Feds set meetings to review forest rules - deadline for public comment ends soon

By Levi Pulkkinen - Daily World writer


State and federal agencies will begin a process that will test Washington's Forest & Fish rules and, if successful, protect the loggers in the state from being penalized for accidentally harming endangered species.

To kick off the process, the agencies will host a series of public hearings during the next two weeks, hoping to elicit comment about the issue.

"It's a way of asking the public for information or questions or concerns we may have not thought up," said Doug Zimmer, a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service spokesman. "Usually our effort is to take comment, take questions, not try to solve the issue right then and there."

The meetings nearest the Twin Harbors are at Tacoma's Sheraton Hotel Tuesday, March 18, or at Port Angeles's Red Lion Hotel Thursday, March 20. Both start at 5 p.m.

The state's forest practices rules, wrapped up in the Fish & Forest Rules, will be the subject of an environmental impact statement prepared by the Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Zimmer said. The environmental impact statement will then be used in the creation of a Habitat Conservation Plan, which will allow foresters to apply for endangered species protections from both federal agencies.

"The advantage to the landowner, is that he gains a certain level of protection if he accidentally kills a listed species," Zimmer said.

While it is uncertain what changes may be made to Washington's forest rules, state Department of Natural Resources communications director Todd Myers said lawmakers considered this federal process while developing the state's forestry regulations

"Obviously, when they were coming up with the Forest and Fish Rules, there was discussion with the federal government." Myers said. "What we like to tell people is that Washington follows the highest level of environmental management perhaps in North America. It's more about whether the new rules are compatible, rather than what changes need to be made."

NOAA Fisheries spokesman Steve Keller said, however, changes to road regulations - particularly those requiring salmon - friendly retrofits to culverts - may draw criticism from foresters. He also said strengthening riparian - zone protections may not be well received, especially by smaller - acreage landowners.

The official notice follows:

March 17, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 51)]
[Page 12676-12678]

Notice of Intent to Prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Federal Actions Under the Endangered Species Act Related to the State of Washington Forest Practices Rules

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Department of the Interior.

ACTION: Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.


SUMMARY: Notice is hereby given pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, as amended (NEPA), that NOAA Fisheries and FWS (known hereafter as the Services) intend to gather information necessary to
prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) related to anticipated applications from the State of Washington (State) for take authorization or a take limit under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA). Washington State has entered into discussions with the Services in anticipation of submitting an application for take authorization pursuant to the ESA (see Background Section for specific sections) for the Washington State Forest Practices Rules, regulating forest management activities on non-Federal forest lands in the state of Washington.. Both Services have listed threatened and endangered species in the State that are likely to be affected by this action. The species are identified below in SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION and in the ``Covered Resources'' section of Appendix A and Schedule H-1 of the Forests and Fish Report, April 1999, available at http:// www.wa.gov/ Forests and Fish Report, April 1999, available at http:// www.wa.gov/dnr/ htdocs/ forestpractices/ rules/ forestsandfish or by calling one of the contacts listed below in ADDRESSES.
The Services are providing this notice: (1) to advise other agencies and the public of their intent to prepare a DEIS on the State application(s); and (2) to obtain suggestions and information on the scope of issues to include in the DEIS.

DATES: Written scoping comments for the DEIS from all interested parties must be received no later than 5 p.m. Pacific time on April 16, 2003. Interested parties may contact the Services for more information at the addresses and phone numbers listed below. Four public scoping workshops will be held in 2003. Each meeting will begin with a one-hour open house to accommodate informal discussion and questions; the presentation portion of the meeting will begin at 6 p.m.

The meeting dates and times are:
1. March 18, 2003, 5 - 8 p.m., Tacoma, WA.
2. March 20, 2003, 5 - 8 p.m., Port Angeles, WA.
3. March 25, 2003, 5 - 8 p.m., Spokane, WA.
4. March 26, 2003, 5 - 8 p.m., Ellensburg, WA.

ADDRESSES: Written comments and requests for information should be sent to Craig Hansen, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 510 Desmond Drive, S.E., Suite 102, Lacey, WA 98503-1273, telephone (360)753-6046, facsimile (360)753-9518; or Steve Keller, NOAA Fisheries, 510 Desmond Drive, S.E., Suite 103, Lacey, WA 98503-1273, telephone (360)534-9309, facsimile (360)753 9517. Comments and materials received will be
available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the above addresses.

The meeting locations are:
1. Tacoma, Tacoma Sheraton Hotel, 1328 Broadway Plaza, Tacoma, WA.
2. Port Angeles, Red Lion Hotel, 221 North Lincoln, Port Angeles,
3. Spokane, Red Lion Hotel at the Park, 303 W. North River Drive,
Spokane, WA.
4. Ellensburg, Grupe Center at Central Washington University, 400
East 8th Avenue, Ellensburg, WA.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Steve Keller, (360) 534-9309.


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