BlueRibbon-Coalition-Logo-9-28-12The Blueribbon Coalition sent over an update on winter park use at Yellowstone National Park:

The National Park Service (NPS) Intermountain Regional Director John Wessels today signed a Record of Decision (ROD) for the Winter Use Plan/Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (Plan/SEIS).

The ROD officially completes the Plan/SEIS process, which was developed in accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and included extensive public involvement, including a number of opportunities for the public to submit comments on the Plan/SEIS.

PICKERINGTON, Ohio — The Department of the Navy has released a final environmental impact statement for the expansion of a Marine base in California that calls for closing a large portion of the popular Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Riding Area, the American Motorcyclist Association reports.

The preferred alternative spelled out in the final environmental impact statement would allow public use of only 40,000 acres of the 190,000-acre Johnson Valley OHV area, and for only 10 months a year. Johnson Valley is currently under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has released the Bakersfield Field Office’s Draft Resource Management Plan for public review and comment.  The BLM has also announced a series of public meetings to be in October.

The Draft Resource Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (RMP/EIS) covers lands (excluding Carrizo Plain National Monument) managed by BLM’s Bakersfield Field Office, which includes lands in eight counties in central California: Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Kings, Tulare, Madera, eastern Fresno and western Kern.

The Draft RMP/EIS establishes goals, objectives and management actions for approximately 404,000 acres of BLM-administered public land and 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estate. It also documents the analysis of the environmental impacts of many land management issues, including, recreation, special status species and energy development.

Copies of the Draft RMP/EIS are available upon request from the Field Manager, Bakersfield Field Office, Bureau of Land Management, 3801 Pegasus Drive, Bakersfield, CA 93308 or via the internet at http://www.ca.blm.gov/bakersfield.

The Draft RMP/EIS can also be reviewed at the BLM California State Office at 2800 Cottage Way, Suite W 1834, Sacramento, CA, and at the following public libraries: Bakersfield Beale Memorial Library, Fresno County Public Library, Kern River Valley Branch Library, Taft Branch Library, Three Rivers Library, San Luis Obispo City-County Library, Santa Barbara Public Library and Ventura County Library.

The BLM Bakersfield Field Office will hold meetings to introduce the plan and answer questions beginning on Oct. 12 at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the field office. Meetings also will be held, all from 6-8 p.m.:

Oct. 13, San Luis Obispo, Ludwick Community Center, 864 Santa Rosa St.
Oct. 17, Kern River Valley Senior Center, 6409 Lake Isabella Blvd.
Oct. 18, Three Rivers Memorial Building, 43490 Sierra Drive.
Oct. 19, Taft Chamber of Commerce, 400 West Side Highway.
Oct. 20, Prather, Sierra Unified School District, 29143 Auberry Road.

The public is invited to submit comments on the Draft RMP/EIS prior to December 9, 2011, by email to: cacalrmp@blm.gov or by mail to:  Bakersfield RMP, Bureau of Land Management, 3801 Pegasus Dr, Bakersfield, Calif. 93308.

Additional information is available from the Bakersfield Field Office, (661) 391-6022, or by contacting BLM Public Affairs Officer David Christy at (916) 985-4474.

Blueribbon Coalition urging for input on Yellowstone Draft for winter use. See the full release below:

SITUATION
The National Park Service (NPS) has prepared a Draft Winter Use Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Draft Plan/DEIS) for Yellowstone National Park. The purpose of the Winter Use Plan is to establish a management framework for Yellowstone’s unique and valuable winter recreational resources.

This plan will determine whether motorized winter use of the park (including wheeled motor vehicles, snowmobiles, and snowcoaches) is appropriate, and if so, the types, extent, and location of this use. A Winter Use Plan is needed at this time because: the NPS is deciding whether snowmobile use should continue, and if so, under what limits and restrictions. The EIS will evaluate the environmental effects of winter use on air quality and visibility, wildlife, natural soundscapes, employee and visitor health and safety, visitor experience, and socioeconomics.

The public comment period for the Draft Plan/DEIS ends July 18, 2011, and it is extremely important that the National Park Service hear from you.

SNOWMOBILERS YOU NEED TO COMMENT BY JULY 18.

NOTE: Comments may be submitted through the NPS web site, by mail, hand delivered to park headquarters in Mammoth Hot Springs, WY, or at one of the public meetings or webinars. (See schedule below.) Comments will not be accepted by fax, email, or in any other way than those specified above. Bulk comments in any format (hard copy or electronic) submitted on behalf of others will not be accepted.

PUBLIC MEETING SCHEDULE

Tuesday, June 7, 2011     6:30 – 9:30 p.m. MDT
Holiday Inn, 315 Yellowstone Avenue, West Yellowstone, MT 59758

Wednesday, June 8, 2011     6:30 – 9:30 p.m. MDT
Holiday Inn, 5 Baxter Lane, Bozeman, MT 59715

Tuesday, June 21, 2011     6:30 – 9:30 p.m. MDT
Sheraton on Union, 360 Union Boulevard, Lakewood, CO 80228

Thursday June 23, 2011            6:30 – 9:30 p.m. EDT
DAR Presidents General’s Assembly Room, 1776 D Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006

The National Park Service intends to have a final EIS, a Record of Decision, and a final rule guiding winter use in place before the start of the 2011-2012 winter season.

For up-to-date information on the Yellowstone Winter Use Issue, go to our website www.saveyellowstonepark.com

For questions and other information, contact Al Nash or Dan Hottle at (307) 344-2015. More info is also available on the web at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/YELL

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO:
BlueRibbon  has formed the Yellowstone Task Force which is made up of state and national snowmobile leaders, the snowmobile industry, commercial tour operators, representatives from the affected gateway communities, and elected official at the county and state level. These groups have reviewed the plan and DEIS, and have suggested comments. Snowmobile enthusiast NEED to comment on the DEIS, and if you have ever been to Yellowstone, we need you to comment regarding your experience.

