[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 164 (Friday, August 25, 2017)]
[Notices]
[Pages 40543-40546]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-18016]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Evanston-Mountain View 
Ranger District; Utah; West Fork Smiths Fork Colorado River Cutthroat 
Trout Enhancement

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Evanston-Mountain View Ranger District of the Uinta-
Wasatch-Cache National Forest (``Forest Service''), in cooperation with 
the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR), proposes to treat the 
streams in the West Fork Smiths Fork drainage including some waters 
within the High Uintas Wilderness and High Uintas Inventoried Roadless 
Area with rotenone to remove non-native fish species and enhance 
habitat for native Colorado River cutthroat trout (CRCT; Onchorhynchus 
clarki pleuriticus).
    Implementation of this proposal would require the use of a 
piscicide (a substance used to kill fish; i.e., rotenone) to remove 
competing and hybridizing non-native fish species from selected 
streams. Non-native fish species to be removed are primarily rainbow 
trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and hybridized Colorado River cutthroat 
trout, although all fish species would be removed from the project 
area. Following the last treatment of the selected streams, CRCT, 
sculpin (Cottus sp.), mountain sucker (Catostomus

[[Page 40544]]

platyrhynchus), and speckled dace (Rhinichthys osculus) (all native to 
the drainage) would be restocked. Tiger trout (Salmo trutta x 
Salvelinus fontinalis) are a sterile hybrid that may be stocked in the 
project area to provide fishing opportunities while the CRCT population 
is expanding.
    The waters proposed for treatments include selected streams that 
are the headwaters of the West Fork Smiths Fork drainage, on the north 
slope of the Uinta Mountains. Implementation would potentially begin 
during the summer or fall of 2018. Treatments of all identified target 
waters is expected to take place over the course of two to three years. 
Monitoring will occur after the treatments to ensure all fish are 
removed throughout the project area. Once the treatment is completed 
and CRCT, sculpin, mountain sucker, speckled dace and tiger trout are 
stocked back in the drainage, populations will be monitored every five 
to ten years to ensure the native populations are well established.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received 
by September 25, 2017. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) 
is expected January 2018 and the Final Environmental Impact Statement 
is expected July 2018. Those who wish to establish standing to object 
under 36 CFR part 218 subparts A and B should submit scoping comments 
no later than 30 days after publication of this notice of intent or 
during the comment period for the DEIS.

ADDRESSES: Written comments concerning the scope of the analysis, 
including any attachments, must be sent via regular mail, hand-
delivered or express delivered to: Logan Ranger District, Attn: West 
Fork Smiths Fork CRCT Enhancement, 1500 E Highway 89, Logan, UT 84321. 
The office business hours for submitting hand-delivered comments are 
8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding federal 
holidays. Electronic comments must be submitted in a format such as an 
email message or attached to an email in a format such as, .pdf, .txt, 
.rtf, .doc, or .docx to: [email protected]. Comments may also be faxed to 435-755-3639. Public 
scoping meetings are not being considered at this time.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Paul Chase, Fisheries Biologist, at 
435-755-3629 or [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: This process is being conducted pursuant to 
the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Council on 
Environmental Quality Regulations for Implementing the NEPA (40 CFR 
parts 1500-1508), and Forest Service NEPA regulations. This project is 
subject to pre-decisional administrative review pursuant to 36 CFR part 
218, subparts A and B. Also called the ``objection process'' the pre-
decisional administrative review process replaced the appeal process in 
March 2013. Only persons or organizations who have previously submitted 
``specific written comments'' regarding the proposed project during any 
designated opportunity for public comment are eligible to file an 
objection. Opportunity for public comment on a DEIS includes request 
for comments during scoping, the 40 CFR 1506.10 comment period, or 
other public involvement opportunity where written comments are 
requested by the responsible official (36 CFR 218.5). An objection 
period for the draft Record of Decision and Final Environmental Impact 
Statement will be provided, consistent with those subparts.

