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  • CORVA Opposes use of Antiquities Act to Create National Monuments

CORVA Opposes Use Of Antiquity Act To Create National Monuments

CORVA joined other OHV organizations such as the American Motorcyclists Association, the Blue Ribbon Coalition, the Off Road Business Association and several Friends groups in crafting and introducing these bills.  Now we are working hard together to move both bills through Congress before President Obama designates much of these lands a National Monument by proclamation.

  • October 23, 2015 3:53 PM | CORVA Administrator (Administrator)
     

    More than 1,000 people packed the Whitewater Preserve on Tuesday, enduring the lingering October heat as they cheered — or booed — Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s calls for President Barack Obama to establish three national monuments in the desert.

    Feinstein has introduced three desert protection bills over the last six years, which would create the Sand to Snow and Mojave Trails national monuments. But those bills have gone nowhere, victims of the Senate’s chronic gridlock. So earlier this year Feinstein changed tactics, urging Obama to create those monuments and one other via executive authority.

    The controversy stirred by that possibility was on full display at Tuesday’s boisterous event, which took on a rally-like atmosphere as dozens of public commenters told Feinstein, Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, and other policymakers what they think should be done to protect California’s deserts. The vast majority of attendees supported the creation of the three national monuments, but a vocal minority opposed the use of executive authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act.

    sand to snow monument forum3Buy Photo

    An enthusiastic Sen. Dianne Feinstein addresses a large crowd during a public forum about designating three new national monuments at the Whitewater Preserve on Oct. 13, 2015. (Photo: Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun)

    “The current political climate is making it difficult to move any lands legislation through either body of the Congress,” Feinstein said. “My intention is to continue to push the bill, while simultaneously pushing a presidential designation. But let me be clear: My preference is very much to push the legislation.”

    The Current: Want to stay updated on water and energy news?

    The Sand to Snow National Monument would stretch from the desert floor near Joshua Tree National Park to Mount San Gorgonio in the San Bernardino National Forest, encompassing 135,000 acres. The Mojave Trails National Monument would cover 965,000 acres between Joshua Tree and the Mojave National Preserve, including a historic stretch along scenic Route 66.

    “This area is beautiful. It includes Sleeping Beauty Valley, a timeless desert landscape. It has habitat for the desert tortoise, and it is surrounded by stunning mountains and dunes,” Feinstein said, describing the proposed Mojave Trails monument. “What this desert carries is the tradition of the West that founded California, and we aim to keep that going.”

    DESERT SUN

    Dianne Feinstein proposes California national monuments

    The third proposed monument, Castle Mountain, is a smaller area that was originally carved out of the Mojave National Preserve due to a since-closed gold mine. Feinstein’s bill would add Castle Mountain to the preserve, but that option isn’t available via the Antiquities Act. Renewable energy development would largely be prohibited within all three monuments.

    A diverse array of local groups — including conservationists, off-roaders and Native American tribes — support Feinstein’s bill, the California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act. But while conservationists generally support the Antiquities Act route, some other groups are skeptical that their interests would be protected by the blunter tool of executive action.

    This part of the the Pacific Crest Trail, near theBuy Photo

    This part of the the Pacific Crest Trail, near the Whitewater Preserve, would be included in the Sand to Snow National Monument if the area receives that designation. (Photo: Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun)

    Randy Banis, a representative of the California Off-Road Vehicle Association, praised Feinstein for working hard to incorporate public input in her bill — a theme echoed by many speakers Tuesday. But he also questioned whether monument designations under the Antiquities Act would create adequate protections for off-road vehicle areas. He urged Feinstein to give the legislative process more time, and to work with Rep. Paul Cook, R-Apple Valley, who has introduced his own desert lands bill in the House.

    “I feel like we’re not yet in the seventh inning stretch of the game,” Banis said. “We can have that meeting of the minds, and that melding of viewpoints, so we can get a bill through Congress to protect these lands for all of us, and for recreation.”

    sand to snow monument forum1Buy Photo

    Omar Gomez speaks in favor of creating three national monuments in the desert at a public forum at the Whitewater Preserve on Oct. 13, 2015. (Photo: Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun)

    Some Antiquities Act critics rallied around Cook’s bill, which would create the Sand to Snow National Monument while giving the Mojave Trails a lesser level of protection, allowing new mining operations on 10 percent of the area.

