Recreation, environment, access, and land use news and information for California.
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From the Landuse Frontlines - NRC South Report - July 2019

NRC South Report - July 2019

USMC - The Johnson Valley Shared Use Area will remain open to the public August 1-30, 2019. Closure of the Shared Use Area for military use during this time was determined to be unnecessary after the Marine Corps revised the scope of training scheduled for August 2019.

Training conducted during that time will occur within Combat Center boundaries, utilizing ranges on the installation, including land acquired through the land expansion. The Marine Corps reminds the public to be safe and respect base boundaries when recreating near the installation. Individuals have a personal and legal responsibility to avoid trespassing on the Combat Center.

The Marine Corps will continue to inform the public of any land use plans involving the Johnson Valley Shared Use Area.

Department of Interior/BLM - Interior Department announced it plans to relocate BLM's Washington, D.C.-based headquarters to Grand Junction, Colo., with dozens of other senior leadership positions fanning out to cities in Utah, Arizona, Idaho and New Mexico.  Still to be determined is a pending reorganization of the current state focus to regional/watershed focus offices. 

California currently has one central state BLM office.  The potential regional/watershed reorganization would divide California into three different main offices with southern California becoming part of the Colorado River region along with parts of Utah, Nevada and Arizona. 

By executive order issued June 14, 2019, the Trump administration has ordered federal agencies to review the need for each of its advisory committees established under the Federal Advisory Committee Act and eliminate at least one-third not required by statute. Each agency can receive a waiver only if the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) determines that one is “necessary for the delivery of essential services, for effective program delivery, or because it is otherwise warranted by the public interest.”

Department of Interior (BLM) has 37 chartered advisory councils and committees across 11 western states.  Within California, one council (Desert Advisory Council) is chartered under federal legislation (Federal Lands Policy Management Act).  The DAC is an important means for addressing the many OHV recreation issues throughout the southern California desert region.  Within the scope of the DAC are two sub-committees that focus on Imperial Sand Dunes and the Dumont Duns OHV recreation areas.  While the DAC appears to be a survivor, the two important subcommittees may not survive the review process.

West Mojave Travel Management - 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 about inadequate social-economic analysis of the final SEIS. 

In general, with the recent passage of the Dingell Act that released some wilderness study areas and designated desert OHV areas, the final West Mojave Route Network provides a fairly balanced outcome.

Federal Legislation - Bi-partisan legislation has been introduced in both the House and the Senate that would make recreation on public lands a higher priority for the federal government. S. 1967, introduced in the Senate by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and H.R. 3458, introduced in the House by Reps. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI) would do the following:

  1. Simplifies procedures for the issuance of recreational permits by setting time limits for the processing of such permits; reduces fees; mandates online purchases; and provides for the issuance of a single joint permit for multi-jurisdictional trips
  2. Directs federal land agencies to make recreation a priority when making land and water management decisions
  3. Encourages the use of volunteers in trail maintenance including the creation of uniform inter-agency trail maintenance standards for trails the cross agency jurisdictional boundaries
  4. Seeks to enhance coordination between federal and state recreation agencies and allows for the purchase of a state(s) and federal recreation pass with one transaction

This legislation is widely supported by a diverse group of recreation organizations, motorized and non-motorized.

USFS - Forest Service published a proposed rule update for the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), and is accepting public comment through August 12, 2019. NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental impacts of their proposed actions, including approvals of private activities on federal land.

Three proposed revisions are particularly relevant for current and prospective Forest Service permit holders: (1) addition or expansion of Categorical Exclusions (CE), which define categories of activities that are exempt from detailed analysis under NEPA; (2) modification of requirements for public engagement on the appropriate scope of NEPA analysis (“scoping”); and (3) reduction of redundant NEPA reviews for proposed actions that are similar to previously analyzed actions. If finalized, those changes would reduce regulatory burdens on ski areas, outdoor recreation providers, and other project developers working on National Forest land.

The proposed Categorical Exclusions portion is important for OHV recreation as it would reduce the amount of administrative review required for many trail re-construction and maintenance projects.

NEPA requires an often-lengthy environmental analysis of all major federal actions, including permit approvals. That analysis often takes the form of an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Activities covered by a CE, including those undertaken by special use permit holders on National Forest land, do not require an EA or EIS except in extraordinary circumstances3—significantly reducing time, cost, and resources associated with the approval process. The proposed rule expands several CEs relevant to project developers and recreational special use permit holders.

Sierra and Sequoia NF - The Sierra and Sequoia National Forests are revising their Forest Land and Resource Management Plans under the provisions of the 2012 National Forest System Planning Rule and have released revised draft land management plans that provide long-term forest management direction for drought-devastated central and southern Sierra Nevada. These revised draft plans are accompanied by a combined revised draft environmental impact statement.

The revised draft plans would reduce catastrophic wildland fire risk by increasing managed fire on the landscape. The draft plans would continue the removal of dead trees that threaten life, property, and resource values, while also investing in the restoration work needed to support healthy forests into the future. These draft plans also emphasize close partnership with Tribes, state agencies, partner organizations, and local communities.

The forests will also host in-person public meetings, one for each forest, to discuss the revised draft plans, answer questions and engage in community conversations around select planning topics. The Sequoia National Forest is hosting their meeting on August 20th, 5:30-8:30 p.m., at The Station by Kern County Fire Fighters, 7900 Downing Ave., Bakersfield, CA 93308. The Sierra National Forest is hosting their meeting on August 21st, 5:30-8:30 p.m., at Clovis Veteran's Memorial District building, 808 4th St., Clovis, CA 93612.

Within the next year, the remaining forests in Region 5 will be undergoing their Forest Plan Revision which will include a review of travel management.  The final date (schedule) for beginning that process has not been finalized.

USFS Travel Management - At this point in time, ALL forests in USFS Region 5 have completed the initial Travel management and Route Designation process as defined in the Travel Management Rule.  That effort was accomplished with approximately $10 million in OHMVR Grant Funding to the Forest Service to complete GIS surveys of the forests.

Since that time, a handful have followed on with the annual review required by TMR. 

The four southern forests (Los Padres, Angeles, San Bernardino and Cleveland) have the most current (and annually reviewed) travel management plans.  That was conducted as part a lawsuit settlement filed by the Sate of California against the Forest Service.  BlueRibbon Coalition, AMA D 36 and Cal4Wheel filed as intervenors in support of Forest Service.  Cal4Wheel was a party to the settlement hearings.

Within the travel management review, there are two parts Forest Service conducts.  One part, Roads Analysis Process, is an internal review that is not normally open to public comment.  Inyo NF did open their RAP to public comment.  The second part is the annual Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) review which is open to public comment.  During that review, routes may be added or excluded for the coming year.

The Sierra NF has recently opened their review process for public comments.  I submitted comments on behalf of Cal4Wheel challenging the lack of detail and lack of apparent coordination of the travel management with the in process forest plan revision.  The Sequoia NF has yet to release a comparable plan.


Comments for USFS Proposed NEPA Rule Change
From the Landuse Frontlines...

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