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.

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.

Obama Admin’s growing “environmental” record is cause for concern

This is a repost of PEER’s (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) ObamaWatch newsletter. Ordinarily I just deal with things that have to do with the Carrizo, but the administration’s position on whistleblowers and several other decisions by Ken Salazar, Sec. of Interior, and Lisa Jackson of the EPA, relate to broader issues that affect the Carrizo, including solar energy. PEER is also looking for people to serve on its ObamaWatch committee called Support Scrutiny. PEER’s Membership & Outreach Coordinator, Debbie Davidson, who can also be reached by phone at (202) 265-7337. Information provided is considered CONFIDENTIAL and is protected by law.

Campaigns – Obama Watch – At Issue

A visitor to the White House website for information about eco-policies will not find an “agenda” for the environment. Instead, the category is “Energy & Environment” and that ordering appears intentional.

Other than curbing greenhouse gases, there is no mention of environmental priorities such as safeguarding clean water, reducing pollution threats to public health, conserving wildlife and protecting vital habitat, averting collapse of marine fisheries, or ending abuse of public lands through practices ranging from mountaintop removal to overgrazing.

Nothing….

Look at a growing record that is cause for concern:

Climate Change

* Obama has embraced a watered-down climate change bill that Dr. Jim Hansen and other experts warn will do too little too late;
* Central to the Obama effort is embrace of a cap-and-trade approach that is unworkable and unenforceable.

Coal Embrace

* Central to the Obama energy program is an embrace of more coal and developing “Clean Coal Technology” – a process that does not yet exist. In the interim, the administration is funding schemes to pump sequestered carbon into the ocean floor;
* The Obama team has backed away from promises to restrain the environmental damage wreaked by mountaintop removal coal mining;
* In a huge and dangerous hidden subsidy to the coal industry, the Obama administration delays taking action to address toxic coal combustion wastes.

Oil & Gas
The Obama plan seeks to reduce reliance on foreign oil by increasing production of domestic oil – with no limits:

* Drill, Baby, Drill – No part of the Outer Continental Shelf or the domestic U.S. has been put off-limits to petroleum production. Some lease sales have been slowed for further review – but they will be back;
* The Obama administration has approved a pipeline to bring Canadian oil sands, one of the most environmentally destructive petroleum extraction sources, to U.S. refineries (so much for ending dependence on foreign oil);
* Obama’s Interior department has defended a Bush plan to lease western Colorado’s beautiful Roan Plateau for oil and gas drilling; and
* A key priority is to back the construction of the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline championed by Alaskan ex-Gov. Sarah Palin;
* Washington Post, Oct. 20: The Interior Department has approved permits for Shell to drill exploratory oil wells on two leaseholds in the Beaufort Sea off the north coast of Alaska.

Mining

* The administration did not object to a Corps permit allowing a gold mine to dump its wastes into Alaska’s Lower Slate Lake, killing all its aquatic life;

Natural Resources

* The Obama administration has embraced the failed Bush salmon recovery plans for the Pacific Northwest that put power production ahead of species survival;

Oceans

* The administration has allowed Bush permits for destructive fish farming in the Gulf of Mexico to go into effect;

Forestry

* The administration approved the first timber sale in a roadless area of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest;

Endangered Species

* In one of its earliest actions, the administration took the wolf off the endangered species list, clearing the way for hunting to begin through much of the West;
* Backing a move by the Bush administration, the Obama administration issued rules forbidding use of the Endangered Species Act to address habitat loss, like the shrinking ice shelves on which polar bears depend, caused by greenhouse gas emissions and climate change

Parks & Refuges

* Obama signed legislation allowing the open carrying of loaded firearms in parks and refuges – the first time a president has signed a law weakening wildlife protections in the National Park System;
* Obama’s Interior Department is defending the planting of genetically-modified crops on National Wildlife Refuges.

Toxics

* EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson dropped an appeal to the Supreme Court in a case that struck down Bush-era limits on mercury pollution from coal power plants, which unnecessarily permit more of the toxic chemical into the atmosphere;
* The Obama administration has ducked the problem of growing water pollution from oil “fracking” chemicals and coal-bed methane gas operations; and
* EPA continues to endorse using shredded tires in playgrounds despite red flags raised by its own scientists.

