American Sand Association – News

Through a collaboration with Ecologic Partners, Inc. (Ecologic) and Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), the American Sand Association (ASA), has filed suit against the California Coastal Commission (CCC) to oppose all efforts to shut-down motorized off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (ODSVRA).  ASA and SEMA are joined in these efforts by other Ecologic members: Off Road Business Association (ORBA) and District 37 Competition American Motorcyclist Association (AMA District 37).

Read More

American Sand Association – News

Back in September of 2018, the American Sand Association, along with our friends at EcoLogic Partners, Inc., filed a complaint with the CA Public Utilities Commission to express our concerns regarding the lack of safe railroad crossings in the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area.  A formal committee was established as a direct result of our complaint to work on the railroad crossing issue. Now is the time for the public to provide their input on the most feasible crossing alternative. Virtual public meetings will be held on October 21 and October 24 so we can hear from you!  Also, a website has been set up at http://www.imperialctc.org/sr-78-glamis-crossing and an online input portal will be available between October 8 and November 6. Please see the flyer below for more details. Ecologic Partners, Inc. is a consortium of off-highway vehicle organizations that work to protect and expand meaningful recreation opportunities on public and private land. Partners include Off Road Business Association (ORBA) www.offroadbusiness.com , District 37 Competition American Motorcyclist Association www.amadistrict37.org and the American Sand Association (ASA) asasand.org.

Read More

American Sand Association – News

After over a decade of service to the sand dune OHV community as Executive Director, Nicole Gilles has departed the American Sand Association (ASA) as of April 19, 2021. The board wishes to recognize the efforts and leadership of Nicole during her tenure and wishes her the best of luck in her future endeavors.  In order to continue and build upon the 20 year legacy of success of the ASA, the board is actively seeking an experienced leader to take on the role of Executive Director. In the interim, board president Bryan Henry will assume the duties, and any and all inquiries can be directed to his email address: bryanh@asasand.org.
Read More

BlueRibbon Coalition/ShareTrails

As part of the travel management settlement with SUWA, BLM is currently updating 13 travel management plans across the state of Utah. BlueRibbon Coalition was a defendant intervenor in the case, and we have been vigilantly participating in the process of updating the plans. This is a substantial effort, and we have created the 10,000+ Project as a place where members and supporters can join us in the process.

The latest travel management area that is open for public comment in this area is Gemini Bridges and Labyrinth Canyon. This is a map of the area under consideration:

This area is in what is called the scoping period of the process. This basically means BLM is collecting information from the public about which trails should be included in their analysis and which issues should inform their analysis. For an interactive map of the embedded image, use this link: https://eplanning.blm.gov/EPLCommentMap/?itemId=2be8bfadeb6a40549e59ad0ad0abb169

The most important part of this step in the process is to make sure that the BLM has a complete inventory of the routes and trails in the area. If this is an area that you are familiar with, you need to review the map using the link to see if there are any important trails missing.

The next issue we can address to make sure our comments have impact is to identify the trails that could be recommended for closure and make sure we justify their continued use. If you use these trails for recreation that is enough of a justification. Usually the trails that will be identified for closure will be trails that get light use and are starting to reclaim with vegetation or trails that look like they have no apparent purpose. For example, many trails have spurs that access overlooks or camping sites. On a map this spur might look unnecessary if we don’t actively justify why it should be left open.

If you don’t know this area as well as others, you can at least make a general comment that BLM should include any additional routes submitted by others and that they should propose an alternative that opens the maximum mileage of routes. We believe the travel management process in Utah will govern over 10,000 miles in trails, and so we will have to fight for every mile during every step of the process to achieve the goal of the 10,000+ Project.

While most people will focus on how travel management affects motorized access to this area, we have found in other areas that those who are trying to restrict access are working harder to restrict dispersed camping than they are working to restrict OHVs. If you enjoy dispersed camping, you need to let the BLM know that they should be looking for ways to increase and manage dispersed camping instead of trying to eliminate it. Moab is a crowded place where hotel rooms and designated campgrounds fill up. This travel management area is surrounded by restrictive National Parks and wilderness areas. With so many acres of land in this area already managed with restrictive access, this is an area where BLM needs to allow multiple use. The fight to eliminate dispersed camping is heating up on public lands, so we created the Dispersed Camping Access Alliance to unite the voice of those who enjoy open, free camping on public land.

