A year and a half after starting the Travel Management Planning process and receiving over 7,000 comments, the Forest Service is starting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Travel Management Plan.
The recently-developed proposed action will designate roads, trails, and areas open to motorized travel on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.
The proposal would change the existing situation by closing many of currently used "closed" roads (roads identified as closed in the Forests' database), but the net result over the entire transportation system on the Forests is only a reduction of 56 miles.
"We've worked hard to try to come up with a transportation system that is socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable," said Jim Copeland, Project Leader.
"We've looked at the roads and trails using these criteria and suggestions from the public and have tried to meet all of the various access needs," he said.
"Even so, we would like the public to comment on this proposal, because we may have missed something in analyzing the thousands of miles of roads on the Apache-Sitgreaves."
The rules for game retrieval, fuelwood gathering, and dispersed camping opportunities are proposed to change to make these activities more compatible with natural and heritage resources.
This proposed action would also allow cross-country motorized travel in seven designated areas.
Where it is appropriate and necessary, the designations will also specify seasons of use, type of vehicle(s) permitted, and types of use for those roads, trails, and areas. Cross-country motorized travel will be prohibited, except by special permit. The decisions on public motorized travel will not include over-snow travel or existing winter-use recreation.
Public participation has been an integral part of the development of this proposal, so the Forest Service will again be seeking information and comments from individuals and organizations, as well as federal, state, and local agencies that may be interested in or affected by the proposed action.
The Forest Service will conduct meetings to display the proposed transportation system and solicit comments from the public and interested parties on this proposal.
The meetings are scheduled from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the following locations:
- Lakeside, -- Nov. 6, (Tuesday), Blue Ridge Junior High School Cafeteria, 1200 West White Mountain Blvd.
- Eagar -- Nov. 7, (Wednesday), Eagar Town Hall, 22 West 2nd St.
- Clifton -- Nov. 8, (Thursday), Clifton Community Center, Clifton, Train Depot, 100 North Coronado Blvd (U.S. Highway 191).
- Overgaard -- Nov. 13, (Tuesday), Rim Country Senior Center 2171 B Street.
- Alpine -- Nov. 14, (Wednesday), Alpine Community Center, 42661,U.S. Highway 180.
The meetings will be conducted as an open house from 5 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. where the public may view the proposed travel maps and offer comments to agency officials in more of a quiet, one-to-one setting.
At 6:30 p.m. a presentation of the proposal will be made, after which comments and questions from the public will be addressed. The proposed action maps can also be seen at local Forest Service offices.
Further opportunity to comment on the proposal will occur with publication of the draft EIS. The draft EIS is scheduled for availability in September 2008 and the final EIS is expected to be available in December 2008.
The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests Supervisor invites the public to submit comments and suggestions on the proposal before Jan. 11, 2008. For more information, contact James Copeland at the Alpine Ranger District (928-339-4384).