HMNF ISSUE

NEW TRAIL CONNECTOR PROPOSED, PLEASE COMMENT

The District is proposing that a new snowmobile trail be created allowing snowmobile riders to connect from Trail 320 to existing trails near the lakeshore. This will allow snowmobile riders the opportunity to plan longer trips and connect existing snowmobile trails along Lake Michigan to existing trails to the east.

This connector will connect the West Shore Trail System to the Baldwin Trail System

 Proposal:

As shown on the enclosed map, the proposed trail will start at Trail 320 on South Branch Road in southern Lake County and continue west through private and National Forest System lands. The Trailriders Snowmobile Club, our partner who maintains the trail, has spoken with landowners along the proposed route and received permission to use private property for sections of the trail along Anthony Road. On National Forest System lands the trail will be located on open Forest Roads and closed roads. There will also be .4 of a mile of new trail constructed west of Woods Trail to connect with an open Forest Road. This will involve removing some trees and constructing a trail tread using Forest Service standards for snowmobile trail construction. The total approximate mileage of new trail on National Forest System lands will be 9.1 miles. Gates will be installed and closed in the non-winter months on the closed roads. 

November 12, 2012

Subject:

Appeal Decision for Huron-Manistee National Forests Final Supplemental

Environmental lmpact Statement to the 2006 Land and Resource Management

Plan

To: Regional Forester, R-9

This is my decision.on the appeals of thelinal Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement

(FSEIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) for the Huion-Manistee National Foresi's (H-MNFs)

{SPII to accompany Amendment I to the2006 Land and Resource Management pìan. your

decision for this management di¡ection was subject to appeal under the optÏonal appeal

ptocedures available during the transition between planñing regulations, äs provicieA for at Title

36, Code of Federal Regulations), Part 219, AppenOix e 1:O CÞn Ztq A) to Section2l9.35.My

review was conducted_pursuant to the optionaiäppeal procedures formeriy codified at 36 CFR

217 and now found at http://www.fs.fed.us/appeäis/appeals_rclared.php#ápp_wor.k.

Ô]{"1 of four appeals were submitted under the appeal procedures. The four appeals of the

RoD have been consolidated into one set of issuei an¿ one decision is being renàered. The

issues were sufficiently similar to allow consolidation (optional appeal pro"ãdur.r, section

r 3(b)).

You transmitted the appeal record to the Chief in conformance with the optional appeal

procedures at Section l5(a).

Huron-Manistee National Forests FSEIS to the 2006 Land and Resource

Management Plan

On .Ianuary 27,2012, you signed the ROD supplementing the Land and Resource Management

Plan for the H-MNFs- This FSEIS was prepared to addreis the findings of the Meister pãnel and

the deficiencies that the panel found in the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement and

Forest Plan. The Meister panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued an

opinion inThe Meister case, Meister v. {/..9. Departmiit of Agriculture, No. 07-1300g (8.D.

Mich' Mar. 30, 2009), rev'd 623 F.3d 363 (6rr, Cr. 2010). ThJpanel found deficiencies in the

analysis conducted by the Forest Service under National Enviionmental Policy Act (NEPA) and

National Forest Management Act (lr{FMA) in preparing the 2006 Forest Plan of the H-MNFs

(Meister,623 F.3d ar 380).

You completed the amendment under the direction of the planning regulations at 36 CFR 219, as

published inthe Federal Register on December 18, 2009. Section 219.35 and Appendix B to

Section 219.35 provided you the option of completing this plan amendment using the provisions

of the planning regulations promulgated in 1982. This is the option you chose. Those

1982 planning regulations were last published in the CFR on July l, 2000, and can be found at htplwww.fs.fe¿.usZemc¡nnn .

È'*Ë

Date:

USDA

-

Americats Working Forests - Caring Every Day in Every \ilay pr¡nred on Recycred paper

Regional Forester, R-9

lssues

Four unique appeals were submitted and accepted. They have been consolidated into one set of

issues and found to be sufficiently comprehensive to aliow a meaningful review and response.

Jh9 appeal reference numbers are abbreviated throughout this decisiõn document by the last four

digits ofthe tracking number for the notice of appeal (l.trOA). A listing of the four aþpeals

reviewed in detail and their associated tracking numbers âre as follow-s:

l2-1 3-00-l 149 - Michigan Snowmobile Association

12-13-00-1150 - Mr. Dave Miehlke

l2-13-00-l151 - Mr. Kurr Meisrer

I 2- 13-00- I 152 - Michigan United Conservation Clubs

Allappellants will receive notification of rny decision. This final appeal decision is also

available on the web at http://wr¡'u,.fs.fecl.us/appeals./ or in hard

"opy,

upon request.

This appeal decision is the outcome of a deliberative and extensive review process. Although not

errery contention made in the appeals is cited in the same order or format in this decision, aÍ

appellants' concerns have been considered. My appeal review focused mainly on compliânce of

the EIS and the ROD_ with applicable law, regulafiõn, and policy as cited by áppellanrs or as

determined through the Agency's review of the appeals. I âlso ieviewed isíuei'of fact.

