Serving The Communities Of Portal and Rodeo (www.portal-rodeo.com)
Chiricahua Regional Council
Our Stewardship Program has been one of our greatest successes. We value our collaborations in this area, including those with Wild Arizona, Friends of Cave Creek Canyon, and the US Forest Service. In 2022, we were honored to receive a certificate of appreciation for our work in the Chiricahuas.
MEMBERS UPDATE (2/12/2024)
This is a CRC members update regarding issues that affect intact habitats in the Chiricahua, Peloncillo, and surrounding areas.
CRC Board Composition
CRC held its annual board meeting on January 26th. New officers have been elected. Dirk Sigler has become the new President and Curt Bradley the new Vice President. Elly van Gelderen is the new Secretary. Long time President Wynne Brown still serves on CRC's board. (See her reflections here.)
The former Secretary Michele Lanan will remain on the Advisory Council. We thank Michele for her many years of service. Joining the Advisory Council are Amy Amoroso, Diana Hadley, Greg Magee, Jonathan Patt, and Kim Vacariu. Many of these new voices are from well-established conservation organizations in our area. We now have direct links to the Center for Biological Diversity, Sky Island Alliance, Wild Arizona, and New Mexico Wild. The development of partnerships with these groups in 2024 is underway. CRC will benefit from the composition of this new leadership.
John Long Canyon
Central to CRC's mission is the protection of intact natural habitats. We are deeply involved in the struggle to protect John Long Canyon in the southern Chiricahua mountains. The Douglas District of the Forest Service plans to construct a new road section into this intact wooded canyon habitat that has outstanding wilderness characteristics. As part of its Chiricahua Public Access Project, the Douglas District of the Coronado NF has completed its NEPA process and issued a Decision Notice. Despite opposition from the Chiricahua Regional Council, the Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Allies, and others, the project has not been stopped. We are highly concerned about the impacts of motorized access into John Long Canyon. The Canyon is vitally important to multiple species that are endangered. We are developing new strategies to protect this priceless natural resource.
Travel Management Plan of the Safford BLM Office
CRC and other groups submitted comments to the Safford office of the BLM in response to their travel management plan. We advocated for the closure of at least 500 of the 2400 miles of roads that are in many cases created by ORVs. We support an overall reduction. This is a critical wildlife corridor that links the Peloncillos to the Gila River and the Mogollon Rim. We urge the agency to not compromise their plan to reduce motorized use of this valuable resource.
Peaceful Chiricahua Skies
We also have an update from Peaceful Chiricahua Skies on the US Air Force proposal to expand military training in our area. The USAF proposal is rapidly moving forward toward release this Spring of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). At that time a final public comment period will begin, followed by the final EIS, with the plan potentially being signed into action within another year.
Also of note is that the USAF had attempted to block Peaceful Skies ally, Center for Biological Diversity, from obtaining detailed flight training information by attempting to charge CBD $60,000 in order to receive those documents, even though requested through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). When the Air Force denied CBD’s request to waive the fee, they inappropriately also closed out the CBD FOIA request for lack of payment. CBD then appealed those actions and reappealed the denial and won. CBD is using their win to push for a speedy response to their original FOIA.
Stewardship Plans for 2024
The Stewardship program at CRC is very active on many fronts in 2024. In March, we're launching a project with Wild Arizona to remove non-native Dallis grass from areas in the North Fork of Cave Creek Canyon. We're working with the Forest Service and the Southwest Research Station to address this problem. If left unchecked, this exotic plant threatens the health of the intact riparian habitats throughout the canyon.
Working with our partners we've applied for a grant to renovate sections of the Crest Trail.There are other projects in the works as well: We're continuing to replace trail signs by enlisting the support of the Forest Service, the Chiricahua Wilderness Trail Crew, and local volunteers; and we continue to organize a monthly trail maintenance day with the Portal-Rodeo Hiking Group.
We appreciate the community’s support of all these efforts. If you have questions or comments about other priorities you’d like to see CRC follow up on, please let us know.
Chiricahua Regional Council
PO Box 16480
Portal, AZ 85632
CRC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization; your donations to our work are tax deductible.
WHAT WE DO
The CRC works on issues affecting the Chiricahua and Peloncillo region and focuses on maintaining healthy, intact habitats. We disseminate information about potential threats to the region, as those threats arise. We advocate careful land stewardship and seek to educate the public, as needed, on any aspect of natural history, conservation and land use, including sound grazing practices. Diverse interests from the community––from biologists to ranchers––are represented on our Board of Directors.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
President: Dirk Sigler
Vice President: Curt Bradley
Secretary: Elly van Gelderen
Treasurer: Eskild Petersen
A 2-year membership costs $20. When issues arise affecting the Chiricahua-Peloncillo-Dragoon region, we inform our membership of the problem and recommend actions to remedy the situation. These notices come at irregular (and, thankfully, infrequent) intervals––however, when action has been needed, our members have risen to the challenge, and have been very effective at protecting the local biological and cultural values.
