Spruce Beetle Epidemic and Aspen Decline Management Response; Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG), Colorado, 46312-46314 [2013-18361]

Download as PDF 46312 Notices Federal Register Vol. 78, No. 147 Wednesday, July 31, 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. AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION Board of Directors Executive Session Meeting Meeting: African Development Foundation, Board of Directors Executive Session Meeting Time: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Place: 1400 Eye Street, NW., Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20005 Date: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 Status 1. Open session, Tuesday, August 6, 2013, 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. 2. Closed session, Tuesday, August 6, 2013, 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. Doris Mason Martin, General Counsel, acting on behalf of the President/CEO, USADF. [FR Doc. 2013–18428 Filed 7–30–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE P DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Forest Service Spruce Beetle Epidemic and Aspen Decline Management Response; Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG), Colorado Forest Service, USDA. Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement. AGENCY: ACTION: A large portion of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) has experienced mortality from insects and diseases over the past decade. The purpose of the project is to proactively and adaptively respond to declining forest vegetation conditions. The approach is to actively manage vegetation consistent with the goals outlined in the Western Bark Beetle Strategy (July 2011) including: mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:14 Jul 30, 2013 Jkt 229001 Promoting recovery from the insect outbreak, improving the resiliency of green stands to future disturbances and providing for human safety. Treatments would be carried out on National Forest System (NFS) Lands within the scope of direction provided in the GMUG Revised Land and Resource Management Plan. DATES: To be most helpful, comments concerning the scope of the analysis should be received by August 30, 2013. The draft environmental impact statement is expected to be released in during the summer of 2014. Following publication of the availability of the draft environmental impact statement, there will be a 45-day comment period. Only individuals and entities making specific written comments (defined in 36 CFR 218.2) within either official comment period may file objections under 36 CFR 218 Subparts A and B. The final environmental impact statement and draft record of decision is expected to be released in winter 2015. ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Scott Armentrout, Forest Supervisor, 2250 Highway 50, Delta, CO 81416. Comments may be sent via facsimile to 970–874–6698. Comments may also be sent via email to scottwilliams@fs.fed.us, with ‘‘SBEADMR Project’’ in the subject line. Electronic comments must be submitted in Word (.doc or docx.), Rich Text (.rtf), or Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Williams, Project Team Leader, USDA Forest Service, P.O. Box 6, Kernville, CA 93238, phone (760) 383– 7371, or email at scottwilliams@fs.fed.us. 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 Across the GMUG, approximately 140,000 acres of spruce-fir and 145,000 acres of aspen forests have experienced substantial mortality from insects and diseases over the past decade. Impacts have rapidly increased in recent years. Based upon patterns of bark beetle kill that have occurred on adjacent Forests, the GMUG expects rapidly increasing mortality. Once attacked by beetles, PO 00000 Frm 00001 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 most trees typically die and eventually fall to the ground, adding dead and dry fuels that increases wildfire hazard. The purpose of the project is to treat affected stands, improve the resiliency of stands at risk of these large-scale epidemics and reduce the safety threats of falling, dead trees and large-scale wildfires. The GMUG is located in Colorado on the western slope of the Rockies and into the Colorado Plateau. It covers 3,161,900 acres across diverse vegetation ranging from sagebrush, ˜ pinon, juniper and ponderosa pine to Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, and quaking aspen. Tree ring records and recent weather data indicate that the past decade has been the hottest and driest in centuries. This climate pattern, together with disturbance such as windthrow and vast landscapes of susceptible forest, are supporting huge outbreaks (Dendroctonus rufipennis) across the landscape. Spruce beetles prefer large diameter trees, but will attack smaller trees once most of the larger trees are exhausted within a stand. Beetle outbreaks commonly occur following windthrow events. The ongoing massive spruce beetle outbreak on the San Juan and Rio Grande National Forests for over a decade is now spilling over the Continental Divide and is impacting large portions of the GMUG. Based on aerial survey data from 2012, approximately 311,000 acres of spruce beetle activity were identified in Colorado. Approximately 85,000 of that occurred on the GMUG. Current spruce beetle activity on the GMUG was initiated by windthrow events on the Grand Mesa National Forest, as well as other centers initiated by smaller, localized windthrow events on the Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests. During roughly the same time frame as the growth in the spruce beetle epidemic, aspen dieback and mortality has occurred on a larger scale than previously experienced. Although stand-level episodes of aspen mortality have always occurred, occasionally clustered in time, the speed, pattern, severity, landscape scale, and causes of the mortality in the middle of the last decade were so novel that it was described as a new disease, Sudden Aspen Decline (SAD). Aspen in drier locations are more at risk. The recent E:\FR\FM\31JYN1.SGM 31JYN1 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 147 / Wednesday, July 31, 2013 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES hot and dry climatic pattern in conjunction with insects and disease have led to 1,215,000 acres of SAD in Colorado and 238,000 acres of SAD on the GMUG from 2000–2010. Expected future climatic conditions for this area include recurring drought and high summer temperatures which exacerbate SAD. Proposed Action The primary tools for reducing tree mortality, safety threats and fire hazard in stands already experiencing beetleinduced mortality will be the removal of dead and dying trees. In stands which are threatened by the beetle outbreak, forest resiliency will be improved by reducing stand densities by promoting multi-storied stand structure. Pheromone spray treatments may be used in high value areas. Aspen stands where less than 50% of the root system has been affected