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E-M:/ Ottawa Forest -- Baltimore area near Bruce Crossing

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

[Federal Register: July 8, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 130)]
[Page 45076-45078]
 >From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]


Forest Service

Ottawa National Forest, Ontonagon County, MI; Baltimore
Vegetative Management Project

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.
ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement.


SUMMARY: The USDA-Forest Service will prepare an Environmental Impact
Statement (EIS) for the Baltimore Vegetative Management Project (VMP)
to disclose the effects of the following activities: Timber harvest;
site preparation for natural and artificial regeneration; tree
planting; dispersed parking area improvement and development; trail
construction; relocating a portion of an existing snowmobile trail;
classification of old growth; maintenance of permanent openings and
mowing roads for wildlife habitat; fisheries habitat improvement;
expansion of an existing gravel pit; and transportation management that
would include road construction, road reconstruction, temporary road
construction, road maintenance, road decommissioning and obliteration,
and road closure to passenger vehicles.
     The project area begins approximately 4 miles north of Bruce
Crossing, Michigan, and lies to the east and west of US Highway 45 (US-
45). It is in the Baltimore Opportunity Area on the Ontonagon Ranger
District and the North Ewen Opportunity Area on the Bergland Ranger

DATES: Comments and suggestions concerning the scope of the analysis
should be received within 30 days following publication of this notice.
The draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) is expected to be filed
with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and available for public
review in November 2002, and the final environmental impact statement
(FEIS) is expected in March 2003.

ADDRESSES: Written comments and suggestions concerning the scope of the
analysis should be sent to: District Ranger, Ontonagon Ranger District,
1209 Rockland Road, Ontonagon, MI 49953.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John Strasser, Interdisciplinary Team
Leader, Ontonagon Ranger District, Phone: (906) 884-2411.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The project area contains approximately
35,900 acres, of which approximately 28,475 are National Forest System
acres, on the Ontonagon and Bergland Ranger Districts on the Ottawa
National Forest, Ontonagon County, Michigan. The legal description of
the project area contains all or parts of the following locations: T49N
R38W, Sections 18, 19, 30; T49N R39W, Sections 1-36; T49N R40W,
Sections 1-4, 8-17, 20-28, 33-36; and T50N R39W, Sections 27, 31-35,
Michigan Meridian.

[[Page 45077]]

     The proposed project area includes portions of management areas
(MAs) 1.1, 8.1, 9.2, and 9.3, and is comprised of National Forest
System lands and parcels of private land. The Ottawa Forest Plan
provides guidance for management activities within the potentially
affected area through its goals, objectives, standards and guidelines,
and management area direction.

Purpose and Need for Action

     The purpose and need for action is to:
     (1) Promote and maintain processes that would enhance natural
species diversity while providing a supply of wood products for
regional and local needs to help support a stable economic base within
the market area.
     (2) Maintain and enhance habitat conditions that sustain viable
populations of a variety of fish and wildlife species and enhance
watershed conditions.
     (3) Maintain a road system that allows for management of National
Forest System lands and provides for public access while meeting other
resource needs.
     (4) Provide recreational opportunities to meet the public's needs.
     (5) Provide for public safety.

Proposed Action

     The Forest Service proposes treatments on approximately 3360 acres
of National Forest System land that would harvest approximately 48,000
hundred cubic feet (CCF) (equivalent to approximately 61,000 cords) of
timber through a variety of harvest methods. Silvicultural treatment
systems that would be used include: clearcut with reserve trees on
approximately 1975 acres, selection harvest on approximately 100 acres,
commercial thinning on approximately 825 acres, shelterwood harvest on
approximately 360 acres, and removal harvest on approximately 100
acres. This proposal includes 15 temporary openings greater than 40
acres (size range is approximately 50 to 186 acres), to treat Aspen
forest types at high risk of loss to insect and disease (60 days'
public notice period and Regional Forester review would be required
prior to signing the Record of Decision for exceeding the forty-acre
temporary opening limit set in 36 CFR 219.27(d)(2)). Connected
treatment actions would include site preparation for natural and
artificial regeneration on approximately 2200 acres, and supplemental
conifer planting on approximately 400 acres. The proposal also includes
the classification of approximately 1650 acres of old growth, of which
approximately 290 acres would be classified as managed old growth and
approximately 1360 acres would be classified as unmanaged old growth.
     The proposed National Forest road management needed to access the
treatment areas would include an estimated: 1.1 miles of new system
road construction, 9.7 miles of system road reconstruction, 40.8 miles
of system road maintenance, and 1.0 mile of temporary road
construction. Temporary roads would be obliterated and allowed to
revegetate to a natural state following completion of treatment
     In addition to the above proposed road treatments, the following
road management would allow for future management of National Forest
lands, provide for public access, and meet other resource needs. This
includes an estimated: 28.1 miles of road decommissioning, 15.6 miles
of system road reconstruction, 49.6 miles of system road maintenance,
and 2.6 miles of road being unclassified. The 2.6 miles of unclassified
road are no longer needed for long-term management of forest resources,
but are access routes currently under special use permit or being used
by leaseholders.
     The proposed expansion of the Gauthier Gravel Pit would provide
materials necessary for future transportation management.
     The proposed wildlife and fisheries management activities, intended
to maintain or enhance wildlife and fisheries habitat, would include:
maintaining approximately 165 acres of permanent openings, mowing along
approximately 13 miles of road to improve succulent forage for grouse,
scarifying some sites for seeding or natural regeneration of conifers
to increase the conifer component in existing conifer stands, hand-
cutting small patches of Tag Alder adjacent to Aspen stands to
rejuvenate woodcock habitat, add/create large coarse woody debris to
some of the harvested Aspen stands for grouse and other species, and
adding large woody debris at selected sites in the Baltimore River.
     The proposed dispersed recreation management activities, intended
to maintain or enhance existing recreation opportunities to meet
current and expected future demand while protecting resources, would
include: hardening, enhancing, or developing some dispersed recreation
camping sites adjacent to Forest Roads 730 and 733, conversion of
approximately 300 feet of existing unclassified road to a trail to
protect resources while still allowing for Ontonagon River access, and
improvement of a small parking area near the Ontonagon River access
     The proposed management needed to address public health and safety
concerns would include relocating a portion of snowmobile trail
<greek-i>3 that is currently located in the US-45 right of way. The
existing trail location creates a less than ideal safety situation for
motor vehicle users on the highway and also for snowmobilers.

