PHOENIX â€” The Tonto National Forest will offer a 30-day public comment period from July 1 through July 30, 2017, to collect feedback on suggested changes to the proposed management plan for the Apache Leap Special Management Area and forthcoming Forest Plan amendment that would incorporate the new management direction.
Guidance for providing comments is included in the June 30, 2017, Legal Notice. Guidance also is available on the project website at: http://www.apacheleapsma.us/.
According to Tonto National Forest project manager Mary Rasmussen, the Congressional designation of the Apache Leap Special Management Area in December 2014 created a changed circumstance signaling an initial need for a plan amendment. The management plan components that are under development for the Apache Leap Special Management Area has created an additional need to amend the Tonto Forest Plan.
â€œWe propose to amend the Tonto Forest Plan by adding new plan components â€“ Chapter 3 of the Apache Leap management plan â€“ and to modify existing Forest Plan components for the Globe Ranger District management area 2F,â€ Rasmussen said.
The additional public comment period is connected to the Forest Serviceâ€™s December 2016 amendment to its 2012 Planning Rule (36 CFR Part 219, Planning Subpart A â”€ National Forest System Land Management Planning). The Planning Rule amendment clarifies expectations for developing, revising and amending Forest Plans. One of the new expectations is to include information about the specific nature of a Forest Plan amendment with respect to the Planning Rule and to share this information with the public early in the planning process.
The Planning Rule amendment does not alter or change the process for forest planning, it simply clarifies interpretation and how the responsible official determines which topics are and are not required to be addressed, as well as how to document associated rationale.
The July 2017 public comment period will ensure the Tonto National Forest fully complies with 36 CFR Part 219 concerning which substantive requirements would be addressed in the Apache Leap SMA-related Forest Plan amendment.