Final Environmental Impact Statement for Fire Management Plan; Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Muir Woods National Monument and Fort Point National Historic Site; Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo Counties, CA; Notice of Availability
Pursuant to section 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (Pub. L. 91-190, 42 U.S.C. 4321-4347, January 1, 1970, as amended), and the Council on Environmental Quality Regulations (40 CFR part 1500-1508), the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, has prepared a Final Environmental Impact Statement for an new Fire Management Plan for Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), Muir Woods National Monument and Fort Point National Historic Sitethe latter two parks being under the administration of GGNRA. The Fire Management Plan Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) evaluates fire management options for approximately 15,000 acres of GGNRA's nearly 75,000 legislated acres in Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties. The Fire Management Plan FEIS describes and analyzes three alternative strategies to replace the 1993 GGNRA Fire Management Plan with a plan that conforms to current Federal wildland fire management policy and National Park Service (NPS) management policies. Potential impacts and mitigating measures are described for the two action alternatives and a no action alternative. The alternative selected after this conservation planning and environmental impact analysis process will serve as a blueprint for fire management actions for the GGNRA over the next 10-15 years. The FEIS fire planning and analysis area does not include the following lands: 1. The northern lands of GGNRA, comprising 18,000 acres north of the Bolinas-Fairfax Road in western Marin County, which are managed by Point Reyes National Seashore under an agreement between the two park units. Fire management responsibilities for these northern lands are addressed in the Point Reyes FMP (approved October 29, 2004). 2. Lands within the jurisdictional boundary of GGNRA that are not directly managed by the National Park Service. This includes the San Francisco Watershed, managed by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (with overlays of NPS easements) and the interior portion of the Presidio of San Francisco which is managed by the Presidio Trust, a Federal corporation. The coastal portion of the Presidio managed by the GGNRA, is included in the planning area. In addition to lands currently under the management of the NPS, the subject FMP planning area includes those lands within the legislative boundary that may pass to NPS management in the near future. These areas, all in San Mateo County, include Cattle Hill and Pedro Point. Purpose and Need for Federal Action: The 1993 FMP for GGNRA focused primarily on natural resource management issues and needs to be updated to more fully address cultural resource concerns, provide guidance for parklands acquired since 1993, and provide more guidance on effectively reducing fire risk along wildland urban interface (WUI) areas in the park. The new FMP is needed to reflect the emphasis of recent years on fuel reduction projects that effectively reduce wildfire risk to natural and cultural park resources and to private property along the WUI zone. In addition, the new FMP will address the role that fire management actions can have on ecosystem changes to parklands such as the spread of more flammable, invasive, nonnative plant species, dense second-growth forests with high fuel loads, conversion of plant community type in the absence of wildland fire, alteration of important cultural landscapes through overgrowth of vegetation, and the decline of certain fire-adapted plant species. The FMP will provide a framework for all fire management activities in a manner responsive to natural and cultural resource objectives while reducing risks to developed facilities and adjacent communities and providing for public and staff safety. The purposes of this conservation planning and environmental impact analysis process are: To prepare a new FMP that is consistent with Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy and conforms to agency guidelines for fire management plans and programs; and To help achieve resource management objectives consistent with the park's cultural resource, natural resource, and land management plans, and to be responsive to safety considerations for park visitors, employees, and resources. Proposed Fire Management Plan. Alternative C is the alternative preferred by the NPS and has also been determined by the NPS to be the ``environmentally preferred'' alternative. The three FMP EIS alternatives differ in the number of acres proposed for treatment through prescribed burning or mechanical treatments in the park interior versus the outer parklands that border residential development in the WUI zone. Each alternative has an upper limit set on the number of acres that could be treated annually as shown in Table 1. Alternative C allows for the greatest number of acres to be treated on an annual basis to achieve fire management and resource objectives through the use of a broad range of fire management strategies. Mechanical treatment and prescribed burning would be used throughout the park as a means to reduce fuel loading and achieve resource enhancement goals. Mechanical treatments, complemented by prescribed fire, would be employed to assist with restoration and maintenance of the park's natural and cultural resources. An expanded research program would examine the role of fire and mechanical treatments in enhancing natural resources, reducing fuel loading, and specific impacts of fire on key