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Prescott National Forest is initiating environmental review

Forest Service Initiating Scoping for Wild and Scenic River Suitability Study for Segments of the Upper Verde River 

The Prescott National Forest is initiating scoping in preparation for an environmental assessment (EA) for a wild and scenic river suitability study for segments of the Upper Verde River in the Prescott and Coconino National Forests. The Forest Service is conducting the wild and scenic river suitability study due to a  proposal from the Bureau of Reclamation to construct two fish barriers to protect threatened and endangered fish species within segments of the river already established as eligible for inclusion into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

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Forest Service policy requires a WSR suitability study to be conducted if a proposed project has the potential to impact the river’s free-flowing condition or outstandingly remarkable values that make it eligible for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. It has been determined that the proposed fish barriers do have the potential to impact eligibility of the river segments; hence, the Forest Service must conduct the suitability study. A three-step process is used to consider potential rivers and streams for designation as a wild and scenic river.

The Prescott and Coconino National Forests have previously established the Upper Verde River as eligible for inclusion in the National Wild and  Scenic Rivers System and classified segments as wild, scenic, and recreational. The third step is a suitability study which identifies characteristics that do or do not make the area a worthy addition to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System and provides the basis for determining whether to recommend the river as part of the National Wild and Scenic  Rivers System. 

Forest Service policy affords protection to eligible rivers against any development that would modify free flow or adversely affect recognized outstandingly remarkable values until such time as suitability is formally determined through a suitability study. The goal of the policy is to protect and enhance the free-flowing character, outstandingly remarkable values, and water quality in the eligible segments. 

At this time, the Prescott National Forest is initiating environmental review under the  National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and conducting a 30-day public scoping period. During this time, the public is invited to review the draft suitability study and provide feedback on the information included therein. Your input will assist the Prescott National Forest in determining the issues that inform the alternatives and analysis in the  EA.  

The Forest Service is hosting a website which will provide additional throughout the process. This public input period will run through April 11, 2022. If you have any questions about this proposal, please contact Jason Williams at 928-777-2220 or  jason.a.williams@usda.gov.

The website can be found at:  

http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=61191 

Virtual Public Meeting 

A virtual public meeting will be held on March 28, 2022, from 6:00 – 7:30pm  MST. The meeting will include a presentation of the project and a question-and-answer session. To register for the meeting, please visit:  

https://empsi.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_j3AITjVdTCun13OqFTpb1w.

Request for Comments 

We would like to know of any issues, concerns, and suggestions you may have about this proposal. Comments should be as fully formed and specific to the proposal to assist us in the analysis. Although comments are welcome at any time, they will be most effective if received by 11:59pm MST April 11, 2022; comments must be received by this date in order for the commenter to have standing to object. This project implements the Prescott National Forest Plan and is not authorized under the Healthy Forests Restoration Act  (HFRA). The project is subject to the objections process at 36 CFR 218, subparts A and B  (http://www.ecfr.gov). Only specific written comments received during this or any other designated opportunity for public comment provide standing for objections. Also, to meet standing for objection, comments must meet the requirements of 36 CFR 218.8.  For more information on the objection process and requirements, you may contact Kevin  Hurrell at 928-443-8245, or by email at kevin.hurrell@usda.gov

Send electronic comments: 

You may provide your comments electronically via CARA here: 

http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=61191 (use the comment/object on project button on the right side of the screen) 

Send written comments via mail to: 

Upper Verde WSR Suitability Study 

Tony Papa, Deputy District Ranger 

Bradshaw and Chino Valley Ranger Districts 

Prescott National Forest 

344 S. Cortez St. 

Prescott, AZ 86303 

Stay up to date on Prescott National Forest news by checking the Prescott NF website and following us on Facebook and Twitter.

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