First, let’s go back to the Mike Dombeck quote I cited previously from this article in Forest History:
The most enduring and powerful maxim of business is that “money flows to things people want.” People want their cultural heritage protected, clean air and water, healthy forests and rangelands, good hunting and fishing, sustainable supplies of timber and forage, etc.
Actually, Mike’s only listing of recreation was hunting and fishing on this list, but recreation is clearly the #1 use of the national forests by people of the U.S. (and other countries).
Friday, I reviewed the history of the sustainability concept in various planning rules. In the 2012, a new concept hit the street. This is “sustainable recreation”. I know all of you who are specific and careful about words are wondering “what’s up with that?” doesn’t everything have to be sustainable? Why single out recreation to be called “sustainable recreation” every time?
Well, it’s not really clear but I guess it’s because there is an internal strategy/framework about “sustainable recreation.” Here is a link to a document about the strategy from 2010. The strategy is an easy read, and makes a great deal of sense. I thought it was well done, even though I’m not usually a fan of “strategies.” I didn’t find anything particularly novel, although I’d be interested in what readers of this blog think.
However, I wonder about the “sustainability” (ink, paper, electrons) of adding an extra word (sustainable) every time you write about one of the multiple uses in a regulation when it’s already required to be sustainable.
So let’s see how it is talked about in the 2012 Rule.
The final rule provides direction for sustainable recreation throughout the planning process. The final rule retains the term ‘‘sustainable recreation’’ to recognize that planning should identify, evaluate, and provide a set of recreational settings, opportunities and access for a range of uses, recognizing the need for that set to be sustainable over time.
Again, everything has to be sustainable so…??
Ah so now we encounter the Directives, let’s look at BRC’s comments:
E. The draft Handbook at 23.22b – “Sustainable Recreation Resources” and “Opportunities to Connect People with Nature” Does Not Properly Track the Rule
The draft Handbook inappropriately modifies the definition of Sustainable Recreation. Again, the Handbook contradicts the Rule, and whether intentionally or otherwise sets up the agency to fail the newly-configured duty to provide “sustainable recreation.” The Rule states: Sustainable recreation. The set of recreation settings and opportunities on the National Forest System that is ecologically, economically, and socially sustainable for present and future generations.
(36 CFR 219.19)
The draft Handbook modifies this definition here:
Plan components must provide for sustainable recreational settings, opportunities, and access. Sustainable recreation opportunities and settings are those that are economically, socially, and ecologically sustainable for the future. To be sustainable, the set of recreational settings and opportunities must be within the fiscal capability of the planning unit, be designed to address potential user conflicts among recreationists, and be compatible with other plan components including those components that provide for ecological sustainability.
(Chapter 20 at 23.22b Page 80 underline emphasis added) I
Ironically, the Rule’s definition of “sustainable” recreation troubled agency recreation staff, who proposed changes to the definition that they feared would “set the bar too high.” See email correspondence dated Oct. 13, 2011 (AR 0125036-0125039). The draft Handbook not only ignores but builds on these fears, again with the effect of creating an unnecessarily high burden.
Most, if not all, USFS Programs are not adequately funded. Indeed, the shortfall in the roads maintenance budget, and the trail maintenance backlog for trails in designated Wilderness, is well documented. The language here raises the concern that the agency may attempt to rely on lack of funding as an excuse for lack of effort and creativity in comprehensive recreational planning and motorized recreational travel planning specifically.
That’s the BRC point of view.. my point of view is … let’s call things as they are and not redefine commonly used expressions like sustainable, (or restoration, for that matter) to mean something different. It seems like you are trying to put something over on the public rather than clarifying your intentions and being transparent.
If the FS means ” there’s a great many multiple uses, but only recreation will be subject to the “fiscal capacity” test. I wouldn’t call that “sustainable” because it doesn’t have the same meaning as other uses of the term. I would call it “fiscally prudent” recreation approach. Other proposed terms are welcome in the comments. In English, are they thinking:
We fully recognize that recreation is the most popular to the citizens of the US who provide this funding. We also value our partnerships, volunteers and other ways (outlined in the Sustainable Recreation Framework).
But we are holding recreation to a higher standard than any other use, because ______.
I’m trying to understand how they would fill in the blank.
It seems to send a message “we’re not so sure we want you recreationists out there, despite all the partnerships and volunteering” which could ultimately be a funding death spiral. Not enough money, we’ll kick you out, you won’t want to fund the FS, therefore fewer people and shoddier facilities, so more will be kicked out..
