[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 70 (Thursday, April 13, 2017)]
[Notices]
[Pages 17794-17795]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-07489]


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Notices
                                                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.

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Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 70 / Thursday, April 13, 2017 / 
Notices

[[Page 17794]]



DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Superior National Forest; Minnesota; Application for Withdrawal

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Revised notice of intent to extend the scoping comment period 
for preparation of an environmental impact statement.

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SUMMARY: The Superior National Forest published a Notice of Intent in 
the Federal Register on January 13, 2017, describing a submitted 
application to the Secretary of Interior proposing a withdrawal of 
approximately 234,328 acres of National Forest System (NFS) lands, for 
a 20-year term, within the Rainy River Watershed on the Superior 
National Forest from disposition under United States mineral and 
geothermal leasing laws, subject to valid existing rights. This 
proposal will also include an amendment to the Superior National Forest 
Land and Resource Management Plan to reflect this withdrawal. This 
notice extends the scoping comment period by 120 days.
    The purpose of the withdrawal request is protection of the natural 
resources and waters located on NFS lands from the potential adverse 
environmental impacts arising from exploration and development of fully 
Federally-owned minerals conducted pursuant to the mineral leasing laws 
within the Rainy River Watershed that flow into the Boundary Waters 
Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area 
Wilderness Mining Protection Area (MPA) in northeastern Minnesota. The 
USFS acknowledges this proposed request subjects these NFS lands to 
temporary segregation for up to 2 years from entry under the United 
States mineral and geothermal leasing laws. The lands have been and 
will remain open to such forms of use and disposition as may be allowed 
by law on National Forest System lands including the disposition of 
mineral materials. The USFS recognizes that any segregation or 
withdrawal of these lands will be subject to valid existing rights and 
therefore inapplicable to private lands owned in fee, private mineral 
estates, and private fractional minerals interests. This notice also 
gives the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed request for 
withdrawal, and announces the opportunity for a future public meeting.

DATES: Comments concerning the proposed request for withdrawal and the 
scope of the environmental analysis must be received by August 11, 
2017. This revised Notice coincides with the Bureau of Land 
Management's (BLM) ``Notice of Application for Withdrawal and 
Notification of Public Meeting'' announced in the Federal Register on 
January 19, 2017.
    The draft environmental impact statement is expected Spring 2020 
and the final environmental impact statement is expected January 2021.

ADDRESSES: Address written comments regarding the environmental effects 
associated with this proposed request for withdrawal to Connie Cummins, 
Forest Supervisor, Superior National Forest. Written comments are to be 
mailed to 8901 Grand Avenue Place, Duluth, MN 55808-1122. Comments may 
also be sent via email to [email protected] or via 
facsimile to 218-626-4398.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Matt Judd, Superior National Forest 
(218-626-4382). The Superior National Forest Web site (https://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/superior/landmanagement/projects) also 
contains information relative to this proposed request for withdrawal.
    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. This 
relay service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to leave a 
message or question. You will receive a reply during normal business 
hours.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The USFS has submitted an application on 
January 5, 2017 to the Secretary of the Interior proposing to withdraw 
the identified lands from disposition under United States mineral and 
geothermal leasing laws (subject to valid existing rights) for a period 
of 20 years.
    All the NFS Lands identified in this application are described in 
Appendix A and displayed on a map in Appendix B. This application is 
available upon request at the Superior National Forest office (8901 
Grand Ave Place, Duluth, MN 55808) or their Web site (https://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/superior/landmanagement/projects). The lands 
depicted on this map include NFS lands in the townships below, and all 
non-Federal lands within the exterior boundaries described below that 
are subsequently acquired by the Federal government to the boundary of 
the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and the Boundary 
Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Mining Protection Area (MPA).

National Forest System Lands

Superior National Forest

4th Principal Meridian, Minnesota

Tps. 61 and 62 N., Rs. 5 W.,
Tps. 60 to 62 N., Rs. 6 W.,
Tps. 59 and 61 N., Rs. 7 W.,
Tps. 59 to 61 N., Rs. 8 W., to the boundary of the BWCAW
Tps. 58 to 61 N., Rs. 9 W., to the boundary of the BWCAW
Tps. 57 to 62 N., Rs. 10 W.,
Tps. 57 to 63 N., Rs. 11 W.,
Tp. 59 N., R. 12 W.,
Tps. 61 to 63 N., Rs. 12 W.,
Tps. 61 to 63 N., Rs. 13 W.,
Tp. 63 N., R. 15 W.,
Tp. 63 N., R. 16 W.,
Tps. 65 to 67 N., Rs. 16 W.,
Tp. 64 N., R. 17 W.,

    The areas described contain approximately 234,328 acres of NFS 
lands that overlay Federally-owned minerals in Cook, Lake, and Saint 
Louis Counties, Minnesota located adjacent to the BWCAW and the MPA.

