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					Decision Memo
for

Bald Stocking Level Control and Hazardous Fuels Reduction
Fremont-Winema National Forests Lakeview Ranger District (Lake County, Oregon) USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region

Introduction
The Bald Stocking Level Control and Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project is within the Bald Restoration planning area which consists of Bauers and Augur/Camp Creek sub-sheds, two of seven sub-sheds within the Thomas Creek Watershed. The USDA Forest Service manages 13,900 acres of public lands within the two sub-sheds. Most of the remaining acreage is owned and managed by a private timber company. The proposed action is to precommercial thin approximately 2,200 acres and implement prescribed fire on approximately 3,700 acres. The underlying need is for sustainable forest stand conditions. These activities were addressed in the Bald Restoration Environmental Assessment, however the decision on Bald Restoration (February 21, 2002) was withdrawn (July 3, 2002) after an appeal on matters unrelated to the precommercial thinning and underburning. Thomas Creek watershed is located in the northwest portion of the Lakeview Ranger District within T.37 and 38S., R.17, 18, and 19E. WM, Lake County, Oregon. Forest Service Roads 3780 and 3623 provide access to the project area.

Project Description
 Stocking level control of trees for wildlife objective on about 1,800 acres in key wildlife areas. These treatments achieve stand density objectives while maintaining a random distribution of the residual stand. Stocking level control to reduce ladder fuels and prepare the area for the introduction of prescribed fire would occur on about 330 acres.

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Hand felling of trees less than nine inches diameter at breast height (measured 4 ½ feet up the tree from the ground) would be utilized to achieve stocking level control. Precommercial thinning slash would be treated by lop and scatter methods which would reduce slash to a depth of about 18 inches, or hand piling where appropriate. Prescribed underburning would begin two to three years after the pretreatment described above was implemented. Fuel reduction objectives will be accomplished with a low intensity, low severity fire. Natural fuel breaks or

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existing roads will be used were possible. Some control lines will be constructed, and rehabilitated after the burn is completed. The underburn will result in a mosaic of burned and unburned pockets, so that about a ¼ inch of duff or ground cover will be retained on 50% or more of the treated area. Burning may be implemented in both the spring and fall but the majority of the burning will occur in the spring. The following mitigation and resource protection measures will be implemented:  All activities will comply with Best Management Practices (BMPs)  Thinning operations shall not occur in occupied Northern Goshawk post family fledgling areas from April 1 through July 31.  Ground disturbing activities will be monitored for cultural resources as directed by the Forest Archaeologist.

Scoping
This project was scoped as part of the Bald Restoration project. The public was notified of the proposal through the Forest's Schedule of Proposed Actions, public meetings, field trips and scoping letters to interested or affected groups and individuals. On March 20, 2000, a letter was sent to 123 individuals, businesses, government agencies, the Chairman and Natural Resources Department of The Klamath Tribes and organizations thought to be interested in projects on the Lakeview District. Comments were also requested from local Forest Service resource specialists. The Lake County Examiner published a news article on the proposed project March 30, 2000. Eight letters were received and are contained in the Bald Restoration Project analysis file. The 30-day comment period for the environmental assessment (EA) ran August 2 to August 31, 2001. A notice of availability was published in the Lake County Examiner and the EA was sent to those who had made comments on the proposed action in earlier scoping. Five letters were received and are contained in the Bald Restoration Project analysis file. There were no comments related to the precommercial thinning portion of the project. There were two comments made in regards to the underburning activities included in the project. One comment wanted to ensure adequate resources were available for the control of any prescribed burn project. The Forest Service prepares detailed burn plans for all prescribed fire activities. The burn plan will describe appropriate conditions and controls under which burning may occur, and will address adequate staffing levels to accomplish the underburning in an efficient and safe manner. The second comment was concerning adjoining landowners and the possibility of working together. Efforts are made to keep adjacent landowners informed of proposed Forest Service activities and coordinate efforts where possible.

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Decision
I have decided to implement the proposed Bald Stocking Level Control and Fuels Reduction Project as described above, including all mitigation and resource protection measures because it will move the area toward sustainable forest conditions. The project is consistent with the goals and objectives of the Fremont National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan, 1989, as amended, and is consistent with the recommendations contained in the Upper Thomas Creek Watershed Analysis, 1996. The treatments will accelerate growth and development of trees and herbaceous vegetation, which are now significantly inhibited by overstocked and suppressed stand conditions. The activities will reduce the risk of mortality from insects and disease agents, promote development of future large trees and move toward returning fire-adapted ecological processes to these arid forest sites.

