Decision Memo Ice Age Trail Improvement (CRAC 37)

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1 Decision Memo Ice Age Trail Improvement (CRAC 37) U.S. Forest Service Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Medford-Park Falls Ranger District Taylor County, Wisconsin T32N, R2W, Town of Grover, Section 23 BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR ACTION See the attached vicinity and project maps for location information. In October 1980, Federal legislation authorized the establishment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail (Ice Age NST) as a component of the National Trails System. It is one of only eleven trails in the United States authorized by Congress to be designated a National Scenic Trail. The Ice Age NST extends for more than 1,000 miles across the State of Wisconsin, winding through a myriad of ecosystems and political jurisdictions, including a portion within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Taylor County. Its design, construction and maintenance are carried out through a joint effort between National Park Service, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Ice Age Trail Alliance, the Forest Service, plus an army of dedicated volunteers and other private organizations throughout 31 counties in Wisconsin. Understandably, the level of trail building experience and user opportunities have often differed amongst those involved. With the increasing popularity of the Ice Age NST, there is greater public expectation of a superlative hiking experience on this unique National Scenic Trail. Human-made trail structures are necessary to meet the demands of various challenging situations. According to the publication Ice Age National Scenic Trail A Handbook for Trail Designs, Construction and maintenance the decision to build a trail structure should be in response to user safety and environmental protection issues not user convenience issues. Currently, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail north of Hay Meadow Road (FR 572) has numerous existing boardwalk and puncheon sections that are ineffective and unsafe within the 1.25 miles of this project proposal. In order to re-establish the trail tread and provide a safe user experience along this section of trail, the Forest Service (Ice Age Trail Alliance submission) is proposing to replace existing boardwalk/puncheon structures, upgrade signage, and improve overall trail tread within the existing trail corridor. Prior to proposal development, alternative locations for this section of trail were considered; however, they were determined to be unnecessary if adequate upgrades to the trail surface were provided. The existing trail corridor with the proposed upgrades will provide long term trail and structure sustainability along with improved user safety and resource protection. A decision and vicinity map are included at the end of this document for reference. DECISION I have decided to maintain/upgrade a portion of the Ice Age NST as follows: Replace/construct boardwalk, puncheon and clearspan bridge structures, upgrade signage, and improve overall trail tread along the 1.25 mile portion of the Ice Age NST north of Hay Meadow Road, FR572. See the attached Vicinity and Project Maps for location of Page 1 of 7

2 these trail improvements. Actions included in this decision are: o Clearing existing trail corridor, (as needed) from interfering/overhanging trees, limbs, and other obstructions. o Constructing up to 530 feet of boardwalk and a 20 foot clearspan bridge with boardwalk approaches to further aid foot-traffic along this portion of trail. o Upgrading trail drainage features. o Upgrading signage. Design measures for resource protection included with this decision are: o The project area travels adjacent to some wet areas. The trail should be surveyed for heritage resources (walked and shovel tested along any wetland edges if extant). During construction, if a site is located, cease construction in the area of the find and begin again when the area is cleared for archaeology. o The 572 ROW timber sale is within this project area. The timber included in this sale is along the corridor of 572 and is marked in blue paint. All these trees have been paid for and should not be disturbed. o There is mullein and bull thistle south of the planned trail improvement, across Hay Meadow Rd (FR 572). In order to prevent the spread of seeds, no boards or any other equipment or supplies for the project should be placed within the infestation. o Wetlands are present in the project area, however adverse impacts would not occur from the proposed projects. All fill and old puncheon material should be disposed of on upland locations. After consultation with the Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE) it was determined that a 404 permit would not be required for the proposed activities; however, they recommended applying for a permit and getting that determination in writing. Construction would minimize the impact on surface water flow, support vegetative growth due to the minimal footprint, and encourage a prolonged life of the trail. This decision would also improve overall trail tread within the existing trail corridor by upgrading trail drainage features. REASONS FOR CATEGORICALLY EXCLUDING THIS ACTION The Forest Service has identified typical classes of actions that normally do not require documentation in an environmental impact statement (EIS) or environmental assessment (EA) per 40 CFR (b) (2). These types of actions are called categorical exclusions. An action may be categorically excluded from documentation in an EIS or an EA only if that action falls within one of the identified categories (36 CFR (d) and (e)) and when there are no extraordinary circumstances (36 CFR (b)). Upon review of the proposal I have determined that no extraordinary circumstances, as defined in 36 CFR (b), exist. Based upon experience with similar types of projects, these projects are considered minor in context and intensity. This action is categorically excluded from documentation in an environment assessment or environmental impact statement because: Page 2 of 7