natural resources; research would also be used to adaptively guide the fire management program and help to maximize the benefits to park resources. Project planning will favor projects that integrate natural and cultural resource goals and objectives into the design and implementation of fuel reduction projects. The three alternatives share many common elements that do not vary from one alternative to the next. For example, the fire management approach for Muir Woods National Monument, using prescribed fire and mechanical fuel reduction to reduce invasive species, reduce fuel loading and restore the role of fire in the redwood old growth coast redwood forest. Other actions common include participation in the WUI Initiative funding program for outside agencies and groups, continued maintenance of the park's fire roads, trails, and defensible space around park buildings, suppression of unplanned ignitions, provision to the public of fire information and educational materials, monitoring of the effects of fire management actions, construction of a new fire cache structure and fuel reduction treatments for San Francisco parklands. Alternative A, Continued Fuel Reduction for Public Safety and Limited Resource Enhancement, is the No Action alternative required by NEPA. Alternative A is based on the 1993 GGNRA FMP updated to include the current planning area and current national fire management policies. The focus of the 1993 FMP program is on vegetation management through the application of prescribed fire to perpetuate fire-dependent natural systems. In recent practice, many fire management actions have been mechanical fuel reduction projects (e.g., mowing, cutting to remove non-native shrubs and trees, and selective thinning in forested stands) funded through the Wildland Urban Interface Program. This alternative would rely on the continued implementation of the 1993 FMP supplemented by mechanical fuel reduction projects in the WUI zone and suppression of all wildfires. Current research projects would continue and would focus on the role of fire to enhance natural resources and the effects of fire on key natural resources to determine the effectiveness of various fuel treatments. Alternative B, Hazard Reduction and Restricted Fire Use for Research and Resource Enhancement, emphasizes the use of mechanical methods to reduce fuel loading in areas with the highest risks. Compared to Alternative A, Alternative B would increase the number of acres mechanically treated each year, with a focus on the reduction of high fuel loads in the WUI area. Limited use of prescribed fire could occur for research purposes within the park interior. Research projects would examine the role of fire to enhance natural resources and the effects of fire on key natural resources to determine the effectiveness of various fuel treatments. Natural and cultural resource goals and objectives would be integrated into the design and implementation of fuel reduction projects. Planning Background: A notice of availability for the Draft EIS was published in the Federal Register (March 21, 2005) and the document made available for public review and comment through May 27, 2005 (extended from the original May 17, 2005 date to provide additional time for review). The park also announced availability of the DEIS through a mass mailing and posting on the park's Web site.
Final Environmental Impact Statement; Fire Management Plan for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area; Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, CA; Notice of Availability
Pursuant to section 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (Pub. L. 91-190, as amended), and the Council on Environmental Quality Regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, has prepared a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) identifying and evaluating four alternatives for a Fire Management Plan for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA). Potential impacts, and appropriate mitigations, are assessed for each alternative. When approved, the plan will guide all future fire management actions in the SMMNRA for the next five years. The FEIS documents the analysis of three action alternatives and a ``no action'' alternative. An updated fire management program is needed to meet public safety, natural and cultural resource management, and wildland/urban interface protection objectives in the federally managed property of the SMMNRA. The ``action'' alternatives concentrate on wildland/urban interface community protection work and ecosystem protection, and vary in their mix of treatments available for completing work. The ``no action'' alternative describes the existing fire management program, which the park has not been able to effectively implement to protect neighboring lives and property. As a result, the risk of catastrophic fire has increased in recent decades. Proposal and Alternatives Considered: Alternative 2 (determined to be the ``environmentally preferred'' alternative) is proposed for implementation as the new Fire Management Plan (FMP). Termed the Mechanical Fuel Reduction/Ecological Prescribed Fire/Strategic Fuels Treatment alternative, it provides the maximum potential environmental benefits and minimizes the adverse impacts of fire management actions. Alternative 2 is the most flexible alternative, utilizing all available fire management strategies identified to be appropriate in the Santa Monica Mountains. Although strategic fuels reduction has the potential for both impacts and benefits in most of the impact areas analyzed, individual strategic fuels reduction projects would be evaluated for their potential risk: benefit ratio. Work would be accomplished with a combination of NPS and