Issues and contentions raised in the appeals allege or pertain to violations of the Council on

Environmental Quality (CEQ), the NEPA, and the NFMA. Several issues of fact were also

raised. All appeal issues raised were addressed and given a direct response. The attached

docurnent contains the Agency responses to the issués raised by the appellants.

Appeal Decision

Based on my review of the appeal record regarding the issues raised on appeal, I am affirming

the Regional Forester's decision. Your deciiion mèets the requirements of appiicable Federal

law, regulations, and policy as well as responding to the findíngs and di¡ection of the Meister

panel.

This decision is the final administrative determination of the Department of Agriculture unless

the Secretary, on his own initiative, elects to review the decision within l5 day"s of receipt

(optional appeal procedures, section l7(d).

vÏ,fir-

JAMES M. PENA

Reviewing Officer for the Chief

Enclosure

USDA

-

cc: All Appellants, Region 9 Appeals, All Intervenors

t* America's Working Forests - Caring Every Day in Every Way Pr¡nled on Ræycted P¿psr Èt

Appeal Responses

Huron-Manistee National Forests Final Supplemental Environmental lmpact Statement to the 2006 Land

and Resource Management Plan

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

Purpose ønd need

Issue:

One appellant contends that by elirninating all the semiprimitive nonmotorized (SPNM) areas on

the Forests to supposedly comply with the Court decision, which had previously upheld the

agency decision regarding the amount of SPNM on the forests, the purpose and need to "remedy

the defrciencies identified by the court" has not been met. (NOA #l l5l, p. 3)

Response:

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations at 40 CFR 1501.2(c) and agency

NEPA regulations at 36 CFR 220.5(e) state that alternatives should meet the purpose and need

and address one or more significant issues related to the proposed action.

Signiflrcant issues are used to formulate the range of alternatives, prescribe mitigation measures,

and analyze environmental effects. In response to public comments submitted in response to the

Notice of Intent (NOI), the Interdisciplinary Team (lDT) grouped comment summary statements

into three signifrcant issues. The first issue was that the management area conditions, including

other public and private infrastructure within and adjacent to the l4 analysis areas, are

inconsistent with the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS) activity, setting, and experience

characteristics (Record of Decision (ROD), p. 27; EIS, chapter l, p. 4).

The ROD provides a lengthy discussion on the history of SPNM areas as well as the ROS

classification system as used and interpreted on the national forests (NFs) (ROD, p. 5-7).

The 6tr' Circuit panel ofjudges in the Meister case found that the existing SPNM areas fail to

meet their current ROS characteristics because "Gun hunting is inconsistent with the 'direction

in forest plans' as set forth in the ROS descriptions of the challenged areas, since those areas are

supposed to present little chance of encountering noise by humans" (ROD, p.l2).

The Forests evaluated the challenged areas for conformance with their ROS characteristics. The

review indicated that the challenged areas failed to meet their cunent ROS designations (ROD,

p.12). The responsible official determined that an amendment to the 2006 Forest Plan was

necessary to align the ROS with the settings. (ROD, p. 15). In responding to the Meister panel

finding that SPNM areas did not meet ROS characteristics and by evaluating the areas through a

new ROS analysis it was determined that the Forests do not have any areas that meet the SPNM

characteristics and the l4 challenged areas were designated with a new classification.

In responding to the Meister panel direction as well as the significant issue developed through

public input, the Forests determined that eliminating SPNM brings the Forests into compliance

with the ROS classification, and I find that there is no violation of law, regulation, or policy as it

pertains to consistency with the amendment's purpose and need.

Appeal Responses

Huron-Manistee National Forests Final Supplemental Environmental lmpact Statement to the 2006 Land

and Resource Management Plan

Alternøtìve Títle

Issue:

One appellant contends that the stated purpose of "less roaded" experience in Alternative 4's title

makes no sense since the total miles of roads remains the same in all four of the supplemental

environmental impact statement (SEIS) altematives (NOA #l | 49, p. 2).

Response:

CEQ regulations at 40 CFR l50l .2(c) as well as regulations at 36 CFR 220.5(e) state that

altematives should meet the purpose and need and address one or more significant issues related

to the proposed action. The FSEIS identifies four altematives for analysis including the no action

altemative. In addition, six alternatives were considered anci eliminated frorn detailed study

(FSEIS, p. 9; ROD, p.27).

Adding a title to an alternative should assist the reader in identifying differences between the

altematives. The title of alternative 4,rclher than clarifying, has resulted in some confusion

caused by the phrase "less roaded recreation experience." On page l7 of the ROD, the

responsible official clarifies and explains what was meant by this phrase. The term refers to a

less-roaded opportunity relative to the remainder of the Huron-Manistee National Forests. The

overall objective for the new 8.4 management areas would remain: "Close all Forest Service

roads to public motorized vehicles except for emergency and adrninistrative use."

