[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 12 (Thursday, January 19, 2017)]
[Pages 6487-6488]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-01191]



Forest Service

Coconino and Tonto National Forests; Arizona; Fossil Creek Wild 
and Scenic River Comprehensive River Management Plan and Environmental 
Impact Statement

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Revised notice of intent to extend the scoping period for the 
Fossil Creek Wild and Scenic River Environmental Impact Statement and 
Comprehensive River Management Plan.


SUMMARY: The Coconino and Tonto national forests published a Notice of 
Intent in the Federal Register on November 29, 2016 for the Fossil 
Creek Wild and Scenic River Environmental Impact Statement and 
Comprehensive River Management Plan. This notice extends the comment 
period to January 27, 2017.

DATES: Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received 
by January 27, 2017. The draft environmental impact statement is 
expected in summer 2017, and the final environmental impact statement 
is expected in spring 2018.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments via email to [email protected] (include ``Fossil Creek CRMP'' in the 
subject line); via mail to Coconino National Forest, Attention: Fossil 
Creek CRMP, P.O. Box 20429, Sedona, AZ 86341; via facsimile to (928) 
203-7539; or in person at the Red Rock Ranger District Office, 8375 
State Route 179, Sedona, AZ 86351.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Contact Marcos Roybal, Fossil Creek 
Project Coordinator, by email at [email protected] or by phone at 
(928) 203-2915. For information about the project, including proposed 
alternatives and other project documents, visit http://tinyurl.com/FossilCreekCRMP. Hard copy documents may be requested from the phone 
number above.
    Individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD) 
may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1 (800) 877-
8339 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.


Purpose and Need for Action

    The purpose of the project is to prepare a CRMP for the Fossil 
Creek Wild and Scenic River to meet the requirements of Section 3(d)(1) 
of the WSRA. The CRMP is needed to provide for the protection or 
enhancement of Fossil Creek's water quality, free-flowing condition, 
and its ORVs, and to fulfill WSRA Section 3(b) requirements to 
establish river corridor boundaries and recreation and wild segment 
    Since the decommissioning of a historic hydropower dam in 2005, 
public use dramatically increased as visitors sought to explore the 
heavily publicized Arizona landscape. Recreational use during the high-
use season (June-September), for example, increased from an estimated 
20,000 visitors in 2006 to approximately 80,000 visitors by 2013, with 
thousands turned away daily at the entrance barricades due to 
overcrowding. River values that need protection from impacts of 
recreational use include water quality, recreation, geology, Western 
Apache traditional and contemporary cultural values, and biological 
values (especially the high diversity of fish and wildlife species). 
Impacts have resulted from uncontrolled dispersed camping, creation of 
unapproved camp sites, creation of unplanned trail systems, excessive 
littering, and human waste near the creek. Monitoring since 2011 
indicates there are increasing impacts to upland vegetation that is 
habitat for wildlife species; damage to heritage sites; and unsafe 
conditions for visitors, Forest Service personnel and emergency 
responders. In April 2016, an interim management reservation system was 
successfully implemented to reduce the daily capacity of visitors 
during the high-use season; this interim management reservation system 
will remain in place until the CRMP's completion.

Proposed Action

    The Coconino and Tonto National Forests propose to establish a CRMP 
to guide management of the designated 17-mile Fossil Creek Wild and 
Scenic River corridor and to protect or enhance the area's 
outstandingly remarkable values. Within a range of alternatives, the 
proposed action is designated to include the most flexibility to 
increase capacity and recreation infrastructure--maximizing recreation 
opportunities in the future--while providing protection for sensitive 
river and tribal values at the same time through both a management plan 
and site-specific actions. Project actions would address recreation 
capacity, corridor access, recreation facilities, services, and public 
health and safety.
    During all or part of the year, a reservation system would manage 
visitor use by limiting the number of people at one time (PAOT) in the 
river corridor. The initial PAOT in the river corridor would be set at 
the current 2016 reservation management level--approximately 154 
vehicles and 780 PAOT, including administrative use. Over time, if 
appropriate, adaptive management would increase capacity to a permitted 
maximum of approximately 338 vehicles and 1,705 PAOT if infrastructure 
is built, management capacity allows, and visitor behavior promotes 
sustainable river value protection. The proposed action also includes 
the following potential elements:
     Existing recreation sites would be expanded, particularly 
at the Irving site.
     Additional trails would be developed to link recreation 
sites and provide a greater variety of opportunities for a different 
hiking levels.
     A portion of Forest Road 708 would become a motorized 
     A limited amount of camping would be allowed at designated 
     Opportunities for outfitters/guides and concessionaries 
would be provided.
     Limited or no waterplay would exist at some creek 
locations due to cultural or natural resource issues.
     Some system routes would be closed or decommissioned, and 
other restoration actions would occur.
    The existing Coconino and Tonto Forest Plans would be 
programmatically amended under the 2012 Planning Rule to incorporate 
management direction for the Fossil Creek WSR corridor. The proposed 
amendments would add, replace, delete or revise (as needed) direction 
for the management of the Wild and Scenic River corridor.

