Chapter 1: Purpose of and Need for Action

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1 Chapter 1: Purpose of and Need for Action 1.1. Document Structure The Forest Service has prepared this environmental impact statement (EIS) in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other relevant federal and state laws and regulations. This EIS documents the direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental impacts that would result from the proposed action and alternatives. The document is organized into four chapters. Chapter 1. Purpose and Need for Action: Briefly describes the proposed action, the need for that action, and other purposes to be achieved by the proposal. This section also details how the Forest Service informed the public of the proposed action and how the public responded. Chapter 2. Proposed Action and Alternatives: Provides a detailed description of the agency s proposed action as well as alternative actions that were developed during scoping. This chapter includes a summary table comparing the proposed action and alternatives with respect to their environmental impacts. Chapter 3. Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences: Describes the existing condition of national forest resources and the environmental impacts of the proposed action and alternatives. Chapter 4. Consultation and Coordination: Provides a list of preparers and agencies, groups, and individuals that have participated during the development of the EIS. Additional documentation may be found in the project record located at the Mountain City Ranger District, Elko, Nevada Changes Between Draft and Final As a result of comments received on the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), the districts added a Motorized Big Game Retrieval (MBGR) option that could be applied to Alternative 2. The district rangers could decide to allow retrieval of elk, mule deer, or both species using an ATV or UTV. This MBGR option would allow the retrieval of legally taken elk and/or mule deer up to 0.5 mile from a designated road or motorized trail (one trip in and out would be permitted). There are many minor edits and corrections throughout the FEIS that were identified during the comment and review period. Specialists have continued to improve their analysis; this is reflected in the environmental consequences section of the FEIS Background Over the past few decades, the availability and capability of motorized vehicles, particularly offhighway vehicles (OHVs) and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) has increased tremendously. Nationally, the number of OHV users has climbed sevenfold, from approximately 5 million in 1972 to 36 million in 2000 (FR Vol. 73 No. 2). Unmanaged OHV use has resulted in unplanned roads and motorized trails, some of which have contributed to erosion and watershed and habitat degradation, and have impacted cultural resource sites. Riparian areas and aquatic dependent species are particularly vulnerable to OHV 1

2 use. Unmanaged recreation, including impacts from OHVs, is one of Four Key Threats Facing the Nation s Forests and Grasslands (USDA FS 2004). Federal regulations adopted on November 9, 2005, provide for designation of those National Forest System (NFS) roads, trails, and areas that are open to motor vehicle use (36 CFR ). After designated roads, trails, and areas are identified on a motor vehicle use map, motor vehicle use that is not in accordance with those designations is prohibited by federal regulations (36 CFR ). The project area for this EIS includes all of the NFS lands within the boundaries of the Mountain City, Ruby Mountains, and Jarbidge Ranger Districts (map 1), approximately 1,200,000 acres (table 1). These areas include approximately 240,000 acres of designated wilderness that are closed to motorized vehicles. The project area also includes the Bear Creek watershed on the Jarbidge Ranger District that serves as the municipal watershed for the community of Jarbidge. This watershed was closed to cross-country motorized use in the Humboldt National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan). Only vehicle use on designated roads and motorized trails was permitted to protect the surface of the watershed (USDA FS 1986, IV 129). Two other municipal watersheds are located within the project area but are not protected under the Forest Plan. The Brown Creek watershed surrounds the area where the community of Mountain City obtains the majority of its drinking water. The Flyn Spring watershed protects the area where the majority of the drinking water for the community of Shanty Town is drawn. Table 1. Acres of Wilderness and Total Acres by District District Wilderness Acres Total Acres Mountain City 0 477,056 Ruby Mountains 129, ,123 Jarbidge 110, ,907 Total 240,508 1,171,086 The forest transportation atlas shows there are approximately 1,020 miles of NFS roads and trails that comprise the FTS on the Mountain City, Ruby Mountains, and Jarbidge Ranger Districts (districts) of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest (Forest). These roads provide access for the administration, utilization, and protection of NFS lands on the districts and include roads used by anglers, hunters, other recreation users, and authorized permittees. Some of the NFS roads and motorized trails provide the primary access into and across the districts. Other NFS roads provide access for high-clearance vehicles into the backcountry. These roads provide access for people who want to enjoy the Forest. They afford opportunities for OHV drivers to explore the districts and drive on primitive, high-clearance four-wheel drive roads and trails. 2

