West Mojave Plan Meetings

sirhk100

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You can use www.mapquest.com (driving directions) to find the addresses listed below.

The Bureau of Land Management released the West Mojave Plan Draft Environmental Impact Report and Statement for public review and comments last month. The BLM has scheduled a series of meetings to gather public comments on the draft document.

The West Mojave Plan involves 9.3 million acres of private and pubic land in San Bernardino, Kern, Los Angeles, and Inyo counties and will be an amendment to the California Desert Conservation Area Plan. If approved by local government, the West Mojave Plan will be the largest habitat conservation plan (HCP) to date and provide a streamlined mechanism for private land owners to meet state and federal habitat mitigation requirements when developing private property.

The West Mojave Plan will incorporate the designation of routes of travel on pubic land throughout the region. The previous BLM route of travel designation proposal is also included (with some changes) in the draft. According to the BLM the route designations are still in the decision-making process.

It is imperative that we have a good turnout of desert residents that know the area where the roads designations are taking place. If you have areas on public land where you recreate or otherwise need motorized access, it is strongly recommended that you attend and express your concerns
regarding the roads you use.

The Executive Summary for the West Mojave Plan is available online at
http://www.ca.blm.gov/pdfs/cdd_pdfs/wemo_pdfs/ExSum.fnForWeb.4.26.pdf and
the Draft Environmental Impact Report is available online at
http://www.ca.blm.gov/pdfs/cdd_pdfs/wemo_pdfs/draft-eir/index.html

We need a very good turnout to attend these meetings. Bring a friend or two.

The schedule for public comment meetings is listed below. All meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m. and conclude no later than 9:00 p.m.

Tuesday, July 15,
Best Western Green Tree Inn
14173 Green Tree Blvd.
Victorville, CA

Wednesday, July 16,
Statham Hall
138 North Jackson Street
Lone Pine, CA

Thursday, July 17
Kerr McGee Center
100 West California Ave.
Ridgecrest, CA

Tuesday, July 22
San Bernardino County Museum
2024 Orange Tree Lane
Redlands, CA

Wednesday, July 23
Yucca Valley Community Center
Yucca Room
57090 Twentynine Palms Highway
Yucca Valley, CA

Thursday, July 24
Civic Center
Administration Building
Training Room
38300 Sierra Highway
Palmdale, CA

Wednesday, July 30
City Council Chambers
220 East Mountain View Street
Barstow, CA


This information is provided by Ron Schiller, Chairman, High Desert Multiple Use Coalition. As usual, please feel free to pass this information on to any other interested parties. Anyone wishing to receive future information regarding issues related to the management of public lands in the California Desert should send an e-mail to schiller@ridgecrest.ca.us and request to be placed on the distribution list. Please print "PLEASE ADD TO LIST" in the subject line.
 

Paige

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Desert plan 'comprehensive'
Hearing in Victorville draws many critics of proposed management
By NIKKI COBB/Staff Writer

VICTORVILLE — The West Mojave Plan, a sweeping blueprint for the management of 9 million acres of public and private land, is staggering toward completion, battered from all sides by sundry groups defending their particular interests.

The draft environmental impact report, published by the Bureau of Land Management, is a behemoth document that weighs 11 pounds. Ironically, it is intended, in part, to help protect desert flora.

But dodging lawsuits and complaints from all sides, the bureau trudges on toward its goals of protecting habitats of endangered species and streamlining the permitting procedures developers must navigate.

Some are wondering about the feasibility of ever even implementing the West Mojave Plan. If the BLM can't coax counties and cities to ratify the finished document, the plan won't apply to vast areas of private land.

"It's a plan that pleased nobody," said Carol Wiley, president of the Sierra Club's Mojave chapter. "If the communities and counties that are supposed to be involved drop out, it will be strictly a plan for BLM land. I think we all still have a lot of questions."

'Everyone is a little bit upset'

Jim Dodson of the California Desert Protection Committee isn't optimistic.

"I don't think it's going anywhere, Dodson said. "The ability to regulate private land is in the hands of counties and cities, and the cost of real environmental protection will make development more costly — or preclude it altogether."

