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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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Endangered Species Act Endangered?

Endangered Species Act Endangered?

August 15, 2008

Rapid City, SD - Conservation groups say the Endangered Species Act will be endangered itself if a new set of rules proposed by the Bush administration goes into effect. Jim Margadant, regional conservation coordinator for the South Dakota Sierra Club, says the plan lets each federal agency decide if its own actions or projects might harm a species.

He warns they eliminate the requirement that federal agency plans be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service. The new rules, which came from Department of Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, caught everyone by surprise, Margadant says.

"Kempthorne states flat out that this relates back to the polar bears' listing due to the effect of greenhouse gases and climate change. In his press releases, he's very up-front about that. He does not want to see the Endangered Species Act being used as a way to regulate greenhouse emissions or to address the effects of climate change."

The administration defends the rules change, saying it allows agencies to approve new pesticides and projects to reduce wildfire risks. But Margadant worries the action will allow every federal agency to do what it wants, free of oversight from scientists and wildlife professionals. He is especially concerned because it was an executive decision, which is not subject to Congressional review.

"That makes this an end run around the legislation. Congress would have to act specifically to stop this. They could change the law, but that's a rather harsh measure. Essentially what's going to happen is it's going to end up in the courts and litigation, and then we'll hear a bunch of people screaming about judges making law."

A 30-day public comment period on the rules begins when the proposed revisions appear in the Federal Register.

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"We are obviously pleased by this decision and feel that it vindicates our position laid out over a decade ago opposing a top-down 'one size fits all' roadless policy," said Greg Mumm, Executive Director of the BlueRibbon Coalition, a national advocacy organization for trails-based recreation that has participated in the various Roadless cases. Other recreational groups joining BlueRibbon in the Wyoming, California and other cases were the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, United Four Wheel Drive Associations, and the American Council of Snowmobile Associations.

"It is particularly timely that we now place the 2001 Roadless Rule as an example of a bad idea that we should lay to rest," observed Paul Turcke, an attorney for the Recreational Groups. "All Forest visitors respect and value these areas, but they are properly managed by local officials with local input, not through a legacy-building campaign launched and maneuvered inside the DC beltway," Turcke concluded.

The "roadless" areas will now be protected and managed under existing Forest Plans, or through the state-generated petitions in some states, including Idaho and Colorado, that are being considered, submitted for public input, and will ultimately be adopted by the Forest Service. It is unclear how the recent ruling will affect the numerous Forest Service actions taken since 2006 which applied the 2001 Roadless Rule.

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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

The California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs is a California nonprofit organization actively promoting conservation and responsible vehicle-oriented recreation. The Association represents over 8,000 members and 160 member clubs. 1-800-4x4-FUNN. www.cal4wheel.com

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