Big Bar Ranger District; California; Burnt Ranch Fire Resilient Community Project, 77449-77453 [2014-30182]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 247 / Wednesday, December 24, 2014 / Notices between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Forest Service Big Bar Ranger District; California; Burnt Ranch Fire Resilient Community Project Forest Service, USDA. Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement. AGENCY: ACTION: The Shasta-Trinity National Forest (STNF) will prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) to document and publicly disclose the environmental effects of implementing a hazardous fuels reduction project on approximately 5,327 acres of National Forest System lands. Activities are proposed within the wildland urban interface or WUI (the zone where structures and other human developments meet, or intermingle with, undeveloped wild lands) of the community of Burnt Ranch, California as well as the Corral Late Successional Reserve (LSR). The proposed project would provide the Burnt Ranch community and the LSR with enhanced protection from catastrophic wildfire and increased fire fighter and public safety. The proposal includes thinning trees from below in overcrowded stands, plantations and along roadsides. Some thinning would be accomplished through commercial timber harvest of sawtimber and/or biomass as well as from prescribed burning. The Burnt Ranch Fire Resilient Community Project is located in sections 5, 4, 3, 2, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 33, 34, and 35 in T. 5 N., R. 6 E.; sections 19 and 30 in T. 5 N., R. 7 E., sections 1, 2, 3, 11 and 12 in T. 4 N., R. 6 E. Humboldt Meridian. DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received by January 26, 2015. The draft environmental impact statement is expected May 2015 and the final environmental impact statement is expected February 2016. ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Weaverville Ranger Station, P.O. Box 1190 Weaverville CA 96093. Comments may also be sent via email to commentspacificsw-shasta-trinity-bigbarweaverville@fs.fed.us, or via facsimile to (530) 623–6010. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Stephanie Riess, Environmental Coordinator at, (530) 623–1755, or stephaniesriess@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 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES SUMMARY: VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:34 Dec 23, 2014 Jkt 235001 Purpose and Need for Action The overarching goals of the current planning effort is to move Burnt Ranch towards becoming a ‘‘fire resilient’’ community and to promote and maintain late successional conditions within the Corral Late Successional Reserve in the maximum amounts sustainable through time. For this project a ‘‘fire resilient’’ community is defined as ‘‘communities that experience minimum disruption to life and economy after a hazard event has passed’’. Community wildfire protection focuses on increasing fire resilience by managing vegetation proximate to homes and other community values at risk. Fire-safe planning can lead to decreased property, infrastructure, and habitat losses from fires within the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) and can result in lower fire suppression costs. The strategy focuses on implementing complementary fuel and fire hazard reduction actions on National Forest System (NFS) lands of the ShastaTrinity National Forest (STNF) and on adjacent private lands. These actions are designed to implement the all lands approach articulated by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a 2009 speech. ‘‘The threats facing our Forests don’t recognize property boundaries. So in developing a shared vision around forest, we must also be willing to look across property boundaries. In other words, we must operate at a landscapescale by taking an all-lands approach’’. Currently, partners engaged in the planning effort on both private and Forest Service lands include the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Trinity County Resource Conservation District (TCRCD), Willow Creek Fire Safe Council, Trinity County Fire Safe Council, Trinity County, Hawkins Bar Volunteer Fire Department, and local landowners. The TCRCD and NRCS are currently engaged in planning fuels reduction treatments on private lands within the Burnt Ranch community that will contribute to the reduction of the likelihood of adverse wildfire impacts on the Burnt Ranch community and the Corral LSR. The Burnt Ranch Fire Resilient Community Project actions are proposed entirely on NFS lands of the ShastaTrinity National Forest. This decision will not authorize any treatment on lands not managed by the Forest Service. The Burnt Ranch Fire Resilient Community project planning area is PO 00000 Frm 00009 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 77449 approximately 8,347 acres in size. It is located in Trinity County, California. Portions or all of the following Sections fall within the planning area: Humboldt Meridian, T. 4 N., R. 6 E., Section 1, 2, 3, 11, and 12. T. 5 N., R. 6 E., Section 5, 4, 3, 2, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 33, 34, and 35. T. 5 N., R. 7 E., Section 19, and 30. The project area is within the Trinity River Management Area (Management Area #15) of the Shasta-Trinity Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP). The project area is entirely within the WUI of the Burnt Ranch community as identified in the Trinity County Community Wildfire Protection Plan Update 2010 (CWPP). In addition, the majority of the planning area falls within the Corral LSR. Management objectives within LSRs include protecting and enhancing conditions of late-successional forest ecosystems, which serve as habitat for late-successional and old-growth related species including the northern spotted owl. There are approximately 5,912 acres of critical habitat for the threatened Northern spotted owl within the planning area. Objectives for LSRs include reducing the risk of large-scale disturbance, including stand-replacing fire, insect and disease epidemic, and major human caused impacts. The Corral LSR has been identified as being in an area of elevated risk to large-scale disturbance due to changes in the characteristics and distribution of the mixed-conifer forests resulting from past fire suppression. There are approximately 5,912 acres of critical habitat for the threatened Northern spotted owl within the planning area. In management within designated Critical Habitat, and based on the intent expressed by Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell and US Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe April 24, 2013, our intent is to not be so conservative that, to avoid risks, we forego actions necessary to conserve forest ecosystems necessary for the longterm conservation of the northern spotted owl. At the same time, our intent is also not to be so aggressive that we subject spotted owls and their habitat to treatments where the longterm benefits do not clearly outweigh the short-term risks. Balance will be the key to our success. In its rule on Critical Habitat USFWS expressed: ‘‘The Service encourages land managers to consider the conservation of existing high-quality northern spotted owl habitat, the restoration of forest ecosystem health, and the ecological forestry management practices recommended in the Revised Recovery Plan that are compatible with E:\FR\FM\24DEN1.SGM 24DEN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES 77450 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 247 / Wednesday, December 24, 2014 / Notices both the goals of northern spotted owl recovery and Standards and Guidelines of the Northwest Forest Plan.’’ The 2011 Revised Recovery Plan has the following Recovery Actions that apply to the project area: Recovery Action 10: Conserve spotted owl sites and high value spotted owl habitat to provide additional demographic support to the spotted owl population. Recovery Action 32: Maintain substantially all of the older and more structurally complex multi-layered conifer forests on Federal lands outside of MOCAs in the Olympic Peninsula, Western Washington Cascades, Western Oregon Cascades, Oregon Coast Range, Oregon and California Klamath, and California Coast Provinces, allowing for other threats, such as fire and insects, to be addressed by restoration management actions. These forests are characterized as having large diameter trees, high amounts of canopy cover, and decadence components such as broken topped live trees, mistletoe, cavities, large snags, and fallen trees. The proposed treatment areas are derived from the WUI boundary, which is divided into four zones. These WUI zones are strategically employed by Trinity County in their CWPP as well as in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest Fire Management Plan (FMP). The WUI zones are situated by proximity to a residence or structure. Treatments within the zones are developed to move that WUI zone towards specific fire behavior goals. Zone one, the Improvement Zone, is the residence or structure itself and has a goal of being a fire resistant structure or improvement. Zone two, the Reduced Fuel Zone, is the 100 foot area surrounding a structure and has the fire behavior goal of flame lengths less than two feet with no crown fire potential. Zone three, the Defense Zone, is 0.25 miles around a structure and has the fire behavior goal of flame lengths less than four feet and limited crown fire potential. Zone four, the Threat Zone, is 1.5 miles around a structure and has fire behavior goals of flame lengths less than eight feet and bringing crown fire to the ground (to a surface fire). No treatments are proposed for Zone 1 or 2 (Improvement Zone and Reduced Fuel Zone respectively), as these zones are generally located on lands not administered by the Forest Service. In general, a need for action is identified by comparing the existing conditions in an area to desired future conditions as defined by direction in the Land and Resource Management Plan and requirements of other applicable laws and public policies. