Grazing Will Remain a Controversy on Carrizo Monument Under the New Plan

SLO Tribune: Finally, A Plan for the Carrizo
The plains monument has its first management guidelines, which will direct it for 20 years
By David Sneed | dsneed@thetribunenews.com

Nearly a decade after it was created, the Carrizo Plain National Monument has its first resource management plan.
The plan uses grazing as a management tool for helping rare plants and animals and provides additional protections for those parts of the monument that have wilderness qualities. The plan will determine how the monument is managed for the next 20 years.
Jim Abbott, the Bureau of Land Management’s state director, formally approved the plan Saturday at a celebration at the monument, which attracted more than 400 people. Many were drawn by one of the most spectacular wildflower displays seen at the monument in years.

Tucked into San Luis Obispo County’s southeast corner, the monument covers about 250,000 acres, 206,000 of which are managed by the BLM. Other organizations, such as the Nature Conservancy and the state Department of Fish and Game, own holdings within the monument and helped write the management plan.
“The plan is really a major achievement for the various parties,” said Scott Butterfield, Carrizo program manager for the Nature Conservancy. “It’s amazing that everyone has come together to recognize the importance of the place.”
The plan is generally being greeted with support. However, the issue of grazing continues to attract some controversy.
Historically, the monument was heavily grazed. Now, cattle along with prescribed fires and other tools are used to create a habitat that is beneficial to the many rare and endangered plants and animals that live there.
The starkly beautiful Carrizo Plain is often described as California’s Serengeti, because it contains the last remnants of the grasslands that once covered the Central Valley. It also contains Painted Rock, a significant Native American rock art site, and highly visible sections of the San Andreas Fault.
Many environmental groups have praised the management plan. These include the Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club. They particularly like that the plan gives added protection to 60,000 acres where roads and motorized vehicle use is minimized.
Other groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity say the management plan is a good start, but they don’t want any grazing to be allowed. They contend that scientific evidence shows grazing is harmful to endangered species.
The monument was created in 2001 in the final days of the presidency of Bill Clinton. It has been managed using cooperative plans drawn up in the late 1900s.
The BLM began drafting a new resource management plan in 2003. That effort foundered because of controversies over grazing and oil drilling as well as the death of monument manager Marlene Braun in 2005. Efforts to write a management plan were restarted in 2007.
Reach David Sneed at 781-7930.

As this article points out, grazing will remain a controversy. There are no scientific studies that show that grazing is beneficial to the Plain. It was over this issue that Marlene Braun found herself locked in a struggle with her supervisor, Ron Huntsinger, and the top BLM California bureaucrats, Jim Abbott (now director of BLM California) and Mike Pool (appointed by the Obama administration as Deputy Director of Operations in DC).

****UPDATE****
Carrizo Plain Management Plan Unveiled
Thursday, April 22, 2010
by MATT KETTMANN

The long-awaited, first-ever management plan for the Carrizo Plain National Monument — a 200,000-plus-acre, grassland-covered landscape in southeastern San Luis Obispo County known as “California’s Serengeti” — was released earlier this month and prescribes wilderness protection for some areas while using livestock grazing on other spots to aid native plant and animals. While the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations applauded the plan, the Center for Biological Diversity decried the grazing, arguing that such practices harm species such as the rare kit fox and giant kangaroo rat. Those who’d like to visit the Carrizo while helping to improve the habitat for pronghorn antelope and tule elk should sign up for Los Padres ForestWatch’s fence removal weekend, May 1 and 2, by emailing info@lpfw.org.

Comments

The Sierra Club together with the Center for Biological Diversity, Los Padres ForestWatch and Western Watersheds Project all lodged protests about the proposed RMP see http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/mediali…
Cal and Letty French, (tel 239-7338 Prefer e-mail
lettyfrench@ gmail.com) from the Sierra club are also leading the next weekend on the CPNM.

John_Weatherman
April 22, 2010 at 3:40 p.m.

Carrizo Is Place of Togetherness: Chumash

Taft Midway Driller

Carrizo Plain: ‘This land has always brought people together’

By Doug Keeler
Taft Midway Driller
Posted Apr 15, 2010 @ 10:40 AM
Last update Apr 15, 2010 @ 12:39 PM
Taft, Calif. —

Carrizo Plain, the people who treasure it now, and the people who have treasured it for centuries met Saturday in a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the National Landscape Conservation System.

Its something that has been going on for a long, long time, as long as anyone can remember

“This land has always brought people together,” said Pilulaw Khus, an elder of the Bear Clan of the Coastal Chumash Nation.

The Carrizo’s natural beauty and human history provided the backdrop for the observance on a cool breezy day.

From Painted Rock, a sacred site to the Native Americans and a nesting area for rare raptors, to El Saucito Ranch, the first European settlement on the plain, and wildflower tours later in the day, it was a celebration of the land and its importance to those who know it.

Tributes were handed out to the public and private partners involved in the Carrizo, including the Bureau of Land Management, who manages the monument and works in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy and the California Department of Fish and Game, the Friends of Carrizo and others.

Among those honored was Ray Hatch of Taft.

Monument Manager Johna Hurl cited Hatch, which was unable to attend the events, for his work not only on the Friends of Carrizo Board and Carrizo Advisory County, but for helping promote the area through the Taft Chamber of Commerce.

“Taft was our first gateway city and Ray Hatch was instrumental in that,” Hurl said.

