INTERIOR COLUMBIA BASIN ECOSYSTEM
MANAGEMENT PROJECT

News Release
December 23, 1997

NEWS CONTACTS:
Andy Brunelle 208-334-1770
Kathy Campbell 509-522-4042

ADDITIONAL EXTENSION OF FORMAL PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD



Federal officials today announced an additional 60-day extension of the formal public comment period for the Eastside and Upper Columbia River Basin Draft Environmental Impact Statements (EISs). The Project's Regional Executives have decided to extend the comment period from February 6, 1998 until April 6, 1998. The extension is necessary to respond to additional project requirements included in the 1998 Interior Appropriations Bill. The two DEISs have been available public review since June 1997.

Section 323 of the 1998 Interior Appropriations Bill asked the Project to do additional analysis and several reports prior to publishing a Final EIS. A report analyzing exisiting economic and social conditions, culture, and customs of communities within the project area is currently being developed. The report will also include an analysis of the impacts on those communities of the alternatives in the Draft EISs. The report will be published and available for public review in mid-February.

"Adding 60 more days to the public comment period, will allow reasonable time for anyone interested to review and comment on this additional economics information," stated Susan Giannettino, Project Manager. "If you have already submitted comments, it will also give you an opportunity to amend or add to previous comments, based on review of this report."

"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, and this additioanl economic report," 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."

During the first two months of the comment period, the Project received several requests for extension of the original 120-day comment period from October 6, 1997 to February 6, 1998. Many of these requests cited the length and complexity of the two DEISs. This additional 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, western Montana, northern Nevada, and parts of Utah and Wyoming.

Federal officials were quick to point out that public comments are essential to mold the final strategy, now due to be completed in the Spring of 1999. "We need to remember that these are draft documents," said Forest Service Northern 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."

The Project was launched in 1993 by the Forest Service and BLM to address environmental and economic issues, such as recovery of Snake River salmon, declining forest and rangeland health, and changing economies and social conditions of local communities, that affect larger areas than traditional administrative boundaries. Comprehensive science reports were issued in December 1996. For further information please contact the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project at 509-522-4030 or 208-334-1770.

-USFS/BLM-