March 23, 2020

Federal Lands Roundtable Comments on Tonto National Forest Management

Contact: Andy Treharne, Senior Director, Federal Policy

Late last week, members of the Federal Lands Hunting, Fishing and Shooting Sports Roundtable (Roundtable) submitted formal comments on the Tonto National Forest’s draft forest plan direction and draft environmental impact statement (DEIS). As the fifth largest national forest in the United States, the Tonto hosts nearly 6 million visitors each year and provides significant hunting, fishing and recreational shooting opportunities, particularly for those that live in the nearby Phoenix (AZ) metropolitan area.

According to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), “The draft forest plan reflects changes in social, economic and ecological conditions since the current plan was approved in 1985. It outlines the strategic management for 2.9 million acres of national forest for the next 10 to 15 years and reflects input from elected officials, tribes, community members and many others. The draft plan is built on a foundation of public input, best available science, and emphasizes multiple uses supported by healthy ecosystems. These ecosystems provide clean drinking water for downstream communities and help fuel the forest products, grazing and mining industries, and the recreation opportunities on the forest.”

The Roundtable is comprised of federal natural resource agencies and sportsmen’s community non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are signatories to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlining a framework “for planning and implementing mutually beneficial projects and activities related to hunting, fishing, and shooting sports conducted on federal lands.” In practice, the Roundtable provides a unique forum for groups representing hunters, anglers and recreational shooters to engage with federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, USFS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and discuss federal land issues and partnership opportunities guided by sound resource management principles. NGO members also use the Roundtable structure to submit formal comments on federal resource management plans that impact the activities outlined in the MOU.

In their comments on the Tonto forest plan and DEIS, Roundtable NGOs including the American Sportfishing Association, Boone & Crockett Club, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Delta Waterfowl, Houston Safari Club, National Rifle Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation and Safari Club International expressed support for USFS’s recognition that recreational uses – including hunting, fishing and recreational shooting – are integrated into all resource management decisions. In addition, the Roundtable NGOs provided specific feedback and recommendations related to access, opportunity and management of these activities.

Moving forward, the USFS will analyze submitted comments as the agency pursues development of a final environmental impact statement (FEIS) and forest plan that will guide management of the Tonto for years to come.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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