David Dennis, president of the Friends of Carrizo, was also singled out.

Dennis, a teacher at Taft Union High School, is also a Carrizo Plain resident.

Saturday’s celebration also marked the completion of the Carrizo Plain Management Plan. BLM officials in attendance included Hurl, Tim Smith, head of the Bakersfield BLM office; California Acting State Director Jim Abbot and Central California District Manager Kathy Hardy

Khus spoke of the relationship between the Chumash and the Carrizo through the centuries.

“This land, the Carrizo, is very important,” she told the gathering at El Saucito Ranch. “It has been since the beginning of time.”

For centuries, until European settlers settled it in the 19th century, it was a place where the Chumash and Native Americans of many nations gathered in the Carrizo, Khus said.

They came for sacred rites at sites like Painted Rock and for councils.

To this day, the Native Americans have an obligation, a sacred responsibility to the land and to the spirits.

“We have to take care of it,” Khus said. “No matter who else is here, we have to take care of it.”

But as the Europeans turned it into farmland, growing wheat, and grazing sheep and cattle, that task became difficult, she said.

Years of mistrust between the Native Americans and the settlers followed.

But the people of the BLM, Friends of Carrizo and others have helped build a new relationship, Khus told more than 100 people, many of the BLM employees and their families.

“People really care about this place,” Khus said. “They go way beyond their job to keep track of this place. We gave them a lot of trust and they returned the trust.”

Khus spoke from the porch of the El Saucito Ranch as the crowd sat under large cottonwood trees.

The program was held after a barbecue lunch that followed tours of Painted Rock

Just before the program started, a large white barn owl flew of the lawn.

Khus also paid tribute to former Carrizo Monument Manager Marlene Braun, who died in 2005.

“She loved this land more than her life,” Khus said. “She didn’t want to leave this land. I know there are still times when Marlene and her dogs still run this land because she loved it so much.”

The Carrizo Plain is a part of that system which was created a decade ago to provide an overarching guidance plan for the Bureau of Land Management’s 27 million acres of National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Wilderness Areas, Wilderness Study Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, National Scenic and Historic Trails, and Conservation Lands of the California Desert.

Carrizo Plain National Monument’s Plan Stiffs Conservation in Favor of Cattle

The actions of the Obama Administration on environmental matters is disappointing to say the least. Now, the Carrizo Plain National Monument has a plan, and The Wilderness Society published an article lauding the newly adopted plan and the protections it will give endangered species of flora and fauna. The Center for Biological Diversity gives the plan a more negative and mixed review.

Below is the Center for Biological Diversity’s press release.

For Immediate Release, April 9, 2010

Contact: Michael Connor, Western Watersheds Project, (818) 345-0425 (w); (818) 312-4496 (mobile); mjconnor@westernwatersheds.org
Ileene Anderson, (323) 654-5943 (w); (323) 490-0223 (mobile); ianderson@biologicaldiversity.org
Carrizo Plain National Monument’s Plan Comes Up Short for Conservation

SAN FRANCISCO— The Interior Department has put in place a 20-year plan for California’s Serengeti – the Carrizo Plain National Monument – that sacrifices rare wildlife habitat and native-plant preservation to entrenched livestock-grazing interests. Located in the western foothills of California’s San Joaquin Valley, the monument was created in 2001 to protect the visual splendor, cultural resources, rare plants, and wildlife of the valley’s largest remaining native habitat. The Carrizo Plain, an arid plain formed by the San Andreas fault, includes 206,635 acres of Bureau of Land Management-administered lands as well as lands administered by the state, private entities, and conservation groups.

“The Carrizo Management Plan is a step forward,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, “but it still fails to recognize the science, which clearly shows that grazing hurts rare species.”

While the management plan is an improvement over the Bureau’s long history of neglect of the Carrizo, it inexplicably allows livestock grazing to continue despite scientific studies that confirm grazing activities degrade habitat and undermine the long-term conservation of wildlife. The national monument is home to many endangered and rare species, including the San Joaquin kit fox, blunt-nosed leopard lizard, giant kangaroo rat, California condor, pronghorn antelope, tule elk, vernal pool species, and a suite of rare native plants.

“The BLM is trying to argue in this plan that livestock grazing should continue as a management tool, but all the science shows the opposite,” said Michael Connor, California director of Western Watersheds Project. “The science shows that cattle presence on the plain increases nonnative weeds, is detrimental to rare plants, and impacts federally protected species, so this simply is not a viable approach.”

“In the face of a changing climate, preserving the Carrizo Plain ecosystem with its suite of rare and imperiled species is imperative if we are to recover these species in the wild,” said Anderson. “The Bureau of Land Management’s previous management was based on 19th-century practices; the new plan moves the Bureau’s practices into the 20th century, but they still need to get to the 21st.”

Here are some of the public comments. The BLM’s RMP process can be found here.

If you have thoughts about the plan, please share them in the comments section.

Carrizo Plain as National Monument May Not Last Forever

Bring Down Barbed Wire

Volunteer Carrizo Plain Excursion to Remove Disruptive, Destructive Fences
Friday, February 19, 2010
By Jordan Miller

Camping, hiking, and eating a potluck dinner are some of the activities that local volunteers will participate in this weekend at the Carrizo Plain National Monument as they work to remove barbed wire fences that have inhibited pronghorn antelope from enjoying their natural habitat.

