The DOI BLM administrative
review process was not modified by the HFRA.
Section 105(a) of the HFRA
replaces the USDA Forest Service’s administrative
appeals process with an objection process that occurs before the decision
approving authorized fuel-reduction projects under the act. The Secretary
of Agriculture has established interim final regulations for a predecisional
administrative review process for authorized hazardous-fuel reduction
projects on NFS lands. The interim final rules were published January
9, 2004 (69
FR 1529, http://www.regulations.gov/fredpdfs/04-00473.pdf).
hazardous-fuel reduction projects, as defined by the HFRA (Section 101(2)),
on NFS lands that have been analyzed in an EA
are subject to these special procedures.
Participation in the predecisional
review process is available to individuals and organizations who have
submitted specific written comments related
to the proposed authorized hazardous-fuel-reduction project during
opportunities for public comment provided when an EA or EIS is being
prepared for the project (Section 105(a)(3), 36 CFR 218.6).
including any attachments, must be filed with the reviewing officer within
30 days after the publication date of the legal
the EA or final EIS in the newspaper of record (Section 218.4(b)). It
is the responsibility of objectors to ensure that their objection is
in a timely manner.
Before the issuance of the reviewing officer’s
written response, either the reviewing officer or the objector may request
to meet to discuss
issues raised in the objection and their potential resolution. The reviewing
officer has the discretion to determine whether or not adequate time
remains in the review period to make a meeting with the objector practical.
meetings are open to the public.
The reviewing officer will issue a written
response, but is not required to provide a point-by-point review, and
may include instructions to the
responsible official, if necessary. In cases involving more than one
objection to a proposed authorized hazardous-fuel-reduction project,
officer may consolidate objections and issue one or more responses.
responsible official may not issue a record of decision or decision
notice concerning an authorized hazardous-fuel-reduction project until
the reviewing officer has responded to all pending objections.
Persons may bring a civil action challenging an authorized hazardous-fuel-reduction
project in a Federal District Court only if they raised the issue
during the administrative review process and they have exhausted
review process established by the Secretary of Agriculture or the
Secretary of the Interior.
Section 106 of the HFRA establishes direction
governing judicial review of lawsuits challenging hazardous-fuel-reduction
under the act. The section:
- Requires lawsuits to be filed in the
U.S. District Court where the project is located (Section 106(a)).
expeditious judicial review of authorized fuel-treatment projects
- Limits preliminary injunctions and stays to 60 days,
subject to renewal. At each renewal, parties to the action shall
updated information on the project (Sections 106(c)(1) and (2)).
courts to balance the impact of the short- and long-term effects
of undertaking or not undertaking the project when weighing the
of any request for an injunction of an authorized hazardous-fuel-reduction
project (Section 106(c)(3)).
The agencies’ analyses and documentation of the
short- and long-term effects of action or taking no action (figures
16 and 17) will be important
to the court’s evaluation of any request for injunctive relief.
Figure 16—The Bucktail fire burned through this treated stand on
Uncompahgre National Forest in western Colorado. Burning within
was low intensity and patchy, despite the
dead trees and branches
on the forest floor.
Figure 17—This stand (adjacent to the stand shown in figure
burned much more intensely the same day. Because this stand
had not been
treated, environmental damage was significantly greater.
a no-action alternative does not always have to be considered for
HFRA-authorized projects, it is important that the specialists’ report
retained in the project files document the anticipated short- and
long-term effects of proposed HFRA treatments.
The analysis and documentation for
the short- and long-term effects of action or taking no action are
intended to be integrated with the analysis
and documentation done under current NEPA guidance and other relevant
Documentation from the long list that follows would include
only information directly relevant to evaluating the short- and long-term
implementing or not implementing the proposed project:
and Fire Behavior
- Describe the area based on the type of fire and fire
behavior expected in foreseeable fire scenarios.
- Address the short-
and long-term effects of proposed treatments and of taking no action.
the desired condition from a fire-behavior perspective.
What target fuel conditions will provide a change in unwanted fire behavior
to meet the description of purpose and need in the EA or EIS? Include
a description of the results of taking no action. What is likely to happen
if the fuel conditions are not treated?
- Provide maps of recent fires
and photos of present conditions. Describe in words, computer simulations,
photographs, or some combination
the three, what the area will look like with and without treatment.
and document pertinent scientific information.
Threatened and Endangered
- Document the presence of threatened or endangered species,
or of any threatened or endangered species that potentially could
either by wildland fires (with or without fuel reduction) or
by the fuel-reduction action itself.
- Document the importance of fire
(wildland or prescribed) to
any threatened or endangered species or to the ecosystem on which they
- Document the risk of future wildland fires, including fires
of different intensity.
- For any threatened or endangered species involved:
- Document the threats or benefits that are possible or likely
from future wildland fires if hazardous fuel is not reduced.
which habitat components would be improved by hazardous-fuel reduction,
even if wildland fires never occur.
- Document which habitat components
would be protected from the adverse effects of future wildland
fires by hazardous-fuel reduction.
- Document which habitat components
would be improved by wildland fires because hazardous-fuel reduction
will change the fire regime or condition.
- For the above evaluations, document both the short- and long-term
(or any other relevant timeframe) situations regarding such risks,
benefits, components, and effects.
Insects and Disease
- Describe the hazard- or risk-assessment procedures
used (such as published risk assessments, local guidelines, or field
- Describe procedures used (such as field survey,
inventory data, or aerial photo interpretation) to establish vegetative
the hazard or risk (see Glossary) associated with insects and diseases
within the stand or landscape.
- Include maps of recent or current
disturbances, such as insect or disease activity, wind throw, ice damage,
and so forth, including
of the disturbances’ effects.
- Provide treatment alternatives
with supporting literature describing how they address the description
of purpose and need in the EA or EIS.
- Address the short- and long-term
effects of proposed treatments and of taking no action.
- Discuss treatment
methods that are not appropriate—for
example, the limited scope of the proposed treatment may not effectively
- Document any consultation with entomologists or pathologists.
Watersheds and Water Supplies
- Describe the expected effects of the
worst-case fire scenario on water supply, water quality, contaminants,
and water supply facilities,
the immediate and long-term effects on watershed functions and
- Provide a similar analysis of the expected effects if no
fuel-reduction measures are implemented within the municipal watershed
or close to
the water system infrastructure, over the short and long terms.
the list of factors included in the At-Risk Municipal Watersheds
section of this Field Guide to inform the decision-maker of
and long-term consequences of taking no action and of implementing
the proposed fuel-reduction projects.
- Include copies (or references
to them) in the files of available published and unpublished reports,
data, and any other information about
municipal watershed and the community water supply system. Maps or
descriptions of the water intake locations, pipelines, and treatment
facilities are considered to be sensitive data and must be kept in
locked, secure cabinets or computers, or as otherwise required by
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of
General information on the scientific basis for modifying
fire behavior and severity by changing forest structure can be found
in the Rocky Mountain Research Station’s report RMRS–GTR–120