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Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests; Apache, Coconino, Greenlee and Navajo Counties, Arizona; Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Public Motorized Travel Management Plan

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests; Apache, Coconino, Greenlee and Navajo Counties, Arizona; Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Public Motorized Travel Management Plan

Jeanne M. Higgins
Department of Agriculture
2 October 2017


[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 189 (Monday, October 2, 2017)]
[Notices]
[Pages 45800-45802]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-21009]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service


Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests; Apache, Coconino, Greenlee 
and Navajo Counties, Arizona; Revised Draft Environmental Impact 
Statement for Public Motorized Travel Management Plan

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Revised Notice of Intent (NOI).

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SUMMARY: The Forest Service is revising the Environmental Impact 
Statement for the Public Motorized Travel Management Plan on the 
Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.

DATES: Comments concerning the 2010 DEIS were received by December 13, 
2010, 45 days from the date of publication of the Notice of Availabiliy 
(NOA) of the draft EIS in the Federal Register (75 FR 66756). An 
additional 45 day comment period will occur after the publication of 
the revised DEIS in the Federal Register. The revised DEIS is expected 
in the summer of 2018 and the final EIS is expected in the winter of 
2019.

[[Page 45801]]


ADDRESSES: Send written inquiries to Travel Management, Apache-
Sitgreaves National Forests, P.O. Box 640, Springerville, AZ 85938. 
Inquiries may also be sent via email to comments-southwestern-apache-sitgreaves@fs.fed.us with ``Travel Management'' in the subject line. 
Inquiries may also be sent via facsimile to (928) 333-5966.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jennie O'Connor Card, Team Leader at 
(406) 522-2537 or jennieoconnorcard@fs.fed.us; or, Tim Gilloon, NEPA 
Program Manager at (928) 333-6333 or tgilloon@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: : On October 10, 2007, the Federal Register 
published a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an Environmental Impact 
Statement for the Public Motorized Travel Management Plan on the 
Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (72 FR 57514-57517). On October 31, 
2007, the Federal Register published a corrected NOI for that document 
(72 FR 61607). On February 29, 2008 the Federal Register published a 
revised NOI for those documents (73 FR 11088-11091). The Forest Service 
is hereby entirely revising all those NOI documents, Federal Register 
of October 10, 2007 (72 FR 57514-57517), Federal Register of October 
31, 2007 (72 FR 61607) and Federal Register of February 29, 2008 (73 FR 
11088-11091), to read as follows.
    Revision: The Forest Service is preparing a Revised Draft 
Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Apache-Sitgreaves Public 
Motorized Travel Management Plan (the Project) on the Apache-Sitgreaves 
National Forests (the Forests). The Forest Service is issuing this NOI 
to advise the public and agencies that we will be preparing a revised 
DEIS using new information, based on changed conditions, in order to 
make the best possible decision. The new information includes: Changed 
conditions due to the Wallow Fire of 2011; the 2015 Land Management 
Plan for the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (the Forest Plan); 
changes in aquatic and terrestrial species status; more accurate road 
mapping based on Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) data and aerial 
photography; and Forest Service decisions made under the National 
Environmental Policy Act since the 2010 DEIS. The revised DEIS will use 
the 2010 DEIS as a foundation, and will consider all public comments 
received; the revised DEIS does not change the nature or scope of the 
proposed action.
    The Project proposes to designate which routes (roads and trails) 
and areas on federal lands administered by the Forests are open to 
motorized travel. This proposed action will bring the Forests into 
compliance with the Travel Management Rule (36 CFR 212, subpart B) to 
provide for a system of National Forest System (NFS) roads, motorized 
trails, and motorized areas designed for motor vehicle use. The 
proposed action prohibits cross-country travel and motor vehicle use 
off the designated system. This proposed action also will designate use 
of motor vehicles within a specified distance of certain designated 
routes for the purposes of dispersed camping and/or retrieval of a 
downed big game animal.
    The Forest Service will produce a Motorized Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) 
that displays those routes and areas on the Forests that are open to 
motorized travel. The MVUM will be the primary tool used to determine 
compliance and enforcement with motor vehicle use designations. 
Existing routes, unauthorized routes, and areas not designated as open 
on the MVUM will be legally closed to motorized travel except as 
allowed by permit or other authorization. The decisions on motorized 
travel do not include over-snow travel or existing winter-use 
recreation.

Purpose and Need for Action

    The purpose of this project is to comply with the Travel Management 
Rule by providing a system of roads, trails, and areas designated for 
motor vehicle use that reduces impacts to biological, physical, and 
cultural resources on the forests (36 CFR 212, sections 212, 251, 261). 
At 36 CFR 261.13, the Forests are required to prohibit motor vehicle 
use off the system of designated roads, trails, and areas and motor 
vehicle use that is not in accordance with the designations.
    There is a need for a safe and efficient transportation system for 
public use, Agency administration, and resource protection, while 
recognizing historic and current uses of the forests. Specifically, 
there is a need for: (1) Identifying the system of roads that would be 
open to motor vehicle use; (2) identifying the system of motorized 
trails for vehicles 50 inches or less in width; and (3) optional 
designation of the limited use of motor vehicles within a specified 
distance of designated routes solely for the purposes of dispersed 
camping or retrieval of big game by an individual who has legally 
killed the animal.
    There is a need to counter detrimental effects to resources from 
continued use of some roads and motorized trails, as well as cross-
country travel. Some detrimental effects from motorized use of the 
Forests include increased sediment deposits in streams which degrade 
water quality and fish habitat, the spread of invasive plants across 
the forests, disturbances to a variety of plant and wildlife species, 
and the risk of damaging cultural resource sites.

