Work continues on local Travel Management Rule
Next stage of the Travel Management Rule looks at impacts to the forest
While there have been some delays in the timeline for the implementation of the Travel Management Rule (TMR) on the Kaibab National Forest, Forest Service officials said they are working hard on the next phase of the project. Officials are currently preparing revisions to the proposed action portion of the TMR, which will set the standard for the TMR in the Williams Ranger District, as well as an environmental details the impact of various recreational activities on the Kaibab National Forest, such as dispersed camping.
"We're in the process of developing our alternatives for the environmental assessment. We have all the comments that we received from the public meetings that we held, as well as comments that we received from our proposed action when it was out over the winter. We'll take a look at those comments once again," said District Ranger Martie Schramm.
She said the proposed action would be modified based on the comments they heard and the "on the ground" mapping information provided by volunteer assistance from area locals George and Marlene Campnell.
"We're getting a lot better ground truthing done," Schramm said, adding that inter-disciplinary (ID) teams also added new information to the proposed action.
"We're finding out that maybe we were a little off base with our original proposed action. Things that the public has brought forward are things that we can live with," Schramm said.
With the passing of the Forest Service's NEPA planner, Linda Martin, the TMR process has been delayed, according to Jackie Banks, though officials are beginning to get back on track with the next phase of their implementation of the Travel Management Rule. Martin suffered a heart attack at the Forest Service office in early August. The Forest Service is currently seeking a replacement for that position. Schramm is personally taking on the duties associated with the position until a replacement can be found, Banks said.
When it comes to dispersed camping, recreation specialist Deirdre McLaughlin said forest officials are in the process of gathering data
"We've got two volunteers out there doing a lot of work to find all those large campsites that may or may not have some resource concern, whether it be archaeology or soils or range timber or whatever. The two volunteers are going to all of those large dispersed campsites and outlining what that impact area is, how large or small that impact zone can be, including that thing we call the 'creep'," McLaughlin said.
Other points for the resource specialist on the forest in the Williams area include soils and erosion concerns, grazing ranges for animals, archaeological concerns and more.
"The soils on the Williams District, the majority of the soils here are highly erodable. That's not an issue if the ground is flat, because the ground doesn't move very far, but if there's any slope to it then you start to see gullies, roads are destroyed, plants are buried and the sediment runs off into lakes and streams. So what we want to try to do is avoid concentrating our dispersed camping in areas that have steep, erodable soils or that are in wetlands or drainages, because even if it's in the flats, if it's in drainage, it's going to erode if there is no ground cover. When we started this process, we looked at our maps for the soil survey in the forest," said soils and watershed specialist Karlynn Huling. "We use this information as a guide."
Schramm said she hopes to have the modified proposed action out for public review and comment by November. Public meetings would be tentatively schedule for December.
"We do realize that we need to modify the proposed action that came out over the winter. As we develop the alternative, we'll take into consideration all the work that George and Marlene have done as well as what our resource specialists find with their mapping exercises, see where some of the dispersed campsites are as well as some of the user created routes and then weigh either the benefits and the risks that go along with that. Once we figure out what is an acceptable level of camping or use in a certain area, we'll be sure to capture that in the proposed action, as well as weigh that against the comments that we heard from the public. My hope is to be able to have an environmental assessment out for comment hopefully some time in November. We have a lot of other things on the plate, but getting the environment assessment out for Travel Management is a high priority, not only for the district, but for the forest as well. As we've mentioned all along, the national forest is multiple use, we are trying to determine where that balance is with, not only our natural resource concerns, but also with the social concerns that we're hearing about and we'll go from there. Part of the overall Forest Service mission is allowing for multiple uses and we recognize that dispersed camping is a very important use on the Kaibab National Forest. Travel management is not about stopping that activity. It's about stopping cross country travel."
Schramm said that the environmental assessment, when it is released, would be put out for public comment. Public meeting will also be held, she said.