3 Map 1. Project Location. 3

4 Outside designated wilderness and the Bear Creek municipal watershed mentioned above, much of the Mountain City, Ruby Mountains, and Jarbidge Ranger Districts are currently open to crosscountry motorized travel. Unauthorized roads and motorized trails have been created over time through use in this area. The unauthorized roads and motorized trails are not managed, maintained, or included on the FTS. Some unauthorized routes are well situated; provide access to popular dispersed campsites, informal trailheads, and other features; and have been in use for many years. Some unauthorized roads and trails have a long history as jeep trails; others are primarily non-motorized trails. Based on inventories completed in 2003, there are approximately 1,151 miles of unauthorized roads and motorized trails on the districts. Most of these roads and motorized trails (1,618 out of 2,391 routes) are less than 0.5 mile in length. While some of these routes connect motorized trails, the majority are short spurs often leading to dispersed campsites or other dispersed recreation sites. Management of motorized travel on the districts has been a dynamic process. During the past century, roads have been added to the FTS and roads that were causing resource impacts or were no longer needed for the use and management of the Forest have been decommissioned. The Forest has also identified and mitigated road-related resource concerns. On portions of the districts, motor vehicles are already restricted to designated roads through previous decisions. Motorized vehicles are not permitted in the three designated wilderness areas on the Jarbidge and Ruby Mountain Districts (approximately 240,000 acres). Motor vehicle travel is also restricted to designated NFS roads in the Bear Creek municipal watershed (9,400 acres) The Use of the Travel Analysis Process to Inform this Travel Management Analysis The travel analysis process is an ongoing effort to provide a sustainable system of roads and trails to meet resource management and recreational needs. As part of this process, the Mountain City, Ruby Mountains, and Jarbidge Ranger Districts used an interdisciplinary and science based approach to conduct travel analysis that included working with the public to identify proposals for changes to the existing FTS. This travel analysis process is documented in a travel analysis report (TAP). This project incorporates several changes to the existing FTS by removing unneeded roads and converting some NFS roads to NFS motorized trails. These changes are likely to continue for some time as annual updates to the FTS and motor vehicle use map are completed. Designations of NFS roads, NFS trails, and areas on NFS lands pursuant to may be revised as needed to meet changing conditions. Revisions of designations shall be made in accordance with the requirements for public involvement in , the requirements for coordination with governmental entities in , and the criteria in , and shall be reflected on a motor vehicle use map pursuant to Review of the existing motor vehicle use map is an annual process that will be completed to update the map in light of any changes to the FTS Forest Plan Management Direction Projects conducted within NFS lands are guided by forest plans for the specific national forest. A forest land and resource management plan embodies the provisions of the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), its implementing regulations, and other guiding documents. The Humboldt National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (as amended) sets forth the direction for managing the land and resources of the Humboldt National Forest (USDA FS 1986). This action responds to the forest-wide and management area specific goals and objectives outlined in the Forest Plan. 4

5 Specifically, the proposed action implements goals 1, 6 and 8, which address the need to provide a diversity of recreation opportunities, both motorized and non-motorized. Goal 8 specifically addresses motorized recreation opportunities and its relationship to other resources. At a more general level, the project is consistent with goals 9, 10, 13, 15, 21, 24, 29, 32, 33, 43, 48, and 53, which require the design of proposals to be consistent with other resource management issues (USDA FS 1986, IV-1 to IV-15). This proposal is also consistent with direction to maintain the present amount of Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS) Primitive and Semi-Primitive Non-Motorized areas (USDA FS 1986, IV-18). Standards and guidelines are the management requirements necessary for achieving the Forest Plan goals and objectives. Standards and guidelines provide the constraints within which management practices will be performed. In relation to this project, three standards and guidelines are consistently identified for each management unit: Provide a trail system adequate for administrators, permittees, and the public (USDA FS 1986, IV-152) Provide habitat for sensitive and federally listed threatened and endangered species (USDA FS 1986, IV-153) Protect and improve key wildlife habitats (USDA FS 1986, IV-153) After the Forest Plan was signed in 1986, it was amended several times. Amendment 5 (Inland Native Fish Strategy) includes additional direction relative to road management that is pertinent to this project. Inland Native Fish Strategy (INFISH) provides management direction to protect habitat and populations of resident native fish outside anadromous fish habitat in the Columbia River Watershed (USDA FS 1995). The resident native fish species within the project area are bull trout, redband trout, mountain white fish, bridgelip sucker, and sculpin. The INFISH amendment includes Riparian Management Objectives (RMO), standards and guidelines, and monitoring requirements specific for the management of roads and trails within the riparian habitat conservation areas (RHCA). Executive Order (EO) requires that each agency develop regulations that provide for administrative designation of specific areas and trails on public lands on which the use of off-road vehicles may be permitted and areas where such use is prohibited. The Travel Management Rule (36 CFR 212) represents the revised implementing regulations for EO and This rule identifies criteria the Forest uses throughout the travel management planning process to determine the effects of continued use of the proposed roads and motorized trails on the resources located on the districts. The districts are complying with the Forest Plan and EO with this travel management process and subsequent decision. The TAP provided background information regarding public access for recreation and outlined effects from the designation of unauthorized routes on cultural resources, aquatic species, riparian resources, water quality, wildlife, and rare plants. Key conclusions reached by the TAP include: Public access is important to both local and non-local visitors and to local economies. Public access to traditionally enjoyed dispersed camping areas is important. Both motorized and non-motorized recreation opportunities are desired by the public. Off-road use is causing environmental damage, particularly key ecosystem components such as aquatic species, terrestrial wildlife species, and riparian ecosystems. 5