Purpose and Need for Action

    The purpose of the project is to permit the UDWR, having 
jurisdiction by law, to manage, protect, maintain, enhance, 
rehabilitate, and extend the fish and wildlife populations of the State 
of Utah, to conduct activities in order to protect known populations of 
indigenous species (i.e., CRCT) that could become threatened or 
endangered where necessary for their perpetuation and to aid in their 
recovery in previously occupied habitat. The Forest Service purpose and 
need is centric to responding to UDWR's proposal to use piscicide in 
wilderness as necessary to conduct fish removal prior to restocking 
with CRCT.
    The purpose of this project is to establish Colorado River 
cutthroat trout (CRCT) populations free of competing and hybridizing 
fish species (rainbow trout) in streams in the West Fork Smiths Fork 
drainage on the Evanston-Mountain View Ranger District of the Uinta-
Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Removal of competing and hybridizing 
non-native fish is necessary to enhance habitat and restore genetically 
pure native CRCT populations to suitable habitats within the West Fork 
Smiths Fork drainage. Therefore, the primary objective is to remove 
rainbow and hybridized cutthroat trout that occur within these waters.
    The upper reaches of the West Fork Smiths Fork drainage is within 
the High Uintas Wilderness and considered by state and Forest Service 
fisheries biologists to be critical and essential habitat in the 
watershed. Moreover, a wilderness is to be ``protected and managed so 
as to preserve its natural conditions'' meaning that wilderness 
ecological systems are substantially free from the effects of modern 
civilization. To preserve this quality, it is necessary to take action 
to correct unnatural conditions and address the scenic and conservation 
public purposes of wilderness, even if they were present at the time of 
wilderness designation. Any impacts resulting from the influence of 
modern civilization (such as the effects on indigenous CRCT from 
historic stocking of non-native rainbow trout) affect the natural 
quality of wilderness character.
    In order to preserve the natural conditions within the wilderness 
and conserve the native CRCT and re-populate West Fork Smiths Fork with 
native CRCT the presence of the non-native hybridized CRCT and rainbow 
trout must be addressed in upper reaches of the West Fork Smiths Fork 
drainage. Limiting the project to the stream segments outside 
wilderness is not sufficient due to stream connectivity; the existing 
rainbow and hybridized CRCT within wilderness would continue downstream 
progression in the absence of a migration barrier.
    This action is being considered at this time because these non-
native fish species continue to threaten CRCT populations through 
competition and hybridization. This action is important to meet the 
objective identified in the CRCT Conservation Strategy to ``secure or 
enhance CRCT populations'' by removing non-native fish species. Once 
hybridization and repeated backcrossing of CRCT populations has begun, 
options for restoring a genetically pure stock are few. If mating 
between CRCT and rainbow trout or nonnative cutthroat continues for a 
number of generations and if hybrids do not show reduced fitness, then 
the genes of non-native stocks will pervade virtually all remaining 
individuals to produce a hybrid swarm within a particular area.
    Removal of hybrids often fails for two reasons: First, whereas it 
is often possible to recognize first-generation hybrids between rainbow 
trout and cutthroat trout visually, backcrosses and later-generation 
individuals can be indistinguishable from genetically pure adults 
without the aid of genetic testing; second, if introgressive 
hybridization has progressed through several

[[Page 40545]]

generations, nearly all individuals will carry at least some introduced 
genes, and reducing this influence to undetectable levels is probably 
futile.
    Establishing populations of indigenous CRCT free from the threats 
from non-native trout would greatly benefit CRCT recovery efforts 
within the species historic range, which includes portions of Utah, 
Wyoming, and Colorado. The project would contribute to the conservation 
of the species and reduce the potential need for federal protection 
under the Endangered Species Act.
    This action is tiered to the 2003 Revised Land and Resource 
Management Plan [for the] Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, as 
amended through the September 2015 Plan, and helps move the project 
area towards desired conditions described in that plan. The UDWR and 
Forest Service want to ensure the persistence of the CRCT within its 
historic range. This includes preserving genetic integrity and 
providing adequate populations to maintain intrinsic and recreational 
values. This proposed project would not require a Forest Plan 
amendment.

