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Residents Oppose Wilderness for the Panamint Valley Area

CWC representatives Ryan Hensen and Laurel Williams explained they are interested in providing legislative protection to the lands while retaining access to the routes used by recreation for access to desert areas.

For purposes of this meeting, Searles Valley and the Great Falls Basin were the only areas open for discussion.  Efforts to include Surprise Canyon in the discussion were rebuffed as irrelevant.

During the CWC presentation, statistics were presented that indicated wilderness provided an economic growth and use of wilderness areas was increasing.  John Stewart, Natural Resource Consultant for California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs challenged the data presented.  Stewart noted that the numbers presented were for a mid-1990 time frame and did not reflect recent data indicating that use of wilderness areas has been in decline for the past 10 years.  Further, the growth of motorized recreation on public lands has increased by over 25% during that period.

In addition, Stewart stated the CA4WDC hosts the annual Panamint Valley Days event that brings significant financial contributions to the local economy.  That economy impact for one weekend exceed the recorded hiking days per year for the area.

Stewart noted, "Public meetings have a general tone to describe the meeting.  This meeting had no general tone, only a direct, pointed message that said:  No wilderness in our desert.  Go back to your city life,  We know how to care for our desert."

The CWC is seeking to gather "public support" for a wilderness proposal that identifies routes of travel and areas of special interest to exclude from wilderness.  All other lands between the identified routes will be designated as wilderness.  CWC representatives declined to guarantee that identified routes would be formally excluded, only that their proposal would request they be excluded.

While still being developed, the entire wilderness proposal is expected to exceed 600,000 acres.  While some is converting existing wilderness study area to wilderness, much of the acreage is expanding existing wilderness to preclude economic development.  When pressed, CWC representatives did acknowledge their goal is to protect the desert from industrial development,  Their definition of "industrial development" is mining and renewable energy projects.

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Throughout the country, units of the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service are in various stages of the route inventory and designation process as outlined in the National Travel Management Rule. The Sierra National Forest published a Notice of Intent on September 12, 2007, in which the proposed action would preclude motorized use on about 90% of presently-open and historically-traveled routes. That proposal could even ban OHV use on the popular Stagecoach Trail near Miami Creek.

Stewards of the Sierra National Forest are submitting comments and proposing an alternative in the DEIS that they hope will inspire the Forest to meet users halfway. Some club members are hopeful the agency will come forward with a plan that designates at least 250 miles of historic user routes in this once Open Forest, where cross-country travel was the legal and valid travel prescription.

Don Amador, Western Representative for the BlueRibbon Coalition, states, "I think the success of travel planning will depend on whether the public perceives the agency as striking a balance and meeting all users at a middle point. Just how the Forest Service recognizes the validity of historic user routes--which often have official agency signs and are on current federal maps--will determine how the public accepts the route designation process."

"The organized OHV community recognizes the importance of, and generally supports, the designation process. As these plans are finalized, it will behoove all involved for the agency to enlist the organized recreation community's help in the implementation of the program. However, such support will be difficult to muster where the agency operates from the default setting of route closure," Amador concluded.

Further details regarding the Forest's planning process are available at: http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/sierra/projects/ohv/index.shtml

Stewards of the Sierra National Forest: http://www.sotsnf.org


The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible recreation, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. It represents over 10,000 individual members and 1,200 organization and business members, for a combined total of over 600,000 recreationists nationwide. 1-800-258-3742. www.sharetrails.org


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Stunner: Forest Service Agrees with BlueRibbon Coalition on California Wilderness!

Stunner: Forest Service Agrees with BlueRibbon Coalition on California Wilderness!

Did the U.S. Forest Service Agree with BRC on Boxer/McKeon California Wilderness?
Last Thursday, the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, heard testimony on the "The Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act (HR 6156 and S 3069)," a so-called "compromise" legislation that would designate an additional half million acres of Wilderness in California.

In his testimony to both houses of Congress, U.S. Forest Service Deputy Chief Joel Holtrop said that the agency is concerned about the extensive use of "cherry stems." Holtrop said, "... it is important to maintain the integrity of wilderness by designating only those areas which are, as stated in the Wilderness Act of 1964 and in Forest Service policy, 'dominated by the forces of nature.'"

It is noteworthy that Holtrop's comments mirror what BRC has been saying about the bill. Most of these lands contain roads, mountain bike trails and popular snowmobile areas and are NOT suitable for Wilderness. I give Holtrop credit for pointing out that this kind of overreaching by Wilderness activists ends up diminishing the integrity of true Wilderness - as it was intended in the 1964 Wilderness Act.

Holtrop also echoed BRC's concern about the ability to maintain all those cherry stems, as well as concerns about uses that can be seen and heard within new Wilderness areas (buffer zone and cherry-stem language).