    DESERT SUN

    U.S. Rep. Paul Cook: Desert belongs to you, not Washington

    John Sobel, Cook’s chief of staff, expressed hope that his boss and Feinstein will be able to craft a compromise bill that can clear both houses. He also criticized the idea of using the Antiquities Act, which he said would create “second-rate monuments because they lack the adequate support of locals and of Congress.”

    In an interview following Tuesday’s event, Ruiz reiterated his support for Feinstein's bill, although he wouldn’t take a position on the potential use of the Antiquities Act. But while many public commenters opposed the use of executive action, it was clear from the cheers and boos that most of the people gathered at Whitewater supported the idea. Bureau of Land Management organizers pegged attendance at more than 1,000.

    This part of the the Pacific Crest Trail, near theBuy Photo

    This part of the the Pacific Crest Trail, near the Whitewater Preserve, would be included in the Sand to Snow National Monument if the area receives that designation. (Photo: Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun)

    Representatives from the U.S. Interior and Agriculture departments also spoke. While they didn’t say one way or another whether Obama will create the three proposed monuments via executive authority, they reiterated their support for Feinstein’s bill, and said the administration is committed to protecting the desert.

    “We know we have a gridlocked Congress at times,” said Mike Connor, deputy secretary of the Interior. “So we have to think about other ways to protect a landscape of this magnitude and this importance.”

    Sammy Roth writes about energy and water for The Desert Sun. He can be reached at sammy.roth@desertsun.com, (760) 778-4622 and @Sammy_Roth.

  • October 23, 2015 3:25 PM | CORVA Administrator (Administrator)

    Whitewater Preserve

    October 13, 2015

    I was asked to keep remarks to under 5 minutes. I decided to focus my comments to Sen. Feinstein and Deputy Secretary Conner of the Interior Department. Although the audience was huge, I did not purposefully attempt to affect the entrenched opinions of the visiting public.  Therefore, I delivered my message in 3 points:

    1.  I reminded Sen. Feinstein of my public presentation at same venue exactly a year ago where I pledged to her that I would work hard to get OHV leadership to support her then yet-to-be-introduced bill, and boasted this was indeed done. She replied publicly, "I thank you for that."

    I then reminded her of her video conference with OHV leaders in July where we pledged to work hard to get her bill heard in committee, and to get Rep. Cook to introduce his version of the bill, and again boasted this was done. Again she replied, "And I thank you for that."

    With that I challenged the notion that her bill was stalled and urged her to ask the President to slow his designation process so that Congress can act.  I notes there was still a full year remaining in the 114th Congress, and apparently said:

    “I feel like we’re not yet in the seventh inning stretch of the game,” Banis said. “We can have that meeting of the minds, and that melding of viewpoints, so we can get a bill through Congress to protect these lands for all of us, and for recreation.”  See:

    http://www.desertsun.com/story/news/environment/2015/10/13/feinstein-pushes-obama-create-desert-monuments/73909444/

    2.  I then turned to Interior's Conner and urged that should there be a designation under the Antiquities Act, it must:

      - specifically allow for hunting, rockhounding and OHV -- including for non-street legal vehicles, just as S. 414 does, and not leave this decision to a subsequent planning process;

      - specifically protect the current designated route network as S. 414 does, and not merely rely on the enumerated boilerplate clauses from other proclamations leaving route designation to some future process.

    3.  Again turning to Interior's Conner, I urged that OHV be allowed direct stakeholder participation in the development of any proclamation, and not have us depend on others, i.e. the counties or the moderate environmental groups, to accurately represent OHV's interests.

  • October 23, 2015 3:03 PM | CORVA Administrator (Administrator)

    off_roaddesert (2).JPG

    A group of off-roaders and others are attempting to fight a proposed designation of three national monuments in the California desert under the Antiquities Act. (Corva.org)

    California outdoors enthusiasts fear Washington is poised to put up roadblocks on some of the Golden State's most treasured trails by designating three desert destinations totaling more than 1 million acres national landmarks.

    The Obama administration is considering using the federal Antiquities Act to bypass the legislative process at the request of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whose efforts to have the Mojave Trails and Castle Mountain, both in the Mojave Desert, and a section of the Sonoran Desert named federal sites were repeatedly blocked by Republicans. A White House move could put the land under federal control, which critics say could cut funding for upkeep or even restrict access.

