Response to questions about gate installations and wolf releases in the Black Mesa and Lakeside Ranger Districts in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.
The Mogollon Rim article has a reference to “gates continually being installed in the same forests”. The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests has explained in an email dated 10/28/2015 about some of the reasons for gates on US Forest Service lands. In addition, the forest closed some roads in November 2011, post-Wallow fire with the following statement from our then deputy Forest Supervisor: “Our three priorities on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests are 1) Protection of life, 2) Protection of private property, and 3) Protection of forest resources. These have been our priorities, and in that order, from the time the Wallow Wildfire was first detected,” stated Jim Zornes, Deputy Forest Supervisor. “These priorities remain unchanged as we work towards opening as much of the forest as possible to the public. The newly installed gates are there to protect human life, and have absolutely nothing to do with travel management planning,” added Zornes.” Portions of roads were gated closed because they were just too dangerous for the public and our employees to use.
The ASNFs does not have a planned “gate installation project” and as we have stated before – the ASNFs has not completed their Travel Management Plan. Please reference the Travel Management information in the email dated 10/28/2015.
In addition, the article refers to “784 miles of closed roads in the Coconino National Forest…” The ASNFs cannot speak for the Coconino NF and would refer you to the Coconino NF at 928.527.3600 or their website at www.fs.usda.gov/coconino where information can be found in reference to their Travel Management Plan. For more information on the Travel Management Rule you may refer to 36 CFR 212, Subpart B, Designation of Roads, Trails, and Areas for Motor Vehicle Use. This is available on the web at http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=71e1b00fc9da706ca996440a43faa61c&node=36:220.127.116.11.3.2&rgn=div6
It would appear that there is major concern voiced in the article about wolves being released on the forests and that concern should be referenced to the wolf release program of the USFWS.
Last, but not least, the Forest Service does not dispute news articles unless there are egregious errors.