If you haven’t already submitted your public comment, hopefully the information in this post helps. You have until April 26 to make a comment if you haven’t submitted one yet. Here is the link for submitting comments: https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/2001224/570

Of course we’re planning to submit a comment as well to maintain our legal standing in the travel management process. SUWA is appealing the BLM’s decision to designate hundreds of miles of trails as open in the San Rafael Desert in federal court. We are also consulting on the Trail Canyon plan, which includes trails around Kanab and the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. We’ve submitted comments on several other areas including another area near Moab and the San Rafael Swell. We’re doing everything we can to have a meaningful impact on this process including legal intervention. Any donations made to the 10,000+ Project will be allocated to this effort that will require a lot of time and funding to be effective. We’re going the distance, but we can only succeed with your support.

Read More

BlueRibbon Coalition/ShareTrails

The BLM is currently working to create and update existing travel management within Chaffee County, Colorado.  The BLM’s current considerations regarding this travel management planning process include whether and how much to limit dispersed camping, construction of developed campsites, managing increased recreational use, managing user conflicts between recreational users and adjacent land owners, and possible road closures.  

Between the years 2016 and 2019, the county estimates that recreational use of the area has increased by 12% per year.  During that time, the BLM has received increased documentation regarding trash, improperly disposed human waste, and other negative impacts to the area.  They have also claimed a growing public demand for more developed camping in the area and to have seen increases in user conflicts between visitors and adjacent land owners.  The BLM and associated parties are taking a land health standards and human health and safety approach in mitigating and preventing these and other reported negative impacts. 

Within the Chaffee County area, travel management considerations are being given particular attention in the Shavano area, the Burmac/Methodist area, Fourmile North, the Browns Canyon National Monument Entrance/Hecla Junction, and Pass Creek.  Several of these areas, including the Burmac/Methodist area and the Browns Canyon National Monument Entrance/Hecla Junction currently fall under the 2006 Arkansas River Travel Management Plan which allows a 100’ margin for dispersed camping off of designated routes.  The BLM and associated land management groups have expressed concerns regarding potential impacts resulting from this wide margin and are seeking ways to decrease this margin in upcoming travel management.  They also claim that the existing trail network has created a demand for camping opportunities which are too limited to support the demand.  

The Shavano area is also receiving particular attention in this travel management process as an area that was hitherto unregulated.  This area has seen a high level of recreational demand in recent years.  Concerns currently claimed for this area include user conflict over recreational impacts on grazing, recreational impacts on wild forage, complaints regarding multiple fire rings, complaints of improperly disposed human waste, and a broad network of user routes which may see future closures.  

Other conflicts and concerns to be addressed by future travel management planning include user conflict between dispersed and developed campers and efforts to decrease a 100’ margin for dispersed camping off of designated routes in the Fourmile North area (currently managed through the Fourmile Travel Management Plan of 2002), efforts to decrease use of the Browns Canyon National Monument Entrance/Hecla Junction as an alternative for paid camping and claimed user conflicts between dispersed campers and adjacent private property owners, and preemptive management of areas without travel designations that currently do not receive much use but exist in close proximity to highly valued recreational resources such as the Arkansas River and popular trail systems.  All areas are currently being considered for restrictions on dispersed camping, with an increased focus on constructing and maintaining developed campsites.  

BlueRibbon Coalition encourages responsible use of lands and urges its members to recreate on public lands respectfully in order to preserve both public land use privileges and the land itself while also urging public land administrators to ensure that regulations and travel management are not created and implemented in such a way as to disadvantage any one group of land users more than another.  The direction of current travel management planning considerations leans heavily towards limiting the access of dispersed campers.  If you enjoy free, dispersed camping on public lands in this area of Colorado, we encourage our members to actively participate in the planning process and work to preserve responsible access for all user types by submitting a public comment to the BLM by 5pm on May 20th.  

