[Federal Register Volume 62, Number 245 (Monday, December 22, 1997)]
[Pages 66846-66848]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 97-33346]



Forest Service

North Fork St. Joe River Project; Idaho Panhandle National 
Forests, Shoshone County, Idaho

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement.


SUMMARY: The St. Joe Ranger District of the Idaho Panhandle National 
Forest, USDA Forest Service will prepare an Environmental Impact 
Statement (EIS) to disclose the environmental effects of vegetation, 
road and trail, and watershed restoration activities on National Forest 
lands within the North Fork St. Joe River drainage. The project area is 
located immediately north of the town of Avery, Idaho. Based on an 
inter-disciplinary assessment of resource conditions within the area, 
the purpose and need for this proposal is summarized as:
    1. Maintain or improve long term water quality within the project 
area. Where water quality is currently limited, work towards restoring 
properly functioning hydrologic condition. 2. Maintain or improve 
habitat for native fish. 3. Maintain or develop habitat conditions 
(including forest structure, habitat connectivity, security habitat and 
limited road densities) to contribute to the conservation of forest 
dwelling species. 4. Forest structure: Where conditions permit, 
maintain or begin restoration of large diameter trees and forest 
structures once more common within the North Fork St. Joe area. 5. 
Forest composition: Where conditions permit, maintain or begin 
restoration of large, potentially long lived seral species (western 
white pine, western larch, ponderosa pine, white bark pine) which once 
dominated the forested landscape of the St. Joe River basin. 6. Promote 
fire use and control strategies for safety and efficiency of 
suppression and protection and maintenance of resource values. Trend 
toward allowing fire to play its natural role as a forest disturbance 
mechanism. Reduce the risk of very large stand replacing fires through 
vegetation management and restore beneficial fire effects. 7. Maintain 
or improve the unique and diverse recreational opportunities available 
within the area. Provide dispersed and developed campsites for the 
increasing recreational use. Mitigate, where feasible and necessary, 
effects of the increasing recreational use and supporting 
infrastructure (trails, campsites, access routes) on other resource 
values. 8. Reduce the risk of blending genetic material from the poorly 
adapted, non-local ponderosa pine trees planted earlier this century 
with that of the native ponderosa pine. Replace the poorly adapted 
trees with more sustainable native species. 9. Timber harvest, when 
feasible and cost effective, will be used when it can help achieve the 
other landscape objectives so as to also contribute wood to the local 
timber supply. In as much as it is compatible with other objectives, 
harvest activities will maintain or improve the long term growth and 
production of commercially valuable wood products from the sites.

DATES: Comments should be postmarked on or before January 21, 1998. 
Please include your name and address and the name of the project you 
are commenting on.

ADDRESSES: Submit written comments and suggestions on the proposed 
management activities or requests to be placed on project mailing list 
to Brad Gilbert, District Ranger, St. Joe Ranger District, P.O. Box 
407, St. Maries, ID 83861. Brad Gilbert is the Responsible Official.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Pete Zimmerman, Project Team Leader, 
St. Joe Ranger District, (208) 245-2531.
    Comments received in response to this solicitation, including names 
and addresses of those who comment, will be considered part of the 
public record on this proposed action and will be available for public 
inspection. Comments submitted anonymously will be accepted and 
considered; however, those who submit anonymous comments will not have 
standing to appeal the subsequent decision under 36 CFR parts 215 or 
217. Additionally, pursuant to 7 CFR 1.27(d), any person may request 
the agency to withhold a submission from the public record by showing 
how the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) permits such confidentiality. 
Persons requesting such confidentiality may be granted in only very 
limited circumstances, such as to protect trade secrets. The Forest 
Service will inform the requester of the agency's decision regarding 
the request for confidentiality, and where the request is denied, the 
agency will return the submission and notify the requester that the 
comments may be resubmitted with or without name and address within 10 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The decision area contains approximately 
75,000 acres within the Idaho Panhandle National Forests in Shoshone 
County, Idaho. All the proposed projects would occur on National Forest 
lands in the N. Fork St. Joe River drainage immediately north of Avery, 
Idaho. The legal location of the decision area is as follows: all or 
portions of

Township 45 North, Range 5 East; Township 45 North, Range 6 East;
Township 46 North, Range 5 East; Township 46 North, Range 6 East;
Township 46 North, Range 7 East; Township 47 North, Range 5 East;
Township 47 North, Range 6 East; Township 47 North, Range 7 East;

    The proposed action is designed to achieve the purpose and need for 
action as described above. The proposed activities would be initiated 
over the next ten years. While many of the proposed management 
activities may work towards achieving more than one of the project 
objectives, they have been grouped here into four basic categories to 
simplify the description.


