Resource Reductions in the Stronghold

I received the following e-mail and attachment from Scott Ayers regarding proposed resouce reductions in the stronghold.

I received the attached document from someone with the lowdown on the behind-the-scenes Forest Service plan to eliminate the ranger position occupied by Chuck Holt. Chuck had an assistant up until recently; that position has already been terminated.

If this plan goes through, there will be no on-sight land manager in the entire Stronghold. As Chuck has gone above and beyond his job description to be a positive influence on this area, it can be reasonably deduced that his absence will have an impact as well.

Please take a moment to read the attached document as it clearly outlines the situation and its potential ramifications. There is contact information supplied at the end of the document if you are interested in writing a letter to let the supervisor know how you feel.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. I hope this email finds you all well.

Thanks again! Scott

Here is the associated attachment:

During the last few years, the Coronado National Forest recreation management has changed from a district-based recreation program to a zone-based recreation program including the Douglas, Nogales, Safford and Nogales Ranger Districts. The change was meant to save money (or rearrange it). One of the changes that has resulted from the reorganization is that instead of having volunteers, seasonal employees such as district-based trail crew members, senior citizen workers, GS-5 and GS-7 employees all out on the ground cleaning up after and interacting with the forest visitors, there is now only one level of employee left. In that level, there are only a few of those divided among four districts of the Coronado National Forest and they have to cover every mountain range (10 of them) except the Santa Catalinas – which is still run at the district level.

Where the Dragoons used to get attention from a district recreation staff officer, an assistant recreation staff officer, a full-time local administrator, a part-time year-round employee, and three volunteers, it is now looked after by only one full-time local administrator and one volunteer. If the Cochise Stronghold Area Manager position is eliminated there will be no full-time forest service personnel located in Cochise Stronghold Canyon or anywhere in the Dragoon mountains. When needed, F.S. personnel will have to respond from Portal, Douglas, Sierra Vista or Safford.

It has been proposed that the full-time area manager position based at the Cochise Stronghold Administration Site be left unmanned. That means that no one will be on duty at the site and no one available or on-call during night-time hours. If this proposal goes into effect Canyon residents, forest visitors and the local community can expect several adverse impacts:

  1. On the few days that forest service employees are in the canyon at all, they will likely not arrive before 10:00 a.m. and will depart before 2:00 p.m. due to the distance they must drive from their home offices to this location.
  2. There will be only rare, if any, forest service employee patrols in the canyon’s recreation sites during weekends and holidays, when we need it most, or during the several hunting seasons when the canyon is a magnet for hunters seeking deer and other game.
  3. Response by agency representatives to canyon emergencies will be extremely adversely affected. Any agency employee needing to respond to local emergencies will have to come from Portal, Douglas, Sierra Vista or Safford making response time a minimum of 1 ˝ hours, where now it’s usually a matter of only minutes.
  4. The campground host position will become and remain vacant. (F.S. regulations state that all personnel will have two-way communication – either radio or telephone – while in the field. With the Stronghold Admin site vacated, the campground host will have no cell phone or radio communication with law enforcement, search and rescue, paramedics, or other F.S. personnel) unless and until a telephone line is extended to the C.G. That avenue has already been investigated and found to be cost prohibitive.
  5. Adverse financial impacts on local businesses.
  6. The Cochise Stronghold Administrative site will be vacant 24/7.
  7. The Shilling Homestead will be unprotected 24/7.

If you feel that the elimination of a full-time F.S. presence here would impact your sense of safety, your personal property or the quality of your recreational activities here, and/or if you feel that this action would be detrimental to E. Cochise Stronghold Canyon and the Dragoon mountains we urge you to consider contacting Coronado National Forest Supervisor Jeanine Derby. The Forest Supervisor is the one person with the authority to enact or deny this proposal. Letters are best, email is acceptable, phone calls are probably not the best avenue but could be effective if you think you can remain calm and reasonable during a phone conversation.

It is important to remember to address the supervisor on issues that she can respond to. For example

  1. Severely reduced public safety standards.
  2. Local vs. off-site management of the area.
  3. Abandoned agency buildings and equipment.
  4. Adverse financial impacts on local businesses.
  5. Agency responsiveness, effectiveness and efficiency.
  6. Pre-decisional Public Comment period (would you like to have a meeting with the Forest Supervisor to discuss the issue where you will be afforded an opportunity to respond in person).
  7. Your feelings about long response times to forest visitor situations.
  8. Any other ways that this proposal, if enacted, will negatively impact you or the area: i.e. a) fire prevention, b) law enforcement issues, c) regular patrols, d) quick response to compliance problems.

Your responses should be addressed to:

Jeanine Derby, Forest Supervisor
Coronado National Forest
300 W. Congress
Tucson, AZ 85701

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Revised: November 8, 2004