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:34 Dec 23, 2014 Jkt 235001 In summary, the existing condition is as follows: • The existing fuel condition poses a substantial hazard (measured by potential fire behavior) to wildland urban interface areas, including public and firefighter safety during access and egress; and the ability of firefighters to safely and effectively suppress wildfire. • The existing fuel condition poses a substantial hazard (measured by potential fire behavior) of a large-scale disturbance that could result in the loss of key late-successional structure within the Corral LSR. • Current overstocked conditions within plantations limit the ability of the plantations to develop late successional characteristics. Vegetation In general, vegetation in the planning area is mixed conifer type dominated by Douglas-fir. Ponderosa pine, sugar pine, and incense cedar are also common. Several hardwoods, including Pacific madrone, canyon live oak, tanoak, California black oak, and Oregon white oak, comprise a large component of some stands. In these hardwood stands, younger Douglas-fir are shading out the hardwoods, simplifying stand structure. Based on available information as summarized in the Forest Wide Late Successional Reserve Assessment (USDA, 1999), historically, vegetation was probably different in terms of structure and species composition. In general, forested stands tended to be more open than currently found. There was a lot of stand or patch size diversity, with most of the patches containing trees of the same age and size class. The relatively denser stands were most likely found on the lower one-half of the north facing slopes, in riparian areas, and areas of deep, productive soils. More open stands occurred on south facing and the upper one-half of north facing slopes. Currently, some stands within the planning area contain from approximately 400 to over 2,000 trees per acre (TPA). Average canopy cover ranges from approximately 80 to 96 percent in stands outside of plantations. Given the vertical continuity of the understory, canopy base height (CBH) ranges from 3 to 26 feet. The majority of the stands outside of plantations measured an average CBH less than 13 feet. Fuels Condition Prior to European settlement, naturally occurring levels of dead woody material (snags and down logs) were likely lower than present day due to the frequency of fires. Fuel loadings PO 00000 Frm 00010 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 within small fuel size classes were likely significantly less than they are today, with the greatest proportion of large down logs found in mesic areas, north slopes, and higher elevations. The historic fire regime has changed from a short interval, low intensity regime to a moderate to high intensity fire regime with infrequent intervals. Historically fires occurred at a 3 to 7 year interval, creating stands with open canopies and keeping woody debris levels low. It is reasonable to conclude that historically, fuel loadings would have, on average, ranged between 5–10 tons per acre. Currently, dead and downed fuel levels within the planning area are variable; with fuel loadings ranging between 5–40 tons per acre. The lowest loadings are located in brush fields and mixed hardwood stands that are situated on dry, rocky south aspects. Fuel loadings within conifer stands, located on north aspects, tend to have the highest fuel loadings. Ladder fuels exist in a variety of settings within the planning area, with the highest concentration in canopy gaps adjacent to conifer stands, and within plantations. Fire Hazard Hazard describes potential fire behavior, which has implications for resource damage as well as suppression capability. Currently approximately 85% of the planning area is classified as having high to extreme fire hazard with the potential for flame lengths over 8 feet in length. Resistance to control is high under these conditions because flame lengths are too intense for firefighters to work near. It prevents firefighters from directly attacking a fire’s edge and requires specialized equipment such as fire engines, air tankers, dozers, and helicopters. Additionally, 85% of the planning area is classified as having the potential for passive or active crown fire. These conditions can allow for wildfire events that threaten resources and property, jeopardize public and firefighter safety, create hazardous air conditions and have very high suppression costs. Plantations Plantations within the planning area currently range in age from 20 to 56 years. Trees per acre currently range from approximately 140 to 720. Early seral plantations (approximately 20 years old) are highly diverse in shrub and herbaceous species, with the dominant conifer trees measuring 5 to 8 inches diameter at breast height (DBH). Some of the oldest plantations have trees that are over 10 inches DBH. In E:\FR\FM\24DEN1.SGM 24DEN1 mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 247 / Wednesday, December 24, 2014 / Notices these older plantations, the competition between trees is greater and the mortality rate is increasing as some trees are being shaded out. Brush species are also being shaded out, and these plantations tend to be very dense with contiguous vertical fuels from the soil surface to the crown. In some cases, plantations were planted heavily with ponderosa pine. While this species does occur in the project area, Douglas-fir is better suited to many habitats and the pine is being out-competed by the Douglas-fir. Plantations are particularly susceptible to active crown fire due to their low canopy base heights and interlocking crowns. Plantations are typically intermixed with brush and grass ingrowth and these light flashy fuels burn quickly with high intensities, which can cause rapid rates of spread. Wildfire moving through a plantation located adjacent to a natural stand with larger trees can provide a path for fire to easily get into the upper canopy. Because of this, and the proximity of plantations to the Burnt Ranch community, fire behavior goals for all plantations with the WUI are designed to reduce the fire behavior to flame lengths less than four feet with limited crown fire potential. Additionally, mitigating the fire effects in a plantation, if a fire should burn in the project area, will improve the likelihood that these young forests will continue the development to become mature forests. If a stand replacing fire occurs, then forest development is restarted. Overgrown plantations provide no habitat or only poor to marginal habitat for the majority of Forest Service Sensitive or Federally-listed species within the project area. Wildlife species that may occur in these plantations tend to be habitat generalists, such as deer and rodents. However, the positioning and occurrence of plantations relative to older stands can offer a mosaic of habitat types that is beneficial to many species including those dependent on late-successional habitat for nesting. A mosaic of habitat types can be of particular importance to species such as Pacific fisher and spotted owl whose prey will utilize these younger stands for foraging and nesting. Thinned plantations can also provide foraging habitat for a wide variety of bird species, such as owls, raptors and passerines. There is a need to improve the health and vigor of existing plantations so that they can be retained on the landscape and allowed to develop into late-successional habitat. The plantations in the Burnt Ranch Project area are not developing the structure and complexity that is VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:34 Dec 23, 2014 Jkt 235001 desirable for wildlife species dependent on late-successional forests. Reforestation strategy has evolved as the management of the forest has evolved. Trees were planted densely with an assumption that these planted areas would be actively managed