SUPERIOR — Superior Mayor, Mila Besich Lira and members of her council hosted a Forest Service meeting about aspects of the Tonto National Forest Comprehensive Plan. About 30 people attended. They represented local business and recreational interests as well the opinions of local residents and land owners.
Thomas Torres, Deputy Forest Supervisor for the Tonto introduced his staff and said, “We’ll entertain any questions tonight that the community may have.” He added that there was a lot of complexity, many competing interests interacting with the legislative directives that congress had imposed on the Forest Service.
Most questions concerned user access, too much, or the wrong kind, or too little. The foresters also answered questions about trails currently being built in Arnett Canyon close to Superior.
One attendee expressed concern over forest road closures since she was in the business of trying to increase tourism. Torres explained that road closures were the result of the congressional mandate that directed every national forest to formulate a “travel management plan”. This plan designates which roads can be used by motorized traffic and which cannot. He said that the Forest Service came up with a draft of the plan and then had to go back and change it in order to address some environmental objections to routes being open and user objections to routes being closed. Torres cited the need for a plan. He said that if you compared 30 year old maps and current maps of the same area you would see a huge proliferation of roads. He said that some of these unofficial roads, have been in existence for years, and are very popular. Others are new. He said that in the fiscal year 2018 his agency will go back to the travel management plan in order to take a new look at what should be done. He said that they will have a draft plan for the public to comment on by spring or early summer of 2018. The Forest Service will have detailed maps then showing all the routes and their disposition. They could remain open, they could be decommissioned, and they could be designated for administrative use or fire protection only. Several local people worried over outsiders crowding in and degrading the forest with their Off highway Vehicles. Others complained of the lack of law enforcement. Torres spoke to this and other issues by citing the need for the Forrest Service to engage partners in environmental organizations as well as with other recreational and law enforcement agencies.
Lynn Martin and several others brought up the danger and destruction caused uncontrolled target shooting. Torres said that the Forest Service could partly address the issue with a list of approved targets – not including old TVs or cacti, he noted. Designated target shooting areas were discussed along with other controls such as closures. Audience members wondered who would enforce the rules. There was discussion about setting up designated areas for target shooting. Draft plans for the Apache Leap Special Management Area were available, and attendees were able to discuss matters with its project manager, Mary Rasmussen.