3 It falls within a category description which does not require documentation in an EA or EIS. The applicable category of action is identified as 36 CFR 220.6(e): Construction and reconstruction of trails. Examples include but are not limited to: Constructing or reconstructing a trail to a scenic overlook and Reconstructing an existing trail to allow use by handicapped individuals. I also find that there are no extraordinary circumstances that would warrant further analysis and documentation in an EA or EIS. I took into account resource conditions identified in 36 CFR (b): Federally listed threatened or endangered species or designated critical habitat, species proposed for Federal listing or proposed critical habitat, or Forest Service sensitive species will not be adversely affected by this action (CE checklist). Flood plains, wetlands, or municipal watersheds would not be adversely affected. There are no municipal watersheds on the Medford-Park Falls District and no floodplains will be affected by this project (CE checklist). This action does not take place in Congressionally designated areas such as Wilderness, Wilderness Study Areas, or National Recreation Areas (Forest Plan FEIS 3-199, 3-201). The project location is not within or near Congressionally designated areas (CE checklist). The trail improvements are not within or adjacent to an Inventoried Roadless Area (Forest Plan FEIS Appendix C and 2000 Roadless Area Conservation Rule). The trail location is not within or adjacent to Research Natural Areas or proposed areas (Forest Plan FEIS Appendix N). American Indian and Alaska Native religious or cultural sites will not be affected by these actions(ce Checklist). Archaeological sites or historic properties or areas would not be affected by these actions (CE Checklist). PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT Scoping of the project included external contacts with: Tim Malzhan, Ice Age Trail Alliance (IATA) and Buzz Meyer, Volunteer Contact High Point Chapter IATA. In addition, various Forest Service personnel were contacted and provided information as documented in the project file. A description of the project was also posted in the Chequamegon-Nicolet Schedule of Proposed Actions in January 2013 and a project page also is posted to the World Wide Web. A thirty day notice and comment period was published in the Medford Star News and Park Falls Herald on December 20, No comments were received during this comment period. FINDINGS REQUIRED BY OTHER LAWS AND REGULATIONS FOREST PLAN CONSISTENCY (NATIONAL FOREST MANAGEMENT ACT) This decision is consistent with the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest Land Management Plan. The project was designed in conformance with Forest Plan Goals: Page 3 of 7

4 Goal 2.1 Maintain or enhance the diversity and quality of recreation experiences.. Goal 3.1 Build and maintain safe, efficient, and effective infrastructure that supports public and administrative uses.. Goal 3.3b Through partnerships, encourage, establish, and sustain a diverse and wellbalanced range of recreational services.. The project was also designed to meet the following Forest Plan Standards & Guidelines: Manage and maintain the North Country and Ice Age Trails primarily for hiking and backpacking. Follow guidelines in the publication North Country National Scenic Trail A Handbook for Trail Design, Construction, and Maintenance when maintaining or constructing additional hiking trails or support structures. CLEAN WATER ACT, AS AMENDED 1977 The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, as amended, is commonly referred to as the Clean Water Act. Under Section 404, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) has been given responsibility to regulate the discharge of dredged and fill material into waters of the United States, including wetlands (33 CFR 323.3). Any materials removed from wetlands will be disposed of on upland sites. ACOE has been consulted and Section 404 permits are not required. (CE Checklist) ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT (ESA) OF 1973, AS AMENDED 1978, 1979, 1982, AND 1988 (16 U.S.C. 1531) This Act provides direction to the Forest Service to establish objectives for habitat management and recovery through the Forest Plan for the conservation and protection of endangered and threatened species. This project is consistent with these guidelines. There is no critical habitat present in the project area. (CE Checklist) NATIONAL HISTORIC PRESERVATION ACT (16 U.S.C. 470) This Act provides direction for Federal agencies to establish a program for preservation of historic properties. In compliance with this act, potential impacts to sites eligible for the National Register of Historic Places were considered in this analysis. If archaeological remains are found prior to or during implementation, work will stop immediately until evaluation and clearance are provided. (CE Checklist). WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS ACT There are no designated or eligible Wild and Scenic Rivers within the project area (Forest Plan 3-42). WILDERNESS ACT There is no designated or proposed Wilderness within the project area. There are no Roadless Inventory Areas within the project area (Forest Plan FEIS 3-199). ADMINISTRATIVE REVIEW (APPEAL) OPPORTUNITIES As no comments were received during the 30-day notice and comment period for this project, this decision is not subject to appeal pursuant to 36 CFR Page 4 of 7

5 IMPLEMENTATION DATE Implementation of this project can begin immediately following publication of this decision in the newspaper of record. Expected date of project completion is the 2013 summer field season. CONTACT For additional information concerning this decision, contact: Tim Vetter, District Recreation Manager, 850 North 8 th, HWY 13 Medford, WI phone ext 34, at SIGNATURE OF DECIDING OFFICER /s/ Bob Hennes February 1, 2013 ROBERT HENNES District Ranger Date 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 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) (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 , or call (800) (voice) or (202) (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. Page 5 of 7

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