until they were ready to harvest again. This strategy has generated the need for treatments designed to support the growth and development of latesuccessional forest structure. Desired Future Conditions Desired future conditions for the planning area are described in the LRMP, as well as in the Burnt Ranch and Soldier Creek Watershed Analysis (WA), the Trinity County CWPP update, and the Forest Wide Late Successional Reserve Assessment (LSRA). In summary, these desired future conditions are as follows: • Forest Goal: Achieve a balance of fire suppression capability and fuels management investments that are cost effective and able to meet ecosystem objectives and protection responsibilities (LRMP, page 4–4). • Forest Standard and Guidelines: Activity fuels that remain after meeting wildlife, riparian, soil, and other environmental needs will be considered surplus and a potential fire hazard. The amount and method of disposal will be determined in the ecosystem analysis (LRMP, page 4–17). Consider fuelbreak construction investments when they complement Forest health/biomass reduction needs, very high and extensive resource values are at risk and to protect Forest communities. Design fire prevention efforts to minimize human-caused wildfires commensurate with the resource values-at-risk. Natural fuels will be treated in the following order of priority: (1) Public safety; (2) high investment situations; (3) known high fire occurrence areas; (4) coordinated resource benefits i.e. ecosystem maintenance for natural fire regimes (LRMP, page 4–18). • Management Area Direction: Latesuccessional reserve stands are managed to maintain health and diversity components through the use of prescribed fire and thinning from below (LRMP, page 4–142). • Burnt Ranch and Soldier Creek Watershed Analysis: Develop fuel breaks, thin wild stands and plantations, and create roadside buffers to reduce fuel loading and enhance fire protection capability (WA page, 61). • Trinity County CWPP update: Consider proactive thinning and fuels reduction of plantations during their period of greatest vulnerability to fire (CWPP update, page 79). Implementing PO 00000 Frm 00011 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 77451 a system of strategic fuel breaks along ridges and roadsides is suggested as an extremely productive and agreed upon strategy for creating a more fire-safe community (CWPP update, page 80). • Forest Wide Late Successional Reserve Assessment: Large stand replacing, high intensity fires are not desirable within LSRs. Throughout the LSRs, fuel conditions should generally range from low to moderate fire behavior (LSRA, page 163). The goals of the current planning effort are to move Burnt Ranch towards becoming a ‘‘fire resilient’’ community and to promote and maintain late successional conditions within the Corral LSR in the maximum amounts sustainable through time. This proposal would change the current potential fire behavior within the Burnt Ranch WUI to fire behavior similar to the goals given for each WUI zone. In addition, the following needs will help reduce the risk of fire spreading from NFS lands to private lands while also reducing the risk of fire spreading from private lands to NFS lands. 1. There is a need to reduce the potential fire behavior in the WUI Defense Zone to low intensity (measured by flame lengths averaging 4 feet or less and with limited crown fire potential) during 90th percentile weather conditions. 2. There is a need to reduce the potential fire behavior in the WUI Threat Zone to moderate intensity (measured by flame lengths averaging 8 feet or less and bringing crown fire to the ground) during 90th percentile weather conditions. 3. There is a need to reduce the potential fire behavior along roadsides within the planning area to establish an environment where fire fighters can safely and effectively suppress wildfires, and allow for safer access and egress routes for the public. 4. There is a need to reduce the potential for high to extreme fire behavior within the Corral LSR to low to moderate fire behavior (measured by flame lengths and crown fire potential) during 90th percentile weather conditions. Proposed Action The proposed action was developed based on the purpose and need using fire modeling, research, professional and local knowledge, and vegetation and fuel loading data collected for the project area. A total of 5,327 acres are proposed for one or more treatment types. As part of the proposed action, resource protection measures will be included that assure consistency with environmental laws such as the E:\FR\FM\24DEN1.SGM 24DEN1 77452 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 247 / Wednesday, December 24, 2014 / Notices Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Forest Management Act. spreading from private lands to NFS lands. Authorization for Road Use As part of the proposed action, the Forest will authorize the temporary administrative use of Forest System roads 5N15, 5N10, 5N09B, 5N27B and 5N60B. These roads are currently classified as Maintenance Level 1, closed to vehicular traffic, considered intermittent service roads, until needed for future management activities. These roads would be opened (existing berms would be removed and routine maintenance such as brushing or grading of the road could take place to make them safe for use) as needed to access treatment units. All level 1 roads utilized for project implementation would be closed (berms rebuilt, etc.) after initial thinning treatments are completed. Roads 5N30, 5N60BA and 5N27C are private roads under Special Use Authorizations. The STNF will seek input from the permittees on dual use of these roads under FSM 7700 and FSM 2700. Plantations There are approximately 942 acres of plantations within the planning area that were planted between 1958 and 1993. Treatments in plantations will focus on increasing the spacing between trees, thinning around hardwoods and multiple sprouting hardwoods, and, in general, breaking up the continuity of surface, ladder, and crown fuels. Treatments would be applied where trees per acre (TPA), canopy base height or fuel loading do not meet desired conditions All plantation acres are proposed for utilization of forest products (sawlog and/or biomass utilization) where feasible. The slope of the area, the ability to operate groundbased equipment, and hydrological features can all impact the feasibility of utilization of forest products. In plantations with a high percentage of ponderosa pine, thinning will remove many of the trees that have been outcompeted by the natural regeneration (Douglas-fir and incense cedar), creating an open stand. These treatments will accelerate the development of late successional characteristics by creating a forest that is complex vertically and horizontally. When there are a variety of tree ages, tree species, and spacing distances between individual trees (including openings and dense pockets) the forest can support a diversity of wildlife species that may not all have the same requirements. Treatments are designed to reduce the fire behavior in the plantations to flame lengths less than four feet with limited crown fire potential. Defense Zone Treatments mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Defense Zone Units Approximately 1,514 acres located within the WUI Defense Zone are proposed for treatment. Of those, approximately 420 acres will have understory treatments only with no material proposed for removal. The remaining Defense Zone Units (approximately 1,094 acres) are proposed to have understory treatments as well as thin-from-below treatments which would involve mechanical removal (sawlog and/or biomass utilization). Treatments would be applied where trees per acre (TPA), canopy base height or fuel loading do not meet desired conditions. Treatments will reduce the TPA, especially in the smaller size classes and increase the canopy base height (CBH), leaving smaller trees singly and/or in a clumped distribution spaced from the largest trees. In general, trees to be removed consist of understory trees (i.e. suppressed and intermediate) that act as ladder fuels, and some co-dominant trees that currently create a uniformly dense canopy. Treatments are designed to reduce the fire behavior in the Defense Zone Units to flame lengths of less than four feet with limited crown fire potential. These lower flame lengths will help reduce the risk of fire spreading from NFS lands to private lands while also reducing the risk of fire VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:34 Dec 23, 2014 Jkt 235001 Defense Zone and Threat Zone Treatments Roadside Fuel Breaks Approximately 1,975 acres are proposed for roadside fuel breaks in the planning area. These treatments extend 600 feet from either side of identified roads. Fuel breaks are further delineated into three different profiles. Profile one extends from the road edge out 100 feet, profile two from 100 to 300 feet, and profile three from 300 to 600 feet. Treatment prescriptions will be