The Big Park Regional Coordinating Council members, at their regular meeting on March 13, voted to reaffirm their long standing support for the establishment by the U.S Congress for a National Scenic Area designation for the National Forest lands in the Sedona area.
Alarming to the Council, regarding this issue, is the wording of the present draft of the newly revised Forest Plan for the Coconino National Forest.
It states, "...the NSA designation was eliminated from detailed consideration because the land adjustment plan, central to the National Scenic Area proposal, has been carried into the proposed action and alternatives."
Despite the fact that the long-standing provision restricting land trades is being carried over into the new draft plan, it does not carry the weight of an Act of Congress, and is not permanent.
Forest plans can be, and are, amended.
The Council voted to eliminate this current language in the new plan and suggested the following:
"The Forest Service, in testimony before Congress in 2012, supported the establishment of the National Scenic Area for the Coconino Forest Lands in the Sedona area. While this designation cannot be accomplished by this revised Plan, the Plan does incorporate the restrictive land exchange provision critical to the designation. The Forest Service continues to support the NSA designation for this area in the future."
The Council, along with many organizations, including Keep Sedona Beautiful which has submitted a 27-page response, have many issues with the Draft document.
The deadline for public input was March 20, after which the Forest Service will evaluate the comments, as it (hopefully) revises the new policy.