An N4WDA Update (or What We’ve Up To)
N4WDA continues to grow steadily. We currently have about 125 members, representing over 300 family members spread through several states, including Business, Life and Individual Members. We have six member clubs, the southernmost in Pahrump, and one out-of-state club.
We continue to take our membership efforts to various venues. The following is a list of near-future events that we will participate in:
Sept. 19 – 2nd Annual N4WDA Family Fun Day, 4 Wheel Parts, Sparks, NV
Sept. 26/27 – Silver State Rock Crawling Championship @ Wild West Motorsports Park, Sparks
Oct. 16 & 17 – Ultra 4 Championship @ Wild West Motorsports Park, Sparks, NV
Greater Sage Grouse:
As of our last update, there were two populations of the Greater Sage-Grouse that were being proposed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for possible inclusion as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.
The Bi-State Distinct Population Segment (DPS), 1.8 million acres, covers the Pine Nut and Sweetwater ranges from Gardnerville, NV, to near Bishop, CA, encompassing eleven counties in both states. Late this past spring, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that the DPS was being dropped for consideration for listing because of an increase in bird population and the implementation of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest’s plan to conserve the bird’s habitat.
However, the Northeastern California and Nevada Population, 18 million acres in Nevada alone, along with that of the ten other states’ populations of Greater Sage-Grouse and despite such groups as the Western Governor’s Conference, the affected states’ departments of fish and game, and many other organizations, remains a candidate for inclusion as an endangered species. The decision date by FWS is soon… September 15th.
N4WDA has participated as a member of the Blue Ribbon Coalition’s Greater Sage-Grouse working group and BRC has been, in turn, a part of other coalitions (mining, oil, ranching, etc.) all who are working toward plans to preclude the need for listing the bird.
What does this mean for our membership? The plans by USFS and the BLM for management of the bird’s critical habitat will not be as stringent as they would be if FWS decides to list the Greater Sage-Grouse as endangered. We stand to, perhaps, lose some access to the affected habitat areas during the breeding season if the bird remains unlisted, but may very well be entirely restricted from this habitat if the bird becomes designated as endangered.
N4WDA has written its letters to FWS, USFS and BLM to make our position on the listing of the Greater Sage-Grouse well known – we support reasonable plans to save and improve the grouse habitat (the sagebrush steppe) but oppose the listing under the Endangered Species Act.
ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT:
As for the Endangered Species Act, as it currently is enacted, there are numerous proposals in Congress to amend it, some major, some minor.
As it currently is being used, the ESA is being used as a tool by the environmentalists to restrict habitat areas. The species itself, is secondary to the wishes of the environmental community in regard to their wishes for the affected habitat area, usually to restrict development. The current administration has promised “Good Science” in determination of whether a candidate species is listed under the ESA, but most reports seem to be the opinion of some expert, without scientific data backup, that are used in the determination. An example: OHV recreation affects the Sage-Grouse during the mating season and must be restricted (this must be common sense); however, there has never been a definitive scientific study to prove or disprove this notion. Scientific data, not perceived “common sense” must be used in these determinations.
Another ESA item is “Sue and Settle”. This is where FWS makes a determination that the environmentalists disagree with, the environmentalists give a notice of intent to sue or start a lawsuit and then FWS settles with these groups to avoid the cost and hassle of defending their position. This puts the Endangered Species Act in the hands of the legal system and not in the hands of FWS, who are, under the act, the determining agency.
Eldorado NF 42 Trails: compacted
As of this writing, twelve of the original forty two trails remain closed.
As I’ve explained in previous writings, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) sued the Eldorado National Forest (ENF) alleging that the ENF failed to take into consideration its own Standard & Guideline #100 (S&G 100) when evaluating these trails for inclusion in the ENF Travel Plan. S&G 100 deals with “connectivity of water flows across wet meadows” (an example would be if a trail cause the meadow’s soil to become compacted, therefore restricting normal water flow in the meadow). The court agreed and ordered ENF to close these 42 trails and evaluate and mitigate S&G 100 problems before these trails would reopen. Shortly after the court’s ruling, 18 of these trails were released from inclusion for several reasons (such as the affected meadow being on private land instead of ENF land).
Over the last two years, several of the remaining trails have reopened after mitigation of the S&G 100 problem. This group includes the Richardson Lake and Barrett Lake trails. The remainder (12 trails) remain closed pending ENF’s mitigation of the problem meadows. However, one trail remains a problem for N4WDA members, the Deer Valley Trail.
Deer Valley Trail:
The Deer Valley Trail is, next to the Rubicon, the most-travelled trail in the Eldorado NF. It is also one of the remaining twelve trails that remain unopened pending resolution of S&G 100 meadow problems.
