BLM's Interim Street Legal Only Route Proposal - Info and Deadline to Comment

  • Posted on: 23 April 2017
  • By: admin

On April 19, 2017 the BLM held an open house at the Yucca Valley Community Center to answer questions about their current Proposed Street Legal Only (SLO) routes. This is their response to a court order to take interim measures in the period until the updated WEMO plan is published. A related open house was conducted in Barstow on April 20 and a third meeting is scheduled in Barstow on May 3.

The proposal is only a temporary measure prior to the next release of the WEMO plan. The BLM is soliciting comments re this proposal. You may use this form to submit such comments. Your comments must be mailed to the address on that form by May 12, 2017. They can also be emailed to Matt Toedtli, BLM Barstow Planning Environmental Coordinator at mtoedtli@blm.com for his reference.

Community ORV Watch is in favor of this proposal but we strongly urge expanding Street Legal Only limits to include all WEMO routes that intersect with any/all County dirt roads. The road system in the Morongo Basin is the result of the Small Tract Act (1938-1976) during which time the BLM surveyed and sold 5 acre tracts for fair market value. Each tract had a 44 and later 50 foot easement for access and there was utility access. Through use by the public these roads have come under the jurisdiction of the County.

Note: County roads include the County Maintained Road System - CMRS (the roads can be paved or unpaved), The County Service Area (CSA) roads (community roads maintained through tax funds paid by community members) and other roads which are unmaintained by the County but over which they have jurisdiction.

Not all of the surveyed land was sold for private use, which explains our checkerboard pattern. Currently riders on BLM off-road designated routes illegally pass though our residential community roads compromising peace, quiet and clean air in our neighborhoods.

Re this current proposal:

  • BLM is proposing a interim set of street legal only routes on a limited number of road sections where BLM and and County Maintained Road System roads intersect. Here is the map of this proposal and an associated document with some associated route restriction route numbers.
  • The total milage for these sections is 148 miles throughout the WEMO territory.
  • This interim program is intended to satisfy the court order to take interim measures before the next WEMO plan is released.
  • The purpose is to harmonize the County and BLM road regulations so that there is no confusion for law enforcement. Access to dirt roads on BLM land still allows OHV use at this time.

Updating the WEMO process timeline, on January 26, 2017 the Court issued an order enlarging the time for completion ofthe WEMO plan amendment. The revised planning schedule is as follows from the BLM’s quarterly report:

  • The Notice of Availability (NOA) of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, together with the Draft Travel Management Plans (TMP), will be published by January 2018.
  • The NOA of the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, together with the Proposed TMPs, will be published by April 2019.
  • The WEMO land use plan amendment Record of Decision (ROD) and the TMP RODs will be issued by October 2019.

We were also informed by the BLM that from the late 2015-early 2016 comment period that many of you participated in, those comments are “still being categorized” and an analysis of them will be made publicly available “this summer."

MEETING: BLM Quarterly Report for WEMO

  • Posted on: 9 April 2017
  • By: admin

Please attend one of these meetings if you can. This will be an opportunity to hear from the BLM on the status of the WEMO process and to give your feedback.

BLM will be hosting two public open-house format meetings to gather public input on a proposal to temporarily restrict use to street legal vehicles on 148 miles of routes located on public lands within San Bernardino County that are maintained by the County of San Bernardino Public Works Department.  Segments of these routes under County maintenance are managed as limited to street legal only vehicles.  This proposal to temporarily limit the use of the route segments on public lands will allow BLM to analyze and determine if consistent management of these routes across the two jurisdictions is in the public interest.  These public meetings are scheduled for:  

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 (5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.)   Yucca Valley Community Center (Yucca Conference Room)  57090 Twentynine Palms Highway  Yucca Valley, CA 92284  
 
Thursday, April 20, 2017 (5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.)  Barstow Field Office (Main Conference Room)  2601 Barstow Rd, Barstow, CA 92311 

UPDATE:
A third meeting has been scheduled as follows:
Wednesday, May 3, 2017 (5:30 to 6:30 p.m.)
Barstow Field Office
(Main Conference Room)
2601 Barstow Rd, Barstow, CA 92311

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The BLM's Proposal To Delay Resolving Problems With WEMO

  • Posted on: 14 June 2016
  • By: admin

Following from our community's work to submit comments on the BLM's flawed 2015 WEMO plan we have been waiting for the BLM to respond to our significant input and criticism regarding their proposals. The BLM's response has been to try and kick the can down the road and not substantively improve the shortcomings of the plan. We are actively working with the Alliance for Responsible Recreation and other concerned entities to respond to this delay and most importantly to limit further damage to the desert.

Please read this article, "Anatomy Of A Successful Grass Roots Campaign", published in the June 2016 issue of Desert Report, for a history of the process and details of where things stand.