As Mike Dombeck said above, “money flows to things people want.”
Or perhaps recreationists aren’t organized enough across the motorized and non-motorized spectra to resist, as oil and gas, timber or ranching might be, so they are an easy target for integrity- promotion? Or maybe it just sounded like a good idea to someone and was stuck in the directives randomly?
Maybe someone can shed some light on this.
Not surprisingly, FS budgets are down, and there are impacts, including to recreation.
Here’s one from the White River. On a scale of 1 to 10, this is probably an 8 in terms of information..
This is from the Aspen Times here. I think it would be interesting to have this much information on each forest.
As funding stands now, the White River will lose “somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million” in funding compared with last year, Fitzwilliams said. The funding for 19 national forests is decided by the Rocky Mountain Region headquarters in Lakewood.
Some decisions still are being made in the regional office that could affect the White River’s final budget for 2013, Fitzwilliams said. For example, some of the funds budgeted for the forests in the region weren’t spent in 2012, so there is a chance some of that will carry over to the 2013 budget. In addition, national forests across the country took funds out of programs to contribute to fire-fighting efforts last summer. Some of those funds also may be replaced.
The White River National Forest’s budget varies drastically from year to year. It had a $28.57 million total budget in 2010 with a huge caveat. About $10.6 million of that, 37 percent, was allocated specifically for projects to deal with bark-beetle destruction. Last year’s budget was about $22 million, Fitzwilliams said.
this is not counting sequestration, and
The major portion of the funds raised at the Maroon Bells will remain intact. The funds there are collected and spent under a program separate from the general operating budget.
“That’s fee money and that’s pretty sacred,” Fitzwilliams said.
Congress passed legislation that allows the Forest Service to charge a fee at areas that meet certain criteria. Those funds must be spent in the area where they are collected.
The Forest Service has collected between $100,000 and $200,000 each summer from visitors to the Maroon Bells Recreation Area since the fee was started in 2000. The agency charges $10 per vehicle and 50 cents on each bus ticket. Travel for personal vehicles is limited, so the buses take tens of thousands of visitors to the popular Maroon Lake. Fitzwilliams called the fee a “lifesaver” in a 2011 interview.
This story is at the other end of the budget in terms of what campgrounds are closed and the impacts to the environment (people aren’t going to stop “using the facilities” just because there are no facilities..and to other recreation-providing entities.
Here’s the link and below is an excerpt:
Pecos business operators are livid that the U.S. Forest Service has closed a campground, locked day-use toilets and taken away trash cans from popular recreation sites in the Pecos Canyon.
A Santa Fe National Forest spokesman says the problem is lack of funds to maintain the recreation sites.
The impact on the Pecos sites may be only the beginning. According to an initial fiscal year 2013 budget memo for the Santa Fe National Forest, recreational funding is trending down. The agency’s recreational budget was cut by about 8 percent — $166,000 — from the 2012 budget. “Without adequate funding to support program areas, the forest must set priorities as to which sites will open, and conversely which will remain closed,” the memo states.
Pecos residents say the agency shouldn’t make the Pecos Canyon low priority on the recreation funding list.
The Pecos Business Association and the Upper Pecos Watershed Association sent a letter Monday to New Mexico’s Congressional and state lawmakers and Gov. Susana Martinez about the closed recreation sites. The letter says their members met in mid-March with Pecos/Las Vegas District Ranger Steve Romero, who told them funds in the recreation budget were “insufficient to maintain services at existing recreation areas and that ‘potential’ closure of eight day-use areas, four campgrounds and one trailhead is planned for the new fiscal year.”
But the toilets already are locked and trash cans are gone from free day-use areas at Upper and Lower Dalton, Windy Bridge, Cowles Ponds and the Winsor trailhead, according to Huie Ley, owner of the Tererro General Store in the canyon. The Cowles and Links Tract campgrounds also are closed.
Finally, our friends in Southern California think “if there’s no budget, give it to the Park Service!” as we’ve discussed before..
Hmm.. if it works for the Angeles, why not the San Bernardino? Here..
NATIONAL FORESTS: Park Service offers a hand in the Angeles
Federal officials are proposing that the National Park Service help the U.S. Forest Service manage the very busy Angeles National Forest, which encompasses most of the San Gabriel Mountains stretching from the Cajon Pass to Los Angeles.