Rebekah Rafferty of Los Padres Forest Watch describes the pronghorn as “the fastest land mammal native to North America” and is worried that “abandoned barbed wire fences currently fragment the pronghorn’s movement … [They] cannot jump high enough to clear them.” To help the antelope roam freely once more, Los Padres Forest Watch is organizing a weekend excursion to Carrizo that will highlight the beauty of the plain while respecting its natural inhabitants by removing the dangerous clutter that prevents the antelope from exercising their freedom.

While the Carrizo Plain has been deemed a national monument, it may not last forever. Recent stimulus bills have inspired multiple companies to begin major planning and seemingly inevitable construction in the plains. This will reportedly not only displace the wildlife population but also destroy countless acres of serene nature. In other words, this may be the best time to catch a glimpse of the fleeting beauty that has been heralded as a natural treasure. [Emphasis added]

The weekend trip begins on Saturday, February 20 at 8:30 a.m. at the Goodwin Visitors’ Center. Food, water, gloves, and camping gear are essential for the trip. If you wish to join, contact Rebekah Rafferty at Rebekah@LPFW.org with the subject as “Pronghorn Fence Removal” and include a name, address, phone number, and number of people attending.

Carrizo Advisory Committee Meeting Jan. 23: Public Comment on the CPNM Plan

Meeting Announcement

Taft: Carrizo Advisory Committee Plans January Meeting
January 8, 2010

The Bureau of Land Management’s Carrizo Plain National Monument Advisory Committee will meet Jan. 23 at the Carrisa Elementary School to discuss management planning for the monument.
The school is located approximately two miles northwest of Soda Lake Road on Highway 58. The public meeting will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be a public comment period from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Lunch will be available for $8 or you may bring a sack lunch.
“At this meeting, monument staff will present updated information on the progress on the Carrizo Plain National Monument Resource Management Plan and the Environmental Impact Statement,” said Johna Hurl, BLM monument manager.
The BLM released its proposed RMP and final EIS on Nov. 13 and a 30-day protest period ran through Dec. 14.

The nine-member committee advises the Secretary of the Interior, through the Bureau of Land Management, on a variety of public land issues associated with the public land management in the Carrizo Plain National Monument in Central California. The public may present written or verbal comments. Depending on the number of persons wishing to comment and the time available, the time allotted for individual oral comments may be limited. Individuals who plan to attend and need special assistance such as sign language interpretation or other reasonable accommodations should contact BLM as indicated below.
Committee members are: Dale Kuhnle, Carrisa Plains; Neil Havlik, PhD (Chairman), San Luis Obispo; Ellen Cypher, PhD, Bakersfield; Michael Khus-Zarate, Fresno; Raymond Watson, Bakersfield; Jim Patterson, Atascadero; Carl Twisselman, McKittrick; Raymond Hatch, Taft; Robert Pavlik, San Luis Obispo.
For more information, contact Hurl at the BLM Bakersfield Field Office, 3801 Pegasus Drive, Bakersfield, Calif. 93308, telephone (661) 391-6093, e-mail HYPERLINK mailto: Judith_Sackett@ca.blm.gov Judith_Sackett@ca.blm.gov or go to website HYPERLINK http://www.ca.blm.gov/news/rac.html http://www.ca.blm.gov/news/rac.html.

Salazar says Reform Due for Oil and Gas Leases on Public Lands

Taft: Interior Secretary Salazar Launches Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reforms
Reforms Will Make Oil Drilling Tougher on Public Lands, Carrizo Plain
January 8, 2010

