7/8/2014 12:04:00 PM USFS issues draft decision on Tollgate-BBR trail
Letter announcing draft decision notice
Dear Interested Public:
On July 2, 2014 I made available a draft Decision Notice (DN) to authorize the Sisters Community Trails Project.
The project will provide a 7.6 mile non-motorized multi-use paved path between the communities of Sisters and Black Butte Ranch, Oregon. The paved path will be constructed using the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASTO) as a reference. The predominant uses will be biking and walking/hiking. No horseback riding will be allowed. The path will be 10 feet wide with a one foot gravel shoulder on each side and constructed of asphalt. The approximate area of disturbance is about 19 acres (calculated using a 20 foot clearing width). The Sisters Trails Alliance (STA) will construct and maintain the path under an agreement with the Forest Service.
The construction of the paved path will require three crossings to mitigate impacts to riparian and other crossings. At the main channel of Trout Creek, a boxed culvert or other designed crossing will allow for the passage of water during high flood events. At Indian Ford Creek, construction of a bridge is anticipated to allow for passage over the creek. Near Black Butte Ranch a raised boardwalk or similar like feature will be constructed to mitigate impacts to a pine/aspen wet area.
The construction of the paved path will require the cutting of about 250 green trees. No green trees over 21inhces diameter at breast height will be cut. Up to seven snags (dead trees) are anticipated to be felled; in addition an estimated 25-50 snags may be felled to meet OSHA safety requirements during trail construction. Felled green trees and snags will be left on-site to provide habitat for wildlife. The decision does not involve a timber sale.
My draft decision notice is based on the careful design of the project and the analysis in the Sisters Community Trails Project environmental assessment (EA). There will be no effect to grey wolf or the northern spotted owl. The project may impact but would not lead to a trend for federal listing for the Crater Lake tightcoil and white-headed woodpecker. The project is consistent with the standards and guidelines for Management Indicator Species in the Deschutes National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan. The project may affect individuals but would not lead towards a trend in federal listing for Peck's penstemon. There is a high risk for the spread of invasive plants; mitigation measures are required.
I have also considered the effects to the social environment. It is anticipated that sanitation issues would not increase above existing levels. If human waste and litter reach unacceptable levels there will be an increase in both indirect and direct methods to deal with the issue. Noise and traffic levels will be within the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum class for Roaded Natural. Illegal motorized use of the path could occur but increased staffing, patrol and public presence, signed rules, and other direct and indirect methods techniques should deter such use over time.
The project was fully documented in an environmental assessment that was prepared according to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The final environmental assessment, draft decision notice, including the responses to the 30-day comment period on the draft environmental assessment, along with other supporting documentation, can be found at the Deschutes National Forest project web page at the following address:
This project is subject to pre-decisional administrative review pursuant to 36 CFR 218, Subpart B. Also called the "objection process" the predecisional administrative review process replaced the appeal process in March 2013. The primary difference with the objection process is that a person may object to a project prior to the final decision, whereas under the appeal procedures, appeals were made after the decision. The full text of the rule can be found here:
Only individuals or organizations that submitted specific written or oral comments during a designated opportunity for public participation (scoping or the 30 day public comment period) may object (36 CFR 218.5). Notices of objection must meet the requirements of 36 CFR 218.8. Objections can be submitted in writing, either electronically or in hard copy but must be filed with the Reviewing Officer within 45 days from the date of publication of notice of the opportunity to object in The Bulletin, Bend, OR. The publication date is the exclusive means for calculating the time to file an objection. Those wishing to file an objection to this decision should not rely upon dates or timeframe information provided by any other source.
Incorporation of documents by reference is not allowed, except for the following list of items that may be referenced by including date, page, and section of the cited document, along with a description of its content and applicability to the objection: 1) all or any part of a federal law or regulation; 2) Forest Service directives and land management plans; 3) documents referenced by the Forest Service in the subject environmental assessment (EA); or 4) comments previously provided to the Forest Service by the objector during public involvement opportunities for the proposed project where written comments were requested by the responsible official. All other documents must be included with the objection.
