United States Forest Washington 14th & Independence SW
Department of Service Office P.O. Box 96090
Agriculture Washington, DC 20090-6090
File Code: 1570-1(L)
Date: January 10, 1997
Mr. Michael P. Kincella
175 Bayhorse Road CERTIFIED MAIL - R.R.R.
Libby, MT 59923
Dear Mr. Kincella:
We have completed our review of the administrative record associated with your November 29, 1996, appeal of Regional Forester Hal Salwasser's October 9, 1996, Record of Decision for the Checkerboard Land Exchange involving the Kootenai, Lolo, and Flathead National Forests in the Northern Region, Montana. Your appeal was filed pursuant to the provisions contained in 36 CFR Part 215.
The record demonstrates that the 45-day comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) began on August 1, 1995, and with the time extension, ran for 71 days until October 10, 1995. At your request, you were mailed a copy of the DEIS summary document which included a map showing the lands included in the preferred exchange alternative. The record supports the finding that you did not submit written comments or otherwise raise any issues relative to this specific proposed action during the comment period as contained in 215.11. Therefore, you do not meet the requirements under 215.11.
We are dismissing your appeal without review on procedural grounds in accordance with 215.15(a)(5).
This decision on your appeal constitutes the final administrative determination of the Department of Agriculture (36 CFR 215.18).
/s/ Janice H. McDougle
JANICE H. MCDOUGLE
Appeal Deciding Officer
cc: Regional Forester, R-1
Ms. Janet Garrow, Cairncross & Hempelmann, P.S., 70th Floor, Columbia
Center, 701 Fifth Avenue, Seattle, Washington 98104-7016
Mr. Gary Zorn, 280 Bighorn Drive, Kalispell, Montana 59901
United States Forest R-1
Department of Service
Reply To: 1570 Date: December 16, 1996
Subject: Checkerboard Land Exchange FEIS/ROD Administrative Appeal
Michael P. Kincella
To: Appeals Reviewing Officer
In accordance with 36 CFR 215.13 (f)(1), I am hereby submitting the decision documentation for the Michael P. Kincella appeal of my decision on the Checkerboard Land Exchange of the Kootenai, Lolo, and Flathead National Forests.
I. DECISION UNDER APPEAL
The Checkerboard Exchange Decision Area is divided into two separate areas: National Forest System (NFS) parcels and Plum Creek Timber Company (PCTC) parcels.
The NFS parcels proposed to convey to PCTC include approximately 27,371 acres. These parcels are located in 10 analysis areas or "tracts" which were used to evaluate effects. This portion of the Decision Area is referred to as the "Libby/Fisher Tracts."
The PCTC parcels proposed for acquisition include approximately 22,672 acres. These parcels are located in four analysis areas or "tracts" which were used to evaluate effects. This portion of the Decision Area is referred to as the "Checkerboard Tracts."
The total Checkerboard Exchange Decision Area encompasses approximately 419,131 acres of NFS and private lands within Lincoln, Sanders and Flathead Counties, southeast of Libby in the northwest corner of Montana. The majority of the area is within the Kootenai River drainage basin, but the southern most portion is in the Clark Fork drainage.
A. DECISION - ACTIVITIES OR PROJECTS TO BE IMPLEMENTED
The Record of Decision (ROD) (Document #1170) documents my decision and rationale for implementing Alternative 4B-Modified as described in the Checkerboard Land Exchange ROD (pp. 3-21) and Appendix A (maps 1 and 2).
Alternative 4B-Modified will implement the acquisition of 22,671.77 acres of PCTC lands in the Checkerboard Tracts and the conveyance of 27,370.82 acres of NFS lands in the Libby/Fisher Tracts to PCTC. Legal descriptions of each parcel of land involved in Alternative 4B-Modified are listed in Appendix A of the ROD.
The Kootenai National Forest (KNF) will manage all the acquired PCTC lands in accordance with Management Area (MA) direction in Chapter 3, Volume 1, of the Kootenai Forest Plan, and as mapped in Appendix D of the ROD.
The Lolo National Forest will convey to PCTC 147 acres, and the Flathead National Forest will convey 5 acres to PCTC. No parcels will be acquired by the Lolo or Flathead National Forests.
The KNF anticipates construction of approximately 13 miles of system road and harvesting 790 acres within the Checkerboard Tracts of the Decision Area. This planned 10-year timber sale program (treated as cumulative effects in the analysis) would be occurring around the periphery of the Checkerboard Tracts on newly acquired parcels and existing NFS parcels. In addition, the KNF anticipates constructing approximately 4 miles of system road and harvesting approximately 300 acres within the Libby/Fisher Tracts of the Decision Area. These activities would only occur after further site-specific National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis is completed (Document #1170).
