Ashley National Forest, Utah and Wyoming; Revision of Ashley National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan

 
CONTENT
Federal Register, Volume 84 Issue 175 (Tuesday, September 10, 2019)
[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 175 (Tuesday, September 10, 2019)]
[Notices]
[Pages 47475-47477]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-19503]
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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Forest Service
Ashley National Forest, Utah and Wyoming; Revision of Ashley
National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan
AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.
ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.
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SUMMARY: The USDA Forest Service is revising the Land Management Plan
(Forest Plan) for the Ashley National Forest and preparing an
environmental impact statement (EIS). This notice describes the
documents available for review and how to obtain them; summarizes the
preliminary needs for changing the existing forest plan; summarizes the
proposal to revise the forest plan, provides information concerning
public participation and collaboration, including the process for
submitting comments; provides an estimated schedule for the planning
process, including the time available for comments, and includes the
names and addresses of agency contacts who can provide additional
information.
DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received
by November 8, 2019. The agency expects to release a draft revised
Forest Plan and EIS by fall 2020 and a final revised Forest Plan and
EIS by summer 2021.
ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Ashley National Forest, Attention:
Plan Revision, 355 North Vernal Avenue, Vernal, Utah 84078-1703.
Comments may also be sent via email to [email protected], or
via facsimile to (435) 781-5142.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Cathleen Neelan, Forest Plan Revision
Team Leader, at (435) 781-5120. Individuals who use telecommunication
devices for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay
Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.,
Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday. More information on the
planning process may be found on the Ashley National Forest's Planning
website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/ashley/landmanagement/planning.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:
Proposed Action, Purpose and Need, and Need To Change
    The proposed action is to revise the Forest Plan to address the
identified need to change the existing Forest Plan. According to the
National Forest Management Act (NFMA), forest plans are to be revised
on a 10 to 15-year cycle. The purpose and need for revising the current
Forest Plan is (1) the Forest Plan is over 30 years old and has been
amended 24 times, (2) since the Forest Plan was approved in 1986, there
have been changes in economic, social, and ecological conditions, new
policies and priorities, and new information based on monitoring and
scientific research, and (3) to address the preliminary need to change
to the existing plan, which is summarized below.
    Extensive public and employee involvement, along with science-based
evaluations, will help shape the preliminary need to change the
existing Forest Plan, so a proposed plan can be developed and analyzed
in an EIS.
    The Ashley National Forest planning team has developed preliminary
need to change statements in the document ``Preliminary Need to Change
the Ashley National Forest Land Management Plan,'' available for review
on the Ashley forest plan revision website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/ashley/landmanagement/planning. This document was developed based
on public comments on and information in the Ashley National Forest
Assessment. The responsible official will use public comments on the
preliminary need to change information to develop an identified need to
change that will provide the basis for revising the Forest Plan.
    The preliminary need to change the Forest Plan has been organized
into five focus topics. Focus topics make it easier to ensure the
purpose and need to revise the Forest Plan are met. The focus topics
are as follows:
    1. There is need for sustainable recreation (balance recreation use
with ecological integrity, address population increases and aging
populations; and address shifts in types of preferred recreation.)
    2. There is need for economic resiliency (balancing local
communities and economies with ecosystem services generated on the
Ashley National Forest) including municipal water, recreation
activities, employments and tourism.
    3. There is need to manage traditional resource uses (conserve and
encourage
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traditional uses such as mineral development, livestock grazing, timber
and woodland products use, fuelwood collection, etc.) and balance them
with other multiple uses while transitioning from commodity based goods
to a focus on restoration, resiliency and sustainability within
emerging economic opportunities.
    4. There is need to manage cultural resources, improving tribal
relationships and partnerships, to provide for subsistence and other
cultural activities, including guidance to manage areas of tribal
importance.
    5. There is need to manage for resilient ecosystems and watersheds
(protect and restore terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and reduce
conifer encroachment in vegetation communities associated with wildlife
diversity and grazing).
    The preliminary need to change information has led to development
of a ``Proposal to Revise the Land Management Plan.'' Public review and
comments on these documents will help the Ashley National Forest
responsible official and planning team to refine the need to change the
Forest Plan and develop a proposed revised Forest Plan that will be
analyzed in a draft EIS.
Lead and Cooperating Agencies
    The Ashley National Forest is the lead agency for the environmental
analysis process during the revision of the Forest Plan. The following
counties have been formally identified as cooperating agencies for
Utah: Daggett, Duchesne, Summit, Utah and Uintah Counties. The State of
Utah--Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office and the Conservation
Districts for Daggett, Uintah and Duchesne also serve as cooperating
agencies. Entities formally identified as cooperating agencies for
Wyoming include the State of Wyoming Governor's Policy Office,
Sweetwater County and two Conservation Districts for Wyoming;
Sweetwater and Uinta. The Ute and Eastern Shoshone Tribes did not sign
formal agreements with the Ashley National Forest but are treated
similar to cooperators because of their sovereign status.