by decline would be candidates for aspen regeneration treatments. A map showing areas proposed for treatment is available at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/SSAMap. The project is consistent with management direction identified in the amended GMUG National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan) (1983, amended 1991, 1993, 2008, and 2012). This proposed action responds to goals and objectives described in the Forest Plan and moves the project area towards desired conditions (Forest Plan, 1991, pages III– 1 through III–5). Specifically, the Forest Plan goal for vegetation is to ‘‘manage vegetation in a manner to provide and maintain a healthy and vigorous ecosystem resistant to insects, diseases and other natural and human causes. Based on these conditions and Forest Plan direction, the need for this project is to manage forest vegetation to bring current and foreseeable conditions (i.e., with no action) closer to desired conditions on landscapes available for active management. This project is unique because of its adaptive and integrated approach to where and what actions will be applied to the landscape. The project will define opportunity areas available for treatments, priorities for treatment, parameters and design features, operating protocols, monitoring, and activity tracking. Both commercial harvest and non-commercial treatments (mechanical and prescribed fire) may be appropriate management tools for use in 250,000 to 350,000 acres. Approximately 118,000 acres of sprucefir and 140,000 acres of aspen would be analyzed for potential commercial and non-commercial treatments. An additional 60,000 acres of aspen outside VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:14 Jul 30, 2013 Jkt 229001 of lynx habitat would be analyzed for recovery and resiliency treatments. Focus areas for hazard mitigation include removal of dead and dying trees posing a risk to open roads (approximately 1,600 miles); in and around campgrounds or other administrative facilities (approximately 160 facilities); within ski areas boundaries (12,000 acres within Telluride, Crested Butte and Powderhorn ski areas) and within Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) and Tri-State power transmission lines right-of–way and border zones. Other priority treatment areas may be identified through the analysis and public involvement process. This area totals approximately twenty percent of these cover types across the GMUG. We estimate a range of 4,000 to 6,000 acres of commercial harvest treatments would occur annually, or a total 40,000 to 60,000 acres over the life of the 10year project. Another 3,000 to 6,000 acres of non-commercial (mechanical and prescribed fire) treatments could also occur should funding be available. Opportunities to use prescribed fire to meet treatment objectives will also be explored. Areas that are difficult to access and/or have slopes exceeding 35% will not be mechanically treated. This project proposes no mechanical treatments within administratively restricted areas such as Colorado Roadless Areas (CRAs), Research Natural Areas or Special Management Areas managed for Wilderness values. The approach is to actively manage vegetation consistent with the goals outlined in the Western Bark Beetle Strategy (July 2011, available at: http:// www.fs.fed.us/publications/bark-beetle/ bark-beetle-strategy-appendices.pdf_) including, promoting recovery from the insect outbreak, improving the resiliency of green stands to future disturbances and providing for human safety. These general goals will be adapted to local landscapes where treatments are needed based on governing management direction, foreseeable conditions and local environment, social and economic concerns. Recovery—An adaptive management treatment approach would include a spectrum of dead and dying tree removal based on extent of tree mortality. Commercial harvest would provide the ability to fund reforestation. Tree planting would follow removal of dead and dying trees and fuels treatments where adequate seed sources are lacking. Resiliency—Treatments in live stands would increase age class and tree PO 00000 Frm 00002 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 46313 species diversity to create multi-storied stand conditions of spruce-fir and healthy clones of aspen. Removal of single trees or group selections of live trees where bark beetle impacts are light to reduce inter-tree competition and create multi-storied stand conditions. Creating tree age-class and structural diversity across the landscape would also improve overall forest resilience. The primary goal of treatments in spruce-fir is to create/perpetuate a multi-age stand in accordance with the Southern Rockies Lynx Forest Plan Amendment. Treatments in aspen would center on those areas where science and experience have shown successful stand regeneration is most likely, typically in areas of light to moderate decline, or approximately 50% of stand root system impacted. Human Safety—Trees have died in many areas, some near people and infrastructure, some remote. Dead trees pose a hazard where they have potential to injure or kill people, or to damage property, if they fall. Dead trees along roads and trails could block ingress/ egress during emergency operations, such as during wildfire suppression operations. Falling trees can also damage power transmission lines, which can cause wildfires or power disruption to thousands of people. Falling tree hazards continue to increase the longer dead trees remain standing. Hazard tree mitigation treatments would help protect people and community infrastructure from the risk of falling bark trees. Wood products removed in all operations would be used to meet the growing needs of local industry and to provide substantial economic benefits to communities. These activities would be planned where existing strategic plans, laws and policy indicate they are appropriate, and where forest system roads are adequate to meet the needs of access and product removal. Some temporary road construction would likely be needed. Project Design Features—Each mechanical or prescribed fire treatment would include design features to protect the environment or mitigate affects. Design criteria to be used under specific on-the-ground conditions will be developed as part of the EIS. Some examples include: • Cultural resource survey and avoidance of important sites if found. • Best Management Practices for preventing soil erosion, sedimentation, or rutting to protect water quality. • Validation of treatments by a certified silviculturist who ensures forest health is maintained in the long term. E:\FR\FM\31JYN1.SGM 31JYN1 46314 Federal Register / Vol. 78, No. 147 / Wednesday, July 31, 2013 / Notices • Practices to minimize potential spread of non-native invasive species and treatment of high priority populations when found. Practices to minimize effects to threatened, endangered or sensitive wildlife or plant species which