The best estimate of PCTC's activities is for construction of approximately 36 miles of road and harvesting of approximately 1,400 acres within the Checkerboard Tracts of the Decision Area. Construction of approximately 176 miles of road and approximately 6,770 acres of harvesting within the Libby/Fisher Tracts is also anticipated. The KNF would grant approximately 4.5 miles of new construction access easements over KNF lands located in the Decision Area. Access easements would be granted to PCTC under the authority of the National Forest Roads and Trails Act (FRTA), cost share, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) as necessary for PCTC to access their acquired NFS parcels, and those inholdings PCTC would retain in the Checkerboard Tracts. PCTC lands retained in Sanders County within the Checkerboard Tracts are not within a cost share area. Access to these inholdings would be granted by FRTA easements. In case of the Allen Peak Microwave Site access road, a FLPMA easement would be issued (Document #1170).
SUMMARY OF MODIFICATIONS MADE TO ALTERNATIVE 4B
The selected action contains almost all of the components described under Alternative 4B along with necessary adjustments to: achieve adequate security for grizzly bears; protect a rare sensitive moonwort plant; avoid federal liability concerns under Section 107 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) and; achieve an equal value land exchange (Document #1170, p. 6).
Alternative 4B-Modified includes the following adjustments to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Alternative 4B (Document #1170, p. 6):
KNF will acquire an additional 1,280 acres (Sec. 35, T25N, R29W and Sec. 35, T25N, R30W.
PCTC will acquire an additional 200 acres resulting from acquisition of NE1/4, NE1/4 Sec. 13, T27N, R29W and N1/2 Sec. 26, T28N, R27 1/2W less NW1/4 of Sec. 24, T26N, R29W, which was in the original exchange Alternative 4B.
PCTC and KNF agreed to exempt 30 acres from the exchange (part of Alternative 4B) which incorporates the Allen Peak Microwave site and surrounding area to assure all facilities remain on PCTC lands. The acres excluded from exchange are: S1/2 SE1/4 SW1/4 NE1/4, NE1/4 NW1/4 SE1/4, NE1/4 SW1/4 SE1/4, N1/2 SE1/4 SW1/4 SE1/4 Section 1, T25N, R30W.
These are minor changes within the scope and content of the environmental effects disclosed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement FEIS.
B. PURPOSE AND NEED
The purpose and need for this proposal consists of three elements (Document #1079a, pp. 1-5 - 1-7), to provide:
(1) for the recovery of the grizzly bear;
(2) roadless recreation opportunities; and
(3) access to PCTC's inholdings by granting needed road easements.
Refer to the Draft EIS which contains a complete description of the need to take action within the Decision Area and the intended purpose (Chapter 1, pp. 5-7).
C. FOREST PLAN CONSISTENCY
Alternative 4B-Modified is responsive to the need for action and will result in significant movement toward the Forest Plan desired condition. This alternative acquires almost all PCTC parcels within Grizzly Bear Management Units in the Checkerboard Tracts and provides for access to inholdings. The integrity of the existing roadless areas in the Checkerboard tracts will be largely preserved. Semi-primitive, non-motorized recreation opportunities associated with trails, back country camping and hunting in remote areas will be managed consistent with grizzly bear recovery goals (Document #1170, pp. 10-11).
Alternative 4B-Modified and future land use activities interconnected with this action, are consistent with Forest Plan requirements for conservation of inland native fish on NFS lands. This management direction for native fish conservation has no legal force on PCTC lands (either existing or acquired) Document #1170, p. 11).
The approved project-specific amendment (ROD, Appendix H) suspending the Forest Plan objective of retaining 10 percent of old growth in major drainages allows for achievement of the overall goal of the Forest Plan. Suspension of this objective on four Old Growth Analysis Areas will provide more optimal and effective habitat in the Checkerboard Tracts, maintain viable populations and maintain 10 percent old growth Forest-wide. With this amendment, Alternative 4B-Modified is consistent with the Forest Plan (Document #1170, p. 11).
II. PUBLIC AND AGENCY COMMENTS
A variety of opportunities for public comment have been offered since Appendix 9 of the Kootenai Forest Plan (Document #1294, pp. A9-4 - 37) recommends acquisition of PCTC lands in the Checkerboard Tracts (USDA-Forest Service, 1987). The public input related to land exchange opportunities and the granting of access to PCTC inholdings has been considered. This input was instrumental in helping the interdisciplinary team define issues and concerns, and in some cases, specifically design alternatives for consideration.
Alternative development and the public participation process have evolved over a long period of time. Important dates are displayed in the EIS, (Document #1079a, pp. 2-6 - 2-8).
SUMMARY OF SCOPING AND PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT ACTIVITIES PRIOR TO THE DRAFT EIS - Final EIS (Document #1169, pp. 5-1 through 5-3)
09/87 - Forest Plan recommends ownership consolidation of Checkerboard Tracts.
