PHOENIX — The Tonto National Forest has reached a final decision regarding the adoption of a management plan for the Apache Leap Special Management Area (SMA).
Forest Supervisor Neil Bosworth recently signed a Decision Notice to implement the Proposed Action for the Apache Leap SMA management plan.
The Proposed Action will provide a comprehensive set of plan components (i.e., desired conditions, standards, objectives, guidelines, and land suitability determinations) for managing and protecting the natural and cultural resources within the approximately 839-acre Apache Leap SMA located east of Superior, Arizona.
Additionally, the Proposed Action will amend the 1985 Tonto National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (forest plan) to address the recently designated Apache Leap SMA as a new special management area.
Bosworth said his decision is based upon:
¬ A review of the two alternatives analyzed in the Environmental Assessment -- the No Action and Proposed Action alternative.
¬ Comments received from the public for this project.
¬ His finding of no significant impact on the quality of the environment.
“We have fulfilled the stated purposes as directed by Congress by establishing a strategic framework for the management of this special area into the foreseeable future,” Bosworth said.
The management plan framework has undergone minor adjustments in response to specific contentions raised during the objection period, which concluded in December 2017.
One adjustment includes moving language from an existing management approach to a new guideline under Section 3.1.3, Natural Character and Scenery. The new guideline identifies elements for a data collection strategy to monitor, estimate and anticipate the effects of future proposed mining activities adjacent to the special management area.
Another adjustment affects Section 3.5.4, Recreation related to sustainable rock climbing and bouldering expectations in the Apache Leap SMA. The language in the management approach clarifies elements to consider during the development of a future climbing management plan.
Additionally, Tonto National Forest officials have prepared an errata report for the Environmental Assessment, identifying minor corrections and clarifications, resulting from these plan language adjustments.
The SMA was designated by Congress in December of 2014, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2015. Section 3003 of the NDAA directed the Forest Service to prepare a special management plan for the Apache Leap SMA in consultation with affected Indian tribes, the Town of Superior, Resolution Copper Mining, LLC and interested members of the public.
The Decision Notice and related documents such as the management plan and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Citizen’s Guide are available on the project website: http://www.apacheleapsma.us/.