Kootenai National Forest, Northern Region

Summary

this notice announces the beginning of the efforts to revise the Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan) for the Kootenai National Forest. This is not the Notice of Intent (NOI) for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will accompany the Revised Forest Plan. That NOI will be issued at a later date.

Full text

SUMMARY: this notice announces the beginning of the efforts to revise 
the Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan) for the Kootenai 
National Forest. This is not the Notice of Intent (NOI) for the 
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will accompany the Revised 
Forest Plan. That NOI will be issued at a later date.
    The beginning efforts are to prepare the ``Analysis of the 
Management Situation'' (AMS) per 36 CFR 219.12(e). This includes 
analysis of local conditions and consideration of broad scale 
information from the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management 
Project (ICBEMP) EIS. The AMS and ICBEMP EIS will be used to determine 
the Kootenai National Forest's Need for Change. This information will 
then provide a basis for the NOI to prepare the EIS, which will begin 
the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process associated with 
Forest Plan revision.
    Public involvement is critical and will be requested throughout 
this effort. The forest is developing a communication strategy to 
document how the public and government entities may participate in the 
AMS and revision of the forest Plan. Formal public involvement, 
associated with the Forest Plan revision, will also be conducted 
through scoping following the issuance of the EIS Notice of Intent.

DATES: A supplemental notice will be placed in the Federal Register 
announcing the beginning of formal scoping for the Forest Plan revision 
DEIS. The notice will provide an opportunity to comment and the 
expected completion dates. This notice is anticipated to be issued in 
the winter/spring of 1998.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments concerning this notice, communication 
strategy and requests to be added to the Forest Plan revision mailing 
list to Robert L. Schrenk, Forest Supervisor, Kootenai National Forest, 
506 Highway 2 West, Libby, Montana 59923.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Joan Dickerson, Forest Planner, Kootenai National Forest, phone (406) 
293-6211.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Forest Plan for the Kootenai National 
Forest was completed in September, 1987 and has guided the management 
of the Forest since then. Forest Plans are revised on a 10-year cycle 
or at least every 15 years. It also may be revised whenever the Forest 
Supervisor determines that conditions or demands in the area have 
significantly changed (36 CFR 219.10(g)).
    On November 20, 1995 the Chief of the Forest Service issued a 
decision on an appeal by the Cabinet Resource Group and Montana 
Wilderness Association regarding the Kootenai Forest Plan. The Chief 
directed the Regional Forester to:
    (a) Incorporate through Forest Plan amendment or revision the terms 
and conditions of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) July 27, 
1995 amended Biological Opinion on the Forest Plan relating to road 
management;
    (b) Incorporate through Forest Plan amendment or revision the terms 
and conditions of the amended Biological Opinion relating to grizzly 
bear management and incorporate the Interagency Grizzly Bear Guidelines 
in their entirety;
    (c) Amend or revise the Forest Plan if a review determines that it 
is not in compliance with new regulations for oil and gas resources.
    (d) Amend or revise the Forest Plan to correct the ASQ calculation, 
based on a more accurate method of summarizing the timber inventory 
data, to bring the analysis into technical compliance.
    In addition to the Chief's direction, monitoring and evaluation of 
the Forest Plan has shown that many factors affecting land management 
have changed since the time the Forest Plan was prepared. Therefore, 
the agency has chosen to revise, rather than amend the Kootenai Forest 
Plan. Revision will provide opportunity to update the Plan to more 
adequately account for such changing factors. The Forest's annual 
monitoring reports describe these factors.
    The Forest Plan, as approved September 14, 1987 and amended through 
project specific or programmatic amendments, will remain in effect and 
continue to be implemented as modified by the Chief's November 27, 1995 
decision (to limit average annual program sales to 150 MMBF).

(1) Preparation of the ICBEMP

    In addition, another planning effort is currently ongoing that 
involves the Kootenai National Forest. This effort is the Interior 
Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project (ICBEMP) EIS, which will 
address issues relevant to the Kootenai National Forest and likely 
result in changes in the Forest Plan. Notice of this effort and 
supporting information was previously published in the Federal Register 
on December 4, 1994. The purpose of the ICBEMP is to ``* * * develop 
and analyze a scientifically sound, ecosystem-based strategy for management of lands 
administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) 
Forest Service.* * * The strategy will modify existing Forest Plans and 
will focus on forest, rangeland, and aquatic/riparian ecosystem health 
and the sustainability of threatened, endangered, and sensitive 
species.''
    Direction from the Record of Decision for the ICBEMP EIS is assumed 
to be in place for 10 years. Forest Plan direction that is specific to 
the Kootenai National Forest (such as standards applicable to 
particular areas) will be revisited at the time of Forest Plan 
revision. Direction that applies to multiple units (such as broad scale 
objectives) will remain in place to guide forest plan revision. It is 
the intent that the Kootenai Forest Plan revision will be designed to 
achieve this ICBEMP broad scale direction. Therefore, the revision 
schedule for the Kootenai National Forest Plan will be coordinated with 
the information and decisions produced by the ICBEMP EIS.

(2) Beginning of the Forest Plan Revision Effort

    This notice announces that the Kootenai National Forest is 
beginning the effort to revise the Land and Resource Management Plan. 
The forest is in the process of preparing the AMS, one of the first 
steps in the revision process. This step includes defining the current 
situation, reviewing new information, reviewing monitoring and 
evaluation results, estimating supply capabilities and resource 
demands, and determining the Need for Change (36 CFR 219.12(e)(5)).
    As part of the AMS a communication strategy is being developed. The 
purpose of this strategy is to document how the public and government 
entities may participate in the AMS and revision of the Forest Plan on 
an ongoing basis. Suggestions on the formation of the communication 
strategy are welcome. In addition, the Forest Plan mailing list is 
being updated. Send a letter to the address above to add your name to 
the mailing list.
    Another critical element in describing the need for change is 
determining the concerns and expections of National Forest constituents 
and getting public input on how well the current forest plan is 
working. A social assessment for the Kootenai Forest was completed in 
July 1995. The assessment provides the initial information about how 
people in surrounding communities perceive the resources of the 
Kootenai Forest and their management. This assessment is one 
information source for describing the need for change. Additional 
information will be requested as portions of the AMS are assessed.

(3) Relationship Between the AMS and the Notice of Intent to Prepare 
the Environmental Impact Statement

    In the past, a ``Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental 
Impact Statement'' was issued at the beginning of the forest planning 
process, and before the development of the AMS. This time, we are first 
defining the current situation and an initial need for change in a 
Draft AMS, and will issue a NOI to prepare an EIS prior to developing 
alternatives. The draft AMS is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 
1998. The NOI to prepare an EIS would be issued after this date. The 
NOI to prepare an EIS will include (1) a proposed action and purpose 
and need; (2) preliminary issues and; (3) preliminary alternatives. 
Scoping to receive public comments on the proposed action and 
alternatives will follow the publication of the NOI. These public 
comments will be used to further refine the proposed action and the 
alternatives, to possibly identify additional alternatives, and to 
finalize the AMS and the need for change. It will also start the formal 
NEPA process of preparing the EIS that will accompany the Revised Land 
and Resource Management Plan.

(4) The Responsible Official

    The responsible official is Richard M. Bacon, Deputy Regional 
Forester, Northern Region, 200 East Broadway, PO Box 7669, Missoula, 
Montana 59807.

    Dated: November 20, 1996.
Richard M. Bacon,
Deputy Regional Forester.
[FR Doc. 96-30271 Filed 11-25-96; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-11-M  

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