06/88 - Legal notice published identifying a proposed exchange (Alternative 2) which would acquire approximately half of PCTC lands in Checkerboard Tracts.
04/89 - Content analysis completed from 40 respondents.
02/91 - Meetings and additional letters were received on Alternative 2.
03/91 - Alternative 2 was partially modified in response to public issues and concerns.
04/91 - Checkerboard Exchange Scoping Document mailed to over 300 individuals, organizations, and public officials.
07/91 - Content analysis completed for 28 responses.
12/91 - Two open-house meetings were held on the proposed land exchange.
03/92 - July 1991 content analysis updated to include an additional 24 responses.
04/92 - Notice of Intent was published identifying partially modified Alternative 2 as KNF Proposed Action Alternative.
Late 1992 and Early 1993 - Additional meetings occurred. Individuals and groups provided input on selection of NFS lands to be included in exchange proposal. PCTC acquired hard rock mineral rights on all Checkerboard lands. This action allowed for potential acquisition of all PCTC lands within grizzly bear management units.
05/93 - Revised Notice of Intent published which identified Alternative 4 as the new Proposed Action Alternative.
07/93 - Progress update letter mailed to approximately 275 interested parties notifying them of new exchange alternative.
12/93 - Contract sociologist and economist spent week in study area interviewing a variety of local officials, business operators, interest group representatives, and other possible stake holders to understand area socioeconomic conditions and to assess residents' attitudes, values, and concerns regarding the Proposed Exchange Action. Approximately 40 interviews were conducted.
03/94 - Preliminary valuation showed NFS lands in Proposed Exchange Alternative 4 to be valued significantly less than PCTC lands.
04/94 - Alternative 4 was modified by dropping PCTC lands around the perimeter of the roadless areas to create an equal value land exchange.
06/94 - Phone discussions and meetings with key stakeholders were held to explain how the changes from Alternative 4 to Alternative 4B responded to public comments.
Fall 1994 - Major wildfires burned over 1.75 sections of NFS lands identified in the exchange.
10/94 - Alternative 4A was modified to Alternative 4B by dropping the fire damaged sections and adding NFS lands which were in the original Alternative 2.
SUMMARY OF PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT BETWEEN THE DRAFT EIS AND FINAL EIS/ROD
08/95 - EIS was completed and public comment was requested with Alternative 4B identified as the preferred Alternative.
09/95 - EIS comment period was extended based upon the request of several respondents.
10/95 - Content analysis on 53 responses to the EIS was completed.
Early 1996 - Informational meetings held based upon the request of several respondents to the EIS.
07/96 - Chapter V, Errata Sheets, and ROD mailed to interested parties.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF PUBLIC COMMENTS ON THE DRAFT EIS
In excess of 109 complete EIS's and 32 summaries were mailed to, or picked up by, the public, state, and federal agencies (Document #1169, p. 5-3). Additional copies of the EIS were sent to three District's Offices and the Regional Office for internal review and public distribution.
Distribution of EIS and Summary
The Checkerboard Mailing list contains 285 names of parties who responded by letter or phone as being interested in some aspect of this project. This mailing list exists as a spreadsheet in Micro Soft Works on two disks located in the administrative record. In May 1995, a letter containing a postage paid postcard was sent out to the entire mailing list (Document #161) asking if they wanted to receive a copy of the EIS or a summary. Requests were received for 109 EIS's and 32 summaries (Document #1169, p. 5-3).
Fifty-five letters were received and entered into the content analysis data base.
The Environmental Protection Agency, Bonneville Power Administration, and the Corps of Engineers supplied substantive comments describing additional information to be considered for the Final EIS (Document #'s 1044, 1001, and 1010). The Salish and Kootenai Tribes were contacted but did not submit formal comments. Consultation with Salish and Kootenai Tribes was conducted in accordance with a Memorandum of Understanding with the tribes, utilizing the tribal liaison (Document #1169, p. 5-4).
Forty of the respondents were in full support of the Proposed Action Alternative 4B. Ten respondents were in support of Alternative 4B, but with some varying stipulations. Two respondents did not clearly indicate whether or not they supported Alternative 4B. Four letters were received after the comment period closed. These letters were reviewed and placed in the project file. No formal response to them was required or completed (Document #1169, p. 5-4).
BRIEF SUMMARY OF PUBLIC COMMENTS ON OLD GROWTH PROJECT-SPECIFIC AMENDMENT TO THE FOREST PLAN
A request for public comment related to an old growth project-specific amendment was mailed to public, state, and federal agencies on the Checkerboard Mailing List. A total of nine responses were received within the comment period and one was received 5 days after the comment period ended (Document #s 1139-1148).