While the title of this alternative is not the clearest nor does it assist in showing differences

between alternatives, there is no need to change or amend the title of alternative 4 because the

purpose of the alternative is clearly explained by the responsible official. I find that there is no

violation of law, regulation, or policy.

Range of Alternatíves

Issue:

One appellant contends that there was not an alternative that would manage the Forests in

accordance with the ROS. The closest alternative was altemative l0 that provided quiet areas

plus buffers and was eliminated from detailed study (NOA # I l5 I , p. 6).

Response:

Regulation found at 36 CFR 220.5(e) states that the EIS shall document the examination of

reasonable alternatives to the proposed action. An alternative should meet the purpose and need

and address one or more significant issues related to the proposed action. In addition, Forest

Service Handbook (FSH) 1909.15, chapter 10, states that there is not a specific number of

alternatives required or prescribed. Responsible officials are to ensure that the range of

altematives does not prematurely foreclose options that might protect, restore, and enhance the

environment. Reasonable alternatives to the proposed action should fulfill the purpose and need

and address unresolved conflicts related to the proposed action.

One of the three significant issues identified by the IDT was that the cunent management area

conditions, including other public and private infrastructure within and adjacent to the l4

analysis areas, are inconsistent with the ROS activity, setting, and experience characteristics

Appeal Responses

Huron-Manistee National Forests Final Supplemental Environmental lmpact Statement to the 2006 Land

and Resource Management Plan

(ROD, p. 27; FSEIS, p.4). This significant issue was developed in response to public comment.

The cunent ROS does not respond to this signifîcant issue, which led to the development of the

alternatives considered and evaluated in detail that do respond to the significant issue, but to

varying degrees. I find that there is no violation of law, regulation, or policy relative to this

contention.

A lternative development

Issue:

One appellant contends that the decision does not comply with the NEPA or CEQ regulations

(40 CFR 1508.22(a)) because the NOI did not disclose alternatives that eliminated the SPNM

areas or change the ROS categories of the Wildemess and SPNM areas as possible alternatives.

(NOA #l l5l ,p.4-5).

Response:

The CEQ regulations at section 1508.22(a) state the notice shall briefly describe the proposed

action and possible alternatives.

The NOI was published in the Federal Register on Decemb er 28,2010, (7 5 FR 8l 561 ; Project

Record p. 435, doc #26). The publication includes the proposed action and has a section titled

"possible altematives" that discusses the No Action and Modified Closure alternatives as well as

including a paragraph stating other reasonable altematives may be developed to respond to issues

raised during public participation. At the time of the NOI, the Agency disclosed a reasonable list

of possible alternatives, and I fînd that there is no violation of regulation at 40 CFR 1508.22(a).

Cumulative Effects

Issue:

One appellant contends the Agency did not do enough in discussing duplication of hunting

opportunities with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). The appellant

further contends the conclusion that there were no potential opportunities to reduce duplication is

not supported by the facts. (NOA # I l5 I , p. 8, l0).

Response:

The appellant contends there was insuffîcient coordination with the MDNR. The Court directed

the Agency to coordinate its recreational planning with that of the State of Michigan with the aim

of reducing "duplication in meeting recreation demands" with respect to gun hunting and

snowmobiling.

The 2010 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and the ROD clearly state the MDNR will

collaborate with the Forest Service on hunting and snowmobiling needs (20110221_DNR MOU,

p.2; ROD, p. 9). Two individuals from the MDNR are members of the IDT that prepared the

document (FSEIS, p.193). The ROD and the Supply and Demand Analysis contain a discussion

on the process used by the Forest Service and the MDNR in reviewing activities and looking for

any duplication of those activities. The Forest Service conducted a series of meetings with the

MDNR to discuss any feasible opportunities to reduce the duplication of recrçation opportunities

provided for those visitors who enjoy snowrnobiling and hunting experiences in the H-MNFs'

Appeal Responses

Huron-Manistee National Forests Final Supplemental Environmental lmpact Statement to the 2006 Land

and Resource Management Plan

Primitive and SPNM Areas. As part of this process, the agencies reviewed ROS standards,

current and projected demand for outdoor recreation experiences in these areas, the recreation

opportunities provided in Michigan, and past history of cooperative planning efforts.

In addition, the FSEIS (FSEIS, p.136) and Supply and Demand Analysis (Supply and Demand

Analysis, p.4) both identif, use of the Michigan State Cornprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan

(MSCORP) in determining supply and demand.

I find that there was adequate documentation that the Agency and MDNR collaborated and

reviewed potential opportunities to reduce duplication in meeting demands for recreation

opportunities on National Forest Systern lands and State lands. I find that there is no violation of

law, regulation, or policy and the direction of the Couft has been met.

Supply and Demønd Analysis

Issue:

One appellant contends the Supply and Demand analysis used inconect current demand

numbers, incorrect projections, considered the wrong supply, and failed to consider private land

leading to the erroneous conclusion that the demand for hunting was increasing. (NOA #l l5l , p.