“Under the proposal, the region essentially would remain national forest land managed by the cash-strapped Forest Service. But it would draw upon the National Park Service for additional law enforcement, signage, trail maintenance and services such as trash pickup,” according to a story in the Los Angeles Times by Louis Sahagun.
Interestingly, Sahagun’s story said that more than 95 percent of public comments on the plan supported the idea of creating a National Recreation Area spanning the entire area, including the national forest land.
The San Bernardino National Forest suffers many of the same pressures as the Angeles, from vandalism and other crime to air pollution to illegal shooting and off-roading. Would the National Park Service be able to solve those problems? It will be interesting to watch what happens in our neighboring forest
Well potentially the FS and Park Service could work together to share resources in this tough budget climate but some think.. story here.
The only way the two federal agencies can work together in the Angeles is through an obscure program called Service First Authority. The NPS said this is one way to move some NPS park rangers into the heavily used Angeles Forest areas such as the East and West Fork of the San Gabriel River.
But Chu criticized this management proposal. “That is an unknown,” she said. “I don’t know if that has ever been used on a project of this scale. Visitors need – and deserve – additional resources in the San Gabriel Mountains and Watershed, and I intend to do my part to ensure that happens. “
She will be hosting townhall meetings to allow the public to ask questions of the NPS, as well as roundtables with stakeholder groups, she said. No dates have been set for the additional meetings.
It doesn’t seem like an “obscure authority” to me, having seen it work with BLM extremely well in southern Colorado. I wonder if that is the journalist’s opinion, or the representative’s opinion. I don’t blame any representatives for doing their best to bring bucks to their forest, but discounting Service First out of hand does not seem fair either.
It makes sense for agencies to work together.. I am especially reminded since yesterday was tax day. If I were the new Interior Secretary, I would reinvigorate Service First in a serious way with the Forest Service, because giving pieces to the Park Service so they get more bucks depending on political clout doesn’t seem like good public administration.
Of course, if I were the Secretary I would ask them to stop doing studies and figure something out that minimized the need for political intervention and take the study money and give it to Mesa Verde for some decent fencing.
Here’s a link to an article by High Country News intern..Sarah Jane Keller.good article!
A couple of interesting perspectives
This desire to drive to the Oregon woods or coast to sleep on comfy beds in Mongolian-style tents is just one of the changing trends tracked by Chuck Frayer, recreation planner for Oregon and Washington’s national forests. “We’re starting to see a shift in use,” the 40-year veteran says. “It’s not like it was when I was a kid.”
After decades of growth, the number of people engaged in recreation outdoors and on public land began to level off or decline in the 1980s and 1990s (see graph below). People appear to have less time, money or desire to venture to the more remote and undeveloped public lands, so they increasingly seek out more convenient outdoor recreation.
A 2008 study funded by The Nature Conservancy with an ominous title — Evidence for a fundamental and pervasive shift away from nature-based recreation –– noted a recent decline in various activities, including national park visits, hunting and fishing license sales and camping. Similar studies, along with books like Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, create the impression that Americans are hanging up their fishing rods and backpacks because they’d rather be glued to LCD screens than outside emulating Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir and Edward Abbey. Everything from the Internet and organized sports to the sagging economy and urbanization has been cited to explain the shifts in how often people visit public land, and what they do once they’re out there.
The U.S. Forest Service doesn’t report such long-term trends because the agency has repeatedly changed its methods for counting visitors. But Robert Burns, an outdooor recreation researcher at West Virginia University who’s working with the agency’s new science-based monitoring system in Oregon and Washington, observes, “What we see in the West is that there are a lot of people traveling shorter distances and traveling for shorter periods of time. I see a decrease in national forest visitation to what we think of as traditional wilderness and deep-dark-forest kinds of settings.”
Ken Cordell, a leading recreation researcher in the Forest Service’s Southern Research Station in Georgia, also sees that the tastes of Americans are shifting, even as people continue to enjoy the outdoors. Based on telephone surveys, Cordell reports that from 2001 to 2009 “nature appreciation” activities — like watching or photographing birds and other wildlife — grew more rapidly than backcountry hiking, hunting and fishing. We’re still pursuing wildlife, but now we’re more likely to use digital cameras and binoculars. And recreation fads like kayaking and orienteering have some of the highest growth rates. Cordell and his research team also found that “walking for pleasure” and “family gatherings outdoors” are today’s most popular activities, enjoyed by about 85 percent and 74 percent of Americans, respectively.