Eight of the ten respondents were either in opposition to the proposed old-growth, project-specific amendment to the Forest Plan or were in opposition to the exchange. The remaining two supported the proposed exchange with the project-specific amendment. Those in opposition cited lack of old-growth stands in the Libby/Fisher Tracts, their concern on changing Forest Plan requirements, and their belief that the proposed amendment was illegal. Also they cited adverse effects to small-business operators, affects to local economy, faulty appraisal, and adverse affects to wildlife, recreation, and watershed values as reasons for not supporting the exchange (Document #'s 1139-1148).
III. APPELLANT'S PARTICIPATION IN THE NEPA PROCESS
In 1991, Michael Kincella attended two meetings related to District projects where the Checkerboard Exchange was discussed (see attached meeting documentation).
Michael P. Kincella's initial request to be placed on the Checkerboard land exchange came before May 6, 1994, when the mailing list was converted to the Micro Soft Works data base (Document #397). In June 1994, he was mailed a Checkerboard Land Exchange Proposal Progress update containing maps showing all proposed exchange lands in Alternative 4B (Document #160). He was mailed a postage paid postcard in May 1995, asking if he wanted to receive a copy of the EIS or a summary and how he wanted to receive it (Document #161). Mr. Kincella requested a copy of the summary, and it was mailed to his address (Document #1079a). The summary included a map of the preferred exchange alternative.
The 45-day comment period for the Draft EIS began on August 1, 1995, and was to end on September 15, 1995 (Document #992). However, the comment period was extended, based upon the request of several respondents until October 10, 1995 (Document #166). Mr. Kincella did not respond during the 71-day comment period.
A letter was sent out to the Checkerboard mailing list requesting comments related to a proposed project-specific amendment which would suspend the requirement of meeting 10 percent old growth in major drainages for this project (Document #1056). Mr. Kincella did not comment during the comment period.
On October 16, 1996, the Final EIS and ROD were mailed to Mr. Kincella (Document #'s 1169 and 1170). Shortly thereafter, he contacted Ted Andersen of the KNF by phone and expressed concerns about the exchange and requested a meeting. The meeting was held on November 6, 1996 (See Document #1193).
The following information was not included in the project record as it was not a part of the public comment process for this decision. Enclosed is documentation of Michael Kincella's attendance at a public workshop and open house in another District where comments were received concerning the Checkerboard Exchange and other District projects.
IV. INFORMATION IN THE PROJECT RECORD WHERE APPELLANT'S ARGUMENTS ARE ADDRESSED
Note: References listed as "Document XXX" refer to documents found in the project file. Where the EIS is referenced repeatedly you will find EIS (Document 1079a) listed the first time for each contention, after that only the page number is identified.
ISSUE 1. KNF violated old growth retention policy.
The Appellant contends, "the KNF Plan mandates a policy of 10 percent retention of old growth areas in each major drainage of the KNF. This policy has been rationalized away by the major players in the CBLE.... The KNF is trading away some of the last islands of the old growth stands in this valley to PCTC" (Appeal p. 3).
The Appellant expressed no concerns on the EIS or on the old growth project amendment to the Forest Plan related to the policy of 10 percent retention of old growth areas in each major drainage. A summary of existing old growth allocations within the Decision Area by Old Growth Analysis Areas (OGAAs) was documented in the EIS (Document #1079a, Tables 3.7-3.8). Table 3.7 and figure 3.4 display the old-growth status within the McGinnis Meadows Tract. Cumulative effects to OGAAs in the Decision Area for the Alternative 4B proposed action were summarized in tables 3.9 and 3.11. Public comments on the EIS identified an issue related to whether it is legal to convey tracts of land (Libby-Fisher Tracts) containing old growth out of federal ownership (Document #1019). Further analysis revealed that Alternative 4B would require a project-specific amendment to the Forest-wide Objective (Forest Plan, p. II-7) that states "Unless it is already below that level, old-growth habitat will not be reduced below 10 percent of the area of each major drainage and the 10 percent cannot be controlled."
This analysis was completed and mailed out for public comment (Document #1056). It concluded that the exchange would provide old growth to maintain viable populations of dependant wildlife species (pileated woodpecker, pp. 3-87; boreal owl, pp. 3-109; flammulated owl, pp. 3-111; fisher, pp. 3-117; and lynx, pp. 33-120). The exchange would provide long-term protection for Management Indicator species and sensitive species by retaining a large block of relative contiguous, unroaded forest lands within the Checkerboard Tracts. Although the exchange would result in reduced distribution of old growth in the Libby/Fisher Tracts, it would provide overall benefits to old-growth associated species due to acquisition of more optimal and effective habitat. Old growth has been validated according to the Forest Plan monitoring item C-5. Forest-wide monitoring indicates that more than 10 percent of old growth is being retained Forest-wide.
