Draft Evaluation of Lands Inventoried for Potential Wilderness Characteristics

Silver City, NM, July 18, 2018—For Immediate Release. The Gila National Forest is currently revising its land and resource management plan – also known as the Forest Plan. As one part of the larger Plan Revision effort, each national forest undertaking Forest Plan Revision is required to complete a process of identifying and evaluating lands that may be suitable for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System. The four-step process concludes with a determination of whether to recommend any of the evaluated lands to Congress for wilderness designation.  Congress reserves the authority to designate wilderness through legislation.

After considering public feedback, the Gila National Forest has adjusted and finalized the inventory map as the first step of the four-step process. 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 Inventory step of the process. The Gila National Forest developed the final evaluation process paper 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.  Being included in the evaluation also does not imply any sort of designation, or require any special management direction.

According to Adam Mendonca, Forest Supervisor for the Gila, “Continued public involvement will be key during each step of the inventory and evaluation process.  The most valuable inputs the Forest can receive are comments specific to areas that individuals feel were incorrectly evaluated as part of the second step in the process.”

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 August 24, 2018. Your comments will help the Forest Service create accurate documents to support appropriate and informed decision-making. To access these draft materials and find more information on how to comment, please visit our website at: https://go.usa.gov/xnDRD

There will be future opportunities to comment on future steps in the process as well.  After the Evaluation step is completed, the evaluations will be used to inform the Forest Supervisor’s selection of which areas, or modified areas, are to be analyzed in each of the forest plan revision Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) alternatives and consideration of all factors that have relevance if an area were to be recommended, not just wilderness characteristics.

For information on the Gila National Forest, check out our website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/gila or join the conversation on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GilaNForest/ or follow us on Twitter @GilaNForest.

QR code leading to draft eval of lands