Shasta-Trinity National Forest; California; Elk Late-Successional Reserve Enhancement Project, 13618-13621 [2013-04642]

Download as PDF 13618 Notices Federal Register Vol. 78, No. 40 Thursday, February 28, 2013 This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains documents other than rules or proposed rules that are applicable to the public. Notices of hearings and investigations, committee meetings, agency decisions and rulings, delegations of authority, filing of petitions and applications and agency statements of organization and functions are examples of documents appearing in this section. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES February 22, 2013. The Department of Agriculture has submitted the following information collection requirement(s) to OMB for review and clearance under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Public Law 104–13. Comments regarding (a) Whether the collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information will have practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the agency’s estimate of burden including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility and clarity of the information to be collected; (d) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology. Comments regarding this information collection received by April 1, 2013 will be considered. Written comments should be addressed to: Desk Officer for Agriculture, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), New Executive Office Building, 725—17th Street NW., Washington, DC, 20503. Commenters are encouraged to submit their comments to OMB via email to: OIRA_Submission@OMB.EOP.GOV or fax (202) 395–5806 and to Departmental Clearance Office, USDA, OCIO, Mail Stop 7602, Washington, DC 20250– 7602. Copies of the submission(s) may be obtained by calling (202) 720–8681. An agency may not conduct or sponsor a collection of information unless the collection of information displays a currently valid OMB control number and the agency informs VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:12 Feb 27, 2013 Jkt 229001 potential persons who are to respond to the collection of information that such persons are not required to respond to the collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number. National Agricultural Statistics Service Title: Agricultural Prices. OMB Control Number: 0535–0003. Summary of Collection: The Agricultural Prices surveys provide data on the prices received by farmers and prices paid for production goods and services. This information is needed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) for the following purposes: (a) To compute Parity Prices in accordance with requirements of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 as amended (Title III, Subtitle A, Section 301a, (b) to estimate value of production, inventory values, and cash receipts from farming, (c) to determine the level for farmer owned reserves, (d) to provide guidelines for Risk Management Agency price selection options, (e) to determine Federal disaster prices to be paid, and (f) to determine the grazing fee on Federal lands. General authority for these data collection activities is granted under U.S. Code Title 7, Section 2204. Need and Use of the Information: The NASS price program computes annual U.S. weighted average prices received by farmers for grain and beans, corn, sugar, rice, cotton, peanuts, pulse crops and oilseeds based on monthly marketing. Prices estimates are used by many Government agencies as a general measure of commodity price changes, economic analysis relating to farm income and alternative marketing policies, and for disaster and insurance payments. Description of Respondents: Farms; Business or other for-profit. Number of Respondents: 53,530. Frequency of Responses: Reporting: On occasion; Monthly; Annually; Biennially. Total Burden Hours: 25,273. National Agricultural Statistics Service Title: Vegetable Surveys. OMB Control Number: 0535–0037. Summary of Collection: The primary function of the National Agricultural Statistics (NASS) is to prepare and issue current official state and national estimates of crop and livestock production, prices and disposition. The PO 00000 Frm 00001 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 Vegetable Surveys Program obtains basic agricultural statistics for fresh market and processing vegetables in major producing States. The vegetable program has two types of utilization: some crops are processing only, some are fresh market only, and others are dual crops (both processing and fresh market). Vegetable processors are surveyed in August for acreage contracted and estimated yield. In late November, processors are asked for final acreage harvested, production, and value. The fresh market vegetable program consists of specialized growers who are surveyed at the conclusion of the growing season for estimates of crop production. Producers of onions, strawberries, and asparagus are surveyed in August to obtain forecasted acreage and production. NASS will collect information using surveys. Need and Use of the Information: NASS will collect information to estimate acreage intended to plant, acreage planted, acreage harvested, yield/production, price, and utilization for the various crops. The estimates provide vital statistics for growers, processors, and marketers to use in making production and marketing decisions. Description of Respondents: Farms; Business or other for-profit. Number of Respondents: 33,064. Frequency of Responses: Reporting: Annually; Other (seasonally). Total Burden Hours: 9,066. Charlene Parker, Departmental Information Collection Clearance Officer. [FR Doc. 2013–04644 Filed 2–27–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410–20–P DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Forest Service Shasta-Trinity National Forest; California; Elk Late-Successional Reserve Enhancement Project Forest Service, USDA. Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement. AGENCY: ACTION: The Forest Service will prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) to evaluate and disclose the predicted effects of the Elk LateSuccessional Reserve Enhancement project, which would treat natural SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\28FEN1.SGM 28FEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 40 / Thursday, February 28, 2013 / Notices stands and plantations on approximately 2,930 acres to reduce the current and future risk of large-scale disturbance events within early, mid and late-successional habitat within the Elk Flat Late-Successional Reserve and nearby stands. Additional benefits from risk reduction treatments include increasing the resilience and promoting continued development and connectivity of late-successional forest habitat within the Elk Flat LateSuccessional Reserve. Objectives include improving forest health; increasing resiliency to natural events such as drought, insect and disease infestations and high severity wildfire; and restoring unique habitats. Forest stand treatments would be completed using commercial and non-commercial thinning and regeneration prescriptions. Fuels reduction would be completed using mechanical and hand methods and prescribed fire. Proposed