6 Continued unrestricted off-road use would eventually lead to a reduced quality of recreation experience for both non-motorized and off-road motorized users. Unneeded motorized trails should be decommissioned to prevent future use-related environmental impacts. Elko County has also developed several plans and adopted county codes governing the management of public lands located within the county. Some of the sections in Elko County Code, Title 12, and the policies described in the Elko County Public Land Use and Natural Resource Management Plan (2010) fit well with the laws, regulations, policies, and plans that make up the management direction for this project. Some of the key areas where federal law and county policy overlap include the need to provide access and recreation opportunities on roads within the county, the desire to reduce the spread of noxious and invasive species, the importance of environmental integrity and community stability, and the need for managed recreation opportunities for both dispersed and developed recreation. One similarity that stands out is Directive 24-1: Direct OHV use to designated trails and actively discourage the pioneering of new trails and use in sensitive areas through collaborative public education efforts with the local communities and federal planning partners (Elko County 2008). This directive was replaced in 2010 with Directive 24-1: Direct ATV/OHV use to trails and actively discourage the pioneering of new trails and use in sensitive areas except for specific uses such as game retrieval and semiprimitive recreation experiences. Encourage USFS and BLM to engage in collaborative public education efforts with the local communities and federal planning partners on proper uses of ATV/OHV cross-country travel. This change as it relates to cross-country travel was considered throughout this FEIS. Other policies and sections of Title 12 that support this travel management project are included in the project record along with copies of Elko County Code Title 12, Elko County Public Lands Policy Plan (2008), Elko County Public Land Use and Natural Resource Management Plan (2010), and the Elko County Open Space Plan. While the Forest is obligated to work with the county on how best to provide access, federal land regulations leave the decisions for the management of the national forest in the hands of the responsible Forest Service officials Scope of the Analysis This proposal is focused on those changes to existing travel management direction necessary in order to designate roads and trails for motor vehicle use in accordance with 36 CFR Part 212, Subpart B, through issuance of a motor vehicle use map. This proposal is not intended to revisit previous decisions that resulted in the current FTS, current restrictions on motor vehicles, or to address all potential changes identified in the TAP (Forest Service Manual (FSM) 7712 and 7715). The maintenance, closure, and reclamation of NFS roads and trails and the physical closure or reclamation of unauthorized routes is outside the scope of this analysis. These actions will require additional site-specific environmental analysis to complete. Future changes to the FTS identified during implementation will also require additional, sitespecific environmental analysis. Where appropriate and reasonably foreseeable, those actions have been addressed in the cumulative effects analysis. The key national policy considered when developing the scope of this action is summarized below. Section (d) of the NEPA requires the analysis of alternatives in the EIS to "include the alternative of no action." For this type of analysis, where ongoing programs exist, "no action" means "no change" from current management direction. Therefore, the existing travel management direction forms the starting point for this analysis and is 6