9-10). The same appellant contends the Supply and Demand analysis used incorrect projections

that overestirnate the demand for snowmobiling (NOA #l 151, p. I I ) and also contends an

inadequate supply analysis was conducted when assessing the potential for duplication of

snowmobiling opportunities (NOA #l l5l, p. I l).

Response:

The Court stated that the Agency's estimate of snowmobile and cross-country visitors is entirely

arbitrary and does not meet the requirement of 36 CFR 2 12.21(a)(2) that states that Forest

planning shall identifu recreational preferences of user groups and the settings needed to provide

quality recreation opportunities. The Recreation Supply and Demand Analysis that was

completed as part of this FSEIS (ROD, p.8) identi$, the sources of information as MSCORP, the

USFS National Visitor Use Monitoring Survey, and Outdoor Recreation for 2l't Century

America (Supply and Demand Analysis, p.3). The document in its entirefy describes the

limitations of the data and how those limitations are being addressed as required under 40 CFR

1502.22(b). The document provides information on the methodology used to develop projections

for hunting and snowmobiling (Survey and Demand Analysis, pp.2l-23). Lastly, the document

identifres what steps were taken in order to account for duplication of recreation opportunities

(Supply and Demand Analysis, pp. 66-67) and specifrcally states "... meet the current and

foreseeable demand for these recreation experiences without providing unnecessary duplication

of opportunities on State and National Forest System lands." (Supply and Demand Analysis,

p.67).

I find the Supply and Demand Analysis is sound and it meets the intent of 36 CFR 212.21(a)(2),

and there is no violation of law, regulation, or policy relative to this contention.

Appeal Responses

Huron-Manistee National Forests Final Supplemental Environmental lmpact Statement to the 2006 Land

and Resource Management Plan

Issue:

One appellant contends the Supply and Demand analysis fails to identify the supply of lands on

which participants in an activity are afforded a quality recreation opportunity. It is contended the

Forest Service must perform a more specific study to identifu the supply of lands that afford a

quality recreation opportunity to comply with 36 CFR 219.21(a)(2) and the Court's opinion

(NOA #l l5l ,p.12).

Response:

The Court stated that the Agency's estimate of snowmobile and cross-country visitors is entirely

arbitrary and does not meet the requirement of 36 CFR2l2.2l (a)(2) that states that Forest

planning shall identify recreational preferences of user groups and the settings needed to provide

quality recreation opportunities.

The Supply and Demand Analysis clearly discloses the recreational preferences of user groups in

the FSEIS beginning on page 102. Three data sources were used in the analysis: the 2008-12

Michigan State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (MSCORP);the 2007 National Visitor

Use Monitoring (NVUM) Study; and the Outdoor Recreation for 2lst Century America. The

market area for the purposes of the Supply and Demand Analysis is the State of Michigan.

The appellant contends the analysis failed to identify the supply of lands for quality recreation

opportunity. The supply and demand analysis document, in the definition of supply and demand,

states that it will focus on opportunities for quality recreation and that it will use the ROS as the

framework for defining quality recreation opportunity (Supply and Demand Analysis, p.2).

Details about ROS are provided that clariff how ROS is developed and support its use as

identifying quality recreation opportunities (Supply and Demand Analysis, pp.29-30,35-38).

Having developed a definition of quality recreation opportunities, the document then

demonstrates the supply available under that definition, including both public and private entities

(Supply and Demand Analysis, pp38-4a). The document then further identif,res opportunities

specifically associated with Primitive and Semi-primitive Non-motorized areas.

I find the Forests did not fail to identiff the recreational preferences of user groups or a supply of

lands on which quality recreation opportunities are afforded. I find that the Forests complied

with 36 CFR 219.21(aX2) as wellas the Court's direction and there is no violation of law,

regulation, or policy.

Decísion rationøle

Issue:

One appellant contends that the conclusion that alternative 3 does not address significant issue 2

(the H-MNFs should provide opportunities for quiet recreation experiences) is incorrect because

alternative 4 does no better in addressing the significant issue within Management Area (MA)

8.4 as firearm hunting and snowmobiling would still be allowed to continue and would still be

sources of noise in areas outside of agency control (NOA # 1152, p.2).

Appeal Responses

Huron-Manistee National Forests FinalSupplemental Environmental lmpact Statement to the 2006 Land

and Resource Management Plan

Response:

The CEQ regulations provide the following guidance on evaluating alternatives in an EIS:

...present the environmental impacts of the proposal and the alternatives in comparative

form, thus sharply defining the issues and providing a clear basis for choice among options

by the decision maker and the public (40 CFR 1502.14), "CEQ's NEPA 40 most asked

questions" states that the "alternatives" section is the heart of the EIS. This section rigorously

explores and objectively evaluates all reasonable alternatives including the proposed action

(section 1502.14).lt should include relevant comparisons on environmental and other grounds.