road actions include maintenance and reconstruction of National Forest System roads, construction of temporary roads to complete project activities, and closure and decommissioning of National Forest System roads and existing routes. The project is located in Siskiyou County, California on the McCloud Ranger District of the Shasta McCloud Management Unit, ShastaTrinity National Forest. The project’s legal location is: Township 40 North, Range 1 West, Sections 4 and 5; and Township 41 North, Range 1 West, Sections 27 to 34, Mt. Diablo Meridian. The project area is approximately nine miles northeast of the town of McCloud, California, and 70 miles northeast of Redding, California. Submit comments concerning the proposed action on or before April 1, 2013. DATES: Send written comments to Christine Jordan, USDA Forest Service, Shasta McCloud Management Unit, P.O. Box 1620, McCloud, California 96057. Electronic comments and other data may be submitted via email to comments-pacificsw-shasta-trinitymtshasta-mccloud@fs.fed.us or via facsimile to (530) 964–2938. ADDRESSES: mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Christine Jordan, Natural Resources Planner, at (530) 964–3771. Individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1–800–877–8339 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:12 Feb 27, 2013 Jkt 229001 Purpose and Need for Action The primary purpose of the Elk LateSuccessional Reserve Enhancement project is to reduce the current and future risk of large-scale disturbance events within early, mid and latesuccessional habitat within the Elk Flat Late-Successional Reserve (LSR) and nearby stands. This is consistent with Objectives I and III that guide the development and application of treatments within the Forest’s LateSuccessional Reserves (Forest-wide Late-Successional Reserve Assessment, LSRA). We recognize that natural disturbance is an important process within late-successional forest ecosystems, but both human and natural processes have altered the disturbance regime within the Elk Flat LSR such that without action, further stand and structural composition loss would result from the combination of continued overstocking and density-related mortality, root disease, insect attacks and predicted lethal fire effects. Approximately 15 percent of the Elk Flat LSR is currently comprised of large pockets (10 to 80 acres) of standing dead trees that are a current and future threat to both the surrounding habitat, due to increasing fuel loads, and members of the public visiting and recreating in the project area. Smaller mortality pockets range from groups of 5 to 10 trees up to 1⁄2 acre, primarily in the ponderosa pine component, with additional root disease-related mortality occurring in white fir stands. Additional benefits from risk reduction treatments include increasing the resilience and promoting continued development and connectivity of late-successional forest habitat within the Elk Flat LSR (LSRA Objectives II and IV). The Elk Flat LSR, designated as RC–360 in the LSRA, comprises approximately 90 percent of the project area, with the remaining 10 percent in matrix allocation. Within the dry forested landscape of the California Cascades Province where the project area is located, fire suppression has resulted in significant increases in accumulated ground and understory fuels, while also making forested stands much more vulnerable to insects and disease impacts due to resultant overstocking. Because of the fire suppression history and lack of a natural fire regime in the project area, approximately 80 percent of the forested stands in the Elk Flat LSR are highly to extremely dense, particularly in relation to the survivability of pine. Current stand conditions reflect an increase in a shade-tolerant understory and midstory, composed primarily of white fir and incense cedar. Without low intensity PO 00000 Frm 00002 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 13619 fire or other disturbance, stand densities have increased as trees have continued to grow larger, with slowed tree growth as stands approach and reach a maximum carrying capacity. For most species, density-related tree mortality increases as stands reach and exceed 60 percent of a maximum stand density index, or SDI. An exception to this 60 percent standard is ponderosa pine. Research has repeatedly observed widespread mortality in ponderosa pine stands resulting from pine beetle outbreaks at densities below what had been considered 60 percent of maximum SDI. Stand exams completed in 2007 within the natural stands proposed for treatment measured densities above an SDI of 230, with many exceeding an SDI of 365. Additionally, older plantations (> 40 years) are near or above an SDI of 365. Based on the relationship with bark beetles, as ponderosa pine stands reach and exceed an SDI of 230 (or 60 percent of the SDI of 365), pine mortality from beetle outbreaks is increasingly likely. Dense stocking also stresses trees as they compete for limited nutrients and moisture, especially during dry conditions, and it is often the larger, older trees that are most susceptible to this stress. It is important to note that the density-related mortality is not limited to the understory trees in the project area; the large dominant and predominant ponderosa pine trees have also died, or are dying. This is reflected in the existing conditions of large mortality pockets described above, which are located in both the natural stands and plantations within the project area. Reducing tree densities in the lower and mid-level canopy layers with thinning can reduce fire behavior, improving both direct suppression efforts and reducing the potential for large-scale habitat loss from a running crown fire. Underburning after thinning can reduce surface and maintain ladder fuels at levels that do not allow for ground fire to transition into the upper canopy. Without action, the density-related mortality, further exacerbated by drought, disease and future insect attacks will continue to spread throughout the project area, contributing to more standing and dead fuels and increasing the risk of a stand-replacing fire. Current ground fuel loadings in the Elk Flat LSR range from 5 to 10 tons per acre and are expected to increase to 20 plus tons per acre in the mixed conifer stands. Ground fuel loading is approximately 10 to 15 tons per acre in the ponderosa pine-dominated stands, where there are high levels of existing and ongoing mortality, and is expected E:\FR\FM\28FEN1.SGM 28FEN1 13620 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 40 / Thursday, February 28, 2013 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES to increase to 35 to 100 plus tons per acre when these dead and dying trees fall. Forest Health specialists have also assessed the LSR for the presence of black stain and Heterobasidion root disease, locating it in several proposed treatment units. Additional project benefits and objectives include increasing the resilience and promoting continued development and connectivity of latesuccessional forest habitat within the Elk Flat LSR and restoring forest stand and meadow conditions on adjacent matrix lands to allow for a natural fire regime. Through risk reduction