More Forest Gone

New potential wilderness areas in the southernmost corner of the Coconino National Forest are shown as shaded areas above. No shown is a recommended expansion of Strawbery Crater Wilderness northeast of Flagstaff. (Coconino National Forest)

Planners have identified 10 pieces of the Coconino National Forest totaling 120 square miles that they say would make good wilderness areas.

The majority of those suggested lie near Fossil Creek and West Clear Creek -- or north and south of Highway 260, and east and southeast of Camp Verde.

Areas recommended include: Strawberry Crater, Railroad Draw, East Clear Creek, Walker Mountain, Cedar Bench, Black Mountain, Cimarron-Boulder and Hackberry.

Though wilderness areas are designated by Congress, it's up to the Forest Service to make recommendations on such places, and this one comes because the forest staff is rewriting the Coconino National Forest's overall guiding plan.

Those areas chosen were determined to be "nearly pristine," have little development other than trails, and to offer solitude and challenge.

Close to Flagstaff, the agency proposes to add 6,704 acres to the existing 10,141-acre Strawberry Crater Wilderness. Comprised of lava flows, plains and pinyons and junipers, the proposed addition is just east of Alpine Ranchos.

The larger parcels are located between Highway 260 and near the Verde River, between West Clear Creek and Fossil Creek.

One group pushing for more areas for wildlife, and more restrictions regarding where off-highway vehicles roam, says it's not as much land as they had hoped for, but that it is a good start.

"I think they've done a pretty good job of evaluating and making some recommendations for wilderness," said Kim Crumbo, conservation director of the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council.

About 5 percent of the United States, or an area slightly larger than California, is federally designated as wilderness.

A little more than half of it is located in Alaska, according to the Wilderness Institute at The University of Montana and several other groups. Alaska, California, Arizona, Idaho and Washington have the most wilderness, according to the groups.

Wilderness areas are intended to be wild, and mostly free of evidence of human impact.

Things a person can do either on foot or with a pack animal are typically allowed in wilderness, like hiking, camping, climbing, boating and hunting.

Activities like biking, driving or motorcycle riding that require a machine or a mechanized piece of equipment are typically prohibited in wilderness areas.

There are 756 areas (109,494,508 acres) wilderness areas in the United States.

Locally, they include the Kachina Peaks 18,616-acre, Strawberry Crater , Wet Beaver 6,155-acre , West Clear Creek 15,238-acre, Fossil Springs 11,550-acre, Red Rock-Secret Mountain (north of Sedona) 47,194-acre, Munds Mountain 18,150 acre, Sycamore Canyon 56,000 acres and Kendrick Mountain 6,510 acres.

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