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.

Advertisements

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 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.

Volunteers Remove Fences on Carrizo for Pronghorn

Thanks to the volunteers who remove fencing so the Carrizo Plain National Monument can be a place for antelope to thrive! The volunteers do so much good work!
From The Cattle Network:

The fences crossing the desolate Carrizo Plain are remnants of the hardscrabble homesteaders who arrived a century ago, then abandoned the arid, alkaline land to the elements.

Now the barbed-wire legacy of ranching and farming on this inhospitable landscape in California is being blamed for threatening the recovery of antelope that were reintroduced in 1990 after being slaughtered to near extinction.

The long stretches of fence spread across the range prevent the Pronghorn from fleeing predators and seeking forage, and are a big reason why the herd has the worst survival rate in the West. Pronghorn are North American’s fastest runners, but cannot jump the fences.

So volunteers have taken on a cowboy’s most odious ranch task, hoping to improve the odds of the herd by taking down fences. Suffering bloody scrapes and punctures, they dismantle rusty barriers and modify others to give the antelope of the Carrizo P lain National Monument a fighting chance against coyotes that vastly outnumber them.

“You get a sense of satisfaction opening things up and making them free and wild again,” says Alice Koch, a state wildlife biologist who started the fence project on her own on her days off but now has a cadre of volunteers who proudly show off their battle wounds. “We’re opening their world up into a better and more survivable one.”

The Pronghorn are part of a debate over the future of the Carrizo Plain, designated a national monument by the federal government nine years ago. A draft management plan for the park indicated some cattle grazing would be allowed to control invasive species, but the EPA and others have countered that cattle can adversely affect native species as well. Those comments are under final review.

“Grazing is somewhat contentious,” said volunteer Craig Deutsche, who organizes four work trips a year. “Is it helpful or harmful? Do ranchers have rights by priority? Do cows have rights here since they are not native? It’s something to think about as we do the work.”

The fence volunteers’ work is painstakingly slow. It must be done by hand, and all wire carried out on foot to protect the fragile underground burrows of endangered species such as kit fox, antelope squirrels and kangaroo rats.

But there is an incredible amount of work to do: Volunteers put in more hours than the Bureau of Land Management could afford to hire out.

“If we had to contract this out, it would probably get done only in critical areas,” said Ryan Cooper of the BLM. “Their goal is every fence on the monument.”

The grassy plain 80 miles west of Bakersfield is isolated by the Temblor Mountains – an upthrust of the San Andreas Fault – and the Coast Range. Officials say it is the only place in the world where Pronghorn and Tule elk, also once plentiful in California’s Central Valley, have been reintroduced together to replicate an extinct landscape.

The elk have adapted so well that sometimes they are subject to limited hunting.

The Pronghorn? In the state’s other two regions where they have been reintroduced in habitats not crossed with cattle fences, 25 percent survive to the age at which they can outrun coyotes. In the Carrizo, it is less than 10 percent, a number that inspires the fence removers to give up their weekends and holidays.

Some abandoned fence inside the monument is removed entirely, but along miles of others that still hold cattle, volunteers stoop to replace the bottom wire with a smooth strand high enough for the 90 or so goat-sized Pronghorn to squeeze under.

“It’s a meditation for me,” said Suzanne Swedo of Los Angeles, who spent a long New Year’s holiday with 14 other volunteers an hour and a half’s drive from the nearest grocery store. “When I’m out here working, if I have anything on my mind, it just goes away.”

Their headquarters is the old prairie hous e owned by the Nature Conservancy where the Carrizo’s first manager lived when President Clinton created the monument in a flurry of public land designations three days before he left office.

Once it was common on the Carrizo to see the tan-colored antelope nervously pacing a fence they could not figure out how to bypass. As of the new year, 150 of 200 targeted miles of fence on 250,000 acres have been modified or removed by the volunteers.

Against the backdrop of this beautiful desolation, their success is not always measurable by the wire-mile.

“If you’ve ever seen them go under a fence you’ve just removed, it’s a beautiful thing,” said Janice Hamilton, a family therapist from Santa Barbara. “I’ll do anything to preserve some of this for my grandchildren.”

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

In Memoriam: Anne McMahon

A great environmentalist and writer passed away this weekend. Anne McMahon, who worked with the Nature Conservancy during the period that Marlene Braun was the monument manager for the Carrizo Plain National Monument, but who left TNC shortly before Marlene died, was a champion for justice. She worked for Representative Lois Capps before moving to her job as Federal Programs Manager for the California Coastal Commission in San Francisco. In the Los Angeles Times article about Marlene’s death, she was one of the few willing to be quoted. A small notice appeared yesterday in the CalCoast News. There is a topix comment thread on which you can leave a comment if you like, to remember Anne.

If you would like to read Anne’s article about the Carrizo, “A California Gem,” the Wilderness Society has reposted it.

Anne, may you rest in peace.

Update:
Please make donations in Anne’s name to North County Watch (http://www.northcountywatch.org/).

Update:
Local political player hailed as dedicated
Anne McMahon, who died Saturday at 57, worked for the California Coastal Commission
By Bill Morem | bmorem@thetribunenews.com

Anne McMahon, 57, who died Saturday at her Santa Margarita home after a seven-month battle with cancer, was known for her keen intelligence and sense of humor.

Referring to her as “my dear friend,” Rep. Lois Capps said, “Anne was one of the first Congressional staffers (my husband), Walter, hired when he was elected in 1996, and she was a tremendous asset to the office and the constituents of the 22nd Congressional District.

