Recreation, environment, access, and land use news and information for California.

I believe and advocate that the best policies and management decisions come through full public disclosure and maximum public involvement.  It is important to involve local elected officials, organizations, and individuals representing all points of view before making land management decisions that have long-term effects on local communities. ...

I believe and advocate that the best policies and management decisions come through full public disclosure and maximum public involvement.  It is important to involve local elected officials, organizations, and individuals representing all points of view before making land management decisions that have long-term effects on local communities.  I believe that the strength of individual involvement is an important element to support an active access advocacy program.  Each recreationist must be informed and educated on the issues affecting their recreation opportunities.  The success of access depends on the commitment of the whole.

John Stewart

Providing Comments to a Proposed Action

You, the recreationist, need to make your opinions known to the planning team about routes (roads and trails) that need to be included in record for developing the alternatives to the Proposed Action. This is the first step in a NEPA process. This is the time for the public to submit their comments. These comments will be used to develop the alternatives. One of the alternatives will be the final preferred action.

The following are the steps necessary for making your pro-access voice heard.

1. Obtain copy of the proposed action.

Determine deadline for public comment.
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John Stewart

Your Recreation, Your Land - Get Involved

Your Recreation, Your Land - Get Involved

By: John Stewart
Natural Resource Consultant
California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs

It is happening in Georgia, Tennessee, Arizona, California, Alaska, Montana, and every other state where federal land managers control public lands. Their actions are governed by management plans. Nationwide the Forest Service and BLM are in the midst of management plan updates.

You can make an important and unique contribution to the future of recreation opportunities on public lands. During the formal planning processes there are two opportunities when the federal land management agencies will seek the broadest possible public participation: during the initial “scoping” stages of a project and upon the release of a draft document. This guide will help you frame your issues and concerns into comments that will be most meaningful and influential during the planning process.

Scoping Period:

The primary goal of scoping is to identify issues and determine the range of alternatives to be addressed. During the scoping phase, the agencies provide an overview of the proposed project, including a description of the purpose and need for the project and a list of project goals. The public is asked to submit comments, concerns, and suggestions relating to these goals. The most useful scoping comments address the following:
-- Alternative approaches and ideas for accomplishing project goals
-- The range of environmental and socioeconomic issues that need to be considered
-- Other potential projects that might affect or be affected by the project
-- Information that needs to be considered (such as related research) and why
-- Information on how you use the area and how a project might affect that use
-- Your concerns about conditions or activities in the area (related to the planning project) and suggestions for improvement

EA and EIS:

The two most common documents in the formal planning process are the environmental assessment (EA) and the environmental impact statement (EIS). Ideally, comments are most useful if they are specific and do the following:
-- Identify incomplete or incorrect information
-- Describe why a particular alternative or element of the plan would or would not work
-- Offer a new idea, or completely new alternative, that would accomplish the stated goals
-- Point out discrepancies between legal mandates and proposals
-- Highlight deficiencies in the analysis of environmental consequences
-- Tell them how you use the area and how particular proposals in the planning document would affect that use

You do not have to wait for a formal planning process to submit comments. Land Management agencies are always interested in your thoughts and ideas relating to the areas they manage and appreciate receiving your general comments anytime.

They encourage comments that include:
-- Your concerns about conditions or activities in the area and suggestions for improvement
-- How well you feel the agency is accomplishing its mission in the area
-- The overall quality of your visit to the area is critical to the management and planning efforts.

Here are some ways you can stay involved:
-- Review draft plans, final plans, press releases, and plan updates on the agency’s web site.
-- Add your name to the agency’s mailing list to receive the newsletters and other planning-related notices.
-- Request printed copies of planning documents.
-- Visit the area and talk with land management staff.

Remember, it is your recreation and your public land. Get involved and be part of the process, or........

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John Stewart

Energy, Power, and Transmission and NIMBY

Energy, Power, and Transmission and NIMBY

by: John Stewart
Natural Resource Consultant
California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs

Of importance to southern California recreation are several proposals to develop renewable resource power generation project. The State of California already mandates that by 2010, 20% of state power consumption will be from renewable resources. "Renewable" means wind, solar, and geo-thermal. The "environmental movement" loves renewable sources of power anywhere but in their back yard.