7 reflected in the No Action Alternative (Alternative 1). Previous travel management decisions are incorporated in this analysis per 36 CFR (b) and FSM This analysis does not revisit past travel management decisions and instead focuses on proposed changes to existing travel management direction (FSM (1)). Existing NFS roads open to motor vehicle use are already designated for those uses (FSM (3)). Where no change in these designations is proposed, no federal action is necessary. Unauthorized roads and trails are not a part of the FTS. Proposals to add such roads and motorized trails to the FTS are federal actions requiring appropriate environmental analysis and public involvement. Motor vehicle use that is specifically authorized under a written authorization (such as a fuelwood permit, special use permit, or locatable mineral plan of operations) is exempted from designation under 36 CFR and exempted from the restriction on motor vehicle use at 36 CFR Designating NFS roads and NFS trails for motor vehicle use is an administrative process that implements the travel management decision (FSM (5)). The Mountain City, Ruby Mountains, and Jarbidge Ranger Districts welcome suggestions for improving the transportation system. Such suggestions are considered within the context of the overall mission of the districts and will be considered as availability of staff and funding allow. Many good suggestions for improving the FTS were received during public scoping. These ideas and suggestions have been captured by the districts and have been used to improve the proposed action and alternatives for this project or will be considered in future programs of work Purpose and Need On November 9, 2005, the Secretary of Agriculture adopted rules which provided for a fundamental change in the management of motor vehicle use on the national forests. The Travel Management Rule (36 CFR Part 212) provides policy to control the proliferation of unauthorized roads and motorized trails and to manage the FTS in a sustainable manner by designating roads, trails, and areas for motor vehicle use. Until that time, there was a presumption that all roads, trails, and areas were open to use by motor vehicles. If use by motor vehicles was not appropriate for any reason, the Forest Service had to take action to close specific roads, trails, or areas and prohibit motorized use. This resulted in a largely unplanned transportation system, with many unauthorized routes established by repeated use, and damage to resources occurring from uncontrolled cross-country travel. The 2005 rule provides the mechanism for transition to a new system for managing motor vehicle use. Following appropriate environmental analysis and public involvement, those roads, trails, and areas designated for motorized use will be identified on a motor vehicle use map, and any motor vehicle use not consistent with those designations will be prohibited by the rule (36 CFR ). In this way, the national forests will provide sustainable transportation systems for travel and recreation, and for management and protection of resources prone to damage from unmanaged use. This proposal is needed to provide the primary framework for sustainable management of motor vehicle use on the Mountain City, Ruby Mountains, and Jarbidge Ranger Districts. Currently, motor vehicles may travel off designated roads or motorized trails on the districts. In their use and enjoyment of NFS lands, motor vehicle users have created approximately 2,391 unauthorized roads and trails totaling approximately 1,151 miles. 7

8 Prohibiting motor vehicles from traveling off designated roads and trails, and outside designated areas would reduce the effects to natural and cultural resources caused by cross-country travel. This action responds to the goals and objectives outlined in the Forest Plan (USDA FS 1986). It helps move the project area towards the desired conditions described in the Forest Plan by allowing motor vehicle use where it would not impact Forest resources or unnecessarily impact other national forest users. The proposed additions to the FTS are needed for safe and efficient travel and for administration, utilization, and protection of NFS lands. There is also a need to provide recreation opportunities important to the public, similar to the current level. The purpose of the proposed action is to designate roads, trails, and areas for motor vehicle use to meet recreation, access, and management objectives while limiting environmental impacts and moving toward a more sustainable transportation system across the districts. A forest plan amendment is not needed to implement a decision based on this analysis. The rule also provides that the management of motor vehicle use is to be an ongoing process, with continuing evaluation of the designations and revision as needed (36 CFR ). It is expected that many changes to the designated system will be made over time in order to meet recreation and transportation needs and protect national forest resources Proposed Action This proposal to designate some unauthorized roads and motorized trails to the FTS and to change the classification of some NFS roads and NFS trails to reflect current use - would provide an essential first step for sustainable management of motorized uses on the Mountain City, Ruby Mountains, and Jarbidge Ranger Districts Unauthorized Road and Motorized Trail Additions Under the proposed action, the districts would manage approximately 1,073 miles of existing NFS roads and trails on its FTS, as well as 519 miles of non-motorized trails. Based on the stated purpose and need for action and informed by travel analysis (TAP), the districts propose to add about 969 miles of existing unauthorized roads and trails to the FTS. Implementation of this proposal would raise the total miles of NFS roads and trails on the districts to approximately 2,042 (table 2). Table 2. Motorized Forest Transportation System under the Proposed Action. Ranger District NFS Roads NFS Trails (Motorized) Proposed Roads Proposed Trails Mountain City Ruby Mountains Jarbidge Total 1, About 32 miles of unauthorized routes would be designated as NFS roads. These roads would provide access for all vehicle types including two-wheel drive passenger vehicles. About 937 miles of unauthorized routes would be designated as motorized trails. Approximately 899 miles would be designated as motorized trails open to all vehicles and 38 miles would be designated as motorized trails open to all terrain vehicles (ATVs) and motorcycles. 8

