"DECISION MEMO - PDF"
DECISION MEMO NATIONAL FORESTS AND GRASSLANDS IN TEXAS Angelina, Davy Crockett, and Sabine National Forests Soil Pit Project Houston, Nacogdoches, and Shelby Counties May 2009 BACKGROUND The National Cooperative Soil Survey (NCSS) is a nationwide partnership of Federal, Regional, State, and local agencies and institutions. This partnership works together to cooperatively investigate, inventory, document, classify, and interpret soils and to disseminate, publish, and promote the use of information about soils of the United States and its trust territories. The activities are carried out on the National, Regional, and State levels. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is responsible for the leadership of soil survey activities for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for the leadership and coordination of NCSS activities, and for the extension of soil survey technology to global applications (National Soil Survey Handbook, Part 600, Title 430). The National Forests and Grasslands in Texas have an effective Reimbursable Agreement with USDA NRCS-Texas to provide the Forest with Order II soil mapping. As stated in the contract, “mapping will be evaluated … using random map unit and/or random block evaluation techniques”. To ensure proper observation of soil characteristics, supporting data must be collected, including but not limited to pedon descriptions from a pit. Soil samples taken using this method are necessary for classification or correlation. Collecting samples from a pit also allows for supporting data to have a logged point which can be referenced for interpretational use on the Forest. DECISION I have decided to allow the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to dig seven soil pits on the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas (NFGT); three on the Angelina National Forest (ANF), two on the Davy Crockett National Forest (DCNF), and two on the Sabine National Forest (SNF). The three pits on the ANF are located on the Stephen F. Austin Experimental Forest. Each pit will be 4.5 feet wide by 8 feet long by 7 feet deep. No vegetation clearing will be required, no trees will be cut, and only small brush will be trampled. A small bobcat or backhoe will be used to dig the pits. The site will be refilled immediately following sampling. With the small areas of disturbance, sites should re-vegetate without any seeding, mulching, or fertilizing. Operational activities will be limited during long periods of soil saturation to avoid excessive rutting and compaction. Continual monitoring by visual inspections periodically will be scheduled to ensure that there are no negative impacts as a result of project activities on soil productivity. 1 SNF, ANF, and DCNF Soil Pit Project-2009 The following table describes the location of each of the soil pits. Maps of the areas are attached. Table 1. Soil Pit Area Description Pit Compart- Forest Stand Forest Type MA* Location # ment Sabine 0.2 mile east on FS Road 1 38 7 loblolly pine 2 147 to power line; 1.0 mile south on power line. 0.25 mile north on County 2 55 6 shortleaf pine 2 Road 2821; approximately 50 feet east of road. Angelina East Texas Plant Material Center on the Stephen F. bottomland Austin Experimental 3 112 12 hardwood/ 11 Forest, 0.1 mile west and yellow pine southwest on FS Road 405 to bridge on Bernaldo Creek. East Texas Plant Material Center on the Stephen F. loblolly/ 4 112 7/8 11 Austin Experimental shortleaf pine Forest, 375 feet west on FS Road 402B. East Texas Plant Material overcup Center on the Stephen F. 5 112 24 oak/water 11 Austin Experimental hickory Forest, 0.2 mile on FS Road 401. Davy 2.45 miles southeast on FS 6 14 2 shortleaf pine 2 Crockett Road 518. 2.5 miles west on FS Road 7 77 9 loblolly pine 1 #527; 0.2 mile south on trail. * MA = Management areas are lands managed to achieve complementary objectives under the same standards. Management Areas (MA) are described in the 1996 Forest Land and Resource Management Plan for the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas (the Plan) as amended. Management Area 1 includes Upland Forest Ecosystems (the Plan IV: 85-95), MA 2 are lands with Red-cockaded Woodpecker Emphasis (the Plan IV: 96-134), and MA 11 are lands in the SFA Experimental Forest (the Plan IV: 287-288). This project is categorically excluded from documentation in an environmental assessment (EA) or an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the following reasons: 2 SNF, ANF, and DCNF Soil Pit Project-2009 ♦ Past projects which are similar to the proposed action have had no significant effects on the quality of the human environment, directly, indirectly, or cumulatively. ♦ No extraordinary circumstances exist that might cause the action to have significant effects on the human environment. ♦ This proposal is consistent with and similar to the categories of action which may be excluded from documentation in an EA or EIS as described in 36 CFR 220.6 (e) (8). This category is for short-term (one year or less) mineral, energy, or geophysical investigations and their incidental support activities that may require cross-country travel by vehicles and equipment, construction of less than one mile of low standard road, or use and minor repair of existing roads. In accordance with FSM 2671.44 and 2672.42, and regulations set forth in Section 7 (a) of the Endangered Species Act, a Biological Evaluation (BE) was prepared to evaluate the effects of planned activities on Federally listed and proposed threatened and endangered (T&E) species, and Region 8 Forest Service (R8 FS) sensitive species. The Biological Evaluation dated April 2, 