Frequently Asked Questions
Significant environmental, social, and economic changes have occurred since the Cibola’s current plan was published in 1985. The 2012 Planning Rule, which was used to revise the plan, includes new policy and analytical requirements, calls for increased public participation, and incorporates the best available science into Forest management. This is an opportunity for us to incorporate new science as well as input from those who value the Cibola.
The Cibola’s revised Forest Plan will provide a vision for the future and strategic guidance for managing cultural and natural resources, balancing multiple uses, connecting people to their land and heritage, and restoring ecosystems. It will also provide strategic, program-level guidance to manage the Cibola’s resources and multiple uses for the next 10 to 15 years.
The revised Forest Plan follows the 2012 Planning Rule, which involved substantial public participation throughout the revision process. The revised plan will place greater emphasis on outcomes rather than outputs; management actions will be based on the best available science and local knowledge; and it can be adapted to changing conditions and stressors over time.
Additionally, the revised Forest Plan focuses on the communities in and around the Cibola and their traditional and cultural uses of the forest. It emphasizes partnership with these communities; local, state, and tribal governments; and other federal agencies and partners. It also emphasizes ecological restoration from an “all-lands” integrated resource standpoint.
The revised Forest Plan contains the following plan components and other content that reflect the key roles and contributions of the forest and the “needs for change” to the 1985 Forest Plan:
Plan components (required)
Management approaches (optional)
Monitoring plan (required)
The revised Forest Plan is less prescriptive than the previous plan. The standards and guidelines ensure that all activities either maintain or move towards the desired conditions. The objectives provide measurable goals and identify management approaches to achieve desired conditions.
A collaborative public engagement process was used. This included involvement from four District Collaboratives and the Cibola Shared Stewardship Collaborative; a Memoranda of Understanding with 43 cooperating agencies consisting of federal and state agencies, county and local governments, tribes, land grants, and soil and water conservation districts. Members of the general public were engaged through public meetings and open houses.
Managing for Ecosystem Health/Restoration of Fire --The plan facilitates restoration work and provides a framework for future landscape scale restoration.
Managing for Sustainable Recreation-- Sustainable recreation principles are embedded in the plan.
Supporting Traditional Uses and Communities -- The plan shows a commitment to traditional uses for tribal and northern New Mexico community members, values the special places of local communities, and recognizes the value of partnerships.
Management/Designated Areas--The Cibola manages four Designated Wilderness areas totaling 138,378 acres. After evaluating 26.6% percent of the Forest or 430,269 acres, including all 13 Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRAs), the revised plan recommends 8 additions to existing wildernesses (24,265 acres in total).
Species Persistence--The Cibola contains 5 federally endangered species, 4 threatened species, and 20 species of conservation concern. The Cibola proposed plan contains desired conditions, standards, and guidelines, especially within the species, vegetation, and water sections, that provide for the persistence of these At-Risk species within the plan area.
Managing for Healthy Watersheds—Strong support for restoration economies provides for employment, capital, resources, and economic activity from investments in ecological restoration. Desired Conditions for watersheds focus on managing toward proper functioning condition of all riparian and wetland features and streams.
Four alternatives are evaluated in the DEIS: the 1985 Plan (no action alternative), the proposed revised plan, and two alternatives developed in response to issues raised by the Cibola’s public and cooperating agencies.
Alternative A, the 1985 Plan and No Action Alternative, continues the existing Forest Plan, as amended. While the existing plan has been amended fourteen times, it lacks clearly articulated desired conditions for most resources and does not address current issues relevant to the Cibola.
Alternative B was developed in response to public and cooperating agency recommendations for site-specific management areas to provide plan direction that is unique from forest-wide direction for watersheds, cultural resources, recreation, and vegetation resources. It also responds to the need for primitive recreation opportunities by recommending 55,779 acres of wilderness areas.