Interpreting statistics is a complicated task, and the recent numbers indicate many different story lines. Late last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service reported that from 2006 to 2011, the number of hunters actually increased 9 percent — the first increase since 1975. However, well over half of hunters used private land exclusively — a worrisome trend for those concerned about public support for the concept of public lands.
Those rebounds don’t surprise Cordell, who believes recreation generally follows the economy’s ups and downs. Looking ahead, over the next 50 years, his studies predict an overall increase in outdoor recreation, with some activities growing more than others. Per capita participation in “visiting primitive areas,” hunting and fishing, off-road driving and snowmobiling will all decline, he predicts, while downhill skiing, snowboarding and climbing will have faster growth rates. “What people choose to do is going to continue to change,” says Cordell. “I think that’s a major point, because a
lot of our management folks have been pretty much focused on some of the traditional activities.”
What do our readers see in their neck of the woods? As I’ve written previously, I see a great deal of RV and dispersed camping and hiking, lots of ski area use, and lots of local use of open spaces.
We also seem to have many countervailing thoughts and views about recreation. One view is that recreation use is so important economically that it is primary (a la Headwaters study and OIA). The other is a worry about enough people recreating in the future to keep bucks going to our public lands. The next is that more people have more environmental impacts that need to be managed, when people are already concerned about impacts of people on wilderness areas and OHV use.
Area Description: Roosevelt Lake is a year-round recreation destination location in central Arizona on the Tonto National Forest. A two-hour drive northeast of Phoenix, Roosevelt Lake is the largest of the four Salt River lakes and is nestled in the beautiful Sonoron Desert. The lake’s main attractions are water-based activities such as fishing and boating.Other activities around the lake include wildlife viewing, hiking, and exploring. Roosevelt Lake is situated along Highway 188, which can be reached via Highway 60 from Globe via 87 south of Payson. Highway 60 and 87 can be easily accessed from Phoenix. Cholla Recreation Site is five miles northwest of Roosevelt Dam on Highway 188 and Windy Hill Recreation Site is six miles southeast of Roosevelt Dam on Highway 188
Camping Facilities Provided: Both Windy Hill and Cholla have water-operated restrooms, indoor shower facilities, trash removal, boat ramps, fishing-cleaning station, and handicapped accessible boat landing platforms. Each individual campsite has a ramada, picnic table, and grill. An RV dump station is located across the highway from the Cholla Recreation Site.
Area Features: The Roosevelt Marina, Tonto National Monument, Tonto Basin Ranger District Visitor Center, Apache Trail, and Apache Lake Marina are all popular destinations in the wintertime. Watchable wildlife include geese, ducks, eagles, bighorn sheep, mule, deer, javelina, and quail. Gas, food, propane, phones and post offices are located at Punkin Center and Roosevelt just a few minutes from Windy Hill and Cholla Recreation Sites. A full range of services and amenities can be found in Globe or Payson.
Fee/Permits Required: Permits to camp at Windy Hill or Cholla may be purchased at ant Tonto National Forest office, or at a wide variety of venders in Arizona, including Big 5 Sporting Goods stores, Circle K outlets, and local gas stations. The cost is $6 per vehicle per night plus $4 per watercraft per night. Senior and Access cardholders (for people with disabilities) pay 1/2 price. Senior and Access permits may be purchased at Tonto National Forest offices only.
[Image]: Forest Service Shield.
Accessibility: All facilities are handicap accessible.
Here’s a link to a story about a public meeting that the Tonto held.
The meeting in Payson stems from the rising recreation program deficit on the Tonto Forest. That deficit arose mostly from a decline in the amount of money the Forest Service spends on operating campgrounds and other facilities.
For instance, in 2011 the Tonto National Forest invested about $2.8 million in operating its vast network of campgrounds and other facilities and collected about $2.5 million in fees. That produced a roughly $90,000 surplus in the recreation program.
However, in 2013 the budget projects the Forest Service will spend $2.1 million in “allocated” funds and collect another $2.4 million in fees. That will produce a projected $920,000 deficit in the program — a roughly 20 percent shortfall.
The looming financial crisis prompted the Tonto National Forest to launch a series of public meetings to gather suggestions from citizens on what it should do to close the gap.
Participants wandered around a room at Gila Community College examining poster boards with information about the problem and laying out solutions. The alternatives included shutting down campsites and other facilities, raising fees to wipe out the shortfall, turning more facilities over to private contractors and forming more partnerships to help cover the costs of running the array of facilities.
