Notice of intent to prepare Eastside EIS (59 FR 4680)

Forest Service
Eastside Ecosystem Management Strategy,
Pacific Northwest Region

Bureau of Land Management,
States of Oregon and Washington

AGENCIES: Forest Service, USDA; Bureau of Land Management, USDI.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement.

SUMMARY: The Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) propose to develop and adopt a coordinated ecosystem management strategy for forests and public lands east of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and Washington. The strategy will include direction which will protect and enhance aquatic ecosystems for anadromous fish and bull trout (formerly known as the PACFISH strategy) and terrestrial ecosystems. It will also address the social and economic interactions with these biological variables. The purpose is to carry out President Clinton's mandate of July 1993 to develop a scientifically sound and ecosystem-based strategy for management of these lands. The selected alternative will result in amendment to the Forest Service Regional Guide for Oregon and Washington and amendment or revision of applicable national forest land management plans and BLM resource management plans.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis should be received in writing by March 3, 1994.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments concerning this proposal to Jeff D. Blackwood, Project Manager, 112 E. Poplar St., Walla Walla, Washington 99362.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: George R. Pozzuto, EIS Team Leader, 112 E. Poplar St., Walla Walla, Washington 99362, phone (509) 522-4030.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This EIS will address all lands east of the crest of the Cascade Mountains in the states of Oregon and Washington that are managed by the Forest Service or BLM. The selected alternative will result in amendment to the Forest Service Regional Guide for Oregon and Washington and amendment or revision to the Land Management Plans (forest plans) for the Colville, Okanogan, Wenatchee, Gifford Pinchot, and portions of the Umatilla National Forests in Washington; the Deschutes, Fremont, Malheur, Ochoco, portions of the Umatilla, Wallowa-Whitman, Mt. Hood and Winema National Forests and the Crooked River National Grassland in Oregon. The BLM Resource Management Plans (RMPs) which are entirely within the proposed EIS analysis area include the Spokane RMP (Spokane District), Baker RMP (Vale District), and Two Rivers and John Day RMPs (Prineville District). In addition, forested portions of the Brothers-LaPine RMP (Prineville District) and Three Rivers RMP (Burns District) will be reviewed in the EIS.

The BLM Klamath Falls Resource Area (Lakeview District) is now preparing its RMP and is expected to incorporate equivalent ecosystem management strategies in conjunction with other western Oregon BLM and Forest Service plans. Depending upon the results of public scoping and the basin-wide assessment, additional portions of the BLM managed lands in the Lakeview and Vale Districts may be included in the EIS and lead to land use plan amendments. At this time, BLM lands subject to potential plan decision amendments aggregate approximately 1.6 million acres in Oregon and Washington. Supplemental information concerning the approved RMPs will be available shortly from the BLM District offices noted above and mailed to all persons currently on the District contact lists.

The land area involved in this EIS overlaps to some degree with the land area addressed in the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) on Management of Habitat for Late-Successional and Old-Growth Forest Related Species Within the Range of the Northern Spotted Owl (Notice of Availability published in the Federal Register on July 28, 1993, 53 FR 40444). The July DSEIS addressed all lands within the range of the northern spotted owl, some of which are on the east side of the Cascade Crest. It is these lands, which are within the range of the spotted owl and east of the Cascade Crest, that are within the scope of both this eastside EIS and the DSEIS. Included in this overlap are parts of the Winema, Deschutes, Mt. Hood, Gifford Pinchot, Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests. Whatever decision is made as a result of the SEIS will be considered in this Eastside Ecosystem Management EIS.

To support this EIS, a basin-wide assessment will be made for the interior Columbia River Basin (roughly described as that portion of the Columbia River upstream from Bonneville Dam). This assessment will characterize and assess broad ecosystems, and describe social, economic, and ecological processes and functions. The biophysical provinces (those land areas having relatively similar landform, climate, and other biological and physical properties that lead to certain potential vegetation types) within this broad geographic area have been altered over time by many factors including drought, fire suppression, livestock grazing, mining, global climate change, timber harvest and management, water uses for energy and irrigation, and urbanization. The results of this assessment will be used, in part, to analyze the effects of alternative ecosystem management strategies for eastern Oregon and Washington, including effects of continued management under current forest or land use plans (i.e. the no action alternative).