Click here for information on how to submit public comment

As you draft and submit your public comment, please consider the following points. 

User conflict between recreationists, property owners, grazers, and others ought to be mitigated through means that do not limit the access of one user group for the benefit of another.  Travel Management Planning need not and should not result in closures of the currently available roads and lands.  Taking such an approach is not an inclusive process for public lands management and frequently disadvantages one or more user groups for the benefit of another.  The 100′ margin on the sides of roads is reasonable, and the BLM should use other means to mitigate impacts resulting from the 100′ margin other than closures, camping restrictions, or route reductions.

The above travel management considerations reveal a trend in the current travel management process.  Across the nation, dispersed camping is becoming increasingly limited and without an increase in user responsibility and appropriate advocacy, we anticipate seeing major reductions in areas where dispersed camping is allowed. This will only exacerbate impacts in the dwindling areas where dispersed camping remains allowed. We urge you to practice responsible cleanup and use of lands, to educate other users regarding responsible use, and to participate in the public process by submitting a comment to the Bureau of Land Management.  

Read More

American Stewards

(LMNS June 8, 2021) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) placed the Golden-cheeked warbler (GCW) under federal protection in 1990, as an endangered species. The GCW’s habitat covers a wide swath of Texas land that stretches above Fort Worth and down to the Mexican border. The decision was highly controversial as many disputed the Service’s findings as not being supported by science.

 

The Service is preparing a status review of the GCW, along with 22 other species in the southwest region. American Stewards of Liberty (ASL) filed comments last week providing the scientific basis for delisting the species.

 

“ASL finds the results of the Services recent study particularly significant for the following reasons. At the time the GCWA was listed, there were thought to exist only 15,000-17,000 singing males throughout the species range. In the Services 2014 5-year review of the GCWA, the agency acknowledged that a peer-reviewed, published 2012 study by Mathewson, et al. estimated the rangewide population of male GCWAs to be 263,339. The Service discounted these results, however, because ‘others have cautioned that this analysis may have over- predicted density estimates, resulting in inflated population estimates.’ Given the results of the Services more recent study are consistent with the results of Mathewson et al. 2012, ASL suggests that the species is not currently threatened with extinction across all or a significant portion of its range and likely never has been.(ASL GWCA Comments)

 

The Service’s website shows 177 Habitat Conservation Plans and one Safe Harbor Plan in place across the region, an area almost exclusively private property. Substantial amounts of money have been poured into protecting the species. For a bird whose male population is greater than 250,000 with substantial habitat, it seems more than reasonable the Service would determine to remove the species from the endangered list.

Read More

American Stewards

(LMNS June 8, 2021) Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts has been holding “Stop 30 x 30” town hall meetings across the State to educate landowners on the program and help them identify the conservation vehicles that could be used by the federal agencies to reach the 30 percent goal.

Nebraska is 97 percent private land, and the State relies on the tax base and production of the private lands for its robust economy. The Governor is a strong advocate for private property and good conservation, which is why he wants to keep Nebraska’s lands in Nebraskan’s hands without the federal strings. He stated:

“The U.S. News and World Report ranked Nebraska as the sixth-best state in the nation for the quality of our natural environment. By contrast, the State of Delaware—which President Biden represented as a U.S. Senator from 1973 to 2009—was sixth-worst overall, and #47 for pollution. … Why would Nebraskans cede responsibility for our natural resources to leaders of states who’ve done a poor job of managing their own environment?”

Governor Ricketts also led the letter signed by 15 Governors noticing the White House they oppose the program. The letter included specific questions on how the program would be implemented, funded, and authorized, none of which have been addressed by the Biden Administration.

With him at the town hall meetings have been Cherry County Commissioner, Tanya Storer and Nebraska Farm Bureau Vice President, Sherry Vinton, as well as other speakers. Commissioner Storer has been helping Counties understand the specific ways in which conservation restrictions can devalue the land and revenue counties rely on to support their community. Sherry Vinton has been speaking from the landowner’s perspective.

