MUIRNet-News covering environmental and state and federal administrative and legislative issues
Subcategories from this category:That's My View..., NRC Reports, Club Organization and Management, Writing Letters and Comments, Lobbying and Political Activity, Networking and Coalitions, National Environmental Policy Act - NEPA, Forest Planning Process, Endangered Species Act, Roadless and Wilderness Study Areas
John StewartNatural Resource ConsultantCalifornia Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs
The topic of the day is travel management (aka route designation). Many people are voicing complaints about the pending loss of their favorite trail and are threatening to file a lawsuit.Keep in mind, to file a lawsuit, you must have “standing” and prove that you are “harmed” by the decision. So, just what is “standing” and what is “harm”?You, the recreationist, have an opportunity to participate in the discussions and make our opinions known to the planning team about routes (roads and trails) that need to be considered for developing the alternatives to the Proposed Action. Participation establishes “standing”.
The first step in the NEPA process is “Scoping”. This is the time for the public to submit their comments. These comments will be used to develop the alternatives. One of the alternatives will be the final preferred action in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. These comments form the basis of the “administrative record”.Just commenting during the “scoping” period is not enough. You will have two additional opportunities to provide comments. However, after the scoping period, new information is difficult to enter into the administrative record.For example, your favorite trail is known as “Broken Winch Trail”. You have been using it for years and the proposed action does not recognize it as a trail to be included in the designated route system. During the scoping period, the agency is asking for comments on a proposed action. Now is the time for you to tell the agency about “Broken Winch Trail” and how it is an important recreation opportunity as it leads to your summer fishing hole, your fall hunting camp, and a provides a technical trail challenge for your recreation pleasure. That is the type of information the agency is soliciting.Identify the trail and why it is important and submit those comments to the planning team. The agency planning team will review your comments along with others submitted. From these comments, they will develop a Draft EIS complete with alternatives and a preferred alternative. And, for each alternative, consequences of that action will be analyzed.You, the recreationist, have an opportunity to continue participating in the discussions and make our opinions known. During your review of the Draft EIS, you find “Broken Winch Trail” has not been identified as part of the final proposed action. Now is the time for you to refer to your original comments submitted during scoping and submit them again, stressing how very important that trail is to you. You can provide additional information to support your case.Again, the agency will review all comments received and adjust their preferred alternative. This time, the agency will send out a Final EIS for public comment. During you review of the Final EIS, you find “Broken Winch Trail” has not been identified as part of the final action. Now is the time for you to refer to your original comments submitted during scoping and your comments submitted to the Draft EIS and let the agency know you still consider “Broken Winch Trail” as an important recreation opportunity. You can provide additional information to support your case.Again, the agency will review all comments received and adjust their final preferred alternative and issue a Record of Decision. During your review of the Record of Decision, you find that “Broken Winch Trail” is still not included.Now, you have “standing” -- you have participated in the process -- and you can show “harm” -- your recreation opportunity is not being addressed. You can appeal the decision and get ready to file that lawsuit.You have “standing” because you participated in all parts of the discussion. You have identified something of importance to you and provided documentation as to why it is important.The final decision does not include what is important to you and you are now “harmed” because “Broken Winch Trail” is being closed and you will be prohibited from using it.You have participated in the discussions. You have provided documentation. The administrative decision is not in your favor. Perhaps the judge will review the facts and rule in your favor........
Now is your opportunity to be part of the decision process.
You, the recreationist, need to make your opinions known to the planning team about routes (roads and trails) that need to be included in record for developing the alternatives to the Proposed Action. This is the first step in a NEPA process. This is the time for the public to submit their comments. These comments will be used to develop the alternatives. One of the alternatives will be the final preferred action.
The following are the steps necessary for making your pro-access voice heard.
1. Obtain copy of the proposed action.
Your Recreation, Your Land - Get InvolvedBy: John StewartNatural Resource ConsultantCalifornia Association of 4 Wheel Drive ClubsIt is happening in Georgia, Tennessee, Arizona, California, Alaska, Montana, and every other state where federal land managers control public lands. Their actions are governed by management plans. Nationwide the Forest Service and BLM are in the midst of management plan updates.