and habitat restoration treatments, the potential for high severity fire effects on adjacent private lands and within Wildland Urban Interface associated with the Mt. Shasta Forest subdivision would be reduced, stream channel and Riparian Reserve function along Ash and Swamp Creeks would be improved and hardwood species diversity would be increased. Proposed Action The following acreages and distances are approximate. The proposed action would thin natural stands ranging from 60 to 120 years of age on 1,520 acres and 10 to 40 year old plantations on 680 acres. These treatment areas will also include radial thinning around legacy pine to protect this stand component and regeneration and group selection in existing mortality and root disease pockets. Removal of encroaching conifers, predominantly ponderosa pine, to restore meadow conditions in Elk Flat is proposed on 730 acres with follow-up underburning. Hardwoods, including aspen and California black oak, would be released to increase hardwood species diversity across the project area. Within all treatment units, surface and activity generated fuels would be treated with a combination of machine piling and burning in areas with heavier mortality, hand piling in sensitive areas as needed, lop and scatter, mastication and/or underburning (or any combination thereof) to meet the desired condition for fuel objectives. The entire project area is proposed for underburning after initial thinning treatments are completed. Underburning the entire project area would reduce the need to construct control lines, with the exception of private property boundaries and where control lines are needed to protect resources. While existing roads would be used as control lines as needed, fire would be allowed to cross unit boundaries and creep into adjacent treated and untreated stands within the project area. Where resource VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:12 Feb 27, 2013 Jkt 229001 protection is required, such as to retain large down logs, within sensitive Riparian Reserve areas, or near cultural sites or plant populations, line may be constructed in accordance with the developed resource protection measures. The proposal includes road reconstruction on four miles of National Forest System roads to improve drainage and reduce erosion impacts. Closure and decommissioning of 13.5 miles of System roads and unauthorized routes is proposed to reduce impacts to wildlife connectivity, stream channels and floodplain function. Approximately two miles of temporary roads, which would be decommissioned after use, may be required to complete project activities. No new National Forest System roads would be constructed. Approximately 120 landings up to 0.75-acre in size (some landing areas in heavy mortality zones may be one acre or more in size) would be located within or near unit boundaries. Landings and skid trails would be rehabilitated when no longer needed for the project. Project implementation is currently proposed for completion under a stewardship contract. Proposed underburning activities and the site preparation of group selection areas, planting and monitoring is expected to be completed by Forest Service staff and/or service contracts. Contracts may take anywhere from one to five years from award to completion. Proposed road closures and decommissioning would occur upon completion of project activities. While the entire project area is a priority for treatment to slow the progression of existing mortality and loss of late-successional habitat, priority treatment areas have been identified. They include those areas of large standing dead material, the older plantations that are densely stocked, units with known black stain and heterobasidion root disease pockets and natural stands that contain larger pockets of mortality. Approximately 90 percent of the project area is within Late-Successional Reserve allocation where a minimum of 10 percent of each thinned unit would remain unthinned to retain processes and conditions such as thermal and visual cover, natural suppression and mortality, small trees, natural size differentiation and undisturbed debris. In addition to the ten percent unthinned areas, approximately 380 acres of natural stands within the Elk Flat LSR have been excluded from thinning treatments as field review either identified that they are not currently at risk or to maintain current latesuccessional habitat conditions for the PO 00000 Frm 00003 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 northern spotted owl and northern goshawk. The latter stans will remain at high stocking densities where fire hazard and density-related mortality will remain high while continuing to function as habitat for these species. This is one element of an overall spatial and temporal strategy to provide habitat and address forest change over time in the advent of disturbance events and is consistent with Recovery Action 10 of the Revised Recovery Plan for the Northern Spotted Owl. The remaining 10 percent of project area is within matrix allocation with a commercial wood products emphasis, including the majority of Elk Flat meadow. There are approximately 280 acres of Riparian Reserves associated with intermittent and ephemeral streams within the project area; overlapping both LSR and matrix lands. Thinning prescriptions were specifically developed to reduce the risk of losing late-successional habitat, increase conifer species composition and diversity in plantation areas and natural stands to increase resilience to disease and stocking pressure, treat black stain and/or heterobasidion root diseases and reduce the risk of future mortality areas. Within natural stand units, existing mortality pockets of pine and fir may be removed to create openings or be retained to reserve snag habitat and future coarse woody debris for wildlife. Retention/removal areas will be dependent on the objectives for the specific treatment unit, safety considerations of the public and operations and meeting fuel load objectives. The proposed action is the result of field reviews, data acquisition and analysis including reviews and use of best available science by resource specialists on the project Interdisciplinary Team. Coordination and consultation with Tribes, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and collaboration with local watershed and restoration groups and adjacent landowners has been ongoing and will continue. The proposed action was guided by direction and objectives embodied in the Northwest Forest Plan, the Forest Plan, the Forest-wide LateSuccessional Reserve Assessment and recommendations in the McCloud Flats Ecosystem Analysis. It is designed to be consistent with the Aquatic Conservation Strategy objectives and the Revised Recovery Plan for the Northern Spotted Owl. It incorporates guidance from the National Fire Plan, the Forest’s Fire Management Plan and the Forest’s Record of Decision for Motorized Travel Management. A project consistency E:\FR\FM\28FEN1.SGM 28FEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 40 / Thursday, February 28, 2013 / Notices review with the Regional Ecosystem Office for the specific proposed thinning treatments and resultant stand conditions may be required. The