Public shares visions for future Forest use
Ranchers, hikers, horse riders and hunters met Nov. 13 at Mayer Recreation Center to vote on how they want the U.S. Forest Service to manage the Prescott National Forest for the next 20-50 years.
About 60 people attended the evening meeting. Each person had different reasons for how they voted, but all agreed that maintaining a healthy, well-managed forest that is accessible to the public is a top priority.
Local environmental and water groups, Bureau of Land Management and other forest users and organizations joined PNF officials during a "Community Vision for Forest Planning" workshop hosted by the Upper Agua Fria Watershed Partnership.
"The forest management plan for the Prescott National Forest is 20 years old, and we are holding these public meetings to see what the public would like the forest to look like 50 years from now," said Sally Hess-Samuelson, forest planner for PNF.
"After we are finished with public meetings, we will send our plan to Washington, D.C. and should get their response in early 2008. However, it is possible that we can implement some of the ideas that we get from these meetings without waiting for the plan."
Owners and managers of at least seven ranches, one ranch with lineage dating back to the 1800's, attended the meeting.
Continuing managed grazing on forestlands and improving, protecting and maintaining watershed and riparian zones received the largest number of votes.
Maintaining healthy wildlife habitat received the second largest number of votes.
"Forests and public lands do not know barriers and borders. That is why we need to get everyone's vision of the national forest," said Chris Horyza, BLM State Land representative.
"People should know that if we don't speak up, private property owners are going to block access to BLM and forest lands," said Norman Perry, Dewey-Humboldt planning and zoning commissioner. "It's happening right now in Dewey Humboldt. A property owner has blocked access to the national forest where we used to be able to go."
Other concerns that received large numbers of votes are fire management, enforcing existing laws, cleaning up trash and punishing the polluters.
Seven voters felt that recreation has the greatest negative impact on the land.
"We are very concerned about what happens upstream in the Prescott National Forest, because that flows downstream in the Agua Fria River," said Mary Hoadley, UAFWP Chairwoman.
"We wonder what is going to happen to the land. We find trash everywhere, people camping in river beds, rude ATV riders, and our cows eat plastic trash bags left from people," said Aiva Teskey, Mayer High School student. She lives with her family on a ranch near Mayer. BLM, State and National Forest lands are adjacent to their ranch.
"I'm pleased with responses and the public's participation in this meeting," said Charles Pregler, community networks specialist and public meeting organizer.
"I'm surprised and disappointed that there is no one here representing the Off Highway Vehicle users or the environmental education folks."
Community Vision meetings are scheduled Nov. 27 at 6:30 p.m. at Wilhoit Fire Station, and Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. at Albins Civic Center in Black Canyon City.
For more information call 928-443-8216/8218, or visit www.fs.fed.us/r3/prescott/.