November 26, 2006
A partnership of environmental groups and other nonprofits is calling for a wider swath of wilderness and more emphasis on quiet recreation in the Coronado National Forest.
The Coronado Planning Partnership represents a combined membership of more than 300,000 people in 20 groups. The partnership issued a state-of-the-forest report Nov. 7 aimed at influencing the forest management plan, on which Coronado is taking public comment.
"We wanted to make sure we got a plan based in conservation," said David Hodges, policy director for the Sky Island Alliance, under whose name the partnership report was written.
The group was spurred to write the report by the planned revision of the Coronado management plan, which was last revised in 1986.
"There are a lot of new pressures on the forest that the agency has to take into account," Hodges said.
Population in Pima County has risen by 250,000, illegal immigration has become a destructive flood and global warming looms. None of those was a recognized threat two decades ago, he said.
To deal with the border, the partnership suggests strengthening interagency cooperation and preventing a border fence.
"A border wall would seriously disrupt the movement and availability of resources to a variety of species that are of conservation concern for the Coronado along with ecological systems that support those species," the report says.
The forest should prepare for global warming impacts, including changing habitat boundaries, invasive species and changes in species viability, the group said.
Hodges laments the shift toward using forests for recreation instead of conservation - a move he says leans away from the reason forests exist.
The groups' report calls for several new wilderness areas and "sound sheds" where only quiet activities are allowed. The group identified eight areas the forest should manage as more-restricted wilderness areas, Hodges said.
Despite receiving comments from more than 600 people, the partnership wants more. The group will take public comments on its draft report, with a final version out next spring, Hodges said.
No timeline has been announced for the Coronado management plan revision, though it is expected to take until next summer.