The "environmental consequences" section of the EIS discusses the specific environmental

impacts or effects of each of the alternatives including the proposed action (section 1502. l6). In

order to avoid duplication between these two sections, most of the "altematives" section should

be devoted to describing and comparing the alternatives. Discussion of the environmental

impacts of these alternatives should be limited to a concise descriptive summary of such impacts

in a comparative form, including charts or tables, thus sharply defining the issues and providing

a clear basis for choice among options (section 1502.14). The "environmental consequences"

section should be devoted largely to a scientifrc analysis of the direct and indirect environmental

effects of the proposed action and of each of the alternatives. It forms the analytic basis for the

concise comparison in the "alternatives" section.

Significant issue 2 states that the Forests should provide opportunities for quiet recreation

experiences. This issue addresses the desire of some visitors for the opportunity to recreate in an

environment with the high probability of isolation from the sounds of human activity. (ROD,

p. 27; FSEIS, p.4).

When comparing alternatives Table A-l Comparison of Alternatives by Area of Appendix A -

Analysis Support Documentation (FSEIS, p. 313) firearm hunting ban and snowmobile trail

closure categories are treated the same under both alternatives 3 and 4.

I acknowledge that there is no difference between alternatives 3 and 4 in regards to allowing

fireann hunting and snowmobiling to continue. In addition, the only clear difference between

alternativcs 3 and 4 is road densities and the standards and guidelines for the management of

roads. I find that the document could have done a better job of meeting the requirement of 40

CFR 1502.14 in presenting the alternatives in comparative form and providing for a clear basis

for choice among the alternatives. However, there is enough of a difference displayed and

discussed to support alternative 4 as the selected alternative, and I find that there is no violation

of law, regulation, or policy relative to this contention.

Issue:

One appellant contends the decision to allow gun hunting ignores the Agency's planning rules

adopted pursuant to the NFMA, and is in direct violation of the holding of the Court in regards to

the desire of the public for a quiet recreation experience and the sources of noise. In addition, the

appellant contends wilderness will be managed under the ROS of SPNM; and therefore, gun

hunting must be prohibited in the wilderness at the very least because the Forest Service has no

discretion to do anything else (NOA #l l5l ,p.7).

Appeal Responses

Huron-Manistee National Forests Final Supplemental Environmental lmpact Statement to the 2006 Land

and Resource Management Plan

Response:

The appellant does not provide specific exarnples of how the Agency is ignoring the NFMA by

allowing gun hunting. The ROD addresses the discretion the agency has under different laws in

permitting or limiting gun hunting (ROD, p.20 - 23). The analysis contained in the FSEIS does

not indicate a need for a prohibition or ban of gun hunting.

The ROS Users Guides for 1982 and 1986 identifies any type of hunting as an acceptable activity

within ROS classifications of Primitive and SPNM. The analysis in chapter 3 of the FSEIS states

that prohibiting gun hunting in Primitive and SPNM and areas will not ensure that visitors would

experience little chance of encountering noise by humans (ROD, p. 22).1 find that there is no

violation of law, regulation, or policy relative to the decision to allow gun hunting.

Fact

Issue:

One appellant contends the Agency and MDNR did not consider relevant maps that show dozens

of loops that are sources of potential duplication (NOA #l l5l, p. I l).

Response:

The appellant contends that by having looked at the mapping, duplicate opportunities for

snowmobiling would have been identified. There is sufficient documentation throughout the

project record that the Forests did consider duplicate snowmobile routes. The ROD describes the

coordination undertaken with the MDNR to consider duplication in meeting demand (ROD, p.9).

It goes on further to state the type of information considered specifìcally with regards to

snowmobiling "... included trail history, trail system connectivity, resource impacts, public

safety, area management direction, use levels and trail relocation options" (ROD, p. I 1). Other

considerations included trails that "offer unique recreational opportunity by providing

connectivity within larger trail systems" (ROD, p.l l). In addition, the Supply and Demand

Analysis provides references to examining the supply of opportunities (Supply and Demand

Analysis, pp.66-67),as well as the MOU between the USFS and the MDNR clearly defines an

outcome as being consideration of duplicate opportunities (20110221_DNR MOU, p.2).

In regards to the specific maps mentioned, the appellant corectly notes that there is a small

inclusion of snowmobile routes within a mile offset from the White River Area (FSEIS,

map A-39) that are located on Forest Service roads open to highway legal vehicles yearlong.

This route is not located within the White River Area, but is shown as within a l-mile adjacent to

the area.

I find that the analysis supports the fact that the Agency worked in cooperation with the MDNR,

and that no feasible opportunities were identified to reduce duplication of recreation

opportunities in any areas without diminishing the variety and quality of multiple-use recreation ' opportunities provided throughout the State.

