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9 minutes reading time (1803 words)

CA4WDC NRC South Monthly Report - Dec 2011

Recreation advocate article to appear in Law Book: I wrote an article in 2008 advocating recreation inclusion in public lands management policy that will be published in law book designed for classroom use in U.S. Law schools.  The article will appear in the Natural Resources Law 2nd Edition, authored by Jan Laitos, University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

It is an honor to have an article selected for publication in a law book.  I believe this represents the beginning of an era of change in litigation and management.

Recreation has surged on public lands managed by various federal agencies since the post-World War II era began.  Changes to management policies have not kept up with the surge in demand for recreation opportunity.

“...Change is needed. Recreation is growing, Options for recreational access to public lands are decreasing.  Changes to laws governing wilderness and endangered species are needed; changes that support a balanced conservation goal.  There are no quick and easy answers.  It is going to take time, effort, and pain.  It is about balance...”

That is the closing paragraph to the article titled “Conservation Triangle – Extraction, Preservation and Recreation” and published at http://www.4x4wire.com/thats-my-view/conservation-triangle-extraction-preservation-and-recreation

Water Quality: The issue of water quality management is still unresolved after almost two years of stakeholder meetings and two State Water Board hearings.  The Forest Service proposed to the State Water Board to have a single “waiver” that would apply to all forests within California. 

Region 1 Water Board has a waiver in place that employes the basic language proposed in the state-wide waiver. Region 1 covers six forests in northern California.

The waiver language clearly stated that activities and projects meeting certain criteria would be left to the Forest Service to conduct without additional review and approval of the local regional board unless an objection was registered.

Core to the waiver process is the Forest Service Water Quality Management Handbook (which is an update to and existing Water Quality Management Plan) and Best Management Practices (BMPs). The Forest Service boosted the Water Quality Management Plan to Handbook status to make it more meaningful.

The Forest Service is committed to using the new Handbook. However, they lack the regulatory emphasis to implement the Handbook outside the Forests covered by Region 1 Water Board.

The structure of the Handbook is important because it builds in the adaptive management process and the BMPs.   The Forest Service is not bound by law or regulation to implement the Handbook. However, that does not preclude them from implementing the Handbook as a tiered document to be used while implementing a Forest Plan.  (Tiered document means one that is incorporated by reference into a Forest Planning Document.)

By attaching the Handbook to the state-wide Waiver, the regulatory action of the Waiver would implement the Handbook.  And, failure to follow the Handbook would be an actionable item to file a lawsuit; provided the regulatory action of the Waiver were in place.

As it stands, the CEQA Mitigated Negative Declaration covering the proposed Waiver was accepted by the State Water Board by a 2-1 (for-against) vote.  The State-Wide Waiver was rejected by the State Water Board by a 1-2 (for-against) vote.

Forest Planning: Fourteen of the eighteen National Forests within California are due for Forest Plan revisions.  In prelude, the Forest Service has proposed a national “rule” which will be the guidelines for the forests to move forward with their respective Forest LAnd and Resource Management Plan, or Forest Plan.

The new Forest Planning Rule is expected to be released mid-Jan 2012 and final within a month; provided it survives expected legal challenges.  Within California, three Forests will be starting their Forest Plan revisions fall 2012 -- Inyo, Sierra and Sequoia.

For background: A Forest Plan does not authorize projects or activities or commit Forest Service to take action or regulate uses. Specific actions are “site specific decisions” and are not part of a Forest Plan”.

The Forest Service can issue a closure order on a system road or trail at any time. Key point is they need to have an administrative record that documents their reason for the closure. And, such a closure is temporary, up to one year to start formal NEPA process to re-open, permanently close or other decision on that route.

Not all "plans" have the same status as a Forest Plan. Forest Service has a habit of laying out a "practice" or "plan" it will follow to address a certain work procedure. That is interpreted through an instruction. That is followed by a Directive that it will be done.

Frequently, similar directives, instructions and practices will be incorporate into a Handbook.

Those are internal administrative actions that seldom see the light of day until they are included in a Forest Plan and open to public review through a NEPA process.

What to expect: The Forest Service is conducting a series of meetings (Sierra Cascade Dialog) which focus on the Forest Plan revision strategy.  The focus will be on plans that are regional/local (cross administrative boundaries) and highlight forest unique issues.

The new plans will feature local collaboration and an adaptive management framework.  While science will be incorporated, it will not be comprehensive or exhaustive.  That level will be left to the “site specific management decisions”.

OHMVR Deputy Director: In late December, OHMVR Deputy Director Daphne Greene received notice her appointment would end as of December 31, 2011.  Daphne has served in that capacity for seven and a half years.  Her tenure has brought a high degree of stability to the program and many changes that make the California OHMVR Program a model of efficiency and effectiveness.

A grassroots letter writing campaign generated unprecedented letters of support for Daphne showing that there is a passionate and concerned group that cares about the OHMVR Program.