The comments received (Document #'s 1139-1148) did not add new information that had not been previously considered. The Final EIS (Document #, pp. 5-25-5-27, 5-71 - 5-75) responded to all comments concerning the 10 percent retention of old growth.
ISSUE 2. Threatened and Endangered species issue was not studied site specific for this drainage.
The appellant contends that:
A. "There is no mention of a resident wolf pack or grizzly population in either the EIS or Final EIS. Instead what is presented is broad based canned information" (Appeal, p. 3).
The EIS (Document #1079a, pp. 3-88 and 3-89) states under Affected Environment Introduction for the Libby/Fisher Tracts, "Based on the numerous sightings (Fontaine 1991, 1992) and the wide ranging habit on the species, wolves are suspected to utilize all Libby/Fisher Tracts." The text goes on to state that sightings of wolves have been made in two of the four Checkerboard Tracts. Chapter 5 of the Final EIS does not mention wolves because no substantive comments were received concerning the gray wolf.
The EIS (Document #1079a, pp. 3-94) states under Affected Environment Introduction for the Libby/Fisher Tracts, "These tracts do not occur within any designated recovery areas or Forest Service Bear Management Units." The text goes on to state that sighting records indicate the grizzly bears infrequently use surrounding areas.
B. "There are wolves and bears adapting to their surrounding and interacting with people and livestock without getting in trouble. This is not because of some form of biological balance as put forth by both the EIS and Final EIS. It is because we have an ecological balance that exists here. The reason being a collection of many factors which hinge around the retention of ALL the remaining old growth stands in this drainage, maintaining closed road density and keeping things the way they are cumulatively" (Appeal, p. 3).
Wolves are currently attempting to recolonize areas within federal tracts despite habitat conditions which are less than optimal (Document #737, p. 9). Ungulate populations in the Libby/Fisher Tracts are at healthy numbers and are probably the reason for current re-colonization (Document #752, p. 25). Alternative 4B modified would not significantly change habitat conditions within the decision area (Document #752, p. 26). Loss of management of seasonal ranges in the Libby/Fisher Tracts would be offset by acquisition and management of a similar amount of seasonal ranges in the Checkerboard Tracts (Document #1079a, pp. 3-81. The minor loss in reduced habitat conditions, reduction in security, and increased vulnerability due to management activities by PCTC and KNF (Tables 1.3 and 1.4) in the Libby/Fisher Tracts would be offset by more beneficial management of big game (elk and deer) in a consolidated ownership in the Checkerboard Tracts (pp. 3-81 - 3-83). Harvesting in the Checkerboard Tracts by PCTC and KNF along with the use of prescribed fire and wildlife management techniques would improve the cover/forage ratio that is currently limiting to ungulate numbers in this area (pp. 3-81). The Biological Assessment statement of findings concluded that Alternative 4B Modified is not likely to adversely affect gray wolf or its habitat based on the wolf's prey base, habitat security, and denning or rendezvous sites (Document #752, p. 27). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concurred with the Biological Assessment (Document #754b).
The McGinnis Meadows Tract and specifically the McGinnis Creek drainage is not within a grizzly bear recovery zone as displayed on the grizzly bear management unit boundary map (Document #756). A description of grizzly bear recovery zones, ecosystems, recovery objectives and population and habitat status is available in the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan (USFWS 1993, Document #1447a). Population and habitat status for the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem and more specifically for the Checkerboard Tracts of the Decision Area are presented in the following documents incorporated by reference; Kootenai National Forest Plan, Vol. II, Appendix 8 , USDA-FS, 1987, (Document #1294): Cumulative Effects Analysis Process for the Selkirk/Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Ecosystems (Christensen and Madel 1982, Document #1226); Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem Grizzly Bear and Black Bear Research 1993 Progress Report (Kasworm and Thier 1994, Document #1290a); Draft Wildlife Specialist Reports for Checkerboard Land Exchange (Yeager, Document #'s 729, 731 and 737); and the Checkerboard EIS (Document 1079a). The Biological Assessment (Document #752) Statement of Findings concluded that the proposed Alternative 4B Modified exchange alternative is not likely to affect grizzly bear or its habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concurred with the Biological Assessment (Document #754b).
ISSUE 3: Socioeconomic issues were not addressed for people owning lands adjacent to KNF lands being traded away.
The appellant contends that:
A. "...Alternative 4B was inconsistent with a few adjacent land owners. None, absolutely none, of the adjacent private land owners were contacted, in any way, about what was proposed in Alternative 4B" (Appeal, p. 4).
Forest Service Handbook 5409.13.33, requires public involvement in the land exchange process. Law or policy require use of the following in all Forest Service exchanges: (1) advertisement in local newspapers, (2) notification of the affected congressional delegation, and (3) notification of State and local government.
