Archaeology Southwest supports Tonto National Forest’s decision to develop an Environmental Impact Statement regarding its proposed Travel Management Plan. In 2010, Archaeology Southwest reported on the relationship between vehicular access and damage to archaeological sites on Tonto National Forest.
[From the Center for Biological Diversity]
For Immediate Release
February 1, 2013
Contact: Cyndi Tuell, Center for Biological Diversity (520) 623-5262 x 308
Andy Laurenzi, Archaeology Southwest, (520) 603-2186
PHOENIX— In a dramatic about-face, Tonto National Forest officials today announced they will develop an in-depth “environmental impact statement” to analyze how their travel-management plan will affect wildlife, water, air and other natural resources. The agency had previously attempted to use a less-thorough “environmental assessment” to approve the plan, which will designate more than 3,000 miles of roads and trails for motorized uses.
“Off-road vehicles decimate fragile desert habitats and watersheds, so we’re glad the Forest Service is doing a more thorough review, as we’ve been urging them to for five years,” said Cyndi Tuell, a conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This recreation system has been extremely badly managed, and we hope very much that the Service takes this opportunity to right what’s wrong here and fix the situation.”
The forest is home to 21 threatened and endangered species, all of which can be harmed by roads and off-road vehicles. The Forest Service’s own previous analysis showed that more than 63 species of plants and animals will be harmed by their proposal, including Mexican spotted owls, desert bald eagles and Chiricahua leopard frogs. Native fishes such as the spikedace and loach minnow, along with sport fish, would be affected by routes near streams and riparian areas.
The Tonto National Forest was established in 1905 to protect watersheds that provide millions of acre-feet of clean drinking water. But roads and motorized trails are destroying the ability of these watersheds to produce that water.
“The Tonto has the worst watershed condition of any forest in the region, with more ‘impaired’ watersheds than any other forest in Arizona or New Mexico,” said Tuell. “Roads and trails are the main cause of watershed impairment, and the Forest Service has known this for years. Yet the agency has done virtually nothing to protect our water supply. That has to change.”
At nearly 3 million acres and one of the most heavily visited urban forests in the country, the Tonto is also one of the most archaeologically rich forests in the region. A 2010 study completed by Archaeology Southwest found a direct link between roads and damage to cultural resource sites. The forest also provides a quiet refuge for the people of Phoenix and surrounding communities to escape the sounds of the motorized world they live in every day.
“We are deeply concerned about wildlife, but also air and water quality, archaeological treasures, and quiet recreation opportunities that are all at serious risk with this plan. The Forest Service simply must stop ignoring the long-lasting impacts irresponsible motorized recreation has had on our public lands. It has to act now to begin to reverse the destruction,” said Tuell.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. This press release was prepared by the Center for Biological Diversity.
Archaeology Southwest is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit that explores and protects the places of our past. Learn more about Archaeology Southwest’s participation in Travel Management Planning here.