[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 65 (Thursday, April 6, 2017)]
[Pages 16779-16782]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2017-06788]

                                                Federal Register

This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER contains documents other than rules 
or proposed rules that are applicable to the public. Notices of hearings 
and investigations, committee meetings, agency decisions and rulings, 
delegations of authority, filing of petitions and applications and agency 
statements of organization and functions are examples of documents 
appearing in this section.


Federal Register / Vol. 82, No. 65 / Thursday, April 6, 2017 / 

[[Page 16779]]


Forest Service

Revision of Land and Resource Management Plan for the Tonto 
National Forest; Counties of Coconino, Gila, Maricopa, Pinal, and 
Yavapai, Arizona

AGENCY: Forest Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice of intent to revise the Tonto National Forest Land and 
Resource Management Plan and prepare an associated Environmental Impact 


SUMMARY: As directed by the National Forest Management Act, the USDA 
Forest Service is revising the existing Tonto National Forest's Land 
and Resource Management Plan (hereafter referred to as Forest Plan) 
through development of an associated National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This notice describes the 
documents available for review and how to obtain them; summarizes the 
needs to change to the existing Forest Plan; provides information 
concerning public participation and collaboration, including the 
process for submitting comments; provides an estimated schedule for the 
planning process, including the time available for comments; and 
includes the names and addresses of agency contacts who can provide 
additional information.

DATES: Comments concerning the Need to Change and Proposed Action 
provided in this notice will be most useful in the development of the 
revised plan and draft EIS if received by May 22, 2017. The agency 
expects to release a draft revised plan and draft EIS, developed 
through a collaborative public engagement process by late Spring 2018 
and a final revised plan and final EIS by Summer/Fall 2019.

ADDRESSES: Send written comments to: Tonto National Forest, Attn: Plan 
Revision, 2324 East McDowell Road, Phoenix, AZ 85006. Comments may also 
be sent via email to [email protected].

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kenna Belsky, Forest Planner, Tonto 
National Forest, 602-225-5378. More information on our forest plan 
revision process can be found on our Web site at www.tontoplan.org.
    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 8p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The National Forest Management Act (NFMA) of 
1976 requires that every National Forest System (NFS) unit develop a 
forest plan. On April 9, 2012, the Forest Service finalized its land 
management planning rule (2012 Planning Rule, 36 CFR part 219), which 
describes requirements for the planning process and the content of the 
forest plans. Forest plans describe the strategic direction for 
management of forest resources for ten to fifteen years, and are 
adaptive and amendable as conditions change over time. Under the 2012 
Planning Rule, the assessment of ecological, social, cultural, and 
economic conditions and trends is the first stage of the planning 
process (36 CFR 219.6). The second stage, formal plan revision, 
involves the development of our forest plan in conjunction with the 
preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement under the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The third stage of the process is 
monitoring and feedback, which is ongoing over the life of the revised 
forest plans.
    The Tonto National Forest has completed its assessment pursuant to 
2012 Forest Planning Rule. The assessment was developed with public 
participation and includes an evaluation of existing information about 
relevant ecological, economic, cultural and social conditions, trends, 
and sustainability and their relationship to forest plans within the 
context of the broader landscape. The intent of the Tonto National 
Forest is that this information builds a common understanding prior to 
entering formal plan revision. With this notice, the Tonto National 
Forest is initiating formal plan revision and invites other 
governments, non-governmental parties, and the public to contribute. 
The intent of public engagement is to inform development of the plan 
revision. We encourage contributors to share material that may be 
relevant to the planning process, including desired conditions for the 
Tonto National Forest. As we develop public engagement opportunities to 
assist with the plan revision phase, public announcements will be made 
and information will be posted on the Forest's Web site: 
www.tontoplan.org. If you would like to contribute to the process or 
for more information email [email protected], or contact Kenna 
Belsky, Forest Planner, Tonto National Forest, 602-225-5378.

Name and Address of the Responsible Official

    Neil Bosworth, Forest Supervisor, Tonto National Forest, 2324 E 
McDowell Road, Phoenix, Arizona 85006.