Are Lawmakers Listening?
They say they are. McKeon's website says:

Following extensive local input Rep. McKeon and Senator Boxer have refined their respective bills, H.R. 6156 in the House and S. 3069 in the Senate. The maps below reflect these changes, which include but are not limited to the following:

    * Former Laurel/Sherwin Lakes area has been dropped (3,838 acre cut)
    * McGee Mtn. (John Muir 2 has been dropped (4,487 acre cut)
    * Crater Flat Area used by snowmobilers has been removed.
    * After extensive consultation with the local Agriculture community several changes have been made to drainages on the West side of the White Mountains.
    * The boundary near Swall Meadows was pulled back from the community to address fire concerns.
    * The setback on non-maintained roads will be increased from 30 to 75 feet on each side of the center line
    * A small adjustment requested by the Green Monster Mine owners (eastern White Mountains) has been made.
    * Two Forest Service-requested boundary additions to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest have been made.
    * Cottonwood Creek was reinstated as a Wild and Scenic River.
    * The boundary has been altered east of Piute Crags to remove a trail used by Bishop Creek Pack Outfitters for day rides.

There can be no doubt that the thousands of calls and emails that OHV users are making are working. And significantly so, as Boxer and McKeon have agreed to a 150 ft. setback on the roads! Some snowmobile enthusiasts are even feeling positive about the bill, hoping that the legislation would actually provide some permanence or protection from future closures and inevitable lawsuits. That would not have happened without folks like you taking the time and effort to contact your political representatives. Thank you!

Does that mean the bill is worth supporting?
Not yet. Everyone knows that lawsuits attempting to close all those cherry stems ARE inevitable. And although a 150 foot setback will certainly help, if Congress intends to put all those roads smack dab in the middle of all that Wilderness, I'd sure feel a lot better if Congress would make that intent perfectly clear.

Then there is the Furnace Creek Road.

The facts are undeniable:
FACT: Continued motorized use of the Furnace Creek Road was a key part of the Wilderness     Work Group, a collaborative planning process used to resolve issues in the current Forest Plan.
FACT: The Wilderness Work Group's agreements were lawfully incorporated into the Forest Plan.
FACT: Subsequent environmental impact studies showed no significant impact.

If the parties involved, especially the U.S. Forest Service, will not live up to the commitments made, it will become increasingly difficult for BRC to recommend any of our members participate in any future collaborative planning effort.

I keep going back to what Mr. Holtrop said, about the importance of maintaining the integrity of Wilderness by keeping to the intent of the 1964 Act. All this backroom wrangling over boundaries and cherry-stems is beginning to look like a medal-worthy Olympic floor exercise. That is precisely because most of the lands here have no business being Wilderness. 

Holtrop at least has the courage to say out loud that Congress approaches the point of rejecting the very premise for  the whole concept of Wilderness. Some of these anti-recreation zealots literally depend on creating more "Wilderness" to the point where new proposals reject basic tenets of the 1964 Act.  How ironic that it takes the Forest Service and BRC to make this point to legislators and these misguided activists. 

Time for a Change!
To sound a vaguely familiar theme, it is TIME FOR A CHANGE!

Deputy Chief Holtrop's testimony is consistent with BRC's contention that the best method to protect this remarkable area is not with Wilderness, but with an alternative Congressional designation, such as the "Backcountry Recreation Alternative" proposed by BRC (info at http://www.sharetrails.org/backcountry).

And guess who is leading the way? Inyo County!
On September 9, 2008, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution asking Boxer and McKeon to drop the outdated and inflexible concept of Wilderness and step into the 21st Century with a modern management concept called Semi - Primitive Roaded and Roadless Backcountry Recreation Designation.

Let me tell you something. To pass this resolution at this time, right before this 2008 election cycle, is a bold and courageous act.

You can sure bet that the anti-recreation groups are already preparing their media talking points and editorials making the folks at Inyo County out to be sagebrush rebel rednecks. I imagine the mainstream media will be all too eager to print that sort of rubbish in their hopes of selling papers.

BRC has sent a letter expressing our appreciation and requests that you do the same. If you want, you can use our letter generator at http://www.sharetrails.org/letters/letter.php?id=27. Or you can simply send an email saying thanks. Make it short. Be polite. Do it today!

Brian Hawthorne
Public Lands Policy Director
BlueRibbon Coalition
208-237-1008 ext 102

PS: Have you gone to Pirate 4x4's website and signed a letter to save Furnace Creek Road?

