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May 15 & 16, 2008 - Bureau of Land Management

By Carlos Cox,2014-09-01 01:25
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May 15 & 16, 2008 - Bureau of Land Management

    Bureau of Land Management

    Northeast California Resource Advisory Council

    Field Tour and Business Meeting

    May 15-16, 2008

    Alturas, California

    Summary Minutes

    Thursday, May 15

    Members toured BLM public lands adjacent to the Kramer Ranch, north of Nubieber and discussed a proposal for exchange of approximately 900 acres of public lands for a public conservation easement on adjacent private lands and the BLM-managed lands proposed for exchange. The public lands in question have been identified in the Alturas Resource Management Plan for disposal from public ownership. The group also toured the Big Valley Power biomass power plant and sawmill.

    Friday, May 16

Opening Business

    Approvals: The agenda was changed to include discussion about the Kramer Ranch exchange proposal. There were no changes to the notes from the February meeting.

Attendance

    Category One: Skip Willmore, Ken McGarva, Jack Razzeto. Absent: John Erquiaga, Todd Swickard.

    Category Two: Martin Balding, Gale Dupree, Frank Bayham, Alan Cain. Absent: Rosalee Bradley.

    Category Three: Pete Neely, Nancy Huffman. Absent: Tim Garrod, Henricus Jansen, Mike Dunn.

    There is no majority present in category three, and therefore, no quorum of the

    RAC

    BLM Staff: Alturas Field Manager Tim Burke, Eagle Lake Field Manager Dayne Barron, Acting Surprise Field Manager Ken Collum, NorCal Public Affairs Officer Jeff Fontana.

Correspondence

    Bureau of Land Management Northeast California Resource Advisory Council Summary Meeting Notes, May 15-16, 2008, Alturas, California

    Jeff Fontana shared an email farewell from member Henricus Jansen, who has chosen not to seek a new term, a letter from State Director Mike Pool on the RAC’s wild horse and burro recommendation and a letter from Eagle Lake residents Ted and Patricia Cook on wind energy development proposals for Eagle Lake (attachments).

State Office Update

    Tim Burke presented the report on behalf of State Director Mike Pool, who sent his regrets at not being able to attend. Highlights:

    ; BLM Director Jim Caswell’s priorities remain focused on Healthy Lands

    Initiative, Managing for Excellence, National Landscape Conservation System

    and grazing regulations.

    ; New legislation signed by the President established the Piedras Blancas Light

    Station (Bakersfield Field Office) as an outstanding natural area, with the

    legislation marking the first time the NLCS has been formally mentioned in

    legislation.

    Nancy Huffman suggested a RAC recommendation urging that decision making remain at the local level when the BLM’s new three-tier structure is put into place. She said it is important for the RAC to provide some advice in that area. The item will be added to the next meeting agenda.

Field Tour Discussion

    Tim Burke noted that the concept of exchanging public lands for a publicly-accessible conservation easement on private lands stems from the BLM’s Sustaining Working Landscapes Initiative, with the legal authority found in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. The exchange was proposed by the Kramer Ranch, which has a grazing permit on the affected public lands. The California Deer Association has expressed interest in managing the conservation easement to improve deer habitat. Tim said there has been some local opposition from people who are concerned that they will lose access to the area which is used for hunting and firewood cutting. Tim said the BLM’s interest is to be sure the exchange would be in the best public interest.

    Nancy asked for continuing discussion and a possible recommendation at the next meeting.

    Gale Dupree said the involvement of the California Deer Association is positive and could generate some public support. He suggested that the isolated 40-acre public parcel should also be disposed from public ownership through this proposed exchange.

    Martin Balding suggested an easement contain a clause for continued BLM influence in land management decisions and public access.

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    Bureau of Land Management Northeast California Resource Advisory Council Summary Meeting Notes, May 15-16, 2008, Alturas, California

    Resource Management Plan

    Dayne Barron summarized recent activities, including signing of the records of decision putting the plans into place for the Alturas, Eagle Lake and Surprise field offices. RAC members have received signed records of decision and executive summaries of the plans. The proposed final plans are now in place. An appeal period is currently ongoing for the off-road travel designations. Dayne said plan protests were resolved through minor clarifications in the plans.

