General Comments


Under the heading ``Minimum information,'' Sec. 251.54(e)(2)(i) of the proposed rule required applicants for noncommercial group uses to provide a description of the proposed activity, a description of the National Forest System lands and facilities the applicant would like to use, the estimated number of participants and spectators, and date and time of the proposed activity, and the name of the person or persons 21 years of age or older who will sign a special use authorization on behalf of the applicant.

Four respondents commented on Sec. 251.54(e)(2)(i). One respondent stated that this requirement is generally illegal. Another respondent stated that the agency should only require a group's name, address, and a description and the date of the proposed activity. A third respondent commented that it is reasonable for the agency to require information about proposed activities on National Forest System lands, including their location, the number of participants, and the date and time of the proposed activity. However, this respondent stated that requiring applicants to submit minimum information subjects them to arbitrary standards of accuracy and demands for further information--especially where the activity is diverse and organic, exact participation is unknown, and set-up and clean-up times are imprecise--and that an authorized officer could delay or deny an application because the information provided is deemed incomplete or inaccurate. Two other respondents stated that the agency could deny a permit if an application was not filled out correctly or completely.

The Department believes that requiring minimal information about proposed noncommercial group uses is both reasonable and necessary for administrative purposes and is in no way illegal.

Failure to require this information before these activities occurwould defeat the Department's purposes of resource protection, promotion of public health and safety, and allocation of space within the National Forest System. Without this information, for example, the Forest Service would not know the kinds of mitigative and preventive measures to take in authorizing noncommercial group uses. As a result, these uses could pose a substantial risk of damage to National Forest System lands and resources.

The Department's intent is to limit the information required to those items contained in Secs. 251.54(e)(2)(i)(A)-(E), which address only the time, place, and manner of the proposed activity. To clarify that intent, the heading for Sec. 251.54(e)(2) has been changed from ``Minimum information'' to ``Required information.'' In addition, a sentence has been added to Sec. 251.54(e)(2)(i) to make explicit that the additional requirements enumerated in Secs. 251.54(e)(3) through (e)(6) of the final rule do not apply to applications for noncommercial group uses.

While the Department intends that information be provided for each of the five categories as accurately and completely as possible, Forest Service officers will not hold applicants to standards of accuracy or completeness that are impracticable to attain. For example, Sec. 251.54(e)(2)(i)(C) requires an estimate, not an exact number, of participants and spectators. Under Sec. 251.54(e)(2)(i)(B), the Department is not requiring a legal description of the land proposed for the activity, but rather a description that is accurate and complete enough to allow the authorized officer to determine where the activity will occur.

Finally, the Forest Service cannot delay an application because the information provided is incomplete or inaccurate. Section 251.54(f)(5) of the final rule provides that an application for noncommercial group uses must be granted or denied within 48 hours of receipt.

For the reasons stated, the final rule retains the requirement in Sec. 251.54(e)(2)(i) without change from the proposed rule.

Section 251.54(e)(2)(i)(A)

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