Issues raised in objections must be based on previously submitted specific written comments regarding the proposed project or activity and attributed to the objector, unless the issue is based on new information that arose after the opportunities for comment. The burden is on the objector to demonstrate compliance with this requirement for objection issues.
Minimum requirements of an objection are described at 218.8(d). An objection must include a description of those aspects of the proposed project addressed by the objection, including specific issues related to the proposed project; if applicable, how the objector believes the environmental analysis or draft decision specifically violates law, regulation, or policy; suggested remedies that would resolve the objection; supporting reasons for the reviewing officer to consider; and a statement that demonstrates the connection between prior specific written comments on the particular proposed project or activity and the content of the objection, unless the objection concerns an issue that arose after the designated opportunities for comment.
Objections may be:
* Postal Delivery: Reviewing Officer, Deschutes National Forest, Attn. 1570 Appeals and Objections, 63095 Deschutes Market Road, Bend, OR 97701;
* Emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put OBJECTION and the project name in the subject line. Electronic objections must be submitted as part of an actual e-mail message, or as an attachment in Microsoft Word (.doc), rich text format (.rtf), or portable document format (.pdf) only. E-mails submitted to addresses other than the ones listed above or in formats other than those listed above or containing viruses will be rejected. It is the responsibility of the objector to confirm receipt of objections submitted by electronic mail. For electronically mailed objections, the sender should normally receive an automated electronic acknowledgement from the agency as confirmation of receipt. If the sender does not receive an automated acknowledgement of receipt, it is the sender's responsibility to ensure timely receipt by other means;
* Hand deliveries: Deschutes Forest Supervisor's Office, Attn. 1570 Appeals and Objections, 63095 Deschutes Market Road, Bend, OR 97701. Hand deliveries can occur between 8:00 AM and 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday except legal holidays; or
* Faxed to: Deschutes Forest Supervisor, Attn. 1570 Appeals and Objections at (541) 383-5531.
If you should have any questions about my draft decision, the environmental analysis process, or would like to obtain a copy of the draft decision notice, please contact Michael Keown, Project Team Leader, at (541) 549-7735 or by email at email@example.com. For information on the predecisional administrative review process, please contact Michael Keown, Environmental Coordinator, at (541) 549-7735.
Thank you for your interest in recreation management on the Sisters Ranger District.
KRISTIE L. MILLER
Sisters District Ranger Kristie Miller has given the nod to a paved trail running from Sisters to Black Butte Ranch through the woods on the south side of Highway 20.
Miller issued a draft decision notice authorizing the proposed path last week. An "objection period" will precede a final decision on the project. Only those who provided comments during a public comment period may object. Miller reopened comments last fall after a controversy erupted over the proposal.
The project would provide a 7.6-mile non-motorized multi-use paved path between Sisters and Black Butte Ranch. The paved path will be for biking and walking/hiking; no horseback riding will be allowed. The asphalt path will be 10 feet wide with a one-foot gravel shoulder on each side. The Sisters Trails Alliance (STA) will construct and maintain the path under an agreement with the Forest Service.
While the decision notice is a key step in potential construction of the paved path, the project is still not funded. The Sisters-Tollgate portion of the project did not make the cut for the Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) funding cycle. The entire project carries a $2.8 million price tag.
The paved trails were a focus of controversy last summer and fall, as opponents cited concerns about privacy of local residents, cost, and whether paved trails in the forest are appropriate.
Proponents believe paved trails offer greater access to people of limited physical capabilities and provide an asset that will draw recreational tourism to the area.
A separate but related project to build 1.1-mile, 12-foot-wide, multi-use path between Sisters High School and Crossroads subdivision has been called off.
Last month, Miller rescinded a decision on that path. According to a Forest Service statement, Miller chose to rescind her decision based on the additional public comment following the decision. She undertook the additional public comment to correct errors made during the initial public comment process.
Miller said, "After hearing from a broad group of people, I believe the project is not supported by the majority of the community and is not in the best interest of the community at this time."
While the Sisters-BBR path is controversial, there appears to be broader support for it than there was for the Crossroads project.
For a copy of the draft decision notice, contact Michael Keown, project team leader, at 541-549-7735 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.