most intense closer to the road, and reduce in intensity the farther away from the road with the objectives of establishing an environment where fire fighters can suppress fire safely and effectively. Treatments would be applied where trees per acre (TPA), canopy base height or fuel loading do not meet desired conditions. Roadside fuel breaks will allow for safer access and egress routes PO 00000 Frm 00012 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 for the public, while also reducing the risk that fires started near roads will spread to the rest of the forest. Profiles one and two (approximately 1,140 acres) are proposed for understory treatments as well as thin-from-below treatments which could involve mechanical removal (sawlog and/or biomass utilization). Understory treatments with no removal are proposed for profile three (approximately 836 acres). Treatments will reduce the TPA (especially in the smaller size classes) and increase the canopy base height. The treatment will also leave smaller trees singly and in a clumped distribution spaced from the largest trees in the fuel break. Activities Common to Defense Zone Units, Plantations, and Roadside Fuel Breaks These actions may occur at the same time or at a later date as the primary actions, and may occur where there is no removal proposed. These activities would only occur within defense zone units, treated plantations, and roadside fuel breaks. Treatments would reduce and/or rearrange activity and surface fuels in excess of desired conditions. Treatments would be applied where trees per acre (TPA), canopy base height or fuel loading do not meet desired conditions. Activities will promote long-term late successional conditions by creating heterogeneity and increased resilience to large high-severity fires. • Pruning to raise CBH— approximately 4,431 acres. This treatment could occur within all Defense Zone Units, Plantations and Roadside Fuel Breaks. • Activity fuels and natural surface fuels in excess of desired conditions that are not proposed for removal will be treated solely by or a combination of the following: Æ Lopped and scattered— approximately 672 acres. This treatment could occur intermittently within Defense Zone Units, Roadside Fuel Breaks, and Plantations depending on fuel loading conditions after initial treatments and slope steepness. Æ Masticated or chipped (on slopes <35%)—approximately 2,942 acres. This treatment could occur intermittently across Defense Zone Units, Roadside Fuel Breaks, and Plantations depending on slope steepness, accessibility and fuel loading. Æ Machine piled and burned (slopes <35%)—approximately 150 acres. This treatment could occur intermittently across Defense Zone Units, Roadside Fuel Breaks, and Plantations where mechanical removal (sawlog and/or biomass utilization) is proposed. E:\FR\FM\24DEN1.SGM 24DEN1 Federal Register / Vol. 79, No. 247 / Wednesday, December 24, 2014 / Notices mstockstill on DSK4VPTVN1PROD with NOTICES Æ Hand piled and burned— approximately 4,431 acres. This treatment could occur intermittently across Defense Zone Units, Roadside Fuel Breaks, and Plantations depending on slope steepness, proximity to homes and air quality concerns. Æ Jackpot burned—approximately 4,431 acres. This treatment could occur intermittently across Defense Zone Units, Roadside Fuel Breaks, and Plantations depending on slope, proximity to homes and air quality concerns. Æ Public Fuelwood Utilization— approximately 2,520 acres. This treatment would leave material suitable for public fuel wood use onsite in areas that are accessible, or decked along the roadside where safe to do so. This treatment could occur intermittently across Defense Zone Units, Roadside Fuel Breaks, and Plantations. Æ Understory Maintenance Burning— Approximately 4,431 acres. This treatment could occur within approximately two to ten years after initial treatment, or as the surface fuel conditions require for maintaining the desired fire behavior. This treatment could occur within all Defense Zone Units, Plantations, and Roadside Fuel Breaks. Multiple burn entries may be needed to maintain desired vegetation and fuel loadings. Prescribed Fire Understory Units Approximately 896 acres are proposed for prescribed understory fire treatment. No thinning will occur in these units. Treatments are intended to move these areas toward historic fire regime and fuel loading conditions and to allow fire personnel to make use of roads, natural barriers, and topography (such as ridge tops and drainages) for control lines during prescribed burning activities in other units (see previous section). The Prescribed Fire Understory Units will help reduce the overall amount of control lines needed within the planning area, allowing for more cost effective and safer understory burning, and reducing the potential for resource damage. Multiple burn entries of primarily low to moderate intensity fire may be needed to maintain desired vegetation and fuel loadings. Natural boundaries would be used whenever possible; however, control line construction will still be needed in some areas. Desired outcomes are a mosaic-burn severity pattern primarily from low to moderate intensity surface fire across 70–80% of the treatment area. Treatments would be applied where trees per acre (TPA), canopy base height or fuel loading do not meet desired conditions. This treatment VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:34 Dec 23, 2014 Jkt 235001 would create mosaic forest conditions that contribute to late successional characteristics while providing a more fire-resilient landscape. Responsible Official 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. 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=38444. 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. Dated: December 17, 2014. David R. Myers, Forest Supervisor. [FR Doc. 2014–30182 Filed 12–23–14; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3410–11–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE Submission for OMB Review; Comment Request The Department of Commerce will submit to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for clearance the following proposal for collection of information under the provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35). Agency: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). PO 00000 Frm 00013 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 77453 Title: The Ocean Enterprise: A study of U.S. business activity in ocean measurement, observation and forecasting. OMB Control Number: 0648–xxxx. Form Number(s): None. Type of Request: Regular (request for a new information collection). Number of Respondents: 300. Average Hours per Response: 25 minutes. Burden Hours: 125. Needs and Uses: This request is for a new information collection supported by Section 12302(3) of the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act (ICOOS Act) part of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (Pub. L. 111–11). The survey is voluntary. NOAA’s National Ocean Service is requesting approval of a Web-based survey of employers who provide either services or infrastructure to the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) or organizations that add value to the IOOS data and other outputs by tailoring them for specific end uses. The purpose of the survey and overall project is to gather data to articulate the collective and derived value of the IOOS enterprise, and to create a profile of businesses and organizations who are involved with providing services or utilizing the data for other specific end uses. This is the first survey of its kind on a national scale. The project is funded by NOAA and is being conducted on its behalf by the contractor, ERISS Corporation. The project contract spans three years with the first portion of the contract mainly involved with researching and selecting appropriate businesses to include in the study database. The Web survey will be the main data collection piece of the project and is necessary in order to collect demographic, financial, and functional information for each organization with regards to their involvement with IOOS. The final deliverable of this project is an analytic report detailing the findings of the web survey and the analysis of the employer database. The marine technology industry is an important partner and stakeholder within IOOS; however, without the baseline that this study will provide, IOOS is unable to articulate its collective and derived value. The results will demonstrate the size and economic impact of IOOS data to the United States marine ocean sector. That information can be used to understand the value of export sales and the identification of potential growth and/or new international markets which would further the Department of Commerce E:\FR\FM\24DEN1.SGM 24DEN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 247 (Wednesday, December 24, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 77449-77453]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-30182]