Citing a need to improve certainty and order in oil and gas leasing on U.S. public lands, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced several reforms that the Bureau of Land Management will undertake to improve protections for land, water, and wildlife and reduce potential conflicts that can lead to costly and time-consuming protests and litigation of leases. Interior will also establish a new Energy Reform Team to identify and implement important energy management reforms.
“The previous Administration’s anywhere, anyhow policy on oil and gas development ran afoul of communities, carved up the landscape, and fueled costly conflicts that created uncertainty for investors and industry,” said Secretary Salazar. “We need a fresh look – from inside the federal government and from outside – at how we can better manage Americans” energy resources.
Les Clark of the Independent Oil Producers Association told the Independent that the IOPA opposes these new guidelines and said that the government is just making it more difficult for oil producers to lease and explore for oil on public lands.
According to Salazar, the new guidance BLM is issuing for field managers will help bring clarity, consistency, and public engagement to the onshore oil and gas leasing process while balancing the many resource values that the Bureau of Land Management is entrusted with protecting on behalf of the American people. “In addition, with the help of our new Energy Reform Team, we will improve the Department’s internal operations to better manage publicly owned energy resources and the revenues they produce.”
Many of the reforms that the Bureau of Land Management will undertake follow the recommendations of an interdisciplinary review team that studied a controversial 2008 oil and gas lease sale in Utah.
Congressman Kevin McCarthy issued a statement about the new policy and said, “The Department of Interior’s decision takes a step backward in ensuring that our families have reliable access to affordable American energy. Our local communities are blessed with abundant resources that can be responsibly developed, creating good, well-paying jobs and promoting domestic energy production. Rather than promoting this, Interior’s additional layer of bureaucracy could instead lead to higher energy prices at a time when hardworking Americans are already shouldering high costs.”
Under the reformed oil and gas leasing policy, BLM will provide:
Comprehensive interdisciplinary reviews that take into account site-specific considerations for individual lease sales. Resource Management Plans will continue to provide programmatic-level guidance, but individual parcels nominated for leasing will undergo increased internal and external coordination, public participation, interdisciplinary review of available information, confirmation of Resource Management Plan conformance as well as site visits to parcels when necessary; Greater public involvement in developing Master Leasing and Development Plans for areas where intensive new oil and gas extraction is anticipated so that other important natural resource values can be fully considered prior to making an irreversible commitment to develop an area; Leadership in identifying areas where new oil and gas leasing will occur. The bureau will continue to accept industry expressions of interest regarding where to offer leases, but will emphasize leasing in already-developed areas and will plan carefully for leasing and development in new areas.
BLM Director Bob Abbey said the increased opportunity for public participation and a more thorough environmental review process and documentation can help reduce the number of protests filed as well as enhance BLM?s ability to resolve protests prior to lease sales. A comparison of the new guidance with current policy can be found here.
“The new approach can help restore certainty and predictability to a system currently burdened by constant legal challenges and protests,” said Abbey. “It will also support the BLM’s multiple-use mission, which requires management of the public lands to provide opportunities for activities such as recreation, conservation, and energy development?both conventional and renewable.”
BLM will also issue guidance regarding the use of categorical exclusions, or CXs, established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and that allow the bureau to approve some oil and gas development activities based on existing environmental or planning analysis. Under the new policy, in accordance with White House Council on Environmental Quality guidelines, BLM will not use these CX’s in cases involving “extraordinary circumstances” such as impacts to protected species, historic or cultural resources, or human health and safety.
Salazar also issued a Secretarial Order establishing an Energy Reform Team within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management that will identify and oversee implementation of energy reforms.
“The creation of the new Team focuses on our important stewardship responsibility in the management of the nation’s energy resources,” said Wilma Lewis, Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management. “Through its work, the team will promote efficiency and effectiveness in the development of renewable and conventional energy resources, so that we can be properly accountable to the American public.”
Under the Assistant Secretary’s direction, the Energy Reform Team will provide greater coordination and improved accountability to ensure the orderly, efficient, responsible and timely development of public resources critical for our national energy security. Through its own efforts, as well as by considering good ideas from stakeholders, industry, and the public, the Team will help ensure that Interior is a responsible steward of the public resources it manages and obtains fair value for energy resources owned by the public.
The new oil and gas leasing guidance and CX guidance will be implemented once BLM has completed final internal reviews.
According to Forest Watch, the Carrizo Plain National Monument, in San Luis Obispo County, has also experienced increased pressure from the oil industry. In 2006, an oil tycoon announced his intent to drill an exploratory well inside the Carrizo Plain National Monument boundary. His lease eventually expired before he was able to do so. In 2008, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum announced its intent to explore for oil on the valley floor of the Carrizo Plain National Monument. That proposal is still pending.

http://www.taftindependent.com/News/ViewArticle/1666

Secretary Salazar is drawing heat from the oil industry. His stance has angered and surprised the industry.

According to the Wall Street Journal,

Business groups fear the administration’s action will discourage domestic energy development, by adding new red tape to the permitting process for oil and gas drilling. In a letter to Mr. Salazar last week, the Industrial Energy Consumers of America, a lobbying group that represents manufacturers, credited the 2005 law with reducing drilling-permit backlogs and boosting natural-gas production.

The Bureau of Land Management will have to reign themselves in. From the WSJ article quoted above:

Mr. Salazar’s action follows litigation from some environmental groups and criticism from the Government Accountability Office that the BLM has often misinterpreted and violated a 2005 federal law. The legislation was designed to speed oil and gas drilling in the West by allowing federal land managers to waive extensive environmental reviews normally required.

Republicans sent a letter of complaint about the reforms.

Environmental groups who have been fighting for curbing of the leases are generally pleased. The Billings Gazette quotes Salazar as saying that the Bush Administration treated public lands like a “candy store.” Previously Salazar had halted land sales that were to take place in Utah, so this latest reform is additional good news for places like the Carrizo Plain National Monument.

What’s new with Ron Huntsinger, the BLM National Science Coordinator?

Readers of this blog might be interested to know what the Bureau of Land Management’s National Science Coordinator is up to these days. Mr. Ron Huntsinger has joined the CESU COUNCIL. The CESU Network is coordinated and provided support by the CESU Council. That stands for Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Units. “The Council includes representatives of participating Federal agencies operating under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the CESU Network. A CESU Council Coordinator is elected by the members.”

US Dept. of Interior:

Ron Huntsinger
National Science Coordinator
Bureau of Land Management
1620 L Street , Room 1050
Washington , DC 20036
Phone: (202) 452-5177
Fax: (202) 452-5112
Email: Ron_Huntsinger@blm.gov

The Public Lands Monitor for Fall, 2009 also has a presentation by Ron Huntsinger, National Science Coordinator, BLM Headquarters Office, Washington, D.C. “BLM Adaptations to Changes in Climate.”

Click for Ron Huntsinger’s PowerPoint presentation.

Secretary Salazar has issued a Secretarial Order on climate change and renewable energy. Four work groups have been formed to develop a supplemental strategy for the BLM. It is working on adaptive management guidance to complement the climate change strategy for both the DOI and BLM. It is developing a rapid assessment process at the eco-regional scale to allow for identification of areas suitable for renewable resource development. A national monitoring network and regionalized science support capability is being proposed in DOI, in which BLM will participate. Under the new BLM science strategy, it is developing a technology transfer process to assure that best management practices, adaptive management strategies, decision support tools, and research results are incorporated in BLM training and management programs, as well as being made available to other users.

