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Arizona Elk Society comments on Tonto National Forest Travel Management Plan

February 2, 2012

Gene Blankenbaker
Forest Supervisor
Tonto National Forest
2324 E. McDowell Rd.Phoenix, AZ 85006

The Arizona Elk Society, P. O. Box 190, Peoria, Arizona 85380, is filing these comments on the Environmental Assessment relative to the Tonto National Forest - Motorized Travel Management, which was made available on January 6, 2012 for public comment.

In reviewing this document, the Arizona Elk Society has a very favorable overall impression on the quality and thoroughness of the document. It is well written and strives to achieve a balance for the multitude of users of the Tonto National Forest. That said, though, we do have concerns in three areas as follows:

  1. Decision on the use of motorized big game retrieval (BGR).
  2. Restrictions on traditional methods of dispersed vehicle-based camping.
  3. Designation of roads for administrative purposes.

We will provide specific information on each of these issues, but first want to provide an overall context for our comments on these issues. We believe that National Forest system was created for the use and enjoyment of these lands for past, current, and future generations so long as excessive resource damage in not incurred. Further, we believe that Federal Executive Order 13443 as promulgated by then President Bush (Dated August 16, 2007 provides clear guidance to the Forest Service (and other federal agencies) that program implementation should provide for the enhancement of hunting opportunities and the management of game species and their habitat (see Section1 and Section 2.a). For reasons stated below, we believe the limitations on BGR and dispersed motorized camping are both unreasonable and contrary to this Executive Order.

Further, that the clear lack of consistency with other forests in Arizona presents an unfair burden on the lawful user of this states’ forests. Where one can camp or use motorized vehicles for BGR is so variable that a legal nightmare is created for recreationists on the different forests, particularly when these forests share common boundaries. We believe this inconsistency will be very problematic for the public and likely make violators out of people who have no intention of violating.