Final Environmental Impact Statement, Backcountry and Wilderness Management Plan

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Notice of Availability

SUMMARY: Pursuant to section 102(2)(c) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (Pub. L. 91-190 as amended), the National Park Service (NPS), Department of Interior, has prepared a final environmental impact statement (FEIS) assessing the potential impacts of amending the current General Management Plan (GMP), which was approved in 1995. The FEIS includes the Backcountry and Wilderness Management Plan for Joshua Tree National Park and identifies and evaluates the environmental consequences of the new proposed action and four alternatives. Proposal: As described under Alternative E (the new proposed action), the NPS proposes to amend the GMP for Joshua Tree National Park. These amendments would include, but not be limited to, the following changes. The NPS would designate a trail system with prescriptions for certain uses: foot, bicycle, equestrian, and would identify [[Page 58441]] some of the unpaved in roads in lands added to the park in 1994 as part of the developed zone and thus, open to motor vehicle use. Alternative E would also designate management prescriptions for recreational climbing throughout the park and would indicate locations in the park where roadside auto camping would or would not be permitted. Alternative E would prescribe the analysis of major artificial water sources installed for wildlife in designated wilderness and if such sources should be removed or maintained. It would adopt areas limited to day use only or closed to public access seasonally or permanently. It would establish group size limits for overnight stays in the backcountry and wilderness, implement the Department of Interior's Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan, and analyze proposed additions to wilderness. Implementing Alternative E would result in the protection of park lands and the reclamation of previously disturbed lands. User conflicts would be minimized by providing for a variety of visitor experiences, group sizes, trail designations, and a recreational climbing management program. Alternatives: Alternatives to the new proposed action include Alternative A (the old proposed action), Alternative B (no action), Alternative C (maximum protection), and Alternative D (minimum protection). Alternative A would establish wilderness experience classes, and would designate slightly fewer miles of equestrian trails and roads. It does not provide reclamation prescriptions for the closed trails and roads. Alternative A would prohibit the replacement of existing bolts or the placement of new bolts in wilderness and would analyze only three of the four artificial water sources placed in the park's wilderness. Under Alternative B, the park would maintain existing programs and operations. Alternative C would impose greater restrictions upon all uses in the park and afford the most rigorous and strict protection to the resources, in particular the wilderness resource. Also, those lands in the natural zone that are not wilderness would be treated and managed as if they were so designated. Alternative D would impose no restrictions on use of the old monument lands other than those that already exist. The public could use the new lands much as they were used prior to their inclusion within the park. Only those public recreational activities that are illegal in NPS or other regulations, such as hunting or operating vehicles in wilderness, would be prohibited. The potential environmental consequences of Alternative E (the new proposed action) and other alternatives were previously addressed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and the Supplement to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. No significant adverse environmental impacts are anticipated. Background: The NPS initiated scoping for the Wilderness and Backcountry Management Plan on January 30, 1995. A Draft Environmental Impact Statement was issued November 21, 1997 for a public review period which was extended from January 31, 1998 through February 28, 1998. Approximately 1,100 written comments were received. In addition, approximately 260 persons attended three public workshops held December 2 and December 11, 1997 and on January 16, 1998. A Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement was issued November 3, 1998 for a public review period which ended January 20, 1999. Approximately 200 written comments were received. Both documents were made widely available through direct mailings, distribution to area libraries, and via the internet.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Written comments or questions regarding the final Wilderness and Backcountry Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement should be directed to the Superintendent, Joshua Tree National Park, 74485 National Park Drive, Twentynine Palms, California 92277. Copies may be requested by contacting the park at (760) 367-5502. Copies are also available at libraries located in the park's vicinity, as well as on the park's website at The no-action period for the FEIS/MP will extend for thirty (30) days after the Environmental Protection Agency's notification of the filing of the document is published in the Federal Register. Subsequently, the National Park Service will publish a notice of the Record of Decision in the Federal Register. The official responsible for the decision is the Regional Director, Pacific West Region; the official responsible for implementation is the Superintendent, Joshua Tree National Park. Dated: October 22, 1999. Cynthia Ip,Acting Regional Director, Pacific West Region.

(SOURCE: Federal Register 10-28-99)

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