Also at that meeting was Mike Pool, BLM Deputy Director for Operations, Washington, D.C., who described some of the major public land initiatives BLM is dealing with:

BLM is focused on renewable energy development. Solar and wind energy facilities have the potential for large scale displacement of other public land values. A Solar Programmatic EIS is being prepared to help BLM decide how to implement renewable energy programs. At the same time, BLM is reviewing how it manages conventional energy resource goals.

The National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) fits well with the Department’s landscape protection initiative. The NLCS created a balance and gives strength to BLM and the agency’s array of management programs. There will be emphasis on identifying and protecting cultural and historic resources. Friends groups are being developed that are building new coalitions, partnerships, and diplomats for the BLM.

The BLM’s Resource Management Plans (RMP) are one of the foundations of the BLM. These “masterful documents” are rich with information, and are good temporary blueprints of what BLM needs to do to manage for today’s uses of the public lands. The RMPs are continually being amended to meet changing needs. Local governments and local publics compliment the BLM in saying that nobody works with them better than the BLM. There is a culture in the BLM that knows how to deal with the public on difficult issues, and a process that leads to good, sound decisions.

The BLM will continue to manage a high level of economic resources and recreation. Challenging lawsuits over sage grouse, desert tortoise and other Threatened and Endangered Species are now recognized as part of the decision making process and BLM is improving its products for dealing with these issues.

Mike Pool presented retiring PLF President George Lea with a bronze buffalo statue with thanks for George’s service and dedication to the Public Lands Foundation, and he thanked the PLF for being a great supporter of the BLM.

DR. Huntsinger (no, he didn’t actually get a Ph.D.) also has been presenting on Climate Change at conferences such as the Southwest Region Fish and Wildlife Service Workshop. It probably looks better for him to appear to have an advanced degree, but all he has a BS.

The “bad science of the Bush administration” seems to be perpetuating itself under the Obama administration.

BLM Celebrates National Public Lands Day at Carrizo Plain National Monument, et al

BLM Celebrates National Public Lands Day at 14 sites in California
September 04, 2009

On NPLD 2009- volunteers and BLM staff will renovate the Soda Lake Overlook and the Soda Lake Boardwalk. These sites are the first place most visitors stop and the most visited sites at the monument so the receive most of the wear and tear. Barriers around the parking lot will be replaced, the trails will be resurfaced and the interpretive displays will be renovated.
To celebrate National Public Lands Day (NPLD), hundreds of volunteers will work to improve the quality of their public lands at 14 selected Bureau of Land Management sites in California. Volunteers will perform trail and campground maintenance, clean-up illegal dump sites, remove invasive plants and restore areas back to their natural state.
“National Public Lands Day has grown significantly,” said BLM Acting State Director Jim Abbott. “What began a decade ago with one or two sites has grown into a major volunteer effort at over a dozen locations.”
Some of the activities include renovating the Soda Lake overlook and boardwalk at the Carrizo Plain National Monument in San Luis Obispo County; planting native seeds at Fort Ord in Monterey County; hiking to a remote location in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument in Riverside County to remove invasive plants; conducting an interactive “Caring for the Land” exhibit at the Los Angeles County Fair; and taking intercity youth for an overnight excursion to El Mirage Dry Lake Bed in San Bernardino County to clean-up trash and campout overnight.
The official National Public Lands Day is September 26, when most of the volunteer events will take place, but some sites are holding their events on different dates. The first National Public Lands Day event in California is August 28 & 29, at the newly designated Bitner Area of Critical Environmental Concern in Modoc County. The last event will take place in partnership with the National Park Service at its Mojave National Preserve in San Bernardino County on November 7. For a complete list of dates, sites and how to volunteer, visit the BLM volunteer website at http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/res/volunteers.html.
National Public Lands Day is the largest volunteer hands-on activity o fits kind in the nation. Held the last Saturday in September each year, National Public Lands Day brings together thousands of individuals and organizations to refurbish and restore the country’s public lands.

What’s our national BLM science coordinator up to? Not a lot.

What has your national science coordinator at the Bureau of Land Management in Washington, D.C. been doing lately? The answer is, not a lot.
Besides giving a conference paper here or there, we can find only one bit of testimony before Congress, a powerpoint presentation, and a few other minor things. The recommendation of the Public Land Foundation seem to have fallen on deaf ears (see below).

What’s being done

Although the directors of land agencies have spoken of their concern about climate change for many years, there is little evidence that actual efforts are under way to create ways to adapt to it. Most of what has gone on, as of the summer of 2008, is still in the category of talking, meeting, and scheduling workshops. However, some agency heads are now trying to construct the guidance that GAO and others said has been sorely missing.

They also are realizing that climate change is not another pesky environmentalist buzzword that should be invoked alongside the usual suspects of habitat loss, invasive species, and the like. Ron Huntsinger, the national science coordinator for the Bureau of Land Management, says, “We have been addressing the impacts of changing climates for some time, but not under the rubric of ‘climate change.’