Jeanette Hayhurst is the housing program coordinator for the city of Barstow, which is a co-lead agency on the project with San Bernardino County; BLM is their counterpart on the federal level. Hayhurst said that after eight years of work on the West Mojave Plan, she stands by it and hopes it will enable Barstow to grow while preserving critical habitats.

"I think the fact that everyone is a little bit upset over this isn't a bad thing," Hayhurst said. "Everybody has to give a little."

But Randy Scott, county division chief for advance planning, has his reservations. He said he is weighing the economic benefits of the plan's faster, cheaper paperwork for development against the protests of ranchers, miners and off-roaders.

Economic impacts missed

One rancher, Ron Kemper, criticized the impact removing cattle from public land will have on the industry in the state.

"I don't believe that the BLM had a full understanding of the economic impact of any of the plans," Kemper said.

Howard Brown, a mining geologist who represented non-renewable resources on an advisory board, said he thought ill-conceived study techniques "horribly skewed" the nature of the problems, and the proposed solutions.

Roy Denner, president and CEO of the Off-Road Business Association, had a similar complaint. He said that a thorough and accurate account of existing routes hadn't been done, so designating closures was bound to be arbitrary.

BLM: 'Defensible proposal'

Wiley agreed that not every need was considered.

"The main species they are using are the tortoise and the Mojave ground squirrel," she said. "There are many other plant and animal species that are threatened or endangered, and they need adequately managed habitat. And I don't believe they're getting it."

The BLM's project manager for the West Mojave Plan, Bill Haigh, said the document is indeed comprehensive, and he believes it will withstand the attacks.

"I think what we have here is a well-documented, defensible proposal that really meets everybody's needs as best any proposal could," Haigh said.
 

BlueCoyote

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Glad thats over...

Went to the Yucca Valley meeting this evening. It was pretty good, turn out of about 35+ people. Put my name on the speakers list, as only the Save the Wilderness chick and some other guy signed up. THe chick read the carefully prepard and crafted statement, did not get to hear the second guy - was out in the hall trying to figure out an outline of what to talk about. I am no public speaker and probably sounded pretty bad compared to the rest, but what the heck - was gonna be heard. Basicly said that ORV's respect the einvoroment and animals, we do not go out to harm them. The tortois is declining due to a disease and kicking out all the ORV's and people in general will not solve the issue. Saw lots of nodding heads and smiles. Even got a round of appause. A guy from the Seirra Club got up , and I agree with his request for a tortois reasearch center in the desert to research and treat the disease. After words a bunch of people came over to talk-figured I was gonna get lynched for being a 'regular citizen' for speaking at their meeting - not the case.
Point is here we need to speak up at these meeting and be heard. Quite a few people I spoke all said "glad it was you that got up there, I could not do it'. Fact is we can and should. Every special interest group has their speaker - most sound like a recording. The 'officials' need to hear from us regular citizens.
I encourage every member of RDC and get up and speak at least once. It is not that bad, and you may be amazed at the positive responces you get.
 

Paige

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Re: Glad thats over...

That is great - glad you went up and spoke - I have done that and it's nerve racking to be sure - congrats on getting thru it and receiving appreciation from others and good for all that have taken the time to go to the meetings.


I personally cannot attend the meetings due to work conflicts, however, I have joined a coalition of 20 multiple use access groups and/or individuals, that are working on the WEMO plan.

You are right - they do like to hear from the citizens and not necessarily some group. At the WEMO supergroup and break out meetings and also DAC meetings there have been private citizens representing themselves when addressing issues with the BLM.

Don't forget comments are due Sept 12, if you don't go to the meetings and submit them in person you can submit them in writing.
 

Paige

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Re: Glad thats over...

Giving species some space
WEST MOJAVE PLAN: The BLM maps a blueprint to keep future needs from overwhelming the desert.

07/22/2003

By JENNIFER BOWLES
THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE


Like no other part of the California desert, the Mojave is where the Old West meets the new West.