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"We have long recognized the need for responsible management of all forms of recreation on public lands, and have invested not only our dollars, but our time and sweat in sound management of these trails," echoed Mona Ehnes of the Great Falls Trail Bike Riders Association. "We support managed recreation and the concept of moving motorized travel to a designated route system, but this decision went too far and ignored sound science and public planning requirements," claimed Ehnes.

The Travel Plan implements for the Forest a national rule adopted in late 2005 that requires Forest Service units to designate roads, trails and areas for motorized vehicle use. Those plans must undergo a lengthy public planning process, but the recreational groups claim that the Forest botched the process here by failing to identify a preferred alternative to focus public review, and by ultimately selecting a final decision that closed more roads, trails and areas than any alternative considered by the Forest during the process. "We're used to getting half the loaf," observed Brian Hawthorne, Public Lands Policy Director for the BlueRibbon Coalition. "But here the Forest said half a loaf was our worst-case scenario, and then gave us only two slices," Hawthorne concluded.

Joining the recreational groups are the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (SVIA) and the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC). SVIA Executive Vice President Paul Vitrano commented, "SVIA and MIC are strong supporters of managed OHV use; however, the Lewis and Clark plan favors wholesale closures over effective management." Vitrano added, "The industry continues to support the Travel Management Rule as well as efforts by the Forest Service to effectively manage OHV use, but in some cases, like the Lewis and Clark, it will be necessary to take additional steps to ensure an equitable outcome."

The suit was filed by the Russell Country Sportsmen, Montana Trail Vehicle Riders Association, Great Falls Trail Bike Riders Association, Great Falls Snowmobile Club, Meagher County Little Belters, Treasure State Alliance, Motorcycle Industry Council, Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, and the BlueRibbon Coalition. Representing the plaintiffs are Paul Turcke of Boise, Idaho, Bill Horn of Washington, D.C., and Rob Cameron of Helena, Montana.

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The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible use of public and private lands, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. It represents over 10,000 individual members and 1,200 organization and business members, for a combined total of over 600,000 recreationists nationwide. 1-800-258-3742. BlueRibbon Coalition

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Another ruling on 'roadless rule'

“This on-going saga underscores how ‘legislation from the bench’ is undermining the economic power of the the country,” stated John Stewart, Natural Resources Consultant for California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs. “In addition, this subversion of the administrative process has a significant adverse impact on recreation opportunity. Thankfully, in an era of climate change, global warming, rampant spread of fire, and beetle-infestations, at least one judge understands that limiting management options is not a prudent move.” In 2001, the Clinton administration issued the Roadless Rule which designated about 60 million acres of the National Forest System as "de facto" wilderness.  The State of Wyoming filed suit challenging the egality of the “roadless rule”.  In July 2003, Judge Brimmer rejected the Roadless Rule.  That 2001 case was rendered moot when the Forest Service subsequently issued revised rules for “roadless rule” known as the Bush State Petitions Rule in May 2005.

Environmental groups, along with the attorney generals of California, Oregon, Washington, and New Mexico, subsequently filed a lawsuit requesting that the Bush State Petitions Rule be ruled null and void. In 2006, Judge Laporte, Magistrate for the U.S. District Court for Northern California, found the Bush State Petitions Rule invalid and reinstated the Clinton Roadless Rule ruling that the administration had illegally repealed the roadless rule.

The Roadless Rule has been the subject of repeated lawsuits from both opponents and supporters.

Judge Laporte set aside 2005 State Petitions Rule and reinstated the Roadless Rule nationwide, except in Alaska's Tongass National Forest.

On November 29, 2006, Judge Laporte issued an injunction halting all activities inconsistent with the Roadless Rule. In her injunction, Judge Laporte stated that because the 2001 rule had been repealed illegally, all projects in roadless areas inconsistent with that rule were also illegal and must be halted. The State of Wyoming then filed a new complaint with the U.S. District Court in Wyoming requesting the original lawsuit challenging the legality of the Clinton Roadless Rule be reinstated.  On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Brimmer ruled that the Forest Service enacted the Clinton Roadless Rule in direct violation of the Wilderness Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

The August 12 decision by Judge Brimmer's voiding the Clinton Roadless Rule applies to states within the 10th Circuit Court.  Judge Laporte's decision upholding the Clinton Roadless Rule and overturning the Bush Roadless Rule applies to states within the 9th Circuit Court.   The situation involves two conflicting court decisions in different federal courts issuing decisions with nationwide impact.

If the ruling is upheld on appeal, it is expected the case will move to the Supreme Court to resolve the conflicting ruling between two federal courts.  While not directly related, this case could impact two additional law suits involving the southern California National Forests and management of “roadless areas.”

California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs (CA4WDC) and the BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) were involved in the original 2007 lawsuit in Wyoming and the 2006 law suit in California, including all appeals of each.


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