Galiuro Drilling EA Scenery Debby Kriegel 12/9/16

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1 Galiuro Drilling EA Scenery Debby Kriegel 12/9/16 INTRODUCTION The 1.7 million acre Coronado National Forest (CNF) is comprised of 12 sky island mountain ranges. CNF visitors have opportunities to sightsee along forest roads, camp in developed and back-country camping areas, hike, rock climb, mountain bike, and enjoy extraordinarily high quality scenery in predominantly undeveloped landscapes. The results of a the 2012 National Visitor Use Monitoring survey show that 60 percent of visitors to the CNF participate in viewing natural features (scenery) and that this activity was the second most popular primary activity after hiking and walking. The scenic landscapes of the Safford Ranger District are important to local residents and forest visitors, and the proposed Galiuro Drilling project would impact scenic quality. This report provides a brief overview of scenic resources in the project area, the impacts of the proposed project, and recommended mitigation measures. The Visual Resource Management System and Scenery Management System In recent years, there has been conflicting direction regarding the assessment of scenic resources on the CNF. The Coronado National Forest Plan (CNF, 1986) refers to Visual Quality Objectives (VQO) maps created under the 1974 Visual Resource Management System (VRMS), yet since the mid-1990s National Forests have been directed to use the improved Scenery Management System (SMS). In 2001, SMS mapping of Scenic Classes, which show the relative importance of scenic resources on the CNF, was completed. As soon as the forest began using SMS in environmental analyses, some problems became apparent because the new system is different than what is in the forest plan. This will be resolved when SMS is incorporated into the revised forest plan. In 2012, the CNF established draft recommended Scenic Integrity Objectives (SIOs), which will replace VQOs, and these have been made available for public review along with the revised plan and draft environmental impact statement. Although on-the-ground maps for the two systems are very different, the components of both systems are similar and the analysis (affected environment, environmental consequences, and cumulative effects) for the proposed project yields largely the same results. To be consistent with the current Forest Plan, this report provides an analysis of the proposed project using the VRMS and VQOs. However, direction from the draft revised Forest Plan (and SMS) is also briefly covered where it provides supplemental information. AFFECTED ENVIRONMENT Characteristic Landscape The landscape character in the proposed project area is a mosaic of mostly oak/juniper/pinyon, with smaller areas of pine-oak, desert shrub mix, chaparral, and grass mix on steep slopes (over

2 30%). Due to the remoteness of the area, there are few modifications to the valued landscape character. Existing scenic integrity is excellent. The Coronado National Forest Plan Direction for managing scenery on the CNF is found in the Forest Plan. Current direction in the Forest Plan includes the following Forest-wide Standards and Guidelines for Visual Resource Management (page 28): Maintain and protect the visual integrity of the landscape. Rehabilitate or enhance the existing visual quality in the process of accomplishing other resource management practices. Eleven of the proposed drilling sites lie within Management Area (MA) 1. One is located in MA 4. Scenic quality standards and guidelines for MA 1 require that "Visual quality objectives will be met" (see Management Emphasis and Intensity on page 47). Scenic quality standards and guidelines for MA 4 require that Visual quality objectives will be met or exceeded (see Management Emphasis and Intensity on page 62). VQOs for every acre of the CNF were established in the early 1980s and incorporated into the Forest Plan. VQOs are based on two components: 1. Variety Class: A measure of the visual variety or diversity of landscape character. The three variety classes are A (Distinctive), B (Common), and C (Minimal). 2. Sensitivity Levels (Concern Levels in SMS) and Distance Zones: Sensitivity Levels are a measure of the viewer interest in scenic qualities of a landscape. The three levels are 1 (Highest), 2 (Average), and 3 (Lowest). Distance Zones include Foreground (up to 1/2 mile), Middleground (1/2 mile to 5 miles), and Background (over 5 miles). Seven of the proposed drill sites are located in Variety Class B, and five are located in Variety Class A. There are no maps of Sensitivity Levels for the project area. SMS mapping provides information about visually sensitive travelways in the area. In SMS, two trails within the Galiuro Wilderness (#271 and 289) have been designated Concern Level 1 (High Interest in Scenery). The closest of these is 2.7 miles away from the proposed project. The north end of trail #289 is mostly outside of Wilderness and passes near the project area, but has not been identified as a sensitive travelway because of the lack of public access and corresponding low trail use. Forest Road 8129 is a Concern Level 2 (Moderate Interest in Scenery), but is located 2.4 miles from the project area, but travelers on this road are unlikely to see the project due to distance and topography. Eight of the proposed drilling sites are located in VQO Partial Retention. Four are located in VQO Modification. Definitions for VQOs are: Partial Retention: Management activities must be visually subordinate to the characteristic landscape.