2009, states that the proposed action will have no effect on any federally proposed or listed species, and no impact on any Region 8 sensitive species. Consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not required. If any federally listed or Forest Service Sensitive species are encountered during project implementation, the district biologists will be notified immediately so that the appropriate management actions can be implemented. There should be no adverse impact to soil productivity from digging and refilling these pits. There should be no adverse impact to the water resource as a result of digging these pits. They are not located in streamside management zones, will not be left open, and at most would fill up with rainwater. There should be no sediment runoff that would adversely impact aquatic species. Impacts on the water quality will be minimal. No base floodplains or jurisdictional wetlands are involved in this proposal. The proposed action will not cause the National Ambient Air Quality Standards or Class II Areas to be violated. The Forest Service is obligated, under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), to consider the effects of all undertakings on historic properties (heritage resources) that may be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Consultation with federally recognized tribes with ancestral ties to the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas has been initiated by way of standard scoping for NEPA. Concurrence from the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) was received on April 23, 2009. Concurrence from the Alabama-Coushatta was received April 17, 2009. The 30-day review period expired on April 30, 2009 for the Caddo Tribe. No comments were received. All known archaeological sites within the project areas have been delineated and would be avoided. In the event that historic or prehistoric heritage resources are discovered during digging of the soil pits, work within the immediate vicinity of the discovery would 3 SNF, ANF, and DCNF Soil Pit Project-2009 stop and the Heritage Resources staff would be notified. The heritage resource would be protected until consultation between NFGT, the SHPO, and affected federally recognized tribes is completed and a treatment plan is developed and implemented. Visual Quality Objectives (VQO) refers to the amount of vegetation manipulation the public sees from a road, trail, or recreation area. The VQO for the pits located on the DCNF is maximum modification; on the SNF, the pit in compartment 38 is maximum modification, the pit in compartment 55 is modification. There are no VQO’s assigned to the SFA Experimental Forest – MA 11. All the plots located on the Experimental Forest are further than 900 feet from the hiking trail. On the day the pits are dug, dirt will be piled, a small back hoe will be visible, and people will be milling about. Once the pit is closed (within a day or two of opening it), there should be no visible indication of its occurrence from any adjacent road, trail, or recreation area. PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT In order to scope this project, a draft decision memo was mailed to the current list of potentially interested or affected parties on the Angelina, Davy Crockett, and Sabine National Forests. The draft decision memo and accompanying cover letter were posted on the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas (NFGT) website. No comments were received from the public concerning this project. One of the soil pits was located within a red-cockaded woodpecker cluster. Based on recommendations from the district wildlife biologist, this pit was dropped from the project. This project, titled ANF, SNF and DCNF Soil Pit Project-2009, is included on the quarterly NEPA Schedule of Proposed Actions. FINDINGS REQUIRED BY OTHER LAWS This project will fully comply with and is consistent with the management direction, including standards and guidelines, in the 1996 Revised Land and Resource Management Plan for the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas (the Plan), as amended. IMPLEMENTATION Implementation of this decision may begin on or after the date of the signature of the Deciding Official below. ADMINISTRATIVE REVIEW OR APPEAL OPPORTUNITIES Based on a Federal Court decision in Earth Island Institute v Ruthenbeck, this categorically excluded activity is subject to notice, comment, and appeal under the 36 CFR 215 rules. Based on the April 2006 Federal court decision in The Wilderness Society v. Rey, individuals or organizations who submitted comments or otherwise expressed interest in this action by the close of the comment period may appeal this decision. As no one submitted comments or otherwise expressed interest in this action, this decision is not subject to a higher level of review or appeal. For further information on this decision, contact Cherie Edwards, Forest Soil and Water Specialist, 415 South First Street, Suite 110, Lufkin, Texas, 75901, (936)639-8501. Signature: John Ippolito for May 4, 2009 Andrew Colaninno Date Acting Forest Supervisor 4 SNF, ANF, and DCNF Soil Pit Project-2009 The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, and where applicable, sex, marital status, familial status, parental status, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or a part of an individual's income is derived from any public assistance program. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD). To file a complaint of discrimination write to USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720-6382 (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. 5 SNF, ANF, and DCNF Soil Pit Project-2009