The Tonto National Forest has completed an Environmental Assessment (EA) and issued a Draft Decision Notice for the adoption of a management plan for the Apache Leap Special Management Area (SMA).
Forest Supervisor Neil Bosworth has selected the Proposed Action for the Apache Leap SMA management plan based on a review of the EA. Development of the EA, along with the management plan, incorporated consultation efforts with affected Native American tribes, elected officials from the town of Superior, Arizona, and members of the public.
According to Bosworth, “We have developed a management plan with plan components that specifically meet the stated purposes as directed by Congress and will serve as a strategic framework for the management of this special area into the foreseeable future.”
The SMA was designated by Congress in December of 2014 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2015. The NDAA also directed the federal government to exchange approximately 2,400 acres of public lands related to the proposed Resolution Copper Mine.
The 839-acre SMA is located on the Tonto National Forest east of Superior. The SMA was designated to achieve three purposes:
- To preserve the natural character of Apache Leap
- To allow for traditional uses of the area by Native American people, and
- To protect and conserve the cultural and archaeological resources of the area
The EA is a public document that provides sufficient evidence and analysis for determining whether to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement or a FONSI. An EA helps the Forest Service comply with the National Environmental Policy Act when no EIS is necessary, and facilitates preparation of a statement when an EIS is necessary.
A FONSI is issued when environmental analysis and interagency review during the EA process find a project to have no significant impacts on the quality of the environment.
This decision to approve the management plan and concurrently amend the forest plan is subject to the pre-decisional objection procedures identified in 36 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 219 subpart B.
Objections must be submitted within 45 calendar days following the August 25 publication of a legal notice in the Arizona Capitol Times. The publication date in the newspaper of record is the exclusive means for calculating the time to file an objection. Note that regulations prohibit extending the time to file an objection.
The Draft Decision notice, along with the EA/FONSI, a final version of the Management Plan, the Legal Notice and the accompanying news release sidebar are available for review on the project Web site at: http://www.apacheleapsma.us/.