But, THERE IS NO S&G 100 PROBLEM ON THIS TRAIL, OR HAS THERE EVER BEEN. Last summer, N4WDA, along with other appellants to the ENF Travel Plan, was invited to attend an interdisciplinary team trip to discuss the S&G 100 problem at Deer Valley itself. When we pointed out to the team that the second page of the hydrologist’s report describing the area where this problem existed did not match the land that we were actually looking at, the ENF hydrologist (not the one that was on the report – he was no longer on the ENF) stated that THERE IS NO S&G 100 problem and, if he were filling out the form, would not have checked the appropriate box.
The team then looked at other problems that WE pointed out that had been recommended by the South County Trail-Riders of San Jose, CA, the Adopt-A-Trail club during the last 37 years that had fallen on deaf ears. These included some trail re-routes to get the trail away from the bank of the stream at Clover and Deer valleys, some repair of the stream bank where some renegade wheelers had taken upon themselves to create a new crossing, etc. The team suggested hardening the Deer Valley stream crossing to alleviate any silt that might accumulate, from being released downstream when a vehicle crosses the stream. They also stated that the Yosemite Toad, an Endangered Species List candidate may have to be considered. The Forest Supervisor, Laurence Crabtree, agreed that ENF would seek a letter from the FWS stating that there would be “no significant impact” to the Yosemite Toad if this trail were to reopen. The trail was to reopen upon receipt of this letter (which, as of this writing, has never been written, ostensibly due to a lack of time as a result of the King Fire last September on the ENF).
The user groups stated that volunteer help would be offered to ENF to accomplish these goals.
NONE OF THESE OTHER PROBLEMS HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE CLOSURE OF THE TRAIL UNDER THE S&G 100 COURT RULING. N4WDA feels that this trail is illegally closed by ENF and is exploring litigation, with other stakeholders and organizations. This is a perfect case of “obstructionism” by ENF since they fear litigation by environmentalist groups if the trail should reopen. “Running scared” is not an acceptable excuse by N4WDA.
Meanwhile, ENF, Amador Ranger District, has just released an Environmental Assessment, that, under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), states ENF’s intention to accomplish these non-S&G 100 goals and sets four alternatives for comment. These alternatives vary, chiefly, in trail closure dates for protection of the Yosemite Toad. N4WDA suggested that instead of ENF’s proposed Alternative #1, which sets the annual trail-opening date of July 31st (totally arbitrary) the date be determined by the snow melt and water on the trail, which is listed as Alternative #3. In most years, the trail is dry by July 1st, and this year would have been dry by June 15th (let’s, once again, use “good science” in this determination. By the way, after we submitted our comments resulting in Alternative #3, the environmentalists submitted comments resulting in Alternative #4, suggesting that July 31st might be too early for trail opening. We need your help! Please go to: http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=45439,
the website for this Environmental Assessment, and submit your comment by September 11th supporting Alternative #3.
NEVADA COMMISSION ON OFF HIGHWAY VEHICLES:
Despite the agonizingly slow process of doing Commission business within the state regulations, the Commission has made some very measurable progress since our last report. The NCOHV, at its latest (August 20th) meeting determined that $700,000 will be made available for the OHV Grant Program, for which the Requests for Grant Proposals will be released, hopefully, within the next month. These grants will be made available to organizations and clubs recognized by the Secretary of State’s office (your group does NOT have to be a federal 501(c) organization, a state incorporation is all that is necessary (it is easy to obtain if your group is not Nevada-incorporated). These grants can be used for items such as trail maintenance equipment, the establishment of a trailhead with parking and potties, an education program, etc., anything for the betterment of OHV recreation. The Commissioners are to be commended for their work in re-creating the NCOHV and those of you who have been paying your sticker fees will see some long-awaited results.
This is a BIG WIN for N4WDA and the other user groups who have taken the Commission to task, insisting that the NCOHV legally administer the program for the betterment of the OHV community.
This bill, titled “Honor the Nevada Enabling Act of 1864 Act”, introduced by Representative Mark Amodei on March 19th and referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources, directs the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior to convey certain Federal lands to the State of Nevada. This bill is the first attempt to cause the Federal government to cede most of the Federal lands, other than military bases, to Nevada. Several other states, notably Utah, are also considering like bills. However, only Nevada has 87% of its lands managed by the Federal government. There are pros and cons… this would allow control of these lands closer to home, but would create a land management problem that Nevada, as it now stands, is ill-equipped to handle. N4WDA will be keeping a close watch on this and similar bills, commenting when and where necessary.
Although it may seem that we don’t communicate well with the membership, we are very busy working on your behalf. We are always discussing ways to be more informative and communicate with you more frequently, but alas, just like you, we, as volunteers, have families and responsibilities too.