The Tonto National Forest includes a chain of heavily used reservoirs along the Salt River, including Canyon, Apache, Saguaro and Roosevelt lakes. It also includes a dozen campgrounds and day use areas.
The Payson Ranger District actually serves as a test case for the contemplated changes — especially using private contractors to operate campgrounds. A contractor already operates most of the Forest Service campgrounds in Rim Country and charges only slightly higher fees than Forest Service campgrounds elsewhere. Contractors can generally pay lower wages and provide fewer benefits for employees than the Forest Service, resulting in lower operating costs.
The most popular option on the list proved the formation of local partnerships, with higher fees trailing well behind. Almost no one said they wanted to see the Forest Service save money by shutting down developed sites.
About 41 people attended the three-hour open house. Comments posted on the bulletin boards often focused on an alliance between community groups and the Forest Service.
“Use more community volunteer projects to cut costs,” wrote one citizen.
“Tax outdoor gear, ATVs, fishing gear — and use the money to support recreation,” wrote another.
“Make the East Verde a Town of Payson park,” wrote one participant.
“Make Fossil Creek a National Wildlife Refuge and charge for entry,” suggested another.
“Coordinate with non-profit organizations.”
If the FS can’t charge for entry, does it make sense to transfer these heavily used areas to another federal, state or local government who can charge? Or would it be simpler to mess with the Forest Service’s policies legislatively?
Is it so wrong for the FS to charge, due to its own regulations, due to law, or for some philosophical reason?
Should the FS be moved to Interior and these areas rezoned to the Park Service so that these kinds of areas be managed separately and fees charged but that the transfers are bureaucratically simpler?
Is outdoor equipment already taxed? By state or feds? What latitude is there to increase/add taxes?
Finally, I am a senior (although perhaps not senior enough for this benefit) but $3.00 per night (1/2 of 6) seems fairly low compared to other similar opportunities. Perhaps FS, BLM, NPS and FWS should harmonize their rates for a given level of service?
Other thoughts or ideas?
In my dealings with individual national forests, it seems to me like many of the skier/snowmobiler conflicts are handled locally, which makes a certain amount of sense. And could more forest-wide planning really be the solution (to anything, really, but…)? Because at the end of the day, we will have lots of taxpayer-funded hours generating documents that might come to the same conclusions about the specific areas of conflict.
Reading the paper, it seems like we are in tough budget times. Is this really the highest and best use of taxpayer dollars?
Plus these would have to be funded by scarce recreation funds that could be going to campgrounds, trails, or even managing motorized use on the ground where the conflicts occur (If I’m wrong about this, please enlighten me)?.
What I like about the quotes in this article is that the director of Winter Wildlands Alliance, Mr. Menlove, is direct and honest about using the courts as a tactic to change policy. See the quote “we think that the quiet is a resource that should be managed” below.
Here’s the link and here are some excerpts:
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Early-season snow just dusts the peaks above Idaho’s capital, but a courtroom battle down in the valley could have a big impact on who gets to ride where on the accumulating white powder.
A backcountry skier advocacy group, the Idaho-based Winter Wildlands Alliance, will ask a federal judge Wednesday to force the U.S. Forest Service to create plans for snowmobiles limiting their travel on public land — a decision that would apply to national forests all over the country.
National forests since 2005 have been required to craft travel management plans restricting wheeled cross-country travel to designated routes. But snowmobiles were exempted, as the agency allowed individual national forests the freedom to decide if such winter travel plans were necessary.
Some forests created them, including the Clearwater National Forest in north central Idaho. Others, such as neighboring Nez Perce National Forest, begged off.
Absent any consistency, alliance director Mark Menlove speaks of tense outings in places like the Boise National Forest, where hordes of powerful motorized sleds unrestrained by a winter travel plan sometimes roar past panting groups of backcountry skiers, disturbing their icy, human-driven idyll.
“One snowmobile can track up an area in an hour that a dozen skiers could use for two weeks,” said Menlove. “It is a competition for a limited resource. Beyond untracked powder, we also think that quiet is a forest resource that should be managed.”
I also thought this was interesting…
That rule, they argue, was clearly meant to target wheeled vehicles that many natural resource managers said were tearing up public land. Snowmobiles are simply different, the lawyers said.
“An over-snow vehicle … results in different and less severe impacts on natural resource values than wheeled motor vehicles traveling over the ground,” wrote assistant U.S. attorney Julie Thrower, asking Bush to reject Menlove’s group’s claims.
