U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
 
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Meeting Minutes
January 28, 2005
BLM Nevada State Office, Reno, Nevada
 
Resource Advisory Council (RAC) Members Present and Category Represented:
Northeastern Great Basin RAC
Jo Dean (2) Environmental
Sherri Eklund-Brown (3) Elected Official
Vince Garcia (3) Native American
Dave Gaskin (3) State Agency
Richard Hankins (2) Wildlife
Brent Howerton (1) Transportation/ROW
Jon Hutchings (3) Public-at-Large
Barry Perryman (3) Academia
Dave Tattam (2) Wild Horse and Burro
Bill Upton (1) Energy/Minerals
Hank Vogler (1) Grazing Permit
Jeff White (1) Energy/Minerals
Sierra Front-Northwest Great Basin RAC
Laura Crane (2) Environmental
James Eidel (2) Wildlife
John Falen (1) Grazing Permit
John Gephardt (3) State Agency
Jerry Hepworth (1) Energy/Minerals
John Mudge (1) Energy/Minerals
Ernest Paige (1) Grazing Permit
William Roullier (1) Transportation/ROW
Vernon Schulze (2) Wild Horse and Burro
Sherm Swanson (3) Academia
Larie Trippet (3) Public-at-Large
D. Craig Young (2) Archaeology/Cultural
Mojave-Southern Great Basin RAC
John Hiatt (2) Wildlife
Steve Mellington (3) Public-at-Large
 
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Representatives Present:
Bob Abbey BLM Nevada State Director
Mike Brown Public Affairs Officer, Elko FO
Richard Brown Public Affairs Officer, NSO
Bruce Flinn Project Manager, Ely FO
Helen Hankins Field Office Manager, Elko FO & LV
Diane Hendry Public Affairs Officer, Battle Mountain
Meg Jensen Deputy State Director, Resources, NSO
Dan Netcher BLM Ely FO
Jennifer Salisbury BLM Ely FO
Steve Salzman BLM Battle Mountain
Jamie Thompson Public Affairs Officer, WFO
Nancy Thompson BLM Winnemucca FO
JoLynn Worley Public Affairs Officer, NSO
Vicki Wood BLM Winnemucca FO
 
Other Attendees
Kay Brothers Southern Nevada Water Authority
Skip Canfield Nevada Division of State Lands
Marc De La Torre U.S. Senator Ensign Office
Dennis Ghiglieri Public
Kimball Goddard U.S.G.S., Carson City, NV
Ronda Hornbecke Lincoln County Commission
Kevin Kirkeby U.S. Senator Ensign Office
Susan Lisacror U.S. Senator Reid Office
Sharon Netherton Public
Hugh Ricci Nevada Division of Water Resources
Jodi Stephens U.S. Congressman Gibbons Office
Mike Strobel U.S.G.S., Carson City, NV
Dan Struthers Public
 
