Wilderness Recommendation Process

As part of forest plan revision under the 2012 planning rule, forests are required to identify lands that may or may not be suitable to recommend to Congress for new Wilderness designation as part of the revision of their land and resource management plan (Forest Plan). The planning process may or may not result in recommendations for additional Wilderness on the Tonto. Recommended wilderness is distinct from designated wilderness, and is managed in accordance with Forest Plan direction as opposed to the Wilderness Act of 1964. The important thing to remember is that congress has reserved the authority to make final decisions on wilderness designation. A timeline for the wilderness recommendation process can be found here. Further information on the Wilderness Recommendation Process can be found in Chapter 70 of the Land Management Planning Handbook.

Click Here for Frequently Asked Questions on the Wilderness Recommendation Process!

Steps of the Wilderness Process

The process occurs in four primary steps: Inventory, Evaluation, Analysis, and Recommendation. Currently, the Tonto National Forest is in the Analysis Step. More information on these steps can be found on the Wilderness Recommendation Process Story Map!

Step 1: Inventory

The purpose of the inventory steps is to identify and create an inventory of all lands that may or may not be suitable for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System using a given set of criteria.

Final Inventory Criteria (August 2017)

Final Inventory Map (October 2017)

View our informational video about the inventory map. Click here for the video script.

Step 2: Evaluation

Evaluate the wilderness characteristics of all lands included in the inventory that may be suitable for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System using a given set of criteria and assign a ranking of high, moderate, low, or no for their wilderness character.

Final Evaluation Process Documentation (May 2018)

Final Evaluation Map (May 2018)

Final Evaluation Rationale (Updated September 2018)

**excel document available by request to tontoplan@fs.fed.us**

View our informational video about the evaluation step. Click here for the video script.

Step 3: Analysis

Based on the evaluation and input from the public, some areas, or portions thereof, may be proposed as part of the Draft Forest Plan, or an alternative and analyzed through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis as part of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Draft Analysis Criteria (May 2018)




Step 4: Recommendation

The Forest Supervisor will decide which areas, if any, to recommend to Congress for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Provide Your Feedback!

As we move through the Wilderness Recommendation Process, there are many ways to get involved. Email tontonplan@fs.fed.us to receive updates on opportunities to provide your input!

Archive of Maps

Draft Inventory Map (September 2017)

Draft Evaluation Map (January 2018)

Archive of Data

Draft Evaluation GIS Data (January 2018)

Wilderness Draft Inventory GIS Data (September 2017)