Proposed Action

    The Forest Service proposes to permit the UDWR, being the agency 
responsible for the management of fish populations, to treat target 
waters with piscicide (rotenone) to remove competing and hybridizing 
non-native trout species within the proposed project area. Target 
streams are located within the West Fork Smiths Fork drainage including 
some areas within the High Uintas Wilderness. The waters proposed for 
treatments includes approximately 12 stream miles (approximately 4 
miles outside of wilderness and 8 miles within wilderness) on the north 
slope of the Uinta Mountains. Implementation would potentially begin 
during the summer or fall of 2018. Treatments of all identified target 
waters is expected to take place over the course of 2 to 3 years.
    The following is a summary of the proposed suite of activities for 
the West Fork Smiths Fork Colorado River Cutthroat Trout Enhancement 
project. The UDWR would take the lead in implementing the treatment 
project within target waters of the proposed project areas. The Forest 
Service would assist as the agency responsible for management of fish 
habitat.
    Transporting Crew Members, Equipment, and Supplies. Crew members, 
equipment, and supplies will be brought into the High Uintas Wilderness 
by foot and pack stock using designated trails; mechanical transport 
will not be used. Implementation of the proposed treatment project 
would require small crews to camp near the target waters. Crew members 
would set up base camp(s) in the wilderness to stay overnight. The 
actual dispensing of rotenone, which would require the most man-power 
(approximately 8-10 people), would occur over a short one to two day 
period in the late summer or fall of each year. On those days, crew 
members would disperse along the stream corridors and would be spread 
out at approximately one-half mile intervals along streams targeted for 
piscicide application; crew members would return to camp after the 
application has concluded for the day. On the final day crew members, 
equipment, and supplies would be hiked out and/or removed with pack 
stock using designated trails.
    The neutralization stage (one to two week period) which would occur 
outside the wilderness, would require that crew members set up a base 
camp at the Hewinta Guard Station.
    Piscicide Application (``Treatment'') and Neutralization. The 
proposed project would be implemented during a two week period in July 
through September of each year. Rotenone liquid would be applied up to 
a concentration of 1.0 parts per million of product however the minimum 
concentration needed to remove target species would be used. All target 
waters to be treated that year would be treated with rotenone during a 
one to two-day period. Streams would be treated a minimum of two times. 
This would likely be completed in consecutive years but could be within 
the same year. If two treatments occur within the same year, a one to 
two months resting period would occur between treatments.
    Liquid emulsifiable rotenone would be used to treat the flowing 
water sections following procedures outlined in the Rotenone Standard 
Operating Procedures Manual (SOP). Rotenone would be applied from drip 
stations located at approximately 0.5-1.0 mile intervals for a 6-hour 
period. Pressurized backpack sprayers would also be used to apply 
rotenone to springs and backwater areas; motorized transport would not 
be used during this process. A small amount of rotenone may be used to 
treat small side tributaries or standing water. Sentinel fish would be 
placed in live cages at strategic locations along the stream to monitor 
the effectiveness of the treatment.
    Procedures outlined in the Rotenone SOP would be followed for 
neutralizing rotenone-treated waters. Potassium permanganate would be 
dispensed at or near the fish migration barrier at the downstream end 
of the project area (outside of the wilderness). Potassium permanganate 
would be dispensed to neutralize rotenone and prevent mortality of non-
target organisms beyond target treatment areas.
    Powdered potassium permanganate would be used as a neutralizing 
agent for the rotenone. The application rate of potassium permanganate 
would be determined after the pre-treatment factors of water 
temperature and hardness are measured. The neutralization zone for the 
project would be approximately the 30-minute travel distance downstream 
from the location potassium permanganate is dispensed into the stream. 
Neutralization of rotenone would take an estimated one to two weeks, 
dependent on temperature and other factors. Continuous use of the auger 
and gas powered generator would be necessary to effectively dispense 
potassium permanganate during this one to two week period (occurs 
outside of wilderness).
    Fish Recovery. Dead fish would be washed downstream, consumed by 
scavenging wildlife or provide needed nutrients for repopulating 
aquatic macroinvertebrates; dead fish would not be collected.
    Public Access and Area Closures. Public access into the High Uintas 
Wilderness would remain open to the public during the treatment, 
however closures (1-2 days) for public access to the target stream(s) 
during the treatment would occur. UDWR would post signs warning of the 
upcoming treatment prior to starting and actual closure signs would be 
posted along the trail(s) during the treatment. These temporary signs 
would be removed at the conclusion of each treatment. Public access 
would be allowed during the neutralization phase.
    Fish Stocking. UDWR would be the entity responsible for 
reintroducing/stocking fish species; fish would be released throughout 
the drainage. Buckets required to carry fish for restocking would be 
transported by small crews using designated trails and disperse along 
the stream corridors. Trucks would transport fish to the project area; 
no aircraft or mechanical transport would be used in wilderness. Fish 
reintroduction/stocking would occur a few weeks after the last 
treatment (year two). Treated waters would be restocked with CRCT, 
sculpin, mountain sucker, speckled dace, and tiger trout. Tiger trout 
are a sterile hybrid that would be stocked in the project area to 
provide fishing opportunities while the CRCT

