Northern Natural Resources Consultant Report - May 2020

Carnegie SVRA Alameda-Tesla Expansion Legislation- April 2020

Here we go again with more legislation to stop the Alameda/Tesla Expansion at the Carnegie SVRA. Similar legislation was shot down by both Gov. Brown and Gov. Newsom in the past few years. But they are back again, this time even more aggressively trying to keep the expansion and the SVRA tied up in the Legislature and the courts.

AB 2551 Carnegie SVRA- Alameda-Tesla Expansion Area

AB 2551 was introduced by Assembly Member Bauer-Kahan and co-authored by Senator Glazer.
This bill would authorize the department to dispose of the portion of the Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area known as the “Alameda-Tesla Expansion Area” to permanently preserve that land for conservation purposes, as specified, if the department determines that disposing of the land is in the public interest. The bill would require that the land only be sold to a local agency or nonprofit organization for use as a park or other open-space purpose, as specified. The bill would require any revenue from the disposition of the land to, upon appropriation by the legislature, first be used to reimburse the Department of General Services for any cost or expense incurred in the disposition of the land, and then would require any remaining revenue to be deposited in the Off-Highway Vehicle Trust Fund.

SB 1147- Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area

SB1147 was introduced by Senator Steve Glazer (D) on February 20, 2020. The bill reads:
“Existing law designates all parks, public campgrounds, monument sites, landmark sites, and sites of historical interest established or acquired by the state, or that are under its control, as the state park system, except as specified. Under existing law, the Department of Parks and Recreation controls the state park system, which is made up of units, one of which is the Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area.
This bill would express the intent of the Legislature to enact subsequent legislation that would preserve the Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area for conservation purposes.”

The previous legislation has all been focused on the Alameda-Tesla Expansion property, but now they are going after Carnegie SVRA. This bill looks to remove all OHV from the SVRA.
Cal4 is asking its members and supporters to contact your state senators and state assembly members and encourage them to oppose AB2551 (Alameda- Tesla Expansion) and SB1147 (Carnegie SVRA) when they come up for committee votes later in this legislative session.

Oceano Dunes SVRA

The Oceano Dunes SVRA was temporarily closed to all vehicular traffic on March 17 to try to help reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. Since then, the question on everyone’s mind on both sides of the particulate matter issue is whether the temporary closure of the dunes reduced the amount of particulate matter in the air in and around the SVRA.
The answer is no, some residents have said it is worse.

The San Luis Obispo Air Pollution Control District has received many calls asking these same questions about the whether or not the temporary closure of the SVRA has reduced air pollution. The SLO APCD has stated that it is unlikely that a temporary closure for a few months will have any lasting effect on the amount of particulate matter around the SVRA.

The SLO APCD Science Advisory Group who has been actively researching ways to reduce the particulate levels from the SVRA and has also stated that a few months of a temporary closure will likely not have any effect on the particulate matters levels, they say only the continued and sustained restoration projects will lead to a significant reduction in particulate matter emissions.

That means more closures within the SVRA and the slow reduction in acreage until nothing is left.

We still have a showdown with the California Coastal Commission in September and where is State Parks?

We need a new plan for Oceano Dunes SVRA, or we are going to lose it all...

California/ Nevada Sage Grouse

The US Fish and Wildlife Service announce plans to withdraw a propose rule to extend Endangered Species Act protections to a distinct population of greater sage grouse found only along the California-Nevada border.

After a yearlong review of the bi-state Sage Grouse population, the FWS has determined that the threats are no longer as significant as was believed when FWS first proposed listing the bird as a threatened species in 2013.

FWS will also withdraw a proposed rule that would have designated thousands of acres of critical habitat for the bird, according to the notice.

Although similar to their greater sage grouse kin, the bi-state grouse were declared a distinct population segment in 2010, in part because they have been breeding separately from other sage grouse for thousands of years. There are six separate population segments across 4.5 million acres of high-desert sagebrush in the two states.

Environmental groups, noting estimates that only about 3,300 birds remain, have been petitioning FWS to formally protect the bi-state population for more than a decade.

The proposed listing would have severely restricted OHV recreation and events on public lands in Nevada and eastern California. The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest includes approximately 426,809 acres of habitat managed by the USFS. The BLM’s Nevada California Sage-Grouse habitat includes about 280,000 acres of public land located in Douglas, Esmeralda, Lyon, and Mineral counties in Nevada and Alpine and Mono Counties in California.

South Cow Mountain Recreation Area

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has started work on a recreation plan for the South Cow Mountain Recreation Area and their first step was to have a public meeting with all the stakeholders. But due to the current crisis they decided to contact all the stakeholders and ask them what improvements they would like to see done at the South Cow Mountain Recreation Area.

They contacted the 20 stakeholders and asked the question, “What do you think of the area today and what are the biggest improvements you felt were needed?” Each interview lasted about 15 minutes; the stakeholders were OHV people who had shown interest in the South Cow Mountain Recreation Area in previous public meetings. A few Cal4 clubs and I were part of the interviews. Here are the highlights of my interview:

I told him that the South Cow Mountain area was a great place to recreate in but that I was extremely disappointed with the overall condition of the recreation area when I last visited.

