Tusayan Ranger District Easement Proposal

In September 2019 the Kaibab National Forest received a draft proposal from the Town of Tusayan and Stilo Development Group USA for roadway and utility easements across National Forest System lands on the Tusayan Ranger District. The Forest Service received a revised draft proposal February 7, 2020 and evaluated it for consistency with applicable laws, regulations, and agency policy.

 

Current Status

The Kaibab National Forest has completed the first and second level screenings of the revised proposal from the Town of Tusayan and Stilo, and is moving forward with evaluation of the application. As part of this administrative review process, the Forest Service will be conducting an environmental analysis, as prescribed by the National Environmental Policy Act, to identify and examine the potential effects of authorizing the proposed uses of NFS land, not authorizing the proposed uses, and any reasonable alternatives to the proposal that are developed.

Accepting the application for processing does not mean the proposed use will be authorized. Rather, in processing the application, the Forest Service can take a broader, more in-depth look at the proposal and seek public input to help inform a decision on whether to authorize the proposed uses.

On September 30, 2020, the Forest issued a letter of response to the Town and Stilo, informing them of next steps and identifying additional information the Town and Stilo will need to provide in order for the Forest Service to conduct a thorough analysis of the application and the potential effects of the proposed uses of NFS land.

 

Special Use Authorization Process

When the Forest Service receives an easement proposal, the first step is to evaluate it against existing Forest Service screening criteria for special uses of National Forest System lands. There are two levels of screening criteria, which both must be met for a proposal to be accepted for processing. Applicable agency regulations for special uses are available at 36 CFR 251.54 Proposal and application requirements and procedures.

Accepting an application for processing does not mean the proposed uses will be authorized. If the Forest Service accepts a proposal as an application, it is then carried forward into an administrative review process to evaluate the application in further detail.  The administrative review includes an environmental analysis, as prescribed by the National Environmental Policy Act, with ample opportunity for public engagement and comment.

To view a graphical depiction of the special uses authorization process, see Steps in Special Uses Proposals, Application, and Authorization Process, Including Initial and Second-Level Screening for Proposals from the Forest Service Special Uses Handbook.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q: Can I see the application?

A: Yes. The application as well as information about the special use authorization process and the letter from the Kaibab National Forest Supervisor officially accepting the application are all available to the public

 

Q: Can the Forest Service decide to not authorize the proposed uses?

A: Yes. Upon evaluation of the proposal and completion of environmental analyses, the Forest Service has the discretion to authorize the uses as proposed, authorize the proposed uses with modifications to the proposal, or not authorize any use of NFS land.

 

Q: How do I provide my comments on the application?

A: Special use applications to the Forest Service are open for public comment through the environmental review process, beginning with scoping.

 

Q: Can I appeal the Forest Service decision to accept the application?

A: There is no appeal process for the decision to accept a special use application for processing.  There will be opportunity for public comment as part of the environmental analysis process, which includes an objection process.

 

Q: Was the Town’s new proposal evaluated the same way that the other proposal was several years ago?

A: Yes. All special use authorization proposals submitted to the Forest Service are subject to the same Forest Service screening criteria for proposed special uses of National Forest System lands.  While the same criteria are applied, changes to the proposal can result in a different conclusion.  Further information about the process is above. 

 

Q: What are the main differences between the 2020 proposal and the proposal the Town of Tusayan submitted in 2014?

A: The 2020 Proposal provides more detail regarding the proposed uses of NFS land for which authorization is being sought. Although the Town and Stilo still propose using groundwater from wells on private land, their proposal to transport water by truck from sources outside of the area for commercial use reflects a substantial change from the 2014 Proposal.  The Forest Service needs information about how water will be used because this helps determine whether or not the proponents will need authorization to use and occupy NFS land with a water pipeline. The proposal also identifies a reduction in density of the development on private land and, while development on private land is not the Forest Service’s concern, an analysis of the development itself will be included in the environmental review, per the requirements of NEPA and Forest Service regulations, because the proposed uses of National Forest lands are dependent on how development of private land is expected to proceed. 

 

Q: Is it unusual for the Forest Service to receive a request for access across National Forest?

A: No. It is common for the Forest Service to work with the owners of private inholdings that are surrounded by or adjacent to National Forest lands. We often receive proposals for various kinds of permits and easements, and there is a process in place for evaluating those proposals.  Federal laws and regulations provide a legal right of access across NFS land where necessary for reasonable use and enjoyment of private land.  16 U.S.C. 3210, 36 CFR 251.110.

 

Q: How will the impacts of the potential development be addressed?

A: The Forest Service is considering an application for authorization to use NFS land, and does not regulate the use of private property.  While development on private land is not the Forest Service’s concern, an analysis of the development itself will be included in the environmental review, per the requirements of NEPA and Forest Service regulations, because the proposed uses of National Forest lands are dependent on how development of private land is expected to proceed.

 

Q: Will tribal concerns be considered? How will tribes be involved in the process?

A:  The Kaibab National Forest will consult American Indian Tribes on issues and concerns throughout the application review process. Tribal consultation between the Forest Service and American Indian Tribes is guided by the Forest Service Handbook. The Kaibab National Forest is committed to maintaining constant and open communications with our Tribal partners, including seeking to engage in fair, timely, and meaningful consultation.

 

Q: Who authorized developing the properties?

A: The private land is within the Town of Tusayan town limits. Therefore, the development has been authorized by the Town of Tusayan through its planning and zoning process. The Forest Service does not have the authority to regulate the development or zoning of private property. The Forest Service action is directed at the proposed uses of NFS land. 

 

Q: How will the proposed roadway and utility easements affect the Grand Canyon?

A: The potential effects on the Grand Canyon of the requested roadway and utility easements will be identified, analyzed and disclosed as part of the administrative review and environmental analysis process.

 

Q: What level of analysis will this be? 

A: We will be conducting a robust and through analysis. However, the level of environmental analysis will be determined based on information gathered during public scoping of the proposed action. 

 

Q: How long will this process take?

A: The Forest Service has only just accepted the application for processing and hasn’t initiated the environmental review process yet, so it is difficult to estimate a timeline. The timeline will depend on the issues raised, analysis, and a variety of other factors. The analysis will be conducted in accordance with the Council on Environmental Quality's updated National Environmental Policy Act regulations, which include specific timelines for the various levels of analysis.  We anticipate the public scoping period to begin in the coming months, and a more detailed timeline will be developed as we move forward.  It is important to remember, however, that the environmental analysis is just one part of the administrative review of the application. 





https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/kaibab/home/?cid=FSEPRD660672