Inventory and Evaluation of Wilderness Characteristics Process

ProcessEach national forest undertaking Forest Plan Revision under the 2012 Planning Rule must complete a process of identifying and evaluating lands that may be suitable for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System, and determine whether to recommend any of the evaluated lands to Congress for wilderness designation. Congress reserves the authority to designate wilderness through legislation.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Inventory and Evaluation of Wilderness Characteristics Process (english, en espanol)

Steps of the Wilderness Process

Forest Service Handbook 1909.12 Chapter 70 provides direction and guidance for the four-step process (as depicted in the image on the right) to be completed as one part of the larger Plan Revision effort.

Click here for presentation providing an overview of the process.

Step 1: Inventory

The purpose of the inventory steps was to identify all National Forest lands in the plan area that may have wilderness characteristics using a given set of criteria.  Public involvement and meetings were held in June and August 2017 to provide information on the process, its steps, and to seek public input and feedback on the Inventory and Evaluation steps.

Final Inventory Process Paper (September 2017)

Final Inventory Maps (June 2018) include all National Forest System areas that are identified to move on to the next step of the process, which is the evaluation of the inventoried lands.  This is only a preliminary step in a larger process and does not mean that all areas on the Final Inventory map will be proposed or managed as Wilderness.

You can view the inventoried areas using our interactive web map StoryMap.  There are also detailed final inventory maps (in .pdf format) for each District available below (although due to their large file size it may take some time to load and you might consider downloading to your harddrive by right clicking on the link and selecting "Save Target as...").  These maps can be made available in hardcopy form upon request (email gilaplan@fs.fed.us or call 575-388-8280).

Final Inventory GIS Data (June 2018)

Step 2: Evaluation

The Gila NF is currently in the middle of this step.  For the second step of the process, the draft evaluation report is now available for public review and comment.  The evaluation step examines the level of wilderness characteristics possessed by the lands identified in the previous Inventory step. The Gila National Forest developed the evaluation process paper (english, en espanol) used to produce the draft evaluation report after listening to stakeholder ideas during community and technical meetings and review periods that provided opportunities to submit written comments.

Keep in mind that this is only an early step in a larger process and inclusion of an area in the evaluation step does not mean the area will be proposed or managed as a wilderness. The Gila National Forest welcomes comments on the wilderness characteristic rankings and rationales given to each area.  Comments on the draft evaluation report are most useful if received by September 14, 2018. Your comments will help the Forest Service create accurate documents to support appropriate and informed decision-making.  For information on how to most effectively provide your feedback on the Draft evaluation report, see the Guide to Making Comments.

Comments can be submitted using our interactive web map StoryMap.
or by email to gilaplan@fs.fed.us
or by mail to: Gila National Forest, Attn.: Plan Revision, 3005 E. Camino del Bosque, Silver City, NM 88061

There are also detailed Draft evaluation maps (in .pdf format) for each District available below (although due to their large file size it may take some time to load and you might consider downloading to your harddrive by right clicking on the link and selecting "Save Target as...").  These maps can be made available in hardcopy form upon request (email gilaplan@fs.fed.us or call 575-388-8280).

Draft Evaluation Maps with Range Allotments Shown

Draft Evaluation GIS Data (July 2018)

Step 3: Analysis

This involves analysis of the evaluated areas that are determined to be potentially suitable for inclusion in one or more alternatives as part of the Forest Plan Revision National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. There will be consideration of all factors (impacts to local existing or future forest products uses, effects to restoration needs and defensible space from wildfire/wildland urban interface, etc.) that have relevance for consideration of whether an area should be recommended, or not, and not just limited to ranking of wilderness characteristics. We are now requesting this site-specific information to help us with the analysis phase of the process.  Please send us any site-specific information you would like considered for this step. This information is most useful if received by January 4, 2019.  Please send this information to gilaplan@fs.fed.us, or mail to Gila National Forest, Attn.: Plan Revision, 3005 E. Camino del Bosque, Silver City, NM 88061.  We will be considering previously submitted comments that are applicable to the analysis step. 

 

Step 4: Recommendation

The Forest Supervisor (Responsible Official) will decide which areas, if any, to recommend to Congress for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System.  Only Congress may designate wilderness.

 

Archive

Draft Inventory Maps (October 2017)

Draft Inventory GIS Data (October 2017)

Draft Evaluation Process Paper (October 2017)





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