[Federal Register Volume 66, Number 132 (Tuesday, July 10, 2001)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 35918-35920]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 01-17249]



Forest Service

36 CFR Parts 219 and 294

RIN 0596-AB85

National Forest System Land and Resource Management Planning; 
Special Areas; Roadless Area Conservation

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Advance notice of proposed rulemaking; request for comment.


SUMMARY: On May 4, the Secretary of Agriculture expressed the 
Administration's commitment to providing protection of roadless areas 
in the National Forest System. However, acknowledging concerns raised 
by local communities, tribes, and States impacted by the roadless area 
conservation rule published January 12, 2001, the Secretary also 
indicated that USDA would move forward with a responsible and balanced 
approach to re-examining the rule that fairly addressed those concerns.
    This advance notice is intended to give the public the opportunity 
to comment on key issues that have been raised regarding the protection 
of roadless areas. These comments will help the Department determine 
the next steps in addressing the long-term protection and management of 
roadless values within the National Forest System.

DATES: Comments must be received in writing by September 10, 2001.

ADDRESSES: Send comments in writing by mail to USDA-Forest Service--
CAT, Attention: Roadless ANPR Comments, P.O. Box 221090, Salt Lake 
City, Utah, 84122; via electronic mail to [email protected]; or 
via facsimile to 1-801-296-4090, Attention: Roadless ANPR Comments. All 
comments, including names and addresses when provided, are placed in 
the record and are available for public inspection and copying at Salt 
Lake City, Utah.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jody Sutton at telephone number, 801-

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Department is seeking public comment to 
help decide the next steps in providing long-term protection of 
roadless values.
    On January 12, 2001, the Department issued a final rule accompanied 
by a final environmental impact statement (Forest Service Roadless Area 
Conservation, USDA Forest Service, November 2000) and Record of 
Decision (published as part of the final rule, 36 CFR Part 294, Special 
Areas; Roadless Area Conservation, on January 12, 2001 at 66 FR 3244). 
This rule changed the land management on 58.5 million acres of 
inventoried roadless areas in 120 national forests. Originally 
scheduled to take effect on March 12, the Secretary of Agriculture 
extended the effective date until May 12, 2001, to permit the new 
Administration to review the rule.
    Previously, the long-standing process employed by the Forest 
Service for all resource management decisions relied on amendments and 
revisions to forest plans governed by the National Forest Management 
Act. This is a highly collaborative process involving local, regional, 
and national interests, using the best available forest-level 
information and maps.
    Following publication of the final rule, a number of States, 
tribes, organizations, and citizens have raised a number of concerns. 
Many assert that the most appropriate process for evaluating and making 
long-term resource management direction--including inventoried roadless 
area protection and management--is through the local forest planning 
process, which is governed by the rules at 36 CFR 219. They also 
maintain that environmental analysis and resource management decisions 
affecting individual national forests should be based on local 
information and knowledge and the best available science rather than 
applying one standard uniformly to every inventoried roadless area, no 
matter the location.
    The Department recognizes that inventoried roadless areas contain 
important environmental values that warrant protection. Appropriate 
protection and management should be crafted through an open and fair 
process and address the concerns of States, tribes, local communities, 
and others.
    On May 4, 2001, the Secretary of Agriculture presented five 
principles on which the protection and management of roadless values 
should be based:
    1. Informed decisionmaking, using reliable information and accurate

[[Page 35919]]

