NRC South Report for May 2019

Angeles NF – The USDA Forest Service has completed the Land Management Plan Amendment, Environmental Assessment (EA), and Decision Notice for the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. The Monument Plan provides guidance for the Angeles National Forest to manage the area’s unique ecological, social, and cultural resources for years to come.
 
The Monument, established in 2014, is part of the Angeles National Forest and encompasses more than 346,000 acres of high-use public land. More than 17 million people live within 90 minutes of the San Gabriel Mountains, which provide area residents roughly 30 percent of their water and 70 percent of their open space.
 
Federal Legislation - SOAR Act - This legislation will update the permitting system that guides and outfitters need to operate trips on public lands by simplifying processes, increasing flexibility in allowed activities, reducing unnecessary costs of permit administration and much more.
SOAR is written to make changes to the permitting processes and provides greater access to public lands in a way that increases economic benefits and continues environmental protections. SOAR simplifies permitting to allow outfitters across the United States to work with federal agencies, and more importantly, to get the American public outside to enjoy the wonders of nature.

Panamint Valley - The Australia-based firm Battery Mineral Resources Ltd. asked the federal government for permission to drill four exploratory wells to see if the hot, salty brine beneath the Panamint Valley floor which contains economically viable concentrations of lithium. The soft, silvery-white metal is a key component of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and is crucial to the production of electric and hybrid vehicles.

The drilling request is opposed by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and the Defenders of Wildlife, who say the drilling project would be an initial step toward the creation of a full-scale lithium mining operation. They say lithium extraction would bring industrial sprawl, large and unsightly drying ponds and threaten a fragile ecosystem that supports Nelson's bighorn sheep, desert tortoises and the Panamint alligator lizard, among other species.

The only functioning lithium mine in North America is about 150 miles away in Clayton Valley, Nev. Most of the lithium used for batteries now comes from the so-called Lithium Triangle of South America, a region that includes the world's largest salt flats.

Inyo NF - I was in Bishop a couple months ago for a Forest Plan Revision meeting with Region 5 and Inyo NF.  The meeting revolved around an object to the pending release of the Inyo Forest plan revision that I filed on behalf of Cal4Wheel.  My objection was one of about a dozen that were addressed at the meeting.

A Reviewing Officers Report has been released by Region 5 which contains some recommended instructions to the implementing officer to resolve the objections reviewed.

The next stage is the Responsible Officer (Inyo NF Forest Supervisor) will review the recommendation which are not required by law, regulation or policy and are at the discretion of the responsible officer.  The final signed plan may or may not contain revisions based on the recommendation provided.

Some issues I raised have been forwarded as recommendations to review in the final plan.  However, the final plan may or may not change.

This process will play out for the Sierra and Sequoia NF plan revisions in the coming months.  Over the next 2-3 years other Forest in the state will be undertaking similar forest plan revision.

West Mojave Route Network Project  - A protest has been submitted on behalf of the California 4 Wheel Drive Association (Cal4Wheel) and its membership referencing the West Mojave Route Network Project (WMRNP) and Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).  The focus of the protest is on socio-economic issues.

There is benefit in being involved in the process.  Protest resolution is usually a foregone conclusion and BLM will issue a protest resolution report where they will summarily deny everything.

Overall, the final plan is not terrible for motorized recreation as recent legislation has provided a correction too many of the route issues. The socio-economic issues are a tough sell.  I keep raising them when I have the opportunity as that type of analysis of is not included in the standard NEPA documents.

Standard government agency analysis does not adequately address the benefits of motorized recreation and fail to address the NEPA requirement to “…include impacts to the human environment. The human environment includes the social and economic considerations within the county.”

The West Mojave Network is the first of two major planning efforts in the desert region. 

The second plan, DRECP - Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, is pending release, estimated to be after the West Mojave Route Network Project is completed.

The DRECP has the potential to have a significant impact on access to the Mojave Desert region.  The extent will not be know until the final plan is released.

Hungry Valley SVRA - Based on input received so far throughout the General Plan Update process, California State Parks has developed Guiding Statements for the General Plan Update. These Guiding Statements will serve as key guidance for the General Plan Update. Comments are being solicited on the Guiding Statements to consider when developing the Draft Plan Alternatives and eventually the Preferred Alternative.
State Parks has created a survey for the Guiding Statements that can be found online at www.PlanHungryValley.com. This online survey will be available from June 3, 2019 through June 30, 2019.

Over the next two weeks I will be reviewing this survey and submitting comments on behalf of Cal4Wheel.