“We know what some of the anthropogenic causative factors are, and we should be taking appropriate action on those. Right now the focus is on greenhouse gases, which I think is shortsighted. We should be responding to ecosystem changes”—for example, the waste of natural resources, the “extravagant use of energy,” and the use of products like broad-spectrum pesticides—and developing better recycling and transportation systems. “This is a systemic issue not restricted to the effects on climate change, but which encompasses the larger issues of the general health and well-being of humans and natural systems,” Huntsinger says.

Lynn Scarlett, the interior department’s deputy secretary, attributes increased activity at the department to a variety of recent public reports. She points to “the accumulated amount of research information and knowledge building, all of which have come together to amplify the seriousness of the issue and drive people to take action.” She named a number of assessments and task forces, along with the efforts of the USGS. “I think certainly the creation of the Climate Change Task Force by Secretary [Dirk] Kempthorne has been a spark to action. All of these things together, I think, have increased the pace and extent” of action. (Asked about Al Gore’s contribution, she replied: “I don’t know how much that figured into folks’ thoughts. I haven’t heard that mentioned by folks as a driver.”)

The Climate Change Task Force that Scarlett cites, and which she heads, brings together some three dozen interior department experts to explore issues facing climate change science. The group has been meeting periodically for a year and a half, with the aim of providing Secretary Kempthorne with a body of information on which to act. The meetings have been closed to the public, and records of its deliberations are not available publicly.

In October, 2008, BLM put out a call for nominations to all State Directors as follows:

EMS TRANSMISSION 10/16/2008
Information Bulletin No. 2009-006

To: All State Directors

From: Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning

Subject: Call for Nominations for Science Committee Members DD: 10/17/2008

The Director has approved the revised Science Strategy (attachment 1) and the charter for the Science Committee (attachment 2). The Science Strategy calls for a formal approach to the application of science to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) programs based on the identification of agency priorities. The Science Committee will play a key role for the BLM in the future, including prioritizing and approving research project proposals for funding. Both documents are currently being printed at the National Operations Center.

The first step in implementing the strategy is the formation of the Science Committee. There are 12 members of the Committee. Three positions on the committee are filled by nominations from the field, and are to represent the three levels of officials of the BLM field organization – Deputy State Directors, District Managers, and Field Managers. These committee members will serve terms of 2 years, with the potential of reappointment for an additional 2 years. The committee is expected to meet or conference twice a year – shortly after the new budget year, and prior to the development of the budget justification. However, additional sessions may be called if circumstances warrant. In order to keep costs down, it is anticipated that most of the meetings will be by conference call.

Recognizing that Committee members already have a great demand on their time, it is our desire to utilize the work of the committee efficiently, and limit the additional demand that participation would require. To do so, the Committee will be assisted by the Division of Resource Services and a standing subcommittee made up of the State Office Science Coordinators, Regional Science Coordinators, and the Joint Fire Science Coordinator at the National Interagency Fire Center. The first task of the Committee will be to participate in the development of the implementation plan for the Science Strategy. With the recognition of the need to better manage our research activities as a part of the M4E initiative, we would like to initiate this effort in the near future. To that end, please submit your nominations for the three field representative positions by the due date cited above.

It is our desire to schedule the first meeting of the Science Committee before the end of the current calendar year. Nominees will be notified of their selection to the Committee, and the scheduling of the first meeting.

Thank you for your assistance in this very important effort. For further information please contact Ron Huntsinger, National Science Coordinator, at (202) 452-5177.

Signed by: Authenticated by:
Edwin L. Roberson Robert M. Williams
Assistant Director Division of IRM Governance,WO-560
Renewable Resources and Planning

2 Attachments
1 – Bureau of Land Management Science Strategy (18 pp)
2 – Science Committee Charter (3 pp)

Public Lands Foundation Position Statement

The Role of Science in BLM Land Management Decisions

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Science is important for supporting land management decisions and helping to outline their consequences. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) must state clearly the role of science in resource management decision-making and act accordingly. The use of science within BLM has received critical media attention. Recent media debates about perceived conflicts between scientists, policy makers and political appointees have led the public to question public policy decisions, and have eroded the public trust. The Public Lands Foundation (PLF) believes BLM needs to reinforce its institutional commitment to the application of science to land management decisions. Also, BLM would benefit from increased partnerships with public and private science providers in making informed resource management decisions. The use of the best available science is critical when developing public land policy. A clearly understood and transparent relationship between scientists and policy makers can be highly productive and beneficial to BLM and the public.

BACKGROUND

Land management is complex because the natural and social systems that are affected are complex. Full consideration of relevant scientific information can improve land management decisions. It can expand the number of options considered, and it can increase the probability that intended outcomes will be achieved. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) directs BLM to use science in its decision-making process:

In the development and revision of land use plans, the Secretary shall use a systematic interdisciplinary approach to achieve integrated consideration of physical, biological, economic and other sciences. [Section 201, FLPMA]

Policy development is rightfully a political process. When done well it involves defining the issues; gathering the best scientific knowledge and technology, pertinent facts and opinions about the issues; and then designing a policy to address the issues in a scientifically sound, socially acceptable, economically feasible and legally possible manner. Poor public policy results when scientific knowledge and facts are ignored, suppressed or distorted to further a particular political agenda. Likewise, poor public policy can occur when narrow scientific analysis is used to dictate and justify complex policy choices that involve social and political outcomes. Both misuses of science by policy makers and by scientists (and science providers such as U.S. Geological Survey, Agricultural Research Service, academia, etc.) impact the public’s trust in BLM’s decisions.