The industries that helped settle the High Desert -- cattle ranching and mining -- and today's mushrooming suburbs of homes and strip malls are now both facing the prospect of limitations. They'll all have to tread lightly on land set aside for the tortoises, sunflowers, horned lizards, hawks, owls and squirrels that were there long before them.

For more than 10 years, the Bureau of Land Management has been trying to develop a blueprint for conservation and use of the 14,000 square miles of the Western Mojave Desert, which stretches from Hesperia to Twentynine Palms to the Sierra foothills.

If adopted, the 30-year plan will be the nation's largest habitat conservation plan, eclipsing similar efforts under way in western Riverside County and the Coachella Valley.

The Western Mojave, observers say, not only has sprouting cities like elsewhere, but it also has many remnants of the Old West, from cattle ranchers to miners.

"It's really a unique combination of these forces that is really different for most of Southern California," said Randy Scott, San Bernardino County's division chief for advance planning.

All told, 45 percent of the county is included in the plan, which is making its way through a series of public hearings, including one in Redlands tonight.

The 2,000-page, 11-pound Western Mojave plan has left many with questions about how it will play out and whether it will get approved by the four counties and 11 cities within its borders.

Desert denizens

Like many areas of Southern California, the Western Mojave must find space for a booming population and, at the same time, meet the requirements of state and federal species protection laws.

"The focus of the plan is to find a balance of what can be conserved and what can be developed," said Linda Hansen, desert district director for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency overseeing the plan.

More than 100 species threatened with extinction or nearing that status live in the Western Mojave. The key species in the plan are the desert tortoise and the Mohave ground squirrel.

Populations of both animals are dropping, biologists say, because the type of plants and the land they need to survive are being lost to a number of desert uses. The tortoise has declined by at least 70 percent in one portion of the Mojave, said Ed LaRue, a BLM biologist.

Among other measures, LaRue said, the plan sets aside four large conservation areas totaling more than 2,000 square miles for the tortoise and one large area for the squirrel. Within those boundaries, no more than 1 percent of the land can be disturbed. This part of the plan most affects ranching and mining operations, which will be barred from expanding beyond that 1 percent.

"It comes down to protecting them where they still are and getting them back to where they used to be," LaRue said, hunched over a map and pointing to the conservation areas.

Mike Connor, executive director of the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee in Riverside, says the plan doesn't go far enough for the species.

He takes particular issue with the plan's 500 miles of designated off-roading routes through land considered critical for the survival of the tortoise.

The plan is "a trade-off," Connor conceded. "The issue here is, is it a fair trade off? From our perspective, it looks to us like the tortoise and squirrel are both going to lose out."

Booming towns

Towns originally built as railroad stops or to support nearby mines are expanding into the folds of the desert.

The Western Mojave has 750,000 residents, mostly in the Victor and Antelope valleys. In the next 30 years, that number is expected to grow to 1.4 million, said William Haigh, the BLM's project manager.

The population growth means more houses, strip malls, schools and places to play.

"The High Desert is kind of what is now the affordable suburb to the Inland Empire," said Mike Dwight, vice president of Ontario-based Forecast Homes, which is building a 687-home development on the edge of Victorville.

If both state and federal wildlife agencies approve the plan's method of helping endangered species, developers will spend significantly less time and money, Haigh said.

Biological survey and permitting costs for a 10-acre development with species issues that now costs $30,000 to $90,000 will drop to $4,000 to $40,000, and a three-year delay will be nil under the plan, Haigh said.

"Delays can have a brutal impact on our costs," Dwight said. "If they're doing the right thing, that also means an impact doesn't get passed on to the homeowner."

As with all habitat conservation plans, developers are looking for certainty, said Mark Sheppard, vice president of the Building Industry Assocation's Baldy View chapter in Rancho Cucamonga.

"We need to be sure that building can proceed," Sheppard said, "and the rules are in place, and they're not going to change."

Old West remnants

With free land to homestead on and mining claims to be grabbed in the mid-1800s, the Western Mojave became a patchwork of public and private lands, and today, mining and cattle operations often span both.