3 Modification: Management activities may dominate the characteristic landscape, but must, at the same time, utilize naturally established form, line, color, and texture. In the draft revised Forest Plan, the project area is located in an area with an SIO of High (which requires that human activities to not be visually evident). The revised plan also includes a guideline that allows for mineral exploration to not meet SIOs in the short term, but activities must meet SIOs at project completion. ENVIRONMENTAL CONSEQUENCES Methodology This analysis was completed using the framework outlined in Forest Service Handbooks and GIS data. The proposed project would affect scenic resources. Activities that contrast with the valued landscape lower scenic integrity, and mineral exploration activities would introduce noticeable deviations to the characteristic form, line, color, and texture of a landscape. No Action Under the No Action alternative, mineral exploration activities would not occur. No drilling would occur. Scenery would remain as it presently exists. Proposed Action The project would include 12 drilling sites Disturbance footprints at each site include a 50 ft. x 50 ft. drill pad, a 30 ft. x 30 ft. helicopter landing zone, and a foot trail (<350 feet long) between the two. A total of 1.2 acres would be disturbed. Each site would drill rigs and other facilities (including storage buildings and tanks, trash containers, and port-a-potties) as well as materials and processing areas. Drilling activities at each site would be completed within 2-3 months and reclamation would follow. The entire project may take 5 years to complete. No more than two sites would be drilled at one time. No roads would be constructed. Visual impacts from the activities would occur from clearing vegetation and from industriallooking facilities in an otherwise natural landscape. The tallest items at the drilling sites would be approx. 30 feet high. Topography and vegetation throughout the area varies, but is not expected to screen activities from sensitive travelways. Some drilling sites would likely be visible from hiking trails in the Galiuro Wilderness due to their locations in elevated and/or exposed areas with little vegetative screening, but because of distance (2 miles to the Wilderness boundary and 2.7 miles or more to sensitive trails) this impact is minor. Other drilling sites would be tucked into valleys where they are less visible from afar and/or partially screened by denser vegetation.

4 Drilling sites would contrast with the natural landscape and therefore negatively impact scenery, but reclamation of the site impacts is expected to meet the long term VQOs. Overland footpaths are not expected to require vegetation removal and would have no long-term effects. Water pipelines (and water storage tanks and pumps as needed) are not expected to impact scenery; no clearing is planned and these materials would be laid on the ground along access roads and removed when no longer needed for drilling activities. Although the VMS does not specifically require analysis of night-time project effects, drilling activities would operate 24 hours a day and the proposed project would include night time lighting at each site, which would alter the scenery and dark night-time setting in the areas. Additionally, helicopter landings during the winter months would require lights. However, because of distance from visually sensitive areas (2.7 miles or more), this impact is minor. Planned reclamation is described in the Galiuro Drilling Project Plan of Operations (February 26, 2016) and includes grading to pre-disturbance topography, topsoil placement, seeding, and placement of slash within 30 days of each drill hole completion. Additionally, the Plan of Operations mentions that dust will be kept to a minimum and proper housekeeping will be observed at all times. These measures would help reduce impacts to scenery. See recommended mitigation measures are described below. With mitigation, the proposed project is expected to meet VQOs (as well as long-term SIOs). CUMULATIVE EFFECTS Cumulative effects are defined as the incremental impact of an action, when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions. The cumulative effects boundary for cumulative effects to scenery is the Gailuro EMA during the 5 year proposed project. Several projects on other portions of the Safford Ranger District, including proposed improvements at Fry Mesa and Treasure Park Campground, allotment analyses (Seventy Six, Two Troughs, Cedar Springs, and Veech), and Pinaleno Firescape) are outside of this boundary and therefore would not result in cumulative effects. Reasonably foreseeable future actions in the project area that affect scenic resources include: Galiuro Firescape, which would provide long-term benefits to scenery by improving forest health and reducing risks of catastrophic wildfire. Forest Plan revision, which would improve the management of scenery on the CNF by implementing the SMS and providing improved direction for managing scenery (including guidance for future mineral exploration). Travel Management (changes to the Safford Ranger District motorized travel system), which would benefit scenic resources by properly maintaining system roads and decommissioning unnecessary roads. Fuelwood collection, which would have no long-term effects on scenery. Because there are no past or present actions that impact scenery, and most future actions would provide benefits, no cumulative effects from this project are expected.

5 RECOMMENDED MITIGATION In order to meet project area VQOs, the following mitigation measures are recommended: 1. Design drilling pad facilities to minimize surface disturbance and fit into existing clearings wherever possible. Minimize vegetation removal (especially large shrubs and trees). 2. Keep drilling sites clean and in good condition (contain litter and debris, ensure that stormwater does not erode soils, etc.). 3. Check water lines as needed to ensure that leaks do not disturb existing soils. 4. Naturalize drilling sites, helicopter landing zones, and footpaths by removing all facilities and debris, backfilling holes and restoring natural grades and drainage patterns, tilling compacted areas, stabilizing soils if necessary, and seeding with native species found in the immediate area. If available, place topsoil and slash/branches on disturbed areas. 5. Monitor reclamation. If naturalization is not successful, repeat actions as needed. REFERENCES Coronado National Forest Plan, USDA Forest Service, Landscape Aesthetics, A Handbook for Scenery Management, USDA Forest Service, Agriculture Handbook No. 701, National Forest Landscape Management, Volume 2, Chapter 1, The Visual Management System, USDA Forest Service, Agriculture Handbook No. 462,

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