other agency fire crews and by contract. Alternative 1 (No Action Alternative) would continue the current NPS fire and vegetation management program to create a landscape mosaic of varying aged chaparral stands through the application of prescribed fire in separate watersheds, minimizing brush clearance. It should be noted that large scale burning has not been feasible to implement in accordance with the goals of the previous Fire Management Plan because of regulatory constraints on prescribed fire, especially those relating to air quality standards. Alternative 3 (Mechanical Fuel Reduction/ Ecological Prescribed Fire) relies exclusively on prescribed burning to provide resource enhancement including control of exotic species and restoration of natural communities. Mosaic burning is eliminated. Fuel reduction is concentrated at the wildland urban interface to protect existing development and emphasizes mechanical or biomechanical fuel modification. This alternative provides effective protection of homes by focusing mechanical fuel reduction at the interface between homes and wildland vegetation, and provides ecological benefits from resource prescribed burning. Alternative 4 (Only Mechanical Fuel Reduction) relies exclusively on mechanical or biomechanical fuel modification at the wildland urban interface. Prescribed fire is eliminated. This alternative provides effective protection of homes by focusing mechanical fuel reduction at the interface between homes and wildland vegetation. Alternatives Considered but Rejected: Three additional alternatives were considered but rejected from further deliberation because the interdisciplinary team determined that they were not feasible for one or more specific reasons. Alternative 5 (Suppression Only/No Vegetation Manipulation) was found to be inconsistent with NPS policies and guidelines as well as with the objectives of the SMMNRA fire management program, and inadequate to protect public safety. Alternative 6 (Mechanical Fuel Reduction on a Landscape Level) was also found to be inconsistent with NPS policies and guidelines as well as the objectives of the SMMNRA fire management program. Alternative 7 (Wildland Fire Use) could be a threat to public safety if implemented and logistically infeasible to implement along the wildland-urban interface. Planning Background: Public outreach was initiated in June 2001 coinciding with a planning workshop for agencies, cooperators and other partners. A Notice of Scoping for an environmental document was published in the Federal Register March 26, 2002, encouraging comments through an extensive scoping period ending August 31, 2002. Four public scoping meetings were hosted in Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Malibu and Thousand Oaks, California. Two additional meetings were held to gain additional input on the preliminary alternatives from fire agencies, cooperators and other partners. Letters were also sent to Native American representatives, requesting their comments and concerns related to cultural activities, practices or resources. Concerns raised in these meetings included: how to provide for public and firefighter safety; how to optimize the effectiveness of fuels treatments in the wildland-urban interface for property protection and to minimize impacts; the need to promote operational and policy coordination among all the agencies within the SMMNRA, including consistent brush clearance policies; the impact of fire management activities including suppression actions; containing the spread of invasive plants and animals; the use of prescribed fire for restoration activities, and appropriate land use planning. Based on the issues and concerns raised it was determined that an environmental impact statement rather than an environmental assessment would be completed. This would allow sufficient analysis to be undertaken in assessing the effects of particular alternatives and to ensure adequate involvement by the public and interested agencies. The distribution of Draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the FMP began in May, 2004. Approximately 250 DEISs were distributed; 85 went to local libraries, 20 were handed out at the SMMNRA Visitor Center, and the remainder was provided to individuals by mail or in person at public meetings. A notice of availability of the DEIS was published in the Federal Register June 16, 2004, providing an opportunity for public review and comment through September 15, 2004. In order to facilitate public review and understanding of the proposed plan, four public meetings were held during July, 2004 in Calabasas, Woodland Hills, Malibu and Thousand Oaks, California. The meetings were advertised through the print media, on the SMMNRA website and via 350 invitations sent to community leaders, neighborhood organizations, local agencies and stakeholder groups. The NPS received a total of 25 written responses, generated either from the public meetings or from public notices. All of these comments were duly considered in finalizing in the FEIS. Two main issues and concerns were expressed by the respondents: that the FEIS and FMP should prioritize public and firefighter safety as well as the protection of the unique Mediterranean ecosystem which the SMMNRA was established to protect. All alternatives provide numerous provisions for public and firefighter safety. Alternatives 2, 3 and 4 incorporate strong controls to protect native flora and fauna, minimizing the spread of invasive grasses and forbs. The Environmental Protection Agency expressed environmental concerns due to insufficient information. SMMNRA staff consulted closely with the EPA in preparing the FEIS. All comments and responses are documented in Appendix F of the FEIS.
