INTERIOR COLUMBIA BASIN ECOSYSTEM
THE LEADING EDGE
NEWSLETTER OF THE INTERIOR COLUMBIA BASIN ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT PROJECT ~
"I'm excited about joining the Project and am enjoying the new relationships and challenges."
Federal officials today announced a 120-day extension of the formal public comment period for the Eastside and Upper Columbia River Basin Draft Environmental Impact Statements (DEISs). The Project's Regional Executives have decided to extend the comment period from October 6, 1997 until February 6, 1998. The two DEISs have been available for public review since the first week of June.
"We want to provide a reasonable opportunity and quality time for the public to read, comprehend, and comment on one or both of the two DEISs," said Martha Hahn, Idaho State Director for the Bureau of Land Management. Hahn chairs a panel of Federal executives in the Pacific Northwest who oversee the effort known as the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project. "We feel these documents are a culmination of a significant effort on the part of the Federal agencies involved in this project. We have tried to give people as long as possible to comment, and still keep project costs down."
"Now it is the public's turn to review and provide us comments on how to manage these important public lands," said Bob Williams, Regional Forester of the Pacific Northwest Region of the Forest Service. "We sincerely want to hear how we can improve the management strategy between the draft and final EISs."
During the first two months of the comment period, the Project has received several requests for extension of the original 120-day comment period. Many of these requests have cited the length and complexity of the two DEISs. It has also been noted that many of the people most interested in public land management are very busy this time of year either recreating or working on the very lands these DEISs will affect. This extension will carry the comment period beyond the critical work and recreation months and provide additional time for people to read and comment on the DEISs. Extension of the formal public comment period will be officially announced with a notice in the Federal Register.
The two DEISs address the management of more than 72 million acres of Forest Service- and Bureau of Land Management (BLM)-administered land in the interior Columbia River Basin and portions of the Klamath and Great Basins. One DEIS covers these public lands in eastern Oregon and Washington, and the other DEIS covers much of Idaho, and parts of Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.
Federal officials were quick to point out that public comments are essential to mold the final strategy, due to be completed in 1998. "We need to remember that these are draft documents," said Forest Service Intermountain Regional Forester Dale Bosworth. "We want the final direction to reflect the public's comments. This extension of the public comment period will provide more opportunities to ask questions about the documents and give comments over the next few months."
Since the Draft EISs were released in the first week of June, the Project has sponsored 10 public meetings as well as the basin-wide satellite teleconference on July 9. The project has also participated in public meetings, roundtable discussions, and forums in Wenatchee, Cle Elum, Yakima, and Okanogan, Washington, and in Libby and Eureka, Montana.
Many requests for additional meetings have been received from people across the project area. People want the opportunity to interact with members of the project team and to ask questions about the two Draft EISs. The extension of the formal public comment period gives us an opportunity to have more meetings across the region. At this time, the following meetings have been scheduled:
|SEPTEMBER 11 - BURLEY, IDAHO
Meeting with the Upper Snake River Resource Advisory Council
Snake River Resource Area (BLM Office)
15 East 200 South
|OCTOBER 1 - CHALLIS, IDAHO
Project Open House
Location To Be Announced
|SEPTEMBER 16 - JOHN DAY, OREGON
Project Open House
Malheur National Forest
431 Patterson Bridge Road
|OCTOBER 2 - SALMON, IDAHO|
Project Open House
Location To Be Announced
|SEPTEMBER 25 - BOISE, IDAHO|
Project Update Meeting
BLM Idaho State Office
1387 Vinnell Way (next to Walmart on Overland Road)
|OCTOBER 21 - WALLA WALLA, WASHINGTON|
Project Update Meeting
112 East Poplar Street
We are currently working on finalizing dates and facilities for meetings in the following locations:
Idaho: Twin Falls, McCall, Sandpoint
Montana: Thompson Falls
Watch your local newspapers and future editions of this newsletter for date and site information.
Release of the two Draft Environmental Impact Statements was formally announced with a Notice of Availability filed in the Federal Register on June 6. At that time the formal public comment period began. Comments will be accepted through February 6, 1998 at the following addresses:
112 E. Poplar Street
P.O. Box 2076
Walla Walla, WA 99362
304 North 8th Street
Boise, ID 83702
In addition, electronic comment forms are available at: /r6/icbemp/pdfs/deis/deisform.html
Be sure to take advantage of all that the Project homepage has to offer, with exciting new updates. Both the Eastside and Upper Columbia River Basin Draft Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) are now available electronically via the homepage. Comments on the Draft EISs can be transmitted via an electronic comment form found with the respective Draft EIS, which is accessed through the main page.
In addition, released Geographic Information System (GIS) themes, graphics maps, and metadata can be viewed and actual data can now be downloaded from the home page. Data is currently available for UNIX users as compressed .TAR files, but will soon be available for PC users as self-extracting zip files (.EXE). Both graphics and data can be found under Spatial Team Data/Data and Products.
GIS graphics (not the documents) now can also be viewed and downloaded to either UNIX or PC as PostScript files for two of our published documents: The Integrated Scientific Assessment and the Highlighted Scientific Findings of the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project. These files can be found under What's New/published Document Graphics on the homepage.
As a part of the open public process we have worked very closely with many groups, organizations, individuals, and partners to improve and build upon the work that was set forth in the Project Charter in January 1994. Along the way we have made adjustments to many documents and dealt with many issues brought forward.
A concern that the Project Management Team has heard, especially since the release of the Integrated Scientific Assessment last fall, is whether the social and economic analyses give a clear picture of local culture and economies.
These concerns have been voiced strongly by the Eastside Ecosystem Coalition of Counties (EECC) and others. The concerns center on the accuracy and characterization of local conditions relative to the regional conditions described in the Integrated Scientific Assessment.
The social and economic information for the Scientific Assessment and the Draft Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) was primarily characterized at the regional, sub-regional, and county levels. Many of the concerns have been about how information is displayed and the effects described.
In order to address many of these concerns, a proposal was developed in cooperation with the EECC in early July to describe the potential supplemental social and economics analysis work to be done between the Draft and Final EISs. This "proposed economics strategy" was presented to and accepted by the Project's Executive Steering Committee. Five tasks were identified to accomplish this:
1. Improve the discussion of local economic conditions within the EISs, to address the concern that the regional approach taken by the Project might not adequately describe local economic conditions, specifically for communities and counties.
2. Review the recreation employment data to address concerns about the validity of Project recreation employment figures by reconciling Project methods and findings with approaches used by state economists.
3. Conduct an economic base comparison to address concerns about differences between the Project economic assessment that used Bureau of Economic Analysis employment data and conventional economic base analysis using labor income data.
4. Display wage data associated with employment by adding wage information to the display of jobs so that the differences in the income associated with these jobs is shown.
5. Identify and assess the economic conditions of Indian communities to the extent possible with existing information.
We expect there will be many changes made to the EISs based on public comment before they become Final and the Record of Decision is made. Reviewing and changing the Human Uses section is only a part of that. As we begin to analyze the public comments other concerns will also be highlighted and modifications and improvements will also be made in those areas.