Nebraska has more counties than any other state that have passed resolutions opposing 30 x 30. Their U.S. Representatives and Senators have also taken a stand against the program, as well as their Attorney General, which sent a letter co-signed with the Kansas Attorney General placing the Biden Administration on notice that they will be watching for federal overreach.

Click here for the town hall schedule.

Read More

American Stewards

(LMNS June 8, 2021) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has issued a new rule proposing to place the Lesser prairie chicken (LPC) on the Endangered Species list, again.

In 2014, they issued a final rule to list the species as threatened, which was immediately challenged by the Permian Basin Petroleum Association and four New Mexico Counties. This case resulted in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas issuing an order in 2015 vacating the listing, removing it from the federal list. In 2016, WildEarth Guardians, Defenders of Wildlife, and Center for Biological Diversity were back with a new petition to re-list the LPC, leading to the new rule issued June 1, 2021.

The new proposed rule splits the population into two Distinct Population Segments (DPS). The Northern DPS is found in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and the Texas Panhandle. It is proposed to be listed as threatened. The Southern DPS is found in eastern New Mexico and west Texas, and it is proposed to be listed as endangered.

The Service’s proposed rule makes note of the many local conservation efforts that have been put into place to protect the species, most of them voluntary and at considerable expense to the resource industries. However, because the Service has determined that 97 percent of the population’s habitat is on private lands, which are currently not regulated by the federal agency, it finds it must place the species on the federal protection list.

The conservation programs currently in place are numerous and restrictive, incorporating conservation measures required by the Service. Each of the five states have programs they administer on state lands and for private enrolled lands, and the federal agencies have specific management restrictions on their lands. For instance, in New Mexico the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) established the 57,522-acre Lesser Prairie-Chicken Habitat Preservation Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) in 2008, where new oil and gas development, roadways, grazing and power line development have been eliminated, and existing uses reduced or phased out. There is also a specific LPC resource management plan for the remaining BLM lands covering the potential habitat areas with targeted restrictions.

Across the five-state region, conservation plans impacting private lands include: the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Rangewide Conservation Plan established by the five-state wildlife agencies; the Lesser Prairie- Chicken Initiative administered by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS); and the Conservation Reserve Program also administered by NRCS and used to provide habitat. Additionally, the Nature Conservancy holds numerous conservation easements across the states with the conservation purpose and priority of protecting the LPC.

The coverage of conservation programs and money expended to implement the Service’s measures protecting the bird’s habitat is voluminous and costly. Even so, it is not enough.

The Service finds:

“We conclude that existing regulatory mechanisms have minimal influence on the rangewide trends of lesser prairie- chicken habitat loss and fragmentation because 97 percent of the lesser prairie- chicken analysis area occurs on private lands, and the activities affecting lesser prairie-chicken habitat are largely unregulated land use practices and land development.” (Federal Register, Vol. 86, No. 103, Tuesday, June 1, 2021, page 29454)

Note that the reason for listing is primarily because of “habitat loss and fragmentation” and that activities on private lands “are largely unregulated land use practices and land development.” This indicates the Service will not be satisfied until it has full regulatory control across the LPC historical habitat, including private acres.

In a recent online briefing with the Southwest Regional team from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, landowners were again encouraged to enroll in the conservation programs as the Service works to consider comments and finalize its rule over the next twelve months.

Determination of critical habitat will come next, where the Service can draw a line around the potential habitat and look for more ways to regulate the unregulated private lands within. What should be concerning to private landowners is the possibility that a federal nexus occurs on the private lands if there is a program that is authorized, funded, or carried out by a federal agency required to consult with the Service on the impacts to the LPC habitat.

The Endangered Species regulations require “all” federal agencies to consult on Endangered Species Act listings. The proposed LPC listing explains that when a landowner receives funding or needs authorization by a federal agency, that agency will be required to consult with the Service to determine whether the action would impact the critical habitat. This creates the federal nexus to the private lands, indirectly giving the Service the ability to regulate the private land.

“Where a landowner requests Federal agency funding or authorization for an action that may affect a listed species or critical habitat, the Federal agency would be required to consult with the Service under section 7(a)(2) of the Act. However, even if the Service were to conclude that the proposed activity would result in destruction or adverse modification of the critical habitat, the Federal action agency and the landowner are not required to abandon the proposed activity, or to restore or recover the species; instead, they must implement ‘‘reasonable and prudent alternatives’’ to avoid destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat.” (FR Notice, page 29477)

The question to ask is whether this is about conservation or control?

