Tonto National Forest Planning
By Mark Spencer
As the Tonto national Forest enters the next phase of the forest planning process, APA members help fulfill our mission as “The voice of General Aviation in Arizona!”
To many, the Forest Service planning process is a mystery, but thanks to RAF’s Ron Normandeau, the curtain has been pulled back on this process. Ron dedicates many personal hours to helping RAF state liaisons around the country understand the process, as well as reviewing many of the published documents and reports that the FS generates though this process, oftentimes working with the state liaison, and others, to generate a response. In fact, that’s exactly what Ron did recently concerning the Tonto’s recently released Draft Assessment. With an understanding of overall FS recreational aviation policy, and a few hours of effort, Ron and I worked together to generate a ten page response to the Draft Assessment. Our response focused on two chapters, 5) Recreation and 8) Aviation Facilities. Some of our review simply corrected errors in the report, especially related to the Red Creek airstrip, and other comments brought the Draft Assessment up to date relating to the extensive partnering the aviation community and Tonto have engaged in over the last 4 years.
Alongside the review effort, APA and RAF members, including APA board members David Dunteman, Andrew Vogeney, Rick Bosshardt, President Tommy Thomason, and Executive Director Jim Timm, made sure that every one of the recent Tonto “Needs for Change” planning meetings were attended. While we are very pleased with the path of the Tonto, it is important to let them know that we, as stakeholders in these public lands, are interested in the process and final outcome. The final plan will guide a particular forest for the next two or three decades, and sitting on the sidelines is not a wise move if one cares about their interests in the use and enjoyment of these lands. I was privileged to fly into the Grapevine airstrip along with Carl Guilliams, with transportation provided by a FS member to the Tonto Basin planning meeting. Rick Bosshardt reported that the Phoenix meeting was well attended by multiple stakeholders, some of whom were surprised at the level of volunteer efforts put forth by the aviation community. Our real desire at these various meetings is to be the friendliest people in attendance, offering positive input while understanding the various demands on these lands by a plethora of users. Tonto Chief Planner, Kenna Belsky, commented that the aviation community really impressed them with our dedication, and in particular, the kindness of one of our members, who turned out to be none other than Jim Timm. Thanks for representing Arizona pilots so well, Jim!