project Interdisciplinary Team developed Resource Protection Measures common to all action alternatives to minimize or eliminate potential environmental effects while achieving the desired condition. Development was guided by Forest Plan direction as well as other applicable law, regulation and policy, projectspecific objectives and resource concerns identified by resource specialists. These measures complement the project design criteria developed as part of the proposed action, including species and age class retention preferences, microsite thinning and fuels treatment modifications in suitable habitat for late-successional species and within Riparian Reserves and cultural resource protections. Best management practices for maintaining, protecting and monitoring water quality and soils will also be utilized. Responsible Official J. Sharon Heywood, Forest Supervisor, Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Nature of Decision To Be Made The Forest Supervisor will decide whether to implement the proposed action, take an alternative action that meets the purpose and need, or take no action. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Permits or Licenses Required A permit would be required from the State of California prior to burning piles. The appropriate regulatory agencies will be consulted regarding national or state required permits associated with roads used during project implementation. All required permits will be obtained prior to implementation. Scoping Process The project is included in the ShastaTrinity National Forest’s quarterly schedule of proposed actions (SOPA). Detailed information on the proposed action, including maps, that will aid in the informing comments will be available on the Forest Web site at http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/ nepa_project_exp.php?project=31312. Scoping notice will be published in the Redding Record Searchlight and the Mount Shasta Herald. This notice of intent initiates the scoping process, which guides the development of issues (cause-effect relationships that highlight effects or unintended consequences), alternatives and analysis for the environmental VerDate Mar<15>2010 19:12 Feb 27, 2013 Jkt 229001 impact statement. It is important that reviewers provide their comments at such times and in such a manner that they are useful to identifying issues, developing alternatives, conducting resource analysis and preparing the environmental impact statement. Therefore, comments should be provided prior to the close of the 30-day comment period and should clearly articulate the reviewer’s concerns. Please include the following information with your comments: Your name, address and telephone number, the project name: Elk Late-Successional Reserve Enhancement project and sitespecific comments about the proposed action, along with supporting information you believe will help identify issues, develop alternatives or predict environmental effects of the proposal. The most useful comments provide new information or describe unwanted environmental effects potentially caused by the proposed action. If you reference scientific literature in your comments, you must provide a copy of the entire cited reference and include rationale as to how you feel it is pertinent to the Elk Late-Successional Reserve Enhancement project. A public information meeting will be held on March 5, 2013 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the McCloud Ranger Station conference room, located at 2019 Forest Road in McCloud, California. At this meeting, members of the project Interdisciplinary Team will present information on the purpose and need, existing conditions and the developed proposed action to meet the desired conditions in the project area. Written comments may be submitted at this meeting in addition to submitting them via mail and electronically as described in the ADDRESSES section above. Comments received in response to this solicitation, including names and addresses of those who comment, will become part of the public record for this proposed action. Dated: February 14, 2013. J. Sharon Heywood, Forest Supervisor. [FR Doc. 2013–04642 Filed 2–27–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410–11–P DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Forest Service San Bernardino National Forest; California; Omya Sentinel and Butterfield Quarry Expansion Project AGENCY: PO 00000 Forest Service, USDA. Frm 00004 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 13621 Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement and environmental impact report. ACTION: Omya California (Omya), a division of Omya Inc., has submitted the following applications: • An Amended Plan of Operations and Reclamation Plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, San Bernardino National Forest (SBNF); and • A Mining and Land Reclamation Plan Conditional Use Permit application submitted to the County of San Bernardino (County). Combined, these applications propose the expansion of the existing Sentinel and Butterfield Quarries. The existing permitted Sentinel and Butterfield limestone quarries are located on mining claims within the SBNF. Known limestone ore resources, within the proposed quarry expansions, will add an additional 20 years life to the Sentinel Quarry, add an additional 40 years life to the Butterfield Quarry, and will allow mining at both quarries to be extended until 2055. Depending on market demand, the combined Sentinel and Butterfield Quarries average ore production rates will be approximately 680,000 tons per year compared to the 3-year average between 2004–2006 of approximately 378,000 tons per year. Reclamation will occur concurrently with mining. The proposed expansion includes 48.7 acres of disturbance at the Sentinel Quarry and 28.8 acres of disturbance at the Butterfield Quarry, for a total of 77.3 acres. Quarry development and expansion will be phased. Disturbance proposed for the project includes expansion of existing Sentinel and Butterfield Quarries, expansion of associated overburden placement sites, additional internal access roads and ancillary facility areas, and minor adjustments to existing disturbance boundaries. There are no new quarries, haul roads or overburden sites in this plan, only the phased expanded development and reclamation of the existing Sentinel and Butterfield Quarries. Implementation of the Proposed Project will require discretionary approvals from Federal, State, and local agencies and, therefore, this project is subject to the environmental review requirements of both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). To ensure coordination between the NEPA and CEQA processes, and to avoid duplication of effort, a joint Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is being prepared as recommended by SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\28FEN1.SGM 28FEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 40 (Thursday, February 28, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 13618-13621]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-04642]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Shasta-Trinity National Forest; California; Elk Late-Successional 
Reserve Enhancement Project