    The field office staffs will now establish strategies to implement the plans. There will probably be staff workshops to focus on implementation. As part of the process, the staffs will identify projects, actions and funding needs.

Alan Cain questioned the impacts of budget reductions on BLM’s ability to implement

    plans. Dayne noted that the field offices will determine funding needs, but noted that ability to implement will be budget dependent.

    Gale questioned BLM's ability to enforce new OHV regulations, now that off highway vehicle use is largely limited to established roads and trails. Pete Neely agreed there is historic use of some areas and suggested that BLM will need to find ways to deal with the issue. Both noted that there are limited numbers of signs informing users about closed routes.

    Dayne noted the road inventory leading to travel designations was extensive and benefited from public involvement, including the Lassen Motorcycle Club. He said the BLM will use approaches including public information and education to inform off road riders of the new route designations.

    Pete Neely expressed concern that off road users will have difficulty determining which roads are open and which are closed to their use, and worried that well intentioned OHV users could be cited for using routes they thought to be open.

    Ken Collum noted that the route surveys were highly detailed and included every obvious route for inclusion in the plans. Closed routes were rare.

Martin suggested that moving route information into the electronic age GPS systems

    should be considered. Skip Willmore said the BLM should concentrate on preventing creation of new routes, not closing existing roads. He said the public is concerned about losing access to routes they have always used and having no voice in the matter.

    Nancy suggested creating a core subgroup that could work with the BLM on land use plan implementation. The field managers were supportive and said they would welcome input.

    Action: Gale Dupree (category two), Jack Razzeto (category one) and Pete Neely

    (category three) volunteered to serve on the subgroup. Nancy Huffman will attend

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    Bureau of Land Management Northeast California Resource Advisory Council Summary Meeting Notes, May 15-16, 2008, Alturas, California

    as chair as needed. The group will follow charter provisions to add members as

    needed

Sage Steppe EIS

    Tim Burke led a discussion about release of the environmental impact statement for the sage steppe restoration management strategy. The final EIS was published in the Federal Register this month The BLM expects to sign a record of decision this summer upon completion of consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service. The agencies distributed more than 500 letters advising of availability, posted materials on the internet and announced the availability broadly via the news media.

    In summary, the management strategy is designed to address sage-steppe ecosystem health primary by reducing stands of invasive juniper and completing follow-up actions. The treatment area is 44 percent public land managed by the BLM, 40 percent private land and 19 percent national forest land. The strategy does not direct actions on private land, but provides management guidance that landowners could choose to follow.

    Tim said interested members of the public raised a large number of issues when the draft EIS was released, including concerns about road construction, uncertainty of results, grazing impacts, livestock industry impacts, noxious weed encroachment, wildlife impacts, protection of old-growth juniper, impacts on sagebrush obligate species, erosion, air quality, cultural resources impacts and local economic impacts.

The proposed alternative in the EIS proposes:

    ; Treating 14,000 acres annually for the first 10 years,

    ; Increasing the rate to 21,000 acres annually during the second decade, and

    ; Increasing to 34,000 acres yearly in the later years.

    The plan is designed to be in place for 47 years, treating about four million acres. He stressed the goal of the plan is achieving natural resource improvements, not treating specific numbers of acres each year.

    Tim said an important component of the plan is an adaptive management strategy which calls for close monitoring of treatment results, annual reports, public reviews and changes in treatment strategies if desired results are not being achieved.

    He said release of the final EIS is a major milestone for the BLM, Forest Service and Modoc County, and commended the RAC for its strong support.

Eagle Lake Wind Energy

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    Bureau of Land Management Northeast California Resource Advisory Council Summary Meeting Notes, May 15-16, 2008, Alturas, California

    Dayne updated the RAC on wind energy proposals now under consideration by the field office. He distributed an updated summary chart (attachment).

    He said Invenergy submitted a plan of development for its Horse Lake Project, and noted the Eagle Lake Field Office responded with a letter of deficiency, pointing out required changes in the POD to meet BLM requirements.

    He stressed that all proposals are preliminary and in the wind data research stages now. Final plans of development have not been received.

    Dayne noted that BP is interested in a renewal of its wind testing right of way in the Spanish Springs Peak area. The company cannot yet prepare a plan of development because there is no power transmission capability in the region.

