Registration is open for NMOHVA's 2016 Rubber Chicken Ride(Updated: 07/14/2016)
Event Registration link is here:http://nmohva.wildapricot.org/event-2191074
Santa Fe National Forest Starts NEPA for Forest Plan Revision Process(Updated: 07/13/2016)
The Santa Fe National Forest filed their Notice of Intent (NOI) to revise the Forest Plan in the Federal Register on June 30th. This marks the beginning of the official NEPA process for the Plan revision. Everything they have completed so far like the assessment, draft "Need for Change", and the potential wilderness inventory has been "pre-NEPA". Some of those activities (like the wilderness inventory) will continue in parallel.
The first step in the NEPA process is "Scoping". Scoping is probably the most important step in influencing what the Forest looks at and plans for in their plan revision process. Scoping is the opportunity for the public to tell the Forest Service what they should include in the revision process. In their NOI announcement, the SFNF said, "Comments received during this scoping period will determine the breadth of issues that should be addressed during development of the proposed plan and help identify significant issues which will form the basis for alternatives to the proposed action."
We wrote an explanation of why Scoping is so important a few months ago for the start of the same process on the Carson National Forest. It is still accurate and appropriate for the Santa Fe National Forest so here it is again:
Why is Scoping Important?
The "significant issues" are used to develop the alternatives that will be considered in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS is the 2nd major step in the NEPA process. Here is very quick example to help explain why the significant issues and alternatives are so important:
If there no scoping comments identifying a lack of quality motorized trails (an "issue"), none of the alternatives will include a statement such as "Objective: Provide additional motorized trails to meet the growing use by the public." If there are no alternatives with this objective defined, the Forest Plan has zero chance of including this in the Final version. If the Final Forest Plan has no objective supporting additional motorized trails, the Forest Service will respond to any future requests for motorized trails with, "Additional motorized trails aren't consistent with the Forest Plan."
Naturally, this is a very simplistic example but it shows why having the right "issues" identified is so important at the beginning of this process. Issues identified NOW lead directly to alternatives. Anything not in an alternative has no chance of being in the Final Plan. If something is not in the Final Plan, it has very little chance of ever being considered for implementation. It also illustrates why we need to be "thinking ahead" when we identify "issues" for the planning process. If we think we will want/need additional motorized recreation in the coming 15-20 years, we need to identify that "need" as an "issue" now!
How do Scoping Comments Have to be Written?
The good news is that there is no required format. The most effective Scoping comments are those that help identify issues that we want the Forest Service to address in the new Forest Plan. And you do not necessarily have to suggest solutions to the problem (that is what the Forest Service are supposed to develop during analysis). Here are some examples of "Significant Issues" to get you started thinking:
Travel Management has reduced the amount of roads and trails available to the public for motorized recreation. This will contribute to crowding on the trails as motorized recreation continues to grow. The Forest needs more trails open to meet this growing need.
Forest budgets are shrinking, putting trail maintenance at risk. The Forest doesn't have an adequate plan for how it will utilize public/volunteer labor and resources to create and maintain motorized trails.
Non-motorized users have been successful in reducing motorized opportunities by claiming "conflict" with motorized users. The Forest needs to develop a plan for how it is going to educate other users and properly set user expectations in shared use environments.
Your Scoping comments can also include comments on the draft "Need for Change" statements, the Proposed Action, and even the wilderness evaluation process so far. Comments are due by August 17, 2016. Comments can be submitted by:
Mail to: Forest Planner, 11 Forest Lane, Santa Fe, NM 87508;
Email to: email@example.com;
Fax to: 505-438-5390; or
Hand deliver to: Santa Fe NF Supervisor's Office at 11 Forest Lane in Santa Fe, between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday (except federal holidays).
Where can I find more information?
The website that contains all of the information that the Forest Service has released so far during this process is at:
Udall/Heinrich Want More Even Wilderness in Southern NM!(Updated: 07/05/2016)
On June 16th, US Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall introduced a bill now known as S. 3049. It is called the Organ Mountains - Desert Peaks Conservation Act.
Cibola National Forest Releasing Draft Forest Plan on July 18th for Public Review and Comment(Updated: 06/27/2016)
Albuquerque, NM, June 24, 2016 – The Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands is revising its 1985 Forest Plan. Over 40 cooperating units of government are working with the agency to co-convene and co-host the meetings, improve public engagement, and set the course for the future of the Cibola. The Cibola and cooperating agencies have established four “landscape teams” around the four mountain ranges associated with the districts – Mt. Taylor, Magdalena, Mountainair, and Sandia.
The revised Forest Plan will provide guidance and direction on the future sustainability of the resources, goods and services, and relevant management actions, based on the values defined in the plan. The plan will be used to share stewardship and direct site-specific priorities and projects in these locations in the future.
A preliminary Draft Plan has been completed and is set to be released on July 18th. The public will have 45 days to review and comment. A series of collaborative public workshops have been scheduled at various locations in and around the Forest to present the preliminary Draft Plan for review and discussion. The workshops are being designed with the help of the Forest Service's partners to provide an opportunity for the public to engage in dialogue and collaboration with each other and diverse interests to find common vision and common ground for these shared places. Please check the NMOHVA calendar to find the location of the workshop for your District(s) of interest and make plans to attend!