"Stand Here! Fight Now!"
The New Mexico Off Highway Vehicle Alliance (NMOHVA) filed a lawsuit against the Santa Fe National Forest in federal district court on December 11th. Our lawsuit contests the Forest's Travel Management decision signed by Forest Supervisor Maria T. Garcia on June 12th and upheld by the Region 3 Appeal Deciding Officer on October 2nd. Filing a lawsuit is a major commitment of NMOHVA's time and money. The NMOHVA Board thought long and hard about this and then voted unanimously to go ahead with legal action.
"NMOHVA filed this lawsuit on the behalf of our members but it really is for everyone who uses a vehicle in the forest," said NMOHVA President Jim Tyldesley. "Most of the public has no idea that this decision closed 70% of the existing roads and trails, reduced vehicle camping nearly 95%, and virtually eliminated hunters being able to use a vehicle to retrieve game. There are going to be a lot of stunned people next spring when they find out vehicle camping is not allowed anywhere along Forest Road 376. It was the most popular camping area in the whole forest!"
Basis for the Lawsuit: Every lawsuit is based on an accusation that a law has been broken. What law was broken when the Santa Fe National Forest decided to close over 70% of the roads and trails to all motorized use? The law being broken is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). When a federal agency closes routes, people might think it is done "under NEPA". But, NEPA itself doesn't "close" anything; the law just requires that the Forest Service follow certain rules when they make land use decisions. Our lawsuit says they didn't follow those rules.
NEPA is an Effective Tool: NEPA requires that a full and fair analysis of environmental impact be made and disclosed to the public. NEPA is our only legal defense against route closures that are made when the Forest Service doesn't use a full and fair analysis. NMOHVA's lawsuit is based on facts in the agency's documents. These facts show the agendy violated many NEPA regulations. Violations include how the scientific analysis was completed, lack of data, and failure to properly examine how the closures will affect the public.
How the EIS Breaks the Law: If the EIS had been done honestly, it would not propose massive closures, because nothing in the EIS shows that vehicle use is causing significant forest-wide resource damage. There is not a single statement, study or piece of data saying vehicle use caused any specific problem in any specific place. But the EIS is not honest. Here are some examples of what we mean by that:
NMOHVA has posted a list of Frequently Asked Questions on our website at www.nmohva.org on both the lawsuit and the Travel Managment Decision. We will keep the site updated with all of the latest news and information concerning this action.
What Comes Next: It will probably take a year before the case is concluded and the court makes its decision.We often get asked, "What can we do that will really help keep roads and trails open?" With an active lawsuit on our hands, the answer gets really simple:
If you have a land or access issue that your fellow SWFWDA members need to be aware of and/or you are seeking assistance with a land/access issue, please contact your SWFWDA Director of Environmental Affairs.
MOAB BLM SCHEDULED TO RELEASE DRAFTS OF NEW MANAGEMENT PLAN
IMPORTANT! Letters NEEDED to County Commissioners
Oct 24, 2004
On November 9th the Dona Ana County Commissioners will have on the agenda a request by LCFWDC to proclaim RS2477 Rights of Way on roads closed to the public in 1998. The argument is public access to public land. These roads are in fact in a wilderness study area (WSA) and as such they were open before and should have remained opened. This is a Study Area and has never be named as wilderness, congress is the only entitty that can do that. We have been advised to make the financial case insofar as what Dona Ana has to gain/maintain as far as tourist dollars, motels, campgrounds, food service and on and on....
Here are two word files, one that has the email and snail mail addresses for the commissioners and the other file is some sample ideas for a letter.
* County Commissioner Addresses
* Sample Letter
What you need to keep in mind is to try to make the letter yours, that is don't just copy and paste what I am sending. It will tend to look like some canned letter. Also I don't think it would help our case to go bashing the BLM.
If you can attend on November the 9th at 9:00 AM they will meet in Commission Chambers, second floor, county courthouse at 251 W. Amador. They will also take comments from the public at this meeting. If you have anyone in the aforementioned service industry that you can get to sign a letter or write about what our business means to them, that would help as well. Thank you and please don't put this off to the last minute.
If you have any trouble with these files please let me know.
Jerry Ward, President
Las Cruces Four Wheel Drive Club
P.O. Box 1344
Las Cruces, NM 88004
ACTION NEEDED no later than 9/13/04 Forest Service OHV route designation rule
Sep 11, 2004
FROM: UNITED FOUR WHEEL DRIVE ASSOCIATIONS Carla Boucher, Attorney
P.O. Box 15696
Chesapeake, VA 23328
WHAT: The U.S. Forest Service (FS) has proposed a new rule to establish a policy for managing motor vehicle use, including OHVs, in our national forests.
HOW IT AFFECTS US: Generally, the proposal is a good idea. The FS has outlined a process to designate roads, trails, and areas for OHV use. The designation will be done at either the forest level or at the district level, to be determined by the FS. The process requires the responsible official (RO) to "consider" both general criteria and specific criteria when evaluating each road, trail, or area for OHV designation.
General criteria for ROADS, TRAILS, and AREAS:
RO must consider:
- Protection of resources
- Promotion of public safety
- Provision of recreational opportunities
- Access needs
- Minimization of conflicts among uses
- Need for maintenance and administration that would arise if designated
- Availability of resources for that maintenance and administration
Specific criteria for TRAILS and AREAS:
RO must minimize the following:
- Damage to soil, watershed, vegetation, other resources
- Harassment of wildlife and significant disruption of wildlife habitats
- Conflicts between motor vehicle use and existing or proposed recreational uses of this land or neighboring lands
- Conflicts among different classes or motor vehicle uses RO must also consider
- Compatibility of motor vehicle use with existing conditions in populated areas taking into consideration sound, emissions, other factors
- Trail Management Objectives
Specific criteria for ROADS:
Designation must be consistent with
- Speed, volume, composition, and distribution of traffic on roads
- Road management objectives
Use will be designated by vehicle class and if appropriate by time of year. "Classes of Vehicle" may include, but are not limited to distinguishable groupings such as passenger cares, buses, trucks, motorcycles, automobiles, 4-wheel drive vehicles, off-highway vehicles and trailers.
DEADLINE: Comments must be received by September 13, 2004
MAJOR CONCERNS: Our major concerns are outlined in the form letter that follows. Briefly, they include failure to provide for a time period for which emergency closures can be effective; confusion over the use of the term OHV, 4-wheel drive vehicle, and SUV; lack of clarity that a "trail" can be used for 4-wheel drives and other vehicles over 50" in width; lack of clarity that non-street legal vehicles may be used on "roads" where appropriate; and lack of certainty that the agency will conduct a robust route inventory. I have completed a complete assessment and explanation of the rule and will post it on our website shortly.
United has been working closely with other motorized recreation groups such as the American Motorcyclists Association, ARRA, BlueRibbon Coalition, COHVCO, and the MIC to develop a comprehensive and unified position on this rule. I am very pleased with the outcome of this cooperative working group and would like to especially thank Pat Holtz with the AMA and Brian Hawthorne and Paul Turcke with BRC for their expertise and collaboration on this effort.
Proposed Rule for Designated Routes and Areas for Motor Vehicle Use
c/o Content Analysis Team
P.O. Box 221150
Salt Lake City, UT 84122-01150
Via e-mail: email@example.com
September __, 2004
Dear Content Analysis Team,
I am an avid four wheeler and frequent forest visitor. As such, I am dedicated to working with the Forest Service to develop a workable policy to amend regulations regarding travel management on National Forest System lands, including the use of off-highway vehicles. Please accept my comments below.