may include adjustments to project timing, pre-work surveys in potential habitat, avoiding activities in certain locations, maintaining key parts of the habitat (snags, cavities, rock outcrops are examples), and avoidance of live advanced regeneration in the understory. • Safety items such as alerting the public of activities, signing roads, ensuring equipment meets operational standards and oversight by Forest Service staff. Since the decision will be implemented using an adaptive management process, the use of monitoring results to advise Forest Service managers is critical to success of the project. Basic steps used in the adaptive management process are: • An interdisciplinary team (IDT) will be used to complete all required surveys for a particular project area, complete required layout and marking to the stand, decide the appropriate design features to be applied, and determine how best to implement required monitoring. A project ‘‘checklist’’ documenting compliance with requirements of the EIS will be completed. Members of the IDT will sign the checklist documenting compliance. • Projects will be implemented through timbersale contracts or other appropriate mechanisms. Forest Service employees (e.g. sale adminstrators) will oversee provision of the contract to ensure compliance. • During and following implementation of vegetation treatment project, monitoring required by the EIS will be completed. Findings will be summarized in an annual monitoring report that will be posted on the Forest Web site and utilized to inform Forest Service Managers. • Forest Service Managers incorporate ‘‘key findings’’ into design of future vegetation treatments within bounds of the EIS decision. mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Possible Alternatives The No Action alternative would not authorize any actions on the project area at this time. Other alternatives may be developed in response to public comments. Lead and Cooperating Agencies No cooperating agencies have been identified. VerDate Mar<15>2010 16:14 Jul 30, 2013 Jkt 229001 Responsible Official Scott Armentrout, Forest Supervisor, Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests is the Responsible Official. Nature of Decision To Be Made After considering the proposed action and any alternatives, the environmental analysis, and public comment, the Forest Supervisor will decide whether to conduct treatments to remove dead and dying trees, treat fuels, reforest trees, reduce and slow the progress of the beetle epidemic, and promote regeneration of aspen stands. If an action alternative is selected, the Forest Supervisor will decide where treatments may occur, and what actions are appropriate and may be taken. Finally, the decision will include the scope of monitoring that should occur. No Forest Plan amendment is proposed. Scoping Process This notice of intent initiates the scoping process, which guides the development of the environmental impact statement. It is important that reviewers provide their comments at such times and in such manner that they are useful to the agency’s preparation of the environmental impact statement. Therefore, comments should be provided prior to the close of the comment period and should clearly articulate the reviewer’s concerns and contentions. Comments received in response to this solicitation, including names and addresses of those who comment, will be part of the public record for this proposed action. Comments submitted anonymously will be accepted and considered, however. Objection Process Only those individuals and entities should submit timely and specific written comments (36 CFR 218.2) during official comment periods may file objections during the objection period, which will follow publication of the final environmental impact statement and draft record of decision. Objections filed according to the conditions in 36 CFR 218 Subparts A and B will be reviewed by a Reviewing Officer, who will submit a written response to objections. The final record of decision will be issued only after all the concerns and instructions identified by the reviewing officer have been addressed. Dated: July 25, 2013. Scott G. Armentrout, Forest Supervisor. [FR Doc. 2013–18361 Filed 7–30–13; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410–11–P PO 00000 Frm 00003 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Rural Business-Cooperative Service Request for Revision of a Currently Approved Information Collection Rural Business-Cooperative Service, USDA. ACTION: Notice; proposed collection; comments requested. AGENCY: In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, this notice announces the Rural BusinessCooperative Service’s intention to request an extension for a currently approved information collection in support of the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program. DATES: Comments on this notice must be received by September 30, 2013, to be assured of consideration. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Director, Specialty Programs Division, Rural Business-Cooperative Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, STOP 3226, 1400 Independence Ave. SW., Washington, DC 20250–3225, Telephone (202) 720–1400. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Title: Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program. OMB Number: 0570–0035. Expiration Date of Approval: December 31, 2013. Type of Request: Revision of a currently approved information collection. Abstract: Under this program, loans and grants are provided to electric and telecommunications utilities that have borrowed funds from the Agency. The purpose of the program is to encourage these electric and telecommunications utilities to promote rural economic development and job creation projects such as business start-up costs, business expansion, community development, and business incubator projects. The utilities must use program loan funds to make a pass-through loan to an ultimate recipient such as a business. The utility is responsible for fully repaying its loan to the government even if the ultimate recipient does not repay its loan. The intermediary must use program grant funds, along with its required contribution, to create a revolving loan fund that the utility will operate and administer. Loans to the ultimate recipient are made from the revolving loan fund for a variety of community development projects. The information requested is necessary and vital in order for the Agency to be able to make prudent and financial analysis decisions. SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\31JYN1.SGM 31JYN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 147 (Wednesday, July 31, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 46312-46314]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-18361]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Spruce Beetle Epidemic and Aspen Decline Management Response; 
Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG), Colorado