Purpose and Need for Action

    The purpose of this withdrawal request is protection of NFS lands 
located in the Rainy River Watershed, and preservation of NFS lands 
within the BWCAW, from the potential adverse environmental impacts 
arising from exploration and development of fully Federally-owned 
minerals conducted pursuant to the Federal mineral leasing laws.
    The 234,328 acres of Federal land in this proposed request for 
withdrawal are located within the Rainy River watershed on the Superior 
National

[[Page 17795]]

Forest and are adjacent to the BWCAW and MPA. There is known interest 
in the development of hardrock minerals that have been found--and 
others that are thought to exist--in sulfide-bearing rock within this 
portion of the Rainy River Watershed. Any development of these mineral 
resources could ultimately result in the creation of permanently stored 
waste materials and other conditions upstream of the BWCAW and the MPA 
with the potential to generate and release water with elevated levels 
of acidity, metals, and other potential contaminants. Additionally, any 
failure of mitigation measures, containment facilities or remediation 
efforts at mine sites and their related facilities located upstream of 
the BWCAW and the MPA could lead to irreversible impacts upon natural 
resources and the inability to meet the purposes for the designation of 
the BWCAW and the MPA specified by Sec. 2 of Public Law 95-495, 92 
Stat. 1649 (1978) and the inability to comply with section 4(b) of the 
1964 Wilderness Act. These concerns are exacerbated by the likelihood 
that perpetual maintenance of waste storage facilities along with the 
perpetual treatment of water discharge emanating from the waste storage 
facilities and the mines themselves would likely be required to 
ameliorate these adverse effects. Yet, it is not at all certain that 
such maintenance and treatment can be assured over many decades.

Proposed Action

    The United States Forest Service (USFS) has submitted an 
application to the Secretary of Interior proposing a withdrawal, for a 
20-year term, of approximately 234,328 acres of NFS lands within the 
Rainy River Watershed on the Superior National Forest from disposition 
under United States mineral and geothermal leasing laws, subject to 
valid existing rights. This proposal will also include an amendment to 
the Superior National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan to 
reflect this withdrawal.

Possible Alternatives

    In addition to the USFS proposal, a ``no action'' alternative will 
be analyzed, and no additional alternatives have been identified at 
this time. No alternative sites are feasible because the lands subject 
to the withdrawal application are the lands for which protection is 
sought from the impacts of exploration and development under the United 
States mineral and geothermal leasing laws.

Lead and Cooperating Agencies

    The USFS will be the lead agency. The USFS will designate the BLM 
as a cooperating agency. The BLM shall independently evaluate and 
review the draft and final environmental impact statements and any 
other documents needed for the Secretary of Interior to make a decision 
on the proposed withdrawal.

Responsible Official

    Forest Supervisor, Superior National Forest.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    The Responsible Official will complete an environmental impact 
statement, documenting the information and analysis necessary to 
support a decision on withdrawal, and to support an amendment to the 
Superior National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan.
    The Secretary of Interior is the authorized official to approve a 
proposal for withdrawal.
    The Responsible Official is the authorized official to approve an 
amendment to the Superior National Forest Land and Resource Management 
Plan to reflect the proposed withdrawal.

Scoping Process

    This notice of intent revises the scoping period in preparing this 
environmental impact statement. The USFS and Bureau of Land Management 
(BLM) held a public meeting within the initial 90-day comment period to 
gather public input on the proposed request for withdrawal. This 
meeting was held at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center on 
March 16, 2017 in Duluth, MN. The scoping period will be extended an 
additional 120 days to accommodate the immense public interest and 
complexity of the proposal. Within the first 30 days, more than 30,000 
written comments were received on the withdrawal proposal. The scoping 
period extenstion will also allow more time for additional public 
meetings. At least one additional public meeting will be scheduled on 
the Iron Range before the close of the scoping period. Further 
opportunities for public particpation will be provided upon publication 
of the Draft EIS, including a minimum 45-day public comment period. A 
plan amendment is subject to pre-decisional objection procedures at 36 
CFR 219, subpart B.
    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: April 5, 2017.
Robert M. Harper,
Acting Associate Deputy Chief, National Forest System.
[FR Doc. 2017-07489 Filed 4-12-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3411-15-P