    “Bypassing the legislative process using the Antiquities Act would be as disastrous as it is undemocratic, creating winners and losers with the stroke of a pen,” said Rep. Paul Cook, R-Calif., who has sponsored a bill that bears some similarities to Feinstein's, but would ensure off-roading and mining could continue on the land. Cook’s bill would also allow the state to create water projects for wildlife conservation.

    “Any time you take away the consensus of the local community they are left with something they did not ask for."

    - Amy Granat, California Off-Road Vehicle Association

    The Mojave Trails lie in the desert of the same name in eastern California and are part of a 140-mile road that stretches from the Colorado River to Mojave River. The Sand to Snow Monument would cover 135,000 acres from the Sonoran Desert floor in Coachella Valley to the peak of Mount San Gorgonio, in the San Bernardino Mountain range. The Castle Mountains lie on the Border of Nevada and California near the famed Joshua Tree region and reach an elevation of 5,543 feet.

    While the Obama administration has not said publicly if the Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountain national monuments will be designated, Feinstein asked the president in August to take the action. The Antiquities Act was signed into law in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt, and gives the president authority to create national monuments from public lands to protect significant natural, cultural or scientific features. It has been used more than 100 times, including for such landmarks as the Grand Canyon, Mount St. Helen's and a stretch of the Underground Railroad in Maryland. Given that President Obama has invoked the Antiquities Act to name 19 sites national monuments since 2009 and as recently as July, Cook and other critics have reason to believe the White House could do so again, especially at the invitation of a powerful Democratic ally.

    "We don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Amy Granat, managing director of the California Off-Road Vehicle Association, which has been fighting the legislative proposals for two years. "More and more of the desert is being taken away from the people. If you look at the entirety of the desert, there has always been a no-win when the Antiquities Act has been put in place.”

    Cook supports the designation, but through legislation and on terms that allow current uses to continue. He said a White House decree based on the Antiquities Act “sets in motion a Washington-based management plan" that will ultimately leave the recreational area unfunded - and unkempt.

    “ ... the roads and facilities will be left to degrade to a point where public use is unsafe or impossible,” he said. “Anyone who’s read the recent reporting on the newly-created San Gabriel National Monument’s dire situation can attest to this. Use of the Antiquities Act will create more “orphan” monuments like San Gabriel, this time in the heart of the California desert.”

    One example of the Antiquities Act not helping to improve an area can be seen at the San Gabriel Mountains, range of mountains located across Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties and separates the City of Angels and the Mojave. It has been just over a year since the White House designated the mountainous region as a National monument but the area has still not received any federal funding. The 970-square-mile region badly needed the funding to combat growing blight in the area, but is still plagued by garbage and vandalism. And with no federal funding in sight, the National Park Service does not have the means for proper upkeep.

    Related Image

    off_roaddesert (1).JPGExpand / Contract

    Rumors of the act being used first surfaced in August, when Senator Dianne Feinstein asked the President to use his authority to designate the three locations. (CORVA.org)

    Feinstein is not without support in her home state. An Antiquities Act designation for the three landmarks could actually bolster recreational activities, according to the Campaign for the California Desert. 

    “The point that Rep. Cook and other opponents of the monument designation are missing is that when our shared public lands are protected, it’s for the continued use and benefit of all Americans," the group said in a statement. "It is only when our public lands are sold off or leased by a developer does the public’s access to our public lands becomes restricted.”

    View Original Article at FoxNews

    Perry Chiaramonte is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @perrych


  • October 23, 2015 2:56 PM | CORVA Administrator (Administrator)


    Over the past year, I‘ve engaged local residents through multiple surveys, met with off-highway vehicle enthusiasts, local environmental organizations, representatives of the mining community, and many others about the need to protect our beautiful desert and the economic vitality of our region.

    Last week, I introduced the product of this feedback: HR 3668, the California Minerals, Off-Road Recreation, and Conservation Act. This bill places over a million acres of existing scenic federal lands into conservation for future generations, all while protecting recreational off-highway vehicle use, and still allowing important economic activity in the California desert.