Nature of the Decision To Be Made

    The Tonto National Forest is preparing an EIS to revise the 
existing forest plan. The EIS process is meant to inform the Forest 
Supervisor so he can decide which alternative best maintains and 
restores National Forest System terrestrial and aquatic resources while 
providing ecosystem services and multiple uses, as required by the 
National Forest Management Act and the Multiple Use Sustained Yield 
    The revised forest plan will describe the strategic intent of 
managing the Forest for the next 10 to 15 years and will address the 
identified needs for change to the existing land management plans. The 
revised forest plan will provide management direction in the form of 
desired conditions, objectives, standards, guidelines, and suitability 
of lands. It will identify delineation of new management areas and 
possibly geographic areas across the Forest; identify the timber sale 
program quantity; make recommendations to Congress for Wilderness 
designation; and list rivers and streams eligible for inclusion in the 
National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The revised forest plan will 
also provide a description of the plan area's distinctive roles and 
contributions within the broader landscape, identify watersheds that 
are a priority for maintenance or restoration, include a monitoring 
program, and contain information reflecting expected possible actions 
over the life of the plan.

[[Page 16780]]

    It is also important to identify the types of decisions that will 
not be made within the revised forest plan. The revised forest plan 
will represent decisions that are strategic in nature, but will not 
make site-specific project decisions and will not dictate day-to-day 
administrative activities needed to carry on the Forest Service's 
internal operations. The authorization of project level activities will 
be based on the guidance/direction contained in the revised plan, but 
will occur through subsequent project specific NEPA analysis and 
    The revised forest plan will provide broad, strategic guidance that 
is consistent with other laws and regulations. Though strategic 
guidance will be provided, no decisions will be made regarding the 
management of individual roads or trails, such as those might be 
associated with a Travel Management plan under 36 CFR part 212. Some 
issues (e.g., hunting regulations), although important, are beyond the 
authority or control of the National Forest System and will not be 

Purpose and Need (Needs for Change) and Proposed Action

    According to the National Forest Management Act, forest plans are 
to be revised at least every 15 years. The purpose and need for 
revising the current forest plan are to: (1) Update the Forest Plan 
which was approved in 1985 and is over 30 years old, (2) reflect 
changes in economic, social, and ecological conditions, new policies 
and priorities, and new information based on monitoring and scientific 
research, and (3) address the preliminary identified needs for change 
to the existing plan, which are summarized below. Extensive public and 
employee involvement, along with science-based evaluations, have helped 
to identify theses preliminary needs for change to the existing forest 
    The proposed action is to revise the Forest Plan to address the 
identified needs for change to the existing Forest Plan. Alternatives 
to the Proposed Action will be developed to address significant issues 
that will be identified through scoping.
    What follows is a summary of the preliminary identified needs for 
change. A more fully developed description of the preliminary needs for 
change, which has been organized into several resource and management 
topic sections, is available for review on the plan revision Web site 
at: www.tontoplan.org/public-involvement/needs-to-change.

Throughout the Plan

    1. There is a need for plan components that incorporate best 
available scientific information (BASI).
    2. There is a need to reduce the complexity of plan components 
related to management areas that fragment the landscape by their 
arrangement, boundaries, and differing management direction.
    3. There is a need to remove plan components that require 
developing additional planning documents, many of which require updates 
on a regular cycle.
    4. There is a need for plan components that are adaptable to 
changes in technology, tools, and communication style demands.
    5. There is a need for management approaches that emphasize public 
education about the Tonto National Forest's diverse ecological, social, 
and economic resources, the multiple-use philosophy, public laws and 
regulations, and management strategies.


    6. There is a need for a monitoring program that tracks progress 
toward desired conditions and allows for a responsive adaptive 
management program with available resources.

Collaboration and Partnerships

    7. There is a need to include management approaches that strengthen 
existing relationships, promote new relationships, and incorporate 
strategies that prioritize partnerships (e.g. local, state, and federal 
agencies, tribal governments, law enforcement, permitees, recreation 
and forest user groups, environmental groups, users with historic ties 
to the forest, and youth groups).
    8. There is a need for management approaches that promote seeking 
outside assistance in addition to working with partners and volunteers 
to manage resources and monitor activities.
    9. There is a need for management approaches that emphasize better 
coordination and collaboration with other forests, local governments, 
and tribes to minimize conflict between local planning and zoning 
direction as a result of our decisions, while at the same time becoming 
more aware of how local regulation might enhance our own management 
goals, or alternatively, interfere with our own desired outcomes.
    10. There is a need for management approaches that integrate forest 
restoration and tribal needs, for working across boundaries in 
partnership with tribes to manage landscapes, and to address threats to 
tribal resources to meet common objectives.