Appeal Responses

Huron-Manistee National Forests Final Supplemental Environmental lmpact Statement to the 2006 Land

and Resource Management Plan

National Forest Management Act (NFMA)

Special Area s C las síJic atío n

Issue:

Appellants contend the use of management area 8.4 - Special Areas in alternative 4 does not tier

to a common ROS classiflrcation. The appellants assert that the term "Special Areas" does not

generally imply to the public that motorized uses, development, and "noise" from a variety of

sources would be expected on lands labeled as "special." It is also contended that using this

classification increases Special Areas to 5 percent of the Forests and improperly dilutes the intent

of true specialness and special area management (NOA #1149,p. l-2).

Response:

There are no national or regional regulations, direction, or guidance on defining or labeling

management areas. Management area designations are specific to each Forest and do not cross

Forest boundaries.

Choosing to classify I I of the l4 areas in question as SpecialAreas because the areas provide a

more secluded and less roaded recreational experience is within the Forests' prerogative and

authorities; and I find that there is no violation of law, regulation, or policy.

Issue:

One appellant contends the FSEIS confirms that the Agency erred in 2006 in classifying these

lands as SPNM. It is also contended that the purpose and intent of semiprimitive, nonmotorized

areas should not be diluted or weakened simply to "make areas fît" uniformed public desires

where qualifying criteria is lacking or entirely absent (NOA #1149,p.3).

Response:

On page l5 of the ROD, the responsible official acknowledges that the current management area

designations of SPNM are inconsistent with the settings revealed in the 201I ROS inventories

and that those settings are unlikely to change. The responsible official goes on to say that an

amendment to the 2006 Forest Plan is necessary to align the ROS with the settings (ROD,

p.5-7, l5). In addition, there is a lengthy discussion on the history of the SPNM ROS

classification that dates back to 1986 and was reviewed again in2006 when no changes were

made to the classification.

I find that in regards to doing a new ROS analysis and properly aligning the ROS with the

settings the responsible official took appropriate actions and there is no violation of law,

regulation, or policy relative to this reclassification.

Standørds and Guìdelínes

Issue:

One appellant contends that the specific standards, guidelines, and objectives outlined for

MA 8.4 in Appendix B of the FSEIS fails to clearly state whether snowmobiling is or will

continue to be an appropriate use (NOA #1149,p.2).

Appeal Responses

Huron-Manistee National Forests Final Supplemental Environmental lmpact Statement to the 2006 Land

and Resource Management Plan

Response:

There are no requirements for what should be included or addressed in standards, guidelines, and

objectives for management areas. The Forests have chosen to not specifically address

snowmobiling in the standards, guidelines, and objectives for MA 8.4. However, it has been

clearly discussed in the ROD how snowmobiling will be managed on the Forests on pages 20

through 24.|n addition, in Appendix B - Table B-l - FSEIS Alternatives by Issues by Project

Area p. 337 - the table shows by altemative the project areas where snowmobile trails are closed

or allowed.

I f,rnd that there is no violation of law, regulation, or policy relative to this contention.

Travel Managentenl

Issue:

One appellant contends the Travel Management Rule should be incorporated into this FSEIS in

order to provide clear and concise expectations for snowmobile use on the Forests (NOA # I 150,

p. 5). The same appellant contends further analysis, clarification, and consideration should be

provided for the restriction of use of off-road vehicles including snowmobiles as stated in

outdated regulations. Forest special orders referenced included orders dated 1976,1991,1992,

and2002 (NOA #l150, p. 3).

Response:

The Forests are implementing the national direction outlined in the Agency's Travel

Management regulation (36 CFR 212.51). The Forests provide Motorized Vehicle Use Maps

(MVUM) as directed by the Travel Management Rule (December 9,2005) showing roads and

motorized trails that are open to public motorized travel. Routes not shown on the MVUM are

not open to public motor vehicle travel. This MVUM is updated annually to conect mapping

enors and update travel management decisions on the Forests transportation system (FSEIS,

chapter 3, p. I l5).

Private landowners would continue to have legal access across National Forest Systern (NFS)

lands as provided for under the Alaska National Interests and Land Conservation Act of 1980.

The direction in the Motorized Travel Management Rule, effective December 9,2005, would

continue to be implemented (FSEIS, Ch. 3, p.166, Effects on Roads).

In regards to snowmobiling, the Agency has the authority to regulate the use of all motorized

vehicles on NFS lands. Motorized use is prohibited or restricted in many areas of the National

Forests. Travel management regulations state: "Use by over-snow vehicles on National Forest

System roads and National Forest System trails and in areas on National Forest System lands

rnay be allowed, restricted or prohibited." (36 CFR section 212.81).

NFS lands in the H-MNFs have been closed to snowmobiling, except on designated trails, since

the 1986 Forest Plan was approved. Restricting motorized travel to designated roads, trails, and

areas was the method chosen by the Forest Service to reduce potential user conflict with nonmotorized

users (ROD, p. 20).