From his Boise office, Menlove counters his group — dubbed an advocate for “human-powered snow sport enthusiasts” — filed its federal lawsuit only as a last resort, after the Forest Service rejected its out-of-court bid to have the snowmobile exemption lifted.
So they seem pretty upfront that they want to add snowmobiles to the travel management rule, and so they are using a legal path. Not so much “the FS is breaking the law” although there must be those kinds of claims in the complaint.
“One snowmobile can track up an area in an hour that a dozen skiers could use for two weeks,” said Alliance Director Mark Menlove. “It is a competition for a limited resource. Beyond untracked powder, we also think that quiet is a forest resource that should be managed.”
Note: back to our previous thread, sounds like these folks in Idaho, who know little about say, the White Mountain, will, through litigation, possibly be setting national policy. Having your comments weighed with others is not necessarily the most impactful way to promote your (non-local) point of view. Yes, public comments were taken nationally on the national travel management rule.
Here’s the link and below is the letter.
The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District’s budget is out for next summer, and they get four summer employees for the entire district. One of those will be trail crew to clear more than 500 miles of trail. This past summer, the district had four on-trail crew members, and they still didn’t quite get all the trails cleared. Be prepared for some tough hiking next summer.
The Roaring Fork Valley makes a lot of money from national forest use. Perhaps those who make the money would be willing to help the district maintain the facilities. A trail-crew person cost the Forest Service $20,000 for the season, including all benefits. The Forest Service cannot solicit donations but can accept donations for a specific purpose.
An organization needs to step forward to act as a clearinghouse for money donated if we want our visitors to have a quality experience next summer.
I noticed this…
Our efforts coincide with a transition in Forest Service recreation program leadership. Jim Bedwell, who has served as National Director of Recreation, Heritage and Volunteer Resources for many years, will relocate in early October to Denver, where he will assume regional recreation program responsibilities. Department officials have told us that they see this transition as an opportunity to strategically realign the Forest Service recreation program.
and this from the ARC site:
The reaction to the presentation by the Under Secretary was enthusiastic and positive. He explained that innovative agreements were happening within other Forest Service programs, but that the progress had been slow in recreation – until the meeting. He praised the thoughts presented and proposed immediate work by a team led by Leslie Weldon and Derrick Crandall aimed at planning a “three-hour-plus meeting within a month to make decisions and proceed.”
Planning for this follow-up session is already underway and a search is on for suitable pilot-effort locations for investments, in-season storage and more.
I hope the public gets a chance to be engaged in the “strategic realignment” as well as these other discussions!
Among the eight planks that industry presented to Under Secretary of Agriculture Harris Sherman and Forest Service officials one received an immediate veto – in-season storage of recreational vehicles on national forest land.
But the other seven elements did receive a better reception, with qualifications:
1. Campground “makeovers” and service expansion
2. Marina “makeovers” and service expansion
3. In-season boat storage on national forests
4. In-season OHV storage on national forests
5. Partnerships with key DMOs on outreach, in-forest services including
apps and more
6. Expansion of use of conservation corps by FS, partners, and
7. National Forest Recreation Centers: consolidation and expansion of
recreation at key recreation “gateways” to national forests.
I have to say I am concerned about the lack of a public forum to talk about this..it seems to me that just given the discussions we have had here, a national Recreation FACA committee would be helpful. With some dedicated research funds to answer the questions they determine they need. Just because there’s no NEPA doesn’t mean there should be no public involvement…
Thanks to a reader for this contribution.. Here is the link (to the Camping with Suzi blog), and below are excerpts:
Any help finding the organization and the report she refers to in her blog post would be appreciated. I did find this, which appears to be a powerpoint from June of this year.
Once again, I have to point out that from personal observation, people camping IN FOREST SERVICE CAMPGROUNDS are a subset of people camping ON FOREST SERVICE LAND. This being elk season, I wish someone would fly a sample of forests and estimate people per acre camping and interview those folks and ask them about their experiences. Another topic for the People’s Research Agenda.
A facility-o-centric view of FS camping, or recreation, for that matter, does not tell the whole story. IMHO.
