Travel Management

The Tonto National Forest is releasing a draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) to address identified short comings in the 2016 Final Travel Management Rule Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and associated Draft Record of Decision (DROD).  This DSEIS responds to thirteen objections and the regional forester’s instructions to conduct additional analysis prior to issuing a final Record of Decision (ROD).  The DROD was released June 7, 2016. The final ROD has not yet been released.

This DSEIS is a limited scope document and a supplement to the FEIS.  The scope and intent of the DSEIS only addresses public issues raised during the formal objection process to the DROD, and where the regional forester found that additional analysis was necessary to meet the intent of the Travel Management Rule.  The intent is not to revisit those parts of the FEIS that were not objected and such comments will be handled as outside of the scope of this document and formal comment period.

The issues requiring additional analysis under 36 CFR 212 Subpart B include:

  • Compliance with the Travel Management Rule, including how the Forest applied criteria to minimize resource impacts from motorized trails and clarifying route designations
  • Objections regarding designations of specific route segments and areas
  • Analysis of the impact of motorized travel on designated and eligible Wild and Scenic Rivers
  • The recommended minimum road system resulting from the travel analysis process (36 CFR 212 Subpart A) completed in 2011
  • Compliance with the Clean Air Act
  • Compliance with the National Forest Management Act for changes to recreation opportunity spectrum classes

Documents

Click on heading below to expand content.

Next step in designating Routes and Roads on the Tonto National Forest

At the end of the 45-day comment period for the Draft SEIS, the Tonto National Forest will analyze comments and use this information to prepare the Final SEIS.  The Tonto anticipates issuing the final SEIS and a new draft Record of Decision in Spring 2019 with a final Record of Decision in late summer 2019. 

Some of the concerns expressed in objections require site specific design and analysis. The resolution of such concerns will be addressed at project-level travel planning, once forest-wide travel management planning is finished. Designation of a forest-wide system of motorized roads, trails, and areas open to the public is the first step in complying with the 2005 Travel Management Rule. The rule explicitly intends (36 CFR 212.54) that travel planning should be an iterative process, with designations being revised as needed to meet changing conditions or to address unresolved issues. Once the basic system of public access roads is established, fine-tuning can occur.

After the Final Record of Decision is signed, a motorized vehicle use map (MVUM) will be produced that shows the designated motorized routes on the Tonto National Forest.  This  map will be updated, as needed, based on input gathered from both internal and external sources. The Forest consolidates all input and proposes changes to motor vehicle use designations, then completes an environmental analysis and decision to effect the changes desired. Motor vehicle use designations may also be changed in conjunction with other projects in a given area, such as vegetation management or stream restoration.

The Travel Management Rule

In 2005, the Forest Service published a new rule for providing motor vehicle access to national forests and grasslands after receiving more than 81,000 comments on a draft rule published in July 2004. Many user groups, environmental groups, and state and local governments endorsed the concept of a designated system of roads, trails, and areas for motor vehicle use.

The final rule requires each national forest and grassland to designate those roads, trails, and areas open to motor vehicle use. Designated routes and areas will be identified on a motor vehicle use map. Motor vehicle use outside of designated routes and areas will be provided for fire, military, emergency, and law enforcement purposes and for use under Forest Service permit. Valid existing rights are honored. The rule also maintains the status quo for snowmobile use, as determined in individual forest plans. The rule itself does not designate roads or areas for motor vehicles but provides a framework for making those decisions at the local level.

The final travel management rule [PDF, USFS] is a collection of laws mandating each National Forest System unit.

Why is Travel Management Planning Important?

Outdoor recreation is central to our work. The demand for recreation opportunities is growing. These opportunities connect people with the land and foster healthy lifestyles.

Motorized recreation is a legitimate use of our national forests. The rule provides a uniform set of guidelines for travel management decisions. This will result in consistent, high quality motorized recreation opportunities on designated roads, trails, and areas on national forests and grasslands.

Route designations will involve working with local communities. The final rule itself doesn’t open or close a single route. Those decisions will be made at the local level in a fair and open travel planning process that anyone can join. Working with local communities, interest groups and tribal governments over the next three years will result in a system of designated routes and areas tailored to local conditions and needs.