mapping, and drawing on local expertise and experience through the 
local forest planning process;
    2. Working together, by collaborating with States, tribes, local 
governments, organizations, and individuals through a fair and open 
process that is responsive to local input and information;
    3. Protecting forests from the negative effects of severe wildfire 
and insect and disease outbreaks;
    4. Protecting communities, homes, and property from the risk of 
severe wildfire or other risks existing on adjacent federal lands; and
    5. Protecting access to property, by ensuring that States, tribes, 
and citizens owning property within inventoried roadless areas have 
access to that property as required by existing laws.
    Eight lawsuits, involving seven states in six judicial districts of 
four federal circuits have been filed against the January 12, 2001, 
rule. Among the various issues raised these lawsuits share a common 
allegation that there was inadequate opportunity for public review and 
comment on the roadless rule.
    On May 10, 2001, the Idaho District Court granted the preliminary 
injunction requested in Kootenai Tribe of Idaho v. Veneman and State of 
Idaho v. U.S. Forest Service, enjoining the Forest Service from 
implementing ``all aspects of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule'' as 
well as a section of the November 2000, forest planning rule that 
addresses the inventory and evaluation of roadless areas during the 
forest plan revision. The Court based its decision, in part, on 
concerns noted in its April 5, 2001, order related to the public review 
and comment 3 process; namely that, ``* * * the Court conclusively 
finds that the comment period was grossly inadequate and thus deprived 
the public of any meaningful dialogue or input in to the process * * 
*'' The Idaho District Court's decision to grant a preliminary 
injunction has been appealed and is now pending before the Ninth 
Circuit Court of Appeals.
    On June 7, 2001, the Chief of the Forest Service issued a letter 
concerning interim protection of inventoried roadless areas, stating 
that ``the Forest Service is committed to protecting and managing 
roadless areas as an important component of the National Forest System. 
The best way to achieve this objective is to ensure that we protect and 
sustain roadless values until they can be appropriately considered 
through forest planning.'' As part of that letter, the Chief indicated 
he would be issuing interim direction regarding timber harvest and road 
construction in inventoried roadless areas until a forest plan 
amendment or revision considers the long-term protection and management 
of unroaded portions of inventoried roadless areas.
    The Forest Service has been evaluating roadless areas for nearly 30 
years. Decisions about how to manage inventoried roadless areas have 
been difficult and controversial. In 1972, the Forest Service began a 
review of National Forest System roadless areas (the Roadless Area 
Review and Evaluation, subsequently called RARE I) to determine their 
suitability for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation 
System. A second review for wilderness consideration of roadless areas 
at the national scale was initiated in 1978 (RARE II). Upon review of 
the RARE II process, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 
California v. Block 690 F. 2d. 753 (9th Cir. 1982) that the national 
evaluation of roadless area categorization was insufficiently site-
specific and did not consider a sufficient range of alternatives.
    Similarly, with respect to the January 12, 2001, rule, it is 
difficult, and perhaps infeasible to collect in a short timeframe, on a 
national scale, the local data needed to produce a sufficient EIS that 
analyzes all relevant information or that proposes an adequate range of 
alternatives. Moreover, within an extended timeframe, collecting and 
analyzing the information may unnecessarily duplicate the forest 
planning process.
    The National Forest System is comprised of 192 million acres, which 
is 8.5 percent of the total land base of the United States. Within the 
National Forest System, there are currently 34.7 million acres of 
Wilderness, 58.5 million acres of inventoried roadless area, and 4.2 
million acres of areas in Congressional designations other than 
Wilderness that are not included in the inventoried roadless areas, 
such as Wild and Scenic Rivers or National Recreation Areas. The 
remaining 94.9 million acres includes roaded and other non-inventoried 
unroaded areas. The January 12, 2001, roadless rule applies only to the 
inventoried roadless areas, as described in Volume 2 of the FEIS 
(maps). All of the 58.5 million acres of inventoried roadless areas 
were considered for their potential as wilderness during the RARE II 
process. For a variety of reasons, most were not recommended for 
designation as Wilderness. For instance, other areas in comparison had 
greater wilderness values or more public support, or other resource 
potentials were believed to outweigh the area's contribution to the 
national wilderness system. Most of these areas still retain their 
natural characteristics and vary in importance for primitive types of 
recreation, pristine scenic quality, important fish and wildlife 
habitats, contributions to biological diversity, watershed protection, 
other natural values, and, in some cases, resource development options.
    Approximately 2.8 million acres (4.8 percent) of inventoried 
roadless areas have undergone resource development in the form of road 
construction, timber harvest, mining, or recreational development 
during the last 30 years. Of the total inventoried roadless area 
acreage, current forest plans assign 24.2 million acres to roadless or 
non-development management prescriptions and 34.3 million acres are in 
prescriptions that allow road construction. In the latter category, 
there are about 9 million acres of productive timberland, and about 25 
million acres are not suitable for timber production.
    The Forest Service Roadless Area Conservation Final Environmental 
Impact Statement (USDA Forest Service, November 2000, pages 2-25) 
estimated that less than two-tenths of one percent of the total of 
inventoried roadless areas (94,600 acres of 58.5 million acres) might 
be developed between 2000 and 2004.