Please ensure that temporary, emergency closures are limited to a term of one year.
In order to avoid the confusion of which class of vehicle(s) is designated for use on roads, trails, and areas, the term off-highway vehicle should be defined in Section 212.1 as: "Any motorized vehicle designed for or capable of cross country travel on or immediately over land, water, sand, snow, ice, marsh, swampland, or other natural terrain."
Please ensure that the responsible official thoroughly investigates opportunities for volunteers and cooperative agreements when considering the availability of resources for the maintenance and administration of designated OHV routes.
Please ensure that the final rule, the Forest Service Handbook, or the Forest Service Manual directs the responsible official to consider amendments to the forest plan as part of the OHV designation project to ensure that needed changes to forest plans are not categorically considered "outside the scope of the project".
Please ensure that the policy is clear that the term "trail" does not by definition eliminate designed or managed use for 4-wheel drive vehicles and other vehicles over any particular width.
Please ensure that the policy encourages each responsible official to conduct a robust inventory for all OHV route designation projects, including input from user groups and the public.
Please ensure that segments of any road may be designated for use by non-street legal vehicles where appropriate to avoid blanket prohibitions of non-street legal OHV use on roads such as Level 3 roads.
Please ensure that any trail may be designated for use by street legal vehicles where appropriate to avoid blanket prohibitions of street legal OHVs, particularly 4-wheel drive vehicles and SUVs, on all trails.
SUPREME COURT REJECTS ANTI-ACCESS GROUP'S SUIT AGAINST BLM
Jun 16, 2004
IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM BILL DART, BRC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR:
Greetings BlueRibbon Coalition members and supporters,
It is an absolute pleasure to share the great news about the Supreme Court ruling announced yesterday. In a rare 9 to 0 decision, the Supreme Court upheld a Utah District Court ruling dismissing claims brought by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) and several other anti-access groups in a lawsuit originally filed against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Utah.
In October of 1999, Rainer Huck, president of the Utah Shared Access Alliance (USA-ALL) contacted BRC with advance word that SUWA was filing a very large lawsuit against the BLM. Among other things, SUWA demanded the court ban all vehicle use on nearly 10 million acres! The national significance of the lawsuit was immediately apparent. We had to move to intervene fast in order to prevent an out of court, "sweet heart" settlement.
Soon after we were granted intervention, SUWA filed for a Temporary Restraining Order, asking the court to immediately close nine popular OHV areas. After five days of court testimony, the judge granted a motion offered by BRC that dismissed most of SUWA?s claims.
BRC and USA-ALL argued SUWA's claims are about the sufficiency of BLM?s management of OHV use, and represents a "management through litigation" approach in an attempt to force the BLM into SUWA's preferred management option, which is to close large areas to vehicle access. We also argued that effective solutions to management challenges require a balance of resource needs and local human interests. This balance is best reached when the BLM involves all public land visitors in its decisions.
BRC and USA-ALL argued that responsible recreational use, even the OHV use occurring inside Wilderness Study Areas, is properly occurring through coordination and collaboration with state, counties and OHV user groups. The BLM noted that while there may be some illegal OHV use occurring, they refuted SUWA's allegations about the overall damage OHV use is causing. The areas have been the subject of extensive analysis and management planning by BLM to manage these areas responsibly.
The Court granted BRC's motion to dismiss pertaining to the areas involved in the Preliminary Injection request, with prejudice, and denied SUWA's Preliminary Injunction Motion as moot. The Court?s decision denying SUWA's motion was immediately appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. But that decision was reversed by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Both the BLM and the OHV groups petitioned for review with the Supreme Court. The Court granted review and heard argument in March of this year.
I wanted to give that background because it?s very likely the role of BRC has been notably absent from reports you may have read in your local newspaper. The obvious point is this; without effective legal representation, either millions of acres of Utah would be forever closed to vehicle access, or agencies of the federal government would be held hostage to the whim any special interest that can convince a judge to go along with their demands.
The national significance of BRC's role in this case and the arguments can not be overerstated. The legal precedent SUWA sought in this case would apply to all federal agencies. If SUWA and their litigation partners had prevailed, the management activities of all federal agencies, not only the BLM, would be hostage to fringe groups of all manner and sort. It certainly would have paralyzed federal land management allowing anti-access groups to further force their agenda on land managers.
Everyone at BRC is very proud of this victory. The point I wish to emphasize, however, is how much BRC appreciates and values your membership and financial support. Without your support, these federal judges would not hear any other perspective besides that of SUWA's. Because of your involvement, these judges heard from the people who actually use the roads these anti access groups want to close. Because you enabled BRC and USA-ALL to become involved, we prevented a future where the fringe SUWA-type groups would drive the day-to-day activities of agencies of the federal government.
In conclusion, allow me to express our sincere thanks to all who have faithfully and generously supported BlueRibbon.
In sincere appreciation, Bill Dart, Executive Director, BlueRibbon Coalition
SUPREME COURT REJECTS ANTI-ACCESS GROUP'S SUIT AGAINST BLM
Unanimous decision upholds ruling in Utah District Court made by BRC
June 15, 2004
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court upheld a Utah District Court ruling dismissing claims brought in 1999 by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) and other anti-access groups against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The suit targeted BLM's alleged inaction in managing off highway vehicle ("OHV") access. SUWA's demands to immediately close nine popular OHV recreation areas were rejected by the Utah District Court, but that decision was reversed by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Both the BLM and the OHV groups petitioned for review with the Supreme Court. The Court granted review and heard argument in March of this year.
"Needless to say, we're delighted", said Bill Dart, Executive Director of the BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC). BRC led a coalition of OHV enthusiast groups who successfully petitioned for defendant-intervenor status to aid BLM's defense of OHV management.
"We are pleased the Justices rejected the 'management through litigation' model that is popular with anti-access groups," Dart added.
The case before the Supreme Court turned on a fairly complex jurisdictional point. The Administrative Procedure Act allows lawsuits to compel nondiscretionary actions that have been unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed. The OHV groups convinced the District Court that SUWA's claims went far beyond this standard and were really attempting to dictate the everyday activity of the BLM. Thus, the case focused on the degree to which private parties dissatisfied with government action can sue the agency under an alternate "failure to act" theory.
Justice Antonin Scalia said SUWA's argument would insert the court into the day-to-day operations of the agency and "would divert BLM's energies from other projects throughout the country that are in fact more pressing. While such a decree might please the environmental plaintiffs in the present case, it would ultimately operate to the detriment of sound environmental management."
"We have raised these arguments with limited success since the mid 1990's, and it is reassuring to see the Court has ultimately agreed with our analysis," noted Paul Turcke, the Boise, Idaho lawyer acting as lead counsel for the OHV groups. "This case was never about limiting legitimate review of formal agency decisions, but will clarify that disgruntled and well-funded special interest groups cannot interfere with the ongoing administrative process simply by claiming the agency is failing to act," Turcke concluded.
According to BlueRibbon Coalition sources, there are numerous other cases at various levels of the federal court system that will be affected by this ruling.