In a May 16, 2007 article in the San Diego Union discussing a proposed wind generation site in eastern San Diego County, David Hogan, conservation manager for the Center for Biological Diversity, is quoted as saying he favors greater use of wind to provide energy but that other spots should be found for the turbines. The Golden State is a shining example of other "environmentally friendly renewable energy" projects that site idle while law suits wind through the court systems citing view-shed impacts and increased bird mortality rates.

Meanwhile, another "renewable" power source faces its own host of issues -- solar. During a presentation to the BLM Desert Advisory Council, energy officials noted that there certain areas of the country where solar energy makes sense - deserts. Seems, the solar panels require sunshine, which is in abundant supply in "deserts". In reality, the "deserts" have two commodities necessary for renewable power generation -- sunshine and wind.

Over 200,000 acres of solar power generation projects are proposed for southern California; primarily in the I-10 corridor east of Palm Springs. While extolling the virtues of renewable energy, the environmental movement is quick to point out that the proposed sites are not compatible with development of renewable energy projects. To the mix of anti-progress reasons are added weed and dust abatement. Seems the operating solar power sites engage in active programs to reduce weed growth and dust in the vicinity of the solar collector mirrors.

The third "renewable" energy source is geo-thermal. As with wind and solar, geo-thermal is a great renewable energy source anywhere but where the heat source exists.

Lost in the noise about power generation is the critical issue of moving the power from the source of generation to the point of use -- transmission lines. Recent legislation enabled the government to enter into the National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors and Congestion Study (http://nietc.anl.gov/).

A key component of this study is designating the southern California region as a "critical" area in terms of its ability to meet demand for energy. While the reality is there, the scope is downplayed. The southern California "corridor" starts in the San Diego-Los Angles area and moves east to Las Vegas and Phoenix in a swath covering in excess of 100,000 square miles.

While everyone wants to flip a switch and have the lights come on, few want to look at the infrastructure necessary to provide that connivence. While the environmental movement is waging their battle to "promote" renewable energy "anywhere but here", the impact on recreation is being glossed over.

Already pushed into ever smaller areas, recreation is being squeezed again by the various proposed energy projects. Wind, solar, and geo-thermal power generation require space; lots of space. Typically, the power generation locations are enclosed with a "public safety and security" buffer. Additionally, solar projects are susceptible to reduced efficiency due to dust accumulation on the solar collector mirrors. The unspoken expectation is that dust abatement procedures will be applied to broad areas around solar power sites.

The potential for significant impact to recreation opportunity as a result of renewable power generation is real. What is the true impact? Can the impacts be mitigated?

Stay tuned.....

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John Stewart

Recreational Trails Program

Recreational Trails Program

What is the Recreational Trails Program?

The U.S. Congress first authorized the Recreational Trails Program in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. It was reauthorized in 1998 under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21).

The Recreational Trails Program provides funds to the States to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both nonmotorized and motorized recreational trail uses. Examples of trail uses include hiking, bicycling, in-line skating, equestrian use, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, off-road motorcyling, all-terrain vehicle riding, four-wheel driving, or using other off-road motorized vehicles.

Who administers the program?

The Recreational Trails Program is an assistance program of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Each State administers its own program, usually through a State resource or park agency. Each State develops its own procedures to solicit and select projects for funding. Each State has a State Recreational Trail Advisory Committee to assist with the program. In some States, the committee selects the projects, in others, the committee is advisory only. See the State contact list.

How much money is available?

Under TEA-21, the Congress authorized the Recreational Trails Program $30 million in 1998, $40 million in 1999, and $50 million annually for 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003. Previous funding in 1996 and 1997 was $15 million each year.

Half of the funds are distributed equally among all States, and half are distributed in proportion to the estimated amount of off-road recreational fuel use in each State-fuel used for off-road recreation by snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, off-road motorcycles, and off-road light trucks.

What projects are eligible?