“In season on-site RV storage” is one of the suggested proposals in the American Recreation Association (ARC) “Modernization of Recreation Sites” plan. The concept is that the U.S. Forest Service would give concessionaires operating Forest Service campgrounds the authority to permit, for a fee, the parking of unoccupied recreational vehicles on an active campsite for an extended period of time. According to industry sources, this would allow campers, especially from urban areas, to travel back and forth without having to haul their rigs each time they want to spent time in the forest. This, according to an ARC representative, would be easier on the environment and reduce fuel consumption. The assumption is both would be a good thing. And getting more people enjoying time in the out-of-doors would be good, too.
According to ARC, the number of people enjoying the out-of-doors, specifically in national forests and grasslands, is steadily declining. Although this representative admits obtaining accurate and comprehensive numbers for the number of people who are enjoying national forests and grasslands is nearly impossible, he suggests the decline is more a function of “working mothers” not having the time or energy to perform the logistics necessary for a family to spend time in the out-of-doors. My response is that’s nonsense!
There are many factors likely influencing the possible decline of people using national forest campgrounds. Deteriorating infrastructure in campgrounds and the ever increasing influence of concessionaires could be reasons. An infrastructure where the vaults are not maintained or there is an absence of drinking water would discourage many potential campers. Fees for having pets in a campground, restrictions on collecting dead and down wood so campers must purchase firewood from the concessionaire, and closing of campgrounds as soon as schools are back in session, voiding the possibility of camping in the less crowded “shoulder” season, are likely to contribute to the reduction in people camping at concessionaire-operated campgrounds. Perhaps ARC and others in the outdoor recreation industry should look at other factors contributing to the alleged decline in national forest and grassland campground occupancy before pointing their finger at the “working mother” or suggesting “in season on-site RV storage” would miraculously improve campground occupancy.
We have talked about the Courthouse News Service before here on this blog. It is a handy place for keeping up with litigation news, but like so many outlets, you can’t believe everything you read. At least they are upfront about their bias.
Here’s a link:
Developers trying to expand a ski resort in the mountain wilderness of Colorado can move forward with their forest-clearing plans, a federal judge ruled.
Hmm. . “forest-clearing” 800 trees? I guess that’s a bit of hype.. well OK.
Of more concern is this statement:
But U.S. District Judge James Boarsberg dismissed the complaint Friday, citing a Colorado law that allows ski resorts to skirt forestry regulations.
Really, a “law” ? The rule actually is a regulation.
In a “roadless” area, “trees may not be cut, sold, or removed” without special permission from the Forest Service, according to the 20-page decision.
I think in non-roadless areas that’s also the case. Oh well.
Central to both parties’ arguments were their respective interpretations of the term “roadless,” a distinction bestowed by the Forest Service upon pristine tracts of land “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man.”
That sounds like wilderness, also it seems like backcountry skiers are already “trammeling” this specific area.
While the federal Roadless Area Conservation Rule establishes criteria through which land can be designated as “roadless,” the court notes that the more-specialized Colorado Roadless Areas Rule supersedes the initial regulation and introduces a key statute.
The most recent legislation precludes “existing permitted or allocated ski areas” from receiving “roadless” designations, according to the court.
Honestly, I couldn’t read the rest of it..I wish they’d had a link to the judge’s decision because I had no clue from this article. Seems to me like legislation and rulemaking are different things. QA/QC, where are you? I know roadlessness is complicated- otherwise it wouldn’t have kept as many roadless geeks like myself gainfully employed, but still…
If you’re interested in better coverage, try this article from the Summit Daily News. Below is an excerpt. Chalk one up for local vs. national news sources.
But Boasberg ruled that the 2011 Colorado Roadless Rule eliminates roadless areas from within ski-area boundaries. The Ark Initiative needed to raise its concerns about roadless lands within ski-area boundaries when Colorado’s roadless rule was being debated, the judge said.
“The Colorado Roadless Rule was not off-the-cuff rulemaking,” Boasberg wrote in his order. “As the Forest Service explained in its letter (to the Ark Initiative), the rule ‘is the result of extensive public involvement. More than 310,000 public comments, over a six-year period, were reviewed and considered in the development of the final rule.’”
The Ark Initiative “chose not to comment on the rule and thus cannot challenge it now. If plaintiffs wanted roadless designations in ski areas, they should have participated in the rulemaking,” the order continued.
White River National Forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said he hopes this latest ruling puts an end to the debate over Burnt Mountain. The Forest Service approved a Snowmass Ski Area Master Development Plan in 1994 that paved the way for expansion onto Burnt Mountain. Skico amended the plan in 2003 and applied a year later for specific approvals for the Burnt Mountain work. After three years of review, the Forest Service approved the plan. The Ark Initiative filed an administrative protest, which was denied. The Ark Initiative then filed a lawsuit in federal court that was denied and upheld by an appeals court.