Appointees

* The Obama Administration has nominated a former pesticide lobbyist to be the chief agricultural negotiator in the Office of the United States Trade Representative (October 26, 2009).
* Obama’s Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, proclaims that “energy independence” is his number one priority. Not only is energy independence an unrealistic goal but any attempt to realize it from the public lands managed by Interior would involve turning America’s great heritage of wild lands into a giant energy farm;
* Obama’s EPA pick, Lisa Jackson, compiled an abysmal record in New Jersey including a dysfunctional toxics program, suppression of science, and retaliation against whistleblowers;
* The pick to head the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Sam Hamilton, has the weakest record on Endangered Species Act enforcement in the country and tried to fire a scientist who exposed scientific fraud by the agency in issuing an unending stream of development approvals (even to this day) in shrinking habitat of the highly endangered Florida panther; and
* The choice to head the Office of Surface Mining, Joseph Pizarchik, has drawn the opposition of citizens and conservationists alike for his horrid record on acid mine drainage, subsidence from longwall mining, valley fill with mine slag and using toxic coal combustion waste as mine fill. Astoundingly, he ducked all questions on mountaintop removal mining at his confirmation hearing.

Whistleblowers

* As a candidate, Barack Obama frequently promised to “strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority.” Since he has been president, the only time he mentioned the need to protect whistleblowers was when he addressed the Parliament of Ghana.
* None of the prominent Bush-era whistleblower cases has been settled. In fact, the Obama administration is continuing the persecution of these whistleblowers in court;
* New whistleblowers are being fired or targeted while Obama appointees do nothing. Cases out of the Labor Department, Homeland Security, NASA, Wildlife Services and other agencies originated after Inauguration day and are heading to hearing;
* A package of strong whistleblower protections for federal employees was dropkicked out of the stimulus bill with not a peep of protest from – or with tacit support of – the Obama administration;
* The Obama administration has not committed to support whistleblower reform legislation that has passed the House for the past three years in a row; and
* After denouncing Bush’s signing statements, President Obama promptly issued one while signing the FY09 Omnibus Appropriations bill that he reserves the inherent authority to prevent civil servants from disclosing inconvenient truths to Congress.

Consider Taking Action for PEER to protect the Carrizo and other special lands from environmental destruction, as well as to protect federal employees from interference with their job duties and from workplace bullying that still goes on in the Department of Interior.

Carrizo Plain National Monument Proposed Resource Management Plan Published

Taft: Carrizo Plain National Monument Proposed Resource Management Plan Published
November 13, 2009
Carrizo Plain National Monument Selby Rocks in the foreground, Painted Rock and Soda Lake in background.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has released the Proposed Resource Management Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Carrizo Plain National Monument in eastern San Luis Obispo and western Kern counties.

The Monument was designated by proclamation in 2001 in recognition of its ecological importance as the largest undeveloped remnant of the vast grasslands that once covered central California. It is dramatically bisected by the San Andreas Fault and provides habitat for many native plant and animal species.

The proposed plan “balances public access with protection of the monument’s special resources,” according to Johna Hurl, monument manager. The Monument, which covers 206,000 acres of public lands administered by the BLM’s Bakersfield Field Office, is managed in partnership with the California Department of Fish and Game and The Nature Conservancy, which both own land within the Monument.

A draft was published in January 2009 for public review and public meetings held throughout the region. “We made a number changes from the draft RMP in response to public comments,” Hurl said, such as expanding the area proposed to be managed for wilderness characteristics, clarifying language regarding grazing and mineral interests, and allowing only street-legal vehicles on designated routes.

A 30-day public protest period begins today with the Notice of Availability published in the Federal Register by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. During this period, ending December 14, 2009, any person who participated in the planning process and believes they may be adversely affected by approval of the plan may submit a protest. A final decision on the RMP will not be issued until protests are resolved. Procedures for filing protests are available at www.blm.gov/ca/bakersfield.

Copies of the document are available at the Bakersfield Field Office, 3801
Pegasus Drive, Bakersfield and online at
http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/bakersfield.html For more information,
contact the Monument information line at 661-391-6034.

Politics as Usual: A Yes-Man Advanced to Head BLM

Mike Pool, the BLM California Director who rejected Marlene Braun’s appeal over her suspension for sending an email to people with whom she worked has now been promoted. Pool, who had approved the Resource Management Plan Braun submitted before her field office Ron Huntsinger arrived quickly changed his tune and began doing what the Bush Administration wanted: helping to get rid of Marlene Braun.

It is more important than ever to get the full Dept. of Interior OIG report released.
News Release

For Release: February 18, 2009
Contact: John Dearing/Jan Bedrosian, 916-978-4610, email: jdearing@ca.blm.gov;
CA-SO-09-03
BLM Taps Californian Mike Pool as Acting National Director

Mike Pool, California state director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), has been tapped to serve as the agency’s acting national director in Washington D.C., effective March 1.

Pool, 55, a career veteran, has served more than 34 years with BLM, starting at the field office level and working his way up through a variety of assignments in Alaska, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington D.C., and the Department of the Interior.

He has been California state director since 2000, overseeing 15.1 million acres of public lands in California and another 1.5 million in northwestern Nevada. In the new acting position, he will oversee 256 million surface acres – more than any other federal agency. Most of this public land is located in 12 western states, including Alaska.