Terrestrial Ecosystems

    11. There is a need to develop desired conditions and other plan 
components that support heterogeneity and habitat diversity at multiple 
spatial scales.
    12. There is a need to include plan components that focus on 
addressing the impacts of exotic and invasive species on terrestrial 
and aquatic ecosystems.
    13. There is a need to develop desired conditions, standards, and 
guidelines that address terrestrial and aquatic habitat linkages and 
connectivity for species migration and movement across the landscape.
    14. There is a need for plan components that incorporate adaptive 
management strategies that increase ecosystem resiliency to changing 
environmental conditions and stressors.
    15. There is a need for standards or guidelines that prioritize use 
of native plant materials (the use of local and genetically appropriate 
seed sources) for revegetation, restoration and rehabilitation of 
native plant communities to provide for the conservation of ecosystem 
diversity and maintain healthy ecosystem function.
    16. There is a need to add plan components that emphasize landscape 
scale restoration.
    17. There is a need to develop desired conditions (at multiple 
scales) for vegetation structure by promoting a diversity of seral 
states, vegetation function, and species composition.

Frequent Fire Ecosystems

    18. There is a need for plan components, including desired 
conditions and objectives that recognize fire-adapted ecosystems, the 
role of fire on the landscape (including wilderness), and its use as a 
management tool, including planned and unplanned ignitions.

Desert Ecosystems

    19. There is a need for plan components, including desired 
conditions and standards and guidelines, to address current and 
foreseeable stressors in desert ecosystems (e.g., fire, exotic species, 
and other disturbances) and to better understand post-disturbance 
recovery of desert species.


    20. There is a need to develop standards and guidelines that 
promote the maintenance, restoration and monitoring of soil condition 

[[Page 16781]]

function (e.g., hydrology, stability, and nutrient cycling) by 
improving and maintaining sufficient ground cover (biotic and abiotic 

Riparian Ecosystems

    21. There is a need for desired conditions that identify 
appropriate riparian characteristics (e.g., biodiversity, connectivity, 
water availability) that promote functionality and resiliency while 
taking into account multiple stressors.
    22. There is a need for standards and guidelines that minimize 
ecological impacts of multiple uses in riparian areas.

Watersheds and Water Resources

    23. There is a need for standards and guidelines that reduce 
pollutant runoff into streams.
    24. There is a need for providing plan components on the 
sustainable management of groundwater and groundwater dependent 
ecosystems (springs, wetlands, riparian areas, perennial waters) and 
their interconnections.
    25. There is a need to develop plan components for the long term 
health and sustainability of watersheds utilizing best available 
scientific information.
    26. There is a need to develop plan components to ensure stream 
channels and floodplains are dynamic and resilient to disturbances.

At-Risk Species

    27. There is a need to develop standards or guidelines to provide 
for the conservation and recovery of federally listed species, as well 
as maintain viable populations of species of conservation concern.

Climate Change

    28. There is a need to include plan components that consider 
potential climate change impacts (e.g., increases in storm events, 
uncharacteristic wildfire, drought, flooding, and other extreme 
weather) to ecosystems and natural resources.

Social and Economic Conditions

    29. There is a need to add plan components that recognize the Tonto 
National Forest's role in contributing to local economies, including 
service-based sectors such as recreation and tourism, timber, grazing, 
and other multiple-use related activities and products.

Ecosystems Services

    30. There is a need to include plan components for key ecosystem 
services identified in the Assessment including: Water for consumption; 
water for recreation; habitat for hunting, fishing, and watchable 
wildlife; sustainable and productive rangelands; and cultural heritage.
    31. There is a need for updating plan components that provide for 
the management of sustainable water supply for multiple uses (e.g. 
wildlife, grazing, and recreation) including public water supplies.