7:45 a.m. Vice Chair Hank Vogler called the meeting to order
- Vince Garcia welcomed everyone and led the introductions.
- Meg Jensen introduced herself as Moderator for the panel and introduced speakers
1st speaker - Kay Brothers, Southern Nevada Water Authority (SWNA) said the SNWA was formed in 1991. Brothers gave a power point presentation listed the members.
SWNA is committed to protecting Nevada’s cultural and natural resources. She described the interim surplus guidelines – Lake Mead was supposed to be available through 2016. Drought changed that and the need for Colorado River resources increased.Slide about 2002 water resource priorities. Lake Mead has gone down over 90 feet. 2000 was the first year we saw below average inflow – 62% of average. In 2001 it was 59% of average; 2002 - 25% of average; 2003 - 59% of average; 2004 - 51% of average. Lake Mead’s level is dependent on Lake Powell. Lake Mead will take years and years to recover.
- In 2002, SNWA implemented a drought plan which includes major demand reduction tools in the plan. The conservation goal is to reduce water use by 25%. For a new home in Las Vegas – no turf allowed now in front yards. 6000 per month – number of new residents to Las Vegas.
- In 2005, there is the Water Banking Amendment. Recovery credits can begin in 2007. Nevada does not have to use in-state resources until 2012. Muddy and Virgin Rivers and ground water. Brothers discussed groundwater applications and there is the Lincoln County Agreement. Inter-basin transfers of water have occurred throughout Nevada for years.
- SNWA Water Resource Portfolio. Brothers listed water resources: three distinct resources - Three Lakes Valley Groundwater; Virgin and Muddy Rivers Surface Water; and Clark, Lincoln and White Pine Counties’ Groundwater. The Colorado River will always be our main source. The Integrated Water Planning Advisory Committee (IWPAC) was formed and it makes recommendations to SNWA for integrated water planning. In-state resource development still in early stages
2nd Speaker - Kimball Goddard, U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Division, gave a power point presentation. Goddard discussed ground water sustainability – understanding implications of large-scale ground-water development in southeastern Nevada. Safe Yield – Sustainability – Hydrologic analysis. Discharge = Recharge.
Safe yield definition - bled regularly and permanently without dangerous depletion of storage reserve (Lee 1915).
- Goddard also provided definition of sustainability and discussed analysis. "Safe yield fosters a long-term view, similar to the physical processes that govern ground-water systems." U.S.G.S. is beginning a study - Water Resources of the Basin Aquifer Range Carbonate And Sustainability Systems (BARCASS) in White Pine, Lincoln, and Nye Counties Nevada and adjacent areas in Nevada and Utah. The Utah study team participants include U.S.G.S., Desert Research Institute, and a designee from the State of Utah who shall conduct a study to investigate ground water.
- The Lincoln County Land Act provides guidance for BARCASS tasks. Tasks include:
Consolidation of information and operation of a unified data collection network; Determination of the extent thickness of aquifers; developing a conceptional model which reports discharge properties of various aquifer units and estimation of the volume of groundwater in storage, and more. The Scope of Tasks listed includes data, geohydrology, and recharge.
- BARCASS products will include a report to Congress; initiate construction of 3-D hydrologic framework; constrain water-budget estimates for all valleys in study area; establish long-term data networks and information delivery systems; institutionalize agency relations and public expectations. BARCASS is Not: An Environmental Impact study, produce a calibrated ground-water flow model, answer all questions or alleviate all concerns, or fully address sustainability concepts.
3rd Speaker - Hugh Ricci, Nevada State Water Engineer, gave a power point presentation on Nevada Water Law and listed duties of the State Engineer. An organizational chart showed 75 people in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resource Division of Water Resources.
Ricci listed historical data: in1903 the State Engineers Office was created; in 1905 Nevada Water Law; in1913 an Act set forth comprehensive procedures (which were listed in detail), and in 1939 ground water law-NRS chapter 534.
- Slides in the power point showed:
Nevada Water Law and chapters it is responsible for;
Prior appropriation doctrine and riparian doctrine and they were defined;
325,851 gallons = 1-acre-foot of water;
Hydrologic basins of Nevada map available from his office; 232 groundwater basins in Nevada (119 are designated or partially designated);
- Ricci’s office looks at available water from surface and groundwater sources.
Groundwater equals 1.7 million acre feet. His office administers effluent and geothermal resources. Ricci discussed surface water which equals 4.5 million acre-feet in all of Nevada. By comparison, the Columbia River at the Dalles averages 200,000 cubic feet per second (cfs); enough water passes that gauge in 16 days that could supply Nevada water needs for one year.
Other slides included:
Application Process - File Application, supporting map & fee, Map Table Review, Send for publication, protest period, hearing if required, RFA-Ready for Action, Determination of Action
Appropriation of Water Rights process – 200 claims on file (approximately 85,000 documents on file). The goal is to get records on their web site.
- Action on Application – four criteria listed. Water available from proposed source, does not conflict with existing rights, and cannot threaten to prove determined.
- Inter-basin Transfers- cannot change point of diversion from one hydrographic basin to another; water is moved via ditches, pipeline, etc. Inter-basin transfers are not a new idea. The first transfer was in 1873.
- Other Inter-Basin Transfers - Groundwater and Surface Water Sources
- Las Vegas Valley Water District – permit application information. For example: the remaining 95 applications in 15 basins have over 3,000 protests
- Ricci described that State Engineer decisions are appealable – must be within 30 days of issuance of order or decision in question and notice thereof is given to the State Engineer. (NRS 533.450). A final slide showed instream flows, springs and species protection, stock water rights, and monitoring and mitigation plans. Their website address is http://nv.water.gov.
4th Speaker - Bruce Flinn, BLM Project Manager, Ely Field Office passed out a handout – Clark, Lincoln and White Pine Counties Groundwater Development Project. Drought is a matter of perspective. Flinn described the future Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has three main parts: scoping meetings (plan to conduct scoping in six locations) will take a refined proposed action even thought it will probably change, will be comprehensive document. The Draft EIS is planned for summer 2006 and the Final EIS in 2007. The Record of Decision cannot be released sooner than 30 days after final release. Twenty letters went out this week seeking cooperating agency participation.
BLM is in the process of hiring an EIS contractor (hopefully within next four to six weeks). There will be a web site beginning in the next couple of weeks. Contact Bruce Flinn if you want to be on mailing list.
5th Speaker – Ronda Hornbecke is a Lincoln County Commissioner; Chair of the Lincoln County Water District; and a rancher for 50 plus years. Hornbecke is a native of Nevada; her grandfather started the family ranch in 1865. Hornbecke described Lincoln County – it’s 98% public lands; large ranching population with a high percentage native ranchers; a lot of hay and cattle come out of the county. There are five state parks; and the community is proud of its natural resources. The population base is 4,000. A developer is working on Coyote Springs and in February/March will be turning land.
- Lincoln County Land Act just passed recently and 13,300 acres of public land will be auctioned. Mesquite is bringing in land base. The Act allows for about 90,000 acres to be publicly sold. They will be designated around developed areas. A Draft Resource Management Plan will be coming out within next few months. Utility corridors are identified in the Act – the County knows that growth opportunities are out there. The
"Not My water" – relies heavily on legislation, current studies, and Hugh Ricci’s office. Lincoln County citizens have concerns about sustaining current living standards and not harming current uses.
Meg Jensen recapped the presentations and thanked the panelists for their participation.
 