Changed Conditions

    The changed conditions and new information since the 2010 DEIS, 
which lead to the need for a revised environmental analysis, are 
incorporated in the updated alternatives being considered in detail. 
The first substantive change stemmed from the Wallow Fire of 2011, 
which resulted in changes to the physical environment within the 
project area. The fire resulted in changes in the ecology of the 
landscape, creating a need to conduct significant restoration and 
monitoring efforts in order to return the Forests to its natural fire 
regime. The Forest Plan is another substantive change to the existing 
conditions. This has changed the desired conditions, standards and 
guidelines, and suitability directing how the Forests are managed. The 
Forest Plan provides overarching management direction for how motorized 
travel will be managed on the Forests.
    In addition, changes in aquatic and terrestrial species status 
under the Endangered Species Act for threatened and endangered species, 
and under Forest Service policy for sensitive species, resulted in 
another changed condition. Critical and sensitive habitats for some 
species can be found across the Forests which must now be considered 
and analyzed. Additionally, the Forests updated the existing conditions 
in the databases of record to match the on-the-ground conditions using 
LIDAR data and aerial photography. The result of this corrects or 
clarifies the existing physical NFS roads, changing the baseline of 
which the alternatives considered are compared against.
    Other decisions made under the National Environmental Policy Act 
since the 2010 draft EIS by the Forests changed the existing conditions 
and led to changes in the action alternatives. While the Project is 
proposing to look at the entire National Forest System of roads, 
numerous decisions about specific roads and trails have been made since 
2010 that provide definitive environmental analysis and designation

[[Page 45802]]

for those roads and trails that does not require redundant analysis.
    Collectively, these changes will be analyzed and incorporated into 
the revised DEIS, which will be circulated for public comment. The 
previous public comments and analysis will be used as the foundation 
for this revision. At the time that the revised DEIS is circulated, the 
public will have the opportunity to comment on the entire DEIS, 
including portions that have not been revised.

Preliminary Issues

    The Forest analyzed all scoping comments received in 2007 to 
identify issues, which are defined as cause-effect relationships 
directly or indirectly caused by implementing the proposed action. The 
issues defined as within the scope of the project, and directly or 
indirectly caused by implementing the proposal, were used to develop 
the range of action alternatives. Four issues were identified: (1) 
Restricting motorized access for dispersed camping; (2) restricting 
motorized big game retrieval; (3) impacts to resources from motorized 
use; and, (4) economics: loss of revenues and jobs.

Proposed Action

    The revised proposed action would designate a system of roads, 
trails, and areas for motorized use as well as motorized access for 
dispersed camping and motorized access for big game retrieval. The road 
system would have 15 percent fewer roads and 68 percent more motorized 
trails than the current system. That would result in 2,890 miles of NFS 
roads open to public motorized travel, including 2,143 miles of roads 
that are open to both highway legal and off-highway vehicles. Also, 
this would result in 270 miles of motorized trails across the Forests, 
with 20 miles open to all vehicles and 182 miles open to vehicles less 
than 50 inches wide.
    The proposed action would designate 300 feet from either side of 
around 35 percent of the designated open roads (1,027 miles) for the 
sole purpose of accessing dispersed camping locations with motor 
vehicles. Motorized big game retrieval would be allowed within a 1-mile 
distance off the designated road and motorized trail system (1.2 
million acres) for elk. No other species would be retrieved using motor 
vehicles. There would be one motorized use area designated (17 acres). 
All other cross country travel would be prohibited.

Possible Alternatives

    The revised DEIS will analyze three alternatives in detail. These 
revised alternatives used the 2010 DEIS as a foundation and the public 
comments received from that DEIS.
    Alternative 1 (no action) represents the existing transportation 
system and proposes no changes. The existing system includes 3,418 
miles of open roads and 127 miles of motorized trails. Cross-country 
travel off system roads on around 1.6 million acres would continue, 
except where currently prohibited. This alternative is not be compliant 
with the travel management rule because it does not designate a system 
of roads, trails and areas for motorized use.
    Alternative 2 is the Proposed Action, which would designate a 
system of roads, trails, and areas for motorized use as well as 
motorized access for dispersed camping and motorized access for big 
game retrieval. The road system would have 15 percent fewer roads and 
68 percent more motorized trails than the current system. That would 
result in 2,890 miles of NFS roads open to public motorized travel, 
including 2,143 miles of roads that are open to both highway legal and 
off-highway vehicles.
    Alternative 3 is being designated to address the following issues: 
(1) Restricting motorized access for dispersed camping; (2) restricting 
motorized big game retrieval; and, (3) impacts to resources from 
motorized use.

Scoping Process

    The proposed action outlined in this revised NOI is identical to 
the scope of the proposed action that was originally scoped, and 
therefore a new scoping period is not required. The original scoping 
process solicited over 20,000 public comments, which are being used to 
guide the development of the revised DEIS. 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 also be accepted and 
considered.

Responsible Official

    The Responsible Official is the Forest Supervisor of the Apache-
Sitgreaves National Forests, P.O. Box 640, Springerville, AZ 85938.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    Based on the effects to social, natural, and cultural resources, 
the Forest Supervisor will decide what changes to make to the current 
motorized travel system to be compliant with the Travel Management 
Rule. The decision will also include whether to provide motorized 
access for dispersed camping, whether to designate motorized use areas, 
and whether to provide access for motorized big game retrieval. The 
Record of Decision, which will be published after analyzing the 
public's comments, will document the decision with the rationale.

    Dated: September 15, 2017.
Jeanne M. Higgins,
Acting Associate Deputy Chief, National Forest System.
[FR Doc. 2017-21009 Filed 9-29-17; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3411-15-P

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