[[Page 77449]]

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Big Bar Ranger District; California; Burnt Ranch Fire Resilient 
Community Project

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

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

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SUMMARY: The Shasta-Trinity National Forest (STNF) will prepare an 
environmental impact statement (EIS) to document and publicly disclose 
the environmental effects of implementing a hazardous fuels reduction 
project on approximately 5,327 acres of National Forest System lands. 
Activities are proposed within the wildland urban interface or WUI (the 
zone where structures and other human developments meet, or intermingle 
with, undeveloped wild lands) of the community of Burnt Ranch, 
California as well as the Corral Late Successional Reserve (LSR). The 
proposed project would provide the Burnt Ranch community and the LSR 
with enhanced protection from catastrophic wildfire and increased fire 
fighter and public safety. The proposal includes thinning trees from 
below in overcrowded stands, plantations and along roadsides. Some 
thinning would be accomplished through commercial timber harvest of 
sawtimber and/or biomass as well as from prescribed burning. The Burnt 
Ranch Fire Resilient Community Project is located in sections 5, 4, 3, 
2, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 33, 
34, and 35 in T. 5 N., R. 6 E.; sections 19 and 30 in T. 5 N., R. 7 E., 
sections 1, 2, 3, 11 and 12 in T. 4 N., R. 6 E. Humboldt Meridian.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received 
by January 26, 2015. The draft environmental impact statement is 
expected May 2015 and the final environmental impact statement is 
expected February 2016.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to Weaverville Ranger Station, P.O. 
Box 1190 Weaverville CA 96093. Comments may also be sent via email to 
comments-pacificsw-shasta-trinity-bigbar-weaverville@fs.fed.us, or via 
facsimile to (530) 623-6010.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Stephanie Riess, Environmental 
Coordinator at, (530) 623-1755, or stephaniesriess@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

    The overarching goals of the current planning effort is to move 
Burnt Ranch towards becoming a ``fire resilient'' community and to 
promote and maintain late successional conditions within the Corral 
Late Successional Reserve in the maximum amounts sustainable through 
time. For this project a ``fire resilient'' community is defined as 
``communities that experience minimum disruption to life and economy 
after a hazard event has passed''. Community wildfire protection 
focuses on increasing fire resilience by managing vegetation proximate 
to homes and other community values at risk. Fire-safe planning can 
lead to decreased property, infrastructure, and habitat losses from 
fires within the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) and can result in lower 
fire suppression costs.
    The strategy focuses on implementing complementary fuel and fire 
hazard reduction actions on National Forest System (NFS) lands of the 
Shasta-Trinity National Forest (STNF) and on adjacent private lands. 
These actions are designed to implement the all lands approach 
articulated by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a 2009 speech. 
``The threats facing our Forests don't recognize property boundaries. 
So in developing a shared vision around forest, we must also be willing 
to look across property boundaries. In other words, we must operate at 
a landscape-scale by taking an all-lands approach''.
    Currently, partners engaged in the planning effort on both private 
and Forest Service lands include the Natural Resource Conservation 
Service (NRCS), Trinity County Resource Conservation District (TCRCD), 
Willow Creek Fire Safe Council, Trinity County Fire Safe Council, 
Trinity County, Hawkins Bar Volunteer Fire Department, and local 
landowners.
    The TCRCD and NRCS are currently engaged in planning fuels 
reduction treatments on private lands within the Burnt Ranch community 
that will contribute to the reduction of the likelihood of adverse 
wildfire impacts on the Burnt Ranch community and the Corral LSR.
    The Burnt Ranch Fire Resilient Community Project actions are 
proposed entirely on NFS lands of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. 
This decision will not authorize any treatment on lands not managed by 
the Forest Service.
    The Burnt Ranch Fire Resilient Community project planning area is 
approximately 8,347 acres in size. It is located in Trinity County, 
California. Portions or all of the following Sections fall within the 
planning area: Humboldt Meridian, T. 4 N., R. 6 E., Section 1, 2, 3, 
11, and 12. T. 5 N., R. 6 E., Section 5, 4, 3, 2, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 
16, 17, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 33, 34, and 35. T. 5 N., R. 7 
E., Section 19, and 30.
    The project area is within the Trinity River Management Area 
(Management Area #15) of the Shasta-Trinity Land and Resource 
Management Plan (LRMP).
    The project area is entirely within the WUI of the Burnt Ranch 
community as identified in the Trinity County Community Wildfire 
Protection Plan Update 2010 (CWPP). In addition, the majority of the 
planning area falls within the Corral LSR.
    Management objectives within LSRs include protecting and enhancing 
conditions of late-successional forest ecosystems, which serve as 
habitat for late-successional and old-growth related species including 
the northern spotted owl. There are approximately 5,912 acres of 
critical habitat for the threatened Northern spotted owl within the 
planning area.
    Objectives for LSRs include reducing the risk of large-scale 
disturbance, including stand-replacing fire, insect and disease 
epidemic, and major human caused impacts. The Corral LSR has been 
identified as being in an area of elevated risk to large-scale 
disturbance due to changes in the characteristics and distribution of 
the mixed-conifer forests resulting from past fire suppression.
    There are approximately 5,912 acres of critical habitat for the 
threatened Northern spotted owl within the planning area. In management 
within designated Critical Habitat, and based on the intent expressed 
by Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell and US Fish and Wildlife Service 
Director Dan Ashe April 24, 2013, our intent is to not be so 
conservative that, to avoid risks, we forego actions necessary to 
conserve forest ecosystems necessary for the long-term conservation of 
the northern spotted owl. At the same time, our intent is also not to 
be so aggressive that we subject spotted owls and their habitat to 
treatments where the long-term benefits do not clearly outweigh the 
short-term risks. Balance will be the key to our success. In its rule 
on Critical Habitat USFWS expressed: ``The Service encourages land 
managers to consider the conservation of existing high-quality northern 
spotted owl habitat, the restoration of forest ecosystem health, and 
the ecological forestry management practices recommended in the Revised 
Recovery Plan that are compatible with