The Hector Mine, known more for the 1999 earthquake of the same name, has been in operation since the 1920s. Touted as the world's largest commercially viable hectorite mine, it produces a white clay used in a variety of products, including paints and lubricants.

Now at 560 acres, the mine could be viable for 100 more years, company officials said. The Western Mojave plan, however, has placed the operation in what is called an "area of critical environmental concern" because of imperiled species. The designation significantly limits any expansion or new roads.

"This has just blindsided them. It's a serious impact," said Steve Lilburn, a San Bernardino-based mining consultant to Elementis Specialties, which runs the mine.

Not too far south of the Hector Mine, Dave Fisher grazes some 500 cattle on a BLM-leased allotment that has existed since the 1860s. Under the plan, the land would be considered a desert wildlife management area for the tortoise. Haigh says, however, that Fisher's operation can continue with minor changes.

"When they start drawing lines and color code around your livelihood, I'm not sure what that means," Fisher said in a telephone interview.

Fisher is one of a handful of ranchers left in the region. In the 1980s, he said, there were 22.

"The expansion has come over the mountains , and now it's staring right at us," he said.

"I'm afraid the inevitable is happening in spite of us," he said. "You have to find balance, but I don't think we'll ever find it."
 

Paige

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Re: Glad thats over...

Morgan: City will not endorse West Mojave Plan

By Dwayne D. Eukel
ctyrpt@ridgecrestca.com

Ridgecrest City Councilman Steven Morgan told attendees at a public hearing held by Bureau of Land Management officials Thursday, "The City of Ridgecrest will not endorse the West Mojave Plan."

Morgan made the comment in reference to the BLM's California Desert Conservation Area plan, which he said does not address many of the issues that precipitated the Department of the Interior's directives in the first place.

"The city is not convinced that the issues surrounding protecting endangered species has been addressed, and that includes the 'human species,'" Morgan said.

According to the Department of the Interior's Draft Environmental Impact Report, the West Mojave Plan was to "develop management strategies for the desert tortoise, Mojave ground squirrel and over 100 other sensitive plants and animals that would conserve those species throughout the West Mojave Desert."

The West Mojave Desert Off road Vehicle Designation Project was added as an amendment to the conservation plan, and areas which are affected by this plan include Kern, Inyo, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino Counties.

The largest habitat conservation plan ever attempted has also come under fire from several entities, including the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, as well as a myriad of off-road vehicle groups, who have complained that the plan, and amendments later added, have not addressed the original purpose, and in some instances, has "usurped constitutional rights."

Al Huey, a long time Ridgecrest resident, and an activist, outspoken on violations of the U.S. Constitution, addressing the nearly 100 persons attending the hearing said, "We know the BLM doesn't want to address constitutional issues, because if they did, we wouldn't be having this meeting right now."

"If nothing else gets done here, I would hope that we demand the government follow the U.S. Constitution," Huey added.

Ronald Schiller of Ridgecrest's High Desert Multiple Use Coalition, Inc. said, "The environmental assessment on which this proposed plan is based -- is faulty, grossly inadequate, and appallingly unfair to the public."

Schiller told The Daily Independent at Thursday's public hearing that he believed that environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, have turned many environmental issues into a "cash cow."

In a letter of protest sent to the Department of the Interior last month, Schiller stated that the process was "artificially driven by overly optimistic deadlines -- and foolishly agreed to by BLM officials in response to uncontested frivolous lawsuits. Because of this, the public is being forced to suffer the consequences of the BLM's shortsightedness, irresponsibility, and incompetence."

Councilman Morgan agreed. "There has been lawsuit after lawsuit by the Sierra Club, and other environmental groups, who have added one species after another to the plan, which they say have become 'endangered.' Then they sue, and add another species; then sue; then add others...then sue. We would request that the BLM add no more -- a No Net Clause," Morgan said.

Center For Biological Diversity desert ecologist Daniel Patterson recently told The Daily Independent, "I think we can all agree that the BLM plan did not address the original concerns, which were to recover habitat for the desert tortoise. We think their environmental impact research was inadequate and in many cases, inaccurate," he said.
 
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