A new Vision for Arizona's National Forest (1.4 MB pdf)

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A new Vision for Arizona's National Forest (1.4 MB pdf)

Arizona’s National Forests...Ecosystems at RiskKaibabCoconinoPrescottApache-SitgreavesTontoCoronadoSurrounding both the north andsouth rims of Grand CanyonNational Park, the 1.6 million acreKaibab National Forest provides acritical biological link between theforests of Utah and Arizona.The North Kaibab contains the mostextensive old growth forest in theSouthwest and represents our bestopportunity to restore the ponderosapine ecosystem and to protectold growth dependent species.One of these species, the Kaibabsquirrel, is found nowhere else inthe world and is an example of evolutionthrough geographic isolation.The North Kaibab also contains thelargest population of Northerngoshawks in the Southwest.Goshawk populations are indecline, primarily due to the loss ofold growth habitat from logging. AForest Service proposal to “update”goshawk protection guidelines willactually result in more logging ofold growth trees.Eighty-four million board feet ofold growth and large trees are targetedfor cutting as part of a salvagelogging project across 10,000acres that were burned by the WarmFire in June of 2006. These largertrees are critical to post-fire ecologicalrecovery. Salvage logging is verydestructive, compacting soils,increasing erosion and spreadingexotic plant species.Covering 1.8 million acres, theCoconino National Forest rangesfrom 2,600 feet in elevation alongthe Verde River, to 12,633 feet at thetop of the San Francisco Peaks.Sacred to thirteen Native Americantribes, the Peaks also provide habitatfor threatened plants and animals.The dense forests anddrainages at higher elevations arehome to Mexican spotted owls andblack bears, while mountain lionshunt deer on the lower slopes.The lower elevation piñon-juniperwoodlands have sustained humanand animal life in the Southwest fortens of thousands of years. At least150 vertebrate species live in thepiñon-juniper ecosystem, includingbats, birds and reptiles. The redrock canyons of Sedona and theMogollon Rim contain rare perennialstreams and riparian habitats.Wildlife habitat across this diverseforest is at risk from off-road vehicle(ORV) use. The spread of noxiousweeds, erosion, wildlife disturbance,noise and conflicts betweenORV users and other visitors isamong the worst in the nation. Onlyby reducing the current spider webof motorized routes–over 5,000miles–can the forest provide safeplaces for wildlife as well as tranquilityfor people.The Prescott forest contains 1.25million acres. Although the smallestforest in Arizona, the Prescott hasan incredible diversity of habitat:Sonoran Desert at the lowest elevation,rising to chaparral and piñonjuniper with ponderosa pines at thehighest elevation.The grasslands of the PrescottNational Forest provide criticalrange for pronghorn herds.Pronghorn populations have beendwindling over the last 20 yearsdue to loss of habitat from cattlegrazing and habitat fragmentationfrom new development.Rare desert bald eagles are foundalong the Verde River and two lakesin the Prescott National Forest.While hundreds of eagles winter inArizona, fewer than 50 breedingpairs nest year-round.Winding through three nationalforests, including the Prescott, theVerde is one of the largest perennialrivers in Arizona. Plans to drilldeep wells in the Big Chino aquiferto support local development, willseverely impact the Verde, alreadyunder stress from eleven years ofdrought. Hydrologists from theUnited States Geological Surveyhave calculated that over 80% of thebase flow in the upper Verde Rivercomes from the Big Chino aquifer.Heavy pumping of the aquifer willdestroy this rare desert jewel.Covering over two million acres ofmountainous terrain in East centralArizona, the Apache-Sitgreavesincludes most of the 200-mile longMogollon Rim. With 34 lakes andreservoirs and 680 miles of riversand streams, the Apache-Sitgreaveshas been called an angler’s paradise.The same habitat that inviteshuman recreation, provides a ribbonof life for migratory birdspecies, native fish and amphibians.The forest also contains the 173,762-acre Blue Range Primitive Area.Managed as wilderness, this ruggedterrain was chosen as the spot torestore the Mexican gray wolf.Started with eleven wolves in 1998,the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area,covers 7,000 square miles inArizona and New Mexico. Ninetyfivepercent of the recovery area ismade up of public lands.Wolves have persisted throughrecapture, relocation and the illegalkilling of 18 wolves. A populationhigh of 59 wolves in 2006 is farshort of the 102 wolves wildlifemanagers predicted. Conflictbetween livestock and wolves hasbeen the dominant factor inhibitingsuccess of the wolf restoration program.The federal government hasallowed the concerns of a few antiwolfranchers to take precedenceover the restoration of Arizona’swild legacy.Nestled just below the MogollonRim, the Tonto National Forest hasthree million acres of rugged countryranging from pine forests to cactus-studdeddesert. With four millionpeople in the Phoenix area onits southern boundary, the Tonto isone of the most visited “urban”forests in the nation. Almost 600,000acres of designated wilderness andtwo major river systems attract 5.8million people a year.The Salt and Verde River systemsare important migratory corridorsfor birds, providing habitat for theendangered southwestern willowflycatcher and the bald eagle. Thirtythousand acres, or 1%, of the Tontois considered to be riparian habitat.This small percentage of habitat ishome to 400 vertebrate species and21 threatened, endangered, or sensitivespecies. Ten species of nativefish, seven of which are listed asendangered and three threatened,survive on the Tonto.Riparian habitat on the Tonto isthreatened by copper mining operations,which suck water out ofdrought-stressed streams and contaminatewhat little water is leftbehind. In July of 2007, the perennialstream flow in Haunted Canyonran dry as water pumping for thenew Carlota Mine, expected tooperate for 10 years, was tested forjust three weeks.The Coronado National Forest consistsof 12 widely scattered mountainranges across 1. 78 million acresin Southeast Arizona and SouthwestNew Mexico. Rising dramaticallyfrom the desert floor, these “skyislands” provide habitat for a broadrange of wildlife and plant species.The Coronado is home to morethreatened and endangered speciesthan any other national forest in theUnited States. Invasive non-nativespecies, urban development, andhabitat fragmentation are threateningto destroy this varied landscape.Mountain lions in Sabino Canyonare killed when urban developmentencroaching on their habitat, causesinteraction with humans.Sharing a border with Mexico, theCoronado provides habitat criticalfor the survival of jaguars living inMexico. The opportunity to restorethe endangered jaguar to Arizona isthreatened by six projects approvedfor 2007 to build 74 miles of fencealong the Arizona-Mexico border.The border fence, constructed of 15-foot tall, concrete-filled metal tubesset four inches apart will preventthe passage of larger animals suchas bobcats, pronghorn and jaguars.The Sierra Club is supporting acombination of vehicle barriers andhigh-tech virtual fencing as a bettersolution to protect our borders andour national wildlife legacy.Page TwoPage Three