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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

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SUMMARY: The Forest Service will prepare an environmental impact 
statement (EIS) to evaluate and disclose the predicted effects of the 
Elk Late-Successional Reserve Enhancement project, which would treat 
natural

[[Page 13619]]

stands and plantations on approximately 2,930 acres to reduce the 
current and future risk of large-scale disturbance events within early, 
mid and late-successional habitat within the Elk Flat Late-Successional 
Reserve and nearby stands. Additional benefits from risk reduction 
treatments include increasing the resilience and promoting continued 
development and connectivity of late-successional forest habitat within 
the Elk Flat Late-Successional Reserve. Objectives include improving 
forest health; increasing resiliency to natural events such as drought, 
insect and disease infestations and high severity wildfire; and 
restoring unique habitats. Forest stand treatments would be completed 
using commercial and non-commercial thinning and regeneration 
prescriptions. Fuels reduction would be completed using mechanical and 
hand methods and prescribed fire. Proposed road actions include 
maintenance and reconstruction of National Forest System roads, 
construction of temporary roads to complete project activities, and 
closure and decommissioning of National Forest System roads and 
existing routes. The project is located in Siskiyou County, California 
on the McCloud Ranger District of the Shasta McCloud Management Unit, 
Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The project's legal location is: 
Township 40 North, Range 1 West, Sections 4 and 5; and Township 41 
North, Range 1 West, Sections 27 to 34, Mt. Diablo Meridian. The 
project area is approximately nine miles northeast of the town of 
McCloud, California, and 70 miles northeast of Redding, California.