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: A large portion of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison 
National Forests (GMUG) has experienced mortality from insects and 
diseases over the past decade. The purpose of the project is to 
proactively and adaptively respond to declining forest vegetation 
conditions. The approach is to actively manage vegetation consistent 
with the goals outlined in the Western Bark Beetle Strategy (July 2011) 
including: Promoting recovery from the insect outbreak, improving the 
resiliency of green stands to future disturbances and providing for 
human safety. Treatments would be carried out on National Forest System 
(NFS) Lands within the scope of direction provided in the GMUG Revised 
Land and Resource Management Plan.

DATES: To be most helpful, comments concerning the scope of the 
analysis should be received by August 30, 2013. The draft environmental 
impact statement is expected to be released in during the summer of 
2014. Following publication of the availability of the draft 
environmental impact statement, there will be a 45-day comment period. 
Only individuals and entities making specific written comments (defined 
in 36 CFR 218.2) within either official comment period may file 
objections under 36 CFR 218 Subparts A and B. The final environmental 
impact statement and draft record of decision is expected to be 
released in winter 2015.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Scott Armentrout, Forest 
Supervisor, 2250 Highway 50, Delta, CO 81416. Comments may be sent via 
facsimile to 970-874-6698. Comments may also be sent via email to 
scottwilliams@fs.fed.us, with ``SBEADMR Project'' in the subject line. 
Electronic comments must be submitted in Word (.doc or docx.), Rich 
Text (.rtf), or Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Williams, Project Team Leader, 
USDA Forest Service, P.O. Box 6, Kernville, CA 93238, phone (760) 383-
7371, or email at scottwilliams@fs.fed.us. 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

