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.
On Saturday, December 5th COW hosted a public meeting and workshop on the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) West Mojave Plan (“WEMO”) for the purposes of informing participants of concerns with the current proposal from the BLM, supporting participants in identifying and documenting their concerns about proposed ORV routes in their neighborhoods, and sharing these concerns with the BLM during this open comment period (until January 25, 2016.)
The workshop was well attended (standing room only at some points!) and participants were quite engaged with the speakers.
A few comments from the workshop's attendees:
- I am a bit newer to community activism, but I would say that the workshop exceeded my expectations in its civility and warmth in its approach; genuine concern and individual empowerment.
- The workshop went beyond my expectations and included more information than I imagined! I found it very helpful.
- The workshop acted as an excellent link between concerned citizens and actions they can take. PS- suggest a larger venue next time.
- The workshop explained the issue clearly and simply, and offered problem solving suggestions.
The forms for you to document routes have now been posted to the website (see the side column), and for your convenience are shared again here:
- WEMO Route Form Orientation - To get you started
- WEMO Route Form - Use to actually document routes of concern
- BLM Tips and Tricks Document - Helpful in using the route designation maps
Many thanks to those of you who attended the WEMO workshop. Thank you for braving the cold room (Brrr!!) and hanging in there during the workshop. We appreciate your participation and your support in preserving our neighborhoods and natural environment.
The BLM is proposing to designate a spaghetti network of over 10,000 miles of OHV routes – most of which were created haphazardly through decades of mismanaged and irresponsible OHV use. This is double the mileage of the 2006 route network that a federal court found was illegal.
OHV use on this vast network has and will continue to:
- Result in crushing of fragile desert soils and vegetation
- Produce dust, noise, and fumes that disturb wildlife, hikers, equestrian users, and other members of the public enjoying the desert through quiet forms of recreation
- Encourage illegal dumping, vandalism and looting of archaeological resources, and other irresponsible and illegal behavior
- Facilitate trespass across private lands and parks and other areas closed to motorized use to protect their sensitive resources
- Disturb desert tortoise, bighorn sheep, and other sensitive wildlife
According to BLM’s own environmental analysis, the proposed route network will have the most adverse impacts to fragile desert resources of any options considered, despite the legal requirement that routes open to OHV use minimize resource damage.
Hundreds of proposed routes crisscross the West Mojave’s crown jewels that BLM itself has identified as warranting the highest level of conservation protection.
Tell BLM it must close damaging OHV routes and come up with a new plan that does not reward decades of illegal and irresponsible OHV use and does not prioritize that use at the expense of our beloved desert resources and communities.
Attend our workshop on Saturday, December 5 (details here) on how the WEMO plan could negatively effect you and the desert.
On Saturday, December 5th from 2:00pm to 5:00pm at the Community United Methodist Church, 6213 East Parkway in Joshua Tree, The Alliance for Responsible Recreation will host an informational workshop on the proposal by the federal Bureau of Land Management to dramatically increase access for off-road vehicles in our rural communities by allowing ORVs to ride on our private property, public lands and the local county roads that we maintain with our tax dollars. Many people are not even aware of this plan, and others are looking for a way to voice their concerns.
The workshop will include a detailed explanation of the BLM’s West Mojave Route Management Plan, maps of proposed ORV routes in the Morongo Basin and ways to comment on the plan.
Please join us.
Just to be clear … ORV use is NOT permitted on BLM lands if it is not designated for that use. Here's relevant part of the Code of Federal Regulations:
§8341.1 Regulations governing use (of Off-Road Vehicles).
(a) The operation of off-road vehicles is permitted on those areas and trails designated as open to off-road vehicle use.
You can view the ONLY designated routes in the Morongo Basin on the map in this brochure.
Alliance for Responsible Recreation (ARR) Community Meeting, December 5th 2015
Due to an outpouring of comments and strategic negotiation by our legal team, the BLM has agreed to extend the comment period for the WEMO DEIS until January 2016. Desert residents are encouraged to gather information about problems with the proposed routes in their areas to submit to the BLM asking that the routes be eliminated. Refer to the WEMO DEIS maps on this web site.
Everyone is encouraged to attend our next community meeting on Saturday, December 5th in Joshua Tree.
More details to come.
BLM PROPOSES TO SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE ORV ROUTES IN THE WESTERN MOJAVE
BY ILEENE ANDERSON AND PHIL KLASKY
In a move that has angered private property owners, conservationists, desert residents and visitors to the Western Mojave Desert, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is proposing to double the miles of off road vehicle (ORV) routes from 5,338 miles proposed in 2006 to 10,428 miles in the preferred alternative. Revision of the West Mojave Plan (WEMO), including its route designations, was required by a 2009 court order which found the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) failed to minimize impacts from off-road vehicle (ORV) routes to cultural and natural resources or to minimize conflicts with private property owners. The new proposal by the BLM ignores years of citizen effort to address ORV destruction of fragile desert landscapes and widespread trespass on private property.
The desert has suffered from years of ORV trespass on private and public lands causing damage to wildlife habitat, conservation areas including Desert Wildlife Management Areas (DWMAa), Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs), designated wilderness areas, public lands off-limits to motorized vehicles, Native American cultural resources and archeological sites, and private property. By its own admission, the BLM has been unable to protect the public lands under its management from illegal ORV activities.
Read the whole article here.
The fight to protect public lands from ORV use is wide-spread. Given our efforts to push back on the BLM re the current WEMO proposal it is great to see successful efforts elsewhere.
From the article:
"Thanks to Earthjustice litigation, the BLM must now conduct comprehensive environmental and cultural surveys before deciding whether to designate dirt roads and trails in this area for off-road vehicle use. Prior to the ruling, the BLM had set aside 4,200 miles of trails for these vehicles—almost enough for a round trip from Los Angeles to New York City—as part of their Richfield Resource Management Plan without following legal requirements to “minimize” impacts or survey for cultural sites.
“This important decision flatly rejects Utah BLM’s ‘designate trails first, think later’ approach to off-road vehicle management,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “Utah’s remarkable redrock landscapes demand better.”