TASK GROUP PROGRESS
Task Group 1 has made substantial progress towards completing a conservation strategy for the desert tortoise. Recommendations of the utility, law enforcement, and regulatory biologist subcommittees have been discussed and incorporated into the overall strategy, and a proposed approach to raven - tortoise issues has been adopted. The compensation committee is in the process of developing an innovative fee - compensation structure for the plan, which would replace the far less systematic approach currently being applied in the western Mojave.
In addition, the Task Group is considering an approach to determining the take to be authorized within habitat conservation areas which involves the following:
"Allowable Ground Disturbance. Adopt a "one percent" threshold for new ground disturbance within the Habitat Conservation Area (HCA), applicable for the 30-year term of the West Mojave Plan. This threshold would be calculated separately for those portions of the HCA under the jurisdiction of each agency or local government covered by the West Mojave Plan. This acreage would constitute the jurisdiction's allowable ground disturbance, or "AGD." Once a jurisdiction's AGD is exceeded, new projects would be assessed on a case by case basis, outside the streamlined program established by the West Mojave Plan.
"Continuous Accounting. Acreage of new ground disturbance would be tracked on a continuing basis, separately for each jurisdiction. Baseline acreage would be set as of time of plan adoption. AGD accounts would be adjusted to reflect and transfers of land from the jurisdiction of one agency or government to another.
"Big Projects. AGD would apply only to projects permitted by agencies participating in the West Mojave Plan. If an agency not covered by the West Mojave Plan approved a project which disturbed HCA lands, the project's ground disturbance acreage would not be deducted from the affected member jurisdiction's available AGD.
"Habitat Credit Component. Existing disturbed habitat could be restored, and credits granted which would raise a jurisdiction's AGD ceiling. Methodology and standards for this credit system will be developed by a Task Group 1 "Habitat Credit Component" subcommittee.
"Periodic Review. Rate of new ground disturbance, effects on wildlife and plant populations and the success of restoration programs should be assessed on a periodic basis and the plan amended as necessary.
The task group has also begun work on a strategy for the Mohave ground squirrel (MGS). Several local jurisdictions have submitted suggested modifications to the boundary of the proposed MGS conservation areas. Those modifications have been mapped, and are being assessed by a subcommittee appointed by the task group. Subcommittee recommendations will be presented to the Task Group at its October 15, 2001 meeting.
The first half of the plant "evaluation report" was released to task group 1 at its September 17, 2001 meeting. Additional materials will be provided to the group on October 15.
Currently, "species accounts" prepared under Dr. Bill Boarman's direction are being posted on the West Mojave web site. Check for a new button on the main page titled "species accounts". These papers address most of the species we are considering, and were prepared by leading experts in the field. All of the posted species accounts have been peer-reviewed.
If you want more information on the task group's work, please review the meeting notes posted on this web page.
VEHICLE ACCESS NETWORK
One task the West Mojave Plan has been asked to accomplish is to identify a network of motorized vehicle routes which will provide recreational and other access to public lands within the planning area, while at the same time protecting sensitive natural and cultural resources. Development of a vehicle access network will implement a decision reached by the Bureau of Land Management in 1980 through the adoption of the California Desert Conservation Area Plan, which directed BLM to design and designate such a network.
The first step in this process occurred three years ago: an inventory of vehicle routes was undertaken by BLM photo interpreters using air photos taken in 1996. Based on this inventory, BLM staff took a "first-cut" at a route network, releasing a "suggested" access network during the first half of 2001 which covered about one-third of the western Mojave. The public was asked to "field check" this suggested network. Numerous comments were receive in response, among which was a strong suggestion that an on-the-ground field survey be conducted to verify the location of the routes, and to describe the nature of each route (eg graded gravel road, 4WD, motorcycle) and the recreation and access needs it serves. Therefore, we decided to conduct a field survey of the entire route network. The field teams are being organized and overseen by Les Weeks and CH2M Hill, the consultants who constitute our West Mojave recreation team. They will double-check the location of the inventoried routes using sophisticated GPS technology, and will record "attributes" of the routes (e.g. whether a route is a 4WD, a motorcycle trail, a graded dirt road, and the kinds of recreation experience it serves). This will be combined with our biological data base to develop final route network recommendations using an objective computer "model".
I expect the model to be applied and a final vehicle access network proposal developed by about February 2002. We will hold a final round of scoping meetings at that time, to take public comments on the proposed network. The network will then be assessed as part of the environmental impacts statement and report process, and released as part of the West Mojave Plan Draft EIR/S for a 90-day public review late in the spring of 2002.
You will be able to keep up to date concerning the progress of the field survey crews through this web page. Under a new "field survey" button on the main page, you will be able to view a map of the current progress of the teams, and a written update report. I am hoping to add a new email address specifically established to accept suggestions for the team to consider as it enters each new portion of the western Mojave.
INTERIM VEHICLE ACCESS NETWORK
Earlier this year, maps and descriptive reports were released for staff's first-cut "suggested" vehicle access network for seven of twenty-one "subregions" within the western Mojave Desert. These subregions included the Newberry-Rodman Mountains, Red Mountain, El Paso Mountains, Ridgecrest , Superior, Fremont and (most recently) Kramer (released in mid-August 2001). You may obtain copies by calling the West Mojave team at 909-697-5294, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org (Due to the cost of preparing copies of the maps and reports, could you double-up requests where possible?) Ninety-day "field checks" are complete for all except the Fremont and Kramer regions. Once the last field checks are completed, the BLM will implement an "interim" route network for five "CBD Settlement" subregions -- Red Mountain, Newberry/Rodman, Superior, Fremont and Kramer -- which will remain in effect until they are superceeded by the final West Mojave Plan network.
An open house is scheduled to discuss the Kramer subregion on October 23, 2001. The meeting will be held at the BLM Barstow field office from 2 pm to 8 pm.
COMPUTER MAP PROGRAM
As you know, we have a very extensive geographical information system (GIS) database. Recognizing the importance of managing and applying this database, we have significantly expanded our mapping staff. Under the direction of our lead GIS specialist, Nanette Pratini, we have added Ric Williams of AMEC Environmental to handle tortoise and mohave ground squirrel issues, and Joe Gautsch and Dr. Marcia Carrillo of CH2M Hill to address route designation mapping concerns.
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS
Please do not hesitate to send me your thoughts, questions, and suggestions. I would appreciate any comments you have concerning this website, and how we might make it more effective. You may do so by sending me an email at: email@example.com