You can make an important and unique contribution to the future of recreation opportunities on public lands. During the formal planning processes there are two opportunities when the federal land management agencies will seek the broadest possible public participation: during the initial “scoping” stages of a project and upon the release of a draft document. This guide will help you frame your issues and concerns into comments that will be most meaningful and influential during the planning process.Scoping Period:The primary goal of scoping is to identify issues and determine the range of alternatives to be addressed. During the scoping phase, the agencies provide an overview of the proposed project, including a description of the purpose and need for the project and a list of project goals. The public is asked to submit comments, concerns, and suggestions relating to these goals. The most useful scoping comments address the following:-- Alternative approaches and ideas for accomplishing project goals-- The range of environmental and socioeconomic issues that need to be considered-- Other potential projects that might affect or be affected by the project-- Information that needs to be considered (such as related research) and why-- Information on how you use the area and how a project might affect that use-- Your concerns about conditions or activities in the area (related to the planning project) and suggestions for improvementEA and EIS:The two most common documents in the formal planning process are the environmental assessment (EA) and the environmental impact statement (EIS). Ideally, comments are most useful if they are specific and do the following:-- Identify incomplete or incorrect information-- Describe why a particular alternative or element of the plan would or would not work-- Offer a new idea, or completely new alternative, that would accomplish the stated goals-- Point out discrepancies between legal mandates and proposals-- Highlight deficiencies in the analysis of environmental consequences-- Tell them how you use the area and how particular proposals in the planning document would affect that useYou do not have to wait for a formal planning process to submit comments. Land Management agencies are always interested in your thoughts and ideas relating to the areas they manage and appreciate receiving your general comments anytime.They encourage comments that include:-- Your concerns about conditions or activities in the area and suggestions for improvement-- How well you feel the agency is accomplishing its mission in the area-- The overall quality of your visit to the area is critical to the management and planning efforts. Here are some ways you can stay involved:-- Review draft plans, final plans, press releases, and plan updates on the agency’s web site.-- Add your name to the agency’s mailing list to receive the newsletters and other planning-related notices.-- Request printed copies of planning documents.-- Visit the area and talk with land management staff.Remember, it is your recreation and your public land. Get involved and be part of the process, or........
Developing an EIS - Step by Step
The National Environmental Policy Act was signed into law by President Nixon in 1969. The Act declares a national policy to "encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; [and] to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation...".
Energy, Power, and Transmission and NIMBY
by: John Stewart Natural Resource Consultant California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs
Of importance to southern California recreation are several proposals to develop renewable resource power generation project. The State of California already mandates that by 2010, 20% of state power consumption will be from renewable resources. "Renewable" means wind, solar, and geo-thermal. The "environmental movement" loves renewable sources of power anywhere but in their back yard.
In a May 16, 2007 article in the San Diego Union discussing a proposed wind generation site in eastern San Diego County, David Hogan, conservation manager for the Center for Biological Diversity, is quoted as saying he favors greater use of wind to provide energy but that other spots should be found for the turbines. The Golden State is a shining example of other "environmentally friendly renewable energy" projects that site idle while law suits wind through the court systems citing view-shed impacts and increased bird mortality rates.Meanwhile, another "renewable" power source faces its own host of issues -- solar. During a presentation to the BLM Desert Advisory Council, energy officials noted that there certain areas of the country where solar energy makes sense - deserts. Seems, the solar panels require sunshine, which is in abundant supply in "deserts". In reality, the "deserts" have two commodities necessary for renewable power generation -- sunshine and wind.Over 200,000 acres of solar power generation projects are proposed for southern California; primarily in the I-10 corridor east of Palm Springs. While extolling the virtues of renewable energy, the environmental movement is quick to point out that the proposed sites are not compatible with development of renewable energy projects. To the mix of anti-progress reasons are added weed and dust abatement. Seems the operating solar power sites engage in active programs to reduce weed growth and dust in the vicinity of the solar collector mirrors.The third "renewable" energy source is geo-thermal. As with wind and solar, geo-thermal is a great renewable energy source anywhere but where the heat source exists.Lost in the noise about power generation is the critical issue of moving the power from the source of generation to the point of use -- transmission lines. Recent legislation enabled the government to enter into the National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors and Congestion Study (http://nietc.anl.gov/).A key component of this study is designating the southern California region as a "critical" area in terms of its ability to meet demand for energy. While the reality is there, the scope is downplayed. The southern California "corridor" starts in the San Diego-Los Angles area and moves east to Las Vegas and Phoenix in a swath covering in excess of 100,000 square miles.While everyone wants to flip a switch and have the lights come on, few want to look at the infrastructure necessary to provide that connivence. While the environmental movement is waging their battle to "promote" renewable energy "anywhere but here", the impact on recreation is being glossed over.Already pushed into ever smaller areas, recreation is being squeezed again by the various proposed energy projects. Wind, solar, and geo-thermal power generation require space; lots of space. Typically, the power generation locations are enclosed with a "public safety and security" buffer. Additionally, solar projects are susceptible to reduced efficiency due to dust accumulation on the solar collector mirrors. The unspoken expectation is that dust abatement procedures will be applied to broad areas around solar power sites.The potential for significant impact to recreation opportunity as a result of renewable power generation is real. What is the true impact? Can the impacts be mitigated?Stay tuned.....