BREAK – 9:40 – 9:55 a.m.
 
Audience Comments and Questions:
- Hank Vogler commented - I use surface water and am concerned about water being taken out of the area. Surface water could dry up. What are the mitigation measures? Are they being considered?
- Kay Brothers responded - If we see changes, will need to stop taking water. Laws will not allow water to dry up. Spring Valley has been monitored for years by USGS.
-Hugh Ricci commented - A ruling states that a monitoring plan must be in place. Not sure about exact plan details. Part of the ruling says that if and when impacts are seen, they must be measured.
- Hank Vogler - Ranchers could measure and monitor water resources.
- Kimball Goddard - Spring inventories will be done. A work element is in place to monitor seeps and springs. It’s important to know that there are different types of springs – some will be affected by aquifer levels – some in outlying areas will not.
- Bruce Flinn - A monitoring framework will be in place for the EIS.
- Jim Voight – I’m familiar with safe yield as it applies to aquifer. However, the sustainability definition offered is more political than economic. We’re no longer protecting aquifer if there are social needs. It’s not a scientific decision; science studies aquifer changes; society determines importance of affects.
- Jim Eidel - Sustainability not just referring to water resource?
- Kimball Goddard - Sustainability cannot be taken out of economic and social issues.
- John Falen – We’re also concerned about water levels.
- Kay Brothers – It’s not an overnight happening – water depletion.
- John Falen described that wells in his area were affected by lowering water levels. We had to deepen wells. Problems can be hidden as in wells. Mining pumping lowered water levels.
- Kay Brothers - We are not allowed to lower water levels.
- Hugh Ricci - Mining pumping did affect an artisan well and mitigation was done. Pump didn’t work so mine put in a pipeline to the spring.
- John Falen – They did not return to natural levels. Mine did return some water but ranchers absorbed the cost.
- Jeff White: Would like presentations to be made available to RAC members. Mike Brown will be mailing to members next week.
- Dave Tattam – How extensive is the pipeline right of way and what about reclamation?
- Bruce Flinn – The reclamation plan and restoration is a big component of plan. Public has the opportunity to comment.
- Jon Hutchings - Sustainable Yield – it is not possible today to determine extent of future impacts. The EIS will outline potential impacts. The federal NEPA process or State Engineer’s Office are capable of dealing with impacts as they occur. Citizens must know support is there if and when impacts occur. Issues must be adequately dealt with. Protections are in place at federal and state level.
- Meg Jensen – Who has enforcement authority?
- Jon Hutchings – The scope of the EIS should address void problems.
- Bruce Flinn – It’s a complicated issue. NEPA is meant to be broad in scope. BLM has been asked in the past to address specific problems. We will sort out the State Engineer role and that of local governments. The proponent becomes committed to remedy problems whether written out or not. Decision-making authority is very focused.
- Kay Brothers - As water providers we have a responsibility to manage water levels and will be factored in with other resources.
- John Gebhardt – Nevada has traditionally not recognized differences between surface and ground water.
- Hugh Ricci – The purpose of monitoring in Muddy Springs and others is to determine groundwater pumping affects. The State is aware and is looking at affects of water pumping. Studies from other panel members will be looked at before any action takes place.
- Jo Dean - Geology more than hydrology has determined monitoring. How do you know water may not be coming out of other basins if hydrology is not monitored?
- Hugh Ricci - We say that the largest pump test in world is in northeastern Nevada with some mine actions. There is not enough money in world to monitor everything. Unless wells are pumped, we will not know extent of pumping. We must pick best place to monitor. It’s theoretical until system actually pumped.
- Kimball Goddard – We’re using new techniques to study below surface flow systems. Eventually, as Hugh said, we will get to a point where there is no data available. A single well can cost $1 million. As refinement takes place, we will be able to tell where depression takes place decades before it takes place.
- Hugh Ricci – A recent ruling addresses basin and flow affects Go to our web site to see the analysis of the ruling.
