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New plan changes how the Tonto National Forest is managed

PLAN INCLUDES

Closure of Forest Roads that cross rivers or unstable soil. (e.g., avoiding hilltops, ridges, riparian areas, and any route alignments with greater than 10% surface grade) to mitigate erosion and to promote sustainable design.

Prioritize decommissioning of roads that impact flow regimes, are redundant routes, cause mass movement of soils and sediment, are built within the riparian management zone or have substantial negative impacts to at-risk species.

Decommission of recreation sites and campgrounds that are deemed unsustainable, low-use, a hazard to public safety or have no remarkable destination value.

Dispersed camping near cultural sites, sensitive species areas, and interpretive sites, and within 200 feet of trailheads is prohibited by closure order.

Permit systems and management areas requiring a fee for OHV areas, wilderness areas, and target shooting areas.

Implementing off-highway vehicle permit zones to increase public awareness and improve compliance in areas with high user conflicts or resource damage.

Plans of operation shall be required for all mineral operations that will likely cause significant disturbance of surface resources.

49 recommended wilderness areas; about 375,576 acres

20 recommended Wild and Scenic Rivers

5 proposed Botanical Areas

5 proposed Natural Research Areas

LEARN MORE BELOW

https://www.azbackcountryexplorers.com/2019/12/drastic-changes-in-tonto-national-forest.html
 

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Stopped in the Mesa office of the Tonto National Forest today to renew my Bulldog Canyon Permit.

"There is not a released map to support the travel management plan, the travel management MAY be implemented next Fall". The map they have is an Updated version relesaed in 2015.

Until there is a map I can go anywhere I please.

My opinion is the Feds cannot enforce a Travel management plan and support the Ranchers allotments at the same time. The Center for Biological Diversity will lose to the Ranchers every time.

OP needs to explain his involvement in the process.

OP needs to explain the process for changing Hellsgate Wilderness Area back into National Forest where so we can all enjoy it. Not just Hikers and Horse People.
 

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Still no official map:flipoff2:

https://www.paysonroundup.com/forest_closures_fire_updates/supervisors-blast-tonto-forest-plan/article_dcaa7976-27ee-526e-9273-6ced1a2e7def.html

Supervisors blast Tonto Forest plan

The Gila County Board of Supervisors has vigorously objected to the Tonto National Forest’s proposed overhaul of its forest management plan.

In essence, the county objected to almost any reduction in recreation, mining and grazing as well as most proposed increases in protection for rivers, streams and potential wilderness areas.

Moreover, the county said the Tonto National Forest has ignored federal laws requiring the Forest Service to consult with local agencies like counties and tribes when changing forest regulations.

“Gila County is concerned that the Tonto NF is not giving due consideration to the relative values of the various resources in particular areas,” according to a letter filed with the Forest Service this week. Instead, the draft plan “is biased toward what the Tonto NF defines as ‘natural forces.’”

Specifically, the supervisors urged the Forest Service to adopt “Alternative D,” which maximizes recreation, mining and grazing, while minimizing restrictions on human use to protect wildlife, vegetation and riparian areas.

The supervisors opposed even designating any new areas as potential wilderness, as well as any addition in riparian areas suitable for protection as “wild and scenic” rivers.

The county supervisors “strenuously opposed” reductions in grazing, timber harvesting and the retirement of grazing permits. But the supervisors “strongly support” anything that will increase recreation, harvesting of natural resources, logging and thinning projects to reduce fire risks and invasive species while protecting watersheds.

The supervisors noted that the county consists of some 3 million acres — roughly the same size as the Tonto Forest. The national forest land accounts for about 55% of the land in the county. Additional state, federal and tribal lands leave just 4% of land in private hands. About 19% of the county’s land area is already federally designated wilderness areas, nearly 600,000 acres.

“In consequence, Gila County stands in strict opposition to any new wilderness or any other special botanical or research area, or similar, designation or recommendation in the Tonto National Forest,” said the letter, signed by Board Chairman Woody Cline.

The Tonto National Forest was supposed to update its management plan some 25 years ago, but finally came out with a draft overhaul of its management plan late last year. The 1,000-page environmental statement considered three alternatives — and recommended “Alternative B,” which balanced preservation and multiple use.

The proposal better defined guidelines to maintain the health and function of forests and riparian areas, while giving land managers more flexibility on how to reach those goals.

The environmental study found that 80% of the forests now face the risk of a catastrophic crown fire, because of a critical increase in tree densities caused by a century of grazing, logging and fire suppression. Some 40 tons of downed and dead wood have accumulated on almost every acre, compounding the fire danger.

In addition, some 25% of the soils overall, 40% of the soils in the riparian areas and 60% of the soils in the grassland are impaired and degraded.

Roughly one-third of the areas are not “functioning properly,” a major problem for wildlife and water sheds.

The 106 cattle and horse allotments cover most of the forest, contributing to a variety of ecological problems — especially in the health of riparian areas.

Moreover, some 4.8 million people visit the forest annually, but the fees they pay don’t even provide the money to maintain existing recreational facilities, which means the current recreational program is “not sustainable.” according to the environmental impact statement.

The forest also includes 20 mining districts, but the Forest Service has no money to restore land or contain tainted tailings from mines that have already closed. The forest also has no money to either survey or preserve the archaeological sites on the forest in the 8% of the forest so far surveyed.

Meanwhile, the Forest Service is also putting its finishing touches on its Travel Management Plan, mandated by Congress more than a decade ago to prevent the mounting damage caused by cross-country travel by off-road vehicles. The draft travel management plan would designate some 5,000 miles of dirt roads and trails, but also close several hundred miles of existing roads and trails to protect streams, springs, archaeological sites and other resources.

However, the Gila County Board of Supervisors strongly opposed most of the new restrictions on mining, ranching and recreation included in Alternative B. The supervisors demanded the Forest Service fully consult with the county on the alternatives, rather than just accepting comments.

The letter

• Opposed listing 43,000 acres as suitable for a wilderness designation sometime in the future.

• Opposed designating 3,500 acres on the Verde River as a botanical area.

• Opposed designating the 23,000-acre Three Bar natural area.

• Opposed wild, scenic or recreational designations to protect portions of 20 streams and rivers.

•Opposed adding any more roadless areas.

• Opposed restrictions on the recreational use of rivers and streams or other areas.

• Supported Alternative D’s emphasis on active restoration of degraded areas and more opportunities for grazing and mining.

• Requested a separate study on the financial impact of an increased use of controlled burns on local governments.

• Opposed a plan to retire grazing leases that become vacant.

• Supports looser rules restricting cross-country off-road travel for hunters retrieving any kind of big game, people gathering firewood and people seeking a disbursed camping site. The county advocated also allowing cross-country travel for people trying to reach some natural feature that would serve as a good backdrop for target shooting.
 
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