The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest spans the remote highlands of eastern Arizona's White Mountains -- a rugged landscape rich with forests, canyons and plenty of native biodiversity.
But the recently drafted U.S. Forest Service plan for the region dictates the locations and intensity of forest uses, including livestock grazing, logging and recreation -- and it's conspicuously lacking in real, enforceable protections for endangered species and their homes.
The draft eliminates existing guidelines that protect endangered species and replaces clear standards with vague references lacking clear planning or strategy.
Please take action using the form below. Tell the Forest Service to ensure a healthy future for species like Mexican spotted owls, Apache trout and Mexican gray wolves today.
Please accept the following suggestions on the "draft environmental impact statement" for the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan:
1. Carry forward or strengthen existing management standards and guidelines. The proposed plan eliminates existing standards and guidelines that protect the environment; it replaces them with vaguely worded "desired conditions" and "objectives" that maximize agency discretion and minimize public accountability. Existing standards and guidelines should be carried forward and strengthened in the new plan.
2. Ensure recovery of threatened and endangered species. The Forest Plan must implement formal recovery plans rather than merely reference them, and establish clear, binding standards to ensure the recovery of each at-risk plant and animal species that may occur on the Forest.
3. Emphasize conservation of biological diversity. Proposals should emphasize conservation of biological diversity. At least one alternative should focus on managing forests for biological diversity and at-risk species. It must consider a prohibition on new road construction and motorized trail development, and a requirement to reduce route density to less than one mile per square mile outside of designated wilderness areas, inventoried roadless areas and wilderness study areas.
4. Preserve old-growth forest. Past timber harvest destroyed most old-growth forest. Old growth differs from younger forests in the habitat it provides for wildlife, carbon storage, water filtration and flow regulation, and nutrient cycling. The Forest Plan should forbid harvest of old-growth trees, groups and stands, and emphasize old-growth recovery.
5. Restore natural fire disturbance processes. The plan should also focus on safely restoring natural fire regimes. The plan should identify areas where natural fires are a priority. Patches of severely burned forest, or snag forests, are among the rarest of all wildlife habitats in the West; they should be managed for natural recovery. Post-fire logging and road building should not be allowed more than one-quarter (1/4) mile from existing roads.
6. Curtail or forbid livestock grazing. Livestock grazing is the most widespread and damaging use of national forest lands in the Southwest. The plan should eliminate or sharply curtail livestock grazing to facilitate overall ecological resilience, predator reintroduction programs, aspen recruitment, restoration of natural fire regimes, recovery of riparian and aquatic ecosystems and species, and climate adaptation.
7. Restore aquatic ecosystems. Forest uses that reduce water quality and quantity degrade aquatic ecosystems and should not be allowed under the new plan. An ecosystem approach is warranted to stop habitat degradation, maintain habitat and ecosystems that are currently in good condition, and to aid recovery of at-risk aquatic species and their habitat. Protective plan standards are needed to provide for viable populations of fish and wildlife species that depend on aquatic and riparian habitats.
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