Other methods suggested to involve the public include posting a notice of exchange, publishing a notice in the Federal Register, providing news releases, holding public meetings, and obtaining radio and television coverage.
The Checkerboard Exchange public involvement process began in 1988 with a published legal notice in local papers requesting public comment on an exchange proposal (Document #1079a, pp. 2-7). Since that time, numerous legal ads in local Newspapers (Sanders County Ledger, Western News, and the Interlake) have advised the public of the proposed land exchange alternatives. The Final EIS (Document #1169, pp. 5-1 - 5-4) summarizes the significant public involvement activities over a 10-year period. Newspaper articles (Document #'s 363 - 393 and #'s 1172 - 1191e) kept the public advised of the progress of the proposed exchange. Please note that a map of the exchange was published in a Western News article dated August 4, 1995 (Document #387). Public meetings (document #'s 343 - 362) were another source of information. The Checkerboard Mailing list (Document #397a) which includes 302 names of publics, organizations, and federal, state and local governments officials was also a source of information.
The Appellant (now representing the adjacent landowners) has been involved in the public participation process as per Section III Appellants' Participation in the NEPA Process on page 6 and 7 of this letter.
B. "I feel the KNF is negligent in preparing both the EIS and Final EIS on socioeconomic issues because:"
1. "They failed to mention the loss of property values of adjacent landowners to Forest Service lands."
Because this issue was not raised during the public involvement scoping process on the Checkerboard Land Exchange, the issue was not addressed, and no information is available in the record.
2. "The interview base used by the socioeconomic specialist (Krannich and Keith, 1994), in the Socioeconomic Specialist Report is quite frankly a bad joke we wish would just go away. They instead should have taken more time to contact all the residents in each of the major drainages being affected by this decision."
The Socioeconomic Issues and Effects Specialist Report (Document #839) was prepared under a contract with Bio/West, Inc. The document was prepared by two professors at Utah State University; John Keith, PHD in economics (Document #840a) and Richard Krannich PHD in sociology (Document #840b). This report addresses the possible economic and social effects of exchange Alternative 4B Modified. It focuses on existing socioeconomic conditions in a three-county analysis area of Northwest Montana and projects an analysis of socioeconomic consequences (Document #839, p. 5). Methodology, assumptions made, and data used are explained on pp. 3-4 of this report.
Data derived from key interviews indicate that while the proposal has not become a focal point of public discussion or debate, there is a broad range of local opinion about the proposed exchange (Document #839, p. 14). Concerns were expressed by a limited number of individuals who own adjacent properties (p. 14). Despite expressed concerns, the social analysis concluded that a relatively large segment of the area population places a high value on preservation of the Checkerboard Land ownership Area in its current, relatively undeveloped state (p. 14).
The specialist report conclusions related to cumulative effects of the exchange were that recent reductions in allowable cuts by the Forest Service due to insect infestations, endangered species concerns, and other environmental factors caused a reduction in timber supply and increased stumpage. While the exchange would have a small incremental effect on this trend, the exchange wouldn't significantly effect the current economic conditions and trends in the timber industry or in the broader socioeconomic context of the three counties (Document #839, p. 25). The Environmental Consequences discussion by alternative is found in the EIS (Document #1079a, pp. 3-198 - 3-202).
3. "No allowances were made to compensate private property owners for the losses they would incur as a result of the CBLE as pertaining to the McGinnis Creek Drainage being handed over to PCTC."
Because this issue was not raised during the public involvement scoping process on the Checkerboard Land Exchange, the issue was not addressed; and no information is available in the record.
4. "They failed to fully grasp the people element, and the adverse effects that the CBLE were going to bring to this drainage."
Refer to previous discussion and references to the record under this issue.
5. "Failed to address future timber values, in other words, if a Ponderosa Pine 30 inches in diameter and 100 feet tall is worth $2,000 today what is it going to be worth in 10 years given current market conditions."
Because this issue was not brought up by the public during the public involvement scoping process on the Checkerboard Land Exchange the issue was not addressed and no information is available in the record.
ISSUE 4: Maintaining a suitable timber base for future logging on the KNF lands in this drainage.
A. "Doesn't the Forest Plan mandate the suitable timber lands be managed for sustained yield? Why is it necessary to cut all or most of the big trees today? Wouldn't it be prudent to save some for tomorrow?"
The appellant contends that, "I am a logger...that is committed to sustained yield and multiple use ideals set forth by the KNF Forest Plan before Mr. Salwasser and Forest Service Officials decided to throw out parts here and there because of the need to satisfy certain special interest groups."