9 Conversion of Roads to Trails About 23 miles of existing NFS roads would be converted to NFS trails open to motor vehicles to reflect on the ground conditions. These trails would be open to all vehicles. However, high clearance, short-wheel base, four-wheel drive vehicles would be the best suited for these trails because of the location, steepness, and surface of the trails. Current use of many of these roads includes four-wheel drive pick-ups along with smaller high clearance highway legal vehicles and ATVs Dispersed Camping Some dispersed recreation activities are dependent on foot or horseback access while others rely on motor vehicles to either access the site or as part of the recreation experience itself. Dispersed campsites, for example, are often accessed by short spurs created and maintained primarily by the passage of motorized vehicles. Dispersed camping would be allowed in any of the pre-existing dispersed campsites adjacent to, or at the terminal end of the 2,042 miles of designated roads and motorized trails on the districts. While this analysis has considered the known (mapped) spurs to dispersed camping sites, it is likely that others have been missed. In future years, appropriate access spurs to dispersed campsites missed in this analysis may be added to the FTS so that use may continue. In addition to designating short spurs to individual dispersed campsites, dispersed camping would be permitted along three corridors within 150 feet of designated roads and trails. The first location is near Maggie Summit on the Mountain City Ranger District and extends approximately 1.0 mile along M The other locations are along the Charleston/Jarbidge road (56748). One is located at Coon Creek Summit and the other near the forest boundary north of Charleston. These dispersed camping corridors parallel the road for about 6 miles (project map) Cross-Country Motorized Travel Cross-country motorized travel that is specifically allowed under a written authorization issued under federal law or regulation would be permitted along with other exemptions specified in 36 CFR a. Under this proposed action, motor vehicle use inconsistent with the designation would be prohibited as specified in the Travel Management Rule (36 CFR ). All roads and trails designated for motor vehicle use would be identified on a motor vehicle use map. Road signs displaying open route numbers would be placed at intersections to facilitate the use of the map Summary of the Proposed Action In meeting the purpose and need, the proposed action would: Provide for public safety. Provide for adequate maintenance and administration of designations based on the availability of resources and funding. Assure use of valid existing rights for access. Assure adequate access to public and private lands. Provide designated spurs to individual dispersed campsites across the three ranger districts. Provide for a diversity of recreational opportunities. Provide for clear communication with the public and reduce law enforcement challenges. 9

10 Reduce adverse effects to soil, vegetation, and other forest resources. Reduce impacts to cultural resources. Reduce harassment of wildlife and substantial disruption of wildlife habitat. Provide for roadless characteristics and wilderness attributes of IRAs, including opportunities for solitude, undisturbed natural landscapes, and primitive, non-motorized recreation. Reduce conflicts between motor vehicles and existing or proposed recreational uses of NFS lands. Reduce conflicts among different classes of motor vehicle uses of NFS lands or neighboring federal lands. Assure compatibility of motor vehicle use with existing conditions in populated areas, taking into account sound and emissions Principle Laws and Regulations that Influence the Scope of this EIS The NEPA requires that all major federal actions significantly affecting the human environment be analyzed to determine the magnitude and intensity of those impacts, that the results be shared with the public, and the public be given opportunity to comment. The regulations implementing NEPA further require that to the fullest extent possible agencies prepare environmental impact statements concurrently and integrated with environmental analyses and related surveys and studies required for other environmental laws, regulations, or policies. Key laws, regulations, and policies include the following Federal Statutes Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act Clean Air Act Clean Water Act Endangered Species Act Migratory Bird Treaty Act Multiple Use and Sustained Yield Act National Forest Management Act of 1976 as expressed through the Humboldt National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (as amended) National Historic Preservation Act Organic Act Executive Orders Executive Order Use of off-road vehicles on the public lands Executive Order Off-road vehicles on public lands Executive Order Migratory Birds Executive Order Facilitation of Hunting Heritage and Wildlife Conservation 10