Possible 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 would be implemented. Additional alternatives will
examine varying levels and locations for the proposed activities to
achieve the proposal's purposes, as well as to respond to the issues
and other resource values.
     The EIS will analyze the direct, indirect, and cumulative
environmental effects of the alternatives. Past, present, and projected
activities on both private and National Forest System lands will be
considered. The EIS will disclose site-specific design criteria.

Responsible Official

     Ralph E. Miller, Acting District Ranger, Ontonagon Ranger District,
1209 Rockland Rd., Ontonagon, MI 49953, 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 Decision.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

     The Ontonagon District Ranger will decide the following:
      Whether or not to implement vegetation management
activities, and if so, identify the selection of, and site-specific
location of, appropriate timber management practices (silvicultural
prescription, site preparation, and reforestation).
      Identify road construction, reconstruction, maintenance,
and temporary road construction necessary to provide access to
accomplish treatments, or provide for long-term resource management, as
well as any appropriate design criteria.
      Whether or not to permanently decommission, obliterate, or
close roads to restrict passenger vehicle access or protect resources,
and if so, where and how.
      Whether or not to expand an existing gravel pit, and if
so, to what extent.
      Whether or not to maintain permanent openings and mow

[[Page 45078]]

roads, and if so, the location and size of openings to be maintained
and roads to be mowed.
      What improvements or developments, if any, should be
undertaken to enhance dispersed recreation opportunities.
      Whether or not to relocate a portion of snowmobile trail
<greek-i>3, and if so, where.
      What, if any, specific project monitoring requirements
would be needed to assure design criteria are implemented and

Public Involvement and Scoping

     In July 1998, initial scoping was done for the Thumper Vegetation
Management Project that was listed in the 1998 winter edition of the
Ottawa Quarterly. The 1999 summer edition of the Ottawa Quarterly
further included the Winterfest Timber Sale as part of the Thumper
Vegetation Management Project. This project was never completed and is
now included in the Baltimore analysis. Comments received regarding the
Thumper Vegetation Management Project prior to this notice will be
included in the documentation for the EIS. The public is encouraged to
take part in the process by communicating or visiting with Forest
Service officials at any time during the analysis and prior to the
decision. The Forest Service will be seeking information, comments, and
assistance from Federal, State, and local agencies, as well as 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 include:
      Initiating public involvement.
      Identifying potential issues.
      Identifying major issues to be analyzed in depth.
      Identifying alternatives to the proposed action.
      Identifying potential environmental effects of this
proposed action and the alternatives (i.e. direct, indirect, and
cumulative effects and connected actions).

Preliminary Issues

     Tentatively, a few preliminary issues of concern have been
identified. These issues are briefly described below.

Transportation System

     Implementation of the proposed action would decommission roads not
needed for the long-term transportation system. Some additional
segments of road would be managed as closed to some types of motorized
use. This may affect the public's ability to use traditional access


     There are large areas of mature and declining Aspen that are at
high risk of loss to insects or disease. When proposed harvest areas
are added to recently harvested adjacent areas (0-10 years ago),
several temporary open areas exceeding 40 acres would be created.

Public Health and Safety

     A portion of snowmobile trail <greek-i>3 is located in the US-45
right of way. The present trail location creates a situation where
snowmobile traffic must parallel the highway, cross the highway several
times, and cross the Ontonagon River by traveling over and along the
US-45 bridge. This creates a less than ideal safety situation for motor
vehicle users on the highway and also for snowmobilers. Within the
scope of this project, proposing to relocate a portion of the existing
trail could reduce the amount of trail within the US-45 right of way.
For reasons outside the scope of this project, a separate analysis and
document is needed to propose alternative methods for crossing the
Ontonagon River, which could reduce the number of times the trail has
to cross US-45 and eliminate snowmobiles having to travel over and
along the US-45 bridge.

Comment Requested

     This notice of intent initiates the scoping process which guides
the development of the environmental impact statement. While public
participation in this analysis is welcome at any time, comments
received within 30 days of the publication of this notice will be
especially useful in the preparation of the draft EIS.

Early Notice of Importance of Public Participation in Subsequent
Environmental Review

     A draft EIS will be prepared for comment. The draft EIS is expected
to be filed with the EPA and to be available for public review in
November 2002. At that time the EPA will publish a Notice of
Availability of the draft EIS in the Federal Register. The comment
period on the draft EIS 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 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
draft environmental impact statements 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 environmental impact statement stage but that are not raised
until after completion of the final environmental impact 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 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 EIS. 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.

     Dated: June 24, 2002.
Robert Lueckel,
Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. 02-16586 Filed 7-5-02; 8:45 am]

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