Maybe we should ask the birds. Drawing from the Service’s analysis, it appears the birds prefer private land management over federal restrictions, considering only three percent of the Lesser prairie chickens live in the areas with the federal conservation measures.

The private lands that are not regulated by the Service are tended by individual landowners whose management practices are doing a better job at protecting the LPC, while providing the food, fiber, energy, and minerals we depend on, than the combined efforts of the federal agencies and land trusts.

As we have stated many times before, if the environmentalist were truly concerned with conservation of the land for species habitat, they would help to remove federal restrictions, not seek more.

Landowners should expect to see more ecosystem-wide efforts like this one from the Biden Administration, which will provide them with more opportunities to control large regional areas as they work towards their goal of conserving 30 percent of America’s land.

Read More

RANGEfire!

The Oregon Compromise of 2021

by GREG WALCHER on JUNE 2, 2021

This month, voters in five counties of eastern Oregon voted to instruct local officials to take action to secede from Oregon, and join Idaho instead. Separatist movements are not especially uncommon in the West – several have sprouted in Colorado over the years – but it is rare that voters actually have a chance to weigh in officially.

Rural activists say they are tired of being ignored, and outvoted, by people in the large cities who are isolated from the interests of rural communities, both geographically and culturally. That’s why activists in Northern Colorado recently proposed creating their own state, free from political domination of Front Range cities. I remember in the 1990s when some Western Slope activists proposed creating their own state, for the same reason. In one recent example, voters in Boulder and Denver voted overwhelmingly to introduce wolves, not in their own counties, but West of the Continental Divide, where the ballot measure was strongly opposed by the voters who must now live with the results. That is but one of many divisive issues that separate rural and urban interests. Think especially about water, or highway funding.

Commentators watching the Oregon vote say the explanation is much simpler and more partisan than any ballot initiative. In short, Oregon voted 56 percent for Joe Biden, with most votes cast in Portland and Eugene, whereas the five counties moving towards secession all voted for Donald Trump by at least 69 percent. They are counties with economies historically dependent on agriculture, mining, and forest products – industries unpopular with urban voters – but most media reports say the move toward separation is purely partisan. In truth, it is that, too. But whether those rural Oregon voters were motivated by bitterness over the 2020 election, or by concern about the future of natural resources industries, the solution may be the same.

Their motivation is largely the same, and in either case, creating new states could alter the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. It is precisely reminiscent of the divide leading to the compromise of 1820, known to history as the “Missouri Compromise.”

It is difficult not to compare the similar movement by activists on the other side, to grant statehood to Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. Their motivation is largely the same, and in either case, creating new states could alter the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. It is precisely reminiscent of the divide leading to the compromise of 1820, known to history as the “Missouri Compromise.” I don’t know if anyone studies such history anymore, but that era offers a surprisingly simple solution for this one.

 

After several unsuccessful legislative battles, House Speaker Henry Clay finally offered the deal – to admit Missouri as a new southern state, and Maine as a new northern one (nine counties separated from Massachusetts). Henceforth, new states would have to be admitted in pairs, so as not to upset the delicate balance.

Obviously the issues dividing America today differ from those of the 19th Century, but the partisan situation is eerily similar. The senate was divided exactly in half (sound familiar?) between north and south, so no agreement could be reached on admitting Missouri, which would be another southern slave state. After several unsuccessful legislative battles, House Speaker Henry Clay finally offered the deal – to admit Missouri as a new southern state, and Maine as a new northern one (nine counties separated from Massachusetts). Henceforth, new states would have to be admitted in pairs, so as not to upset the delicate balance. California was admitted in 1850, but with the requirement that it send two senators divided on the slavery issue. The Missouri deal essentially held for over 30 years, and its repeal hastened the onset of the Civil War.