- Barry Perryman - Maybe we don’t have the resources to support the Las Vegas population. A lot of shallow aquifers exist – maybe 10 feet below the surface. Six inches of drawdown may affect ecological community of hundreds of acres. Will the U.S.G.S. be looking at differences between surface and deep water aquifers?
- Kimball Goddard – The biggest effort will be looking at ET and plant communities it supports.
- Sherri Eklund-Brown - Will there be a trust fund of water use impacts?
- Hugh Ricci – There is no authority to establish a bond.
- Sherri Eklund-Brown - Will it be civil action? How will economic and land use issues be determined?
- Bruce Flinn - Every issue has impacts. A range of impacts will be looked at and decisions will be studied by agencies to make decisions.
- Sherri Eklund-Brown - BLM is a multiple use agency, but how will one user be addressed if significantly impacts are found?
- Bruce Flinn – I can’t answer how decisions will be made but impacts will be studied and outlined.
- Meg Jensen – Sometimes the proponent will step forward with mitigation.
- Craig Young – I’m concerned about a detail study being completed a year after comprehensive study done. How will specific on-the-ground studies take place?
- Bruce Flinn – The applicant will be asked to identify needs and then will be addressed as part of the NEPA process.
- Kay Brothers – We will be doing an analysis of volume of use. The Citizens Advisory Committee will advise on how to deal with impacts.
- Jerry Hepworth - Thanks to the presenters and BLM for addressing this issue and getting a feel from this audience on issues. Please define NEPA process, etc. to publics. What is the current process?
- Bruce Flinn - From my perspective, there are two or three processes. State’s response to current ruling and water allocations and adjudication. We will start the public NEPA process this spring. The Final EIS will be in approximately a year. BLM will have the opportunity to respond to the EIS and Right-of-Way (ROW).
- Meg Jensen – The first step will be a set of six public scoping meetings – in April or May. Stay tuned for the schedule.
- Kay Brothers – Integrated water planning group – broadcast to a number of locations. Meetings are open to public. We plan to hold meetings in rural areas.
- Kimball Goddard – There will be a knowledge exchange set of meetings; the science group must agree on what we are going to do. In six weeks we will hold public meetings. There will be a fairly sophisticated web site to make public all information and contact numbers.
- Hugh Ricci - Public process centers around if applicant protests are received in the time frame. The State Engineer legal process is quasi-judicial. Everyone is under oath. Ours is a little different process than Bruce Flinn’s as far as public process. People may feel overwhelmed by SNPLMA. A group of individuals could hire an attorney rather than individually.
- Sherm Swanson – BLM funds a study if fire regimes have affected ecosystems’ functionality and flow of spring flows and change of watershed biomass to springs. Due to budget cuts, BLM cannot continue to fund the study. Are there plans in place to study impacts to ecological systems? Study for negative as well as positive impacts?
- Bruce Flinn - Yes, we are studying health of watersheds. Can we improve watershed yield?
- Kay Brothers – We are aware of this and are open to funding some watershed studies.
- Vince Garcia - In my role as representing Native American interests, important that Native Americans be involved. Shoshone and others may not support actions. Native Americans still have gather authority.
- Jo Dean - Enforcement of monitoring and mitigation. We’re not hearing definitive answers. Is BLM issuing ROWs? Can they withdraw ROWs if the withdrawal impacts are negative? What is the State authority?
- Bruce Flinn – It’s not usually an all-or-nothing. If project impacts start occurring, different approaches are investigated. We look at ways to mitigate impacts or modify actions.
- Hugh Ricci – State law does allow State Engineer to curtail pumping. It has never been imposed. Is there any funding to force proponent to mitigate? Response: No laws are in place; no fines, etc. in statutes.
- Kay Brothers – It is the responsibility of SNWA to address land owner impacts. Hopefully we will know before impacts need mitigation. We may be able to establish trust fund if necessary.
- Richard Hankins – There are resident fears on how they will be protected? From White Pine County, what are our rights if water levels are depleted? Local level is concerned about protecting water rights. We are also concerned about growth for our county. Is there mitigation? Slow draw down might also mean slow recovery. Is there future expansion for counties other than Las Vegas?