The EIS (Document #1079a, pp. 2-23) identified socioeconomics as a primary issue that evolved through the scoping process and which drove the alternative development process. The economic indicators used for the analysis included suitable timber base, present net value, conceptual harvest plan volumes, employment, income to wage earners and property owners, and revenues to county government (pp. 2-25 - 26). Tables 3.6 and 3.10 describe suitable land acres for exchange parcels by tract for the existing condition in the Libby/Fisher Tracts and for Alternative 4B in the Checkerboard Tracts. Table 1.1 in the EIS shows a Decision Area summary of acreage by Management Area (MA) which would be exchanged under Alternative 4B. MA's 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17 are suitable base lands which constitute the regulated commercial timber base. This table shows that the exchange would result in a net loss of approximately 12,150 acres of suitable base or about 1 percent of the KNF's existing suitable base. The interdisciplinary team concentrated on identifying exchange lands which would keep the loss of suitable base to a minimum while still achieving the purpose and need for the exchange alternative (Document #1169, pp. 5-23).
Responses to timber concerns on the EIS provide a summary related to timber suitable issues (Document #1169, pp. 5-23 - 5-25). The ROD (Document #1170, pp. 13-14) concludes that Alternative 4B Modified will not significantly effect timber supply and that the interdisciplinary team selected exchange lands which would minimize adverse effects to small mill owners.
ISSUE 5: Water quality, quantity, and use.
A. The Appellant contends that these "issues have not been addressed for this particular drainage. Several residents in this drainage obtain there drinking water from creeks and springs that originate on KNF lands being traded to PCTC."
The EIS (Document #1079a, pp. 2-28) identifies water quality, quantity, and use as primary issues that evolved through the scoping process and which drove the alternative development process. To analyze the effects, the analysis area was divided into 38 watersheds in which the conceptual harvest and road construction plan would be expected to influence stream channels and fishery resources. The Watershed Analysis Specialist Report (Document #613) describes the methodology for evaluating watersheds and the assignment of sensitivity classes. Figure 3.3 in the EIS (Document #1079a) displays the analyzed watershed boundaries. Table 3.2 shows watershed condition comparison by alternative using the sensitivity classes under a worst-case situation. The McGinnis Meadows Tract, the area of concern by the appellant, had McGinnis Creek and Colonite Creek watersheds evaluated in detail. There are no records indicating that water for domestic or other uses is being removed from any federal parcels included in Alternative 4B Modified.
Responses to the comments on the EIS related to the water resource provide information on concerns expressed by the Environmental Protection Agency and other interested parties (Document #1169, pp. 5-17 - 5-23). Direct, indirect, and cumulative effects by alternative are described in the EIS (Document #1079a, pp. 3-29 - 3-38). The ROD concludes, based upon the best available conceptual management activity plans to be implemented by PCTC and the Forest Service, that Alternative 4B Modified will not cause significant adverse impacts to water quality and beneficial uses (Document #1170, pp. 12-13).
ISSUE 6: Timber quality/value.
The appellant contends:
A. "...the KNF has erred greatly in it's evaluation of the 'Equal Value' exchange of timber lands with PCTC. You cannot judge timber quality from aerial photos, most of the appraisal work was done in this fashion. ...I feel that approximately 60 percent of the old growth timber is of little or no economic value due to interior rot, shake rot, and diseases."
The quality of the timber was measured through an on-ground cruise measuring both seen and unseen defects. Trees exhibiting any abnormalities were measured accordingly and the volumes affected (defect) were not included in the net volume determination. Timber quality for all stands (federal and non-federal) was determined through government and industry-wide accepted standard cruise procedures which were based on infield inspections.
The cruise documentation is contained in three binders: Timber Cruise Volume, U.S. Forest Service Parcels (Document #469); Timber Cruise Volume, Plum Creek Parcels (Document #471); and Ponderosa Pine Cruise FS and PCTC, Volume Assigned to Bull Pine and Yellow Pine (Document #472) as part of the project record. Each binder contains a detailed narrative of the cruise procedures used. Computer documentation of cruise data input and cruise run summaries is also included. The results of a check cruise on the cruise contractors by PCTC and Forest Service employees is also included. Cruise sample errors are within acceptable limits for this type of cruise. The Forest Service and PCTC both designed the cruise, agreed upon all cruise specifications, and accepted the cruise results as documented.
B. The KNF "did not adequately appraise timber quality on the ground."
The appraiser grouped species to better determine delivered market value when estimating the value of timber by parcel. Since yellow pine and bull pine have different delivered log values, the volume was segregated out to better determine these timber values as represented by the log market (Document #472).
C. "In using aerial photos to appraise timber on lands being exchanged, the KNF used a tree counting process. The number and size of trees on a given section has nothing to do with timber quality."
Timber quality for all stands (federal and non-federal) was determined through government- and industry-wide accepted standard cruise procedures. Refer to previous discussion and previous cited cruise documentation. Aerial photos were not used to appraise timber on exchange lands, nor was a tree counting process.