Oregon pundits are speculating about the likelihood of the Democrat-controlled legislature agreeing to let those five counties go. That seems unlikely, but the discussion might be missing a larger picture. An 1820-style compromise might provide the answer for maintaining today’s balance of power in the Senate, even while addressing voters’ concerns in rural western counties, and in D.C.

Under this new “Oregon Compromise of 2021,” new states could be admitted to the union in pairs. If one side got to admit D.C. or Puerto Rico, the other side would get a new rural state, say Western Colorado, Eastern Oregon, or South Georgia.

From a historical perspective, America’s current situation is more like that of 1820 than you might suspect. Today’s political divide is not about slavery, though there is clearly a racial component to it. The divide is not north-south, but it is just as geographically distinct, now urban-rural. Vast numbers of people on both sides think those on the other side no longer care about them, devolving us almost into two separate countries, culturally.

This is no time to widen the gulf. It is a time for a lasting compromise, one that might preserve the balance that is crucial to a republic’s function. The Oregon Compromise. I wonder if there are any statesman like Henry Clay to negotiate it.

See the post on GregWalcher.com

The post The historical solution for Oregon’s rural/urban separation first appeared on RANGEfire!.
Read More

RANGEfire!

Opinion by Montana State Representative Dan Bartel for Northern Ag Network

The tax exemption APR enjoys also gives them a major advantage in the marketplace for land.  APR is able to pay premium prices as they compete directly against young farmers and ranchers trying to get their start.

By Rep. Dan Bartel

In central Montana the American Prairie Reserve has amassed 420,000 acres of prime ranch land.  This is a fraction of their ultimate objective: to control 3.2 million acres.  The land they acquire will eventually be taken out of agricultural production and “re-wilded.”  The thriving ranching communities in and around APR’s 5,000 square mile target area will be wiped off the map.

If you’re a Montana taxpayer, you’re helping APR pay for their radical plan.

APR is a 501(c)3 charitable organization.  They are exempt from paying state and federal income taxes.  On top of that, their donors receive a charitable tax deduction for contributions made to APR.  For every dollar contributed to APR, the government treasury receives less than it otherwise would have.

Rep. Dan Bartel

This was the idea behind 501(c)3 charities.  Taxpayers indirectly fund charitable work by allowing tax deductions for philanthropists.

Over time, however, the scope of what qualifies as charitable work has drifted.  That leads to the question: should APR’s model of purchasing prime ag land and taking it out of production be considered a charitable purpose?  Is that an activity that should be subsidized by taxpayers?

The answer is obviously no.  APR’s plan places a burden on all Montanans.  Not only are we subsidizing their land purchases today, but in the future our tax base shrinks as they take millions of acres out of economic production.

The tax exemption APR enjoys also gives them a major advantage in the marketplace for land.  APR is able to pay premium prices as they compete directly against young farmers and ranchers trying to get their start.

It shouldn’t be this way.  There is nothing charitable about APR’s plan.  That’s why I am sponsoring legislation to prohibit organizations from purchasing large parcels of agricultural land through a nonprofit entity.

The policy my legislation implements is simple—we should not give tax breaks to allow organizations to amass property, especially when those groups intend to take that land out of production.

There is ample justification to place limitations on what charitable groups can do.  Nonprofit groups enjoy special privileges.  As privileged organizations, the IRS limits what type of activities qualify as charitable.

Federal laws also limit the Constitutional rights of nonprofits.  For example, 501(c)3’s are limited in the amount of lobbying activity they can conduct, and are not allowed to participate in political races.

To be clear, my legislation does not outright prohibit organizations like APR from buying agricultural land—it only says that they cannot use a nonprofit vehicle to do so.  APR and other nonprofits are free to organize for-profit entities through which to make their land purchases.  The only difference is they will be required to pay taxes like the rest of us.

In my area of the state there is a strong movement to Stop APR.  I wish I could say that we can legislate them out of existence, but that’s not the way the law works.  But at least we can level the playing field and stop APR from abusing the tax code by forcing all Montanans to subsidize their radical plan.

Click here to see the opinion on Northern Ag Network

The post Montana taxpayers are subsidizing APR’s “rewilding” schemes first appeared on RANGEfire!.
Read More