Tonto National Forest – The US Forest Service has initiated a comment period for four new permit zones established during travel management planning last year. These new permit zones will be in addition to the current Bulldog Canyon permit zone for a total of 5 areas encompassing 116,988 acres of public lands.
Along with the addition of four new permit zones, the Tonto National Forest will be establishing a permit fee of $10 per day, $50 per month, and $100 per year. The permit will be required for every operator of a motor vehicle that wishes to travel within the permit zones.
The proposed permit system will limit access to 357 miles of roads within the 5 permit zones. An unlimited amount of permits will be available which is estimated to generate $2.43 million a year with an estimated 30,000 permits sold annually. Each permit will be good for all 5 permit zones and users are compelled to stay on existing roads.
Non-motorized users are not required to purchase a permit to visit the permit zones in the Tonto National Forest. Which makes these restrictions discriminatory toward motorized users.
Bureau of Land Management Involvement
According to the scoping letter from the Tonto National Forest, the permit zones must be recommended by the Bureau of Land Management Resource Advisory Committee.
“Under REA, new fees and establishment of new fee sites must be recommended by a Recreation Advisory Committee (RAC) prior to approval by the Regional Forester. In Arizona, the Bureau of Land Management Resource Advisory Council serves in this capacity. Council members represent a broad array of recreation perspectives and review proposals to ensure reasonable and publicly acceptable new fees and fee changes. In Winter 2022, the RAC will consider this proposal and associated public comments prior to making a recommendation to the Southwestern Region Regional Forester, who will make the final decision to implement any proposed fees.”
According to BLM’s website, the RAC serves as a public body to give recommendations on how to better manage Arizona’s public lands. It consists of members of the public, elected officials, and stakeholder groups who give, “expert advice, ideas, and diverse opinions” on “issues” including off-highway vehicle use on public lands.
The Arizona RAC consists of members of the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council who represent the interest of OHV/motorized users on public lands during travel and resource management planning in Arizona. The National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council provides recommendations to the Bureau of Land Management and has developed a nonbinding National Motorized Recreation Action Plan that claims to be “A Strategic Partnership to Redefine Motorized Recreation on Public Lands.” NOHVCC provides consulting services to the Bureau of Land Management on establishing and constructing motorized trail systems that meet the needs of motorized users and has also established statewide action plans and Motorized Recreation Reports to support Travel Management Planning.