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E-M:/ Hiawatha Forest management project EIS, Chippewa County

Enviro-Mich message from "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <ajs@sagady.com>

[Federal Register: November 29, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 230)]
[Page 59556-59558]
 >From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Forest Service

Interior Wetlands Environmental Impact Statement; Hiawatha
National Forest, Chippewa County, Michigan

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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


SUMMARY: The Forest Service will prepare an Environmental Impact
Statement (EIS) to analyze and disclose the environmental impacts of
proposed land management activities, and corresponding alternatives,
within the Interior Wetlands project area. The project is located on
the Sault Ste. Marie Ranger District, Hiawatha National Forest,
Chippewa County, Michigan, approximately 35 miles southwest of Sault
Ste. Marie, Michigan. The project area is approximately 30,600 acres
and management activities are being proposed on less than 15 percent of
the area.
     Jack pine stands experience a cyclical outbreak of jack pine
budworm. Older trees are more susceptible to defoliation which can lead
to mortality and dead tops. In the Interior Wetlands project area much
of the jack pine is more than 60 years old. The jack pine in the
project area experienced budworm defoliation during the 1991/1992
outbreak and is showing some defoliation during the outbreak that began
in 2001. The Forest Service is evaluating the options available to
develop a more evenly distributed age-class and to improve the vigor of
jack pine stands in order to minimize the impacts of budworm
defoliation. In addition to proposing jack pine salvage and
regeneration in Interior Wetlands, the Forest Service evaluated some
other management opportunities within the entire project area to
implement the Hiawatha National Forest Land and Resource Management
Plan (Forest Plan, 1986). The proposed action includes salvage and
regeneration of jack pine, timber harvesting and regeneration of other
species, changes to the transportation system, changes to the old
growth system, timber stand improvement projects, and wildlife and
fisheries habitat improvement projects.
     Overall guidance of land management activities on the Hiawatha
National Forest is provided by the Forest Plan. In order to meet the
objectives and desired future conditions set forth in the Forest Plan,
the following purpose and need has been identified for the Interior
Wetlands project area: (1) Reduce the impacts of the jack pine budworm
by creating a more evenly distributed age-class structure (which also
improves habitat for sandhill crane, merlin, northern harrier, and
other species), improving vigor, and increasing growth rates in jack
pine stands. (2) Regenerate older aspen and mixed balsam fir/aspen/
paper birch stands to maintain these forest types; provide habitat for
white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, snowshoe hare, and other species;
improve vigor, and increase growth rates. (3) Regenerate older black
spruce stands to improve vigor and to increase growth rates. (4) Remove
some trees in some jack pine, aspen, balsam fir/aspen/paper birch,
northern hardwoods, paper birch, black spruce, red pine, white pine,
and cedar to either concentrate growth on the remaining trees or to
provide space for new trees to become established. (5) Provide useable
wood products to local markets and improve timber age-class
distribution, vigor, and growth rates on merchantable stems to ensure a
more even flow of wood products in the future. (6) Prepare areas where
jack pine and black spruce are being regenerated by reducing the slash
and exposing mineral soil for a seedbed. (7) Manage an efficient
transportation system through construction, reconstruction,
maintenance, and decommissioning of roads. (8) Improve the quality and
survival of some white pine stems damaged by white pine weevil and
blister rust. (9) Evaluate stands currently in the old growth system
and other stands to determine if there is a different arrangement of
stands that could provide better existing old growth characteristics
and better placement across the landscape. (10) Adjust wildlife opening
system by creating openings or maintaining existing openings by
removing woody encroachment to provide habitat for sandhill crane,
black bear, ruffed grouse, and other species. (11) Improve fish habitat
(primarily brook trout) by adding log bank cover and placing spawning
gravel. (12) Design projects and/or develop mitigation measures, as
appropriate, to minimize impacts to the resources to acceptable levels
defined by laws, regulations, or policies.
     A roads analysis for the project area will be conducted in
conjunction with the EIS. The roads analysis is not a decision document
but is necessary to make an informed decision. At a minimum, the roads
analysis will identify: needed and unneeded roads; road associated
environmental and public safety risks; site-specific priorities and
opportunities for road improvements and decommissioning; areas of
special sensitivity, unique resource values, or both; and any other
information that may be needed to support project-level decisions.
Adjacent landowners, citizens groups, State, local, and Tribal
governments, and other Federal agencies are invited to comment on the
transportation system.
     The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) will analyze the
direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental effects of the
alternatives. Past, present, and projected activities on National
Forest system lands will be considered. The DEIS will disclose the
analysis of site-specific mitigation measures and their effectiveness.
The DEIS is expected to be filed with the EPA and available for public
review by November 2002.

