Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
Proposed management actions would be implemented beginning in the year 2009. The agency gives notice of the full environmental analysis and decision-making process that will occur on the proposal so interested and affected people may become aware of how they may participate in the process and contribute to the final decision.
Vegetation resources on approximately 94,000 acres of NFS lands lying within the Oglala National Grassland in Sioux and Dawes Counties of northwest Nebraska, and approximately 117,000 acres of NFS lands lying within the Buffalo Gap National Grassland in Fall River County of southwest South Dakota, are being analyzed to determine if and how existing conditions differ from desired conditions outlined in the 2001 Nebraska National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan).
Vegetation in the Analysis Area is characteristic of mixed-grass prairie and lesser amounts of ponderosa pine/juniper habitats. Short-grass species include blue grama, buffalograss, and upland sedges. Mid-grass species include western wheatgrass, green needlegrass, and to a lesser extent sideoats grama. Shrubs include Wyoming big sagebrush, greasewood, and yucca glauca. Some creeks transverse the area and support plains cottonwood, green ash, and willow.
A large portion of the Analysis Area evolved under a history of homesteading in the early twentieth century, and a prolonged drought period combined with the economic depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s caused many of these homesteads to fail. Starting in 1930s, land was purchased through the northwestern Nebraska and southwestern South Dakota under the Land Utilization Project initiated by the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. This continued with the Bankhead Jones Farm Tenant Act of 1937, which was designed to develop a program of land conservation. Administration of these lands was turned over to the Soil Conservation Service the following year and transferred to the United States Forest Service in 1954.
Today the Oglala and Buffalo Gap National Grasslands support and provide a variety of multiple resource uses and values. Livestock ranching operations in the area depend on National Grassland acreage to create logical and efficient management units. Cattle and sheep, in accordance with 10-year term and/or annual temporary livestock grazing permits, are currently authorized to graze the allotments within the Analysis Area. In order to determine how existing resource conditions compare to desired conditions, data from monitoring and analysis (historical and present) will be used. During the past 5-7 years, drought conditions have impacted plant vigor, canopy, and litter cover in most parts of the Analysis Area.
Two primary influences help to shape the need for this project.
The Rescission Act of 1995 (Pub. L. 104-19, Section 504), directed the Forest Service to complete National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis on all grazing allotments. This analysis will comply with that direction.
The 2001 Forest Plan established goals, objectives, standards, and guidelines for resource management on the Nebraska National Forest and Associated Units. The Forest Plan identifies livestock grazing as an appropriate multiple use under certain conditions.
The Forest Service will evaluate the existing authorized livestock use, livestock management, and rangeland vegetative conditions within the Analysis Area and will assess the relationship with the desired vegetative conditions identified within the Forest Plan. Any differences between the two will establish
The AMPs will be prepared for individual allotments and implemented in the 2009 grazing season and beyond.
The Forest Plan identifies lands within the OGA and FRWGA as containing lands that are capable and suitable for grazing by domestic livestock. These lands are to be monitored to evaluate both implementation and effectiveness of management actions.
In all cases, vegetation management tools will be used that meet Forest Plan objectives, standards, and guidelines and that will maintain or move existing resource conditions toward desired conditions for that geographic area. If monitoring indicates that practices are being properly implemented and that resource trends are moving toward meeting desired conditions in a timely manner, management may continue unchanged. If monitoring indicates that there is a need to modify management practices, adaptive options as analyzed in the EIS will be selected and implemented.
The Analysis Area provides habitat for many wildlife species (game and non-game) including three management indicator species (MIS) and their
Consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as required by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), will be completed on all proposed activities.
An interdisciplinary team has been selected to do the environmental analysis, as well as prepare and accomplish scoping and public involvement activities.
1. No action, No change from authorized grazing use or current situation.
2. No Grazing.
3. Livestock grazing incorporating adaptive management to meet the Forest Plan goals, objectives, standards, and guidelines.
The Responsible Officials will consider the results of the analysis and its findings and then document their decisions in two separate Records of Decision (ROD), one for the OGA and one for the FRWGA. The decisions will determine whether or not to authorize livestock grazing on all, part, or none of the Analysis Area, and if so, what adaptive management design criteria, adaptive options, and monitoring will be implemented so as to meet or move toward the desired conditions as specified in the Forest Plan.
1. Whether or not to authorize livestock grazing within the Analysis Area in whole or in part.
2. If grazing is to be Authorized, (a) what grazing systems and prescribed livestock use would be implemented; (b) what structural and non-structural range improvements would be necessary; and (c) what type of monitoring program would be proposed.
3. Identify any “mitigation measure” needed to implement the decision.
Individual Allotment Management Plans (AMPs) would then be developed to incorporate conditions outlined in the Record of Decision. These AMPs will become part of each associated term grazing permit issued.
Public involvement will be especially important at several points during the analysis, beginning with the scoping process. The Forest Service will seek information, comments, and assistance from Federal, State, local agencies, tribes, and other individuals or organizations who may be interested in, or affected by, the proposal. The scoping activities will include: (1) Engaging potentially affected or interested parties by written correspondence, (2) contacting those on our Forest media list, and (3) hosting public information meeting(s).
1. Effects of proposed management strategies on natural ecosystems. This includes elements such as native and desirable nonnative plant and animal communities, black-tailed prairie dog management, riparian areas, upland grasslands, wooded draws, ponderosa pine forested areas, areas of hazardous fuels, and threatened, endangered, sensitive, and management indicator species.
2. Social-economic effects (positive or negative) on livestock grazing permittees and the local economy from changes in livestock management.
3. Effects of proposed livestock grazing strategies on recreational activities and/or experiences.
The Forest Service believes, at this early stage, it is important to give reviewers notice of several court rulings related to public participation in the environmental review process. First, reviewers of draft environmental impact statements must structure their participation in the environmental review of the proposal so that it is meaningful and alerts an agency to the reviewer's position and contentions.
To assist the Forest Service in identifying and considering issues and concerns on the proposed action, comments on the draft environmental impact statement should be as specific as possible. It is also helpful if comments refer to specific pages or chapters of the draft statement. Comments may also address the adequacy of the draft environmental impact statement or the merits of the alternatives formulated and discussed in the document. Reviewers may wish to refer to the Council on Environmental Quality Regulations for implementing the procedural provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act at 40 CFR 1503.3 in addressing these points.
Comments received, including the names and addresses of those who comment, will be considered part of the public record on this proposal and will be available for public inspection.