Possible Alternatives

    A range of alternatives to the proposed action, including a no 
action alternative and three additional action alternatives, are being 
considered. The no action alternative (Alternative A) represents no 
change (a CRMP would not be established) and serves as the baseline for 
comparison of the effects of the action alternatives. The four action 
alternatives, which are based on extensive public engagement that has 
occurred since 2010, include: Alternative B (Enhanced Protections), 
Alternative C (Non-motorized Experience), Alternative D (Motorized Use 
and Refugia), and Alternative E (Long-term Adaptive Management--

[[Page 6488]]

Proposed Action). More detailed descriptions of the proposed action and 
alternatives can be found online at http://tinyurl.com/FossilCreekCRMP 
or be requested through the contact information provided above.

Lead and Cooperating Agencies

    Arizona Game and Fish Department has cooperating agency status in 
order to assist the Coconino and the Tonto National Forests in the 
preparation of the Fossil Creek Wild and Scenic River CRMP and EIS.

Responsible Official

    Laura Jo West, the Forest Supervisor on the Coconino National 
Forest, is the responsible official.

Nature of Decision To Be Made

    Given the purpose and need of the project, the Coconino Forest 
Supervisor will review the proposed action, other alternatives, and the 
effects analysis in the EIS in order to determine: (1) Which 
alternative, or combination of alternatives, should be implemented; (2) 
what actions will be taken to protect and enhance the river's water 
quality, free-flowing condition and its ORVs, as required by WSRA; (3) 
the location and extent of infrastructure development, restoration 
activities, and changes in permitted visitor capacity; (4) the design 
features, mitigation measures and monitoring requirements; and, (5) 
consistency with the forest plans in place at the time of the decision 
and the need for amendments.

Preliminary Issues

    Since 2010, public involvement regarding management of the Fossil 
Creek Wild and Scenic River has informed key issues and the 
alternatives that have been developed. Three key issues have arisen: 
(1) Recreation opportunities and recreational impacts on natural and 
cultural resources; (2) the level of recreation development; and (3) 
public health and safety. These issues form the basis for the 
alternatives presented in this Notice.

Scoping Process

    The Notice of Intent published on November 29, 2016 initiated the 
scoping process, which guides the development of the environmental 
impact statement. Several scoping meetings have been held, and 
interested parties should check the Fossil Creek CRMP Web page at 
http://tinyurl.com/FossilCreekCRMP for information about these 
meetings. This revised Notice of Intent extends the scoping period to 
January 27, 2017.
    This project is subject to the objection process pursuant to 36 CFR 
218 and is not being authorized under the Healthy Forest Restoration 
Act (HFRA). As such, those who provide specific written comments during 
designated comment periods in accordance with 36 CFR 218.5 will be 
eligible to participate in the objection process. Issues raised in 
objections must be based on previously submitted timely, specific 
written comments regarding the proposed project unless new information 
arises after designated opportunities (36 CFR 218.7). Several previous 
scoping periods have occurred since 2010, and provide standing to 
object under 36 CFR 218 to those who commented during designated 
comment periods.
    It is important that reviewers provide their comments at such times 
and in such manner that they are useful to the agency's preparation of 
the environmental impact statement. Therefore, comments should be 
provided prior to the close of the comment period and should clearly 
articulate the reviewer's concerns and contentions.
    Comments received in response to this solicitation, including names 
and addresses of those who comment, will be part of the public record 
for this proposed action. Comments submitted anonymously will be 
accepted and considered, but will not be eligible for objection per 36 
CFR 218.5.

    Dated: January 12, 2017.
Laura Jo West,
Coconino National Forest Supervisor.
[FR Doc. 2017-01191 Filed 1-18-17; 8:45 am]