[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 39 (Friday, February 27, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 10663-10664]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-04109]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Stanislaus National Forest, CA; Notice of Intent To Prepare an 
Environmental Impact Statement for Rim Fire Reforestation

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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

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SUMMARY: The Stanislaus National Forest proposes about 42,000 acres of 
reforestation, plantation thinning, additional deer habitat and noxious 
weed treatments on National Forest System (NFS) lands within the 2013 
Rim Fire in order to: Return mixed conifer forest to the landscape; 
restore old forest for wildlife; reduce fuels; enhance deer habitat; 
and, eradicate noxious weeds.

DATES: Comments on the proposed action should be submitted within 45 
days of the date of publication of this Notice of Intent. Completion of 
the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is expected in November 
2015 followed by the Final EIS and Draft Record of Decision (ROD) in 
May 2016. A final decision is expected in August 2016.

ADDRESSES: Comments may be: mailed to the Stanislaus National Forest; 
Attn: Rim Reforestation; 19777 Greenley Road; Sonora, CA 95370; 
delivered to the address shown during business hours (M-F 8:00 am to 
4:30 pm); or, submitted by FAX (209) 533-1890. Submit electronic 
comments, in common (.doc, .pdf, .rtf, .txt) formats, to: [email protected] with Subject: Rim Reforestation.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Maria Benech, Stanislaus National 
Forest; 19777 Greenley Road; Sonora, CA 95370; phone (209) 532-3671; or 
email: [email protected]. A scoping package, maps and other information 
are online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=45612.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

General Background

    The Rim Fire started on August 17, 2013 in a remote area of the 
Stanislaus National Forest near the confluence of the Clavey and 
Tuolumne Rivers about 20 miles east of Sonora, California. Over the 
next several weeks it burned 257,314 acres, including 154,430 acres of 
NFS lands, becoming the third largest wildfire in California history. 
The Rim Fire Reforestation project is located within the Rim Fire 
perimeter in the Stanislaus National Forest on portions of the Mi-Wok 
and Groveland Ranger Districts.

Purpose and Need for Action

    The primary purposes of the project are to: (1) Return Mixed 
Conifer Forest to the Landscape; (2) Restore Old Forest for Wildlife 
Habitat and Connectivity; (3) Reduce Fuels for Future Fire Resiliency; 
(4) Enhance Deer Habitat; and, (5) Eradicate Noxious Weeds.

Proposed Action

    The Forest Service proposed action includes about 42,000 acres of 
reforestation, plantation thinning, additional deer habitat and noxious 
weed eradication treatments on NFS lands within the 2013 Rim Fire.
    Reforestation treatments (30,065 acres) include: Hand, mechanical 
and manual herbicide site preparation (Glyphosate); prescribed burning; 
planting a diversity of conifer tree species using various patterns and 
densities (trees per acre) across the landscape (up and down slopes 
with fewer on ridges and more in drainage bottoms) to develop resilient 
mixed conifer forest and enhance wildlife (including deer) habitat; 
manual herbicide release (Glyphosate) when vegetation competition 
begins to inhibit survival and growth; and, noxious weed eradication as 
described below. The reforestation treatment (30,065 acres) includes 
thinning and planting on 7,307 acres of existing plantations currently 
under-stocked due to high burn severity from the 2013 Rim Fire.
    Plantation Thinning treatments (11,359 acres) include: Hand and 
mechanical site preparation; prescribed burning and thinning to achieve 
an Individual, Clumpy, Open (ICO) pattern to maximize heterogeneity and 
wildlife (including deer) habitat while creating more fire resilient 
stands; and, noxious weed eradication as described below.
    Additional Deer Habitat treatments (407 acres) include: Prescribed 
burning; and, noxious weed eradication as described below.
    Noxious Weed Eradication treatments (4,160 acres) include: Weed 
treatments with a variety of EPA approved herbicides (such as 
Glyphosate, Clopyralid, Aminopyralid, Clethodim and Fluazifop-P-butyl). 
These noxious weed treatments overlap (within and up to 100 feet 
adjacent to) the reforestation, plantation thinning and additional deer 
habitat treaments described above.
    No treatments are proposed within Wilderness, Inventoried Roadless 
Areas, or the wild classification segments of Wild and Scenic Rivers or 
Proposed Wild and Scenic Rivers. Project design will incorporate Best 
Management Practices (BMPs) according to regional and national 
guidance. Implementation is expected to begin in fall 2016 and continue 
for up to 10 years.

Possible Alternatives

    In addition to the Proposed Action, the EIS will evaluate the 
required No Action alternative and likely consider other alternatives 
identified through the inderdisciplinary process and public 
participation.

Responsible Official

    Jeanne M. Higgins, Forest Supervisor; Stanislaus National Forest; 
19777 Greenley Road; Sonora, CA 95370.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    The responsible official will decide whether to adopt and implement 
the proposed action, an alternative to the proposed action, or take no 
action with respect to the Rim Fire Reforestation project.

Scoping Process

    Public participation is important at numerous points during the 
analysis. The Forest Service seeks information,

[[Page 10664]]

comments and assistance from federal, state, and local agencies and 
individuals or organizations that may be interested in or affected by 
the proposed action.
    The Forest Service conducts scoping according to the Council on 
Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations (40 CFR 1501.7). In addition to 
other public involvment, this Notice of Intent initiates an early and 
open process for determining the scope of issues to be addressed in the 
EIS and for identifying the significant issues related to a proposed 
action. This scoping process allows the Forest Service to not only 
identify significant environmental issues deserving of study, but also 
to deemphasize insignificant issues, narrowing the scope of the EIS 
process accordingly (40 CFR 1500.4(g)).

Comment Requested

    This Notice of Intent initiates the scoping proces which guides the 
development of the EIS. Comments on the proposed action should be 
submitted within 45 days of the date of publication of this Notice of 
Intent.

Early Notice of Importance of Public Participation in Subsequent 
Environmental Review

    A draft EIS will be available for comment when 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, 
reviewers of a draft EIS must structure their participation in the 
environmental review of the proposal so that it is meaningful and 
alerts an agency to the reviewer's position and contentions. Vermont 
Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. v. NRDC, 435 U.S. 519, 553 (1978). Also, 
environmental objections that could be raised at the draft EIS stage 
but that are not raised until after completion of the final EIS 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 during the 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 EIS.
    To assist the Forest Service in identifying and considering issues 
and concerns on the proposed action, comments on the draft EIS 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 EIS or the merits of the alternatives 
formulated and discussed in the statement. Reviewers 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.
    Comments received, including the names and addresses of those who 
comment, will be considered part of the public record on this proposal 
and will be available for public inspection.

    Authority: 40 CFR 1501.7 and 1508.22; Forest Service Handbook 
1909.15, Section 21.

    Dated: February 20, 2015.
Jeanne M. Higgins,
Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. 2015-04109 Filed 2-26-15; 8:45 am]
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