Minor Boundary Revision at Antietam National Battlefield
Notice is given that the boundary of Antietam National Battlefield has been revised pursuant to the Acts as specified below, to encompass lands depicted on Drawing 302/92500, Segment 05, Antietam National Battlefield, revised July 1, 2005, prepared by the National Park Service. The revision to the boundary includes Tract Number 05- 171, as depicted on the map.
Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the General Management Plan/Wilderness Study, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, 42 U.S.C. 4332 (2)(C), and the Wilderness Act of 1964, 16 U.S.C. 1131 et seq., the National Park Service (NPS) is preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) for a general management plan/wilderness study (GMP/WS) for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan. The EIS will be approved by the Regional Director, Midwest Region. This planning effort is a new start, not a restart of the planning effort that ended in 2002. With the publication of this notice of intent, the earlier planning effort has been terminated. The GMP will establish the overall direction for the park, setting broad management goals for managing the area over the next 15 to 20 years. The plan will prescribe desired resource conditions and visitor experiences that are to be achieved and maintained throughout the park based on such factors as the park's purpose, significance, special mandates, the body of laws and policies directing park management, resource analysis, and the range of public expectations and concerns. The plan also will outline the kinds of resource management activities, visitor activities, and developments that would be appropriate in the park in the future. The wilderness study will evaluate portions of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Lakeshore) for possible designation as wilderness. The study will be included as a part of the general management plan. A range of reasonable alternatives for managing the Lakeshore will be developed through this planning process and will include, at a minimum, a no-action and a preferred alternative. Major issues the plan will address include access to the Lakeshore, wilderness, management of areas new to the Lakeshore since the current 1979 general management plan, changes in visitor use patterns, adequacy and sustainability of existing visitor facilities and park operations, and management of natural and cultural resources. The environmental impact statement will evaluate the potential environmental impacts of the alternative management approaches and the possible designation of wilderness within the Lakeshore. As the first phase of the planning process, the NPS is beginning to scope the issues to be addressed in the GMP/WS/EIS. All interested persons, organizations, and agencies are encouraged to submit comments and suggestions on issues and concerns that should be addressed in the GMP/WS/EIS, and the range of appropriate alternatives that should be examined.
Oil and Gas Management Plan, Final Environmental Impact Statement, Big Thicket National Preserve, Texas
Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, 42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C), the National Park Service announces the availability of a final Environmental Impact Statement for the Oil and Management Plan, for Big Thicket National Preserve, Texas.
Jackson Hole Airport Use Agreement Extension, Environmental Assessment, Grand Teton National Park, WY
Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, 42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C), the National Park Service is preparing an Environmental Assessment for the Jackson Hole Airport Use Agreement Extension for Grand Teton National Park, WY. This effort addresses a request from the Jackson Hole Airport Board to amend the use agreement between the Department of Interior and the Airport Board in order to ensure that the airport remains eligible for funding through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Alternatives to be considered include Alternative 1: No ActionThe airport would continue operations under the existing use agreement which currently has an expiration date of April 27, 2033; Alternative 2: Extend AgreementJackson Hole Airport Board proposal to extend the use agreement for an additional two 10-year terms, bringing the expiration date to April 27, 2053; and Alternative 3: Update and Extend AgreementExtend the use agreement for an additional two 10-year terms with minor modifications as mutually agreed to by the NPS and the Airport Board. The Jackson Hole Airport is located within Grand Teton National Park on 533 acres of land under the administrative jurisdiction of the National Park Service. The airport operates under the terms and conditions of a use agreement between the Department of the Interior and the Jackson Hole Airport Board. The agreement, executed in 1983, was for a primary term of 30 years, with options for two 10-year extensions, both of which have been exercised. The agreement also includes a provision that further extensions, amendments, or modifications could be negotiated by the parties on mutually satisfactory terms, and that the parties agree that upon expiration of the agreement, a mutually satisfactory extension of the agreement would be negotiated. Since the FAA requires that the airport have more than 20 years remaining on its use agreement in order to remain eligible for Airport Improvement Program funds, an extension of the use agreement is needed to provide assurance that the airport will remain eligible for funding beyond the year 2013.