BLM, as defined by FLPMA, is not by itself a scientific research organization; rather, BLM is a resource management agency that uses science to inform its land management decisions and policies. Scientific research provides data and knowledge for BLM decisions in land use planning, National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) analyses and policy options.

Fundamentally, quality resource management depends on the interface of science and policy. Within BLM the interface between science and policy occurs primarily at the field management level when land management decisions are made or at the national level when policies are developed. At the present time, the linkage between science and policy-making is often informal and serendipitous.

Most science providers have rules (policies, manuals, guidelines, codes of ethics, etc.) for producing science, getting peer review, and interfacing with policy makers. BLM does not. Thus, BLM must rely on luck, opportunity and its limited institutional capabilities to link science and policy.

BLM does not have a separate research organization. However, it has a wide variety of highly-qualified resource professionals and researchers inside and outside of the agency who provide scientifically based information to inform the policy-making processes.

Whether science is the underpinning or the driver of policy is not always clear. Science should be neutral to policy and both scientists and policy makers need to understand this. Science provides the facts on which good analysis and policy can be based. Scientists and policy makers must work together to make decisions on complex biological, physical and social science issues.

As long as there have been professional resource managers, there have been scientists in the field of resource management. Current media attention indicates that those who promote and oppose current BLM policy decisions both use science to justify their policy positions.

Advancements in policy often lag behind advancements in science and technology. And, conclusive science is often not available within practical timeframes to inform management decisions. Within BLM, the informal linkage of science and policy leads to further diminishment of science influencing policy. Recent expansion of concepts such as ecological restoration, landscape scale analysis, and multiple species habitat conservation plans are just examples. Best Management Practices based on scientific analysis of their consequences and efficacy would be an example of an appropriate and timely linkage of science and policy.

Historical BLM efforts have made a start at increasing its institutional capability and commitment to the use of relevant science, but much still remains. On September 26, 2000, the BLM Director approved BLM’s Science Strategy (available at http://www.blm.gov/nstc) which sets forth an overall approach to science with the following three primary objectives:

1. “to delineate the role of science in BLM decision making and public land management;

2. to establish a clear process for identifying science needs and priorities and to assure that those needs are reflected in the Bureau’s Strategic Plan and budget; and

3. to provide a mechanism for communicating the Bureau’s science needs, sharing its science and results, and highlighting its science opportunities on BLM-managed public lands.”

From the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, BLM used a Science Coordination Committee with representatives from each State and the Headquarters offices to address science needs. This committee played an important role by providing, among other things, internal coordination of calls for research priorities from agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Forest Service, etc. The committee was discontinued for a couple of years (about 1996 to 1998), re-established in 1998, and then disbanded again within the last few years. BLM Science Advisor positions in the Headquarters office also were eliminated. Over time, Science Coordinator positions were created in several directorates to provide some focus on science at the Headquarters level. Their success has been directly proportional to priority given to science by their Assistant Director. And, a commitment by one Assistant Director did not necessarily translate into a commitment by all Assistant Directors.

A Science Advisory Board (a Federal Advisory Committee Act—FACA—committee) was established in about 1996, which consisted of representatives from outside of BLM. Its charter was allowed to lapse within the last few years.

PLF Annual Meeting

At its annual meeting in Golden, Colorado in September 2006, PLF was privileged to have Patricia Nelson Limerick, Professor of History, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, as a luncheon speaker. Professor Limerick spoke about the history of western expansion and the importance of science to decision-making. Later in the meeting, a panel composed of a BLM scientist and a BLM manager spoke on “Science in BLM Decision-making.” Panelists emphasized the need for scientists who understand BLM laws and programs and can explain their findings in terms that managers can understand and use in decision-making. BLM panelists also recognized that NSTC has limited capability to create new science and that its basic role is linking field management to relevant science.

PLF CONCLUSIONS

BLM’s use of science is part of a continuing public dialogue. Patricia Limerick has stated: “In shaping the West’s past, present, and future, no factor is more interesting and consequential than the role of science.” She goes further to explain a number of circumstances that reflect BLM’s role, as mandated by FLPMA in the “new west”. These include such concepts as BLM’s ability to promote partnerships among diverse interests, skill at advancing ecological restoration and rehabilitation of degraded habitats, landscape scale analysis, and skill at adapting to local variation. This management occurs within a context of multiple risk and multiple demands, commonly known as multiple use management.

We concur with her conclusions, and proffer that BLM, as the largest federal land manager with the most diverse land management responsibilities, has a continuing and expanding role in the American west to continue its legacy of promoting, utilizing, and advancing sound science for land management decisions. And, PLF calls upon BLM to increase its institutional capability and commitment to use relevant science in policy development, NEPA analyses and land management decisions.

PLF believes BLM’s Science Strategy clearly articulates a process for effectively using science and technology in BLM land management decision-making. However, PLF also believes BLM management needs to make an even stronger commitment to a) implementing this Strategy than it has in the recent past, b) acquiring the resources needed to assure science is given appropriate consideration in natural resource management decisions, and c) share that commitment with its staff, constituents and the public. BLM needs to walk the talk.

