Public comment period now open on draft evaluation map


As part of forest plan revision under the 2012 planning rule, forests are required to identify lands that may or may not be suitable to recommend to Congress for new Wilderness designation. Only Congress has the authority to designate a wilderness area. 

The Wilderness Recommendation process identifies four primary steps, each that invite your valued input. The steps in the Wilderness Recommendation Process as part of Forest Plan Revision are:

Step 1 - Inventory: The primary function of the inventory step is to identify all lands on the Tonto National Forest that will be evaluated for wilderness characteristics. The inventory is intended to be broad and inclusive.

Step 2 - Evaluation: The primary function of this step is to evaluate all lands in the inventory for their wilderness characteristics. All lands included from the inventory must be evaluated for their wilderness characteristics. Step 3 - Analysis: The primary function of this step is to analyze areas from the evaluation in the forest plan alternatives, including their impact, effects, and benefits.

Step 4 - Recommendation: The primary function of the recommendation step is to recommend areas (if any) for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Any recommended wilderness areas will have management direction included in the revised forest plan. The plan direction developed for the recommended wilderness areas will protect the characteristics which make the area suitable for potential wilderness designation by Congress. 

Any recommended wilderness areas will have management direction included in the revised forest plan. The plan direction developed for the recommended wilderness areas will protect the characteristics which make the area suitable for potential wilderness designation by Congress. 

“The Wilderness Recommendation Process is a required piece of the plan revision process that may or may not result in recommendations for additional Wilderness on the Tonto National Forest. It is important for our forest communities to be involved in these efforts and help shape the future of the forest.” - Neil Bosworth, Forest Supervisor, Tonto National Forest 

The Tonto National Forest held three internal evaluation meetings across the forest to walk through the criteria for each of the inventoried areas. The first of these meetings was in Payson, from Oct. 17 – 20, followed by Globe from Oct. 23-26, and lastly in Fountain Hills, from Oct. 30 – Nov. 2. 

At these meetings resource specialists across the forest sat down and evaluated the inventoried areas for their wilderness characteristics based on the evaluation criteria. Notes and ranking determinations for each of the inventoried areas can be found in the 23 page Draft Wilderness Evaluation Rationale.

During the evaluation the ID Team adjusted boundaries due to features inconsistent with wilderness characteristics. This helped ensure that areas were given an accurate rank for their level of wilderness characteristics. 

Additionally, the ID Team worked to accurately identify improvements contained within the polygon, both which were considered substantially noticeable and those which were not considered substantially noticeable, and ensured that the boundaries of the polygons were consistent with the improvements on the ground. Notes on these adjustments can be found within the Draft Wilderness Evaluation Rationale. In making these determinations, the ID Team referenced comments received (both internally and externally) on the inventoried areas to ensure that identified improvements were noted and evaluated accordingly.

Tonto National Forest officials have developed a draft evaluation map
as part of the ongoing Wilderness Recommendation Process. The
map is now available for public review and comment through February
12.

This is the second step in a four-step process to identify,
evaluate, analyze, and possibly recommend lands that may be suitable for
inclusion as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

The Tonto National Forest welcomes public comments on the wilderness characteristic
rankings given to each area identified  in the inventory. The
evaluation criteria should be utilized to provide feedback on the
draft evaluation map and ranking determinations.

Comments on the draft evaluation map are most useful if received by
February 12, 2018.

 Comments can be submitted in the following ways:

• By using the Wilderness Story Map

•  By using the Draft Evaluation Comment Form

For additional questions on submitting a comment, contact the Planning Team at [email protected], or call 602-225-5200 and asking for the Assistant Forest Planner.

Other ways to get involved: The Tonto National Forest is committed to
collaborating with the public at various stages throughout the plan
revision process.

Visit www.tontoplan.org to learn more about
how to get involved in the forest plan revision or visit us at an
upcoming event in your community.

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