BRC National Land Use Update -- June 2013

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June 18, 2013 7:52 PM

BRC National Land Use & Legislation Update

Greetings BRC Action Alert Subscribers!

Today's Land Use Update was a blast to write. There are a lot of really great things happening to protect your recreational access.

Among the items is news that the House passed the provision offered by Congressman Paul Cook  that would save the Johnson Valley OHV Area (A.K.A the Hammers). The provision now moves to the Senate. (Cook served as an Marine infantry officer, and during his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts)

Also in this update are two items of legal sweetness. Sweetness in the form of a federal court slap-down of foundation funded anti-recreation lawyers! Love it!! We also have an update on our lawsuit challenging the U.S. Forest Service's new planning regulations. DO NOT miss those items.

We also have news that the notorious anti-recreation activists at the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) have decided to participate in a collaborative effort to formulate a federal land bill for eastern Utah. We speculate below that SUWA might well play the role of the spoiler, participating only long enough to find a reason to bolt from the process and then appeal to President Obama to unilaterally impose SUWA's long sought plans for a Greater Canyonlands National Monument. With OHV trails near Moab and the San Rafael Swell in the cross-hairs, you won't want to miss this important update!

And finally, we've included a bit of Shameless Self Promotion via CNN's Anderson Cooper.

As always, please feel free to call or email if you have any questions or comments.

Brian Hawthorne
Public Lands Policy Director
BlueRibbon Coalition
208-237-1008 ext 102

Ric Foster
Public Lands Dept. Manager
BlueRibbon Coalition
208-237-1008 ext 107

BRC and California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs represent recreation in key lawsuit challenging new USFS planning rules

NOTE: We wouldn't be able to do this sort of thing without your support. Please check the “Shameless Self Promotion” item below. (Learn more about BRC's Legal Action Program here.)

Last August, BRC and the California Association of 4Wheel Drive Clubs (Cal 4 Wheel) joined forces with the other forest product and multiple use groups in filing a lawsuit to require the Forest Service to modify its new planning rule to avoid its devastating impacts on the health of National Forests, recreational uses of the forests and communities located nearby.

Earlier this month our opening brief was filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. The brief outlines the specifics in our case against the Forest Service for elevating such things as species viability, ecological sustainability, and ecosystem services over the five statutorily prescribed multiple uses: outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, and wildlife and fish purposes. You can read a copy of the brief here.

In the meantime, the USFS has proceeded on its merry way developing directives to guide each individual forest in implementing this lousy Planning Rule. The agency calls it a Planning Handbook and, as you might expect, it makes the situation even worse. You could say they have regulated forestry out of the U.S. Forest Service. And as we note in our analysis, it is perhaps the most anti-recreation management guidance we have ever reviewed. It is that bad.

In a recent blurb we posted, we wonder if the USFS hasn't lost its purpose. You can read that here. (Let's hope not.)

Also, check out the Planning Rule declaration by Don Amador, BRC's Western Representative.

House Passes Provision to Save Johnson Valley (A.K.A. the Hammers)

A plan promoted by U.S. Representative Paul Cook (CA) to save Johnson Valley from the expansion of the 29 Palms Marine Corps base passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The provision was included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The plan, originally introduced earlier this year as a stand-alone bill co-sponsored by Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (CA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, will now move to the Senate. If passed by the Senate, it will move to the President’s desk for his signature. The NDAA is legislation that authorizes the budget authority for the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy.

Cook’s proposal would officially establish the Johnson Valley OHV area for the purposes of recreation and designate it as the Johnson Valley National OHV Recreation Area. The withdrawn area would be designated specifically for recreational uses, however, the U.S. Marines Corps would be able to train within the OHV area twice per year. (And be prohibited from using any explosives that could be left behind!!)

Representative Cook stated; “This balanced approach, which has bipartisan support, puts public safety first while also allowing for recreational use. The Johnson Valley is essential to the off-highway recreational vehicle community. The end goal is to ensure that the NDAA still has this Johnson Valley language in it when it reaches the President’s desk later this year.”

Cook noted that a lot can happen as the NDAA moves through the Senate, so it’s essential for supporters of his proposal let Senators know how important it is to protect Johnson Valley for recreational use.

Cook is a member of the House Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs Committees. He served as an infantry officer and retired after 26 years as a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

Keep updated on this important issue by bookmarking the Save the website.

