Public Land Issues
Comments & Opinions
January 2003, Surprise Canyon
threaten to be permanently closed.
If you have ever winched up the waterfalls in Surprise Canyon or would like
to you need to act. This canyon along with several others was cherry stemmed
into the wilderness when S/21 the Desert Protection Act was passed. It was
left open as compromise with the enviro groups and to provide access to
private property in and around Panamint City, California. I attended a field
trip sponsored by the Ridgecrest BLM office. About 35 people came out,
including, a representative from Senator Barbara Boxer office and a gaggle
of earthy types from our very own Berkley.
The whole exercise was
orchestrated to compare this extreme off road trail with how it looked 20
years ago when the mining claims near Panamint City were active and the road
was maintained. This route is no different than the rock climbing routes in
Joshua Tree National Park. Some people hike trails, while others use ropes
and spikes to pull themselves up a rock face. And some of this
activity takes place with the designated wilderness.
The funny part about the field
trip was when, I asked the BLM what the condition of the route was beyond
the first waterfall now that it has been temporally closed for over a year?
After fumbling around one of them answered it has been washed out--implying
it was impassible. The fact is that I doubt that only a couple of the people
who attended the could hike the 5 miles into Panamint City, including those
from the BLM and U of Berkley. Two weeks after the our field trip I hike the
canyon and with one exception the route is no more washed out than it has
ever been in the last 15 years. And the one section that was washed out was
less than 50 yards and could easily be driven by a set up 4x4.
Call the Ridgecrest of BLM and
asked to be kept up-to-date on Surprise Canyon 760-384-1146 or call the
Riverside Office of the BLM (909) 697-5200.
Fooling the America Public is Easy!
Remember S/21 the desert protection act? Protecting the desert sounds like
the right thing to do for most people. But what the "greens " didn't want
everyone know is that congress had already ordered the federal land management agencies to
study public lands under their control and produce a plan for their use. The
agencies set up local hearings and committees of those who use public lands to make
recommendations. These groups consisted of environmentalist, loggers, miners,
4-wheelers, cattlemen, rockhounders and anyone who was interested in the use of public
lands. The meetings were held at a local level throughout California. As plans
began to formulate it became clear that the Federal agencies were considering all aspects
of public land uses and were not going to arbitrarily lock out public access as the
extreme environmentalist wanted.
The "greens" historically take one of two courses of action when
they don't get their way: They either file a law suit or leverage a representative
to introduce legislation. Well, they followed true to form in this case when they
pushed Congressman Alan Cranston to introduce S/21 and Diane Feinstein to push it through.
This bypassed years of work and millions of dollars of tax payers money spent to develop
an equitable land management plan. S/21 was simply legislation to restrict
public access to public lands. There was no regard to the ease of management by the
local federal agencies or how the public was enjoying these public lands. In fact,
S/21 totally disregard the work that had already been done. For example the
area near Rice Valley Dunes where General Patton trained his men is riddled with bomb
craters and tank tracks but was still designated wilderness by S/21. The local BLM
office had been managing this area as an "open riding area" and was
recommending it keep that "open" status.
Year 2000: No new roads in wilderness area! Well here we
go again. By definition Wilderness areas are roadless and no mechanized travel is allowed.
This includes 4-wheel drive vehicles, bicycles, wheelchairs and it certainly does
not includes road graders! And what about the statement I've heard so many time,
"We need to protect our undeveloped areas for future generations." If the
government already owns the land how can it be developed? Have you ever tried to buy
a lot from the US Forest Service to build a cabin or lease a lot in the desert from the
BLM to place a mobile home? It's not going to happen.
So what are the "greens" up to? Here's my theory: progress
on closing Unmaintained Roads has been slow. By coaching Clinton to sign an
executive order that states that no more new roads will be constructed, individual Forests
will define areas they think this order covers. Next, you'll find a new definition
of a road that will allow the Forest Service to close any road that doesn't fit their new
definition in these newly defined areas. Of course what off highway enthusiasts,
campers, mountain bikers and anyone who travels backroads call a "road"
will not meet the requirement to be a road under this new definition and will be closed.
Most of the public that travel backroads of America agree we don't need any new
roads, we just want to keep the Unmaintained Roads we are now using open.
RS2477 is a law being called upon by local governments
(county & states) to keep existing roads open on federal lands. With the passage
of Senate Bill 21 in California that designated over 70 Federal Wilderness areas,
designated a Mojave National Preserve and changed Joshua Tree and Death Valley
to a National Park, the Federal Regulatory Agencies have been closing existing roads at a
fast pace. This, coupled with the federal land grab in southern Utah in 1997, has
made RS2477 even more important to those who desire to access the backcountry in a vehicle
or on a mountain bike. A line has been drawn in the sand. Do you wish to
access the backcountry responsibly or close it down to save for our unborn children.
Where do you stand? (more information)
PROPOSED SHUTDOWN OF PUBLIC ACCESS TO NATIONAL FORESTS
You may have heard about the USFS announcement of a new "Roadless Area
Moratorium." They intend to prevent the entering of all inventoried Roadless Areas of
5,000 acres or greater. They even intend to add areas of between 1,000 acres and 5,000
acres if they are adjacent to 5,000 acre roadless areas, a designation Wilderness area or
Wild & Scenic River. In addition other roadless areas or very low road density areas
may be designated for inclusion by Regional Foresters if they have unique ecological
characteristics or social values. (in other words, every acre that isn't already locked
Officially intended to decrease logging in National Forests, this policy will also affect
many recreational activities. The 18 month moratorium will lead to millions of acres of
defacto Wilderness and deny access for bikers, fishermen, hunters, skiers and all
off-highway-vehicle users. The USFS announced a 30 day comment period ending February
27th, 1998 (extended to March 30, 1998).
Public meetings are supposed to be scheduled around the country.
HERE IS WHAT YOU CAN DO TO GET CONGRESS INVOLVED TO STOP THE MORATORIUM.
1. Call your local or regional USFS office to find out when and where the public meetings
will be held. Hearing Schedule
2. Call your Congressman at (800) 522-6721 to voice your objection to
this roadless policy and to request a 90 day extension to the comment period.
3. Call both your Senators at (800) 522-6721 (capitol switchboard) to
make the same request.
4. Congressman Helen Chenoweth is planning a hearing on this issue in her Forests and
Forest Health Subcommittee on February 25th (BRC Cal/NV rep Don Amador is testifying). Send a letter for the hearing record to
"The Honorable Helen Chenoweth, Chairperson, Forests and Forest Health Subcommittee,
U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515. (Send by March 7th)
5. Senator Larry Craig is also planning a hearing in his Forests and Public Land
Management Subcommittee for March 5th. Send him a letter for that hearing record also.
"The Honorable Larry Craig, Chairperson, Public Land Management Subcommittee, U.S.
Senate, Washington, D.C., 20510." (Send by March 15)
Make your letter very brief and personal. Just tell why you use the forests and that you
fear this new "Roadless Policy" will deny your recreational access to many of
the backcountry areas you use. Give some personal examples.
Catalog | Order Form | Home Page | Web Updates
Products Review | Project Vehicles | Sidekick Dealers
Equipping your 4x4 | Finding Trails |
Articles | Who's Rick Russell
Scheduled Events | Public Lands Issues |
email to Sidekick