DATES: Comments concerning the proposed action and scope of the
analysis should be received within 30 days of this notice to receive
timely consideration in the DEIS. A public meeting about this project
will be held on December 4, 2001 at 6:30 pm.

ADDRESSES: Mail written comments to Stevan J. Christiansen, District
Ranger, St. Ignace and Sault Ste. Marie Ranger Districts, 1798 West US-
2, St. Ignace, MI 49781. The public meeting for this project will be
held at the Trout Lake Town Hall on the main street of Trout Lake (M-

Ignace Ranger District. Phone: (906) 643-7900 ext. 133. Email:
<A HREF="mailto:msjogren@fs.fed.us";>msjogren@fs.fed.us</A>.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The information presented in this notice is
included to help the reviewer determine if they are interested in or
potentially affected by the proposed land management activities. The

[[Page 59557]]

in this notice is summarized. Contact the person identified in the For
Further Information Contact section to obtain additional information
about desired future condition, purpose and need, proposed action,
design criteria and/or mitigation measures, and maps. The information
packet and color maps are also available at: <A 
     The project area is approximately 30,600 acres and is located near
the town of Trout Lake, Chippewa County, Michigan. Proposed activities
within the project area include portions of the following areas: T44N,
R4W, Sections 19, 31; T44N, R5W, Sections 2-11, 13-27, 35, 36; T44N,
R6W, Sections 1-18, 21-24; T45N, R5W, Sections 8-10, 15-17, 19-22, 27-
33; T45N, R6W, Sections 23, 25, 26, 31, 32, 34-36. To meet the purpose
and need, this project proposes:
     1. To salvage (through clearcut harvest) and regenerate
approximately 2,216 acres of mature and overmature jack pine.
     2. To harvest (clearcut) and regenerate approximately 289 acres of
mature and overmature aspen, balsam fir/aspen/paper birch, and black
spruce stands.
     3. To harvest (clearcut) and regenerate approximately 119 acres of
mature black spruce stands.
     4. To harvest some trees (partial removal cuts) on approximately
508 acres in jack pine, aspen, balsam fir/aspen/paper birch, northern
hardwoods, black spruce, red pine, white pine, and cedar.
     5. To harvest (commercially thin) about 148 acres in northern
hardwoods and paper birch.
     6. Prepare sites for jack pine regeneration by rollerchopping about
1,400 acres and prescribed burning about 400 acres.
     7. To adjust the transportation system by: constructing
approximately 1.7 miles of classified roads, 1.5 miles of temporary
roads on existing unclassified road corridors and then decommission,
and 23.1 miles of temporary roads; changing the classification of
approximately 2.8 miles from unclassified to classified; performing
road maintenance on approximately 7.8 miles of classified roads, and
2.8 miles unclassified roads changed to classified roads;
reconstructing approximately 0.1 mile of classified road; and
decommissioning approximately 0.3 miles of classified roads and
approximately 3.2 miles of unclassified roads.
     8. To prune approximately 40 acres of weevil and blister rust
damaged white pine saplings.
     9. To adjust the old growth system by removing from the existing
system about 348 acres with limited existing old growth conditions or
in unfavorable locations and adding to the system about 223 acres with
some existing old growth conditions or in more favorable locations.
     10. To create wildlife openings on about 9 acres and maintain
openings on about 157 acres by removing woody encroachment.
     11. To improve fish habitat in Biscuit Creek by adding log bank
cover along approximately 750 feet and placing 75 square yards of
spawning gravel in the stream.
     12. To develop design criteria and/or mitigation measures to reduce
the impacts of management activities on resources. Specifically, design
projects and/or mitigation measures to control road use; protect
threatened, endangered and sensitive species; protect plant habitat;
protect wildlife and protect and/or improve scenic integrity; protect
heritage resources; provide safe snowmobiling in area of timber
harvest; provide good seed source jack pine cones; and protect soil and

Range of Alternatives

     The Forest Service will consider a range of alternatives. One of
these will be the ``no action'' alternative in which none of the
proposed activities will be implemented. Additional alternatives will
examine varying levels and locations for the proposed activities to
achieve the proposal's purposes in response to the issues identified
during public involvement.