    The desert is our home, and we want to protect it for our children and their children. My bill protects over 965,000 acres of desert south of the Mojave National Preserve as the Mojave Trails Special Management Area. Under this new management area, renewable energy development would be banned. Additionally, it would limit new mining operations to 10 percent of the total acreage; this will protect nearly 900,000 acres from any sort of industrial-scale activity. To maintain access, my bill would write into law over 1,200 miles of existing roads and trails within Mojave Trails.

    It also establishes the Sand to Snow National Monument west of Joshua Tree National Park. This monument would link the Joshua Tree National Park with the San Bernardino Mountains, ensuring a valuable east-west corridor for local wildlife. Additionally, this bill would designate over 340,000 acres of new wilderness. This land would receive the highest possible level of federal protection and would provide critical habitat for desert wildlife. It would also include language allowing the installment of wildlife guzzlers, a crucial conservation tool that has been invaluable in preserving desert bighorn sheep populations.

    The California Desert is home to three National Parks: Joshua Tree, Death Valley, and the Mojave Preserve. My bill will expand these parks by over 68,000 acres. In particular, the Castle Mountains will be incorporated into the Mojave Preserve in two phases; half will be added to the park immediately, while the remainder will be incorporated after mining operations are completed at Castle Mountain Gold Mine. It will also authorize Joshua Tree National Park to acquire the Joshua Tree Visitor Center.

    Protecting recreational use is also a critical part of my bill. It will establish five National Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Areas in the California Desert: Spangler Hills, El Mirage, Rasor, Dumont Dunes, and Stoddard Valley. Additionally, it will re-designate Johnson Valley as a National Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area and expand it by nearly 20,000 acres. This will give additional protections to OHV users and ensure that these areas cannot be closed administratively. This is not only a win for recreational use, but a conservation win as well. By creating the nation’s first system of National Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation areas, we’ll ensure that OHV activity is conducted in appropriate locations, protecting other lands for conservation purposes. In total, this legislation designates approximately 300,000 acres of land for OHV recreational use.

    The California Minerals, Off-Road Recreation, and Conservation Act is the product of a year’s worth of outreach and input from stakeholders across the California Desert. I believe that it does a great job of balancing conservation and recreation with the economic needs of desert communities. I recognize that it is a starting point, and I look forward to continuing to work with all desert stakeholders as it moves through the legislative process to pass a bill that will ensure future generations have access to the same desert that we do today.

    This editorial first appeared in the San Bernardino Sun’s online edition on October 8, 2015. You can access it by clicking here.

  • October 23, 2015 2:55 PM | CORVA Administrator (Administrator)

    Ever since the California Desert Protection Act in 1994, which closed thousands of miles of OHV roads and trails, OHV leaders have urged California's senators and representatives to protect our remaining OHV opportunities in the desert.

    It took 21 years, but now we have our bills:  H.R. 3668 and S. 414.  Both bills will protect five BLM OHV Open Areas, as many as 1,750 miles of routes, and OHV, rockhounding and hunting on 1.6 million acres of the California desert.  Also, both bills have a path to expand  OHV areas to make up for the lost OHV acreage in Johnson Valley. 

    CORVA joined other OHV organizations such as the American Motorcyclists Association, the Blue Ribbon Coalition, the Off Road Business Association and several Friends groups in crafting and introducing these bills.  Now we are working hard together to move both bills through Congress before President Obama designates much of these lands a National Monument by proclamation. 

    OHV leaders also worked hard on the draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). Unfortunately, despite early assurances to the contrary, the DRECP proposes to further reduce our OHV acreage and decimate the OHV route system on 6 million acres in the desert.

    Now facing a probable National Monument proclamation of up to 2 million acres that is unfriendly to roads, OHV, rockhounding and hunting, and an inevitable DRECP that is hostile to OHV, the passage if both H.R. 3668 and S. 414 is urgently necessary to ensure a future for OHV in the California desert. 

    Sadly, the largest national environmental organizations do not support H.R. 3668 and S. 414 because of the strong protections for OHV. They are actively working against passage of our bills and are leading the charge for a presidential proclamation. 

    Please support our bills, H.R. 3668 and S. 414, and help CORVA to protect OHV-based recreation from the threats of renewable energy development and environmental extremism.

    For information on how you can help, visit: https://www.corva.org/email


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