Timber and Forest Products

    32. There is a need for plan components to ensure the 
sustainability and availability of forest products such as firewood, 
medicinal and ceremonial plants, and edible plants.
    33. There is a need for desired conditions that incorporate a wide 
range of silvicultural practices to promote forest health, resiliency, 
and sustainability.

Rangeland Resources

    34. There is a need to add plan components for rangeland management 
that maintain or restore ecological integrity of rangelands.
    35. There is a need for plan components to allow flexibility in 
rangeland management to prepare for changing conditions such as 
drought, fire, social and economic needs.


    36. There is a need to include plan components for sustainable 
recreation management to ensure that recreation resources are 
integrated into all resource management decisions.
    37. There is a need for desired conditions to address the long-term 
sustainability of recreation infrastructure (e.g., trails, facilities, 
roads), maintenance, design, and improvement.
    38. There is a need for management approaches to address changing 
trends in services, activities, and types of facilities desired by the 
public, while balancing those trends with other resources.
    39. There is a need for plan components to address user conflicts 
(e.g., recreational shooting and hikers, equestrians and bicyclists, 
and motorized and non-motorized users).

Scenic Character

    40. There is a need for plan components to incorporate scenery 
management with all forest management (e.g., restoration, habitat 
diversity, timber management) to further positive outcomes for all 

Renewable and Nonrenewable Energy Resources, Mineral Resources & 
Geologic Hazards

    41. There is a need for desired conditions that address 
transmission corridors and renewable energy generation, including wind, 
solar, biomass, and geothermal, while protecting natural resources, 
heritage and sacred sites, traditional tribal activities, and scenery.
    42. There is a need for plan components regarding the use of common 
variety mineral materials, such as commercial contracts, personal use, 
and free use permits.
    43. There is a need for standards and guidelines for meteorite 
collection, rock hounding and mineral collection.


    44. There is a need for plan components that ensure sustainable 
infrastructure (e.g., roads, trails, recreation and administrative 
facilities, range improvements, maintenance backlog, etc.).

Cultural and Historic Resources and Tribal Uses

    45. There is a need for plan components aimed at managing for 
Native American traditional cultural properties and sacred sites, and 
non-Native American traditional cultural properties, while conserving 
anonymity of such sites where appropriate.
    46. There is a need for plan components that protect historic 
properties and tribal use areas at risk of damage or destruction during 
non-prescribed/unplanned fire.
    47. There is a need to update plan components to protect areas that 
may be identified as a sacred site or part of an important cultural 
landscape by tribe.
    48. There is a need for desired conditions in the plan that address 
the alignment of heritage resources management objectives (the 
management of historic properties and landscapes, sacred sites, 
contemporary uses) with other resource management objectives (ecosystem 
restoration, rangeland management, recreation).

Land Ownership, Status, Use, and Access

    49. There is a need to develop, modify, or remove plan components 
to allow flexible and efficient management of special uses while 
balancing resource protection with public needs.
    50. There is a need to develop plan components related to Forest 
Service lands acquisitions, disposals, and exchanges.
    51. There is a need for plan components that encourage the

[[Page 16782]]

protection of existing public access and address the acquisition of new 
public access opportunities.
    52. There is a need to include management approaches to develop a 
strategy to address issues related to known and suspected trespass and 
encroachment issues present on the forest.

Designated Areas

    53. There is a need for the revised plan to identify and evaluate 
potential additions to the National Wilderness Preservation System and 
eligibility of rivers for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic 
Rivers Systems, and potentially other types of designated areas.
    54. There is a need to reevaluate designated and proposed special 
areas that no longer suite the original purpose for designation (i.e., 
research natural areas, botanical areas, burro territories, etc.), 
excluding congressionaly designated areas.