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 1,100 organization and business members, for a combined total of over 600,000 recreationists nationwide. 1-800-258-3742. www.sharetrails.org
LINK TO THE SUPREME COURT DECISION
Apr 12, 2004
Brad Ullrich, Director of Environmental Affairs
(505) 333-2870, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
James Clark, President
(214) 704-6917, email: email@example.com
Date: April 8, 2004
THE U.S. COURT OF APPEALS AFFIRMS DISTRICT COURT DISMISSAL OF SWFWDA and LAS CRUCES FWD CLUB v. BLM
On April 7, 2004 the lawsuit filed by the Southwest Four Wheel Drive Association and Las Cruces Four Wheel Drive Club against the Bureau of Land Management was dismissed on appeal by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals (No. 03-2138). The lawsuit was originally filed in 2000 due to the closure of several roads in the Robledo Mountains near Las Cruces, NM. (For a complete summary of the lawsuit and its history please visit the SWFWDA website at www.swfwda.org, the information is in the Land Use Issues section).
The District Court had previously dismissed the claim under the Quiet Title Act due to the claim being outside the statute of limitations. The Appellate Court did not address the issue of the statute of limitations, it instead dismissed the action ruling that the SWFWDA lacks a cause of action under the Quiet Title Act because members of the public do not have a title in public roads and therefore they have no further recourse against the United States.
This lawsuit is important to OHV use on several different levels. The original closure of the area in 1998 was due to impact on the Robledo Mountains Wilderness Study Area, an area that had been declared "roadless". A WSA is an area that is being considered for wilderness designation, but has not been declared a wilderness area by Congress, so the SWFWDA felt that closure of the roads was not a valid action by the BLM due to prior existence of the roads.
The SWFWDA continues to explore all options at its disposal to determine what further action, if any, they will take on the lawsuit.
The Southwest Four Wheel Drive Association is organized to: Promote interest and provide education in organized 4-wheeling and the safe and responsible use of off-highway vehicles. Keep members informed of the needs of vehicular recreationists, and to keep Association members informed of impending legislation and land use matters.
Four-wheelers tread legal ground on trails
Mar 12, 2004
original article here By Judith Kohler, Associated Press
Attorneys for off-road-vehicle groups asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to allow them to sue the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to open a proposed wilderness area in southern New Mexico to their machines.
The Southwest Four Wheel Drive Association and the Las Cruces Four Wheel Drive Club are asking the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a lower court's dismissal of their 2000 lawsuit challenging the closure of most of the trails in the Robledo Mountains.
A 10th Circuit ruling in their favor would send the issue back to the lower court for trial on the merits.
The BLM said it closed the trails in 1997 because of damage to the land, part of an 11,640-acre proposed federal wilderness area.
"The government changed the rules, and that's just not right," said Lee Peters, an attorney representing the Southwest Four Wheel Drive Association.
The recreation groups say the trails are public roads and have been used since the 1950s under an 1866 law allowing states to claim rights to roads built over federal land. Congress repealed the law in 1976 but said counties and states could continue using roads built before then.
A lower court, however, sided with the BLM, The Wilderness Society and other environmental groups intervening on the agency's behalf. The court threw out the lawsuit, saying the off-road groups don't have standing because they can't show how they would be personally harmed.
A key issue is whether the trails are bona fide roads, as claimed by the off-road users. The BLM doesn't consider the trails the same as roads. That question is important because federal wilderness areas are pristine, roadless tracts that are off-limits to development and mechanized travel.
Members of the three-judge panel hearing the arguments asked why the recreation groups, rather than the state of New Mexico or counties, are suing to keep the trails open. Peters replied that the state and counties don't claim the roads.
"These roads will have no one to defend them if this group doesn't claim them," Peters said.
Protection of wilderness and other public lands in the West will be jeopardized if the court rules that such groups have the right to sue, said Ted Zukoski, a Denver-based lawyer with Earthjustice who is representing the environmental groups.
Alice Thurston, a lawyer for the BLM, told the judges the agency is charged with ensuring that the land retains the qualities that make it eligible for consideration as federal wilderness. Only Congress can designate wilderness.
The case was taken under advisement.
The SWFWDA and Las Cruces Four Wheel Drive Club versus the BLM: The Robledo Mountains Trail Closure
Feb 02, 2004
by Brad Ullrich, Director of Environmental Affairs
(NOTE: Over the past several years the closure of the trails in the Robledo Mountains near Las Cruces, New Mexico and the subsequent legal action has been the subject of much discussion among four wheelers. But, in all this discussion, no one has adequately been able to lay out all the facts of the case in the order in which they happened, and with an explanation that is understandable to the average four wheeler. So, after digging though the small mountain of paper that constitutes the filings in this case we are providing this summary of what has transpired over the past several years for those that are interested or have just been totally confused by all that has happened. We can only hope that the saga is not over just yet. Please feel free to copy this summary as you see fit for distribution to club members and other interested parties.)
Near the city of Las Cruces in southeast New Mexico lie the Robledo Mountains, a rugged and sparsely vegetated chain typical to the southwestern portion of the United States. This particular chain, due to its proximity to Las Cruces, has been a popular playground for four wheel drive enthusiasts since the 1950s, back when flat fender Jeeps with open differentials were standard equipment. The popularity of the area boomed in the 1990s due to the extremely rugged terrain, perfect for the heavily modified four wheel drives with locking differentials and low gearing that could drive the challenging trails such as Wolf Run and the Guardian Trail. But, in August 1997 a good portion of this area was closed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), including access to the previously mentioned trails.
Subsequent to the posting of the roads as closed, members of the Southwest Four Wheel Drive Association and the Las Cruces Four Wheel Drive Club appealed the closure to the BLM, providing evidence that the roads in question had existed for many years, dating back at least to the 1950s, well before the repeal of RS2477 (43 USC sec. 932) in the mid 1970s, before the enactment of the FLPMA, and before designation of the area as a Wilderness Study Area (WSA) in 1980. Evidence of the prior existence of the roads included aerial photographs taken in the early 1970s and statements of persons that had used those roads well before the repeal of RS2477 in 1976.
The evidence was convincing enough for the BLM District Manager Linda Rundell to have the "No Vehicle" signs removed. Subsequently the BLM, with public input, began work on a Robledo Mountains Off Highway Vehicle Implementation Plan which included areas inside the WSA. The draft plan did not specifically include any mention of closure of roads inside the WSA.
On February 2, 1998 the BLM released the final plan, which to the dismay of local off highway vehicle enthusiasts, included closure of six roads within the WSA, including several "world class" extreme four wheel drive roads that had become major attractions for four wheelers throughout the country. A couple of weeks later a notice called "Emergency Closure of Vehicle Trails in and Near the Robledo Mountains Wilderness Study Area" was published in the Federal register. This closure was effective immediately to "protect wilderness and scenic ACEC values". The six previously mentioned roads were then blocked by the BLM and remain closed at this time, six years later.
The closure of trails such as Wolf Run and the Guardian Trail, among others, did not sit well with four wheelers in Las Cruces and throughout the southwest. Legal action was considered after all administrative appeals were exhausted, and on June 2, 2000 a complaint (Petition for Review of Administrative Decision and Injunction) was filed by the Southwest Four Wheel Drive Association (SWFWDA) and the Las Cruces Four Wheel Drive Club in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico (Case number: 00CV00799, Southwest Four Wheel Drive Association and Las Cruces Four Wheel Drive Club, Plaintiffs vs. Bureau of Land Management and Amy Lenders, District Manager, Las Cruces District, BLM). The complaint asked for the Robledo Mountains OHV Implementation Plan to be set aside, for the Plan to be declared in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act, to enjoin the BLM from closing the roads, and in the alternative to remand the Plan back for further public review and comment.
