NRC Report - January 2010
A new effort on part of USFS dealing with water quality in the State of California has started. USFS Region 5 convened a "stakeholders" group to address development of "best management processes" to address watershed management (water quality) on Forest Service managed lands within California.
I have been selected as the primary stakeholder representative for OHV interest groups in the state of California. A Jan 12, 2010 meeting was held to start this process which is expected to last at least one year.
As I am representing state-wide OHV interests, I intend to provide a brief back to OHV groups of public releasable information after each meeting and/or teleconference. In addition, all public releasable documents I receive in connection with this stakeholder process will be posted to:
After the inaugural WQMP meeting, if you are not concerned about water quality and motorized recreation, I suggest you re-evaluate your priorities.
Five topical areas have been identified as receiving priority in developing a water quality management plan: timber management, fuels treatment/forest health, rangeland management, forest roads, and off-highway vehicles.
The meeting began with a clarification that this stakeholder group is acting in an advisory capacity and the agencies are not legally bound to accept input from the group. However, the agencies value the expertise and welcome comments from the group that will be considered as plan development moves forward.
July - start CEQA process through scoping and development of a draft CEQA document.
November - release of draft CEQA document for public comment.
Jan 2011 - Adopt final CEQA document.
Mar 23 - next meting of stakeholders group
May 18 - meeting of stakeholders group
TBD - future meetings of the stakeholder group
The meeting discussion developed two distinct approaches.
The usual groups (PEER, etc) were pushing for accountability and punitive actions in defense of clean water.
The second group (OHV, recreation residences, forest products, etc) were pushing for a process that identified roles and responsibilities and adaptive management.
I lead a successful argument where the Forest Service and State Water Resources Board agreed that a clear definition of roles and responsibilities were necessary before adaptive management actions could be adopted. However, while they agree to that process, there is lack of understanding as to what constitutes "adaptive management" as a precursor to accountability.
To that extent, I was asked by the Forest Service and State Water Quality Board (along with several other stakeholders) to work with staff in a side meeting to develop a structure for "adaptive management". That meeting has been scheduled for Feb 22, 2010.
The meeting also began to set the framework for identifying a "process" to employ Best Management Practices. While there are a few stakeholders that want to engage in the technical issues of BMPs, there was a larger group (supported by several regional water board reps in attendance) that believed the "process" needs to be clearly defined before BMPs can be implemented.
When reading through some of the draft materials, there are a couple of issues that raise big red flags....
1. some early draft language of the WQMP identifies special events as requiring special review.
2. monitoring is a major cornerstone of the WQMP
Item 1 has the potential to place an extra requirement on events that require a Forest Service permit.
Item 2 has the potential to expand the current monitoring program (and allow citizen monitoring) with no means to provide resources to implement a monitoring program. More important, there is no clear definition of what the “citizen monitoring” could or would provide. In short, if the monitoring program is not clearly defined as to the steps necessary and the data to be collected, serious questions arise as to the reliability of the data to support management (or accountability) actions.
As this process moves forward, it will be critical that clear monitoring programs are developed that include step by step procedures to collect data, process the data and ensure accuracy and validity of the data. In short, collecting data is a serious issue that needs clear roles, responsibilities, and accountability.
To their credit, Forest officials stated that Region 5 is willing to commit the necessary resources to implement the WQMP. This position is consistent with other projects involving Region 5 and planning that I have encountered.
Right now, my intent is to ensure there is a clearly defined process with roles and responsibilities that can facilitate adaptive management actions while providing for recreation access and protection of water quality. While implementation of Best Management Practices is important, the adaptive management process needs to account for regional issues with a "site specific" approach.
This will be an important process as the year moves along.
I had the opportunity to attend an event with the Phoenix, AZ based Disabled Explorers. This non-profit group is focused on providing active recreation opportunities for disabled persons. Part of the opportunity is having the people drive a specially equipped vehicle that is designed with hand-controls for the throttle and brake actions. For example, a wheel chair bound individual can become the driver and enjoy a 4x4 experience.
In addition, they are working with vendors on a prototype wheel chair model to improve access opportunities. This trip, they had the initial prototype wheel chair for test and evaluation. The chair was equipped with snowmobile treads in place of the wheels.
I have confirmed they will be in attendance at Tierra del Sol Desert Safari to display the prototype wheelchair. In addition, I am working on getting a meeting with them, Angela Cook and the Paralyzed Veterans of San Diego for attendance at Operation Desert Fun in the fall.
There is no additional news that can be reported on the WEMO settlement. An additional settlement conference was replaced with a meeting before the judge.
The Southern California Roadless settlement conference is moving forward. A January 29th meeting was positive and another meeting is expected within the next month or two.
I have been invited to be part of a “landuse panel” at the King of the Hammers event in early February. At convention, I will be presenting a seminar on “Wilderness: What you need to know”.
AN OHMVR Commission meeting is tentatively scheduled for Feb 24-25. Formal meeting confirmation and location has not been announced. The state requires 10-days notice of meetings.