Bill to save the last remaining vehicle access to Outer Bank Beaches faces opposition from anti-access groups

Several anti-recreation groups are designating some of their foundation lobbying dollars in a all-out advertising campaign effort to oppose legislation that would restore vehicle access to North Carolina's Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

The legislation at issue is called the Preserving Access to Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area Act (H.R. 819 and S. 486). The bill was introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate after the National Park Service (NPS) eliminated most of the last remaining vehicle access to Outer Bank Beaches. The bill is being pushed by the Outer Banks Preservation Association (OBPA).

Check OBPA's Action Alert on the issue here.

With a key “mark-up” hearing scheduled Tuesday, June 18, 2013, the Defenders of Wildlife, the Audubon Society of North Carolina and the Southern Environmental Law Center will be running expensive radio and newspaper advertising in North Carolina. The new ad campaign will supplement print ads that ran last week in the Indy Week newspaper, which circulates in the Durham-Raleigh-Chapel Hill region.

Naturally, the radical anti-access perspective is, well, a bit skewed. The bill would simply restore existing restrictions implemented in 2007. But the uber-radical Defenders of Wildlife said it would “turn this great national park back into a parking lot."

Never missing the opportunity to demonize citizens who choose or are required to use vehicles for recreation, the radio ads claim "a small group of off-road vehicle owners" are putting "their special interests above the public good." Sheesh...

The advertising is apparently designed to convince key Senators to oppose the bill. No such advertising campaign is needed for Colorado's Senator Mark Udall, who chairs the National Parks Subcommittee. Udall supports the NPS closure. However, West Virginia's Joe Manchin has previously expressed strong support for the measure.

BRC's Greg Mumm is working with the OPBA on this issue and said it is distressing to see the wealthy foundations treat both visitors and local recreational users in such a shabby way. Mumm noted; “When the Cape Hatteras National Seashore was created, it was intended to protect and preserve recreational access to the beaches.” Mumm recently visited the area, met with the OBPA, folks and saw first hand what is really at stake. “The  real issues and the needs of the local communities don't seem to matter to the Park Service. They seem to care more about the wishes of the extreme environmental groups than Congressional intent.” Mumm added.

The OBPA is doing yeoman’s on this issue. Please support their efforts.

Utah Congressmen begin talks on Wilderness

All three of Utah's U.S. House representatives, led by Rep. Rob Bishop (UT), Chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation, are initiating a process to develop federal legislation aimed at addressing many of the contentious issues plaguing public lands management in six eastern Utah counties (Carbon, Emery, Grand, Uintah and Wayne).

It seems logical to assume that the effort was motivated by a letter sent to President Obama requesting yet another massive National Monument be designated near Moab, Utah. That request, signed by over 100 outdoor business members of the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), has been criticized by the entire Utah Congressional delegation, Utah's Governor Herbert and the affected counties. Indeed, Grand County (Moab) sent a letter to President Obama asking the he NOT designate a monument!

The big news here is that the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) has agreed to participate. This is big news because in such previous efforts, SUWA has been unwilling to even consider any proposal other than their gargantuan 10 million acre Wilderness proposal.

It is reasonable to assume that SUWA will play the role of the spoiler, participating only long enough to find a reason to bolt from the process and then appealing to President Obama to unilaterally impose SUWA's long sought plans for a Greater Canyonlands National Park.

While that may be a reasonable assumption, we should note that high level staffers from the Pew Foundation are participating, and when you have the people who fund a huge percentage of the anti-access efforts at the table, who knows what can happen.

State and local OHV groups are also participating in the effort, as well as BRC's Brian Hawthorne. Hawthorne wrote in a initial response to Congressman Bishop; “The latest [OIA} request for the President to designate a Greater Canyonlands monument has, perhaps unwittingly, brought attention to the fact that it is wildly out of line with what the people who live there want. Your work to bring together the knowledge of all of the state and national groups involved, as well as the local counties, is a welcome breath of fresh air.”

Stay tuned via BRC's Action Alert list to keep tabs on this important issue. Subscribe here.

The Wilderness Society and the Center for Biological Diversity slapped down by (GASP!) 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

Recently a federal appeals court gave The Wilderness Society (TWS) and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) a sweet, sweet slap-down on their attempt to close the few remaining roads on two northern Arizona National Monuments.

On May 28, 2013, a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a rare “Memorandum” in an appeal of a case originally filed in the U.S. District Court in Arizona. The case challenged the new Monument Management Plans developed by the Bureau of Land Management for the Grand Canyon-Parashant and Vermilion Cliffs National Monuments. Those plans closed hundreds of miles of roads previously open to the public (and eliminated all motorized trail use for good measure).

Of course, that wasn't enough for the TWS and CDB, so they marched into federal court seeking even more closures. Thankfully, the U.S. District Court, and now the Court of Appeals, denied their claims.

