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BLUERIBBON COALITION CRITICIZES U.S. FOREST SERVICE PROPOSED RULE

However, the proposal would also exempt major ground disturbing activities such as completely eliminating the road bed by restoring natural contours and slopes.

"Some of the agency's recommendations make sense, but as usual, they go too far," said Brian Hawthorne, Public Lands Policy Director for BRC. Hawthorne said, "If 40 years of NEPA has taught us anything it is that noble intentions don't justify half-baked analysis. A bulldozer moving dirt is a bulldozer moving dirt. Environmental impacts don't magically disappear because the source of sediment is called a restoration project."

"This borderlines on willful mismanagement," said Greg Mumm, BRC's Executive Director. "The Forest Service is sitting on 20 to 40 million acres of beetle-killed fire hazard and the fuse is lit. Their priorities are out of whack." Mumm said.

As an example, Mumm said that just in Colorado some 6.6 million acres are affected by the mountain bark beetle epidemic. The agency estimates that, over the next 10 years, an average of 100,000 trees will fall daily. Visitors to USFS lands are affected not only by the visual impacts, falling trees pose serious risk to human life and the infrastructure our rural communities rely on. Dead trees across the state have created heavy fuel loading which can result in intense, so-called "fatal wildfires." Beetle-killed trees now threaten thousands of miles of roads, trails and developed recreation sites. Mumm said; "Exempting culvert removal is all well and good, but the agency crosses a line when, at the same time, they increase analysis on such things as maintaining safe power transmission corridors."

Hawthorne also expressed frustration with the proposed changes. He noted that the USFS is saying the majority of issues associated with road and trail decommissioning arise from the initial decision whether to close a road or trail via the travel planning process. "That's not our experience," Hawthorne said. BRC has been urging the USFS to develop a streamlined procedure to allow public comment before any ground disturbing or road obliteration activities are proposed precisely because the travel planning is usually focused on recreational users of the Forest. Other users are often assured their access and activities could still continue under stipulations of their permit, lease or other agreement.

Hawthorne said few, if any, USFS travel planning projects get it right the first time. "Many travel planning projects we are aware of have been amended within one or two years after completion, and many have been amended even before the plan has been completely implemented on the ground." It is quite likely that routes proposed for decommissioning will be necessary additions in future recreation and travel planning. Hawthorne said the fact the agency doesn't want any public involvement means the agency probably doesn't care about any potential recreational uses of these routes.

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The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible recreation, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. With members in all 50 states, BRC is focused on building enthusiast involvement with organizational efforts through membership, outreach, education, and collaboration among recreationists. 1-800-BlueRib - www.sharetrails.org


 

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RTF Issues Little Sluice Position

In 1992, the first large boulder was rolled in to the Little Sluice. No agency action was taken in response to it or to subsequent events in Little Sluice until the County, in cooperation with the Forest Service and private property owners, closed Spider Lake in 2004. Since then, few significant agency actions have taken place, and none have adequately managed the issues related to concentrated use of the Little Sluice area. The only agency to take positive action on the Rubicon Trail has been El Dorado County Department of Transportation (DOT). The Forest Service (USFS) has failed to implement its 2008 Route Designation and has signed the area adjacent to the Sluice more than 150 feet away from the trail. This failure to address parking and related camping has allowed continued unsustainable concentrated use near Little Sluice, in spite of strong efforts such as distributing WAG bags and spill kits; installation of new vault toilets at Loon Lake; outreach from the kiosks, roving trail patrol, and mid-trail staff; and internet-based education.

Rubicon Trail Foundation (RTF) supports a full public process led by DOT to address unsustainable concentrated use near Little Sluice. Change is needed because of vegetative loss over the years (bushes), potential damage to the cypress tree, re-occurring vandalism, water shed impacts downstream, and risk of oil contamination in the Little Sluice. RTF believes that there is no single easy answer to the multiple challenges of Little Sluice and the immediate area around it and that at minimum, the following solutions must be considered:
* USFS to support NEPA processes for bathroom installations
* USFS to encourage sanitation via multiple solutions (not just personal sanitation solutions)
* EDSO and USFS to cooperate for law enforcement, with emphasis on enforcement against drinking and driving as well as prevention of off-trail travel
* Agencies to correctly place and enforce trail centerline and trail boundary signage to discourage off-trail travel
* Agencies to consider possible reroutes to mitigate environmentally untenable sections of the trail
* Agencies to plan implementation/education/enforcement to ensure that changes in one area don’t just divert impacts to other areas
* Any mitigation plan to include measures to protect the big cypress tree above Little Sluice

RTF is willing to consider any solution, up to and including reduction of rocks in Little Sluice, but believes this should not be the first or only option considered.  If agencies, organizations, and volunteers can come together, RTF believes solutions can be found that require less destructive management techniques.