[[Page 40546]]

population is expanding following the last treatment of the selected 
water. Once CRCT are well established, tiger trout will no longer be 
stocked and will disappear from the system over 4-5 years.
    Monitoring. Monitoring will occur after both the first and second 
treatments to ensure all fish are removed throughout the proposed 
project area. Once the treatment is completed and CRCT, sculpin, 
mountain sucker, speckled dace and tiger trout are stocked back in the 
drainage, populations will be monitored every 5-10 years to ensure the 
native populations are well established.

Possible Alternatives

    At this time, there are two alternatives that are being considered: 
Alternative 1 (No Action) and Alternative 2 (Proposed Action). 
Alternative 1 would not authorize the application of piscicide in the 
wilderness and associated suite of activities. Alternative 2 is 
described above. During the course of development of the Environmental 
Impact Statement it is possible that the public, Forest Service staff, 
or both will identify additional alternatives to be evaluated.

Lead and Cooperating Agencies

    The Evanston-Mountain View Ranger District of the Uinta-Wasatch-
Cache National Forest will be the lead agency preparing the 
Environmental Impact Statement. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources 
will be a cooperating agency.

Responsible Official

    Unless specified otherwise, the Regional Forester is responsible 
for approving all measures that implement Forest Service Manual 
direction on the use of other resources in wilderness. Specific 
responsibilities include approving the use of pesticides within 
wilderness.
    The responsible official for this project is the Regional Forester 
for the Intermountain Region (R4).

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    The decision to be made includes whether or not to approve the 
proposed suite of activities, in whole or in part, specifically: (1) 
Application of piscicide (``treatment'') within designated wilderness 
on National Forest System (NFS) land and neutralization outside of 
designated wilderness on NFS land; (2) seasonal and multi-year timing 
of the action; (3) method of transport for materials, equipment, and 
personnel to treatment areas; (4) closing public access to the stream 
during the treatment; (5) restocking with CRCT, sculpin, mountain 
sucker, speckled dace, and tiger trout; (6) monitoring following 
treatment and neutralization; and, (7) what mitigation measures will be 
implemented. Because the majority of streams occur within wilderness, 
methodologies and activities selected for implementation must conform 
to special land use restrictions as much as possible.

Preliminary Issues

    Preliminary issues that have been identified include potential 
impacts to fisheries and aquatic resources, health and human safety, 
wilderness and other undeveloped lands, wildlife (terrestrial), soil 
and water resources, wilderness, and wildlife. Additional issues may 
arise based on comments received from the public during the scoping and 
comment processes.

Permits or Licenses Required

    The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources would submit a Pesticide 
Use Proposal as well as a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination 
System to the Regional Forester for approval. These permits are 
required to allow application of the piscicide to targeted waters 
within wilderness.

Scoping Process

    This notice of intent initiates the scoping process, which guides 
the development of the Environmental Impact Statement. In addition to 
and concurrent with publication of this notice of intent, a public 
scoping document was published to the project-specific information page 
on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest Web site at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=51924, and a postcard was sent to 
individuals, entities, and organizations informing them that the notice 
of intent and public scoping document had been published. Comments may 
be submitted in a variety of ways, specifically: Via regular mail, 
hand-delivered or express delivered, via fax, and via email. Comments 
sought include specific comments to the proposed action, appropriate 
information that could be pertinent to analysis of environmental 
consequences, identification of significant issues, and identification 
of potential alternatives.
    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 scoping 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: August 1, 2017.
Jeanne M. Higgins,
Acting Associate Deputy Chief, National Forest System.
[FR Doc. 2017-18016 Filed 8-24-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3411-15-P