Practicing science in a political environment is always challenging, especially without rules and guidelines. Practicing science in a highly decentralized organization also is difficult. Current trends in diminishing the role of BLM’s science organization and eliminating the technology transfer and linkage between science and policy is troubling. Budget cuts in this arena provide only short term benefits and further reduce BLM’s capability to manage the public lands based on relevant scientific concepts. There are opportunities for BLM to reinforce its capability and commitment to the development and use of sound science. We also believe there are opportunities to further define and refine a linkage between science and policy. The Forest Service, as an example, has clear roles and relationships between researchers and policy makers (See Mills, et al).

There are opportunities to formalize roles and relationships between scientists and policy makers, so that media misinformation and the loss of public trust can be avoided. BLM must protect itself from the manipulation of science by institutionalizing the linkage between science and policy and strengthening the roles for scientists, practitioners and managers in policy development.

BLM’s new Managing for Excellence initiative, among other things, proposes to establish a single National Operations Center (NOC) in Denver, Colorado. This will give the NOC a senior executive to lead and manage the organization. NOC will centralize NSTC, the Lands and Resources Project Office, the National Information Resources Management Center, the National Human Resources Management Center, the National Training Center, and the National Business Center under a single Director who will be responsible for servicing the entire BLM. PLF is on record in support of NOC considering it a means of increasing the visibility and stature of NSTC and the other important offices and their service to the field and Headquarters offices of the Bureau.

BLM should avoid the short term expediency of down-sizing NSTC. Even under current budget constraints, it is important that BLM commit to maintaining the current capability of the Center, and to the role of science and technology in resource management. A centralized control is needed to ensure that BLM’s limited research and development dollars are well-spent for the benefit of BLM as a whole. NTSC is the natural location for this operational work.

The Managing for Excellence initiative should advance and promote the role of NSTC in the sound development of national policy. This should lead to an advanced role for NSTC to develop scientific analyses of land management choices, based upon the best available science from within and outside BLM, with consequences and implications identified for policy makers to consider.

The BLM is well-served by a modest centralized science organization like NSTC, lead by a senior executive serving on the BLM leadership team, operated in cooperation with the entire BLM organization, and supplemented with various scientific experts who are located at other BLM duty stations.

PLF RECOMMENDATIONS

The Public Lands Foundation recommends:

1. Roles for Scientists and Managers: BLM establish clear roles and ethical guidelines for policy makers and scientists (i.e., researchers) which foster independent and objective scientific input into policy formulation. This role statement should be unique to the BLM multiple use mission (as compared to single use management) and focus on the complexity of multiple risk assessment in highly complex habitats and landscapes. The Forest Service’s guidelines for scientists and managers are an excellent template for BLM to consider. (See Mills, et al, 2002).

2. Scientific Analysis of Policy Implications: BLM establish guidelines for disclosing scientific consequences that can guide options and alternatives to be considered in proposed land management decisions.

3. Science-based Infrastructure: BLM increase its commitment to the BLM Science Strategy and create an infrastructure to support science in land management decision-making.

4. Science Advisory Board: BLM re-establish a Science Advisory Board to provide independent counsel to the Director on linking policy proposals to relevant and current science findings, and to discuss the potential consequences of proposed new policy based on scientific interpolations.

5. Linking Science and Resource Management: BLM establish a National Operations Center in Denver, as provided for in its Managing for Excellence initiative, to strengthen the linkage of science and resource management decision-making and to provide increased visibility and stature to NSTC and other operational offices.

Bibliography:

“Making the Most of Science in the American West: An Experiment,” Patricia Limerick and Claudia Puska, Report #5, from the Center of the American West, University of Colorado, 2003.

Available at www.centerwest.org

“Achieving Science-Based National Forest Management Decisions While Maintaining the Capability of the Research and Development Program,” Thomas J. Mills, Richard V. Smythe, and Hilda Diaz-Soltero, Pacific Northwest Research Station, April 2002, 20 pages.

“Bureau of Land Management Science Strategy,” BLM/RS/PL-00/001+1700, September 26,2000, 19 pages. Available at www.blm.gov/nstc.

Robert Abbey named to BLM director post in Dept. of Interior

A former aide to Clinton’s Secretary of Interior, Bruce Babbitt, has been named to head the Bureau of Land Management. Bob Abbey was head of the BLM in Nevada. Mike Pool had been named as interim national director of BLM, but once confirmed, Abbey will replace Pool as the permanent director. Abbey has been involved in controversies, from the Cave Mummy to ranching to Mustang removal and adoption. He’s a seasoned veteran of land management issues. Readers, please feel free to share your views, positive or negative, on this appointment.

Obama names Nevadan Bob Abbey to head BLM

By Agelio Networks
contact@agelio.net

US President Barack Obama has chosen Bob Abbey as his pick to head up the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which handles oversight of oil and gas development on federal lands onshore.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the nomination, calling Abbey a “consummate, professional natural-resource manager.”

Abbey has more than 32 years in state and federal public service, including eight years at the helm of the Nevada state BLM office until his retirement in 2005.

Abbey has supported sharing access on BLM lands, especially when it comes to mining and oil and gas development, according to a report in the Salt Lake Tribune.

In 2007 testimony before the House Committee on Natural Resources, he said he favoured treating public lands as more than just commodity-production sites.

“I am a firm believer in BLM’s multiple-use mandate,” he testified, “and I believe that appropriate public lands, not all public lands, should continue to be accessible for mineral extraction.”

Abbey’s nomination was reportedly pushed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is also from Nevada.

Abbey still must pass a Senate confirmation vote.