    Across the GMUG, approximately 140,000 acres of spruce-fir and 
145,000 acres of aspen forests have experienced substantial mortality 
from insects and diseases over the past decade. Impacts have rapidly 
increased in recent years. Based upon patterns of bark beetle kill that 
have occurred on adjacent Forests, the GMUG expects rapidly increasing 
mortality. Once attacked by beetles, most trees typically die and 
eventually fall to the ground, adding dead and dry fuels that increases 
wildfire hazard.
    The purpose of the project is to treat affected stands, improve the 
resiliency of stands at risk of these large-scale epidemics and reduce 
the safety threats of falling, dead trees and large-scale wildfires.
    The GMUG is located in Colorado on the western slope of the Rockies 
and into the Colorado Plateau. It covers 3,161,900 acres across diverse 
vegetation ranging from sagebrush, pi[ntilde]on, juniper and ponderosa 
pine to Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, and quaking aspen. Tree ring 
records and recent weather data indicate that the past decade has been 
the hottest and driest in centuries. This climate pattern, together 
with disturbance such as windthrow and vast landscapes of susceptible 
forest, are supporting huge outbreaks (Dendroctonus rufipennis) across 
the landscape.
    Spruce beetles prefer large diameter trees, but will attack smaller 
trees once most of the larger trees are exhausted within a stand. 
Beetle outbreaks commonly occur following windthrow events. The ongoing 
massive spruce beetle outbreak on the San Juan and Rio Grande National 
Forests for over a decade is now spilling over the Continental Divide 
and is impacting large portions of the GMUG. Based on aerial survey 
data from 2012, approximately 311,000 acres of spruce beetle activity 
were identified in Colorado. Approximately 85,000 of that occurred on 
the GMUG. Current spruce beetle activity on the GMUG was initiated by 
windthrow events on the Grand Mesa National Forest, as well as other 
centers initiated by smaller, localized windthrow events on the 
Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests.
    During roughly the same time frame as the growth in the spruce 
beetle epidemic, aspen dieback and mortality has occurred on a larger 
scale than previously experienced. Although stand-level episodes of 
aspen mortality have always occurred, occasionally clustered in time, 
the speed, pattern, severity, landscape scale, and causes of the 
mortality in the middle of the last decade were so novel that it was 
described as a new disease, Sudden Aspen Decline (SAD). Aspen in drier 
locations are more at risk. The recent

[[Page 46313]]

hot and dry climatic pattern in conjunction with insects and disease 
have led to 1,215,000 acres of SAD in Colorado and 238,000 acres of SAD 
on the GMUG from 2000-2010. Expected future climatic conditions for 
this area include recurring drought and high summer temperatures which 
exacerbate SAD.

