CA4WDC NRC South Report - May 2013

Ocotillo Wells SVRA: The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Desert Protective Council (DPC) filed a lawsuit against Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) on Tuesday, May 21, 2013. The lawsuit seeks severe restrictions on use of the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area (Ocotillo SVRA).  If successful, the lawsuit could effectively shut down the popular desert OHV recreation site.

Ocotillo Wells is the largest SVRA of the nine operated by the OHMVR Division of California Department of Parks and Recreation. In addition to hosting more than a million visitors per year, Ocotillo Wells SVRA is the location of the popular Tierra del Sol Desert Safari. The classic off road event recently completed its 51st annual event and faces an uncertain future with the pending legal action.

The state SVRA system is entirely supported by user paid fees and OHV registration with no funding from the state general fund.  The state OHV program is the only self-supporting program in the state and annually generates a surplus which has been used to support other units of the state park system.

CA4WDC recognizes the importance of this area to our members.  CA4WDC supports the management of the State Parks SVRA system.  In recent years, the parties (PEER and DPC) involved in the lawsuit have worked to obstruct the administrative process.  In addition, legislators have diverted critical funding from the SVRA system to support other failing park units.

The Sacramento Bee has reported extensively about the crippling loss of funding to the OHV program.  As noted, these are funds that were paid by OHV users to support the OHV program.

The OHMVR Division has been attempting to complete the required administrative plans for Ocotillo Wells and other SVRAs for several years.  The diversion of funds from the program have contributed to delays.  And, this diversion of funding and other overt attempts to subvert the OHMVR program are well documented and have been on-going since the inception of the program.

I have compiled an extensive collection of state documents that can be reviewed at:

OHMVR Commission Emergency Meeting (May 3, 2013): Commissioners voted to submit a protest of the BLM Clear Creek Management Area Proposed Resource Management Plan.  I prepared and submitted a protest to the Interior Board of Land Appeals concerning the CCMA RMP.

Of interest, BLM released the Clear Creek Management Area (CCMA) Proposed Resource Management Plan (PRMP) and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for a 30-day public protest period from April 5, 2013 — May 6, 2013.  The mailing address for filing public protests listed on the BLM postcard and website for the Clear Creek Management Area Proposed Resource Management Plan (PRMP) and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) were incorrect.

During the May 17-18 OHMVR Commission meeting, I questioned BLM State Director about the discrepancy and requested that BLM accept protest letters that had been submitted using the incorrect address.  On May 24, BLM issued a statement acknowledging the address discrepancy and agreement to accept protests that had been returned due to the address error.

Additionally, legislation has been submitted in the US House of Representatives to establish the Clear Creek area as a National Recreation Area featuring historic OHV recreation.

OHMVR Commission Meeting (May 17-18) highlights: Commissioners provided update of their activities on behalf of OHV. It is a very engaged commission unlike past. New Deputy Director is a good selection.

--BLM: moving forward with fee increase proposal at Imperial Sand Dunes. New round of public interface with fee proposal is coming with the expected release of a final business plan for public review and comment on May 31, 2013.  Clear Creek Management Area - BLM provided incorrect address for protests. FEIS and BLM website had different addresses.  Jim Keanna, State BLM Director committed to accepting incorrectly addressed (returned) protests.

--Forest Service: Eldorado NF expects to release their Record of Decision on the 42 routes in June 2013.  Sequoia, Sierra and Inyo NF have forest plan revisions in progress.  Current action is focusing on Bio-Regional (11 forests within the Sierra Nevada Mountain range) Assessments and forest assessments.  These assessments will be based on Best Available Scientific Information.  Formal scoping is expected to begin early 2014.

The forest plan revisions are based on the new Forest Service Planning Rule.  While the “rule” is final, the guidance to implement the rule has been withdrawn for additional review and comment.  

--State Park/SVRA Notes:
Hungry Valley SVRA is facing temporary closure due to wildfire activity on the area. Check the OHMVR Division website for additional information

Oceano Dunes SVRA is focal point of concerns related to fugitive dust impacting local communities.  OHMVR Division and Air Pollution Control Board are working to address concerns and ensure compliance with APCD Rule 1001.  

(Oceano Dunes Meet and Greet:  On April 28, Friends of Oceano Dunes hosted a “meet and greet” for State Parks Director Tony Jackson in Grover Beach.  Director Jackson was touring the Oceano Dunes complex concerning on-going legal and management issues there.  I attended the meet and greet and was able to speak briefly with Director Jackson.)

--Resources Legacy Fund: the State Parks Forward concept was introduced. It will: - develop a plan for the future; - host a series of public workshops around the state focusing on specific issues. This is a work in progress with more info within the coming weeks.

Dinky Lakes Restoration Project:
The collaborative meeting at Sierra NF Supervisors Office in Clovis.  Of interest is the concepts of "Equivalent Roaded Acres" and "cumulative watershed analysis" were introduced.  These will be incorporated as indicators of landscape condition. Currently, the list contains nine indicators and may be expanded.  Additional projects under DLRP are expected to be ready for public review and comment early 2014.

I will be researching the concepts of "Equivalent Roaded Acress and "cumulative watershed analysis" and providing more meaningful descriptions within the coming months.

Yellow Legged and Red Legged Frog: I am reviewing the proposal to upgrade to Endangered Status for the Sierra Nevada Yellow-Legged Frog and the Northern Distinct Population Segment of the Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog, and list as Threatened Status for the Yosemite Toad.  This proposal is in response to the Center for Biological Diversity petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list over 700 species.  This proposed listing will include as critical habitat approximately 2 million acres of national forest lands in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

I am working with partners, including the Blue Ribbon Coalition and other recreation groups, to review and prepare a response to this proposed listing.  Comment deadline is June 24, 2013.

OHV Issue Letters to US Forest Service and BLM:
I prepared OHV issue letters for Steve Koretoff, Chairman of the Central Valley BLM Resource Advisory Council, that he presented to U.S. Forest Service Associate Deputy Chief Joe Pena and Bureau of Land Management Acting Deputy Director Operations Jamie Connell during a personal meeting he had with them in Washington, D.C.

State OHV Legislation:
Legislation dealing with correction to the Side-by-side issue is moving forward.  The legislation, SB 234 sponsored by Senator Walters and being carried at the request of the American Sand Association, is moving forward an could be on the Governor's desk in June. Jim and I have participated in language reviews of this legislation.  There is a companion bill in the Assembly (AB 64 sponsored by ASM Donnelly) that is basically a copy of the Senate bill.  In the grand scheme of legislation, the Senate bill has the most potential of becoming law.

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