11 Federal Regulations Roadless Area Conservation Rule (36 CFR 294, Subpart B [66 FR 3272, Jan. 12, 2001]) Travel Management Rule (36 CFR 212, 251, 261 and 295) Forest Service Directive System FSH 2670 Direction for Threatened and Endangered Species FSM 7712 Travel Analysis FSH Travel Planning Other Key Guidance Bull Trout 2004 Recovery Plan for Jarbidge River Distinct Population Segment Intermountain Region (R4) Sensitive Species List Lahontan Cutthroat Trout 1995 Recovery Plan 1.8. Decision Framework Based on the environmental analysis disclosed in this FEIS and in the project record, the district rangers will decide: Which roads and trails will be designated for motor vehicle use, and what areas, if any, will be open to cross-country motorized travel. They may decide to select the proposed action or an alternative to the proposed action or to modify those alternatives by selecting specific roads and trails for designation based on the sitespecific analysis in this FEIS and in the project record. The district rangers may also decide whether to permit cross-country travel for the purpose of motorized big game retrieval of elk and/or mule deer Public Involvement The interdisciplinary team relied on public involvement to ensure that a full range of alternatives, representing a broad array of perspectives, would be analyzed in this FEIS. Public involvement was initiated in 2005 and will continue through the decision making process and into implementation. Throughout the fall and winter of 2005, the public was invited to participate in a series of open houses in Elko and Wells, Nevada. At these open houses, the public was invited to examine and comment on a set of maps showing the FTS and unauthorized roads and trails. Sets of maps were also presented at meetings in Mountain City, Owyhee, Jarbidge, and Pole Creek. This information was used to develop an initial list of proposed changes to the FTS. Unauthorized roads and trails proposed for possible addition to the FTS were the focus of field inventories ( ). This work led to the development of the proposed action presented in the January 2009 scoping document. 11

12 Formal Scoping and the Notice of Intent On January 9, 2009, the Forest Service published a scoping document and set of maps depicting the proposed action for the Mountain City, Ruby Mountains, and Jarbidge Ranger Districts Combined Travel Management Project. Scoping has continued since that time and because of the initial comments, the Forest decided to publish a Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS in October During the intervening period (January 2009 through October 2009), the district rangers met with county and tribal representatives and conservation districts. They held eight public meetings and six field trips, participated in a community forum sponsored by the Elko Chamber of Commerce, and met or spoke with many individuals. Between January 2009 and April 2009, the Forest received over 4,000 comments expressing interest in the project. These comments included both support for and opposition to the proposed action. These comments are available in the project record. Interdisciplinary team members, district rangers, and the forest staff have discussed the proposed action with environmental groups, grazing permittees, mining companies, OHV groups, citizens organizations, and others as requested. Based on scoping, the districts revised their original proposed action to include additional roads and trails (approximately 249 miles) identified by the public. While the interdisciplinary team attempted to integrate all comments and suggestions into the analysis and alternative design, some suggestions were beyond the scope of the project or were encompassed by one or more of the existing alternatives. All parties commenting on the proposal recognize this action will change the way people use and experience the resources on the Mountain City, Ruby Mountains, and Jarbidge Ranger Districts. That people treasure those resources and wish to see them perpetuated was a common thread through all of the public comments. On May 7, 2010, the DEIS Notice of Availability was published in the Federal Register starting the 45-day comment period. During this comment period the districts received seven requests to extend the comment period to allow the public to develop their comments fully, allow field time to visit proposed routes, and to foster a better understanding of the proposed action and alternatives described in the DEIS. On July 16, 2010, a notice was published in the Federal Register officially extending the comment period for six months (ending on December 17, 2010). During the DEIS comment period, the district rangers conducted public meetings at the following locations. Jarbidge Community Hall, Jarbidge, Nevada. Elko Convention Center, Elko, Nevada. Wells Fire Station, Wells, Nevada. Mountain City Visitor Center, Mountain City, Nevada. Jackpot Community Recreation Center, Jackpot, Nevada. The combined attendance at these meetings included approximately 40 individuals. At these meetings the district rangers collected comments on DEIS maps and discussed aspects of the DEIS and proposed action. Before the extended comment period ended, the rangers also attended a public hearing sponsored by Elko County to obtain public information and testimony concerning the travel management project. The districts received approximately 45 written comment letters during the comment period for the DEIS. These written comments and numerous verbal comments were used to make minor corrections in the FEIS, to clarify portions of the document identified as confusing, to make 12