Alternative C is the proposed Draft Plan. It emphasizes accelerated restoration and provides for enhanced primitive backcountry recreation opportunities while still allowing for restoration activity, with 8 recommended wilderness additions (24,265 acres). Restoration focuses on existing and future landscape-based restoration projects in high-use areas around communities and roadways. It addresses the need to increase the Cibola’s economic contributions to surrounding communities, the need to reduce fire hazards, protect infrastructure, and restore vegetation conditions with mechanical thinning and prescribed fire.
Alternative D maximizes natural processes with more managed fire and was developed in response to comments for more solitude, remoteness, and primitive recreation. Alternative D was also developed in response to comments asking for more areas to be protected from human uses and for restoration to rely on prescribed and natural fire with minimal mechanical thinning. It contains the most acreage of recommended wilderness (203,117 acres).
The alternatives were analyzed in the DEIS to determine how they would impact cultural and natural resources within the Cibola National Forest and social and economic interests. Multiple open houses were held to familiarize partners and the public with the DEIS, during which comments were accepted. Substantive comments were analyzed and suggested changes were used to modify the proposed revised Forest Plan. These, along with internal agency reviews, were used to form the Final Revised Forest Plan.
The Cibola, Santa Fe, and Carson NFs share similarities amongst rural and Tribal communities. The three forests deliberatively sought forest plan management alignment to better serve these communities, particularly for sustainable grazing, forest products, and availability of fuelwood and water (acequias).
Tribal consultation and collaboration with 17 federally recognized Tribes was ongoing throughout the revision process. This provided a unique opportunity for Tribes to influence the long-term vision for the Cibola NF and to strengthen the unique government-to-government relationship that the Cibola NF values with the Tribes.
The Cibola’s revised Forest Plan will contribute approximately 1,142 jobs to local economies annually, a 3.5% increase from the current plan; and $47.6 million in forest management-related labor income, a 4.5% increase from the current plan.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was consulted, as required by law, to determine what impacts the Forest Plan has or may have on federally listed plants and wildlife. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided a Biological Opinion to disclose those findings. The revised Forest Plan will also guide vegetation and aquatic habitat management in support of plant and animal species, address the management of invasive species, and emphasize habitat connectivity.
The Draft Plan outlines desired conditions for recommended wilderness that would maintain or enhance the primitive and undeveloped wilderness characteristics of those areas. Updated plan direction also prohibits motorized travel and uses in recommended wilderness with exceptions for emergency use, limited needs required for grazing allotment management, and where they will not result in long-term degradation to wilderness characteristics. Mechanized recreation will not be allowed in these areas.
Sustainable recreation management is emphasized in the revised Forest Plan, with the aim to provide high quality recreation experiences while balancing changing uses and service trends. This will mitigate user conflicts and resource damage.
The revised Forest Plan recognizes the value of natural disturbance processes. Vegetation and ecosystem structure will be restored in fire-adapted ecosystems through the use of planned and natural fires and silvicultural practices. Restoration of fire adapted ecosystems will reduce uncharacteristic wildland fires, protect life and property, and cultural and ecological resources while improving wildlife habitat.
The revised Forest Plan allows for the continuation of uses such as sustainable grazing, fuelwood, and water for irrigation. Resources and access are maintained for rural historic communities and tribes for cultural and traditional needs, subsistence practices, and economic support. Partnership direction provides a shared vision of forest management and encourages increased communication and relationships between the Forest and local communities such as tribal governments, land grants and acequia associations, and other traditional and rural communities.
Any decisions made or implemented prior to signing the Draft Plan will use the previous Plan for guidance on Forest management. Any decisions made or implemented after signing the Draft Plan will be required to use the Draft Plan (at that point, the new revised Forest Plan) Desired Conditions, Objectives, Standards, and Guidelines to guide management actions.
The notice of availability (NOA) for the draft environmental impact statement is expected to be published in the Federal Register on August 9, 2019, which will initiate a 90-day comment period for the draft land management plan and the draft environmental impact statement. A legal notice announcing the comment period will be published in the Albuquerque Journal. The Cibola will host community meetings during the comment period to answer questions from the public prior to individuals/groups submitting their comments. At the end of the 90-day period, the agency will review and respond to comments and prepare the final environmental impact statement and draft record of decision for release in 2020.