We had been seeing and hearing things about new gates being installed in the Sitgreaves National Forest. We feel it is important to keep track of any new fences or gates that could impact the movement of the wild horses or other wildlife. We want to map the new gates. We also want to find out why they are installing new gates. So we sent an inquiry to the Forest Service to get some answers.
Questions are in PURPLE
Forest Service text is in BLACK
Post reply notes are in RED
I am assuming that the article you are referring to is this one: http://www.mogollonrimnews.com/forest-road-closures-and-wolves/
So, we will address as follows:
· Forest Plan Revision
o The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (ASNFs) have completed the Forest Plan Revision, which is designed to address an overarching view of land management on these forests for the next 10-15 years. It does not address individual actions. If you wish to review it, you may either go on-line to see the documents at http://www.fs.usda.gov/asnf or you can come into the Supervisors’ Office at 30 S Chiricahua Drive, Springerville and get a hard copy or a CD.
· Travel Management
o In 2005 the Department of Agriculture revised regulations regarding travel management on National Forest System lands to clarify policy related to motor vehicle use, including the use of off-road vehicles.
o Once designated, the Travel Management Rule will eliminate cross-country motorized travel on the forests. It will reduce environmental impacts on watersheds, wildlife habitat, cultural resources and communities.
o Once the process has been completed and a Record of Decision has been signed, Motor Vehicle Use Maps will be published for public use.
o In 2010, a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) was released to the public and open houses were held.
o The Wallow Fire began May 29 – July 8, 2011 and burned over 500,000 acres.
o As a result of the Wallow Fire and the changes to the landscape, the ASNFs must go back and draft a new EIS.
o The ASNFs will begin work on the Travel Management Plan in late fall 2015, and anticipates that there will be opportunities for public involvement mid-year 2016.
· Mexican Grey Wolves
o Any questions regarding wolf release practices, timing and areas of release are to be referred to Arizona Game & Fish. Their office in Pinetop-Lakeside is located at 2878 E White Mountain Blvd, Pinetop, AZ 85935 and their phone number is (928) 367-4281.
· Your questions
o Are there gates on US Forest Service land? The answer is yes. We use gates for a variety of reasons, not just closures but to safeguard as well.
I know there were already gates on USFS land. This is what I had written:
I have some questions regarding the recent installation of gates across roads in the Sitgreaves National Forest.
Are the gates on U.S. Forest Service land?
The question was not: Are there gates on US Forest Service land?
This is how I replied to her reply on that:
We wanted to make sure the new gate installations are on Forest Service land because if they are on private land the whole thing is not relevant.
o Were environmental studies required prior to their installation? The answer is gates are often designated for a very specific use, i.e., access by a right-of-way holder to a communication site (the road to the site might be gated) and this would involve the NEPA process.
o Why are the gates being installed? The answer: Gates are installed for a variety of purposes -- emergency closures such as fire prevention, fire protection, seasonal closures for public safety (i.e., closing roads which would be unsafe for public travel due to flooding or heavy snow), resource protection, gates for a closed campground, closing off a cabin for the winter, and closing roads during logging activities for public safety purposes.
o Who is installing the gates? Answer: closure gates are installed by FS employees or by contractors under the auspice of the Forest Engineering department.
o Are these part of the Heber Grazing Allotment improvements? Answer: We would need specific information about which gates on which forest roads are being discussed in order to respond to this question.
So that non answer would lead me to believe that some of them may have to do with the Heber Grazing Allotment improvements. I cannot specify which gates because I do not know where the new gates are.
o How many gates will be installed for this current project? Answer: There may be a gate installed as part of the grazing allotment improvements, but it is not a closure gate, it is part of the fence improvement.
o How many gates have already been installed? Answer: We would need specific information about which gates on which forest roads are being discussed in order to respond to this question.
If we had that specific information we wouldn't be asking where the gates are located.
o Is there a map or list of coordinates showing where the gates are, and if so, could I have please have a copy? Answer: I will follow up with the Forest Engineer, but it would be helpful to have a specific location of where you are looking. The ASNFs encompass over 2 million acres and if you would provide us with a specific location we can better respond to your request. it would help us provide an answer with specifics.
In my reply I narrowed it down to the Black Mesa and Lakeside Ranger Districts. In my original inquiry I only asked about the Sitgreaves, not the Apache. This whole Q & A seemed to move around in circles. Perhaps when we get the locations of the gates we will be able to ask questions pertaining to the individual gates and get specific answers. We are looking forward to getting the locations from Forest Service. In the mean time, we are asking for people to send us locations and photos of the new gates they come across in the Black Mesa and Lakeside Ranger Districts in the Sitgreaves portion of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. Information may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org