[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 174 (Thursday, September 8, 2011)]
[Pages 55643-55644]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-22929]



Forest Service

Helena National Forest; Montana; Divide Travel Plan EIS

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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


SUMMARY: The Helena National Forest is preparing an Environmental 
Impact Statement (EIS) to analyze the effects of proposed changes to 
the existing motorized public access routes and prohibitions within the 
Divide travel planning area for wheeled and over-snow motorized 
vehicles. Consistent with Forest Service travel planning regulations, 
the designated wheeled motorized routes within the Divide Travel 
Planning Area will be displayed on a Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) and 
made available to the public free of charge. Upon publishing the MVUM, 
public use of wheeled motor vehicles other than in accordance with 
designations would be prohibited.

DATES: Comments received as a result of the December 2008 scoping for 
the Divide Environmental Assessment will be included when compiling the 
comments received during this scoping process established by this 
Notice of Intent and do not need to be re-submitted. However, commenter 
will need to express interest during the upcoming Draft EIS 45 day 
comment period to participate in subsequent administrative review. Any 
new or additional comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be 
received by October 11, 2011. The draft environmental impact statement 
is expected October 2011 and the final environmental impact statement 
is expected mid winter 2012.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to the Helena National Forest, ATTN: 
Divide Travel Plan; 2880 Skyway Drive, Helena, MT 59602. Comments may 
also be sent via e-mail to: comments-northern-helena@fs.fed.us, or via 
facsimile to 406-449-5436 with ``Divide Travel Plan'' in the subject 
    It is important that reviewers provide their comments at such times 
and in such a way that they are useful to the Agency's preparation of 
the EIS. 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 become part of the public 
record for this proposed action. Comments submitted anonymously will be 
accepted and considered; however, anonymous comments will not provide 
the Agency with the ability to provide the respondent with subsequent 
environmental documents.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lori Wood, Helena District Ranger or 
Jaime Tompkins, Divide Travel Plan Interdisciplinary Team Leader at the 
Helena National Forest Supervisor's Office located at 2880 Skyway 
Drive, Helena, MT 59602, phone 406-449-5201 or at the HNF Web page at 
    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.


Purpose and Need for Action

    The overall objective of this proposal is to provide a manageable 
system of designated public motorized access routes and areas within 
the Divide area, consistent with and to achieve the purposes of Forest 
Service travel management regulations at 36 CFR part 212 subpart B. The 
existing system of available public motor vehicle routes and areas in 
the Divide area is the culmination of multiple agency decisions over 
recent decades. Public motor vehicle use of the majority of this 
available system continues to be manageable and consistent with the 
current travel management regulation. Exceptions have been identified, 
based on public input and the criteria listed at 36 CFR 212.55, and in 
these cases changes are proposed to meet the overall objectives.

Proposed Action

    The HNF proposes the following changes to the existing motorized 
public access routes and prohibitions within the Divide travel planning 
area. These proposed changes would: reduce open road densities, reduce 
the total miles of open roads, and reduce the miles of motorized routes 
in two of the four Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRAs) within the project 
area (Jericho Mountain and Electric Peak). No areas would be designated 
for off-route wheeled motorized use other than the limited acception 
for dipsersed camping and parking. Consistent with the travel planning 
regulations at 36 CFR 212 Subpart B, the resulting available public 
motorized access routes and areas would be designated on a Motor 
Vehicle Use Map and public use of a motor vehicle other than in 
accordance with those designations would be prohibited as per 36 CFR 
261.13. Following are the proposed changes within the Divide Planning 
     Close approximately 40 miles of roads to wheeled motorized 
vehicles year-long. Approximately 30 miles are currently open to 
highway legal vehicles year-long with no restrictions, and 
approximately 10 miles are open for part of the year with restrictions 
and different dates.
     Open approximately 106 miles of road to over-snow 
motorized use 12/2--5/15. Approximately 64 miles of these routes are in 
areas where cross country over-snow use is already permissable. 
Approximately 42 miles of the 106 miles are currently open; however, 
the use period dates are different.

