Comment Opportunity on Fossil Creek Management Plan (AZ)
By: Thomas O'Keefe
In 2009 Fossil Creek was designated a Wild and Scenic River (Public Law 111-11). After several years of implementing interim management measures, the Coconino and Tonto National Forests are preparing a Comprehensive River Management Plan (CRMP). The CRMP will provide detailed direction, implementation actions, and monitoring to protect and enhance river values.
The Forest Service has proposed five preliminary alternative concepts, including a proposed action, and are soliciting comments on these alternatives. The alternatives seek to balance recreational use with protection of Fossil Creek’s water quality, free-flowing condition, and outstandingly remarkable values (ORVs). Based on public input to the preliminary alternative concepts, the Forest Service will publish a draft CRMP and EIS later in 2017. This draft will be made available for another round of review and comment.
We suggest that boaters file a comment with the Forest Service. With this round of comments the Forest Service is conducting scoping which means that they are determining the scope of issues to be addressed as they draft the management plan. Your comments should be crafted to identify whitewater recreation as an appropriate activity on Fossil Creek along with other forms of recreation.
As you make your comments note that under the Wild and Scenic River Act the Forest Service has a responsibility to manage the river in a manner that protects and enhances the outstandingly remarkable values (ORVs) for which the river is designated. With this in mind, your comments should support recreation as a value and make specific reference to how the agency can manage Fossil Creek in a manner that protects and enhances this value and specifically whitewater boating (while still protecting other values that include geology, biological, and Apache and Yavapai cultural values).
Suggestions for Comments Include the Following:
1) Identify your personal connection to Fossil Creek referencing recreational opportunities you enjoy.
2) Indicate your support for the conclusion that recreation, including whitewater boating, is an outstandingly remarkable value (ORV). The standard the Forest Service uses for determining ORVs is that “recreational opportunities are, or have the potential to be, popular enough to attract visitors from throughout or beyond the region of comparison or are unique or rare within the region. Visitors are willing to travel long distances to use the river resources for recreational purposes.” The Forest Service has already found that “since the return of natural flows to Fossil Creek, kayakers have discovered the waterfalls of Fossil Creek. They enjoy kayaking in the creek all year long – a rare opportunity as most streams in the warm desert run dry in summer and are too cold in winter in other areas.” [page 12 Fossil Creek Wild and Scenic River Resource Assessment, January 13, 2016]. Provide a personal testimonial based on your experience that supports the conclusion that recreation, and kayaking specifically, is a recreational value that should be recognized and managed for. If you boated the creek prior to the removal of the hydropower project and restoration of flows be sure to include that in your comments.
3) Indicate your personal commitment to resource stewardship of Fossil Creek and actions you take to minimize your impacts.
4) The preferred alternative E proposes to prohibit “waterplay” at the waterfall at end of the Lewis Trail (aka Waterfall Trail) that serves as the standard put-in. This would prevent paddlers from enjoying one of the highlights of the area. This waterfall provides a rare opportunity to practice running larger waterfalls in a safe environment. The pool at the bottom of the waterfall provides practice for wet exists, roll practice. Any prohibitions on “water play” should not limit whitewater boating.
5) Local paddlers have reported problems with access to the river during heavy rains and high-flow events. On numerous high flow events access to both Fossil Creek and the Verde have been restricted with closure of the FR 708. If you have had experiences with attempting to run the river and have found the road closed, describe this experience and its impact on your recreational use and enjoyment of Fossil Creek. An additional access challenge has resulted from the permit system which limits options for trips on short notice. If you have experienced this challenge, describe how it has impacted your opportunity to enjoy Fossil Creek. Given high recreational demand for this resource, all alternatives considered propose keeping a limited-entry permit system in place, but it is helpful to share information on the unique challenges kayakers face in basing their decision to boat on current weather and hydrology.
6) The preferred alternative includes maintaining all current designated recreation sites with the addition of vault and portable toilets, trash receptacles, kiosks, signs, interpretive trail, barriers, picnic tables, benches, bike racks, gates, and a permanent visitor contact booth at Junction FR 708 and 502 with vault toilet and temporary parking. If you have specific input on the need for these various facilities you should include that in your comments.
Comments should be submitted by Friday January 27th (the comment deadline was extended from January 13th) in one of the following ways:
* via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org (include "Fossil Creek CRMP" in the subject line)
* via mail to Coconino National Forest, Attention: Fossil Creek CRMP, P.O. Box 20429, Sedona, AZ 86341;
* via facsimile to (928) 203-7539;
* or in person at the Red Rock Ranger District Office, 8375 State Route 179, Sedona, AZ 86351.
The proposed action and alternatives, along with maps and other supporting information, may be reviewed at