As is the case for most actions of this sort, the case was assigned to a Federal Magistrate and a scheduling order was filed by the court. In October of 2000 a motion was filed by The Wilderness Society and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance to be included as Intervenors with the BLM. The plaintiffs objected to this Motion to Intervene, claiming that the proposed Intervenors had no standing and therefore no right to intervene. They could show no reason why they would be harmed, and no reason why their interests, if there were any, could not be adequately represented by the defendant, the BLM. But, in the first of what was to become several questionable decisions by the court, the Motion to Intervene was granted and The Wilderness Society and New Mexico Wilderness Alliance were joined with the BLM. This decision by the court to allow the intervention was over the next couple of years to prove a severe handicap to the pursuit of the case by the SWFWDA. The Intervenors, especially The Wilderness Society, have "very deep pockets", and over the course of the case the voluminous filings and delays by them served to put a severe strain on the financial resources of the SWFWDA.
The case proceeded, a Brief in Chief was filed by SWFWDA in January 2001, and then in March the defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss. A response was filed by SWFWDA to this motion, responses by the defendants were filed, and finally on August 28, 2001 a Memorandum, Opinion and Order was entered by District Judge C. LeRoy Hansen granting the Motion to Dismiss for "lack of subject matter jurisdiction." The Judge gave the SWFWDA 30 days to file an amended petition, saying in his Order that the ONLY remedy the plaintiffs had was under the Quiet Title Act (QTA). This decision, completely ignoring RS2477 and the long term existence of the roads within the WSA and the somewhat arbitrary decision to close the roads by the BLM was the second questionable decision made by the Judge in this case. It is clear to most people familiar with this case and other RS2477 cases that the repealed statute clearly applies, and the BLM had no authority to close the roads. But, for some reason the Judge disagreed, following instead an argument by the Intervenors that a recent decision in Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance v. BLM involving RS2477 claims by three Utah counties applied also to this case.
Following the Judge's direction, the SWFWDA filed an amended complaint on September 27, 2001 to include an action under the QTA. Subsequent to this filing the defendants again filed numerous motions and requests for extensions of time, prolonging the case and further draining the financial resources of the SWFWDA.
In June 2002 the defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss and/or in the Alternative Summary Judgment, claiming lack of subject matter jurisdiction and alternatively that the trails cannot qualify as RS2477 roads, basing this argument on convoluted and ludicrous reasoning that the RS2477 issue was addressed in an appeal of the WSA designation by Las Cruces resident Fred Huff, who is not even a party to this action, in the late 1970s, and further that they did not qualify as roads because they were not mechanically maintained. They further argued that since the WSA was designated as roadless, then it would follow that the roads in question did not exist! A lengthy response was filed to this motion by the SWFWDA, proving in great detail that in fact RS2477 did apply under federal as well as New Mexico law as well as the QTA, and furthermore that the filing of the motion is improper and should be dismissed. It could easily be shown that the WSA was heavily roaded, and should never have been included in the roadless inventory or designated a WSA.
The case dragged on due to numerous filings and motions by the Defendants and Intervenors, and finally on March 19, 2003 the Motion to Dismiss was granted and the Judge entered a Memorandum Opinion and Order of Dismissal. The Judge in his Order granted the dismissal because in his opinion the SWFWDA's amended complaint under the QTA was not valid because of time limitations. You will recall that only a year and a half earlier he had directed the plaintiffs to file an amended complaint citing the QTA as their only remedy! The logic in this decision can again only be described as convoluted. The Judge reasoned that since the WSA was designated in 1980, then under the QTA's 12 year statute of limitations any claims would have had to been filed by 1992. Furthermore, he again dismissed the RS2477 argument as invalid due to the 1980 WSA designation and decision by the BLM that the area was in fact roadless. The BLM and Intervenors of course filed memorandums in support of this decision.
On April 2, 2003 the SWFWDA filed a Plaintiff's Motion to Alter or Amend Memorandum Opinion and Order of Dismissal and Final Judgment of March 19, 2003, and Memorandum in Support. In this motion the SWFWDA attacked the Court's decision on several fronts, citing the arguments already given concerning RS2477 and the designation of the area as roadless. Furthermore, much of the language in the Court's decision was taken verbatim from the Intervenor's Motion to Dismiss! The Defendants and the Intervenors filed responses to the SWFWDA's motion, but these were really not necessary and turned out to be purely procedural filings, because on May 21, 2003 the Judge entered a Memorandum Opinion and Order denying the SWFWDA's motion of April 2, citing as the reason for denial that the motion was not filed timely, and also reiterating its earlier decision concerning the lack of timeliness under the QTA.
At this point it looked like from what all appearances was a solid case under RS2477, lack of authority of the BLM to close the roads, and the QTA, was dead. But, knowing that they in fact do have a valid argument to reopen the roads, the SWFWDA filed a Notice of Appeal on June 18, 2003. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the case on March 10, 2004 in spite of motions by the defendants and Intervenors to dismiss the appeal. If the SWFWDA wins this appeal it will send a very strong message to the District Court that the reasoning in dismissing the case was very flawed.
Pretty long and confusing saga. And I'm sure some readers are asking "Why should I care about a lawsuit in New Mexico, what does this mean to me?" The answer to that question is threefold. First of all, this case can have an enormous impact on other RS2477 cases throughout the country, especially western portions where there are so many of these roads in existence, many of them also tied up in litigation or negotiation. Second, this can be a lesson to the BLM and other government agencies that arbitrary decisions, especially those concerning road closures, will not be tolerated by the public that enjoys the use of those lands. And finally, this decision can impact "roadless" designations throughout the country. As was mentioned several times above, the BLM in their roadless inventory and designation of the Robledo Mountains WSA totally ignored the existence of many roads, and what is even more disturbing is the fact that the Judge followed along with their reasoning. A victory by the SWFWDA in this case has the potential to impact land use and closure decisions nationwide for years to come.
BLM meeting to tackle transportation management
Jan 30, 2004
By Darren Marcy/The Daily Times
Jan 30, 2004, 12:27 am
FARMINGTON - The Bureau of Land Management will share its vision of the future of transportation on BLM lands throughout the Farmington Field Office area Wednesday. The informational meeting will allow BLM personnel to detail its plans for establishing a transportation management plan, which will encompass motorized and nonmotorized recreation on the public land. The meeting will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesday, in Room 9010 at San Juan College.
The transportation plan is required to be completed under the recently approved Resource Management Plan. Rich Simmons, a recreation specialist for the Farmington BLM office, said the meeting will be an informational session to detail the agency's plan for roads, trails, routes and off-roading areas, that serve a recreation purpose.
"We want to present how it's going to go and what we're going to do first," Simmons said. "We will designate roads, trails, routes and areas that are open for recreational types of activities that involve transportation."
The Farmington Field Office has divided its 1.5 million acres of public land into 13 transportation units. The first will deal with areas around Farmington roughly defined as the BLM land between U.S. 550 and New Mexico 170 and from Farmington to the Colorado state line. That includes the Glade Run Recreation Area and Dunes off-road area, but will not tackle Piñon Mesa. Simmons said the Glade and Dunes areas were chosen to be tackled first because of the high amount of use they get. The review of the area is expected to be completed by October.
The other areas will be tackled, with all 13 transportation units expected to take up to 10 years. "I'm going to try to hit the high-priority ones and that will take four or five years," Simmons said. Simmons said the effort will be open to the public throughout and he hopes all users groups will come to the table to hammer out a good solution to transportation issues. That includes four-wheelers, mountain bikers, all-terrain vehicle riders, equestrians, hikers and other users groups.
"We want this to be collaborative between all the users," Simmons said. "We hope we're going to be able to come up with something that satisfies everybody. We're trying to do this right."