BRC's attorney, Paul Turcke, noted that the situation is noteworthy on several key points, especially since the court issued a “memorandum disposition,” which basically means the panel was so unimpressed by the appellants’ claims that it did not even merit a published decision. The memo is short and to the point, dispatching some key arguments such as definition of “road” in a monument proclamation.

Read and enjoy!

Will EPA's new 15% ethanol mandate ruin your engine?

We wanted to pass along the latest Action Alert from our partners over at the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA). AMA is fighting the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to approve “E-15” gasoline for use in 2007 and newer vehicles.

The new E15 gasoline formulation may appear at a nearby fueling station and OHV, snowmobile and powerboat enthusiasts need to be careful to avoid using this new fuel blend in their machines.

AMA and other groups are supporting legislation that would require EPA to reconsider their decision. Check out AMA's action alert here and please take action today!

Key Senators warn President Obama not to designate National Monuments for political gain

Citizens across public lands states are holding their breath as the 2014 midterm elections approach. Their access to scenic public lands could be jeopardized by a desire to influence voters in urban areas via the designation of new National Monuments.

Reacting to a statement by the Sierra Club that the president's designation of a National Monument near Browns Canyon in Colorado would help the re-election of Sen. Mark Udall (CO), key Senators sent a letter to President Obama opposing any unilateral designation of new National Monuments for political gain.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member David Vitter of Louisiana was joined by eight other key Senators including John Barrasso and Mike Enzi (WY), Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch (UT), Mike Crapo (ID), James Inhofe (OK) and Dean Heller (NV).

Using public lands for political gain is, sadly, all too common, and recently released White House documents show the Obama administration is considering how monument designation could potentially influence the 2014 midterms. (It has actually been a long term plan.)

BRC members know that the Washington D.C. Wilderness lobbyists have recently pushed hard for new National Monuments near Moab, Utah, in the Boulder-White Clouds in Idaho and in New Mexico's Organ Mountains.

Read the letter here.
Help mandate public involvement in any future National Monument designation. Click here.
Learn about plans to designate a massive new National Monument near Moab, Utah. Click here.

Shameless Self Promotion via CNN's Anderson Cooper

Fundraising is a necessary evil. Like it or not, there aren't any wealthy trusts and foundations funding efforts to protect OHV and snowmobile access. Groups like BRC depend on memberships and donations from our members to fund our work.

Over the weekend I saw a report on CNN on the worst charities. CNN's Anderson Cooper and Drew Griffin note that CNN and its partners have been reporting on this for more than a year, and yet the IRS doesn’t seem terribly interested in investigating their tax-exempt status.

Above the law: America's worst charities

BRC is a tax-exempt charitable organization. That means that any donation over and above membership dues are tax deductible. According to charity watchdog groups, no more than 35% of donations should go to fundraising costs. BRC spends just 7% of our budget on fundraising and 14% on administration.

[BRC Budgetary Pie-Chart]

Everyone at BRC is committed to making sure we have the funds needed to protect your recreational access. But we can only accomplish as much as funding allows. Please donate today!

May 23, 2016 1:40 PM
Sawtooth National Recreation Area Wants Your Input on the Wood River Travel Plan
The Sawtooth National Recreation Area (NRA) is announcing the availability of the proposed action for the Big Wood Travel Management Plan. The purpose of this plan is to bring road and trail use into compliance with the Forest Plan, laws, and regulations; to provide a system of roads and trails for public access and recreational travel; to manage resource impacts that are occurring due to the use of roads and trails; and to rehabilitate non-system routes identified as a problem
May 20, 2016 8:32 AM
CALIFORNIA - Public Invited to Rasor Off-Highway Vehicle Area Tour and Comment
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Barstow Field Office, has scheduled three tour rides of the Rasor Road Off-Highway Vehicle Area OHV area to identify locations used for riding, camping, as well as to assess use habits and general conditions of the area. The California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA) Plan of 1980 mandated a recreation plan to address the intensive OHV activity of the Rasor Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Area. Public meetings were held on April 28, May 5, and May 12
May 13, 2016 2:38 PM
Public Comment Period on BLM Little Rockies Travel Management Plan Extended
The Bureau of Land Management Malta Field Office is seeking public input about the Little Rockies Travel Management Plan. The BLM is looking for input on motorized vehicle, off-highway vehicle, snowmobile and non-motorized transportation uses on public lands in the Little Rockies Travel Management Planning Area of Phillips County. The 30-day scoping period which began on April 5, 2016, has been extended until July 6, 2016.
[Action Alerts Archive]