Appeal Responses

Huron-Manistee National Forests Final Supplemental Environmental lmpact Statement to the 2006 Land

and Resource Management Plan

The Travel Management Rule (70 Fed. Reg. 68,264 (Nov. 9,2005) (36 CFR Parts2l2,25l,

26l,and 295) revised regulations regarding travel management on NFS lands to clariff policy

related to motor vehicle use including off-highway vehicles. This regulation was used as a

guiding statute in the preparation of this FSEIS. The regulation prohibits the use of motor

vehicles off the designated system or use inconsistent with those designations once designations

are published on a MVUM (ROD, Consistency with Other National Policies, Laws and

Authorities, p. 33).

I find the Forests did incorporate the National Travel Management Rule in this analysis and that

the analysis and decision is clearly discussed and displayed on maps and in tables throughout the

document where and when off-road vehicles, including snowmobiles, are allowed. I find that

there is no violation of this regulation or policy associated with its use.

10

May 21, 2012

USDA Forest Service

Ecosystem Management Coordination

1400 Independence Ave., SW

Mailstop Code 1104

Washington, DC 20250-1104

RE: Notice of Appeal – Huron-Mansitee National Forests Record of Decision signed on January 27, 2012 by Regional Forester Charles L. Myers for the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the 2006 Land and Resource Management Plan

Chief of the Forest Service:

This Notice of Appeal is filed on behalf of the Michigan Snowmobile Association (MSA), 4543 S. Division Ave., Wyoming, MI 49548 (phone 616-361-2285) regarding the Huron-Manistee National Forests Record of Decision (ROD) which was signed on January 27, 2012 by Regional Forester Charles L. Myers for the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) for the 2006 Huron-Manistee National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan. MSA is filing this Notice of Appeal in accordance with optional appeal procedures available during the Planning Rule transition period, as outlined in Section 3.

It is MSA’s position that Regional Forester Myers erred when he picked Alternative 4 as the Selected Alternative for this ROD. While Alternative 4 purportedly allows all existing snowmobiling access to continue, we question whether this will, in fact, prove to be true. Alternative 3 should have been selected since it would better ensure long-term snowmobiling access while also providing clearer expectations for future management of forest resources. MSA requests that the Chief overturn the selection of Alternative 4 and replace it with Alternative 3 for the following reasons:

Specifically, Semi-Primitive Motorized and Roaded Natural classifications, as used for Alternative 3, tier to common ROS classifications while the Special Places classification as outlined in the SEIS for Alternative 4 does not. The selection of Alternative 4, and the introduction of the term Special Places into the Forest’s management classifications, unnecessarily proliferates versus resolves issues connected to the SEIS.

MSA has great concern that the term ‘Special Places’ does not generally imply to the public that motorized uses, development, and ‘noise’ from a wide variety of existing man-made sources would be expected on public lands labeled as ‘special.’ More importantly, MSA does not believe motorized uses will be accepted or tolerated in ‘special places’ over the long term – which will only lead to prolonging debate over appropriate uses and not properly and fully address the existing issues. On the other hand, the Semi-Primitive Motorized and Roaded Natural classifications prescribed by Alternative 3 would much more clearly delineate management intent.

The word ’special’ should be used only to describe something that is truly significant. The SEIS outlined in Appendix B that the ‘Purpose’ of existing M.A. 8.4 (Special Places) areas is to “protect areas that have scientific, biological, geological, historical, social or recreational characteristics of local, regional or national significance.” Reality is that there is nothing significantly special about any of the areas reclassified from SPNM to M.A. 8.4 under Selected Alternative 4. It is questionable why the purpose of ‘protect’ should be applied to an issue regarding recreational ‘uses.’ The three previously existing Special Areas on these forests include the Newaygo Prairie Ecological Study Area, Lumberman’s Monument, and the Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary. As their names imply – Ecological Area, Monument, and Sanctuary – there is truly something special about each of these places. Adding SPNM areas through Alternative 4 to the 8.4 classification increases the total Special Places prescription to about 5 percent of the forests; we believe this improperly dilutes the intent of true specialness and special area management.

MSA’s concern about Alternative 4 extends to its title: Change Management Area Designation to Special Areas (M.A. 8.4) and Manage For A Less Roaded Recreation Experience. The stated focus of ‘less roaded’ experience in Alternative 4’s title makes no sense since the total miles of ‘roads’ remained constant (nothing added, nothing eliminated – 80.1 total miles across the board) throughout all four of the SEIS alternatives (Table 6, page 16). Consequently nothing about Selected Alternative 4, in actuality, will be ‘less roaded.’