One thing that will be determined will be just what access is allowed in what areas. The recent Resource Management Plan changed the Farmington Field Office area from being open to off-highway vehicles to a limited off-highway vehicles designation.
"Open was, you can drive where ever you wanted to," Simmons said. "Limited, means we're going to limit them to designated trails, routes (two-tracks), roads and areas. Limited doesn't mean you have to stay on the road. It just means we're going to have to look at it a little closer before we say 'go out there and do what you want.'"
Simmons said the evaluation will not be a witch hunt on the off-highway vehicle community. "We're going to have to look at all the other concerns," Simmons said. "We have to consult all the other specialists here. We have to take into account all the leasees and permitees who pay for the use of the public land."
Information: (505) 599-8900.
How To Write Effective Comments
Jan 07, 2004
People for the West -Tucson
PO Box 86868, Tucson, AZ 85754-6868
Newsletter, December 2003
by Cindy Coping
As a region with two Clinton Monuments in planning; at least five new proposed National Wilderness Areas; a State proposal to reintroduce the black-tailed prairie dog; Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan; and who-knows-what will happen next with threatened and endangered species, Southern Arizona lies beneath a torrential downpour of proposed environmental regulations, and a flood of public land-use planning. Public comment, fortunately, will guide all the above.
Anyone who could be harmed by a final rule or plan should comment in writing early. Participation in the planning process provides legal standing--a prerequisite to successfully sue--should a final plan or rule result in personal harm. Silence implies consent.
How, then, does a member of the public write effective comments during the environmental planning process?
Members on the e-mail list of a politically active organization can become instant lobbyists: Click a button and you've sent your organization's comments, with your electronic signature, to politicians and bureaucrats you may never have heard of before.
That convenience balloons government costs without benefit. A bureaucrat must read, print and file each comment--even if 50,000 identical responses are received. The unfair "bother" effect could psychologically backfire to the senders' detriment.
Arizona Game and Fish, US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), US Forest Service, and US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have all indicated they do not count identical responses as votes. Counting would amount to an unscientific opinion poll biased to favor the longest e-mail list. After receiving more than a million comments on the Roadless Rule EIS, the Forest Service proposed to disregard identical "form" responses altogether. They would still consider unique input.
Agencies requesting comments wish to consider all possible aspects of all major issues. While special interest organizations write very useful opinions, those responses need only be submitted once. It may pay an individual to print an organization's opinions and attach them to their own letter, stating personalized exceptions and additions.
At the opposite extreme from point-and-click activism, one could hire an environmental attorney to respond. In a high-stakes situation this may be worth the expense, but an attorney cannot express the emotional or societal aspects of an issue as well as a personal letter. Both may be advisable. Federal environmental justice policies require agencies to consider economic and social issues prior to finalizing new rules.
When writing comments to agency proposals, keep in mind a few guidelines provided by BLM, their consultants, and FWS:
Write legibly or type. Your comments may be published.
Keep your comments relevant to the stated goals and purpose of the agency's proposal.
Be as specific and detailed as possible. If you write, that all the alternatives contained in the Draft EIS are inadequate, the reader cannot solve that problem. State which specific issue is unresolved, and suggest a solution. Sherry Barrett of FWS wrote, "I appreciate receiving suggestions on how something can be fixed, versus simply being told something is wrong. My analogy is that, if you're going to throw a rock at an issue, attach a note to the rock saying how you think it can be fixed."
Beth Defend from URS Corporation, a planning consultant for BLM, has read thousands of comments. She says to allow your emotions into your comments, but she warns that very emotional comments tend to get vague and less usable.
Limit your demands and suggestions to issues the agency can do something about. For example, the BLM cannot change National Monument boundaries or reverse the Clinton proclamation, nor can they judge Big Business or Gang Green to eternal damnation--so save your time and paper.
News from the Committee on Resources
Dec 03, 2003
Contact: Brian Kennedy or Nicol Andrews
Healthy Forests Initiative is Law
"Strongest environmental protection law signed since the Clean Water Act and the Clear Air Act," says Chairman Pombo
WASHINGTON (December 3) - Marking one of the principal accomplishments of this Congress and a key tenet of the Bush Administration's environmental policy, Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-CA) joined President Bush for the signing the Healthy Forests Restoration Act today. Pombo and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have been credited with negotiating the agreement that garnered final Congressional approval.
"This is the strongest environmental protection bill signed into law since the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act," Chairman Pombo said. "The seventy million acres of land classified by the U.S. Forest Service as 'at extreme risk' of catastrophic fire represent one of the single greatest threats to our environment today."
"The unnaturally dense, diseased, and insect-infested conditions in our national forests fuel the catastrophic fires that have burned over thirty-two million acres since 1997," Pombo continued. "These fires decimate wildlife and endangered species habitat, contaminate air quality and critical watersheds, and leave behind a path of destruction that leads to flooding and mudslides. President Bush's signature on this bill today will send forest managers to work to prevent future catastrophic fires, protect the environment and our communities, and preserve our national forests for future generations."
"I commend the hard work of Chairman Pombo, and Representatives Goodlatte and McInnis in crafting a strong bi-partisan proposal that provides us with more tools to do a better job in managing our public lands and reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfire to communities," said Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton.
"This law also creates a historic paradigm shift in the way federal courts consider legal challenges to hazardous fuels reduction projects," Chairman Pombo said. "It adds accountability and certainty to the appeals process by forcing the courts to weigh the environmental consequences of inaction when the threat of catastrophic wildfire looms. This will lessen the incidence of frivolous environmental litigation that keeps our experts behind desks dealing with paperwork instead of in the forests where we need them."
The environmental impact of catastrophic wildfire is astonishing and long lasting. Colorado's Hayman Fire, which decimated one of the main watersheds for the City of Denver, burned so hot that it sterilized the soil. Heavy rain following the fire created massive mudslides discarding mud and soot into Denver's largest supply of drinking water. Additionally, the fire annihilated several thousand acres of endangered species habitat, while also producing the worst air-pollution conditions in Denver's recorded history.
Other massive fires claimed a similarly irreversible environmental toll. Oregon's Biscuit fire destroyed 80,000 acres of prime habitat for the endangered Northern spotted owl, and Arizona's record-setting Rodeo-Chediski fire caused irreparable damage to the endangered Mexican spotted owl. Expediting the treatment of 20 million acres of federal forest land at extreme risk of wildfire (provided for in the new law), is vital for protecting communities and wildlife.
The law signals a critical step in the effort to clean up America's forests and prevent catastrophic wildfire, the likes of which most recently burned more acreage and damaged more property than any other in California's history. Thousands of acres of forestland and wildlife habitat were decimated, water supplies and air quality polluted, and family homes and human lives lost forever as a result of the fires that consumed California in October.
Chairman Pombo and members of the House Resources Committee will examine the California fire's damage on Friday (12/5/03) at an official committee field hearing in Lake Arrowhead, CA. The hearing will focus on the recovery effort and takes a helicopter tour of the disaster area.
For more on Healthy Forests, visit http://resourcescommittee.house.gov.
MOAB LAND USE UPDATE -- ACTION ITEM INCLUDED!
Dec 03, 2003
Dear Moab lovers,
USA-ALL is really exited to have Stephen Nielson do some volunteer work for us. You might remember Stephen as one of the students who organized that big Pro-Access Rally on Capitol Hill in Salt Lake City last year. Stephen put together this MOAB LAND USE UPDATE after attending the BLM's Scoping meeting in SLC last week.