For information, email us at email@example.com.
Chiricahua Regional Council
PO Box 16480
Portal AZ 85632
As always, we welcome hearing your questions, comments, and suggestions. Please feel free to forward this update on our activities to friends and colleagues. We are continuing to work on increasing our membership, and anything you can do to help is appreciated. We value your support!
Chiricahua Regional Council
PO Box 16480
Portal, AZ 85632
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2010
by Noel Snyder
Every national forest operates under a forest plan that presents goals and actions to achieve goals. These plans are periodically revised. In March, the U.S. Forest Service released for public comment a Draft Forest Plan for future management of the Coronado National Forest. This is a plan to replace the existing plan of 1986 and is expected to guide policies for the next 20 years. Unfortunately, the new plan is limited largely to broad “feel-good” goals. And because specific actions and their associated costs are mostly not presented, it isn’t possible to evaluate whether the goals are achievable, whether appropriate means will be employed to achieve goals, and how the Forest Service will resolve conflicts among goals. In view of the major budgetary cuts the Forest Service has already experienced and can anticipate, it seems highly unlikely that adequate resources will exist to achieve many of the goals mentioned. If adequate resources are not available which goals will be sacrificed? In essence, the Forest Service seems to be asking the public to endorse its future actions without letting the public know what those actions may be.
For those familiar with the detail of the 1986 Coronado plan, the newly released plan is astonishingly vague and leaves many matters only minimally addressed or simply unaddressed. For example, missing from the plan is any discussion of border problems or how the the Forest Service is planning to address problems anticipated from climate change. Areas of the Coronado close to the border have been under siege from illegal immigrants, who have trampled “highways” across the terrain, left mountains of trash, and repeatedly started major fires that have cost the taxpayer many millions of dollars. Many of the trails on the Coronado are now effectively “owned” by well-armed drug smugglers, at least at night. Yet the new plan says nothing about these problems and how they will be corrected. If left uncorrected, these problems will undermine many other aspects of the plan.
Nevertheless, the aspect of the new plan that is by far the most troubling is the absence of any clear recognition of the overriding importance of what many observers maintain is the defining attribute of the Coronado – its tremendously high level of biodiversity. This biodiversity is unmatched by any other national forest and has been honored nationally and internationally. Protecting biodiversity is an overall national priority, and it is the Coronado’s outstanding biodiversity that supports a thriving ecotourism economy for many local communities. Biodiversity is in fact the economic life blood of the region. This value should be featured in the plan as a central focus around which other goals need to be harmonized. It is not.
Concerns over the Coronado’s biodiversity came into national focus in the 1990s when the Coronado Forest released a proposal to convert several of the Sky Island Units it administers into a National Recreation Area (NRA). This was a proposal resulting not from public demand but from its potential to increase the Coronado’s budget. However, an NRA can only come to pass with public support and Congressional action. In public meetings the proposal was blown away by vigorous and nearly unanimous opposition from people across the social and economic spectrum, who viewed conversion of the forest into a playground for mass recreation as a very bad idea. What emerged instead was overwhelming public endorsement of low-impact quiet recreation on the forest consistent with maintaining the biological riches of the forest. The NRA proposal was quietly dropped, but one wonders if anyone on the current planning staff of the Coronado remembers this embarrassing affair. In the current draft plan, recreation development is mentioned 226 times while biodiversity is mentioned only 6 times.
To be fair, the Forest Service has belatedly announced it will be including a new Cave Creek Zoological and Botanical Area (ZBA) in its revisions to the draft plan, an area protecting a canyon with by far the highest density and diversity of nesting raptors known anywhere in the U.S. But as welcome as the new ZBA is, the increased motorized recreation emphasis across the forest that is allowed in the new plan works directly against maintaining biodiversity values. Under the existing forest plan, the Coronado already has far more roads than are permissible. Biodiversity is not yet receiving the overall recognition and priority it deserves in the new plan.
In February the Forest Service expects to release a revised forest plan and a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the plan. It will be crucial for the public to respond with comments on these documents.
WHO WE ARE
The Council is a citizens’ watchdog group that monitors public agency actions and other issues affecting the Chiricahua, Peloncillo and Dragoon Mountains and nearby areas of southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and adjacent northern Mexico.
We protect valuable, intact habitats and champion the region’s natural and cultural integrity. Dark skies, open space, outstanding species diversity, corridors that link habitats, our ranching heritage––all of these values make our region what it is. Together, these treasures draw tens of thousands of visitors annually, all contributing to nature tourism, which underpins our regional economy.
The CRC promotes responsible land use and wise, science-informed stewardship of our unique natural heritage. Our broad constituency includes scientists, ranchers, birders, naturalists, astronomers, artists, residents, visitors, and many others, who value our region’s spectacular qualities.
A major strength of the organization lies in its broad constituency. Our membership includes biologists, ranchers, birders, residents, visitors, and other segments of the general public with a strong interest in the region’s well-being.