles of currently open road, confirming 
the previous administrative closure of 26.7 miles or road, opening 2.8 
miles of currently closed road, relocating 0.2 miles of road, and 
adding 2.5 miles existing roadbed onto system as closed road.
    (6) Recreation system changes to improve or maintain quality 
recreational opportunities by reducing user conflicts on the current 
trail system, improving access to trail systems, mitigating resource 
concerns, and providing family friendly and Americans with Disability 
Act (ADA) accessible trails. Seven trails and their associated 
trailheads would be improved with 3.3 miles of new trail

[[Page 15021]]

construction, 9.1 miles of trail co-designated on existing roads, 5.1 
miles of trails being un-designated, and 18.7 miles of trail remaining 
on the system.
    Preliminary connectivity corridors have been identified between 
late and old structure stands to allow for movement of old-growth 
dependent species. The goal of creating ``connectivity'' is to manage 
stands in corridors at higher canopy densities when compared to more 
intensively managed stands located outside of corridors.
    The Ragged Ruby Project will also include a variety of project 
design criteria that serve to mitigate impacts of activities to forest 
resources, including wildlife, soils, watershed condition, aquatic 
species, riparian habitat conservation areas, heritage resources, 
visuals, rangeland, botanical resources, and invasive plants. The 
proposed action may also include amendments to the Malheur National 
Forest Land and Resource Management Plan, as amended: dedicated old 
growth unit changes, reduce satisfactory and/or total cover, removal of 
trees greater than or equal to 21 inches diameter at breast height, and 
harvest within late and old structure stands.

Possible Alternatives

    The Forest Service will consider a range of alternatives. One of 
these will be the ``no action'' alternative in which none of the 
proposed action would be implemented. Additional alternatives may be 
included in response to issues raised by the public during the scoping 
process or due to additional concerns for resource values identified by 
the interdisciplinary team.

Responsible Official

    The Forest Supervisor of the Malheur National Forest, 431 Patterson 
Bridge Road, John Day, OR 97845, is the Responsible Official. As the 
Responsible Official, I will decide if the proposed action will be 
implemented. I will document the decision and rationale for the 
decision in the Record of Decision. I have delegated the responsibility 
for preparing the draft EIS and final EIS to the District Ranger, Blue 
Mountain Ranger District.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    Based on the purpose and need, the Responsible Official reviews the 
proposed action, the other alternatives, the environmental 
consequences, and public comments on the analysis in order to make the 
following decision: (1) Whether to implement the proposed activities; 
and if so, how much and at what specific locations; (2) What, if any, 
specific project monitoring requirements are needed to assure project 
design criteria and mitigation measures are implemented and effective, 
and to evaluate the success of the project objectives.

Scoping Process

    This notice of intent initiates the scoping process, which guides 
the development of the environmental impact statement. The 
interdisciplinary team will continue to seek information and comments 
from Federal, State, and local agencies, Tribal governments, and other 
individuals or organizations that may be interested in, or affected by, 
the proposed action. There is a collaborative group in the area that 
the interdisciplinary team will interact with during the analysis 
    It is important that reviewers provide their comments at such times 
and in such 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.
    Comments received in response to this solicitation, including names 
and addresses of those who comment, will be part of the public record 
for this proposed action. Comments submitted anonymously will be 
accepted and considered, however.

    Dated: March 17, 2017.
Jeanne M. Higgins,
Associate Deputy Chief, National Forest System.
[FR Doc. 2017-05826 Filed 3-23-17; 8:45 am]