This EIS will analyze a number of alternatives, one or more of which will include anticipated interim direction for maintaining or restoring anadromous fish habitat. It is expected that EISs will be initiated in Idaho and California to protect and enhance aquatic ecosystems for anadromous fish and bull trout. These EISs will be done in a coordinated manner between Forest Service Regional and BLM State Offices.

In the case of Alaska, the BLM and the Forest Service are examining the need for coordinated direction to protect and enhance aquatic ecosystems for anadromous fish. Also, the Forest Service, in cooperation with the State of Alaska, is conducting studies and monitoring existing management practices in Alaskan anadromous fish habitats on the Tongass National Forest as directed in the Fiscal Year 1994 Appropriations Act.

The scoping process as defined in the Council of Environmental Quality's National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) implementing regulations will be used to identify issues for developing a range of management alternatives that simultaneously consider sustained long-term economic, social, and ecological values of the region. Initial meetings are planned for John Day, Klamath Falls, Bend, LaGrande, Salem, and Lakeview in Oregon, and Chewelah, Okanogan, Seattle, and Walla Walla in Washington. Specific dates, times and locations for the meetings will be announced in local newspapers of general distribution.

Alternatives will be developed by comparing existing conditions to desired future conditions described by the public and Federal land managers and scientists. Information will be used from the basin-wide assessment, as well as the "Eastside Forest Ecosystem Health Assessment", recommendations of the "Eastside Forests Scientific Society Panel", and other sources. The selected alternative is intended to serve as a vehicle by which to move from today's conditions to those conditions desired by society, and to be capable of being ecologically sustained, while leaving options available for future generations. The strategy will include integration of social values, ecological capabilities, and economic relationships including treaty rights reserved by various American Indian Tribes on ceded lands. The strategy also will include management direction derived from analysis of conditions at the biophysical province scale to (1) respond to current species and habitats of concern (currently listed or being considered for listing being listed under the Endangered Species Act or designated as sensitive species by the Forest Service or BLM); (2) assure viability of species within the context of desired ecosystem function and structure; (3) support the needs of dynamic ecosystems that change over time and space; and (4) recognize the role that disturbance mechanisms play in their evolution and maintenance.

The Forest Service will be the lead agency for this analysis with the BLM as a cooperating agency. The two agencies will consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service pursuant to the Endangered Species Act. Other Federal agencies such as the Soil Conservation Service and the Environmental Protection Agency, and Tribal and State Governments also will be involved.

The responsible official for National Forest System lands will be the Regional Forester, Pacific Northwest Region, P.O. Box 3623, Portland, Oregon 97208. The responsible official for public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management will be the State Director for Oregon and Washington, P.O. Box 2965, Portland, Oregon 97208.

The draft EIS is expected to be filed with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in November 1994 and will be available for public review at that time. The comment period on the draft EIS will be 90 days from the date the EPA publishes the notice of availability in the Federal Register.

The Forest Service believes it is important to give reviewers notice at this early stage of several court rulings related to public participation in the environmental review process. First, reviewers of draft EISs 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 EIS stage but that are not raised until after completion of the final EIS 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 90-day comment period on the draft EIS so that substantive comments and objections are made available to the Forest Service at a time when it can meaningfully consider them 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 statement. 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.

It is expected that the final EIS will be filed with the Environmental Protection Agency approximately 6 months after the draft EIS is published. There will be two records of decisions issued; one for National Forest System Lands and one for BLM public lands in Oregon and Washington. The decision for National Forest System Lands will be subject to Forest Service appeal regulations (36 CFR 217).

          /s/ John E. Lowe                      January     21, 1994

          JOHN E. LOWE             
          Regional Forester

          /s/ D. Dean Bibles                    January     21, 1994

          D. DEAN BIBLES                      
          State Director