Public Involvement

    A Notice of Initiation of the assessment phase of forest plan 
revision for the Tonto National Forest was published in the Federal 
Register on February 26, 2014 (79 FR 10763). Prior to the formal 
initiation of the assessment, the Tonto National Forest held four 
listening sessions in Scottsdale, Globe, Payson, and Mesa, Arizona. 
These listening sessions provided existing collaborative porential and 
limitations and helped the plan revision team organize the public 
participation efforts for forest plan revision. In March of 2014 the 
Tonto National Forest hosted two all-day workshops to solicit comments, 
input, and desires from the public, governmental entities, tribes, land 
grants, and nongovernmental organization for public participation 
through the forest plan revision process. Between May-July 2014, eight 
community forums provided an introduction to forest plan revision and 
an opportunity for the public to provide input for the assessment by 
expressing how they use and value the forest, and what trends or 
changes they have observed. In September and October 2016 the Tonto 
National Forest hosted seven Needs to Change Public Meetings to discuss 
key findings from the draft assessment and collabotate on needs to 
change. The discussion focused on eleven key themes that ranged from 
ecological sustainability; social, cultural, and economic 
sustainability; and forest-wide management. Discussions from these 
meetings helped to shape the Draft Needs to Change document which was 
available for public reivew between December 15, 2016-January 11, 2017. 
Comments received from the public along with responses are posted to 
the Web site: www.tontoplan.org. The final needs to change statements 
are based on results from the assessment, input from a round of seven 
public meetings, and two rounds of public comment.
    Additionally, the Tonto National Forest is utilizing internet based 
collabotation techniquies to gather public input and engaging 
communities at a local level through presentations at meetings hosted 
by organizations, government groups and Tribes; informational booths at 
fairs and local community events; and presentations and field trips for 
local schools. Public Informaiton to the public was provided by a 
dedicated Forest Plan revision Web page and through mailings, flyers, 
news releases, Twitter, and radio interview. Detailed information, 
including dates and notes of specific events, can be found on the Tonto 
National Forest Plan Revision Web site: www.tontoplan.org. Any comments 
related to the Tonto National Forest's assessment report that are 
received following the publication of this Notice will be considered in 
the draft and final environmental impact statements.

Scoping Process

    Written comments received in response to this notice will be 
analyzed to complete the identification of the needs for change to the 
existing plan, further develop the proposed action, and identify 
potential significant issues. Significant issues will, in turn, form 
the basis for developing alternatives to the proposed action. Comments 
on the preliminary needs for change and proposed action will be most 
valuable if received by May 23, 2017, and should clearly articulate the 
reviewer's opinions and concerns. Comments received in response to this 
notice, including the names and addresses of those who comment, will be 
part of the public record. Comments submitted anonymously will be 
accepted and considered in the NEPA process; however, anonymous 
comments will not provide the Agency with the ability to provide the 
respondent with subsequent environmental documents, nor will anonymous 
comments provide standing to the commenter for the eventual Objection 
process. See the below Objection process material, particularly the 
requirements for filing an objection, for how anonymous comments are 
handled during the objection process. Refer to the Forest's plan 
revision Web site (www.tontoplan.org) for information on when public 
meetings will be scheduled for refining the proposed action and 
identifying possible alternatives to the proposed action.

Applicable Planning Rule

    Preparation of the revised forest plan for the Tonto National 
Forest began with the publication of a Notice of Assessment Initiation 
in the Federal Register on February 26, 2014 (79 FR 10763) and was 
initiated under the planning procedures contained in the 2012 Forest 
Service planning rule (36 CFR part 219 (2012)).

Permits or Licenses Required To Implement the Proposed Action

    No permits or licenses are needed for the development or revision 
of a forest plan.

Decisions Will Be Subject To Objection

    The decision to approve the revised forest plan for the Tonto 
National Forest will be subject to the objection process identified in 
36 CFR part 219 subpart B (219.50 to 219.62). According to 36 CFR 
219.53(a), those who may file an objection are individuals and entities 
who have submitted substantive formal comments related to plan revision 
during the opportunities provided for public comment during the 
planning process.

Documents Available for Review

    The Needs for Change documentation, Assessment Report including 
specialist reports, summaries of the public meetings and public meeting 
materials, and public comments are posted on the Forest's Web site at: 
www.tontoplan.org. As necessary or appropriate, the material available 
on this site will be further adjusted as part of the planning process 
using the provisions of the 2012 planning rule.

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1600-1614; 36 CFR part 219 [77 FR 21260-

    Dated: March 20, 2017.
Jeanne M. Higgins,
Associate Deputy Chief, National Forest System.
[FR Doc. 2017-06788 Filed 4-5-17; 8:45 am]