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THE SAN FRANCISCO AND BLUE RIVERS

The San Francisco and Blue rivers are two crown jewels of the arid Southwest that are rich in cultural resources, wildlife habitat, and opportunities for quiet recreation; yet portions of these rivers that flow through the Apache-Sitgreaves and Gila national forests are threatened by ongoing, increasing traffic from off-road vehicles.

In November 2007, the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation organizations petitioned the Forest Service to implement interim and permanent protections for these unique and important waterways. Our petition cited the need for immediate action based on the Forest Service’s duty to protect the area’s outstanding ecological and quiet recreational values from potentially irreparable harm. Closing the Frisco-Blue area to motor vehicles would also help to ensure the agency’s compliance with the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and the National Forest Management Act.

The Frisco-Blue Area is a landscape-scale ecological and biological refuge, providing a home for extensive fish and wildlife populations; free-flowing, natural river systems; riparian habitats; and interconnected watershed and forest habitats. The high quality of these ecological and biological values is reflected in specially protected lands like the Blue Range Primitive Area, several roadless areas, and several eligible “wild and scenic” river segments. These specially protected lands, nestled within the broader landscape, collectively function as building blocks for a more cohesive, forward-looking, conservation-focused management regime in the Frisco-Blue area.

These rivers also provide unmatched opportunities for fishing, hunting, and quiet-use recreation — quiet-use recreation opportunities that are intimately connected to the Frisco-Blue area’s ecological and biological value. The roars of motorized off-road vehicles, and the scars these vehicles leave on the landscape, threaten that value.

Photo by Chris Kassar