    The St. Joe District proposes to use prescribed fire, timber 
harvest, planting, and other methods to achieve the desired vegetation 
conditions described above in the purpose and need. Proposed individual 
treatments by method are as follows (please note that acreage values 
are gross and would generally include 10 to 25 percent untreated area 
within the gross area).
    Prescribed burning would be the primary treatment on approximately 
3,420 acres. (1) Approximately 310 acres of decadent shrubfields within 
primary big game winter range would be burned to stimulate fresh browse 

[[Page 66847]]

(2) Approximately 2720 acres would be burned to reintroduce the 
beneficial effects of fire into this ecosystem, reduce fuel loads, and 
create fuel breaks to reduce the risk of larger, more destructive 
conflagrations within the landscape. About 1,140 of these acres consist 
of decadent shrubfields outside of primary big game winter range. 
Another 740 acres consist of subalpine balds along the northern divide 
where conifers have begun encroaching after seventy plus years of 
successful fire suppression. The remaining 840 acres consist of lodge-
pole pine stands within the unroaded portions of the North Fork St. Joe 
River landscape. (3) Approximately 270 acres of poorly adapted 
ponderosa pine planted early in this century would be burned to kill 
these ``off-site'' trees. The purpose is to prevent these trees from 
cross pollinating with the native ponderosa pine (genetic 
contamination). These acres would be replanted with better adapted 
local stock of ponderosa pine, western white pine, and/or western 
larch. An additional 970 acres of similar non-local ponderosa pine 
would be treated in this manner if the trees prove uneconomical to 
harvest prior to burning (see harvest of non-local ponderosa pine 
below). (4) Approximately 34 acres in and around white bark pine stands 
would be burned and/or treated mechanically to limit encroachment by 
other tree species and facilitate natural and planted regeneration.
    Timber harvest, in combination with prescribed fire and tree 
planting, would be the primary treatment on approximately 2,580 acres. 
(1) Regeneration harvest treatments (harvest methods designed to 
establish a new stand of more desirable tree species) would occur on 
approximately 2,030 acres. Prescribed fire would be used to reduce 
fuels and prepare the sites for planting. About 1,060 of these acres 
consist primarily of lodgepole pine, a short lived seral tree specie. 
The remaining 970 acres consist of poorly adapted ponderosa pine 
planted early in this century. The purpose of removing these ponderosa 
pine is to prevent these trees from cross pollinating with the better 
adapted native ponderosa pine (genetic contamination). As noted above, 
if any or all of these ``off-site'' ponderosa pine stands prove 
uneconomical to harvest (they occur primarily in unroaded areas and 
would require the more expensive helicopter logging) they would still 
be burned to kill the trees prior to planting to better adapted 
    (2) Commercial thinning (harvesting excess and less desirable trees 
from a stand to provide more growing room for the remaining trees) 
would occur on approximately 550 acres.


    The St. Joe District proposes to manage the transportation network 
(roads and trails) in the following ways: (1) Maintain existing access 
(motorized and non-motorized) on approximately 145 miles of road and 72 
miles of trail within the area. (2) Approximately 5.7 miles of new road 
would be constructed to provide access for timber harvest activities 
noted above. All but 0.3 miles of these new roads would be either 
obliterated or stabilized for long term storage following use. The 0.3 
miles that would be kept drivable would provide new access for an 
existing mining claim, thereby allowing obliteration of an additional 
mile of existing road currently accessing the claim. (3) Approximately 
36 miles of existing road would be either obliterated or stabilized for 
long term storage. (4) Approximately 1 mile of new trail would be 
constructed to replace trail access currently served by one of these 
roads which are proposed to be obliterated.


    The St. Joe District proposes to make improvements to several 
campsites as follows: (1) Additional campsites and facilities would be 
constructed at the Squaw Creek Campground. (2) Several dispersed camp 
sites would be hardened within the Loop Creek meadows and toilet 
facilities added to protect adjacent resources.