13 minor changes to the road system, and to develop the MBGR option studied in the FEIS. All comments received as letters or s and those received during the public meetings and hearing were considered during the preparation of the FEIS. These comments are included along with their responses in the Response to Comment document that accompanies this FEIS (see CD inside back cover) Issues Comments from the public, other agencies, and analysis by the interdisciplinary team were used to formulate issues concerning the proposed action. An issue is a matter of public concern regarding the proposed action and its environmental impacts. The Forest Service developed the following issues to guide the EIS process (table 3). Issues that did not drive the creation of alternatives include comments on the quality and accuracy of maps used during the scoping period, opinions regarding the legality of the proposed action, RS-2477, and the Forest s rationale for taking on this project. A complete list of the issues identified during scoping can be found in the project record (Scoping, Document 276). Table 3. Mountain City, Ruby Mountains, and Jarbidge Travel Management EIS Issues Issue Topic Cause and Effect Access and Motorized/ Non-Motorized Recreation Opportunities Inventoried Roadless Areas. The proposed action would designate roads and motorized trails open for motor vehicle use and, after designation, use inconsistent with the designation would be prohibited. Currently there are few travel restrictions in the project area and individuals can drive cross-country. The prohibition of motor vehicle use inconsistent with the designation would result in changes to how visitors using motor vehicles recreate on NFS lands. This could result in reduced use of the districts and discontent among some users. The addition of approximately 969 miles of unauthorized roads and motorized trails to the FTS may result in conflicts between motorized and non-motorized users. This, in turn, could reduce the quality of the recreation experience for both groups. The analysis will look at changes in acres of roaded natural (RN), semi-primitive motorized (SPM), and semiprimitive non-motorized (SPNM) Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS) acres by alternative. The proposed action would designate approximately 234 miles of motorized trails in inventoried roadless areas (IRAs) identified in the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The roadless rule does not restrict motor vehicle use in IRAs, and the Humboldt National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan) allows for off-road vehicle use where such use is not incompatible with other resource programs (USDA FS 1986, IV-2). No construction or reconstruction is proposed, and no motor vehicle use would be authorized that is not already legal. Adding these motorized trails to the FTS could affect the roadless character of the IRAs. Roadless characteristics described in the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule include soil, water, and air; sources of public drinking water; plant and animal diversity; threatened, endangered, and sensitive species habitat; large undisturbed habitats; classes of recreation; reference landscapes; landscape character; traditional cultural properties; and local unique characteristics. The analysis will look at the potential effect of each motorized trail proposed for designation on roadless characteristics and wilderness potential by IRA. 13

14 Table 3. Mountain City, Ruby Mountains, and Jarbidge Travel Management EIS Issues Issue Topic Cause and Effect Resource Impacts Social/Economic Designating roads and motorized trails open for motor vehicle use and prohibiting use inconsistent with the designation could decrease ongoing cumulative impacts to watersheds, soils, vegetation, terrestrial and aquatic wildlife habitat, and help curb the spread of noxious and invasive weed species. The miles of roads or motorized trails crossing habitat or located in sensitive areas will be used to evaluate effects to biological and physical resources. Acres of habitat potentially affected will also be used to determine the potential effects of a road or motorized trail within a zone of influence for wildlife species. Road and motorized trail density will be used to evaluate the effects of the proposed action and alternatives on certain wildlife species and watershed condition. To evaluate the effects of the proposed action and alternatives on soil and water resources, the miles of road and motorized trail within close proximity to a perennial and intermittent stream, and the number of stream crossings will be used. Designating roads and motorized trails as open for motor vehicle use and prohibiting use that is inconsistent with that designation may affect social/economic activities in Elko County. Not designating roads or motorized trails could reduce motorized recreation use on the districts. The number of hunters coming to the area could be reduced by limiting motorized big game retrieval opportunities impacting businesses in the communities that cater to this recreation use. As a result, income generated from these activities could be reduced. Economic impacts will be evaluated by the relative change to jobs and income. Social impacts will be evaluated by the ability of national forest users (recreational visitors, tribal members, and cultural users) to participate in Forest activities and by the acres of NFS lands readily accessible by foot within 0.50 or 1.0 mile of a designated motorized route). 14

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