Forests Forever!A Vision for a New CenturyThe Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Clubbelieves that a forest management plan based onrestoring natural processes, such as fire, is necessaryto restore fully functioning ecosystems to Arizona’snational forest lands. Called Forest Forever!, theSierra Club alternative seeks to protect the uniquehabitats, watersheds and cultural resources ofArizona through a conservative approach to forestmanagement.We need your helpNew Forest Plans should provide specific directionfor the protection of forest-wide blocks of wildlifehabitat and the species they support. Instead, theForest Service has proposed a change in planningrules that will weaken forest land management plansto the role of vision documents with no set standardsand guidelines.Your participation in the forest planning process isessential if we are to convince land managers andpoliticians to adopt an environmentally soundapproach to forest management.Please attend forest planning meetings and SierraClub workshops in your area. Visit the GrandCanyon Chapter website for a copy of the ForestForever! alternative and a schedule of upcomingworkshops and meetings.Contact UsSierra Club, Arizona Chapterhttp://arizona.sierraclub.orgSandy BahrConservation Outreach Director(602) 253-8633sandy.bahr@sierraclub.orgStacey HamburgGrand Canyon Conservation Program Director,(928) 774-6514stacey.hamburg@sierraclub.orgManagement Recommendations• Protect ecosystem integrity from the impacts oflong-term drought and climate change by planningon a landscape scale rather than on a projectby-projectbasis.• Reduce road densities to protect wildlife, riparianareas, archaeological sites, plants, soils and airquality. Issues raised in a separate process–travelmanagement planning–should also be addressedin the forest planning process.• Restore riparian areas by protecting water flows,vegetation and water quality. In 2005, waterdiverted for hydropower was returned to FossilCreek, beginning the restoration of a rare desertriver.• Protect water quality by prohibiting livestockgrazing and off-road vehicle use in riparian areas.• Old growth trees, regardless of size, should besaved. These rare old growth trees are critical torestoring a healthy ecosystem.• Protect the next generation of old growth by savinglarger, more fire resistant trees.• Restore wildlife, especially predators, to promoteecosystem health.• Restore fire to the ecosystem using prescribedburns to reduce forest debris.• Focus limited dollars on thinning and prescribedburns near communities with a high fire risk.• Protect Arizona’s remaining wild places withwilderness designation for the 1.2 million acres ofinventoried roadless areas in our national forests.photos by Dr. Robin SilverForest Planning News Winter-Spring 2008The environment of Arizona is typically associated with desert vistas and dramatic canyon views. Yet Arizonais home to the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the United States. From the sky islands of SouthernArizona to the Kaibab Plateau along the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, the forests of Arizona are home to aremarkable diversity of plants and animals, some found nowhere else on earth! As wild habitat throughoutthe Southwest is fragmented by development, public lands play an ever-greater role in the preservation ofdiverse and unique species.Forests at a Crossroads...You can lead the wayEleven and a half million acres of the forest and woodlands covering Arizona are managed by the U.S. ForestService. The Forest Service has started a process to create new land management plans for all six nationalforests in Arizona. With your help, we have the opportunity to correct the results of over a century of mismanagementand create a “greener” vision for the 21st century.Management practices based on the production of commodities have caused significant changes in the conditionof southwestern forests. Through intensive logging, forests once dominated by fire-resistant old growthtrees have been replaced by stands of young, dense, fire-prone trees. Heavy pressure from cattle grazing, miningoperations, development, and agricultural uses have resulted in the destruction of 90 percent of Arizona’shistoric riparian acreage.New impacts associated with urban sprawl, such as increased recreation demands, communications towersand water sources for growing cities are responsible for a forest riddled with roads. As energy and mineralprices soar, the filing of new mining claims on public lands has increased dramatically and mines long dormantare restarting operations.Arizona’s forests are already under stress from the current prolonged drought cycle. The situation is expectedto get worse, with warmer temperatures predicted as the result of changing regional and global climates. Poormanagement decisions will further exacerbate the effects of drought and climate change. For example, allowinggrazing on damaged grasslands, excessive water withdrawal from riparian areas and off-road vehicle usein sensitive ecosystems strains natural recovery processes.Your participation in the forest planning process is vital! We need you to be an advocate for saving old growthtrees, restoring native grasses and protecting critical wildlife habitat. You can speak for predators such aswolves and mountain lions, keeping ecosystems healthy and restoring a sense of wild to our national forestlands. With your help, we can save Arizona’s forests for the enjoyment of future generations.Page FourPage One

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