[[Page 77450]]

both the goals of northern spotted owl recovery and Standards and 
Guidelines of the Northwest Forest Plan.''
    The 2011 Revised Recovery Plan has the following Recovery Actions 
that apply to the project area:
    Recovery Action 10: Conserve spotted owl sites and high value 
spotted owl habitat to provide additional demographic support to the 
spotted owl population.
    Recovery Action 32: Maintain substantially all of the older and 
more structurally complex multi-layered conifer forests on Federal 
lands outside of MOCAs in the Olympic Peninsula, Western Washington 
Cascades, Western Oregon Cascades, Oregon Coast Range, Oregon and 
California Klamath, and California Coast Provinces, allowing for other 
threats, such as fire and insects, to be addressed by restoration 
management actions. These forests are characterized as having large 
diameter trees, high amounts of canopy cover, and decadence components 
such as broken topped live trees, mistletoe, cavities, large snags, and 
fallen trees.
    The proposed treatment areas are derived from the WUI boundary, 
which is divided into four zones. These WUI zones are strategically 
employed by Trinity County in their CWPP as well as in the Shasta-
Trinity National Forest Fire Management Plan (FMP). The WUI zones are 
situated by proximity to a residence or structure. Treatments within 
the zones are developed to move that WUI zone towards specific fire 
behavior goals. Zone one, the Improvement Zone, is the residence or 
structure itself and has a goal of being a fire resistant structure or 
improvement. Zone two, the Reduced Fuel Zone, is the 100 foot area 
surrounding a structure and has the fire behavior goal of flame lengths 
less than two feet with no crown fire potential. Zone three, the 
Defense Zone, is 0.25 miles around a structure and has the fire 
behavior goal of flame lengths less than four feet and limited crown 
fire potential. Zone four, the Threat Zone, is 1.5 miles around a 
structure and has fire behavior goals of flame lengths less than eight 
feet and bringing crown fire to the ground (to a surface fire). No 
treatments are proposed for Zone 1 or 2 (Improvement Zone and Reduced 
Fuel Zone respectively), as these zones are generally located on lands 
not administered by the Forest Service.
    In general, a need for action is identified by comparing the 
existing conditions in an area to desired future conditions as defined 
by direction in the Land and Resource Management Plan and requirements 
of other applicable laws and public policies.
    In summary, the existing condition is as follows:
     The existing fuel condition poses a substantial hazard 
(measured by potential fire behavior) to wildland urban interface 
areas, including public and firefighter safety during access and 
egress; and the ability of firefighters to safely and effectively 
suppress wildfire.
     The existing fuel condition poses a substantial hazard 
(measured by potential fire behavior) of a large-scale disturbance that 
could result in the loss of key late-successional structure within the 
Corral LSR.
     Current overstocked conditions within plantations limit 
the ability of the plantations to develop late successional 
characteristics.

Vegetation

    In general, vegetation in the planning area is mixed conifer type 
dominated by Douglas-fir. Ponderosa pine, sugar pine, and incense cedar 
are also common. Several hardwoods, including Pacific madrone, canyon 
live oak, tanoak, California black oak, and Oregon white oak, comprise 
a large component of some stands. In these hardwood stands, younger 
Douglas-fir are shading out the hardwoods, simplifying stand structure.
    Based on available information as summarized in the Forest Wide 
Late Successional Reserve Assessment (USDA, 1999), historically, 
vegetation was probably different in terms of structure and species 
composition. In general, forested stands tended to be more open than 
currently found. There was a lot of stand or patch size diversity, with 
most of the patches containing trees of the same age and size class. 
The relatively denser stands were most likely found on the lower one-
half of the north facing slopes, in riparian areas, and areas of deep, 
productive soils. More open stands occurred on south facing and the 
upper one-half of north facing slopes.
    Currently, some stands within the planning area contain from 
approximately 400 to over 2,000 trees per acre (TPA). Average canopy 
cover ranges from approximately 80 to 96 percent in stands outside of 
plantations. Given the vertical continuity of the understory, canopy 
base height (CBH) ranges from 3 to 26 feet. The majority of the stands 
outside of plantations measured an average CBH less than 13 feet.

Fuels Condition

    Prior to European settlement, naturally occurring levels of dead 
woody material (snags and down logs) were likely lower than present day 
due to the frequency of fires. Fuel loadings within small fuel size 
classes were likely significantly less than they are today, with the 
greatest proportion of large down logs found in mesic areas, north 
slopes, and higher elevations.
    The historic fire regime has changed from a short interval, low 
intensity regime to a moderate to high intensity fire regime with 
infrequent intervals. Historically fires occurred at a 3 to 7 year 
interval, creating stands with open canopies and keeping woody debris 
levels low. It is reasonable to conclude that historically, fuel 
loadings would have, on average, ranged between 5-10 tons per acre.
    Currently, dead and downed fuel levels within the planning area are 
variable; with fuel loadings ranging between 5-40 tons per acre. The 
lowest loadings are located in brush fields and mixed hardwood stands 
that are situated on dry, rocky south aspects. Fuel loadings within 
conifer stands, located on north aspects, tend to have the highest fuel 
loadings. Ladder fuels exist in a variety of settings within the 
planning area, with the highest concentration in canopy gaps adjacent 
to conifer stands, and within plantations.

Fire Hazard

    Hazard describes potential fire behavior, which has implications 
for resource damage as well as suppression capability. Currently 
approximately 85% of the planning area is classified as having high to 
extreme fire hazard with the potential for flame lengths over 8 feet in 
length. Resistance to control is high under these conditions because 
flame lengths are too intense for firefighters to work near. It 
prevents firefighters from directly attacking a fire's edge and 
requires specialized equipment such as fire engines, air tankers, 
dozers, and helicopters.
    Additionally, 85% of the planning area is classified as having the 
potential for passive or active crown fire. These conditions can allow 
for wildfire events that threaten resources and property, jeopardize 
public and firefighter safety, create hazardous air conditions and have 
very high suppression costs.

Plantations

    Plantations within the planning area currently range in age from 20 
to 56 years. Trees per acre currently range from approximately 140 to 
720. Early seral plantations (approximately 20 years old) are highly 
diverse in shrub and herbaceous species, with the dominant conifer 
trees measuring 5 to 8 inches diameter at breast height (DBH). Some of 
the oldest plantations have trees that are over 10 inches DBH. In

[[Page 77451]]