Proposed Action

    The primary tools for reducing tree mortality, safety threats and 
fire hazard in stands already experiencing beetle-induced mortality 
will be the removal of dead and dying trees. In stands which are 
threatened by the beetle outbreak, forest resiliency will be improved 
by reducing stand densities by promoting multi-storied stand structure. 
Pheromone spray treatments may be used in high value areas. Aspen 
stands where less than 50% of the root system has been affected by 
decline would be candidates for aspen regeneration treatments. A map 
showing areas proposed for treatment is available at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/SSAMap.
    The project is consistent with management direction identified in 
the amended GMUG National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan 
(Forest Plan) (1983, amended 1991, 1993, 2008, and 2012). This proposed 
action responds to goals and objectives described in the Forest Plan 
and moves the project area towards desired conditions (Forest Plan, 
1991, pages III-1 through III-5). Specifically, the Forest Plan goal 
for vegetation is to ``manage vegetation in a manner to provide and 
maintain a healthy and vigorous ecosystem resistant to insects, 
diseases and other natural and human causes.
    Based on these conditions and Forest Plan direction, the need for 
this project is to manage forest vegetation to bring current and 
foreseeable conditions (i.e., with no action) closer to desired 
conditions on landscapes available for active management.
    This project is unique because of its adaptive and integrated 
approach to where and what actions will be applied to the landscape. 
The project will define opportunity areas available for treatments, 
priorities for treatment, parameters and design features, operating 
protocols, monitoring, and activity tracking. Both commercial harvest 
and non-commercial treatments (mechanical and prescribed fire) may be 
appropriate management tools for use in 250,000 to 350,000 acres. 
Approximately 118,000 acres of spruce-fir and 140,000 acres of aspen 
would be analyzed for potential commercial and non-commercial 
treatments. An additional 60,000 acres of aspen outside of lynx habitat 
would be analyzed for recovery and resiliency treatments. Focus areas 
for hazard mitigation include removal of dead and dying trees posing a 
risk to open roads (approximately 1,600 miles); in and around 
campgrounds or other administrative facilities (approximately 160 
facilities); within ski areas boundaries (12,000 acres within 
Telluride, Crested Butte and Powderhorn ski areas) and within Western 
Area Power Administration (WAPA) and Tri-State power transmission lines 
right-of-way and border zones. Other priority treatment areas may be 
identified through the analysis and public involvement process. This 
area totals approximately twenty percent of these cover types across 
the GMUG.
    We estimate a range of 4,000 to 6,000 acres of commercial harvest 
treatments would occur annually, or a total 40,000 to 60,000 acres over 
the life of the 10-year project. Another 3,000 to 6,000 acres of non-
commercial (mechanical and prescribed fire) treatments could also occur 
should funding be available. Opportunities to use prescribed fire to 
meet treatment objectives will also be explored. Areas that are 
difficult to access and/or have slopes exceeding 35% will not be 
mechanically treated. This project proposes no mechanical treatments 
within administratively restricted areas such as Colorado Roadless 
Areas (CRAs), Research Natural Areas or Special Management Areas 
managed for Wilderness values.
    The approach is to actively manage vegetation consistent with the 
goals outlined in the Western Bark Beetle Strategy (July 2011, 
available at: http://www.fs.fed.us/publications/bark-beetle/bark-beetle-strategy-appendices.pdf--) including, promoting recovery from 
the insect outbreak, improving the resiliency of green stands to future 
disturbances and providing for human safety. These general goals will 
be adapted to local landscapes where treatments are needed based on 
governing management direction, foreseeable conditions and local 
environment, social and economic concerns.
    Recovery--An adaptive management treatment approach would include a 
spectrum of dead and dying tree removal based on extent of tree 
mortality. Commercial harvest would provide the ability to fund 
reforestation. Tree planting would follow removal of dead and dying 
trees and fuels treatments where adequate seed sources are lacking.
    Resiliency--Treatments in live stands would increase age class and 
tree species diversity to create multi-storied stand conditions of 
spruce-fir and healthy clones of aspen. Removal of single trees or 
group selections of live trees where bark beetle impacts are light to 
reduce inter-tree competition and create multi-storied stand 
conditions. Creating tree age-class and structural diversity across the 
landscape would also improve overall forest resilience. The primary 
goal of treatments in spruce-fir is to create/perpetuate a multi-age 
stand in accordance with the Southern Rockies Lynx Forest Plan 
Amendment. Treatments in aspen would center on those areas where 
science and experience have shown successful stand regeneration is most 
likely, typically in areas of light to moderate decline, or 
approximately 50% of stand root system impacted.
    Human Safety--Trees have died in many areas, some near people and 
infrastructure, some remote. Dead trees pose a hazard where they have 
potential to injure or kill people, or to damage property, if they 
fall. Dead trees along roads and trails could block ingress/egress 
during emergency operations, such as during wildfire suppression 
operations. Falling trees can also damage power transmission lines, 
which can cause wildfires or power disruption to thousands of people. 
Falling tree hazards continue to increase the longer dead trees remain 
standing. Hazard tree mitigation treatments would help protect people 
and community infrastructure from the risk of falling bark trees. Wood 
products removed in all operations would be used to meet the growing 
needs of local industry and to provide substantial economic benefits to 
communities. These activities would be planned where existing strategic 
plans, laws and policy indicate they are appropriate, and where forest 
system roads are adequate to meet the needs of access and product 
removal. Some temporary road construction would likely be needed.
    Project Design Features--Each mechanical or prescribed fire 
treatment would include design features to protect the environment or 
mitigate affects. Design criteria to be used under specific on-the-
ground conditions will be developed as part of the EIS. Some examples 
include:
     Cultural resource survey and avoidance of important sites 
if found.
     Best Management Practices for preventing soil erosion, 
sedimentation, or rutting to protect water quality.
     Validation of treatments by a certified silviculturist who 
ensures forest health is maintained in the long term.