DATES: Submit comments concerning the proposed action on or before 
April 1, 2013.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Christine Jordan, USDA Forest 
Service, Shasta McCloud Management Unit, P.O. Box 1620, McCloud, 
California 96057. Electronic comments and other data may be submitted 
via email to comments-pacificsw-shasta-trinity-mtshasta-mccloud@fs.fed.us or via facsimile to (530) 964-2938.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Christine Jordan, Natural Resources 
Planner, at (530) 964-3771.
    Individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) 
may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 
between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Purpose and Need for Action

    The primary purpose of the Elk Late-Successional Reserve 
Enhancement project is to reduce the current and future risk of large-
scale disturbance events within early, mid and late-successional 
habitat within the Elk Flat Late-Successional Reserve (LSR) and nearby 
stands. This is consistent with Objectives I and III that guide the 
development and application of treatments within the Forest's Late-
Successional Reserves (Forest-wide Late-Successional Reserve 
Assessment, LSRA). We recognize that natural disturbance is an 
important process within late-successional forest ecosystems, but both 
human and natural processes have altered the disturbance regime within 
the Elk Flat LSR such that without action, further stand and structural 
composition loss would result from the combination of continued 
overstocking and density-related mortality, root disease, insect 
attacks and predicted lethal fire effects. Approximately 15 percent of 
the Elk Flat LSR is currently comprised of large pockets (10 to 80 
acres) of standing dead trees that are a current and future threat to 
both the surrounding habitat, due to increasing fuel loads, and members 
of the public visiting and recreating in the project area. Smaller 
mortality pockets range from groups of 5 to 10 trees up to \1/2\ acre, 
primarily in the ponderosa pine component, with additional root 
disease-related mortality occurring in white fir stands. Additional 
benefits from risk reduction treatments include increasing the 
resilience and promoting continued development and connectivity of 
late-successional forest habitat within the Elk Flat LSR (LSRA 
Objectives II and IV). The Elk Flat LSR, designated as RC-360 in the 
LSRA, comprises approximately 90 percent of the project area, with the 
remaining 10 percent in matrix allocation.
    Within the dry forested landscape of the California Cascades 
Province where the project area is located, fire suppression has 
resulted in significant increases in accumulated ground and understory 
fuels, while also making forested stands much more vulnerable to 
insects and disease impacts due to resultant overstocking. Because of 
the fire suppression history and lack of a natural fire regime in the 
project area, approximately 80 percent of the forested stands in the 
Elk Flat LSR are highly to extremely dense, particularly in relation to 
the survivability of pine. Current stand conditions reflect an increase 
in a shade-tolerant understory and midstory, composed primarily of 
white fir and incense cedar. Without low intensity fire or other 
disturbance, stand densities have increased as trees have continued to 
grow larger, with slowed tree growth as stands approach and reach a 
maximum carrying capacity. For most species, density-related tree 
mortality increases as stands reach and exceed 60 percent of a maximum 
stand density index, or SDI. An exception to this 60 percent standard 
is ponderosa pine. Research has repeatedly observed widespread 
mortality in ponderosa pine stands resulting from pine beetle outbreaks 
at densities below what had been considered 60 percent of maximum SDI. 
Stand exams completed in 2007 within the natural stands proposed for 
treatment measured densities above an SDI of 230, with many exceeding 
an SDI of 365. Additionally, older plantations (> 40 years) are near or 
above an SDI of 365. Based on the relationship with bark beetles, as 
ponderosa pine stands reach and exceed an SDI of 230 (or 60 percent of 
the SDI of 365), pine mortality from beetle outbreaks is increasingly 
likely.
    Dense stocking also stresses trees as they compete for limited 
nutrients and moisture, especially during dry conditions, and it is 
often the larger, older trees that are most susceptible to this stress. 
It is important to note that the density-related mortality is not 
limited to the understory trees in the project area; the large dominant 
and pre-dominant ponderosa pine trees have also died, or are dying. 
This is reflected in the existing conditions of large mortality pockets 
described above, which are located in both the natural stands and 
plantations within the project area. Reducing tree densities in the 
lower and mid-level canopy layers with thinning can reduce fire 
behavior, improving both direct suppression efforts and reducing the 
potential for large-scale habitat loss from a running crown fire. 
Underburning after thinning can reduce surface and maintain ladder 
fuels at levels that do not allow for ground fire to transition into 
the upper canopy.
    Without action, the density-related mortality, further exacerbated 
by drought, disease and future insect attacks will continue to spread 
throughout the project area, contributing to more standing and dead 
fuels and increasing the risk of a stand-replacing fire. Current ground 
fuel loadings in the Elk Flat LSR range from 5 to 10 tons per acre and 
are expected to increase to 20 plus tons per acre in the mixed conifer 
stands. Ground fuel loading is approximately 10 to 15 tons per acre in 
the ponderosa pine-dominated stands, where there are high levels of 
existing and ongoing mortality, and is expected