    Dayne noted that as currently envisioned, the Horse Lake Project would probably be inconsistent with visual resource management provisions of the resource management plan which calls for protecting the views from the Eagle Lake Basin. If the company submits a plan of development for the area, the BLM would have to consider amending the plan’s visual resource management classifications to allow development. Dayne said

    there are no guarantees that the plan would be amended, said he has encouraged the company to consider development in areas that don’t have the visual resource management constraints as the Horse Lake Project. He said the company has purchased the rights to the CMS Wind Project at Shaffer Mountain and has a right of way on public lands west of Ravendale where visual resource management designations are not as restrictive.

    Dayne also noted that Invenergy has power transmission opportunities for the Horse Lake Project on existing Lassen Municipal Utility District lines, especially if LMUD upgrades the lines.

    He also noted that discussions are underway regarding a proposed east-west transmission line that would run from the Ravendale area to a point near Round Mountain and a connection with California’s power distribution grid. Proponents would like to have the line in place no later than 2015. Such a transmission line could provide needed transmission capabilities for projects along the Highway 395 corridor.

    Dayne also expressed interest in convening a “community conversation” about wind energy potential in the region, and is working to find a neutral third party that would be willing to facilitate a discussion.

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    Bureau of Land Management Northeast California Resource Advisory Council Summary Meeting Notes, May 15-16, 2008, Alturas, California

RAC Comments:

    Martin Balding said any wind data information collected from public land meteorological towers should be public. Pete and Frank Bayham agreed. Martin added that the BLM should consider viability of wind energy projects before they area approved and “should not just take a company’s word for it.”

    Pete suggested that wind energy proponents should have to demonstrate that there is a need for the power before any developments are approved.

    Frank suggested that all projects should be discussed and reviewed in a cohesive way, addressing the cumulative impacts of all proposals.

    Alan Cain said the recreation-dependent economies of places such as Eagle Lake must be taken into consideration before wind energy development is approved.

Public Comments

    Deby Bush: Eagle Lake. Said she is concerned with the impacts of wind energy development to the scenic quality of the region. She summarized her concerns in a letter to the RAC (attachment). She said there is marginal wind energy potential for the Horse Lake Project, and suggested wind energy companies are trying to rush projects into development to take advantage of tax incentives.

    Jim Bush, Eagle Lake: Stated his opposition to the Horse Lake Project

    Robert Heck, Eagle Lake property owner. The VRM Class 2 designations (in the Willow Creek Valley/Eagle Lake region) are appropriate. He has seen nothing that would compel the BLM to change them. He said wind energy company need to look at alternate locations.

Field Managers Reports

    Tim Burke presented a written report (attachment) covering drought conditions, grazing permit renewals, range improvement projects, timber sales, juniper treatment projects, prescribed fires, rail banking, and the Infernal Caverns site.

    Eagle Lake: In addition to his written report (attachment), Dayne updated the council on the Western States Mustang Challenge, sage grouse conservation and the possibility of an Endangered Species Act listing for the sage-grouse.

    Surprise: Ken Collum summarized a written report (attachment) covering rangeland management, wild horses, wildlife management, drought conditions, energy and minerals, cultural resources, soil and water, vegetation management, noxious weeds management, sage grouse surveys, fire and fuels, the Experimental Stewardship

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    Bureau of Land Management Northeast California Resource Advisory Council Summary Meeting Notes, May 15-16, 2008, Alturas, California

    Committee, land acquisitions and boundary adjustments with the Winnemucca Field Office.

Gale Dupree (member): Announced the citizen’s guide to NEPA is available, and noted

    that a document on juniper and pinyon expansion is available on the internet. He said the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge is working on its comprehensive conservation plan. The next public meeting on the topic is June 11 in Reno.

Closing business

    The next meeting is Thursday and Friday, Sept. 18-19 in Cedarville. The field tour will be held the first day, focusing on cultural resource management. Agenda topics include an update on RMP implementation, wind energy, the Kramer Ranch exchange, and an overview of the BLM cultural resource program, including management protocols with the Nevada and California historic preservation offices.

The meeting was adjourned at 12:30 p.m.

Summary notes compiled by

    Jeff Fontana, BLM public affairs officer

    Note: Referenced attachments are available by contacting Jeff Fontana, (530) 252-5332 or at jfontana@ca.blm.gov.

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