BLM Seeks Comments on Travel Management Plan Project Focuses on Gila Unit
Safford, Ariz. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Safford Field Office is continuing work on a travel management plan for the Gila Unit, which includes the Gila Box and surrounding areas. Maps have been developed and are now ready for public review and comment. Comments are due in writing by September 30, 2009, and can be submitted by mail, email, or fax.
The goal of the project is to complete a Gila Unit Travel Management Plan and Environmental Assessment that will determine route designations. This project began with a road inventory completed through a contract with Advanced Resource Solutions in April 2007.
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After that information was consolidated, a public meeting was held in November 2007 to provide an opportunity to review and comment on the inventoried routes in terms of several criteria: type of route (spur, loop, two-track, connector); access needs; current uses (public, commercial, administrative); and special resources affected (wildlife, riparian, cultural resources).
In February-March 2008, BLM staff and representatives from the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) conducted an Evaluation Tree Process, also by contract with Advanced Resource Solutions, to determine suggestions for route designations (open, closed, or limited) within the Gila Unit. From that point, maps were developed that showed the three alternatives identified from the Evaluation Tree Process and the preferred alternative for the Travel Management Plan.
The Travel Management Plan process identified and evaluated 900 miles of maintained and primitive roads covering more than 467,000 acres of public lands in Graham and Greenlee counties. The Gila Unit includes public lands north of U.S. Highway 70 from the Arizona-New Mexico state line to boundary of the San Carlos Apache Nation, as well as public lands south of the highway between Pima and reservation boundary.
Maps for each alternative are posted at http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/travel_mgmt/gila_unit.html. Printed copies can be viewed at the BLM office, located at 711 14th Avenue in Safford. Comments will be considered during development of the alternatives for an environmental assessment; specific suggestions will be incorporated into the action items within the travel management plan where appropriate.
“This will be the first opportunity for everyone to review the progress we’ve made since our initial November 2007 public meeting,” said Morris, who is leading the project. “There will be another chance to comment after we have completed the draft travel management plan. We want to get as much public input as possible.”
The BLM manages more land - 256 million acres - than any other Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The Bureau, with a budget of about $1 billion, also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Bureau accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, cultural, and other resources on public lands.