Preliminary Issues

     The public has had several previous opportunities to comment on
these proposed actions. The original Interior Wetlands EA (circa 1997)
was included in the NEPA quarterly, scoping letters were sent out, and
public meetings were held. The public commented again during the 30-day
public comment period (April 1999), and when the EA was appealed. In
September 2000, the Forest Service released the Revised Interior
Wetlands Project Set EA for another 30-day public comment period. From
the public comments received from 1997-2000, preliminary issues that
may be addressed in this EIS are as follows:
     1. There is too much timber harvest proposed in the area, there is
too much clearcutting proposed, and other resources (e.g. wildlife,
wetlands, soils, and hydrology) would be negatively impacted.
     2. There is too much road construction to accommodate the timber
harvest, there are too many temporary roads proposed, and other
resources (e.g. wildlife, wetlands, soils, and hydrology) would be
negatively impacted by the construction and by ineffective closure and
obliteration of temporary roads.
     3. There is too much focus on providing timber products and not
enough focus on restoring the ecosystem to more natural conditions.

Decisions To Be Made

     The St. Ignace and Sault Ste. Marie District Ranger will decide the
     1. Whether or not to salvage and harvest timber and if so, the
selection and site-specific location of appropriate timber management
practices (silvicultural prescription, logging system, fuels treatment,
and reforestation); road construction/reconstruction/maintenance/
decommissioning necessary to provide access and protect resources; and
appropriate mitigation measures.
     2. Whether or not to make adjustments to the old growth system.
     3. Whether or not to maintain existing wildlife openings and create
new ones.
     4. Whether or not to modify fish habitat by adding log bank cover
and placing spawning gravel.
     5. What, if any, specific project monitoring requirements would be
needed to ensure mitigation measures are implemented and effective.

Public Involvement and Scoping

     The public is encouraged to attend the public meeting at 6:30 pm on
December 4, 2001 at the Trout Lake Town Hall. Forest Service officials
will be available at that time to present an overview of the purpose
and need and proposed action. It is also an opportunity for the public
to comment on the project.
     Public participation is an important part of the analysis. The
public may visit Forest Service officials at any time during the
analysis and prior to the decision. Public scoping has been ongoing for
the Interior Wetlands project. The Forest Service will be seeking
additional information, comments, and assistance from Federal, State,
and local agencies, as well as local Native American tribes and other
individuals or organizations that may be interested in or affected by
the proposed action. This input will be used in preparation of the
draft and final EIS. The scoping process will:
     Identify potential issues.
     Identify issues to be analyzed in depth.
     Identify alternatives to the proposed action.

[[Page 59558]]

     Explore additional alternatives that will be derived from issues
recognized during scoping.
     Identify potential environmental effects of this project and
alternatives (e.g. direct, indirect, and cumulative effects and
connected actions).

Estimated Dates for Filing

     The DEIS is expected to be filed with the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) and to be available for public review by November 2002. At
that time EPA will publish a Notice of Availability of the DEIS in the
Federal Register. The comment period on the DEIS will be 45 days from
the date the EPA publishes the Notice of Availability in the Federal
Register. It is very important that those interested in the management
of this area participate at that time.
     The final EIS is scheduled to be completed by February 2003. In the
final EIS, the Forest Service is required to respond to comments and
responses received during the comment period that pertain to the
environmental consequences discussed in the DEIS and to applicable
laws, regulations, and policies considered in making a decision
regarding the proposal.

Reviewer's Obligations

     The Forest Service believes it is important to give reviewers
notice of several court rulings related to public participation in the
environmental review process. First, 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, 553 (1978). Also,
environmental objections that could be raised at the draft
environmental impact statement 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 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 and respond to them in the final EIS.
     To be most helpful, comments on the DEIS should be as specific as
possible and may address the adequacy of the statement or the merit of
the alternatives discussed. 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.

Responsible Official

     The District Ranger of the St. Ignace and Sault Ste. Marie Ranger
Districts, Hiawatha National Forest, 1798 West US-2, St. Ignace, MI
49781, is the Responsible Official. As the Responsible Official, he
will decide if the proposed project will be implemented. He will
document the decision and reasons for the decision in the Record of

     Authority: National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 as amended
(42 U.S.C. 4321-4346); Council on Environmental Quality Regulations
(40 CFR parts 1500-1508); U.S. Department of Agriculture NEPA
Policies and Procedures (7 CFR part 1b).

     Dated: November 7, 2001.
Clyde Thompson,
Forest Supervisor, Hiawatha National Forest, 2727 North Lincoln Road,
Escanaba, MI 49829.
[FR Doc. 01-29727 Filed 11-28-01; 8:45 am]

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