Responsible Official
    Mike Richardson, Acting Forest Supervisor, Ashley National Forest
Nature of the Decision To Be Made
    The Ashley National Forest is preparing an EIS to revise the
existing 1986 Forest Plan. The environmental analysis process is meant
to inform the Forest Supervisor so he can decide which alternative best
maintains and restores National Forest System terrestrial and aquatic
resources while providing ecosystem services and multiple uses, as
required by the NFMA and the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act.
    The revised Forest Plan will describe the strategic intent of
managing the Ashley National Forest for the next 10 to 15 years and
will address the identified need to change the existing Forest Plan.
The revised Forest Plan will provide management direction in the form
of desired conditions, objectives, standards, guidelines, and
suitability of lands. The revised Forest Plan will identify management
areas and geographic areas, the timber sale program quantity, and the
river segments found eligible for inclusion in the National Wild and
Scenic Rivers System. The revised Forest Plan may also include
preliminary administration recommendations for wilderness designation
by Congress. The revised Forest Plan will identify suitable uses of the
Ashley National Forest, and it will identify a variety of recreation
opportunities. The revised Forest Plan will provide a description of
the plan area and its distinctive roles and contributions within the
broader landscape, identify watersheds that are a priority for
maintenance or restoration, include a monitoring program, and contain
information reflecting expected possible actions over the life of the
plan.
    The revised Forest Plan will provide broad, strategic guidance that
is consistent with other laws and regulations. Though strategic
guidance will be provided, no decisions will be made regarding the
regulation of public activities and access to federal lands; the
management of individual roads, trails, or areas associated with the
Travel Management Rule (36 CFR part 212); or permitted activities, such
as outfitters and guides, or grazing. These activities, projects, and
site-specific management actions are managed through separate
administrative and regulatory processes. Similarly, no decision
regarding oil and gas leasing availability will be made, although plan
components may be brought forward or developed in the future that will
help guide oil and gas leasing availability decisions that may be
necessary. Some actions (such as hunting regulations), although
important, are outside Forest Service authority and cannot be included
in the proposed action.
Documents Available for Review and Comment
    The ``Preliminary Need to Change the Ashley National Forest Land
Management Plan'' and the ``Proposal to Revise the Land Management
Plan'' are available for review at the Ashley National Forest Planning
website at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/ashley/landmanagement/planning. In addition to these documents, the Ashley National Forest is
requesting review and comment on the Wilderness Evaluation Report and
the Wild and Scenic Rivers Eligibility Report, also available on the
website. Congress has the authority to make wilderness and wild and
scenic river designations; however, the 2012 Planning Rule requires the
Forest Service to evaluate and make recommendations for such
designations through the plan revision process. Both evaluations are a
multi-step process that require public feedback throughout the forest
plan revision process. Further opportunities for public participation
will be provided on the inventories, evaluations, analyses, and, for
wilderness, preliminary administrative recommendations.
Scoping Process
    This Notice of Intent initiates the scoping process, which guides
the development of the EIS. The Ashley National Forest uses multiple
means of communication and notification about forest plan revision
information and events. These include newspaper, radio, TV, posters,
social media and electronic notices. Informal phone networks have been
developed to get information to members of the public that do not use
electronic communication along with a newsletter update for important
steps in the process that is mailed by postal mail. The Ashley National
Forest encourages all those interested to sign up for information
electronically on the Ashley National Forest Planning website https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/ashley/landmanagement/planning, submit comments,
and continue to monitor the website for updates.
    Written comments received in response to this notice will be
considered to determine the need to change the existing plan, further
develop the proposed action, and identify potential significant issues.
Significant issues will help form the basis for developing alternatives
to the proposed action. Comments received on the Wilderness Evaluation
Report and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Eligibility Report will be
considered to refine report findings as well as the process.
    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 EIS. Therefore, comments should be provided prior to the close of
the comment period and should clearly
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articulate the reviewer's issues and contentions, and make suggestions
for changes or inclusions. Comments received in response to this
notice, including the names and addresses of those who comment, will be
part of the public record. Comments submitted anonymously will be
accepted and considered in the environmental analysis process; however,
anonymous comments will not provide the Ashley National Forest the
ability to provide the respondent with subsequent environmental
documents. Refer to the Ashley National Forest website https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/ashley/landmanagement/planning for information on
when public meetings will be scheduled for refining the proposed action
and to begin identifying possible alternatives.
    The decision to approve the revised Forest Plan will be subject to
the objection process for the planning process (36 CFR part 219,
subpart B). Only those individuals and entities who submit substantive
formal comments related to this Forest Plan revision during the
opportunities for public comment as provided in 36 CFR part 219,
subpart A, may file an objection. The burden is on the objector to
demonstrate compliance with requirements for objection (36 CFR 219.53).
Applicable Planning Rule
    Preparation of the revised Forest Plan for the Ashley National
Forest began with the publication of a notice of initiation in the
Federal Register on July 22, 2016 (81 FR 47749) using the 2012 Forest
Service planning rule (36 CFR 219 (2012)).
    Dated: September 4, 2019.
Frank R. Beum,
Acting Associate Deputy Chief, National Forest System.
[FR Doc. 2019-19503 Filed 9-9-19; 8:45 am]
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