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The Monumental Problem with the "Treasured Landscapes" Memo

H.R. Res. 1254 was introduced by Rep. Hastings and Bishop because the Department of the Interior (DOI) was not forthcoming with supplying information to the Congress surrounding the set of recommendations for Treasured Landscapes and for the potential designation of National Monuments under the Antiquities Act.  Less than 24 hours before the vote was to take place in the committee, the Department of the Interior released 383 pages of documents and indicated it was withholding at least 2,016 pages of other documents.  Many of the documents released were emails between Administration principals discussing treasured landscapes; however, the attachments to the emails were mostly left undisclosed.  These attachments, including one called "Treasured Landscapes Discussion Paper," likely have more substantive information about what was actually being considered yet they have not been released.

This whole controversy started when pages 15-21 of an internal (Not for Release) DOI memorandum was leaked.   The partial memorandum documented that talks were ongoing within the Administration regarding the possibility of creating at least 14 additional National Monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act.  Secretary Salazar immediately characterized the document as simply a memo that came out of a "brainstorming session" within the Department. 

At a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Secretary Salazar responded to a question about whether these plans were being pursued at the request of the White House, by saying, "Let me assure you there is no direction from the White House on any of this for the Department of Interior.  Zero, nada, nothing. It just isn't there."

The documents released on May 4th provide a glimpse into the internal workings of the Department of the Interior and the preparatory work surrounding the potential designation of Treasured Landscapes and new National Monument areas. It seems like a more far reaching effort than a simple "brainstorming session."  Rather, the work extended over a period of several months and the federal agencies involved in the preparatory work included the Bureau of Fish and Wildlife, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Reclamation.

The documents that DOI recently released make it clear that White House involvement either existed or was about to exist at some stage of the monument issue.  We are not suggesting that White House involvement is inappropriate.  After all, the President does head up our Executive Branch.  And under the Antiquities Act, it is the President who would make any National Monument designation.  Further, there is evidence that national environmental groups were solicited for designation ideas as well, so the Secretary's description of simple "brainstorming session" seems more like a full fledged planning process.

The Department's release of 328 pages of documents relating to the "Treasured Landscape" memo has created more questions than answers. 
* For example, why is DOI still refusing to release pages 1-14 of the original memorandum? 
* What could possibly be contained in those first 14 pages that the Department doesn't want to see the light of day?
* Were there pages of the original memo after page 22 that have yet to be released? 
* How extensive was the effort to involve environmental groups in developing these ideas?
* Why is the Department saying it is not obligated under the Freedom of Information Act to release 2,000 other pages of related documents to the Congress?  
* How could a little "brainstorming" session generated almost 2,500 pages of documents?
* Why haven't the attachments to many of the emails been released?
* Designating National Monuments clearly has nothing to do with national security so why the secrecy? 
* What could possibly be in these other documents that might prove embarrassing if one is to believe the Secretary that the original memo was simply the result of a "brainstorming session" in the Department?

In the coming weeks, ARRA will continue to focus on this story. 


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The Access Army Rocker Knocker or Ricochet Rocker features the Access Army logo CNC laser-cut into the rugged 3/16” plate steel.  Access Army Rocker Knockers are available with or without tubular rock sliders.  Best of all, Poison Spyder Customs is donating 10% of the purchase price for each set to the Blue Ribbon Coalition, which fights the legal battles for public access.  “We’re passionate about this issue,” says Larry McRae, president of Poison Spyder Customs, “access to public lands is what our sport is based on.  We’re proud to be a part of the Access Army!”

The Access Army is guided by its Joint Chiefs of Staff, veteran land use advocate Del Albright, who brings a lifetime of experience fighting to maintain public access through such organizations as the Blue Ribbon Coalition and the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs.  The Access Army brings together access advocates from all walks of life, and from across the spectrum of land use organizations, enthusiast associations and clubs.  The Access Army seeks to exploit the power of the Internet, its online forums and enthusiast groups, and social networking sites to take the fight for access on the offensive with a proactive, targeted, aggressive campaign for public access to public lands.

To learn more about the Access Army, please visit their website at www.accessarmy.com.  More information on the Blue Ribbon Coalition may be found at www.sharetrails.org.  For more information about Poison Spyder Customs products, see www.poisonspyder.com.

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Recreational Groups Decry Tellico Closure

"Sadly, we are not surprised.  It now appears the Forest Service knew it would close the Area years ago, and undertook the intervening 'public process' to justify a decision already made," said Greg Mumm, Executive Director of the BlueRibbon Coalition. "We are sorely disappointed that the Forest Service has determined it cannot effectively manage the Upper Tellico OHV Area that users have supported with millions of dollars in fees and thousands of hours of volunteer labor.  With our recreational partners, we will evaluate all options that may change that determination."

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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. www.sharetrails.org

United Four Wheel Drive Associations is an international organization comprised of four wheel drive enthusiasts, clubs, associations, and businesses dedicated to providing community services around the world, education in responsible land use and safe vehicle operation, and protection of our natural resources through conservation practices. 1-800-448-3932. www.ufwda.org

Southern Four Wheel Drive Association (SFWDA) was founded in 1987 to promote responsible land use and to keep public lands accessible for motorized recreation.  For more information on the activities and accomplishments of Southern Four Wheel Drive Association, please visit www.sfwda.org or contact us at 1483 N. Mt. Juliet Road, PMB # 222, Mt. Juliet, TN 37122


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Mendocino National Forest Trail 6 Closed

Willows, CA. (Mar 30, 2010) - Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Trail 6 on the Grindstone Ranger District of the Mendocino National Forest in California is closed between the intersections of Forest Roads 17N70 and 17N69 beginning today.

The approximately 2,000 foot section of trail, less than half a mile, will be closed until further notice for the evaluation of resource damage. Specifically, specialists will be looking at archaeological resources affected by the trail.

Forest archaeologists will be excavating the site to determine if it is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Until that determination is made, the section of trail will remain closed.

The trail can be found on the Motor Vehicle Opportunity Guides for the Grindstone Ranger District.

The Emergency Trail Closure for this section of the OHV trail system is formally referenced under Order Number 08-10-02.
Violation of this closure order is punishable by a fine of no more than $5,000 for an individual, $10,000 for an organization, or up to six months imprisonment or both.

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New Alternative Added to Johnson Valley Study

Approximately 20,000 stakeholder comments were received on the alternatives that were presented to the public during the public scoping period held from October 2008 through January 2009. These comments and other stakeholder input have helped the Marine Corps further refine the issues and study alternatives. An additional alternative, Alternative Six, has now been developed that accommodates public access to some of the lands in the West Study Area when Marines are not using the area for training.

A range of reasonable alternatives (Alternatives One through Six), as well as the No-Action Alternative, has been finalized for inclusion in the Environmental Impact Statement.

The Marine Corps and the Department of the Navy are scheduled to publish a Draft EIS evaluating alternatives for meeting our MEB training requirements in September 2010. Following this release, there will be a 90-day public comment period.

A final EIS that takes into account public comments will be issued in July 2011. A Record of Decision will be made public in October 2011, after which any request for public land withdrawal to support MEB training will be submitted to Congress. Any non-federal lands acquired would be purchased at fair market value. Any request for establishment of related special use airspace would be presented to the Federal Aviation Administration for rule making.

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