How Should Roadless Areas Be Managed?

    The Department is studying whether to amend the Roadless Area 
Conservation rule published January 12, 2001, or to provide further 
administrative protections. This is consistent with the Idaho Court 
finding that: ``[b]y issuing the Preliminary Injunction the Court is 
not precluding or even proposing that the USDA not go forward with 
their study concerning the proposed amendments because the ultimate 
responsibility lies with the Government or its agencies and not with 
the Court.''
    All interested parties are encouraged to express their views on 
inventoried roadless area management. In providing input, reviewers are 
especially asked to include responses to the following questions, which 
are framed around the key principles established by the Secretary and 
the issues raised by States, tribes, organizations, and individuals.
    1. Informed Decisonmaking. What is the appropriate role of local 
forest planning as required by NFMA in evaluating protection and 
management of inventoried roadless areas?
    2. Working Together. What is the best way for the Forest Service to 
work with the variety of States, tribes, local

[[Page 35920]]

communities, other organizations, and individuals in a collaborative 
manner to ensure that concerns about roadless values are heard and 
addressed through a fair and open process?
    3. Protecting Forests. How should inventoried roadless areas be 
managed to provide for healthy forests, including protection from 
severe wildfires and the buildup of hazardous fuels as well as to 
provide for the detection and prevention of insect and disease 
    4. Protecting Communities, Homes, and Property. How should 
communities and private property near inventoried roadless areas be 
protected from the risks associated with natural events, such as major 
wildfires that may occur on adjacent federal lands?
    5. Protecting Access to Property. What is the best way to implement 
the laws that ensure States, tribes, organizations, and private 
citizens have reasonable access to property they own within inventoried 
roadless areas?
    6. Describing Values. What are the characteristics, environmental 
values, social and economic considerations, and other factors the 
Forest Service should consider as it evaluates inventoried roadless 
    7. Describing Activities. Are there specific activities that should 
be expressly prohibited or expressly allowed for inventoried roadless 
areas through Forest Plan revisions or amendments?
    8. Designating Areas. Should inventoried roadless areas selected 
for future roadless protection through the local forest plan revision 
process be proposed to Congress for wilderness designation, or should 
they be maintained under a specific designation for roadless area 
management under the forest plan?
    9. Competing Values and Limited Resources. How can the Forest 
Service work effectively with individuals and groups with strongly 
competing views, values, and beliefs in evaluating and managing public 
lands and resources, recognizing that the agency can not meet all of 
the desires of all of the parties?
    10. Other Concerns. What other concerns, comments, or interests 
relating to the protection and management of inventoried roadless areas 
are important?

Regulatory Findings

    This advance notice of proposed rulemaking is being issued to 
obtain public comment regarding the protection and management of 
inventoried roadless areas. Because the Department is not proposing any 
specific approach for managing inventoried roadless areas, there are no 
regulatory findings associated with this notice. Comments received will 
help the Department determine the extent and scope of any future 


    The Department of Agriculture is considering how to best proceed 
with long-term protection and management of inventoried roadless areas. 
Through this advance notice of proposed rulemaking, the Department is 
seeking public input as responses to a series of questions about 
inventoried roadless area protection and management. Public input and 
comment on management of inventoried roadless areas and their values 
will help inform the Department's consideration of how best to proceed 
with long-term protection and management of these areas. How the 
Department ultimately addresses protecting roadless values will depend 
on a number of factors. These include court decisions, public comments, 
and practical options for amending the current rule or EIS or both, 
using other administrative tools to implement inventoried roadless area 

    Dated: July 3, 2001.
Dale N. Bosworth,
[FR Doc. 01-17249 Filed 7-5-01; 3:53 pm]