- Ronda Hornbecke – Is is hard to answer what’s out there for mitigation, but Lincoln County is concerned. Ranchers are being asked for input on their future needs and must be included in the RMP. As concerned commissioners, we must work with our people. Mining is not first and foremost, but agriculture must be protected. As scoping meetings take place, our citizens will be there to express their concerns.
- Kay Brothers – We met with White Pine County a number of times on what they want to protect and we are working on an agreement focusing on this issues. We could look at mitigation measures.
- Susan Lisacror – To the EIS Study Team – Input/comments – how can constituents have input? Are you establishing cooperators?
- Bruce Flinn - Counties can have representatives there.
- Ronda Hornbecke - We have already been asked to be a cooperator.
- Hank Vogler - gave Clark County statistics (population, etc.) Is Clark County controlling the legislature? Is extending pipeline a possibility?
- Kay Brothers - My presentation showed that water use has decreased each year.
- Hank Vogler – The legislature can be influenced to take water from other counties? Laws can be changed.
- Kay Brothers - There are many water projects – not just this one.
- Dave Tattam – It’s hard to believe anyone can turn off water as Las Vegas population grows. If you allow population growth, residents must be accommodated on water needs.
- John Gebhardt - How will you attempt to write an EIS with impacts that could have affects for 10 years into future?
- Bruce Flinn – We will use scientific projections to try and come up with a range of probable impacts. Science is not exact, but best teams and models will be established. White Pine County is updating their water use plan.
- Dennis Ghiglieri – There are total costs versus segment costs of building a project. Will BLM site this in EIS?
- Bruce Flinn - I believe you will see this in the EIS.
- Kay Brothers - Costs will be coming out shortly.
- Dennis Ghiglieri – Will the other source costs revealed - de-salination, etc.?
- Bruce Flinn – We will look at and solicit comments on reasonable alternatives; establish criteria for alternative analysis; and look at parameter costs and fulfilling need of proponent.
- Sheri Eklund-Brown – Were there water transfer problems in Churchill County?
- Hugh Ricci - Part of the Loomis Project looked at transferring back upstream. My office’s responsibility is to determine what water is out there and rights of water holders. Irrigating or not is a surface water issue not groundwater issue.
- Jim Eidel – I’m pleased to hear that BARCASS study will provide data on a regular basis. How can RACs participate? Maybe integrate agencies as best as possible. I suggest BARCASS and NEPA procedures look at what data is needed first and interconnects. Can RAC look at how data is acquired?
- Kimball Goddard - Scientifically we know a lot about ground water flow systems in this area. A USGS simplistic model exists on carbon system. We sort of understand which basins are interconnected. BARCASS is looking at constraining further water level depletion. Timing and legally, these are different actions. BARCASS is legally mandated. The EIS and NEPA has its own set of legal bonds. In point of fact, the same individuals involved in BARCASS from U.S.G.S., will also be looking at EIS documents with a fair degree of understanding of how the system works.
- Bruce Flinn - In a perfect world, there is all the data you need. Data is an evolutionary process. Everyone assembles best data gathering processes.
- Jim Eidel – I’ve heard it said that this project will have irreversible impact on Clark County?
- Bruce Flinn – The BLM decision is on allowing pipelines to be built. It focuses on accessibility not allocation? Our study will be as complete as possible.
- Kimball Goddard - Stressing needs to be addressed as it is happening. Monitoring data will help us refine conclusions and models will be changed.
- Craig Young – What is the time process for pipeline decision – ROW?
- Bruce Flinn - BLM has terms of ROWs for 50 years. If something should occur outside of expectations, government can come in and re-evaluate and formally modify. Monitoring, but not ROW benchmarks could built in.
- Craig Yong – Is peer review built in?
- Kimball Goddard – In the U.S.G.S. document, yes, we will take comments/criticisms.
- Meg Jensen wrapped up the discussions and thanked the panel and audience.
- Vince Garcia added concluding remarks and thanked the panel members. He suggested that as individuals and or RAC members we should plan to attend at least one scoping meeting.
 