[[Page 13620]]

to increase to 35 to 100 plus tons per acre when these dead and dying 
trees fall. Forest Health specialists have also assessed the LSR for 
the presence of black stain and Heterobasidion root disease, locating 
it in several proposed treatment units.
    Additional project benefits and objectives include increasing the 
resilience and promoting continued development and connectivity of 
late-successional forest habitat within the Elk Flat LSR and restoring 
forest stand and meadow conditions on adjacent matrix lands to allow 
for a natural fire regime. Through risk reduction and habitat 
restoration treatments, the potential for high severity fire effects on 
adjacent private lands and within Wildland Urban Interface associated 
with the Mt. Shasta Forest subdivision would be reduced, stream channel 
and Riparian Reserve function along Ash and Swamp Creeks would be 
improved and hardwood species diversity would be increased.

Proposed Action

    The following acreages and distances are approximate. The proposed 
action would thin natural stands ranging from 60 to 120 years of age on 
1,520 acres and 10 to 40 year old plantations on 680 acres. These 
treatment areas will also include radial thinning around legacy pine to 
protect this stand component and regeneration and group selection in 
existing mortality and root disease pockets. Removal of encroaching 
conifers, predominantly ponderosa pine, to restore meadow conditions in 
Elk Flat is proposed on 730 acres with follow-up underburning. 
Hardwoods, including aspen and California black oak, would be released 
to increase hardwood species diversity across the project area.
    Within all treatment units, surface and activity generated fuels 
would be treated with a combination of machine piling and burning in 
areas with heavier mortality, hand piling in sensitive areas as needed, 
lop and scatter, mastication and/or underburning (or any combination 
thereof) to meet the desired condition for fuel objectives. The entire 
project area is proposed for underburning after initial thinning 
treatments are completed. Underburning the entire project area would 
reduce the need to construct control lines, with the exception of 
private property boundaries and where control lines are needed to 
protect resources. While existing roads would be used as control lines 
as needed, fire would be allowed to cross unit boundaries and creep 
into adjacent treated and untreated stands within the project area. 
Where resource protection is required, such as to retain large down 
logs, within sensitive Riparian Reserve areas, or near cultural sites 
or plant populations, line may be constructed in accordance with the 
developed resource protection measures.
    The proposal includes road reconstruction on four miles of National 
Forest System roads to improve drainage and reduce erosion impacts. 
Closure and decommissioning of 13.5 miles of System roads and 
unauthorized routes is proposed to reduce impacts to wildlife 
connectivity, stream channels and floodplain function. Approximately 
two miles of temporary roads, which would be decommissioned after use, 
may be required to complete project activities. No new National Forest 
System roads would be constructed.
    Approximately 120 landings up to 0.75-acre in size (some landing 
areas in heavy mortality zones may be one acre or more in size) would 
be located within or near unit boundaries. Landings and skid trails 
would be rehabilitated when no longer needed for the project.
    Project implementation is currently proposed for completion under a 
stewardship contract. Proposed underburning activities and the site 
preparation of group selection areas, planting and monitoring is 
expected to be completed by Forest Service staff and/or service 
contracts. Contracts may take anywhere from one to five years from 
award to completion. Proposed road closures and decommissioning would 
occur upon completion of project activities. While the entire project 
area is a priority for treatment to slow the progression of existing 
mortality and loss of late-successional habitat, priority treatment 
areas have been identified. They include those areas of large standing 
dead material, the older plantations that are densely stocked, units 
with known black stain and heterobasidion root disease pockets and 
natural stands that contain larger pockets of mortality.
    Approximately 90 percent of the project area is within Late-
Successional Reserve allocation where a minimum of 10 percent of each 
thinned unit would remain unthinned to retain processes and conditions 
such as thermal and visual cover, natural suppression and mortality, 
small trees, natural size differentiation and undisturbed debris. In 
addition to the ten percent un-thinned areas, approximately 380 acres 
of natural stands within the Elk Flat LSR have been excluded from 
thinning treatments as field review either identified that they are not 
currently at risk or to maintain current late-successional habitat 
conditions for the northern spotted owl and northern goshawk. The 
latter stans will remain at high stocking densities where fire hazard 
and density-related mortality will remain high while continuing to 
function as habitat for these species. This is one element of an 
overall spatial and temporal strategy to provide habitat and address 
forest change over time in the advent of disturbance events and is 
consistent with Recovery Action 10 of the Revised Recovery Plan for the 
Northern Spotted Owl. The remaining 10 percent of project area is 
within matrix allocation with a commercial wood products emphasis, 
including the majority of Elk Flat meadow. There are approximately 280 
acres of Riparian Reserves associated with intermittent and ephemeral 
streams within the project area; overlapping both LSR and matrix lands.
    Thinning prescriptions were specifically developed to reduce the 
risk of losing late-successional habitat, increase conifer species 
composition and diversity in plantation areas and natural stands to 
increase resilience to disease and stocking pressure, treat black stain 
and/or heterobasidion root diseases and reduce the risk of future 
mortality areas. Within natural stand units, existing mortality pockets 
of pine and fir may be removed to create openings or be retained to 
reserve snag habitat and future coarse woody debris for wildlife. 
Retention/removal areas will be dependent on the objectives for the 
specific treatment unit, safety considerations of the public and 
operations and meeting fuel load objectives.
    The proposed action is the result of field reviews, data 
acquisition and analysis including reviews and use of best available 
science by resource specialists on the project Interdisciplinary Team. 
Coordination and consultation with Tribes, the United States Fish and 
Wildlife Service, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and 
collaboration with local watershed and restoration groups and adjacent 
landowners has been ongoing and will continue. The proposed action was 
guided by direction and objectives embodied in the Northwest Forest 
Plan, the Forest Plan, the Forest-wide Late-Successional Reserve 
Assessment and recommendations in the McCloud Flats Ecosystem Analysis. 
It is designed to be consistent with the Aquatic Conservation Strategy 
objectives and the Revised Recovery Plan for the Northern Spotted Owl. 
It incorporates guidance from the National Fire Plan, the Forest's Fire 
Management Plan and the Forest's Record of Decision for Motorized 
Travel Management. A project consistency