Findings
Wildlife, Fish and Plants The Bald Restoration Project included the stocking level control activities and underburning among many other activities. The Bald Restoration Project, as a whole and this project as a part of that whole, was evaluated for threatened, endangered, and sensitive species by Forest Service biologists. The stocking level control and underburning projects are a small part of the larger Bald Restoration project and are expected to have considerably fewer effects upon wildlife and fish. Wildlife The zone wildlife biologist determined that, with implementation of the project: o there will be “no effect" upon two threatened species (the Bald Eagle and Canada Lynx), and two sensitive species (Oregon spotted frog and Columbia spotted frog). o there will be “no impact” upon two sensitive or candidate species (tricolored blackbird, and bufflehead). o activities “may impact individuals but will not likely contribute to a trend towards federal listing or cause a loss of viability to the population or species” for the sensitive gray flycatcher. Some associated thinning activities are expected to overlap with potential nesting habitat for the gray flycatcher and will be occurring during the active nesting season (June – July). These activities include thinning in low elevation pine sites. Prescribed burning activities are also expected to occur in some of these areas. Direct

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disturbances and/or nest abandonment may occur from these activities if they take place within or immediately adjacent to flycatcher nest areas. o a “beneficial impact" will occur for one sensitive species (California wolverine). Fish The zone fisheries biologist determined that, with implementation of the project: o activities “may impact individuals but will not likely contribute to a trend towards federal listing or cause a loss of viability to the population or species” for two sensitive species (Goose Lake sucker and Interior redband trout). o there will be "no effect” on one sensitive species (Modoc sucker) o Precommercial thinning and ladder-fuel reduction that eliminates redundant canopy cover but does not reduce canopy closure, would not add to CWE impacts. The total additional impact for each of the two subsheds is less than 0.5% and rounds to zero. Plants o The zone botanist determined that implementing the project will have “no impact” on any R6 sensitive plant species. Cultural Resources Given that the proposed activities will be monitored, there will be no effect to significant cultural resources. Section 106 SHPO consultation was completed under the Programmatic Agreement among the United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region (Region 6), The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and the Oregon State Historic Preservation Officer regarding Cultural Resource Management on National Forests in the State of Oregon dated March 10, 1995, pursuant to stipulated Forest Archaeologist review dated October 10, 2000.

Other Findings
This action is consistent with the management direction, including standards and guidelines, as outlined in the Fremont National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan, as amended. No significant impact is expected on parkland, floodplains, wetlands, prime farmlands, wild and scenic rivers or ecologically critical areas. This action will comply with requirements of the Clean Water Act. There are no anticipated significant impacts on consumers, minority groups,

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American Indians, women or civil rights. There are no anticipated significant impacts to Treaty and trust responsibilities with The Klamath Tribes. There are no known significant indirect, cumulative, or unavoidable adverse effects on the environment. There is no threat to public health or safety. Implementation of this proposal meets the resource protection requirements of 36 CFR 219.17.

Reasons For Categorically Excluding The Proposed Project
I find the proposed action can be categorically excluded from documentation in an EA or EIS because it fits category 31.2 – 6 - (b) and (d), described in Forest Service Handbook 1909.15 – 92-1,: “Timber stand and/or wildlife habitat improvement activities which do not include the use of herbicides or do not require more than one mile of low standard road construction.” I find the proposed action can be categorically excluded because there were no extraordinary circumstances identified by the interdisciplinary team of resource specialists that analyzed this proposal.

Administrative Review (Appeals) and Implementation
This action falls within a category of actions that are not subject to administrative appeal (36 CFR 215.12(f)). This decision may be implemented immediately.

Contact
For further information about this project, please contact Jody Perozzi, Technical Writer/Editor, 541-353-2723, or Terry Sodorff, District Ranger, 541-947-6328, at the Lakeview Ranger District, 18049 Hwy. 395 N., Lakeview, OR 97630

____________________________ TERRY SODORFF District Ranger

_________________ Date