“Anne was a wonderful writer,” she added, “having worked as a local journalist for several years before moving to politics. She also had a quick wit and generous spirit. It was truly a joy to work with her and an honor to be her friend.”
Click image to see caption

Anne McMahon was described as having a ‘quick wit’ by Lois Capps.

California Coastal Commission Executive Director Peter Douglas hired McMahon three years ago to be the commission’s Federal Program Manager, acting as a liaison with a variety of federal agencies and Congress.

Douglas said that although McMahon “knew the Coastal Commission, its policies and its work, she was not familiar with the wide range of responsibilities and issues she would need to address in her new capacity. She stepped right in, and through her dedication, strong work ethic, good mind and fine people skills, she was able to catch on remarkably fast.

“In my 30-plus years with the commission,” he added, “I know of no one who joined our coastal family and earned the love and respect of her colleagues more quickly than Anne did.”

Jim Hayes, former journalism professor and writing coach for the Los Angeles Times, taught McMahon when she returned to Cal Poly for a degree in journalism after having raised a family.

“She was smart, shrewd and determined to learn. Annie — as her friends knew her — had a heart as big as the outdoors she loved so well.

She drove herself with passion for good causes and compassion even for those who failed her. She taught me that politics, played by honest people for the right reasons, could be a wonderful game. She ended up teaching me. She was one-of-a-kind.”

Former county supervisor David Blakely hired her as his board aide. “She had been with me through my political career,” the now-retired Blakely said from his home in Santa Margarita.

“First and foremost, she loved her family and right behind that, this little community.”

Toward that end, Mc-Mahon fought the development of the Santa Margarita Ranch, pointing out that almost a dozen environmental problems associated with the project couldn’t be fixed or mitigated.

“She was great to work with,” Blakely said. “You know how you’ve got some employees that you don’t have to worry about? She was one of those. She just knew what to do and did it. She engendered a lot of respect from county staff.”

Neil Havlik, natural resources manager for the city of San Luis Obispo, said McMahon’s love for the county was evident in her efforts with the Nature Conservancy to get an area of the Carrizo Plain designated a national monument.

“I don’t know who got Bill Clinton to sign the designation,” Havlik said, “but it wouldn’t surprise me if her hand were in there.”

When she tried to drum up support for a countywide green belt, she pulled in such disparate groups as the Farm Bureau, Cattlemen’s Association, Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Center.

“She was nothing but a lady,” Havlik said.

She is survived by her husband Peter Kincaid; sons Jono and Ryan; parents Bob and Janis McMahon; three sisters — Noreen, Megan and Michelle; and two brothers, Gerard and Dan.

No services are planned, although an Irish wake will be held at a later date.

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.

Will solar energy plants cause irreparable harm to endangered flora and fauna?

http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/local/story/840092.html
Saturday, Sep. 05, 2009
Solar mecca
Plans to build three large energy plants on the Carrizo Plain could turn SLO County into a nationwide pioneer — but the proposals aren’t without critics, who say the industrial uses would cause irreparable harm to the area’s environment and wildlife
By By David Sneed | dsneed@thetribunenews.com

San Luis Obispo County could become the nation’s leader in solar energy if three large-scale commercial solar plants are approved to start operating near the Carrizo Plain National Monument.

Two are photovoltaic plants that use solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity. According to the Solar Energy Industry Association, they would be the two largest photovoltaic systems in the world.

The third would also be the world’s largest of its kind: a solar thermal plant that uses the sun’s heat to drive electrical steam generators.
Click image to see caption

The setting sun silhouettes existing transmission lines and a landscape of hills edging the Carrizo Plain. The lines would carry energy generated at three proposed solar plants to the California grid and are a key reason for the choice of location.

The plants could be online as early as 2013. Together, they would produce 977 megawatts of power, enough electricity to serve more than 100,000 homes. Not only are the plants large, they are also on track to be some of the first to come online, said Sue Kateley, executive director of the California chapter of the Solar Energy Industry Association.

“San Luis Obispo County could be the first to see the actual shovels in the ground,” she said.

Several factors are driving this unprecedented growth of solar power.

One is Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ambitious goal of having 33 percent of the state’s power come from renewable sources by 2020. State and federal tax breaks also encourage the quick development of renewable energy sources.

All three plants are still in the planning phase with state and county officials processing construction applications, but little seems to stand in the way of their eventual approval. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has signed contracts to purchase all the power they will produce.

The solar projects will pump millions of dollars into the county and help diversify an economy dominated by government and tourism jobs. Other renewable energy projects could follow.

But they will also carry a hefty environmental price.

Two of the plants will occupy nearly 10 square miles and feature millions of photovoltaic panels, concentrated in the top third of the Carrizo Plain, which covers hundreds of square miles.

The third plant will be a highly industrialized, steam-driven power plant covering one square mile and complete with nearly 200 mirror assemblies and 115-foot-tall cooling towers.

They will be built in one of the last remnants of grassland in California, an ecosystem so rare that it contains the state’s highest concentration of endangered plants and animals. They will also sit astride migration pathways used by tule elk and pronghorn antelope.

Public sentiment is divided on the issue.

Many welcome the plants, with some conservationists arguing that sparsely populated California Valley is the ideal location for the projects. Others lament the radical changes they will bring to a stark but beautiful place, saying they will take too heavy a toll on a host of species teetering on the brink of extinction.

A handful of people will be profoundly affected. More than 30 homes are in the vicinity of the plants, and several will be completely surrounded by photovoltaic panels.

Residents of California Valley will deal with increased traffic, noise and lights at night. Additional demands will be made on the area’s already scarce water resources.

But the biggest impact will be the transformation of a vast pastoral landscape populated by more cattle than people into a major commercial electrical generation center.