[[Page 46314]]

     Practices to minimize potential spread of non-native 
invasive species and treatment of high priority populations when found. 
Practices to minimize effects to threatened, endangered or sensitive 
wildlife or plant species which may include adjustments to project 
timing, pre-work surveys in potential habitat, avoiding activities in 
certain locations, maintaining key parts of the habitat (snags, 
cavities, rock outcrops are examples), and avoidance of live advanced 
regeneration in the understory.
     Safety items such as alerting the public of activities, 
signing roads, ensuring equipment meets operational standards and 
oversight by Forest Service staff.
    Since the decision will be implemented using an adaptive management 
process, the use of monitoring results to advise Forest Service 
managers is critical to success of the project. Basic steps used in the 
adaptive management process are:
     An interdisciplinary team (IDT) will be used to complete 
all required surveys for a particular project area, complete required 
layout and marking to the stand, decide the appropriate design features 
to be applied, and determine how best to implement required monitoring. 
A project ``checklist'' documenting compliance with requirements of the 
EIS will be completed. Members of the IDT will sign the checklist 
documenting compliance.
     Projects will be implemented through timbersale contracts 
or other appropriate mechanisms. Forest Service employees (e.g. sale 
adminstrators) will oversee provision of the contract to ensure 
compliance.
     During and following implementation of vegetation 
treatment project, monitoring required by the EIS will be completed. 
Findings will be summarized in an annual monitoring report that will be 
posted on the Forest Web site and utilized to inform Forest Service 
Managers.
     Forest Service Managers incorporate ``key findings'' into 
design of future vegetation treatments within bounds of the EIS 
decision.

Possible Alternatives

    The No Action alternative would not authorize any actions on the 
project area at this time. Other alternatives may be developed in 
response to public comments.

Lead and Cooperating Agencies

    No cooperating agencies have been identified.

Responsible Official

    Scott Armentrout, Forest Supervisor, Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and 
Gunnison National Forests is the Responsible Official.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    After considering the proposed action and any alternatives, the 
environmental analysis, and public comment, the Forest Supervisor will 
decide whether to conduct treatments to remove dead and dying trees, 
treat fuels, reforest trees, reduce and slow the progress of the beetle 
epidemic, and promote regeneration of aspen stands. If an action 
alternative is selected, the Forest Supervisor will decide where 
treatments may occur, and what actions are appropriate and may be 
taken. Finally, the decision will include the scope of monitoring that 
should occur. No Forest Plan amendment is proposed.

Scoping Process

    This notice of intent initiates the scoping process, which guides 
the development of the environmental impact statement. It is important 
that reviewers provide their comments at such times and in such manner 
that they are useful to the agency's preparation of the environmental 
impact statement. Therefore, comments should be provided prior to the 
close of the comment period and should clearly articulate the 
reviewer's concerns and contentions. Comments received in response to 
this solicitation, including names and addresses of those who comment, 
will be part of the public record for this proposed action. Comments 
submitted anonymously will be accepted and considered, however.

Objection Process

    Only those individuals and entities should submit timely and 
specific written comments (36 CFR 218.2) during official comment 
periods may file objections during the objection period, which will 
follow publication of the final environmental impact statement and 
draft record of decision. Objections filed according to the conditions 
in 36 CFR 218 Subparts A and B will be reviewed by a Reviewing Officer, 
who will submit a written response to objections. The final record of 
decision will be issued only after all the concerns and instructions 
identified by the reviewing officer have been addressed.

    Dated: July 25, 2013.
Scott G. Armentrout,
Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. 2013-18361 Filed 7-30-13; 8:45 am]
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