Sunday, 10 February 2013
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A Notice of Intent (NOI) to begin an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process was announced on Feb. 1, 2013, by Tonto National Forest officials. Forest leaders made the decision due to potential significant effects associated with the proposed actions in the original travel management Environmental Assessment (EA). Previously, the forest engaged in an Environmental Assessment process to complete a forest-wide travel analysis conducted in 2007 required to comply with the Travel Management Rule. After initiating compliance with the Forest Service Travel Management Rule under the EA, in 2012, forest leaders and specialists determined that the level of significance had reached a point that environmental analysis for travel management under an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) would be more appropriate. "All comments provided throughout the process thus far, including those to the 2009 proposed action under the original 2012 Environmental Assessment, as well as input at public meetings, will continue to be considered and may be incorporated into either the proposed action for the EIS or alternatives to that proposed action,"  stated Forest Supervisor Neil Bosworth. "We continue to invite the public to share ideas about the forest’s system of roads, trails, and/or areas, review the proposed system, and remain engaged with us as we move towards developing a travel management plan which will best protect our resources and also meet our recreation users' needs." In 2005, a new planning rule to manage motorized vehicle use on all national forests and grasslands was enacted by the Department of Agriculture. This rule requires the Tonto National Forest to designate those roads, trails, and areas that are open to motor vehicle use. Designations will be made by class of vehicle and, if appropriate, by time of year. The final rule will prohibit the use of motor vehicles off the designated system, as well as use of motor vehicles on routes and in areas that are not consistent with the designations. "Tonto National Forest officials will be presenting a proposed system of roads, trails and areas. Based on public input, the alternatives will be developed and analyzed in a draft Environmental Impact Statement which will be released to the public for comment. The final product will be a Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) that shows which roads, trails, and areas will be open to motor vehicle use," stated Anne Thomas, forest NEPA coordinator. "The purpose of the Motor Vehicle Use Map is to comply with the requirements of the Travel Management Rule, to reduce problems caused by uncontrolled off-road travel, and to improve the current system of travel routes for public access and enjoyment. The development of a Motor Vehicle Use Map is an adaptive process in which future changes can be made in the public interest."

John Stewart Managing Editor - 4x4Voice - 4x4Wire - Natural Resources Consultant - California Four Wheel Drive Association - Board of Directors - BlueRibbon Coalition

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