From the article:

The deadline for the BLM to release the WEMO Final Environmental Impact Statement and proposed Travel Management Plans was April 29th, 2016 and November 30th, 2016 was the deadline for the BLM to finalize the WEMO decisions and publish the official Record of Decision (ROD) on the TMPs. In fact, the agency has asked the courts for an extension. We were disturbed to learn that the BLM proposes to delay the process until 2020! First, they want the public to do their work for them by commenting on specific routes in a flawed document, and now they want to delay the process another four years. Every day that the agency’s ORV policy remains unclear or confusing, illegal routes will proliferate and, given the BLM’s inability to enforce the law, there will be no consequences for riders who are in violation. The desert cannot survive four more years of uncontrolled and unmanaged ORV abuse. In the meantime, constant threats to the desert continue to be challenged by a growing network of skilled and activated people who love our precious lands and are prepared
to defend them.

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The Deadline Has Passed But The Work Continues On

  • Posted on: 26 January 2016
  • By: admin

Photo credit: Steve Bardwell

The January 25th deadline for submitting comments to the BLM about the WEMO plan has passed. We are beyond grateful for the large number of you who have done such impressive, detailed, and high quality work in documenting and submitting your concerns about the BLM's proposed plan.

According to the BLM they will release, in late spring 2016, their proposed WEMO Plan Amendment/FSEIS and Proposed Travel Management Plans for each Travel Management Area. Our hope is that the BLM will take the community's comments and concerns into account with their revised plan. We understand that when those plans are released there will be an additional 45 day comment period when the community can provide feedback to them.

In the meantime if you have not yet sent a letter to the Secretary of the Interior to convey your concerns about WEMO you may do so here.

Keep up to date by checking back to this website for updates, following and liking us on Facebook at facebook.com/orvwatch, and following on Twitter at @orvwatchmorongo.

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Send A Letter to the Secretary of the Interior About Your WEMO Concerns

  • Posted on: 29 December 2015
  • By: admin

Send an e-mail to Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell to convey your concerns about the BLM's WEMO plan. We are providing suggested verbiage but feel free to modify to convey your concerns. Be sure to include your name and address as well as any contact information so that any responses can be directed there.

Compose and send an e-mail to the Secretary of the Interior re your WEMO concerns.

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Commenting On The WEMO Plan

  • Posted on: 23 December 2015
  • By: admin

Why comment? Submitting a comment to the BLM before January 25, 2016, is the most effective action citizens can take on WEMO at this time. The BLM is obligated by law to address properly submitted comments. Although it’s true there’s no guarantee they’ll follow your recommendations, they’ll have to say on record why if they choose not to and may be held accountable in court for that choice.

How do I comment? Submitting a comment can be very simple and take only a moment of your time, or you may choose to craft a more detailed response – it’s up to you. We’ve provided resources to support you, including a sample letter in email format you can just click and send, all the way to forms that help you document issues with a particular route that concerns you. You might want to read the WEMO Overview first to better understand how WEMO might affect you, your neighborhood, and the desert.

Ways to comment, from easy to more effortful, general to detailed:

SUBMIT YOUR COMMENTS TO:

Bureau of Land Management
California Desert District
WMRNP Plan Amendment

22835 Calle San Juan de Los Lagos

Moreno Valley, California 92553

OR

email at cawemopa@blm.gov

If possible, please also send a copy to Community ORV Watch at:

COW c/o MBCA
PO Box 24
Joshua Tree, CA 92252

OR

email at orvwatch@orvwatch.com

Thanks! You just took action to preserve your roads and the quality of life in your neighborhood and the desert. Congratulations! If you want to stay informed on this issue, send your contact information including you e-mail to orvwatch@orvwatch.com to join our mailing list.

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WEMO: An Overview

  • Posted on: 23 December 2015
  • By: admin

What we call “WEMO”, or the WEst MOjave Route Network Project (WMRNP), is a proposal by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to designate thousands of miles of routes across the Mojave Desert, most of which would be open to off-road vehicles. And many of those miles would be right here, in the Morongo Basin. WEMO as currently proposed would superimpose ORV routes on top of many of our residential roads – roads that local residents live on, drive on, and pay to maintain.

Basin residents are familiar with the problems that can accompany irresponsible ORV use in their neighborhoods. Trespass and vandalism on private and public property, noise, dust, fumes, conflict – the issue has been a headache for years. Law enforcement is swamped and underfunded, and many complaints go un-remedied. The current BLM proposal would intensify the issues by drastically increasing the miles open to ORVs, bringing them into our neighborhoods and making the area a magnet for out-of-area riders.

The WEMO plan designates almost all roads and tracks that cross BLM land as “routes”. In the Basin, due to our homestead legacy and checkerboard pattern of public-private land ownership, many of these routes also cross private property and pass through residential areas.

Example of Routes Proposed Under Alternative 3, WEMO Plan

The bright green line segments are proposed ORV routes. They are on BLM land (beige color), but they frequently run into private property (white color) and private or taxpayer maintained roads. This snapshot from a WEMO map is a neighborhood north of Amboy Road in Wonder Valley and is typical of other homestead areas in the Morongo Basin. Source: WEMO SDEIS, TMA 3, Map 18
.