He replaces current BLM Acting Director Ron Wenker, who will return to his current position as BLM’s Nevada state director. Pool will remain in the new assignment pending selection of a permanent director by new Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. In California, Pool’s Associate State Director Jim Abbott will serve as acting California state director.

“I’m honored by the new assignment and look forward to assisting the new administration care for the public lands under BLM’s jurisdiction,” he said. The 55-year-old Pool, an Arizona native raised in New Mexico, holds a B.S. in wildlife science from New Mexico State University.

RELATED: “Mike Pool, State Director”(BLM-California)
Biography of BLM-California’s state director and new acting national director.
http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/ca/pdf/pdfs/caso_pdfs.Par.44155.File.dat/PoolBio.pdf

Oil exploration firm looks at nature preserve

Oil exploration firm looks at nature preserve

With crude at $100, there’s more pressure than ever for seismic testing on San Luis Obispo grassland

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Published: Sunday, Mar. 02, 2008 | Page 4A

WASHINGTON – The fight over cattle grazing at Carrizo Plain National Monument is nearing an end.

But controversy over oil and gas exploration on the 250,000-acre grasslands preserve is just beginning to raise new concerns about protecting its endangered species.

Vintage Production, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum, owns 30,000 acres of mineral rights in the heart of the monument’s valley floor in Eastern San Luis Obispo County.

With oil now topping $100 a barrel, Vintage has notified the Bureau of Land Management that it wants to find out what’s there.

Vintage’s holdings are under the heart of the monument grounds, which contain some of the last vestiges of San Joaquin Valley grasslands. It’s also home to many endangered species – including the kangaroo rat, which lives in the ground Vintage wants to explore.

John Dearing, a BLM spokesman, said the agency can’t stop any exploration because the company’s mineral rights predate former President Clinton’s creation of the monument in early 2001.

“Because this is a national monument, there will be environmental concerns that will have to be strongly looked at,” Dearing said. “But they have a right to access.”

The monument is not virgin territory for drilling rigs. It’s just over a hill from Kern County’s oil fields, and there is a small amount of production in the monument’s remote canyons.

The exploration proposal, which Dearing said has yet to be submitted to the BLM, is dividing environmentalists.

“Oil drilling is not going to occur on the Carrizo Plain National Monument without a huge battle,” said Pat Veesart, a former member of the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission and a board member of Los Padres ForestWatch.

“If anyone wants to drill for oil there, they had better be prepared to go to war over it,” Veesart said.

Others see an opportunity, noting that – at least initially – no holes would be bored into the ground.

Seismic testing will determine whether there is oil and gas in Vintage’s holdings, and that in turn could set a value for the mineral estate.

With such a value established, the BLM could begin negotiations to trade other oil rights for Vintage’s monument property or open talks with the BLM’s monument partners – the state Department of Fish and Game and The Nature Conservancy – for an outright purchase.

“If they had a show, it might let us get our heads together for a trade out,” said Tom Maloney, the conservancy’s San Luis Obispo County project manager. “It’s just exploration now and not development.”

Alice Bond of The Wilderness Society agreed that testing may be worth the risk if it leads to a buyout of Vintage’s drilling rights. About 130,000 acres of the monument’s mineral rights are privately owned.

“It would be good if we could start moving forward to a purchase of those,” Bond said.

Since the monument’s creation, it has been a battleground over cattle grazing. The monument’s former manager, Marlene Braun, committed suicide during the height of those tensions, believing she had been sidelined by her superiors seeking to protect grazing rights despite the area’s new mission of species protection.

Neil Havlik, the city of San Luis Obispo’s natural resources manager and chairman of the advisory committee, said the BLM’s approach to monument grazing has changed greatly since Braun’s death.

“What impressed everyone is that the BLM, the Department of Fish and Game and The Nature Conservancy staff are all on the same wavelength now,” Havlik said.

According to the draft management plan, Havlik said, the needs of native wildlife in the monument would largely determine where and when grazing occurs.

“This is a major breakthrough,” he said. “This says that the needs of native animals will direct the vegetation program.”

But with oil exploration, native fauna like the kangaroo rat could face new risks. Vintage would use huge trucks thumping the ground to send shock waves deep into the subsurface, using sensitive electronic equipment to outline formations and measure production potential.

According to Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist with the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, which fought seismic exploration on BLM land in Wyoming, the thumper trucks can be especially hard on burrowing animals such as the kangaroo rat. He cited a BLM study showing that the population of white tail prairie dogs dropped after trucks tested an area.

“It is certainly a major industrial undertaking,” he said. “And if something is found, it can lead to a major influx of drilling rigs and bulldozers.”