NRC South Monthly Report - June 2011
June began with the Mojave Region GIS Conference that highlighted efforts underway by the Department of Interior to move forward with a major effort to document the many areas of the southern California desert region within geographic information system maps.
The primary focus of this effort is to create a library of information to support land management decisions. And, a by-product of this effort will benefit the recreation public.
A preview of the public benefit can be seen at http://www.californiadesert.gov. Working with a variety of partners (some of which are Living Desert of Palm Springs, San Bernardino County Natural History Museum, California Department of Fish and Game, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management) recreation activities in the Mojave Desert region are being highlighted. Future additions to the website will include map information that can be downloaded to a GPS, smartphone or tablet computing device.
For example, the San Bernardino Natural History Museum is proposing to develop a “virtual” geologic tour of the desert region. That effort will provide a “virtual tour” of geological significant points in the Mojave Desert that can be viewed in the comfort of your home. In addition, the map data will be available available for download so that people can drive to the various spots referenced in the virtual tour to see the points of interest in person.
A “wish list” of items has been developed. Turning the wish list into reality will occur over the coming months.
Originally scheduled for release in early May, the Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan is approaching its second month in legal limbo. Meanwhile, steps to implement the plan are slowly moving forward as efforts towards raven control and education begin to ramp up.
In coming months, the Desert Tortoise Information and Education Group will begin a renewed education program about the desert tortoise. One portion of this effort will focus on a youth education program - the Mojave Maxine Emergence contest. This contest provides an opportunity for school children to guess when the resident desert tortoise at the Living Desert (a female named Maxine) will emerge from hibernation in the spring. Details of this program are available at http://www.deserttortoise.gov.
The state budget continues its tortuous path forward. Within two weeks of one proposed budget being rejected, a new agreement has moved forward. While details of the new proposal are not public, highlights indicate changes in funding education and public safety were part of the new agreement. It appears that the gas-tax portion of the OHMVR funding is still being targeted for re-directing to other purposes.
One important point to remember is the OHMVR funding comes from three sources: gate receipts at the SVRAs, “green-sticker” registration, and gas-tax attributed to off-road recreation use.
The gas-tax portion of funding is what is being re-directed and is subject to the recent Sacramento Bee op-ed pieces and highly desired by the anti-access groups. That portion has the least protection, is the hardest to protect and subsequently, the most vulnerable to legislative “taking”.
The long awaited Forest Service-State Water Board Water Quality Management Plan has been released for public comment which closes noon, July 25, 2011.
Briefly, the action is to adopt a Conditional Waiver that covers the listed activities on Forest Service lands to the extent that potential impacts can be reduced to less than significant through a combination of management practices specified in the WQMH, additional USFS guidance (e.g., the Watershed Improvement Program, the travel management rule, the Northwest Forest Plan, and the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendments), and the conditions of the Waiver.
Simply put, the State Water Board will accept that Forest Service is adequately maintaining water quality provided they adhere to the Water Quality Management Handbook and other applicable guidance.
While the Conditional Waiver is important, the most significant part is the Forest Service Water Quality Management Handbook. This document outlines the actions the Forest Service will undertake to remain within the broader regulation aspect of the State Water Board issued Conditional Waiver concerning water quality issues.
Two paragraphs below are from the Notice of Availability. MND - Mitigated Negative Declaration:
The MND describes and evaluates the potential environmental impacts associated with the Conditional Waiver. The MND establishes that there is no substantial evidence, in light of the whole record before the State Water Board, that the project may have a significant effect on the environment, with incorporated mitigation measures that will avoid or mitigate potential significant impacts. All of the mitigation measures needed to avoid or minimize potentially significant impacts are set out in the MND and incorporated into the Conditional Waiver’s conditions.
Electronic copies of the MND, Conditional Waiver, and USFS WQMH can be downloaded from the State Water Board website: http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/nps/wqmp_forests.shtml.
One issue of rising concern is the effort by Representative Farr to propose shifting the management of the Giant Sequoia National Monument from the Forest Service to the National Park Service. To date, Boards of Supervisors in Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties have resolutions opposing that action in development. Three local Chambers of Commerce within the three county area have adopted resolutions in opposition while others are considering a resolution of opposition.
Representatives Devin Nunes and Kevin McCarthy have added their support to growing opposition of other local governments in opposition to the proposal.
The effort to build the local coalition in opposition to the proposal is being lead by the Giant Sequoia National Monument Association. CA4WDC has submitted a letter in opposition to the proposal.
In other political news, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee recently held a hearing entitled, “Opportunities for Outdoor Recreation on Public Lands.” The main topics of discussion were protecting recreational access to federal lands and recognizing the economic benefits derived from such activities. Witnesses included representatives from the BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC), National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC), Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition and other OHV organizations. The hearing included testimony in support of multiple-use federal lands and responsible OHV recreation. Don Amador, Western representative for the BlueRibbon Coalition, spoke on the need to reopen the Clear Creek Management Area (CCMA) in central California. Currently closed due to an “emergency closure” in 2008, the CCMA contains more than 75,000 acres of land containing off-road trails. Amador testified that the decision was based on inaccurate data and false assumptions and that the land should be designated as a National Recreation Area with prescribed OHV uses.
The Natural Resource Consultant contracts are in place for the coming year with Jim Bramham receiving the NRC North contract. I have met with Jim on three occasions to coordinate our representation of CA4WDC interests.