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
Kootenai National Forest, Northern Region
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.