Wilderness Recommendation Process

As part of forest plan revision under the 2012 planning rule, forests are required to identify lands that may or may not be suitable to recommend to Congress for new Wilderness designation as part of the revision of their land and resource management plan (Forest Plan). The planning process may or may not result in recommendations for additional Wilderness on the Tonto. Recommended wilderness is distinct from designated wilderness, and is managed in accordance with Forest Plan direction as opposed to the Wilderness Act of 1964. The important thing to remember is that congress has reserved the authority to make final decisions on wilderness designation. Further information on the Wilderness Recommendation Process can be found in Chapter 70 of the Land Management Planning Handbook.

Steps of the Wilderness Process

The process occurs in four primary steps: Inventory, Evaluation, Analysis, and Recommendation. Currently, the Tonto National Forest is in the Analysis Step. More information on these steps can be found on the Wilderness Recommendation Process Story Map.

Step 1: Inventory

The purpose of the inventory steps is to identify and create an inventory of all lands that may or may not be suitable for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System using a given set of criteria.

View our Inventory informational video about the inventory map. Inventory Process video script.

Step 2: Evaluation

Evaluate the wilderness characteristics of all lands included in the inventory that may be suitable for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System using a given set of criteria and assign a ranking of high, moderate, low, or no for their wilderness character.

Excel document available by request to tontoplan@fs.fed.us

View our Evaluation informational video about the evaluation step. Evaluation Process video script.

Step 3: Analysis

Based on the evaluation and input from the public, some areas, or portions thereof, may be proposed as part of the Draft Forest Plan, or an alternative and analyzed through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis as part of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Step 4: Recommendation

As part of the Draft Record of Decision (2022) the areas being recommended for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System include:

  • Gun Creek Recommended Wilderness Area (Analysis Polygon 101a) – Pleasant Valley Ranger District – 23,462 acres
  • Boulder Recommended Wilderness Area (Analysis Polygon 76) – Tonto Basin Ranger District – 61,611 acres
  • Coronado Mesa Recommended Wilderness Area (Analysis Polygon 32) – Mesa Ranger District – 6,419 acres
  • Red Creek Recommended Wilderness Area (Analysis Polygon 119d) – Cave Creek Ranger District - 11,387 acres
  • Mullen Mesa Recommended Wilderness Area (Analysis Polygon 119b) – Cave Creek Ranger District - 3,562 acres

The areas being recommended are manageable, currently have few to no uses inconsistent with wilderness designation, and would truly add value if they were designated wilderness through a congressional decision in the future. The acres being recommended represent high-quality areas that can maintain the unique social and ecological characteristics that make them eligible for wilderness designation while minimizing the effects to those concerned with the inherent tradeoffs that come with managing these areas to maintain their wilderness characteristics.

Archived Information

Documentation

Maps

Data