The Gila Unit transportation and travel management area includes 467,000 acres within the National System of Public Lands in Graham and Greenlee counties managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Safford Field Office. The Gila Unit includes public lands north of U.S. Highway 70 from the Arizona-New Mexico state line to boundary of the San Carlos Apache Nation, as well as public lands south of the highway between the Town of Pima and reservation boundary. The Gila Unit also includes the 23,000-acre Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area, part of the BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System.
A transportation and travel plan for the area is being developed to establish route designations to adequately provide motorized and non-motorized access to public lands. The route system will be designed to accommodate local travel needs, protect public safety and resources on the public lands, and prevent or minimize conflicts between users. The goal of the project is to complete a Gila Unit Travel Management Plan and Environmental Assessment.
This project began with a road inventory completed through a contract with Advanced Resource Solutions in April 2007 that identified and evaluated 900 miles of maintained and primitive roads. After that information was consolidated, a public meeting was held in November 2007 to provide an opportunity to review and comment on the inventoried routes in terms of several criteria: type of route (spur, loop, two-track, connector); access needs; current uses (public, commercial, administrative); and special resources affected (wildlife, riparian, cultural resources).
In February-March 2008, BLM staff and representatives from the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) conducted an Evaluation Tree Process, also by contract with Advanced Resource Solutions, to determine suggestions for route designations (open, closed, or limited) within the Gila Unit. From that point, maps were developed that showed the three alternatives identified from the Evaluation Tree Process.
Maps of the three alternatives can be viewed by selecting the Maps link. Alternative B provides the highest level of resource protection and limitation on travel. Alternative D provides the most access with the least amount of resource protection. Alternative C is a mix of these two options. When the Environmental Assessment is written, Alternative A will be become the Preferred Alternative based on public input to the above three choices.
The Safford Field Office issued a news release on August 26 asking for public comments on the maps. Comments are due in writing by September 30, 2009, and can be submitted by mail, by fax, or email to the addresses listed below. After this 30-day comment period closes, the Environmental Assessment will be developed, followed by another opportunity for public comment.
Gila Unit Travel Management Plan
BLM Safford Field Office
711 14th Avenue
Safford, AZ 85546
phone: (928) 348-4417
fax: (928) 348-4450