[[Page 13621]]

review with the Regional Ecosystem Office for the specific proposed 
thinning treatments and resultant stand conditions may be required.
    The project Interdisciplinary Team developed Resource Protection 
Measures common to all action alternatives to minimize or eliminate 
potential environmental effects while achieving the desired condition. 
Development was guided by Forest Plan direction as well as other 
applicable law, regulation and policy, project-specific objectives and 
resource concerns identified by resource specialists. These measures 
complement the project design criteria developed as part of the 
proposed action, including species and age class retention preferences, 
microsite thinning and fuels treatment modifications in suitable 
habitat for late-successional species and within Riparian Reserves and 
cultural resource protections. Best management practices for 
maintaining, protecting and monitoring water quality and soils will 
also be utilized.

Responsible Official

    J. Sharon Heywood, Forest Supervisor, Shasta-Trinity National 
Forest.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    The Forest Supervisor will decide whether to implement the proposed 
action, take an alternative action that meets the purpose and need, or 
take no action.

Permits or Licenses Required

    A permit would be required from the State of California prior to 
burning piles. The appropriate regulatory agencies will be consulted 
regarding national or state required permits associated with roads used 
during project implementation. All required permits will be obtained 
prior to implementation.

Scoping Process

    The project is included in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest's 
quarterly schedule of proposed actions (SOPA). Detailed information on 
the proposed action, including maps, that will aid in the informing 
comments will be available on the Forest Web site at http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=31312. Scoping notice 
will be published in the Redding Record Searchlight and the Mount 
Shasta Herald.
    This notice of intent initiates the scoping process, which guides 
the development of issues (cause-effect relationships that highlight 
effects or unintended consequences), alternatives and analysis for the 
environmental impact statement. It is important that reviewers provide 
their comments at such times and in such a manner that they are useful 
to identifying issues, developing alternatives, conducting resource 
analysis and preparing the environmental impact statement. Therefore, 
comments should be provided prior to the close of the 30-day comment 
period and should clearly articulate the reviewer's concerns.
    Please include the following information with your comments: Your 
name, address and telephone number, the project name: Elk Late-
Successional Reserve Enhancement project and site-specific comments 
about the proposed action, along with supporting information you 
believe will help identify issues, develop alternatives or predict 
environmental effects of the proposal. The most useful comments provide 
new information or describe unwanted environmental effects potentially 
caused by the proposed action. If you reference scientific literature 
in your comments, you must provide a copy of the entire cited reference 
and include rationale as to how you feel it is pertinent to the Elk 
Late-Successional Reserve Enhancement project.
    A public information meeting will be held on March 5, 2013 from 
6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the McCloud Ranger Station conference room, 
located at 2019 Forest Road in McCloud, California. At this meeting, 
members of the project Interdisciplinary Team will present information 
on the purpose and need, existing conditions and the developed proposed 
action to meet the desired conditions in the project area. Written 
comments may be submitted at this meeting in addition to submitting 
them via mail and electronically as described in the ADDRESSES section 
above. Comments received in response to this solicitation, including 
names and addresses of those who comment, will become part of the 
public record for this proposed action.

     Dated: February 14, 2013.
J. Sharon Heywood,
Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. 2013-04642 Filed 2-27-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-11-P