[[Page 55644]]

     Close approximately 6.8 miles of road to over snow 
motorized vehicle travel.
     Places seasonal restrictions on all trails open to 
motorized wheeled vehicles 50'' or less. There are no seasonal 
restrictions in the existing condition.
     Approximately 4 miles of trail would be open to wheeled 
motorized vehicles 50'' or less from 5/15-10/14.
     Approximately 8.8 miles of the Continental Divide National 
Scenic Trail (CDNST) would be closed to wheeled motorized use.
     Closure of creek/river fords until the fords can be 
replaced by bridges, bottomless arches or culverts in the following 
locations FSR 4100 across the Little Blackfoot River; FSR 
495-D1 across two unnamed streams in Section 28 and FSR 
227-D1 across the Little Blackfoot River at Larabee Gulch.
     Installation of signs to clarify changes to the 
transportation system on the ground.
     Wheeled motorized vehicle travel for camping would be 
allowed within 300 feet of designated system routes, including roads 
and trails (unless signed otherwise) as long as: (1) No new permanent 
routes are created by this activity; (2) no damage to existing 
vegetation, soil, or water resource occurs; (3) travel off-route does 
not cross streams; and (4) travel off-route does not traverse riparian 
or wet areas.
     Designated roads or trails includes all terminal 
facilities, trailheads, parking lots, and turnouts associated with the 
road or trail. The designation would also include parking a motor 
vehilce on the side of the road when it is safe to do so without 
causing damage to NFS resource or facilities, unless prohibited by 
state law, a traffic sign, or an order (36 CFR 261.54). Parking would 
be limited up to 30 feet from the edge of the road surface.
    Public use of a motor vehicle on routes and areas not included in 
the above designations, including currently available unauthorized 
routes of approximately 7 miles, would become prohibited pursuent to 36 
CFR 212.50 and 261.13 at the time the Motor Vehicle Use Map is 

Possible Alternatives

    The following alternatives were developed in preparation of an 
environmental assessment and may represent reasonable or required 
alternatives to consider in the environmental impact statement.

Alternative 1--No Action

    This alternative respresents the existing, baseline condition or 
trends by which the other alternatives are compared. Under the no 
action alternative, mangement of public motorized access would continue 
through the pre-existing system of prohibitions, including those 
decisions made in the Off-Highway Vehicle Record of Decision and Plan 
Amendment for Montana, North Dakota and portions of South Dakota 
(2001). This alternative would not implement the requirements of the 
2005 travel management regulation at 36 CFR part 212 subpart B.

Alternative 2

    During the 2008 scoping process, this alternative was presented as 
the proposed action. It was developed using the current Forest 
Transportation System maps, information from the 2004 Helena Roads 
Analysis, field verification, and public input from the 2008 scoping 
process. It provides more opportunities for motorized use on roads and 
trails including winter travel use.

Alternative 3

    This alternative was developed in response from the 2008 scoping 
process input regarding wildlife security issues, non-motorized uses, 
and general resource concerns relative to erosion and sedimentation 
from road conditions. It reduces motorized use on the CDNST and would 
reduce potential resource impacts in areas such as Sweeny Creek and 
Kading/Limburger Springs areas.

Responsible Official

    The Responsible Official is Kevin T. Riordan, Helena Forest 

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    The responsible official will decide whether to implement the 
proposed action, no action or other alternatives considered under 
analysis. He will consider the comments, disclosures of environmental 
consequences, and applicable laws, regulations, and policies in making 
the decision and stating the rationale in the Record of Decision. Upon 
completion of this plan, an implementation plan would be developed that 
would analyze methods for closure of routes identified from this 
decision. Additional NEPA may be required prior to implementation.

Preliminary Issues

    Public input from the 2008 scoping process identified several areas 
of particular interest to the public. Many comments spoke specifically 
to the CDNST, and Sweeny Creek, Kading/Limburger Springs, and Electric 
Peak areas. These areas generated the most public interest regarding 
motorized and non-motorized uses.

Forest Plan Consistancy

    Preliminary analysis indicates this proposal may require a 
programmatic amendment to the HNF plan for the project area regarding 
the standard for the hiding cover/open road density index. The proposed 
programmatic plan amendment would establish a new standard for elk 
security for those herd units within the project area. As a result, the 
Forest Plan standard would be amended specifically at this time and 
place as it relates to the Divide Travel Planning Area.

Scoping Process

    This notice of intent initiates the scoping process, which guides 
the development of the environmental impact statement. 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. Public comments received during the December 2008 
scoping process for the initial Environmental Assessment were taken 
into consideration in developing the above Alternatives. These comments 
do not need to be resubmitted; the HNF requests that only new or 
additional be submitted. Comments should be provided prior to the close 
of the comment period and should clearly articulate the reviewer's 
concerns and contentions. Public meetings will not be held; however, if 
an individual, group or organization have any questions or would like 
to set up a meeting please contact Lori Wood, Helena District Ranger or 
Jaime Tompkins, Divide Travel Plan Interdisciplinary Team Leader at the 
Helena National Forest office located at 2880 Skyway Drive, Helena, MT 
59602, or phone 406-449-5201.

    Dated: August 31, 2011.
Kevin T. Riordan,
Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. 2011-22929 Filed 9-7-11; 8:45 am]