In the end, the position of Deputy Director is an “at will” appointment under control of the governor.  To date, no replacement has been designated. 

Given recent developments with the OHMVR Trust  Fund and state budget, there are expected developing problems.  The recent state Supreme Court decision upholding the governor’s action of stripping 400 redevelopment agencies of funding is a troubling development as noted by this quote from the decision:  “...The court called the elimination of redevelopment "a proper exercise of the legislative power vested in the Legislature by the state Constitution."

WEMO: The BLM has released dates for a series of meeting about the WEMO travel management.

Meetings for Travel Management Areas under the jurisdiction of the Barstow Field Office will be held at the Barstow Field Office, 2601 Barstow Road, Barstow, CA 92311.  Meetings for Travel Management Areas under the jurisdiction of the Ridgecrest Field Office will be held at the Kerr-McGee Bldg, 100 West California Ave, Ridgecrest, CA 93555.

All scoping meetings are from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m, and include a presentation and an open-house opportunity to review maps and provide route-specific and location-specific comments to the BLM.  The public is encouraged to attend the travel management plan meetings to assure that comments are accurately captured, including location, route or site identification, specific issues, and rationale.  You may also provide written comments.

  • Monday, January 9 TMA 1:  Broadwell Lake, Afton Canyon and East of Barstow Signing Subregions in the Barstow Field Office.
  • Wednesday, January 18 TMA 2:  Sierras, Darwin, and North and South Searles Signing Subregions in the Kerr-McGee Center.
  • Thursday, January 26 TMA 3:  Juniper, Rattlesnake, Morongo, Wonder Valley and Joshua Tree Signing Subregions in the Barstow Field Office and the northern most portions of PSSC in WEMO.
  • Monday, February 6 TMA 4:  Jawbone, Middle Knob and Lancaster Signing Subregions in the Kerr-McGee Center.
  • Thursday, February 9 TMA 5:  WEMO North Barstow Desert Wildlife Management Area Signing Subregions North of I-15 and SR 58 in the Barstow Field Office.
  • Tuesday, February 14 TMA 6:  Ridgecrest, El Paso, Rands and Red Mtn Signing Subregions in the Kerr-McGee Center.
  • Thursday, February 16 TMA 7:  El Mirage (including Edwards Bowl area), Fremont, and Iron Mountains Signing Subregions South of SR 58 in the Barstow Field Office.
  • Tuesday, January 21 TMA 8:  Lands adjacent to Stoddard and Johnson OHV Areas, and other Signing Subregions in the Barstow and Needles Field Offices South of I-40 and North of SR 247 including, and East of Interstate I-15.

Johnson Valley: The Associated Press published an article about the Post War Marines: smaller, less focused on land war. (http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_AFTER_IRAQ_MARINES?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT)

I found the article interesting and informative.  I have been following General Amos and read some of his past statements regarding his vision for the future of the Marines as that has a direct bearing on an issue that is important to me: expansion of 29 Palms Marine Base and Johnson Valley OHV Area.

With the statements attributed to General Amos in the article, I see a potential for change in the active base structure maintained by the Marines.  

However, over the years, many Generals and Admirals have stated "visions" for the future of their segment of the military.  Many have resulted in no change while some have resulted in fundamental changes within the military.

The AP article begs two important questions.  1) Does General Amos have the support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to move forward with his vision?  2) And, does his vision correlate with the priorities of the current administration?

With regard to the degree of support from the Joint Chiefs (General Amos is one of them),  I would say it's unclear.  What is clear, however, is that the end of the recent era of rapidly increasing defense budgets is likely to intensify inter-service rivalries, which might call into question the amount of support General Amos will have from the Army especially.

With regard to whether General Amos’ priorities are in sync with those of the administration, I would say yes, in reference to his desire to reorient the Marines toward the Asia-Pacific region. That is definitely an administration priority.

In the end, the mantra from the Marines in support of base expansion is the need to “Train as we fight.”  Reorientation of the mission of the Marines back to their roots as an amphibious assault force may, just may, be important.

While the AP article did not mention retreat from base expansion plans, it did underscore budget priorities will have an impact on the future.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement covering the proposed base expansion is expected to be released in January 2012.  Following signing of a Record of Decision, the formal request to withdraw land from public access and transfer it to the exclusive use of the military will be submitted for consideration by Congress.

Under congressional protocol, the proposal is expected to be subject to hearings before two or three congressional committees; House Defense Committee, House Appropriations Committee, and House Natural Resources Committee.  A similar process is expect within the Senate.

Legislation of interest: My compiled list of federal and state legislation of interest to motorized recreation is now posted at: http://www.muirnet.net/Public/ca4wdc/NRC-legislation/index.html This website address will be updated at least once per month.

Recovery Implementation Team Members Set
NRC South Report - November 2011
 

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