11:50 a.m. – Break for Lunch
 
Resource Advisory Council (RAC) Members Present and Category Represented:
Northeastern Great Basin RAC
Jo Dean (2) Environmental
Sheri Eklund-Brown (3) Elected Official
Vince Garcia (3) Native American
Dave Gaskin (3) State Agency
Brent Howerton (1) Transportation/ROW
Jon Hutchings (3) Public-at-Large
Barry Perryman (3) Academia
Dave Tattam (2) Wild Horse and Burro
Bill Upton (1) Energy/Minerals
Hank Vogler (1) Grazing Permit
Jeff White (1) Energy/Minerals
 
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Representatives Present:
Mike Brown Public Affairs Officer, Elko FO
Helen Hankins Field Office Manager, Elko FO & LV
Diane Hendry Public Affairs Officer, Battle Mountain FO
Dan Netcher BLM Ely FO
Steve Salzman BLM Battle Mountain FO
 
1:15 p.m. – Chairman Vince Garcia called the meeting to order and did introductions.
 
I. ELY RMP UPDATE
- Dan Netcher said the goal is to have the Draft RMP available by July 1, 2005.
- Sheri Eklund Brown asked if the RMP would cover questions on OHV and watershed assessments.
- Dan Netcher described that issues will be addressed. The RMP is looking at different OHV alternatives. Open, Closed, and Limited Access alternatives will be addressed through a watershed assessment process.
- Hank Vogler expressed concerns about closing some areas for fear OHV use may just be relocated. The majority of use is seasonal, primarily locals. Las Vegas users are added during hunting season. Vogler noted the RAC handouts are based on recreation.
- Jon Hutchings commented that the Wildlife Commissioners were upset about closing any roads. Hutchings feels that we should start with registering vehicles.
- Hank Vogler noted that dealers are concerned about not getting a share of revenue-taxes. Outlaw groups are just as vehement against any licensing.
- Barry Perryman commented that groups trying to be responsible will force the issue towards licensing, etc.
- Vince Garcia stated that last year was the worse year of OHV use in our allotment. Six splices in one of his gates. There is the danger of livestock on the highway.
- Dan Netcher said that these issues will be addressed in the RMP and BLM welcomes comments. Discussion about integrating OHV guidelines into the RMP.
- General discussion about the RAC supporting or lobbying. Helen Hankins stated RAC members can lobby as individuals.
- Helen Hankins briefed the RAC that 400 Hummers applied for OHV routes and there will be bonding.
- Hank Vogler asked if they will get permission. Helen Hankins said yes, since the Elko Field Office is open to OHV use. However, they must comply with all rules, etc., as other land users.
- Jo Dean asked if wheel base is a problem. Helen Hankins said that it will be addressed in EA – if all the routes are gravel, it may not be a problem
- Sheri Eklund Brown noted that the Trails Committee will be monitoring the event and will be making "requests" of visitors.
Public Comment Period opened at 1:30 p.m.
- Vince Garcia handed out the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association/Woolgrower’s Association letter. Vince instructed Mike Brown to send Rachael Buzzetti a letter that they are welcome to attend tour.
- Bill Upton noted that they have been at public notice meetings.
- Mike Brown said he always puts notices in newspaper and permittees and anyone else is welcome to attend. Discussion about how the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association is notified of RAC activities and if they receive agendas.
- Dave Tattam noted that the Wild Horse Sale Authority has brought up questions. He handed out Committee Report 1/3/05 for the Alliance of Wild Horse Advocates.
- Helen Hankins commented that a bill is being presented that would take away BLM sale authority. There is not injunction against BLM. A task group is working in Phoenix this week to see how BLM will implement this authority. There are lots of questions.
BLM will attempt three adoption processes. If horses are not adopted, then BLM can sell. The process not defined. BLM can’t continue to pay $20 million a year to maintain them.
 