I want to strongly urge you to TAKE ACTION on this item because the BLM has announced initiatives that will significantly reduce your access. Remember: USA-ALL is careful not to waste your time with needless ACTION ALERTS about every little issue. This one is IMPORTANT and we strongly urge you to get your letter into the BLM today!
Utah Shared Access Alliance
USA-ALL MOAB LAND USE UPDATE
URGENT ACTION REQUESTED
The Scoping period for the Moab Resource Management Plan revision process will end December 30th. This is a important part of the planning process when public comment is taken regarding Issues BLM will consider in its new management plan. It seems that most of the Scoping meetings had a good showing from the Pro-Access contingent, so this bodes well for our comments being taken seriously.
However, upon review, the BLM is considering several disturbing actions that may well change the way you recreate in the Moab area.
No joke! These initiatives are dangerous and may harm the ability of OHV Clubs to enjoy the trails of Moab in groups. We need you to TAKE ACTION TODAY!
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO:
Letters need to be sent to the BLM regarding several key issues. Please take a minute an read the information below and send your comments via email or U.S. mail as soon as possible. We've made it as easy as possible for you to understand these important issues. However, if you have any questions give Brian or Stephen at USA-ALL an email.
Send comments via email to: Brent Northrup at firstname.lastname@example.org. or via U.S. Mail to: Brent Northrup, 82 East Dogwood, Moab, Utah 84532 Comments must include your name and address. Be certain to mention that you want to be added to their mailing list so you will be notified of future opportunities to comment.
Information can be found on BLMs website at http://www.moabrmp.com . Preliminary issues can be found at http://www.moabrmp.com/documents.html (click "pre-plan")
Letters should include a brief description how important OHV recreation is to your family.
BLM is considering a policy that will require any organized group to apply for a Special Recreation Permit, pay a fee and be subject to environmental analysis and even to have insurance. BLMs current definition of a ``Organized group activity'' is: a structured, ordered, consolidated, or scheduled meeting on or occupation of the public lands for the purpose of recreational or other use that is not commercial. So if your clubs schedules a club ride -- you're subject to a mandatory $80 permit processing fee and a $4 per person per day fee. You also could be required to have insurance, and pay for environmental analysis of your event.
** Off-Highway Vehicles recreation is a family oriented social experience. OHV enthusiasts prefer to recreate in groups and are often belong to clubs and organizations. OHV clubs should be seen as a resource to BLM. Clubs can help leverage OHV grant money for OHV management and law enforcement. BLMs new plan should not make it harder for clubs and organizations to visit and enjoy the Moab area.
SPECIAL HINT FROM STEPHEN: Tell the BLM about your club and all of the great work you do. Tell them how your club instills a proper backcountry recreational ethic. Include a link to you clubs homepage so you can let them see for themselves how much we work at recreational ethic education. Ask them why in the world they would consider a policy that makes it HARDER for your club to have runs on Moab trails!
BLM is considering establishing a completely new management designation. They call it a "Backcountry Management Area". Sounds cool doesn't it? We wish we knew! Fact is, we've never heard of a BMA before, and we don't like it when the BLM suggests something that the public doesn't fully understand. It's also important because the BLM has been barred from designating any new Wilderness Study Areas (WSA). Could this be another way to designate a de-facto WSA? We don't know --- but our "concern-o-meter" is in the red zone!
** Ask them to clarify what a Backcountry Management Area is. Tell the BLM that you do not support de-facto Wilderness Study Areas whether they be BMA's or some other similar designation.
SPECIAL HINT FROM BRIAN: BLM is apparently attempting a Zone Management concept, which is not authorized by law or regulation. BLM must formulate management plans that reflect the Multiple Use/Sustained Yield policy of the United States regarding all public lands! Tell the BLM that they should abandon any designation that specifically manages for "wilderness character".
BLM has correctly identified OHV use as a Planning Issue. BLM needs to understand and acknowledge the value of vehicle base recreation. They need to know how important the Moab area is to your family.
** BLM should provide vehicle assisted public land visitors a full range of recreational opportunity.
** BLM should formulate a complete and accurate inventory of currently used travelways.
** BLM should realize that there is extensive opportunity for "primitive" recreational pursuits in adjacent National Parks. In Canyonlands National Park, for example, there is over 1/2 million acres of lands that are currently managed as Wilderness.
** There is no need to provide additional "primitive" opportunity. Conversely, there is a need to provide more designated motorized and mechanized trails.
Although BLMs current management plan permits pro-active OHV management, BLM has chosen to emphasize only the parts of their OHV policy associated with limitations and closures. We certainly appreciate the BLMs cooperation with the Red Rock Four Wheelers in marking some of the Easter Jeep Safari trails, but BLM could have done so much more.
** BLMs new plan should provide instructions to land managers to engage in cooperative management efforts with OHV groups.
** The new plan should recognize OHV clubs and organizations as a resource the BLM can use to leverage OHV grant money and to educate the public on proper backcountry recreational use.
There is an increasing demand for OHV recreation opportunities on public lands and National Forests. BLM frequently mentions that OHV use has grown in popularity, but then reacts by closing areas!
** BLM's new plan must prudently provide increased OHV recreation opportunities to meet current and anticipated demand.
** BLM planning must develop alternatives that provide for the dramatic increasing demand for OHV recreation opportunities and anticipate even more demand in future years.
TMTC Uvalde County Land Acquisition Update
Nov 10, 2003
TMTC's Acquisition of 2nd OHV Park In Texas On-Hold
November 6, 2003
Texas Motorized Trails Coalition (TMTC) would like to announce the important decision made today by the Executive Committee and Board of Directors to not continue with the land acquisition located in Uvalde County at this time due to the many uncertainties.
We will be looking forward to working with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to uphold the mandated resolutions governed by Senate Bill 155 which state off-road vehicle parks shall be created and opened throughout the State with guidance from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
At this time, TMTC would like to extend their appreciation to the Uvalde County community, including surrounding areas, for their outstanding support of our mission and vision. A special thank you goes out to Mr. Johnson, the property owner, for his patience and understanding. We wish him the best. Because of the support we have received, not only from the local community leaders, but also from the Uvalde County government, we plan to continue to search for land in this same area. If anyone in this area of South West Texas has suitable property that could become another nationally recognized Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) Park in Texas, please don't hesitate to contact us at http://www.texasmotorizedtrails.com/. We have Board Members ready to follow up on any serious inquiries.
We would like the membership to understand that TMTC Parks must be operationally self-sustaining. With the uncertainty surrounding this acquisition and the need to expend large amounts of funds, without assurances, it was decided it was not in the best interest of our not-for-profit organization. We have however learned valuable lessons that will be applied to our next acquisition attempt. We would like to publicly acknowledge the countless hours Carol Smith has given to this acquisition project and would like to say, "Thank you!" on behalf of ourselves and the membership of TMTC.
TMTC Board of Directors
Trails Really in My Backyard
Oct 31, 2003
by Brad Ullrich, Director of Environmental Affairs
In a recent edition of the Blue Ribbon Coalition magazine there was an article titled "Trails In Our Backyard" by the BRC Executive Director Clark L. Collins that got me thinking about the trails that really are in my backyard. I live in an area outside Aztec, NM that is surrounded by approximately 1 1/2 million acres of Bureau of Land Management managed land, and my yard backs up to some of that land.
The BLM managed lands in the Farmington, NM district are crisscrossed by thousands of roads due to the oil and gas industry in the area. And along with those roads there are numerous OHV routes ranging from hardcore rock crawling to single track dirt bike trails. Its those dirt bike trails and a few of the oil and gas roads I'd like to talk about here.
