Rangers May Close Nearby Area To Commercial Mining

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Tonto National Forest officials are proposing to withdraw approximately 7,040 acres of Rim country land from commercial mining and have scheduled an open house meeting to discuss the issue.

The land in question is a popular rockhounding and recreational area off the Control Road between the Diamond Point summer homes and the Diamond Point lookout tower.

Interested persons are invited to attend the open house meeting that will be held at the Payson Town Council Chambers at Town Hall on Tuesday, March 30, between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.

The purpose of this withdrawal is to make sure that rockhounders and others will continue to have the opportunity to collect Arizona diamonds, or quartz crystals, found in this area, without encroaching on a mining claim, according to the TNF.

"The Diamond Rim had been a very popular rockhounding area for a lot of people for a very long time," said Steve Gunzel, Payson District ranger. "We are considering whether or not limiting commercial mining activities to favor rockhounding is the appropriate management of the Diamond Point area."

Gunzel emphasized that rockhounding and other activities such as ranching, timber cutting, camping, and hunting will still be allowed within the withdrawal area.

"We don't want people to misunderstand our purpose here. We are only proposing to withdraw this area from commercial mining. Nothing else," he said. "There are other areas outside the 7,040 acres of the proposed withdrawal that have these quartz crystals. We only picked the area that is most popular with the rockhounders and other crystal collectors."

Written comments on the environmental and social issues associated with the proposed withdrawal can be sent to: Esther Morgan, Tonto National Forest, Payson Ranger District, 1009 E. Highway 260, Payson, AZ 85541. Comments must be submitted to the forest service by April 30.

Comments, including the names and addresses of the respondents, will be considered part of the public record on this proposed action and will be available for public inspection.

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