Aquatic Restoration

    The St. Joe District proposes the following aquatic restoration 
activities in addition to those identified above (e.g. road 
stabilization, etc.). (1) Complete exploratory core drilling on three 
old railroad grade through-fills to determine and evaluate their 
condition and structural integrity. Based on the results, develop an 
action plan to mitigate potential risks. (2) Plant trees within 140 
acres of riparian areas adjacent to the North Fork St. Joe River and 
Clear Creek. (3) Develop and implement a stream restoration plan for 
Loop Creek downstream from the mouth of Moss Creek. (4) Construct 
baffles to facilitate fish passage through the Loop Creek water bypass 

Preliminary Issues

    We expect issues and concerns with this project to include the 
effects on wildlife, fish, water quality, roadless, visual quality/
aesthetics and recreation as well as the effects of road construction, 
clearcutting, size of openings, and economic feasibility. Final issues 
will be developed and analyzed based on your comments and the 
interdisciplinary team's analysis of potential effects of the proposed 
action on the various resource values. These issues will be used to 
develop alternatives to the proposed action and guide the type and 
detail of analysis conducted.
    Additionally, some of the vegetation treatment may result in 
openings of over 60 acres. While we would like comments that would 
affect alternatives early, comments on the size of openings and their 
effects will be accepted for 60 days after publication of this notice. 
This 60 day public review period and approval of the Regional Forester 
for exceeding the 40 acre limitation for regeneration harvest would be 
required prior to the signing of the Record of Decision.
    The Forest Service will consider a range of alternatives to this 
proposed action. One of these will be the ``No Action'' alternative. 
Additional alternatives will examine varying levels and locations for 
the proposed activities to achieve the proposal's purpose, as well as 
to respond to the issues and other resource values.
    Public participation is an important part of the analysis and will 
play an important role in developing the alternatives. The mailing list 
for public scoping will be developed from responses to this NOI and 
responses to the Forest's ``Quarterly Schedule of Proposed Actions.'' 
In addition, the public is encouraged to visit with Forest Service 
officials during the analysis and prior to the decision. The Forest 
Service will also be seeking information, comments, and assistance from 
Federal, State, and local agencies and other individuals or 
organizations who may be interested in or affected by the proposed 
actions. Comments from the public and other agencies will be used in 
preparation of the Draft EIS.
    The draft environmental impact statement is expected to be filed 
with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and available for public 
review in March 1998. The final environmental impact statement is 
expected to be completed in May 1998.
    The comment period on the draft environmental impact statement will 
be 45 days from the date the Environmental Protection Agency publishes 
the notice of availability in the Federal Register.
    The Forest Service believes, at this early stage, it is important 
to give reviewers notice of several court rulings related to public 
participation in the environmental review process. First,

[[Page 66848]]

reviewers of draft environmental impact statements must structure their 
participation in the environmental review of the proposal so that it is 
meaningful and alerts the agency to the reviewer's position and 
contentions. Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. v. NRDC, 435 U.S. 519, 
533 (1978). Also, environmental objections that could be raised at the 
draft environmental statement stage but that are not raised until after 
completion of the final environmental statement may be waived or 
dismissed by the courts. City of Angoon v. Hodel, 803 F 2d 1016, 1022 
(9th Cir. 1986) and Wisconsin Heritages, Inc. v. Harris, 490 F. Supp. 
1334, 1338 (E.D. Wis. 1980). Because of these court rulings, it is very 
important that those interested in this proposed action participate by 
the close of the 45-day comment period so that substantive comments and 
objections are made available to the Forest Service at a time when it 
can meaningfully consider them and respond to them in the final 
environmental impact statement.
    To assist the Forest Service in identifying and considering issues 
and concern on the proposed action, comments on the draft environmental 
impact statement should be as specific as possible. It is also helpful 
if comments refer to specific pages or chapters of the draft statement. 
Comments may also address the adequacy of the draft environmental 
impact statement or the merits of the alternatives formulated and 
discussed in the statement. Reviews may wish to refer to the Council on 
Environmental Quality Regulations for implementing the procedural 
provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act at 40 CFR 1503.3 in 
addressing these points.
    The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits 
discrimination in its programs on the basis of race, color, national 
origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, and marital 
or familial status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) 
Persons with disabilities who require alternatives means of 
communication of program information (braille, large print, audiotape, 
etc.) should contact USDA's TARGET Center ad (202) 720-2600 (voice and 
    To file a complaint, write the Secretary of Agriculture, U.S. 
Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC 20250, or call 1-800-245-6340 
(voice) or 202-720-1127 (TDD). USDA is an equal employment opportunity 

    Dated: December 11, 1997.
Bradley Burmark,
Deputy District Ranger.
[FR Doc. 97-33346 Filed 12-19-97; 8:45 am]