MSA’s opposition to Alternative 4 also stems from Appendix B of the SEIS – Management Area Changes, and the specific Objectives, Standards and Guidelines outlined for M.A. 8.4 (Special Places) areas which fail to clearly outline that snowmobiling is/will continue to be appropriate:

  • In Table B-15 on page 292, absolutely none of the M.A. 8.4 Objectives listed for the individual areas include ‘providing snowmobiling’ even though snowmobile trails, supposedly, would continue to be allowed in the Au Sable, Briar Hills, Bowman Lake, Condon Lakes, and White River areas. While ‘providing snowmobiling’ is not mentioned, specific Objectives for individual areas where snowmobiling does occur state the following: Au Sable – “provide canoeing, fishing, hunting, horseback riding and camping; Briar Hills – “provide opportunities for mushroom picking, hunting, cross-country-skiing and dispersed camping; consider development of a nonmotorized trails system;” Bowman Lake – “provide hiking and cross-country ski trails; develop 3 to 5 miles of nonmotorized trail;” Condon Lakes – “provide opportunities for mushroom and berry picking, hunting, fishing and dispersed camping;” and White River – “provide primitive canoeing, fishing and camping areas; develop a nonmotorized trail system.” Needless to say, such language – and the absence of any mention of snowmobiling – will not resolve continued long-term debate over the appropriateness of snowmobile trails, all which are located on open roadways under various jurisdictions within these areas.
  • Under Goals and Objectives for M.A. 8.4 areas on page 293, one of the bullet points states: “Provides for recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, viewing scenery, and water-based recreational activities.” While snowmobiling supposedly is intended to be allowed, there is no mention of it.
  • Under Desired Future Condition for M.A. 8.4 areas on page 293, it states “Nonmotorized use is emphasized.”
  • Under Standards and Guidelines – Recreation for M.A. 8.4 areas on pages 294-295: there is no mention of allowing snowmobiles or motorized trails of any sort (winter or summer).
  • Under M.A. 8.4 areas Standards and Guidelines – Wildlife (III) less roaded areas - White River (C. 2), on page 297: it specifically states that “all forest service roads will be closed to public motorized vehicle use except those users authorized under easement or permit.” This would not be acceptable since this area hosts a snowmobile trail.

The SEIS analysis confirmed without doubt that the Forest Service erred when originally classifying these lands as SPNM in 2006. The root of those errors was in the Forests trying to please publics who desired more semi-primitive nonmotorized areas in the Midwest – which is unrealistic given historic uses of the lands in question. The purpose and intent of semi-primitive nonmotorized areas should not be diluted or weakened simply to ‘make areas fit’ uninformed public desires where qualifying criterion is lacking or entirely absent. While Alternative 4 attempts to start fixing these past land classification mistakes, it does not go far enough to clearly provide long-term resolution. Consequently we request that you reclassify the affected areas as SPM and Roaded Natural as proposed in Alternative 3.

Respectfully submitted by,

 

Bill Manson, Executive Director
Michigan Snowmobile Association

4543 S. Division Avenue

Wyoming, MI 49548

616-361-2285

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Snowmobilers' Rights Protected in Huron-Manistee

GRAND RAPIDS, MI -- January 31, 2012

Contact: Bill Manson-616-301-2743

On September 29, 2010, Kurt Meister, a southeast Michigan attorney won a case against the USDA Forest Service claiming that his right to enjoy public lands in Michigan were being infringed upon by noisy firearms hunters and folks using snowmobiles on designated trails. His solution? Ban guns and snowmobiles on almost 70,000 acres of the Huron-Manistee National Forest.

Finally the Record of Decision for the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) and Amendment 1 to the 2006 Land and Resource Management Plan for the Huron-Manistee National Forests was signed by the Regional Forester, Charles L. Myers, January 27, 2012.

THE MICHIGAN SNOWMOBILE ASSOCIATION, a non-profit group that has served as Michigan's voice for snowmobilers in Michigan since 1982, quickly organized a response fueled by sound science-based management principles and its members who believe strongly in the rights of Michigan's citizens to snowmobile on public lands.

The USFWS adopted "Alternative 4" which maintains the rights of snowmobilers will be preserved on designated trails and the hunters to hunt in all areas as were allowed previously. While this was not MSA's choice (we wanted alternative #3) Alternative #4 will allow the same use that snowmobilers enjoyed over the past 6 years. What alternative #4 will do by not designating the Semi Primitive Non Motorized (SPNM) areas to Semi Primitive Motorized (SPM) areas, that may leave the door open to further lawsuits.

The USFS ruling was not without some potential problems however. The agency also announced that it will retain the objective in several areas in the Huron-Manistee to provide for a “less-roaded opportunity” relative to the rest of the forest. Any road closures would still have to go through analysis and public comment before a site-specific decision would be made.

We understand the Forest Service's desire to eliminate some roads that either were not intended to be permanent or were illegally created, but there must be a process in place to determine which roads will be closed so that adequate access is maintained. There is a fine line between creating a more solitary experience for those who are seeking that and shutting the public out of the land that they own.

We will be watching this process very closely to ensure that snowmobilers are considered in those decisions.

While the first battle in this war has been won thanks to the efforts of MSA and its members and partners, it is not yet over. The decision is still subject to appeals and MSA will be actively monitoring the situation to ensure the final outcome is the best one for Michigan's snowmobilers.

Please feel free to forward this on to your snowmobile friends, and for further updates get you e mail address to MSA This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Snowmobile trails in Michigan are open from December 1st through March 31st.
The Michigan Snowmobile Association is a volunteer organization dedicated to the
improvement of the sport of snowmobiling in Michigan.