these older plantations, the competition between trees is greater and 
the mortality rate is increasing as some trees are being shaded out. 
Brush species are also being shaded out, and these plantations tend to 
be very dense with contiguous vertical fuels from the soil surface to 
the crown. In some cases, plantations were planted heavily with 
ponderosa pine. While this species does occur in the project area, 
Douglas-fir is better suited to many habitats and the pine is being 
out-competed by the Douglas-fir.
    Plantations are particularly susceptible to active crown fire due 
to their low canopy base heights and interlocking crowns. Plantations 
are typically intermixed with brush and grass ingrowth and these light 
flashy fuels burn quickly with high intensities, which can cause rapid 
rates of spread. Wildfire moving through a plantation located adjacent 
to a natural stand with larger trees can provide a path for fire to 
easily get into the upper canopy. Because of this, and the proximity of 
plantations to the Burnt Ranch community, fire behavior goals for all 
plantations with the WUI are designed to reduce the fire behavior to 
flame lengths less than four feet with limited crown fire potential. 
Additionally, mitigating the fire effects in a plantation, if a fire 
should burn in the project area, will improve the likelihood that these 
young forests will continue the development to become mature forests. 
If a stand replacing fire occurs, then forest development is restarted.
    Overgrown plantations provide no habitat or only poor to marginal 
habitat for the majority of Forest Service Sensitive or Federally-
listed species within the project area. Wildlife species that may occur 
in these plantations tend to be habitat generalists, such as deer and 
rodents. However, the positioning and occurrence of plantations 
relative to older stands can offer a mosaic of habitat types that is 
beneficial to many species including those dependent on late-
successional habitat for nesting. A mosaic of habitat types can be of 
particular importance to species such as Pacific fisher and spotted owl 
whose prey will utilize these younger stands for foraging and nesting. 
Thinned plantations can also provide foraging habitat for a wide 
variety of bird species, such as owls, raptors and passerines. There is 
a need to improve the health and vigor of existing plantations so that 
they can be retained on the landscape and allowed to develop into late-
successional habitat.
    The plantations in the Burnt Ranch Project area are not developing 
the structure and complexity that is desirable for wildlife species 
dependent on late-successional forests. Reforestation strategy has 
evolved as the management of the forest has evolved. Trees were planted 
densely with an assumption that these planted areas would be actively 
managed until they were ready to harvest again. This strategy has 
generated the need for treatments designed to support the growth and 
development of late-successional forest structure.
Desired Future Conditions
    Desired future conditions for the planning area are described in 
the LRMP, as well as in the Burnt Ranch and Soldier Creek Watershed 
Analysis (WA), the Trinity County CWPP update, and the Forest Wide Late 
Successional Reserve Assessment (LSRA). In summary, these desired 
future conditions are as follows:
     Forest Goal: Achieve a balance of fire suppression 
capability and fuels management investments that are cost effective and 
able to meet ecosystem objectives and protection responsibilities 
(LRMP, page 4-4).
     Forest Standard and Guidelines: Activity fuels that remain 
after meeting wildlife, riparian, soil, and other environmental needs 
will be considered surplus and a potential fire hazard. The amount and 
method of disposal will be determined in the ecosystem analysis (LRMP, 
page 4-17). Consider fuelbreak construction investments when they 
complement Forest health/biomass reduction needs, very high and 
extensive resource values are at risk and to protect Forest 
communities. Design fire prevention efforts to minimize human-caused 
wildfires commensurate with the resource values-at-risk. Natural fuels 
will be treated in the following order of priority: (1) Public safety; 
(2) high investment situations; (3) known high fire occurrence areas; 
(4) coordinated resource benefits i.e. ecosystem maintenance for 
natural fire regimes (LRMP, page 4-18).
     Management Area Direction: Late-successional reserve 
stands are managed to maintain health and diversity components through 
the use of prescribed fire and thinning from below (LRMP, page 4-142).
     Burnt Ranch and Soldier Creek Watershed Analysis: Develop 
fuel breaks, thin wild stands and plantations, and create roadside 
buffers to reduce fuel loading and enhance fire protection capability 
(WA page, 61).
     Trinity County CWPP update: Consider proactive thinning 
and fuels reduction of plantations during their period of greatest 
vulnerability to fire (CWPP update, page 79). Implementing a system of 
strategic fuel breaks along ridges and roadsides is suggested as an 
extremely productive and agreed upon strategy for creating a more fire-
safe community (CWPP update, page 80).
     Forest Wide Late Successional Reserve Assessment: Large 
stand replacing, high intensity fires are not desirable within LSRs. 
Throughout the LSRs, fuel conditions should generally range from low to 
moderate fire behavior (LSRA, page 163).
    The goals of the current planning effort are to move Burnt Ranch 
towards becoming a ``fire resilient'' community and to promote and 
maintain late successional conditions within the Corral LSR in the 
maximum amounts sustainable through time. This proposal would change 
the current potential fire behavior within the Burnt Ranch WUI to fire 
behavior similar to the goals given for each WUI zone. In addition, the 
following needs will help reduce the risk of fire spreading from NFS 
lands to private lands while also reducing the risk of fire spreading 
from private lands to NFS lands.
    1. There is a need to reduce the potential fire behavior in the WUI 
Defense Zone to low intensity (measured by flame lengths averaging 4 
feet or less and with limited crown fire potential) during 90th 
percentile weather conditions.
    2. There is a need to reduce the potential fire behavior in the WUI 
Threat Zone to moderate intensity (measured by flame lengths averaging 
8 feet or less and bringing crown fire to the ground) during 90th 
percentile weather conditions.
    3. There is a need to reduce the potential fire behavior along 
roadsides within the planning area to establish an environment where 
fire fighters can safely and effectively suppress wildfires, and allow 
for safer access and egress routes for the public.
    4. There is a need to reduce the potential for high to extreme fire 
behavior within the Corral LSR to low to moderate fire behavior 
(measured by flame lengths and crown fire potential) during 90th 
percentile weather conditions.

Proposed Action

    The proposed action was developed based on the purpose and need 
using fire modeling, research, professional and local knowledge, and 
vegetation and fuel loading data collected for the project area. A 
total of 5,327 acres are proposed for one or more treatment types. As 
part of the proposed action, resource protection measures will be 
included that assure consistency with environmental laws such as the

[[Page 77452]]

Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the 
National Historic Preservation Act and the National Forest Management 
Act.

Authorization for Road Use

    As part of the proposed action, the Forest will authorize the 
temporary administrative use of Forest System roads 5N15, 5N10, 5N09B, 
5N27B and 5N60B. These roads are currently classified as Maintenance 
Level 1, closed to vehicular traffic, considered intermittent service 
roads, until needed for future management activities. These roads would 
be opened (existing berms would be removed and routine maintenance such 
as brushing or grading of the road could take place to make them safe 
for use) as needed to access treatment units. All level 1 roads 
utilized for project implementation would be closed (berms rebuilt, 
etc.) after initial thinning treatments are completed.
    Roads 5N30, 5N60BA and 5N27C are private roads under Special Use 
Authorizations. The STNF will seek input from the permittees on dual 
use of these roads under FSM 7700 and FSM 2700.

Defense Zone Treatments

Defense Zone Units
    Approximately 1,514 acres located within the WUI Defense Zone are 
proposed for treatment. Of those, approximately 420 acres will have 
understory treatments only with no material proposed for removal. The 
remaining Defense Zone Units (approximately 1,094 acres) are proposed 
to have understory treatments as well as thin-from-below treatments 
which would involve mechanical removal (sawlog and/or biomass 
utilization). Treatments would be applied where trees per acre (TPA), 
canopy base height or fuel loading do not meet desired conditions. 
Treatments will reduce the TPA, especially in the smaller size classes 
and increase the canopy base height (CBH), leaving smaller trees singly 
and/or in a clumped distribution spaced from the largest trees. In 
general, trees to be removed consist of understory trees (i.e. 
suppressed and intermediate) that act as ladder fuels, and some co-
dominant trees that currently create a uniformly dense canopy. 
Treatments are designed to reduce the fire behavior in the Defense Zone 
Units to flame lengths of less than four feet with limited crown fire 
potential. These lower flame lengths will help reduce the risk of fire 
spreading from NFS lands to private lands while also reducing the risk 
of fire spreading from private lands to NFS lands.