II. SAGE GROUSE LISTING PRESENTATION
- Kevin Kritz of the US Fish & Wildlife Service distributed a handout on the Sage Grouse petition process and gave a power point presentation. The Service did not list the sage grouse so there was no "de-listing."
- Slide – Sage Grouse – Current and Historic Distribution map - 12 month findings
- Slide - Listing Petitions Received by USFWS for Sage-Grouse (two species) Seven petitions received to date for Greater Sage Grouse and one for Gunnison Sage-Grouse.
The Service published a 90-day Finding April 21, 2004; and a Status Review was initiated as a result of the 90-day Finding. 900 public comments.
- Slide -USFWS teams accessed status of sage-grouse.
- Slide -USFWS Status Review-Outcome – The final decision on the status review was made by USFWS and announced to the public January 7, 2005. The 12-month finding was published on 1/12/05. Listing not justified was the USFWS 12-month Finding and Legal Challenge.
- Slide - Listing Process
USFWS 1) gathers information, performs a status review, and if appropriate, proceeds with listing the species. 2) Petition from interested individual/organization
- Slide – Listing by Petition: 4-Step Process: petition evaluation, status review (9 months) proposed listing, final rule (handout).
- Slide - Factors considered in a listing action.
- Steve Salzman asked what would constitute overuse.
- Kevin Kritz said a state’s hunting program management. Over-harvesting has not, in my memory, been a sole reason for listing. Habitat destruction is often a factor.
- Slide - Status Review – Possible Outcomes
- Slide - Conservation Planning and the Greater Sage-Grouse
- Slide -- Why is it Important to Continue Conservation Planning Efforts for Sage-Grouse
- Kevin Kritz noted that regardless of the Outcome of the Status Review, the USFWS has already received a petition to sue. They have been petitioned to list the pygmy rabbit and could be petitioned to list other sage-grouse obligate species. The USFWS is signatory of the 2000 Memorandum of understanding with WAFWA and other federal agencies in conserving sage-grouse; will sign state level plans, but not local conservation plans. Web pages are: //http:www.fws.gov, http://endangred.fws.gov, http://nevada.fws.gov
- Hank Vogler asked if members of Congress are interested in looking at this issue. Kritz said Yes there are.
- Hank Vogler commented that West Nile Virus is attacking species and asked if the USFWS is studying it?
- Kevin Kritz responded that it is still too early to tell – don’t know the outcome.
- Hank Vogler noted that the Pygmy rabbit may have been on way out because of loss of habitat? He asked if the USFWS lists species due to loss of habitat and not able to adapt.
- Kevin Kritz said that most animals are adaptable.
- Jon Hutchings asked about threat factors:
- Kevin Kritz said that of five threat factors, two were in-depth review. The expert panel asked to access future threat (rate) level of extinction (30-100 years).
- Hank Vogler asked how many species on endangered list that have been taken off? There are 1200 listed species. Relatively small portion de-listed. Paragon falcon and grey whale are examples.
- Barry Perryman commented that BLM and other agencies have spent a lot of time and money on these studies to avoid listing. He asked how USFWS provides petitioner responsibility where you can eliminate frivolous petitions. We cannot go through this sage grouse thing again.
- Jon Hutchings asked how does the Bureau position itself to defend itself against next issue like this? Agencies don’t have budget or staff to keep dealing with these things. Maybe as a RAC we should think about this issue and decide on our scope of involvement.
- Sheri Eklund Brown commented that there needs to be standardizing on science for petitions that are sent to agencies.
- Helen Hankins said to consider putting burden of proof on petitioner or person appealing projects. Have a science-based appeal based on Endangered Species Act. Can it be done without regulatory change?
- Kevin Kritz said they would have consulted with their solicitor.
- Hank Vogler noted that there are tools in place for mining such as on bonding issues. Why can’t petitioners do something similar?
General discussion about bonding, advocacy groups, and legal challenges.
- Bill Upton expressed disappointment that the Service couldn’t or didn’t look at existing rangeland health standards and guidelines that are already developed.
- Jon Hutchings noted that we don’t have a way to amalgamate all issues with standards and guidelines. How can we utilize what’s been done on sage-grouse to other species/issues?
- Kevin Kritz commented that the RAC members make good points. Maybe we need to look at multi-faceted positions. Reform law to encourage participation. Tort reform is a good action - turn negatives into positives.
General discussion about budget priorities, funding opportunities, and Washington looking at SNPLMA monies.
- Helen Hankins said that sage grouse could still be listed and groups can’t rest on laurels. We must demonstrate implementation of conservation plans. BLM is establishing tracking plans.
- Barry Perryman concluded that we must be true to our word or we won’t be trusted next time.
 
