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Final Environmental Impact Statement on Nabesna Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve




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American Government

Final Environmental Impact Statement on Nabesna Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

Sue E. Masica
Federal Register
August 23, 2011


[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 163 (Tuesday, August 23, 2011)]
[Notices]
[Pages 52690-52691]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-21566]


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DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR

National Park Service


Final Environmental Impact Statement on Nabesna Off-Road Vehicle 
Management Plan, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

AGENCY: National Park Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of Availability.

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SUMMARY: Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 
1969, 42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C) the National Park Service (NPS) announces 
the availability of a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on 
Off-Road Vehicle Management in the Nabesna District of Wrangell-St. 
Elias National Park and Preserve. The FEIS evaluates the environmental 
impacts of a preferred alternative and four action alternatives for 
management of off-road vehicles in the Nabesna District. The purpose is 
to consider opportunities for appropriate and reasonable access to 
wilderness and backcountry recreational activities, which also 
accommodates subsistence and access to inholdings; while protecting 
scenic quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and other park resource 
values. A no action alternative is also evaluated. This notice 
officially begins the 30-day waiting period before the Record of 
Decision can be issued.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the FEIS will be available for public review at 
http://parkplanning.nps.gov/wrst. Hard copies are available at park 
headquarters, located at Milepost 106.8 on the Richardson Highway, or 
may be requested from Bruce Rogers, Project Manager, Wrangell-St. Elias 
National Park and Preserve, PO Box 439, Copper Center, Alaska 99573.

[[Page 52691]]


SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This FEIS evaluates the impacts of a range 
of alternatives for managing off-road vehicles (ORVs) for recreational 
and subsistence use in the Nabesna District of Wrangell-St. Elias 
National Park and Preserve. The nine trails under evaluation were in 
existence at the time the 13.2-million-acre park and preserve was 
established in 1980. The use of ORVs was determined to be traditionally 
employed for subsistence activities in the 1986 General Management 
Plan. Beginning in 1983, the park issued permits for recreational ORV 
use of these established trails, initially in accordance with 36 CFR 
13.14(c) which was replaced by 43 CFR 36.11(g)(2) in 1986. The park 
issues 200 recreational ORV permits per year on average. The trails 
also provide for subsistence ORV use and access to inholdings. On June 
29, 2006, the National Parks Conservation Association, Alaska Center 
for the Environment, and The Wilderness Society (Plantiffs) filed a 
lawsuit against NPS in the United States District Court for the 
District of Alaska regarding recreational ORV use on the nine trails 
that are the subject of this EIS. The plaintiffs challenged the NPS 
issuance of recreational ORV permits asserting that NPS failed to make 
the required finding that recreational ORV use is compatible with the 
purposes and values of the Park and Preserve. They also claimed that 
the NPS failed to prepare an environmental analysis of recreational ORV 
use as required by NEPA.
    In the May 15, 2007, settlement agreement, NPS agreed to endeavor 
to complete an EIS, Record of Decision (ROD) and compatibility 
determination by December 31, 2010 (this has been extended to December 
31, 2011), during which time recreational use of ORVs on the Suslota 
Lake Trail, Tanada Lake Trail, and a portion of the Copper Lake Trail 
is permitted only when the ground is frozen.
    A Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was published in 
August 2010 and made available for a 90-day public comment period. 
During the 90-day public comment period, five public meetings were held 
in Fairbanks, Anchorage, Tok, Slana, and Copper Center, Alaska. The 
purpose of the public meetings was to provide information on the DEIS, 
answer questions, and facilitate public comment on the document. The 
NPS received 153 comment letters from various agencies, organizations, 
and individuals. In response to public comment, the FEIS analyzes a 
sixth NPS preferred alternative that combines elements of Alternatives 
4 and 5 from the DEIS. Additionally, the FEIS responds to substantive 
comments in Chapter 5 and numerous changes were made to the DEIS as a 
result of public comment. These changes are documented in the FEIS.
    Alternative 1 evaluates the impacts of no action and describes 
conditions under the lawsuit settlement. Recreational ORV use would be 
permitted on all trails except Suslota, Tanada Lake, or Copper Lake 
trails, until the ground is frozen. There would be no change to 
subsistence ORV use and no trail improvements.
    Alternative 2 would permit recreational ORV use on all nine trails. 
There would be no change to subsistence ORV use and no trail 
improvements.
    Alternative 3 would prohibit recreational ORV use. Subsistence ORV 
use would continue, and some trail improvements would be made. Trail 
conditions would be monitored, and adaptive management steps would be 
taken to prevent further resource degradation.
    Alternative 4 would permit recreational ORV use on designated 
trails in the preserve (Caribou Creek, Lost Creek, Trail Creek, Soda 
Lake, Reeve Field) once improvements are made, but not in the park 
(Tanada Lake, Copper Lake, Boomerang). All trails (except Suslota) 
would be improved to at least a maintainable condition through trail 
hardening, tread improvement, or constructed re-routes. Subsistence ORV 
use would continue subject to monitoring and management activities in 
the same manners as alternative 3.
    Alternative 5 would permit recreational ORV use on all nine trails. 
All trails (except Suslota) would be improved to at least a 
maintainable condition as under alternative 4. Until improved, 
recreational ORV use would not be permitted on trails with the most 
resource degradation (Tanada Lake, Suslota, and Copper Lake) and 
subsistence ORV use would continue to be subject to monitoring and 
adaptive management steps in the same manners as alternative 3, and 
would be confined to trails in park wilderness.
    Alternative 6 is the NPS preferred alternative. All trails would be 
improved to at least a maintainable condition. After trail improvement, 
recreational ORV use would be permitted on trails in the national 
preserve (Suslota, Caribou Creek, Trail Creek, Lost Creek, Soda Lake, 
and Reeve Field) but not on trails in the national park (Boomerang, 
Tanada Lake, Copper Lake). Subsistence ORV use would continue to be 
subject to monitoring and adaptive management steps in the same manners 
as alternative 3 and would be confined to designated trails in park 
wilderness.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Bruce Rogers, Project Manager, 
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, PO Box 439, Copper 
Center, Alaska 99573. Telephone: 907-822-7276.

Sue E. Masica,
Regional Director, Alaska.
[FR Doc. 2011-21566 Filed 8-22-11; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4310-HC-P



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