Defense Zone and Threat Zone Treatments

Plantations
    There are approximately 942 acres of plantations within the 
planning area that were planted between 1958 and 1993. Treatments in 
plantations will focus on increasing the spacing between trees, 
thinning around hardwoods and multiple sprouting hardwoods, and, in 
general, breaking up the continuity of surface, ladder, and crown 
fuels. Treatments would be applied where trees per acre (TPA), canopy 
base height or fuel loading do not meet desired conditions All 
plantation acres are proposed for utilization of forest products 
(sawlog and/or biomass utilization) where feasible. The slope of the 
area, the ability to operate ground-based equipment, and hydrological 
features can all impact the feasibility of utilization of forest 
products.
    In plantations with a high percentage of ponderosa pine, thinning 
will remove many of the trees that have been out-competed by the 
natural regeneration (Douglas-fir and incense cedar), creating an open 
stand. These treatments will accelerate the development of late 
successional characteristics by creating a forest that is complex 
vertically and horizontally. When there are a variety of tree ages, 
tree species, and spacing distances between individual trees (including 
openings and dense pockets) the forest can support a diversity of 
wildlife species that may not all have the same requirements. 
Treatments are designed to reduce the fire behavior in the plantations 
to flame lengths less than four feet with limited crown fire potential.

Roadside Fuel Breaks

    Approximately 1,975 acres are proposed for roadside fuel breaks in 
the planning area. These treatments extend 600 feet from either side of 
identified roads. Fuel breaks are further delineated into three 
different profiles. Profile one extends from the road edge out 100 
feet, profile two from 100 to 300 feet, and profile three from 300 to 
600 feet. Treatment prescriptions will be most intense closer to the 
road, and reduce in intensity the farther away from the road with the 
objectives of establishing an environment where fire fighters can 
suppress fire safely and effectively. Treatments would be applied where 
trees per acre (TPA), canopy base height or fuel loading do not meet 
desired conditions. Roadside fuel breaks will allow for safer access 
and egress routes for the public, while also reducing the risk that 
fires started near roads will spread to the rest of the forest.
    Profiles one and two (approximately 1,140 acres) are proposed for 
understory treatments as well as thin-from-below treatments which could 
involve mechanical removal (sawlog and/or biomass utilization). 
Understory treatments with no removal are proposed for profile three 
(approximately 836 acres). Treatments will reduce the TPA (especially 
in the smaller size classes) and increase the canopy base height. The 
treatment will also leave smaller trees singly and in a clumped 
distribution spaced from the largest trees in the fuel break.

Activities Common to Defense Zone Units, Plantations, and Roadside Fuel 
Breaks

    These actions may occur at the same time or at a later date as the 
primary actions, and may occur where there is no removal proposed. 
These activities would only occur within defense zone units, treated 
plantations, and roadside fuel breaks. Treatments would reduce and/or 
rearrange activity and surface fuels in excess of desired conditions.
    Treatments would be applied where trees per acre (TPA), canopy base 
height or fuel loading do not meet desired conditions. Activities will 
promote long-term late successional conditions by creating 
heterogeneity and increased resilience to large high-severity fires.
     Pruning to raise CBH--approximately 4,431 acres. This 
treatment could occur within all Defense Zone Units, Plantations and 
Roadside Fuel Breaks.
     Activity fuels and natural surface fuels in excess of 
desired conditions that are not proposed for removal will be treated 
solely by or a combination of the following:
    [cir] Lopped and scattered--approximately 672 acres. This treatment 
could occur intermittently within Defense Zone Units, Roadside Fuel 
Breaks, and Plantations depending on fuel loading conditions after 
initial treatments and slope steepness.
    [cir] Masticated or chipped (on slopes <35%)--approximately 2,942 
acres. This treatment could occur intermittently across Defense Zone 
Units, Roadside Fuel Breaks, and Plantations depending on slope 
steepness, accessibility and fuel loading.
    [cir] Machine piled and burned (slopes <35%)--approximately 150 
acres. This treatment could occur intermittently across Defense Zone 
Units, Roadside Fuel Breaks, and Plantations where mechanical removal 
(sawlog and/or biomass utilization) is proposed.

[[Page 77453]]

    [cir] Hand piled and burned--approximately 4,431 acres. This 
treatment could occur intermittently across Defense Zone Units, 
Roadside Fuel Breaks, and Plantations depending on slope steepness, 
proximity to homes and air quality concerns.
    [cir] Jackpot burned--approximately 4,431 acres. This treatment 
could occur intermittently across Defense Zone Units, Roadside Fuel 
Breaks, and Plantations depending on slope, proximity to homes and air 
quality concerns.
    [cir] Public Fuelwood Utilization--approximately 2,520 acres. This 
treatment would leave material suitable for public fuel wood use onsite 
in areas that are accessible, or decked along the roadside where safe 
to do so. This treatment could occur intermittently across Defense Zone 
Units, Roadside Fuel Breaks, and Plantations.
    [cir] Understory Maintenance Burning--Approximately 4,431 acres. 
This treatment could occur within approximately two to ten years after 
initial treatment, or as the surface fuel conditions require for 
maintaining the desired fire behavior. This treatment could occur 
within all Defense Zone Units, Plantations, and Roadside Fuel Breaks. 
Multiple burn entries may be needed to maintain desired vegetation and 
fuel loadings.

Prescribed Fire Understory Units

    Approximately 896 acres are proposed for prescribed understory fire 
treatment. No thinning will occur in these units. Treatments are 
intended to move these areas toward historic fire regime and fuel 
loading conditions and to allow fire personnel to make use of roads, 
natural barriers, and topography (such as ridge tops and drainages) for 
control lines during prescribed burning activities in other units (see 
previous section). The Prescribed Fire Understory Units will help 
reduce the overall amount of control lines needed within the planning 
area, allowing for more cost effective and safer understory burning, 
and reducing the potential for resource damage. Multiple burn entries 
of primarily low to moderate intensity fire may be needed to maintain 
desired vegetation and fuel loadings. Natural boundaries would be used 
whenever possible; however, control line construction will still be 
needed in some areas. Desired outcomes are a mosaic-burn severity 
pattern primarily from low to moderate intensity surface fire across 
70-80% of the treatment area. Treatments would be applied where trees 
per acre (TPA), canopy base height or fuel loading do not meet desired 
conditions. This treatment would create mosaic forest conditions that 
contribute to late successional characteristics while providing a more 
fire-resilient landscape.

Responsible Official

    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.

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=38444.
    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.

    Dated: December 17, 2014.
David R. Myers,
Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. 2014-30182 Filed 12-23-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-11-P