This appears to be one (of many) steps in the Cibola’s Forest Plan revision process. The letter claims that this step is “required” by the new Forest Plan revision process. I checked and 219.7(c)(2)(v) states:
“Identify and evaluate lands that may be suitable for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System and determine whether to recommend any such lands for wilderness designation.”
That, in and of itself, is not so much an issue. They pretty much do that every chance they get. The real problem is in 219.10(b)(iv). It states:
“Requirements for plan components for a new plan or plan revision. (1) The plan must include plan components, including standards or guidelines, to provide for:
(iv) Protection of congressionally designated wilderness areas as well as management of areas recommended for wilderness designation to protect and maintain the ecological and social characteristics that provide the basis for their suitability for wilderness designation.”
That is the same old problem….the federal agency choosing to manage something as if it were wilderness without the Congressional approval required for actual wilderness.
So….I think it is very important that we all actively participate in this process. The Greens will be out in force, nominating lands for potential designation and pushing the agency to designate additional lands as “suitable” for wilderness designation. We need to closely monitor the process, shine the light of TRUTH on the lands proposed, and make sure the FS follows the rules. There is specific criteria for lands “suitable”. It can be found in Forest Service Handbook 1909.12, Chapter 70. That document is also undergoing a revision (gotta love this great guvmint of ours, huh?) with the new proposed version at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5409886.pdf. Technically, the process should be following the existing document but what do you bet that they try to use the new one?
The bottom line is that we should all be participating and holding the FS accountable to the EXISTING regulations and approved handbooks.