The BLM in Arizona has released the environmental assessment for the Table Mesa Recreation Area and comments are due August 31, 2023. BlueRibbon participated in the scoping phase at the beginning of 2023. This plan gives the options of the No Action Alternative: current management, Proposed Action Alternative and a Limited Development Alternative. The proposed action will result in the creation of several shooting ranges, it change the management for dispersed camping to limit camping to designated sites in campgrounds that will be developed. The proposed action also includes changing boundaries of the area to include an additional 3500 acres for the alleged purpose of enhancing recreation. This plan will impact OHV use, dirt bike access, E-bike and mountain bike access, equestrian access, hiking access, and camping access.
This planning process was triggered by an increase in recreational target shooting. The BLM is considering closing recreational target shooting throughout the entire project area and designating it into specific target shooting areas. Camping would also be developed into developed campgrounds with amenities as well as designated dispersed camping areas. These considerations are to reduce alleged user conflict. Along with these the proposal also includes: a technical vehicle recreation site, a single-track motorized trail area, a non-motorized trail area, an archery range, cultural and geologic interpretation sites
Approximately 7 miles of new 30-inch width motorized use trails would be created which was actually first authorized in the 2010 management plan. The plan should allow for e-bikes on mountain bike non-motorized trails as well as the motorized singletrack. “A technical vehicle recreation site will be constructed at the intersection of Little Pan and AZCO Mine Road, with a staging area at the intersection of Table Mesa and AZCO mine road. The technical vehicle site will consist of a delineated open travel area of 10.76 acres, designed for high-clearance vehicle and trials motorcycle use”
The plan also proposes designated campsites as well as designated dispersed camping. The developed campground will be approximately 16 acres and have 20-30 designated sites, and the dispersed/primitive camping area will be approximately 48 acres. Ultimately this will reduce the areas in which people can dispersed camp and will restrict users. Dispersed camping should be allowed throughout the recreation area where there isn’t an impact to the environment or where there isn’t user conflict.
Overall this plan involves using management solutions besides permanent closure to manage the area for recreation. We appreciate any legitimate effort to address real problems. However, BRC has concerns about a few aspects of this plan. First of all, it isn’t clear how the boundary realignment to include the additional 3500 acres into the Table Mesa Management Area will improve anything. The maps shared by the BLM omit crucially important motorized trails in the area, and this ommission forces us to question the legitimacy of the proposal.
We believe they should develop an alternative that doesn’t include the boundary realignment, and do an additional round of public comment. The public simply doesn’t have enough information to fully inform this NEPA process at this time. Notice for this plan was lacking for those like BRC who have been involved in this effort for years. We also have concerns that this area is supposed to be managed closely with the surrounding management plans. Over the years, off-road advocates have been required to bank road closures for the construction of new motorized routes. This plan suggests that the banked road closures, which should have benefitted motorized users through the creation of new trails and facilities, are now taking a back seat to non-motorized interest groups.