A couple hundred feet after I step out my back door I'm in a canyon that is BLM managed land. Going up that canyon to the ridge line are several dirt bike routes that lead through the forest or up the dry washes. Ultimately those routes connect up with an old road at the top of the ridge, from which you can see into four states. To the west is Arizona and the Chuska Mountains, to the northwest is Utah and The Sleeping Ute, to the north and northeast is Colorado and the LaPlata and San Juan Mountains, and all around are the canyons and mesas of northwest New Mexico.
As I write this a good sized chunk of southern California is burning, and when I look out at the vista mentioned in the previous paragraph I can imagine the same thing happening to what I am looking at.
California fire smoke in the four corners.
More smoke from the CA fires.
Much of what I can see is covered in a pinon pine and juniper forest, a forest that is ripe for a major fire caused catastrophe due to drought and the bark beetle. On a recent walk up the canyon behind my house I started to notice the number of pinon pine that are dead from the beetle, my estimate for my part of the world is the dead trees number at least 75% of the total number of trees. And those dead pinon pines are a fire waiting to happen.
What was once a healthy pinon pine.
Dirt biker framed by 2 dead pinon pines.
Recent events in the U.S. Senate by obstructionist Senators, including one of my own, Senator Bingaman, can easily bring the catastrophe that is facing southern California to the rest of the western United States. Under enormous pressure from the public the Senators yesterday finally agreed to an amendment to the president's Healthy Forests Legislation, designating 50% of the tree cutting is to be in urban interface areas, but it is probably too little too late. Decades of mismanagement have made the western United States into a giant tinderbox, proven by the current situation in California and recent events in Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Oregon.
Senators such as Bingaman of New Mexico, Boxer of California and quite a few others, mainly on the Democrat side of the aisle, are serving to perpetuate public lands mismanagement that started several decades ago, but really gained momentum under the Clinton/Gore administration, an administration that was firmly in the pocket of the radical environmental groups. These Senators, and quite a few Representatives, are, in my opinion, also "owned" by the same environmental lobby. And I say owned for a very specific reason, legislators that act in the manner that they do would have to be acting under the direction of that extreme lobby. And if they are not acting under their direction they are so afraid of the extreme environmentalists that they may as well be acting under their direction.
Ploys by the Senators such as Bingaman's delay last week of the Healthy Forests legislation and Boxer's repeated attempts to turn a good sized portion of California into wilderness only serve to reinforce the assumption that some of our legislators have an agenda that is in step with groups such as the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, Center for BioDiversity and many of the other radical environmental groups. These groups believe in zero logging, zero OHV use, zero mineral extraction, and anything else you can think of that is contrary to wise use AND wise management of our public lands. And even when the legislators reluctantly pass some common sense legislation their radical environmental comrades still whine and say things like this Sierra Club quote from an Investors.com editorial:
"They're going to need a lot more than 50%," said Sean Cosgrove of the Sierra Club. "That (amount) is still going to leave a lot of people at risk. The rest will likely be spent on logging projects miles away from any population center."
The persistent whining and claims that the Bush Administration is in cahoots with logging, mining and other extractive industries is, I believe, starting to wear a little thin with the public. But, unfortunately the extreme environmental groups just don't get it, and neither do their comrades in the U.S. Legislature. It's time that we weeded out these legislators, but how much more of the west needs to burn before we do?
It seems I digressed from my original topic, the trails in my backyard. It's really not a digression, though, those trails that I treasure that run through the forest that I live with everyday are in danger of becoming so much charred landscape and sterilized soil.
And it scares the hell out of me, not just for selfish reasons, but for what the radical environmental groups and their "owned" legislators are doing to much of our country. If you come in contact with people like Kieran Suckling of the Center for BioDiversity, Carl Pope of the Sierra Club, Dave Foreman of The Wildlands Project , Senator Bingaman or Boxer or any of the other legislators that have bought into the dangerous nonsense that they are propagating I urge you to let these people know exactly what it is that they are doing to our country.
Darn it, I digressed again! But how can I not digress onto the subject of the mess our public lands are in and who is causing that mess? Every time I look out my back door I can imagine a moonscape instead of a forest, and that moonscape extending as far as I can see from the top of the ridge. Like I said in the previous paragraph I'm scared of what is happening right now and what can happen if we continue to let the extreme environmentalists and their comrades in the legislature get their way. I've been battling this fear with action for many years, but unfortunately so much of the public, and specifically the OHV crowd, just sit back and let things happen; then after it happens the shouting starts and people become aware...momentarily, then back to what they were doing before anything happened.
I'm going to enjoy the trails in my backyard, and hopefully that enjoyment is not "enjoy them while you can".
The pinon pine in front is dying, the one in the rear is a healthy one.
But along with that enjoyment I take action to try to make a difference, two letters to Senator Bingaman in the past week or so took very little of my time, but they were something. I want to be able to use my Jeep and dirtbikes in the canyon behind my house, and everywhere else it is legal to go (a rapidly dwindling number of places thanks in huge part to the radical environmentalists), and use them responsibly while still trying to make a difference.
Healthy Forest Initiative Passes - A New Era In Environmental Management Has Begun
Oct 31, 2003
John Stewart, Director of Environmental Affairs
United Four Wheel Drive Associations
October 2003 will be a month to remember for years to come. It will be remembered for the devastating wildfires that have ravaged Southern California leaving death and destruction in their wake. It will also be remember for the passage of the Healthy Forest Initiative, HR 1904.
United Four Wheel Drive Associations expresses deep concern and sympathy for the families that have lost loved ones and homes in the wake of the destructive Southern California wildfires. As the damage assessments progress, the toll continues to rise.
United has long advocated management of our natural resources. The management actions include a comprehensive fuels reduction program within our forest and the urban forest interface. Almost six months ago, the U.S House of Representatives passed the Healthy Forest Initiative, HR 1904. This bipartisan initiative, supported by the administration, was sent to the Senate where it languished until the October 2003 wildfires. President Bush introduced the Healthy Forest Initiative after the disastrous 2002 Biscuit Fire in Oregon. United regrets that another major disaster was needed to move this much needed initiative forward.
On October 30, 2003, the Senate by a margin of 80-14 passed the Healthy Forest Initiative. During the Senate Discussions an editorial in the San Jose Mercury News was mentioned that likened the California wildfires to The Three Mile Island disaster as a turning point in policy.
Looking forward, this initiative is viewed as a turning point in the nation's history of environmental actions. The Healthy Forest Initiative brings hope for forests that will be a natural resource and a safe and memorable place to visit. Our children and our grandchildren will have a safe place to visit and experience our natural heritage.
The general public is deeply concerned about the condition of the environment and personal safety. They desire wildlife available for viewing and scenic vistas to enjoy. They also want to be feel safe while enjoying the natural wonders and in their homes. The public desires to share the natural heritage with friends and family today as well as in the future. How can our children learn and appreciate our natural heritage when native species are allowed to deteriorate and historic routes are routinely blocked or eradicated from existence?
United applauds the Representatives and Senators that have acknowledged that public safety is a major concern. The Healthy Forest Initiative signals a change in resource management philosophy that will lead to continued improvements in water and air quality for generations to come. This initiative will address the publics desire for safety now and for future generations while providing our children the opportunity to view the many natural wonders of public lands.
United Four Wheel Drive Associations is an international organization representing over 15,000 members. United advocates responsible recreation and supports open access to public lands. United members subscribe to the concepts of: 1) public access to public lands for their children and grandchildren; 2) condition and safety of the environment; and 3) sharing our natural heritage.