“We’ve been dealing with this long enough,” Fitzwilliams said. “They’ve dragged us into court three times now.”
William Eubanks, an attorney for the Ark Initiative, couldn’t be reached for comment Monday on what, if anything, will be the next step for the environmental group.
The Forest Service is formally notifying Skico that it can move forward with the project, Fitzwilliams said.
“A good portion of the work is done,” he said.
He estimated 60 to 70 percent of the tree thinning and clean-up is finished.
In an earlier interview, Rich Burkley, Skico vice president of operations, estimated the trails crew will remove fewer than 800 living and dead trees from about 6.5 acres within the 230-acre area of Burnt Mountain. The terrain is east of Longshot, the existing inbounds trail on Burnt Mountain. The rest of Burnt Mountain is popular backcountry or sidecountry terrain.
Skico is glading areas between natural parks or breaks in the forest. There won’t be designated trails, Burkley said previously, but rather thin routes through the trees.
The expansion will boost the skiable terrain at Snowmass to 3,362 acres. That makes it the second-largest ski area in Colorado behind Vail Mountain.
The Ark Initiative’s lawsuit was filed in the District of Columbia on Sept. 11. When it was filed, the Forest Service asked Skico to voluntarily halt work while the legal fight was being settled. Skico intervened in the lawsuit on the side of the Forest Service.
The judge’s 20-page ruling said even if the Ark Initiative was correct and lands on Burnt Mountain were removed by the Forest Service by mistake from the roadless inventory, the mistake was made moot when the Colorado Roadless Rule was created.
“In other words, it does not matter whether the Burnt Mountain parcel has the characteristics of a roadless area; the parcel is inside Snowmass Ski Area, so the Colorado Roadless Rule precludes designating it roadless,” the ruling said. “Effectively, the Forest Service is saying that any error in earlier inventories is harmless because the Burnt Mountain parcel cannot qualify as roadless now anyway.”
But the point that seems to be missed here (I think Sloan Shoemaker pointed it out in a previous article) is that it would be OK- even under the 2001 Rule, to do this work in a roadless area, as the action is “incidental to activities not otherwise prohibited.”
Thank you to Kitty Benzar for this guest post.
Here are three examples of concessionaire operating plans. All of these are included in the lawsuit filed on Sept 11. They include day use fee sites that have never been vetted through any public process, as well as types of fees that FLREA prohibits the Forest Service from charging, such as for simply passing through a developed area without using the facilities.
I get more calls and emails from people about concessionaire issues than any other topic. There is a lot of pent-up anger out there about concessionaires being allowed to operate under different rules than the federal agencies have to follow. People have been told by concessionaire employees that they are trespassing – on National Forest land! – just for walking through a developed area to get to a trailhead or the bank of a river or lake. There are frequent stories of concessionaire employees being rude, aggressive, and drunk on the job. Concessionaire sites are frequently reported to be trashy and run down. I’m sure there are concessions that are better run than others, but this is what I’m hearing. If the FS was simply hiring private contractors to haul the trash or maintain the toilets I don’t think there would be a problem with that. But instead they are leasing facilities to private operators and then walking away.
Since the news stories about the concessionaire lawsuit started appearing I have been buried in “attagirl” emails and phone calls. The overall message has been “It’s about time somebody did something about this!”
The FS relationship with the concessionaire industry is way too cozy. There have been at least two closed-door meetings this summer between Undersecretary Sherman and the American Recreation Coalition about the ARC’s proposal for drastic expansion of the concessionaire system. Deputy Chief Weldon is going to give a keynote speech in November at a conference promoting the privatization of public lands. To me, it all has a strong aroma of conflict of interest. The new buzzword in the concessionaire world is “PPP” for Public-Private Partnership. They are using it to distance themselves from the charge of “privatization” which they have learned creates knee-jerk opposition among the public. But PPP is just code for Privatization; they are one and the same. Check out the below comparison over time of the banner on the webpage for http://www.ParkPrivatization.com.
Note from Sharon: I have attached three operating plans and a better version of the webpages here; below is the best I know how to do in WordPress as an image.
Santa Catalina Complex RoseCyn2012OPplanSigned.
Pike and San Isabel2012 – Operating _Plan_Redacted.
And a higher resolution of the screenshots below, ParkPrivatization_webpage_banner_evolution