ISSUE 7: Air Quality standards are not fully addressed.
A. The appellant contends: the appropriate federal and state agencies are "out of touch" with "the air quality problems that exist in McGinnis Creek Drainage. For years the residents have complained about the dust smoke primarily created by logging activities in this area.... The air quality section...is a complete and total lie ....used to sponge over the negative effects of past and current logging activities..."
Air quality refers to the amount of air-borne particulate produced by any management activity. Significant sources of particulate considered in this analysis include smoke from prescribed burning and dust from soil disturbance associated primarily with roads (Document #1079a, pp. 3-188). The Montana Department of Health and Environmental Sciences, in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency, has set quality standards for land classes that must be met for all planned activities. These standards are incorporated into the Montana State Airshed Group's Smoke Management Plan (Document #640, p. 7). The Forest Service and PCTC are members of the airshed group. PCTC's environmental principles direct that air quality be protected when accomplishing burning and silvicultural objectives (Document #640, p. 8).
The project Decision Area falls within Class III as designated by the Clean Air Act, P.L. 88-206, January 1978 (Document #640, p. 7). The Fire Protection, Fuels Management, Air quality and Noise Report analyzed direct, indirect, and cumulative effects to air quality by tract for the entire Decision Area (Document #640). It is assumed that air quality is directly proportional to the level of management activity (Document #1079a, pp. 3-188). Table 1 and 2 (pp. 24-25) show planned management activity by tract and alternative. Forest Service planned activity in the next decade shows no activity in the McGinnis Tract #14. PCTC planned activity in the McGinnis Tract is 642 harvest acres and 15.7 miles of road construction with 90 percent of the harvesting being intermediate cutting without activity fuel treatment (burning) (Document #640, p. 15). Past activity in this tract is 18,035 acres of harvest and 241 miles of road construction. Based upon the limited amount of activity in the entire Decision Area, the analysis concluded that over the next decade air quality should not be degraded significantly. Air qualitys meet existing laws and no lose of management opportunities due to air quality concerns will occur (Document #640, p. 19).
ISSUE 8: Cumulative effects not adequately addressed for this drainage.
The appellant contends:
A. "I believe that the negative cumulative effects of the CBLE will have an irreversible biological impact on the McGinnis Creek Drainage."
Cumulative effects along with direct and indirect effects were addressed in the specialist reports for all resources. The EIS (Document #1079a) and ROD (Document #1170, p. 18) conclude that Alternative 4B Modified was consistent with all laws, regulations, and agency policy. There is no "irreversible biological impact" predicted to occur as a result of this alternative. The following is a list of all specialist reports containing these analyses and Geology and Minerals (Document #519); Soils (Document #634); Watersheds and Fisheries (Document #613 and #619); Wetlands and Floodplains (Document #617); Wild and Scenic Rivers (Document #683); Threatened, Endangered, and Sensitive Species (Vegetation) (Document #696); General Timber and Old Growth (Document #932); Noxious Weeds (Document #698); General Wildlife (Document #729); Management Indicator Species (Wildlife) (Document #729); Threatened and Endangered Species (Wildlife) (Document #729); Sensitive Species (Wildlife) (Document #729); Land Use Authorizations (Document #816); Roadless Areas (Document #682); Wilderness Areas (Document #686); Range Resources (Document #882); Special Interest Areas (Document #633); Property Boundaries (Document #822); Fire, Fuels, Noise and Air (Document #640); Transportation (Document #795); Recreation (Document #684); Visual Resources (Document #665); Heritage Resources (Document #549); Native American Issues (Document #551); Hazardous Materials information (Document #'s 935-939 and 941); and Socioeconomics (Document #839). In addition, the Biological Assessment (Document #752) and Biological Evaluation (Document #752a) addresses cumulative effects of those species required to be addressed. The USFWS concurred with the conclusions reached in the Biological Assessment (Document #754b).
B. "...CEI was not studied site specifically for this drainage..."
Each specialist report and other NEPA documents, specify the analysis area used in the evaluation of the alternatives. In many instances, "Tract Boundaries" were used as the analysis area. Some resource evaluations used different analysis area boundaries as needed to meet Forest Service policy, NEPA procedures, or resource scale. The Specialist Reports begin with an introduction, a portion of which describes the purpose of the report, issues being addressed and methodology. For example, the Watershed Report (Document #613) explains under methodology that it analyzed 38 main watersheds within the Decision Area. This report analyzed two watersheds, Colonite Creek and McGinnis Creek, within the McGinnis Meadows Tract, where the Appellant has concerns. This report and all others provide the rationale related to the site-specific detail used in completing the analysis.
/s/ Kathleen A. McAllister (For)
cc: Kootenai NF