Recreational Trails Program funds may be used for:

maintenance and restoration of existing trails;
development and rehabilitation of trailside and trailhead facilities and trail linkages;
purchase and lease of trail construction and maintenance equipment;
construction of new trails (with restrictions for new trails on Federal lands);
acquisition of easements or property for trails
State administrative costs related to this program (limited to 7 percent of a State's funds); and
operation of educational programs to promote safety and environmental protection related to trails (limited to 5 percent of a State's funds).

States must use 30 percent of their funds for motorized trail uses, 30 percent for nonmotorized trail uses, and 40 percent for diverse trail uses. Diverse motorized projects (such as snowmobile and motorcycle) or diverse nonmotorized projects (such as pedestrian and equestrian) may satisfy two of these categories at the same time. States are encouraged to consider projects that benefit both motorized and nonmotorized users, such as common trailhead facilities. Many States give extra credit in their selection criteria to projects that benefit multiple trail uses.

Which projects are not eligible?

Recreational Trails Program funds may not be used for:

property condemnation (eminent domain);
constructing new trails for motorized use on National Forest or Bureau of Land Management lands unless the project is consistent with resource management plans; or
facilitating motorized access on otherwise nonmotorized trails.

These funds are intended for recreational trails; they may not be used to improve roads for general passenger vehicle use or to provide shoulders or sidewalks along roads.

A project proposal solely for trail planning would not be eligible (except a State may use its administrative funds for statewide trail planning). However, some project development costs may be allowable if they are a relatively small part of a particular trail maintenanace, facility development, or construction project.

Who can sponsor a project?

States may make grants to private organizations, or to municipal, county, State, or Federal government agencies. Some States, by policy, do not provide funds to private organizations. Projects may be on public or private land, but projects on private land must provide written assurances of public access.

States are encouraged to use qualified youth conservation or service corps for construction and maintenance of recreational trails under this program.

How does project funding work?

Project amounts vary by State, but most range in value from $2,000 to $50,000. Some States set minimum or maximum allowable dollar values.

In general, the maximum Federal share for each project from Recreational Trails Program funds is 80 percent. A Federal agency project sponsor may provide additional Federal funds, provided the total Federal share does not exceed 95 percent. The non-Federal match must come from project sponsors or other fund sources. Funds from any other Federal program may be used for the non-Federal match if the project also is eligible under the other program. States also may allow a programmatic match: if some project sponsors in a State provide more match funds than required, other sponsors in the State may provide less. Some in-kind materials and services may be credited toward the project match.

Usually, project payment takes place on a reimbursement basis: the project sponsor must incur costs for work actually completed, and then submit vouchers to the State for payment. Reimbursement is not normally permitted for work that takes place prior to project approval. However, working capital advances may be permitted on a case-by-case basis, and some project development costs may be reimbursable.

How do I obtain Recreational Trails Program project funding?

Each State has its own procedures to solicit and select recreational trails projects for funding. A project sponsor should develop its proposal sufficiently so that the project may move quickly into implementation after project approval.

If you have a trail project proposal, first contact your State to find out the program requirements and criteria for project selection. As a project sponsor, you should:

* Develop a workable project. What are your trail needs? What can you do realistically?
* Get public support for your project. How does your project benefit your community? Are there other potential project sponsors?
* Find other funding sources. The normal Federal share is limited to 80 percent. Some State or local governments may provide some matching funds, but usually the project sponsor has to provide most or all of the match.
o Consider donations of materials and volunteer labor.
o Consider how to involve youth conservation or service corps in your project.
* Develop a good project design.
* Consider the project's natural environment. Consider user needs, including use by people with disabilities.
* Consider potential problems:
o Environmental impacts - these must be documented and minimized.
o Permits - you may need to obtain various permits prior to submitting your proposal.
o Possible opposition - some people may oppose your project for various reasons, including concerns about property rights, liability, safety, or historic or environmental impacts.
* Complete the project application.

If your project is approved, get to work! States may withdraw project approval if a sponsor does not begin work within a reasonable time frame.

For more information on the Recreational Trails Program, see the Recreational Trails Program-State Trail Administrators contact list:

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