Northern Natural Resources Consultant Report - November 2019

As I sit here in the dark finishing up my November In-Gear article, with the distant hum of generators buzzing throughout the neighborhood, it’s easy to want to blame PG&E.

Which is worse: days without electricity that disrupt communities or catastrophic wildfires that tear through forests and threaten public health?

There isn’t an easy solution to these issues, but I feel that the real solution to California’s wildfire problem isn’t denying basic services to its citizens, it is simply active, common sense management of our public lands.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that strategic forest thinning and prescriptive grazing of ground fuels will result in fewer, more manageable fires.

It’s time for us to ask the question. Should we be forced to decide between powering our home or protecting it from a raging wildfire? If the answer is no, then tell your elected officials to support proactive management of our public lands.

AB1086- Carnegie SVRA Alameda/Tesla Expansion Property Legislation

Senate Bill 767 died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee and now has been resurrected into AB1086. AB 1086 is a "gut and amend" bill that has language very similar to SB767. Policy objections aside, this latest underhanded, last-minute attempt to rush through this legislation is a slap in the face to the very stakeholders who would be most affected by the proposal and is the very embodiment of why people don’t trust the legislative process. It is even more insulting, given that the property in question was specifically acquired using monies from the Off-Highway Vehicle Trust Fund more than 20 years ago. AB1086 was passed and on September 27 it was sent to the Governor’s desk for signature.

UPDATE: Governor Newsom vetoed the bill in a big victory for everyone associated with OHV recreation. Congratulations to everyone who attended hearings, sent letters, sent emails and made phone calls to the governor requesting that he veto AB1086.

Oceano Dunes SVRA Public Workshop Cancelled

The San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) recently canceled a public workshop on dust mitigation at the Oceano Dunes, citing California State Parks' failure to complete an adequate work plan for mitigation efforts in the park.

The workshop, which was planned for October 1, was initially scheduled so community members would have an opportunity to look over and discuss State Parks' plan for reducing dust emissions in the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. State Parks is required to submit such a report to the APCD and its Science Advisory Group annually as part of a legal order the agencies agreed to several months ago requiring State Parks to cut dust emissions in Oceano by 50 percent by 2023.

While State Parks did submit two drafts of an annual work plan for 2019 — the first on the August 1 deadline, and a revised version was completed by September 13 — both were rejected by the APCD and its Science Advisory Group.

State Parks officials said that despite the October 1 workshop cancellation, the agency remains committed to developing a "mutually acceptable" draft work plan and working with the APCD. State Parks outlined a number of ongoing dust reduction strategies at Oceano, including more than 100 acres of land that have been fenced off to riding, increased wind fencing, and plant installations.

Naval Air Station Fallon

This is the US Navy's premier tactical aviation training facility. Located 70 miles east of Reno, Nevada, the facility provides comprehensive integrated combat training to deploying carrier air wings.

The Navy’s Fallon Range Training Complex is seeking to withdraw and reserve for military use approximately 606,685 acres of public lands managed by the BLM, closing 359,928 of those acres to the public. If successful, this will increase military-controlled lands in the area to nearly 1,000 square miles — quadrupling their area of control from 239,575 acres. Their proposal includes the elimination of 74,400 acres of Wilderness Study Areas (WSA) in parts of the Clan Alpine Mountain, Job Peak and Stillwater Range WSAs.

The Navy held seven public meetings from December 10-13, 2018, to inform the public about the proposed modernization and the results of the environmental impact analysis.

  • Alternative 1 would allow continued OHV use only in the Dixie Valley Training Area.
  • Alternative 2 allows some shared recreational use of the Fallon Training Area by setting specific access dates, much like the compromise that was reached for California’s Johnson Valley at the Twenty-Nine Palms Marine base. But Alternative 2 does not include OHV use.
  • Alternative 3 would have similar restrictions and area removal sizes but would locate the removed areas in a way that minimizes OHV access restrictions.

Local OHV clubs support for Alternative 3 was contingent upon roads being added or boundaries modified to correct OHV legal trails and roads left disconnected by planned changes, and a Special Recreation Area being established outside the training range that recognizes motorized recreation as an approved use.

The public comment period for the Fallon Modernization Draft EIS ended on Feb. 14, 2019. Final selection of an Alternative will happen this winter. After the Navy issues the record of decision and receives final Congressional approval, the Navy will begin implementation.

Slick Rock Bridge Project 2019

The Slick Rock trail is located on the Stanislaus National Forest in the Lake Alpine Recreation Area, east-southeast of Lake Alpine in Alpine County.

The Joaquin Jeepers have been the adopt-a-trail club for the Slick Rock trail since the early 1960’s. The club has maintained an active role in keeping the Slick Rock open each year with many trail projects and trail clean-ups.

This year’s project on the Slick Rock Trail was to repair the bridge decking and rebuild one of the bridge approaches on the bridge crossing Duck Creek.

On Friday we started at the Home Depot in Lodi selecting the materials for the project. We picked up wood for the bridge decking and 120 bags of concrete for the bridge approach and transported it down to the Duck Creek bridge worksite.

Saturday, we had about 20 Joaquin Jeepers volunteers who helped us replace the damaged bridge decking, build forms for the bridge approaches, set the rebar and mix about 120 bags of concrete. It was a very long day but well worth the effort.

Next spring, we plan to do the other approach and finish replacing all the bridge deck boards.

Outdoor Recreation economy booms, outpacing farming, mining

Outdoor recreation, led by boating and fishing, made up 2.2% of the country's gross domestic product in 2017 and outpaced the overall economy's growth, according to a new government report.

The outdoor recreation economy in 2017 accounted for $427.2 billion in GDP, generated $778 billion in gross output and supported 5.2 million jobs and increased by 3.9%, a faster clip than the overall economy's 2.4% growth.

Outdoor recreation includes a variety of activities including biking, hiking, rafting, camping, skiing, snowboarding, boating, fishing, horseback riding, RVing, motorcycling and off-roading. This report also marks the first time the federal government compiled outdoor recreation economic data on the 50 states and District of Columbia. California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas were the top five states where outdoor recreation constituted the largest percentage of total U.S.

This is the second consecutive year Bureau of Economic Analysis has released data on the outdoor recreation industry's contribution to the national economy, a sign of the sector's expanding influence. The second full year of national data proves that the industry is a driving economic force across the country. The report also found that outdoor recreation now contributes more to the overall GDP than some other traditional industries, including farming, ranching and mining.

US Forest Service Maintenance Backlog

H.R. 1225, Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act has picked up momentum as was passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee on June 26. It is currently awaiting floor activity in the House. The bill, introduced by Rep. Bishop (R-UT), states that funds could not exceed $1.3 billion for any fiscal year and would be equal to 50% of all energy development revenues due and payable to the United States from oil, gas, coal, alternative or renewable energy development on federal land.

Eighty-four million people annually enjoy the 158,600 miles of trails managed by the USFS, which generates $9 billion in annual visitor spending and supports 143,000 jobs. Congress needs to act on addressing the deferred maintenance needs of the US Forest Service because further delays will ultimately be more expensive and result in unsafe conditions for forest users.

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About the Author

Jeff Blewett

Jeff Blewett

Natural Resources Consultant - North
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