Fort Stanton Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC)
Oct 28, 2003
[Federal Register: October 27, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 207)]
>From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov] [DOCID:fr27oc03-97]
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Bureau of Land Management
Fort Stanton Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) Designation of Roads and Trails
AGENCY: Bureau of Land Management, Department of the Interior.
ACTION: Notice of closure of roads and designation of trails.
SUMMARY: The Roswell Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is closing roads and developing multiuse trails to protect resource values within the Fort Stanton ACEC. The Route Designation Plan (transportation plan) includes road closures, designating off- highway vehicle (OHV) routes, designation of multiuse trails, and closing roads, the use of which is causing damage within the ACEC. The designation is in accordance with the 1997 Roswell Resource Management Plan (RMP) and the Fort Stanton ACEC Final Activity Plan of March 2001. In accordance to the RMP and the ACEC Plan, approximately 24,000 acres will be designated as limited to designated roads and trails for OHV use, to protect soils, cultural resources, and vegetation, including threatened or endangered species. Twenty miles of roads will be closed, and twenty miles will be designated as open to OHV's. Sixty miles of multiuse hike/bike/equestrian trails will be designated. The Route Designation Plan is necessary to reduce the impact from recreationists to biological, archaeological, and scenic qualities of the ACEC, while providing for quality recreation opportunities.
DATES: This notice is effective October 27, 2003.
ADDRESSES: Bureau of Land Management, Roswell Field Office, Attention Paul T. Happel, Natural Resource Specialist, 2909 West Second, Roswell, New Mexico 88201. Internet e-mail: email@example.com.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For further information and/or to have your name added to our mailing list, contact Paul T. Happel, Natural Resource Specialist, at the address listed above, telephone number (505) 627-0203, during normal business hours (7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mountain Time).
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Instructions for filing a protest with the Director of the BLM may be found at 43 CFR 4.400. Any party to the case who is adversely affected by a decision of an officer of the BLM or an administrative law judge shall have a right to appeal to the Interior Board of Land Appeals. A person who wishes to appeal to the Interior Board of Land Appeals must file in the office of the officer who made the decision (the Roswell Field Office) a notice that he wishes to appeal. The authority for the proposed activities is under 43 CFR part 8342, which provides for the designation of roads and trails to protect resources of the public lands. This section goes on to require public participation, designation, and identification of designated areas and trails. Public meetings have been completed. Public participants were also involved in the NEPA process and were given an opportunity to comment on the Environmental Assessment for the Route Designation Plan. The RMP constitutes the formal designation process for OHV's. This Notice will serve as a public notice for the official designation and identification of specific roads and trails in the Fort Stanton ACEC. Appropriate informational material will be provided and available to the public at the BLM office. The Fort Stanton ACEC is located approximately 5 miles southeast of the village of Capitan, New Mexico, and approximately 10 miles north east of the village of Ruidoso, New Mexico.
The Roswell RMP designated Fort Stanton as an ACEC in 1997. A collaborative final activity plan was developed for the ACEC in March 2001. The ACEC Plan took approximately 2 years to complete with extensive public scoping and public assessment. The Route Designation Plan/Environmental Assessment was developed over an 18-month period with a collaborative work group. All public meetings were held in the evening, approximately 4 miles from the ACEC in the town of Capitan, New Mexico. This notice will not affect valid existing rights to public land users. Under the 1997 Roswell Resource Management Plan (RMP), the area will remain open to saleable mineral disposal. All public lands in Fort Stanton will remain withdrawn from the general mining laws, closed to the disposal of leaseable minerals, and to the leasing of oil and gas. Major rights- of-way will be excluded on the entire area. The area is also excluded from the Taylor Grazing Act. Unrestricted hiking will be allowed through out the area. OHV's will be limited to designated roads and trails. The Route Designation Plan/Environmental Assessment designates the routes of vehicle travel and multiuse trails within the ACEC. Presently, there are 40 miles of existing roads within the ACEC. The Plan closes approximately 20 miles of existing roads within the ACEC. These 20 miles of roads are causing severe environmental damage, are placed in the wrong locations, are dangerous to users, and will be closed to general public use within the ACEC. Approximately 60 miles of multiuse hike/bike/equestrian trails are designated by the Route Designation Plan and will be developed separately from the existing road system within the ACEC. The trails will allow the users to gain access into the back country of the ACEC without being in direct competition with the motorized vehicles using the area. Roads and trails will be signed with standard OHV signage. Information kiosks will be placed at all roads that enter the ACEC. Attached to the kiosk will be a road/trail transportation system map, OHV rules and regulations, and interpretive road and trail brochures. The principal author of these closures, trail, and road designations is Paul T. Happel of the Roswell Field Office, Bureau of Land Management, Department of the Interior.
Dated: September 12, 2003.
Linda S.C. Rundell,
[FR Doc. 03-26994 Filed 10-24-03; 8:45 am]
Final word on the Farmington BLM LRMP
Oct 16, 2003
[Federal Register: October 9, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 196)]
>From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access >[wais.access.gpo.gov]
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Bureau of Land Management
Notice of Availability of the Record of Decision for Proposed Farmington Resource Management Plan Revision and Environmental Impact Statement
AGENCY: Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico State Office, Interior.
ACTION: Notice of availability.
SUMMARY: In accordance with the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announces the availability of the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Proposed Farmington Resource Management Plan (RMP) revision and Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The revised plan addressed the oil and gas estate administered by BLM in the Farmington Field Office and the Albuquerque Field Office; the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Jicarilla District of the Carson National Forest; portions of the Coyote and Cuba Districts of the Santa Fe National Forest, and the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) for lands surrounding Navajo Reservoir. Other issues relating to landownership adjustments, Off-Highway Vehicle management, Specially Designated Areas, and coal leasing suitability were addressed only for lands administered by the Farmington Field Office. The USFS and BOR were cooperating agencies in preparation of the RMP. The Final EIS and Proposed RMP were available for protest from April 4, 2003, to May 5, 2003. All protests and comments were considered during the preparation of the ROD.
ADDRESSES: Copies of the ROD have been sent to affected Federal, State, and local Government agencies and to interested parties. The document will be available electronically on the following Web site: http://www.nm.blm.gov/. Copies of the ROD are available for public inspection at the following BLM office locations: Farmington Field Office, 1235 La Plata Highway, Farmington, NM 87401; and Albuquerque Field Office, 435 Montano Rd. NE, Albuquerque, NM 87107.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: James Ramakka, RMP Project Manager, Bureau of Land Management, Farmington Field Office, 1235 La Plata Highway, Farmington, NM 87401 (505-599-6307).
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This ROD approves the proposed revision to the Farmington RMP. The RMP provides guidance for managing approximately 1,415,300 acres of public land and 3,020,693 acres of Federal minerals in San Juan, McKinley, Rio Arriba and Sandoval Counties. The overall planning area encompasses 8,274,100 acres.
The ROD approves new decisions concerning oil and gas leasing and development, Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) designations, landownership adjustments, management of Specially Designated Areas, and coal leasing suitability. These decisions are intended to replace goals, objectives, management actions and conditions of use described in the 1988 Farmington RMP and subsequent amendments related to these matters. No other decisions of the 1988 Farmington RMP or amendments are affected.
Dated: August 14, 2003.
Linda S.C. Rundell,
New Mexico State Director.
[FR Doc. 03-25616 Filed 10-8-03; 8:45 am]
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