Overall, RTF believes that successful intervention at/near Little Sluice will require a multi-pronged effort that coordinates agencies, organizations, and volunteers. RTF welcomes the opportunity to actively work within the public process along-side other members of the public – this is a public right-of-way, and we need to work together to identify specific goals and measurable outcomes.

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Massive Wilderness Sounds Alarm in Land Use Debate

H.R. 980 was first introduced in 1993 by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and proposes to designate 24 million acres of Wilderness across five Western states, (Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming).  The bill has also been described as the modern incarnation of the Wildlands Project, an ambitious proposal first conceived by Dave Foreman, the co-founder of Earth First!. The Wildlands Project would "re-wild" approximately half of North America by outlawing most human use and occupancy.

NREPA was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources and is scheduled for a hearing on May 5, by the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. http://resourcescommittee.house.gov/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=58

Brian Hawthorne, BRC's Public Lands Policy Director, speculated that NREPA was moving up as a priority for recreation advocacy groups, including mountain bike and sporting conservation groups, perhaps because the growing influence of the green lobby on decision-makers in Washington DC.  "We don't know if the Wilderness lobby really thinks Congress will let eastern politicians draw lines on maps around lands they've never seen, or if this is a strategic ploy to make smaller scale proposals seem reasonable by comparison. Either way, the recreating public should be on high alert," observed Hawthorne.

BRC is urging its members to contact their legislators and express opposition to the passage of NREPA and has provided a portal on their website to easily contact legislators. http://www.sharetrails.org/rapid_response/

BRC is also cautioning its members not to let the hearing on NREPA distract their attention from equally serious threats to access to other public lands. In an email to members today the Coalition stated, "NREPA is perhaps the largest threat to public access to public lands pending in Congress today. However, our members must remember that large, multi-state Wilderness bills are very difficult to pass and there are many smaller bills, each equally unfair in denying public access that need immediate attention by our members and supporters."

A few of the smaller initiatives mentioned by the Coalition were:

H.R.1769 & S. 721 -Alpine Lakes Wilderness expansion in the State of Washington
Mojave Desert Wilderness bill - Senator Feinstein's effort to designate more Wilderness in San Bernardino, Imperial, and Riverside counties
H.R.192 Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA), will designate an additional half million acres of Wilderness in Idaho
Montana's Beaverhead-Deerlodge Conservation, Restoration and Stewardship Act
Legislation to designate Johnson Valley a National Recreation Area (BRC is supporting this one!)
SUWA'S massive Utah Wilderness bill (H.R.1925 and S.799)
The ongoing county-by-county Wilderness approach currently underway in Nevada, Colorado and Utah
For further updates on these and other issues, visit BRC's webpage at www.sharetrails.org.

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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. http://www.sharetrails.org/

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U.S. House Committee to hear bill closing 24 Million acres to OHV's

Even though H.R. 980 -- The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act -- only affects western states, Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York City introduced it.

"This is one of the biggest OHV land grabs in our nation's history," said AMA Vice President of Government Relations Ed Moreland. "Even more disconcerting than the fact that the bill is being proposed by a representative from a densely populated urban area, New York City, is that the bill is being considered without the support of a single member of Congress who represents the affected districts. Shouldn't the people who live in these areas have some say in whether or not they should be banned from riding in it?

"To keep OHV riders from being shut out of even more public land, we have to act immediately," he said. "Concerned motorcyclists, ATV riders and others must let their lawmakers know that they enjoy motorized recreation, and that we have a right to do so responsibly on America's public lands."

Additionally, Moreland said, there are other bills on the legislative horizon on Capitol Hill that would close even more public land to responsible riding. They include:
  • Senate Bill 799 -- America's Red Rock Wilderness Act -- and its companion measure, H. R. 1925, would designate some 9.4 million acres of Bureau of Land Management land in Utah as Wilderness.
  • Senate Bill 721 and H.R. 1769 would add 22,000 acres to the 394,000-acre Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area in Washington State.
Riders and AMA members can contact their federal lawmakers and tell them what they think by going to http://www.amadirectlink.com/legisltn/rapidresponse.asp There, the names, addresses and telephone numbers for members of each congressional delegation appear. There is even a pre-written letter that can be sent via email.