Together, we’ll sustain our natural resources. The rule addresses the growing demand for motorized recreation while protecting the environment and assuring that our national forests and grasslands provide clean air, clean water, and abundant wildlife for future generations.

Background

The number of OHV users in the Unites States has climbed tenfold in the past 32 years, from approximately 5 million in 1972 to 51 million in 2004. The Forest Service now manages more than 300,000 miles of road and 35,000 miles of trail for motor vehicle use. More than 11 million people using OHVs visited national forest and grasslands in 2004. See the original Travel Management Rule (TMR) Proposed Action.

Why Change OHV Use on Arizona's National Forests?

More Americans than ever are using off-highway vehicles (OHV) to enjoy the outdoors. Nowhere is this more apparent than in our own state of Arizona where OHV ownership has skyrocketed. Read the Why Change OHV Use on Arizona's National Forests? brochure [PDF].

Documents

Our online document archive contains important documents related to the travel management process as they are developed.

Draft Record of Decision to comply with the Final Travel Management Rule

The Tonto National Forest released the draft record of decision (ROD) in 2016, to comply with the Final Travel Management Rule, requiring all National Forest System lands designate roads, trails, and areas for motor vehicle travel, and with the predecisional objection process.

The Final Travel Management Rule requires motor vehicles to be restricted to designated roads, trails, and areas as shown on the Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM). The selected alternative restricts off-road motor vehicle use; and designates:

  • Approximately 3,700 miles of roads and motorized trails open to the public;
  • Eight OHV areas where travel off designated system roads and motorized trails is permitted;
  • Three additional permit zones;
  • Motor vehicle use solely for retrieving legally harvested elk and bear for all hunts up to 1 mile on both sides of all designated roads and motorized trails;
  • Motor vehicle use for dispersed camping on approximately 91 miles of full-sized motorized trails that access nearly 2,750 inventoried existing dispersed camping sites; and
  • The use of motorized vehicles off of designated system roads and motorized trails to aid in the collection of permitted personal fuelwood within the designated fuelwood cutting areas.

Documents

What will change?

Criteria

Now

Change

Off-highway use of motorized vehicles

Cross country travel permitted unless posted closed

Cross country travel only in designated areas* or with written permission

Roads open for public motorized use

All existing roads open unless posted closed or restricted

Only designated roads* open

Trails open for public motorized use

All existing trails open unless posted closed or restricted

Only designated trails* open

Areas open for public motorized use

None

Only designated areas* open

*Designated open roads, trails and areas as depicted on the Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM)

Designating Motorized Routes

  • Travel Management Rule sets nationwide, consistent guidelines for the process
  • Regional forester provides region-wide guidelines for the forests
  • Forest supervisor provides forest-wide consistency in process
  • District rangers are currently in the process of developing a proposal for designated system of roads, trails and areas

The Tonto National Forest, in coordination with the public and interested groups, state, county, and local governments, will designate the roads, trails, and areas for motor vehicle use. This is a public process, and you are encouraged to participate. If you are interested in which routes or areas should be open or closed to motor vehicles, please contact your local ranger district and get involved.

Designations will include class of vehicle and, if appropriate, time of year. Some single-track trails may be designated for motorcycle use only. Other trails will accommodate a wider range of vehicles. Some trails will be managed for nonmotorized use. The key to making these decisions, and ensuring they are sustainable over the long term, will be working together at the local level.

The national forests and grasslands are shared resources held by all Americans. Recreational visitors experience them in many different ways. Across the country, some of our most effective examples of OHV management involve state and local governments, motorized and nonmotorized users, and other affected citizens working together. Partnerships extend the agency's limited resources to accomplish trail maintenance, restore damage, educate users, and promote a spirit of cooperation among national forest visitors.

We are releasing the draft SEIS for a 45 day comment period on April 5, 2019.  Comment Analysis and response and preparation of the final SEIS will occur this summer.  We anticipate issuing the final SEIS and its draft Record of Decision in the fall of 2019 with a final Record of Decision signed by December 31, 2019.

 


 

For further information please contact individual ranger districts or:

Greg Schuster
602-225-5362
gjschuster@fs.fed.us





https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/tonto/landmanagement/planning/?cid=fsbdev3_018761