This would create unsafe conditions in our communities and conflict with street legal vehicles, and it is in direct violation of San Bernardino County Ordinance 3973/4103, which regulates ORV use. Many of the proposed ORV routes would lie on top of CSA roads that are maintained by assessments on local residents, with resultant damage to roads, berms, and flood control infrastructure creating a tax burden on residents. Further, as many residents have experienced, off-road vehicle use does NOT stay restricted to the roads, but often spills over onto private property and public lands, increasing trespass and escalating the potential for vandalism, crime, and intimidation of residents.

How did we get here?

The WEMO plan was originally completed by the BLM in 2006. Thereafter residential and conservation groups successfully sued the BLM over their designation of over 5,000 miles of ORV routes in the Western Mojave, since the routes cause damage to invaluable natural and cultural resources and encourage trespass on private lands. The current WEMO Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is the result of that lawsuit, but the BLM has failed to meet the mandates of the legal decision, instead doubling the amount of miles proposed for motorized recreation and ignoring other requirements of the court. The current proposal designates a spaghetti network of over 10,000 miles of ORV routes – most of which were created haphazardly through decades of mismanaged and irresponsible ORV use.

What happens next?

The original comment period on the WEMO DEIS ended in June, but the BLM agreed to commenters’ demands and reopened the comment period. The new deadline is January 25, 2016. After that the BLM will issue a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), with final recommendations on route designations within Travel Management Plans (TMP). Following the FEIS release, there will be a public-comment period of 45 days.

What can we do about WEMO?

It is up to Basin residents to tell the BLM that we do NOT want the WEMO plan as proposed, that our roads are NOT intended to be ORV raceways, that our neighborhoods are NOT available to be de facto ORV playgrounds, and that our tax dollars are spent to maintain our roads for street-legal vehicles and residential and other appropriate access, NOT recreation. You can comment to the BLM by January 25, 2016; find out how here.

More about WEMO:
The full document of the WEMO Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (WEMO SDEIS) and supporting information is available through the BLM project website here .

What is WEMO supposed to accomplish?

The WEMO Supplemental Draft Impact Statement (SDEIS) states: “The purpose and need of the West Mojave Route Network Project (WMRNP) is to provide a framework for transportation management, and specific travel management implementation strategies in Limited Access Areas of the West Mojave Planning Area. This framework and these strategies would (1) limit conflicts and threats to sensitive resources, (2) respond to current and anticipated future transportation and travel needs, (3) provide appropriate recreational access, and (4) be consistent with the overall motor vehicle access goal of the 2006 WEMO Plan. The MVA goal of the 2006 WEMO Plan is to provide appropriate motorized vehicle access to public lands for commercial, recreational, and other purposes in a manner that is compatible with species conservation.”

Anatomy of WEMO:

Alternatives: The SDEIS proposes for review four Alternatives, each having variations in, for example, number of routes and conservation strategy. Alternative 3 is the BLM’s Preferred Alternative – the Alternative they have decided is most likely to meet their goals. It also has the highest number of miles of motorized routes (10,428) of any of the alternatives.
Travel Management Areas: The WEMO planning area is divided into eight Travel Management Areas, or TMAs. The Morongo Basin is within TMA 3. TMA 3 is further divided into subregions, viewable on the WEMO maps. Of note, the WEMO maps are almost impossible to view through the BLM website; view them instead on the COW website here

Minimization criteria: When designating routes, the BLM is required to meet the Minimization Criteria for Motorized Recreation, 43 CFR Section 8342.1. Their failure to consider the Minimization Criteria was one of the issues on which the court sent the BLM back to the drawing board. View the Minimization Criteria here.

Don’t forget: Comments due January 25, 2016! Learn how to comment here .

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Report On Meeting With BLM At Wonder Valley Community Center On December 14, 2015

  • Posted on: 23 December 2015
  • By: admin

According to BLM officials who attended a meeting at the Wonder Valley Community Center on December 14, 2015, the agency has received many comments from Morongo Basin residents. Edythe Seehafer (WEMO Project Manager) and Katrina Simons (Field Manager, Barstow BLM ) attended at the invitation of Teresa Sitz, Municipal Advisory Council (MAC) representative for Wonder Valley. They gave a brief presentation and answered questions from two dozen strongly focused residents.

Among many points covered in a lively discussion, the BLM revealed the following: The Final WEMO plan proposal will be dependent on provisions of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), which is expected to be finalized in the first quarter of 2016. The Final WEMO plan proposal will include a fifth alternative, in addition to the original four, that is currently being developed by the WEMO Interdisciplinary Team. When the Final plan proposal is issued, refinements of all the proposed WEMO routes and designations will be in the form of Travel Management Plans (TMP). The public will then have 45 days to comment on the TMPs.

The officials said the BLM has been working with San Bernardino County about Special Districts issues, meaning our CSA roads. They currently are exploring using a route sub-designation of "Street-Legal Only" on our residential roads, which they believe would simplify the regulatory frameworks and law enforcement.

For more details on these and other points of the discussion, Teresa Sitz’s notes may be viewed here.

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