The AMA also encourages individuals to sign up for the AMA Government Relations Department's Action E-list so that they can be notified by e-mail when their support is needed to make a difference on important issues.

About the American Motorcyclist Association

Since 1924, the AMA has promoted and protected the motorcycling lifestyle. AMA members come from all walks of life and they navigate many different routes on their journey to the same destination: freedom on two wheels. As the world's largest motorcycle organization with nearly 300,000 members, the AMA advocates for motorcyclists' interests in the halls of local, state and federal government, the committees of international governing organizations and the court of public opinion. Through member clubs, promoters and partners, the AMA sanctions more motorsports competition events than any other organization in the world. Through its Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, the AMA preserves the heritage of motorcycling for future generations. For more information, visit www.AmericanMotorcyclist.com.

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Giant Sequoia Inventory Scheduled

Volunteers needed to help with inventory

The Sequoia National Forest is beginning the inventory of the giant sequoia groves located on the Giant Sequoia National Monument.  This inventory will complete an existing inventory that began in 1998 but was never finalized.  The information from this inventory will update the information we have collected over the years regarding overall the number and type of trees in giant sequoia groves, the size of these trees, the fuel-buildup of small and dead trees in giant sequoia groves, and the makeup of vegetation for wildlife habitat in these groves.

It has taken many years for the forest to be able to obtain funding to complete this inventory, originally identified as a desired goal in the 1990 Mediated Settlement Agreement that provided interim direction for the Sequoia National Forest under the 1988 Sequoia National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan.  The Forest inventoried approximately half (50%) of the giant sequoia groves from 1998 to 2004 before stopping the inventory project.  Funding to complete the inventory was not obtained until this year.  Completing the giant sequoia inventory will provide information that will be utilized as we develop the Giant Sequoia Environmental Impact Statement and subsequent management plan.  It is important the Forest accomplish the giant sequoia grove inventory for the Giant Sequoia National Monument Plan this year.

The 2000 Presidential Proclamation for the establishment of the Giant Sequoia National Monument acknowledged the occurrence of many diverse objects of interest and listed special concerns deemed critical for management within the monument.  The concerns focused on the lack of sequoia regeneration and the buildup of surface fuels – both of which could threaten the longevity of giant sequoia ecosystems.  

There are 33 giant sequoia groves on the Giant Sequoia National Monument totaling approximately 20,000 acres.  Half the acres (13,711) of groves within the monument have had a vegetation and fuels inventory (conducted from 1998 to 2004).  The groves with a current inventory include:  Mountain Home, Deer Creek, Packsaddle, Long Meadow, Red Hill, Peyrone, Black Mountain, Alder Creek, Starvation, Powderhorn, Big Stump, Cherry Gap, Converse Basin, Grant, Indian Basin, Landslide, and Redwood Mountain.  This inventory followed the Region 5 (California) Forest Inventory Analysis (FIA) format and collected information on all trees by size, numbers, and distribution using systematic cluster plot sampling.  Regeneration plots were taken simultaneously with large tree plots at the same spacing.  These plots avoided open and disturbed areas where larger trees were not expected.  This meant sampling was often inadequate to fully assess the distribution and quantity of smaller giant sequoia regeneration.  Photo series were used to estimate fuels conditions.  This data is currently not in the National Resource Information
 Interested Public System (NRIS) Field Sampled Vegetation (FSVeg) format (a database and modeling system used in California) and will need to be entered remotely and by hand by the forest in order for processing to occur using the current information system programs.  

An additional 14,204 acres of groves have no current useable inventory since the original inventory was stopped in 2004.  This means the Sequoia National Forest has no complete and accurate estimate of the amount of sequoia regeneration, fuels buildup, and identification of large trees in half the groves in the monument.  

Over the past year, there has been a strong and urgent need from both external and internal interests to learn, at a minimum, how much surface and ladder fuels exist in giant sequoia groves, how much giant sequoia regeneration is occurring, or how many large giant sequoias exist within the groves.  The forest and the public have seen a need to finish the original inventory.

Other information that could be collected in a field examination will also help satisfy the need for information about ecosystem processes and other objects of interest.  This information will be used to support the planning process and better manage the monument.

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