Potential Wilderness Comments, Coronado National Forest Plan Revision


AZT near Mount Fagan

The Coronado National Forest is revising their overall forest plan. And the time to comment on it is now.

Info is here:

http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/coronado/landmanagement/planning/?cid=fswdev7_018702

I got the shapefiles for every Potential Wilderness Area (PWA) that is evaluated in the report. The following trails that are ridden by mountain bikers are included in PWAs.

East Catalina PWA
Butterfly #16
Crystal Springs #17
Bug Springs Trail #10
Green Mountain Trail #21
Davis Spring
Brush Corral #19

Ku Chish (Northern Chiricahuas) PWA
Indian Creek Trail #253
Emigrant Canyon Trail / Wood Canyon Trail #255

Jhus Canyon PWA
Pinery Horsefall #336
Shaw Peak Trail / Lime Trail #251
Jhus Trail #252

Mt. Fagan PWA
Arizona Trail National Scenic Trail

Canelo PWA
Arizona Trail National Scenic Trail

Mt Wrightson Addition PWA
Potential route for AZT bike-route, as scouted by Lee Blackwell, et al

Dragoon PWA
Stronghold Trail #279
Middlemarch Canyon Trail #278
Slavin Gulch #332

Samaniego Ridge PWA
Canada Del Oro Trail #4
Samaniego Ridge Trail #7
Red Ridge Trail #2

Galiuro Addition PWA
Ash Creek Trail #287

Whetstone PWA
Guindani Trail #398
Cottonwood Canyon Trail #386

If you’d like to see continued MTB access to any of those trails, speak up and write in!

The deadline is 2/20/2014. That’s in 2 days. Comment period extended to March 6th.

Email comments to: CoronadoNF@fscomments.org

Note that these areas are just being evaluated for potential wilderness designation. The recommended action on the plan only proposes that the Mt Graham WSA (including Ash Creek, Round the Mountain and Lady Bug trails) and Ku Chish PWAs actually be put forth as moving towards wilderness. Alternative one, however, suggests that 10 of the PWAs be selected, including many in the above list. Even if these are only potential wilderness areas, we should still show that we care about these trails and will object to even their consideration of closure. Especially when other land designations that protect but don’t exclude, are available.

Below is my letter, detailing a few of the issues I see. Perhaps the biggest one of interest to Tucson MTBers is that the East Catalina PWA still frustratingly includes Bug Springs, Green Mountain, Butterfly and Crystal Springs trails, even though a very minor boundary adjustment could be made to exclude them. In fact, the shapefile they sent me uses these trails as the boundary line in many places. The adjustment would be very minor (in the hundreds of feet range). Yet these adjustments haven’t been made, despite very vocal opposition from the mountain bike community to their inclusion in a potential wilderness area.

To: CoronadoNF@fscomments.org
Subject: Coronado National Forest, Plan Revision

I would like to comment on the potential and proposed wilderness areas
outlined by the forest plan revision. I am concerned about their effect
on mountain biking opportunities and the safety of long distance mountain bikers.

As the operator of the website bikepacking.net, I represent the growing community
of mountain bikers taking overnight trips on forest trails and roads (“bikepacking”).
The primary experience desired by bikepackers is that of quiet, solitude and separation
from motorized vehicles, and especially dangerous highways.

Two of the potential wilderness areas evaluated during the planning process include
sections of the Arizona Trail National Scenic Trail (Mount Fagan PWA and the Canelo PWA).
The East Catalina PWA also covers trails on the bike Wilderness detour route of the AZT.
Further, the Wrightston Addition PWA covers area that has been scouted for a potential
AZT-bike route outside the current Wrightson Wilderness area.

Any of these PWAs would have a serious effect on mountain bikers and bikepackers traveling
the Arizona Trail. They would force cyclists onto dangerous highways and roads, compromising
the experience that they are seeking out on the AZT. Bikepacking long distance trails such
as the AZT is becoming an increasingly popular activity.

I urge that the impact of these PWAs be considered, and mentioned in the report. Besides
excluding existing mountain bike use, the impact to bikepackers would be quite serious.

I would also like to comment on the proposed Ku Chish and Mt. Graham WSA
wilderness areas. Having traveled these areas by foot and bicycle, I see both as having
exceptional mountain biking opportunities. I would urge that they excluded from
consideration, and that an alternate land designation that protects the area but
allows for primitive, non-motorized access be implemented instead.

One final area of serious concern is the East Catalina PWA. Having received the shapefiles
for the PWA boundary line (see FOIA 2014-FS-R3-01755-F), I am alarmed that the PWA
includes very small portions of the following trails: Butterfly #16, Crystal Springs #17,
Bug Springs Trail #10, Green Mountain Trail #21. The latter two trails receive more mountain
bike use than any other recreation group, and through a very small adjustment of
the boundary line, could easily be excluded from the PWA. Since inclusion of these trails
in a wilderness area, potential or otherwise, would be a very contentious issue
for the mountain bike community, I urge that the boundary lines be adjusted before
the final report is produced, and that all of these trails be eliminated from the PWA.

Sincerely,

Scott Morris, PhD
bikepacking.net

2 comments to Potential Wilderness Comments, Coronado National Forest Plan Revision

  • Kris Hanning

    The Trails in the Catalina mountains have been in use for years, i understand not expanding the trails to protect wild life but Shutting the existing trails down would be a mistake. I don’t see the purpose, I have not been able to look into this much do to the short notice. But I believe the type of people that hike on MT lemon have left more trash and a bigger foot print then the mountain bikers. Every year i pick up trash from the hikers and sledders.

  • Scott,
    Thanks for the heads-up, I just saw the comment period has been extended to March 6th.

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