By Naomi Hatch
The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests proposed land management plan and draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) has been unveiled for public review. Forest officials are required to revise the plan every 10 to 15 years and the original plan is outdated having been approved in 1987.
The land management plan provides a broad guidance of the planning of specific projects and is based not only on science and law, but on citizen input.
Maintenance and improvement of the ecosystem health are emphasized in the proposed plan, and will be accomplished through fire restoration and restoration and/or maintenance of the 14 vegetation types that are in the forest; restoring priority watersheds and making the riparian areas function properly; and restoring or sustaining habitat for wildlife and fish.
Managed recreation is sustained in the plan by providing a balance of recreational opportunities and managing special areas that already exist. The proposal recommends adding 7,100 acres to the Escudilla and Bear Wallow wilderness areas.
Community and forest interaction is emphasized in the proposed plan by reducing excess fuel loads, contributing to biomass and wood-processing industries by providing an abundant source of wood and providing local families’ fuel wood, as well as providing trees to tribes for their cultural activities and traditions.
The proposed plan has set a framework that will continue the White Mountain Stewardship Project and the Four-Forest Restoration Initiate.
Major changes from the 1987 plan include: a focus on ecosystem restoration; adding direction to deal with invasive plants and animals; managing sustainable recreation by emphasizing maintenance on existing trails and areas; and continuing to work toward goals set for the wildfire protection plan around communities.
A reader’s guide, which provides tips on reviewing and commenting on the plan, is available at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/asnf/plan_deis. The 90-day comment period ends May 17.
By Naomi Hatch