[Federal Register: December 10, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 236)]
[Notices]               
[Page 65508-65509]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr10de09-37]                         

=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

 
Pacific Southwest Region, Regional Office, California, Sierra 
Nevada Forests--Supplemental EIS to the 2004 Sierra Nevada Framework 
per November 4, 2009 Court Order

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of Intent to prepare a supplemental environmental impact 
statement.

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

SUMMARY: The Pacific Southwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service 
proposes to prepare a supplemental EIS to the 2004 Sierra Nevada 
Framework EIS. This SEIS is intended to accomplish two narrow goals: 
(1) Analyze all the alternatives considered in the 2004 SEIS using the 
modeling techniques utilized for alternatives S1 and S2 in the 2004 
SEIS; and (2) account for the new management objectives of reducing 
stand density for forest health, restoring and maintaining ecosystem 
structure and composition, and restoring ecosystems after severe 
wildfires and other large catastrophic events in all the alternatives 
evaluated. The purpose of the SEIS is to comply with two November 4, 
2009 court orders from the Eastern District of California which require 
the preparation of this narrowly tailored SEIS.

DATES: The Draft SEIS is expected in early February 2010 and the public 
comment period will be open for 45 days. The supplemental environmental

[[Page 65509]]

impact statement is expected by May 1, 2010.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information contact Ron 
Pugh, Deputy Regional Planning Director, at US Forest Service, 1323 
Club Drive, Vallejo, CA, Phone 707-562-8951.
    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: The SEIS proposed in this notice is required 
by court orders issued in Sierra Forest Legacy v. Rey, No. 2:05-cv-
00205-MCE-GGH (E.D. Cal. Nov. 4, 2009) and People of the State of 
California v. USDA, No. 2:05-cv-00211-MCE-GGH (E.D. Cal. Nov. 4, 2009). 
Those orders concluded that the Forest Service was required to remedy 
the 2004 Framework's violation of NEPA by preparing a focused SEIS by 
May 1, 2010. Specifically, the Court stated as follows:

the Court orders the Forest Service to prepare another supplemental 
EIS on the Framework, one that meets the range of alternatives and 
analytical consistency identified by the Ninth Circuit in its 
decision on the preliminary injunction portion of this case. That 
supplemental EIS process is to be completed not later than May 1, 
2010. The Ninth Circuit's decision on the 2004 Framework concluded 
in a ruling on a motion for a preliminary injunction that the 2004 
Framework's SEIS violated NEPA due a failure to properly consider 
alternatives. See Sierra Forest Legacy v. Rey, 577 F.3d 1015 (9th 
Cir. 2009). The Ninth Circuit found two particular errors, as 
excerpted below:
    First, USFS altered its modeling techniques between the issuance 
of the 2001 FEIS and the 2004 SEIS. Unfortunately, the 2004 SEIS 
largely relied on fire risk and timber output figures in the 2001 
FEIS, a mistake that was compounded because one of the alternatives 
that was considered in 2004 was recalculated under the new 
techniques, whereas the rest of the alternatives to which it was 
compared were not recalculated. Because USFS failed to account for 
its changed modeling techniques in the alternatives it considered, 
Legacy has a strong probability of success on the merits under NEPA.
    Second, the 2004 SEIS introduced substantively new objectives 
from those contained within the 2001 FEIS. The 2004 SEIS repeatedly 
stated that its purpose was to ``adjust existing management 
direction,'' 2004 SEIS at 3098 (emphasis added), and to broaden the 
basic strategy ``to include other management objectives such as 
reducing stand density for forest health, restoring and maintaining 
ecosystem structure and composition, and restoring ecosystems after 
severe wildfires and other large catastrophic disturbance events,'' 
2004 SEIS at 2994 (emphasis added). The introduction of these new 
objectives plainly constituted a change in circumstance that is 
``relevant to the development and evaluation of alternatives'' that 
USFS must account for * * * in the alternatives it considers.

Purpose and Need for Action

    The purpose of this action is to remedy the two flaws found by 
the Ninth Circuit, as required in the District Court orders of 
November 4, 2009.

Proposed Action

    The Forest Service proposes to provide an objective comparison 
of all of the alternatives considered in detail in the 2004 
Framework, including those carried forward from the 2001 Framework. 
Alternatives F1 through F8 will be analyzed using the same modeling 
methods that were used for Alternatives S1 and S2 (see Final 
Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Sierra Nevada 
Plan Amendment, January 2004, Chapter 2). A new SEIS to the 2004 
Framework SEIS will be prepared that shows the results of this 
analysis. The new SEIS will also consider the objectives of reducing 
stand density for forest health, restoring and maintaining ecosystem 
structure and composition, and restoring ecosystems after severe 
wildfires and other large catastrophic disturbance events, which the 
Ninth Circuit found were introduced by the 2004 Framework. A new ROD 
consistent with the scope of this supplement will be prepared that 
considers all of this updated information.

Responsible Official

    Regional Forester, Pacific Southwest Region, U.S. Forest 
Service, 1323 Club Drive, Vallejo, CA 94592 is the Responsible 
Official.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    The Responsible Official will decide if a different decision 
from that reached in the 2004 Framework ROD is warranted when the 
range of alternatives flaws identified by the Ninth Circuit are 
remedied or if continued implementation of Alternative S2 as 
originally chosen in the ROD for the 2004 SEIS is warranted.

    Dated: December 9, 2009.
Thomas A. Contreras,
Deputy Regional Forester.
[FR Doc. E9-29446 Filed 12-9-09; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3410-11-P