BRC’S THREE-STEP ACTION ITEM
STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO SEND YOUR COMMENTS:

NOTE: Please be polite and, if possible, make your comment letter as personal as you can.

STEP 1: Click on the following link, which will take you to the NPS comment webpage. http://parkplanning.nps.gov/commentForm.cfm?parkID=111&projectID=29281&documentID=40801
Read and follow the instructions for completing the Comment Form.

STEP 2: Use the comments suggestions below as a guideline for your comments. Cut and paste is okay, but try to make your comment letter as personal as possible.

STEP 3: Take just a minute to add a bit about where you live, any winter visits you have made to Yellowstone, how often you go, how long you have been riding in the area and/or how important the area is to you.

Once you have completed your comments, click the “Submit” button.

Optional:
You may also comment by mail to: Yellowstone National Park, Winter Use DEIS, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone NP, WY 82190.

NOTE: Comments will not be accepted by fax, email, or in any other way than those specified above. Bulk comments in any format (hard copy or electronic) submitted on behalf of others will not be accepted.

 

COMMENT SUGGESTIONS:

*Snowmobiles have been used to access Yellowstone National Park for over 45 years and should continue to provide a special form of Winter transportation.

I understand that when the National Park System was created by Congress there was a dual mandate that the Park Service: “promote” and “provide for the use and enjoyment” of park resources, and “leave unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” These are coequal, yet sometimes conflicting, mandates that require the NPS to balance both interests when making management decisions.

The Park Service needs to be more user friendly for both snowmobile and snowcoach operators and visitors.  The proposed preferred Alternative 7 is too limiting and more restrictive than in the past.  This seems to happen with each new EIS process.  What is the true goal of the Park Service for Yellowstone National Park and it’s Winter use?

*In the preferred Alternative 7, the number of daily entries into the Park ranges from 110 to 330; these numbers are too low.  A range of 400 to 480 would be more reasonable.

The current recommendation of variable limits with a maximum of 330 daily entries is too low.  If the Park Service wants to provide opportunity for both commercially guided and non-commercially guided snowmobile access to the Park the range of daily entries should to be increased to between 400 to 480 per day. Per the DEIS this daily entry range shows no adverse effects to the Park resources.

An entry cap creates actual lower daily entry numbers. How does the daily entry cap do this?  It is nearly impossible to fill to the last snowmobile when there is a cap.  If the cap were 20 per operator for West Yellowstone, as an example in 2010-11 season, and if the fill rate on average was only 77% of the 20 cap or 16 resulting in a loss of 4 entries into the Park, it would appear that the demand for entry into the park was down. However, the reason could be a group of five riders wanted to go together and you had only 4 machines left.

*Non-commercially guided access to the Park needs to be considered. The final alternative with increased daily limits needs a system to allow individuals to become certified non-commercial guides.

Not included in the preferred alternative is non-commercial guiding. Many potential visitors would like to guide their own family and not be forced to pay a commercial guide.  The cost of renting snowmobiles, most likely rental of clothing and the cost of a commercial guide, limits the affordability for many families.  If you remove the guide fees the family Yellowstone trip becomes more affordable, if the family has BAT machines and clothing it is very cost effective.

Looking back at an earlier final EIS decision for the 2004 season the Park Service had a system including reservations and on line training for non-commercial guided groups. That decision was never given a chance. The reason it never had a chance to work was a court action that enjoined the decision for the 2004 season and forced a special regulation to reopen the Park.

*Limiting daily entry into the Park to before 10:30 am will not work and could provide a negative experience for Park visitors.

I feel this will cause bunching, which could lead to a crowded condition.  It causes concentration of snowmobile and snowcoach traffic.  It seems that the resources would be protected better by dispersing traffic rather than consolidating it.  I would like to be able to enter the Park with a group for a half day trip starting at noon.

If I have to enter the Park before 10:30 am this would limit my options to see the Park. I want to have the option of arriving later that 10:30am: so why inflict one more limitation and reason not to come and visit the Park in winter.

*The variety of use levels concept with a range from 110 to 330 daily entries a day is too difficult for winter visitor to plan their trips.

Snowmobile and snowcoach operators need to be able to select peak-use days and non-peak-use days according to supply and demand, not the National Park Service variety of use levels concept. In addition, the winter visitor would have great difficulty in planning their winter vacation trip to Yellowstone with the variety of use concept.

The variable use limit concept is too restrictive, and it will result in a loss of 5,728 visitor snowmobile machine days compared to last year.  I figured last year’s limit at 318 and variety of use levels concept of 110 to 330 as proposed in Alternative 7, both at full usage of the available entries; the difference was 5,728 less machines in the Park, therefore a major decrease.

As many of you know, the Department of Defense has proposed a major expansion of the Twentynine Palms Marine base. The DOD proposal would significantly disrupt OHV use in the popular Johnson Valley OHV Area.

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) prepared for the base expansion has been released for public review and comment. The comment deadline is May 26, 2011. Please see the Action Item below for tips and pointers on how to comment.

Many off-highway enthusiasts feel conflicted on this issue; on one hand they support the US Military and understand the economic importance of the Twentynine Palms base to adjacent communities. On the other hand, off-highway vehicle users have, over the years, been “crammed” into the Johnson Valley area after decades of Wilderness designation, administrative closures, and lawsuits that closed millions of acres of the California desert.