  • Campgrounds and bathrooms in poor condition
  • Trails need to be brushed
  • Garbage from illegal shooting
  • Need to remove the homeless encampments
  • Need to remove the garbage from the homeless encampments
  • Needs more law enforcement

All the information they received from the 20 interviews will be made into a report and will be given to the BLM. The BLM will then take the report and put together a plan of action. The draft plan will be discussed at two public meetings that will be held in Ukiah and Lakeport later this summer.

Joshua Tree considered as an Endangered Species?

Joshua trees face the risk of extinction after decades of development, drought, and more frequent wildfires in the Mojave Desert, according to state wildlife authorities who are recommending that the trees be considered for listing as an endangered species.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has recommended a review of a petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity, which argues that the western Joshua tree’s spindly desert woodlands are “likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future” without protection under the California Endangered Species Act.

The fate of Joshua Tree National Park’s namesake plant is now in the hands of the state Fish and Game commissioners. They are to decide in June whether to accept the department’s recommendation and declare the tree a candidate for listing. If the trees are listed, the law requires state wildlife managers to devise a recovery plan for them, which could possibly limit or restrict OHV recreational activity in the Southern California desert.

Northern Spotted Owl

A coalition of groups representing counties, business and labor has reached an agreement with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that will initiate the process for revaluating critical habitat designated for the Northern Spotted Owl (NSO) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The agreement is related to the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision finding the ESA does not authorize the government to designate lands as critical habitat unless it is in fact habitat for the species. The Supreme Court also ruled that courts can review government evaluations of the impact of designating critical habitat, which the lower courts had refused to allow for over 30 years.

The coalition brought legal action after the Fish & Wildlife Service designated 9.5 million acres of mostly federal lands as NSO critical habitat across Washington, Oregon and Northern California in 2012. The coalition’s legal action focused on the inclusion of millions of acres of forests not occupied by the species, including over 1.1 million acres of federal lands designated for active forest management activities and where no owls are present.

The ESA requires the federal government to take into consideration the economic impact, the impact on national security, and any other relevant impact, of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. The coalition argued the 2012 NSO designation violated the ESA by failing to consider any negative effects from designating areas that are not used by the NSO and never will be.

Middle Fork Feather River National Monument

Currently the Middle Fork of the Feather River has a Wild River designation, but there is an environmental group out of the Quincy area that wants to change that designation to a National Monument. The group wants the monument to cover Quincy down to Lake Oroville to be able to protect the watershed.

The group is just starting the process and understands that a Monument designation must go through Congress and that may take quite a few years to complete if they are successful. The group does not want to close access to the area (including OHV trails) but wants to restrict any new construction within the proposed monument.

The group plans to start having public meetings and would like someone from motorized recreation to attend these meetings. This group plans to try to change the designation with or without us, so it’s better to have a seat at the table and be able to give them our motorized recreation perspective on the proposal.

I have been working with a couple of Cal4 members who are interested in this proposal but do not live close to the proposed monument. We will be looking for Cal4 members who know the trails within the proposed monument to possibly attend the meetings or just give us help making sure no trails are lost during this process.

Range of Light National Monument

The movement to create the Range of Light National Monument has been around for quite a while, but now there is a new push to get this monument authorized. If you have never heard about the Range of Light National Monument, imagine one contiguous swath of protected public lands with Yosemite National Park (761,266 acres) on the north to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (865,965 acres) on the south. Then add another 1.4 million acres in between that is currently the Sierra National Forest and you have the largest interconnected wilderness in the Lower 48 states.

Even though monuments are not wilderness areas and OHV recreation is sometimes allowed in a National Monument, they are much more restrictive on what can be done within that monument. For Cal4 to support a monument designation we would have to be guaranteed that all OHV trails would continue to open once the designation has been changed.

Recreational Trails Program H.R.5797

Over the past quarter-century the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) has been the key source of funding for recreational trails across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. However, without Congressional approval before September 30, the program is at risk of going dormant, creating a huge void for recreational trail development and maintenance funding.

H.R. 5797 would increase the RTP funding nearly threefold by returning more of the gas taxes that we already pay every time we gas up for off-road activities. The current funding of the RTP is only $84 million annually, but it is estimated that gas taxes paid by off-highway interests are more than $250 million annually.

Despite the uncertain and difficult times from the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to maintain the momentum established upon the introduction of H.R. 5797. Now is the time to provide an economic boost to the recreation economy as Congress considers a large infrastructure bill as well as transportation reauthorization as possibilities for the next phase of COVID-19 related legislation.

Continued development and maintenance of trails across the country would allow for quick construction projects of RTP trails for motorcycles, ATVs, side-by-sides, and snowmobiles, as well as non-motorized trails for other recreational interests. Please participate in this call to action by urging your members of Congress to cosponsor H.R.5797 and include H.R. 5797 in any transportation reauthorization or infrastructure legislation being considered by Congress in the coming weeks.

Please stay safe and if should you decide to go out and hit the trails please carefully consider the potential implications to you, your family, your friends or even first responders when venturing outdoors.
Please follow these guidelines if you choose to recreate outdoors-

  • maintain a safe distance between yourself and other groups
  • limit your group to 10 people or less
  • wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; or use hand sanitizer if you cannot wash your hands
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
  • stay home if you feel sick

About the Author

Jeff Blewett

Jeff Blewett

Natural Resources Consultant - North
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