III. MINING UPDATE
- Dave Gaskin gave the Mining Update. Standardized unit costs for reclamation-implementation meeting was held yesterday. In March we will roll out among BLM and others. He has hired a second liaison position. The Emigrant Mine project – is being worked on with Elko Field Office. They are reviewing the preliminary Draft EIS. The main issues are groundwater quality, etc., and want to be sure data supports findings. The Draft EIS should come out in March.
- Sheri Eklund Brown asked if there is web access to the status of mining applicants.
- Dave Gaskin said they have been talking about that.
- Steve Salzman commented that BLM’s LR2000 is not designed to follow applications; however, changes can be made must be made on national level.
- Bill Upton added that the NEPA process lengthy and difficult process. Federal Register publication is taking about ten weeks. General discussion about the Federal Register process – how it works and why it takes so long.
- Bill Upton noted that the bonding adjudication process can still take quite a while even when a bond is in place.
- Steve Salzman commented that Ron Perrot sent a letter to the State Director asking to improve process. A team (Steve was a member) looked at ways to streamline the process especially for surety bonds. Four people out of extended sick leave last year now back in place. He suggested that the Division of Minerals be the lead on these efforts.
- Helen Hankins told the RAC members of her Las Vegas detail and she would be out of Elko until the first of March.
 
IV. FIELD MANAGERS’ AND DISTRICT RANGERS’ REPORTS
- Mike Brown informed the RAC about Kathy Ataman’s resignation. In eight weeks, the nomination process begins and her position vacancy will be submitted then.
- Helen Hankins asked the RAC members to think about nominations for her position.
- Vince Garcia expressed concern about the POD system voting and quorums.
- Mike Brown noted that votes can be recorded as a vote of members present. Votes on Minutes are recorded that way without a quorum example.
- Helen Hankins said that a true quorum is needed for some actions such as legislative measures. We can remind Jo Simpson that we would like quorum question followed up on.
- Steve Salzman brought attention of the RAC members to the Mining Sustainability Community Workshop and discussed topics. He urged members to come and participate. The statewide budget meeting scheduled for February 10-11. The Battle Mountain Field Office has received additional funding so can fill two vacancies. However, the NEPA coordinator is leaving. In the interim, Battle Mountain will request assistance from other field offices. Gail Givens will be moving to the Winnemucca Field Office.
General discussion about the concern over Battle Mountain Field Office vacancies and range vacancies in other BLM offices in Nevada. Retirement is causing some shortages.
- Helen Hankins noted that in the next five years, 30-35% of BLM is eligible for retirement. In recreation, funding is greater issue and it is not seen as a great priority.
- Jon Hutchings said that the community has monitoring needs that are not being met. He suggested we explore cooperative monitoring agreements.
- Helen Hankins said to put this issue on the March meeting agenda – creating a partnership between BLM and ranching community to do monitoring efforts.
- Barry Perryman said that the monitoring workshop protocols in place. He hopes to hold workshops in Austin or Eureka. Success depends on agencies’ willingness to accept data. They are working on state-wide monitoring handbook. Gary McKuen is heading up the effort. They are anticipating it may be available by Fall 2005.
- Jon Hutching asked if there could be a handbook update at the next meeting. The Eureka PLUAC developed a handbook. They area a good group to have onboard.
- Sheri Eklund- Brown asked if there are different monitoring guidelines for other agencies.
- Helen Hankins commented that she was not sure if the handbook is interagency. Maybe should invite other agencies to the RAC meeting discussion.
- Helen Hankins asked for feedback about panel. The RAC appreciated the panel. Suggested monitoring proposal to RAC be developed for consideration. Team may consist of field managers (Ely, Elko, and Battle Mountain), Jon Hutchings, Barry Perryman, and Hank Vogler? We will figure out what we need to do and then figure out where to get funding from partners. Hankins will visit with Jerry Smith and Gene Kolkman about their participation. An email will follow.
- Sheri Eklund-Brown asked if consultants can be hired from an approved BLM list by ranchers for reimbursement.
- Jon Hutchings noted that the Grazing Board could be involved on this level as a funding partner. Is pygmy rabbit going to start off another sage-grouse type effort?
- Helen Hankins commented that habitat studies overlap for sage-grouse and pygmy rabbit.
- Jon Hutchings remarked that only one group looked it at from an ecosystem approach and was reprimanded for it. What is needed to utilize current data set?
- Helen Hankins said we will find out the exact F&WS status of pygmy rabbit for next RAC meeting. Put the topic on the agenda.
Barry Perryman motioned that the meeting adjourn and the motion was seconded by Jon Hutchings. 4:00 p.m. meeting adjourned.
Copies of the Powerpoint presentations are attached to the official minutes on file at the Elko Field Office.
 
Date Approved: March 31, 2005
Approved by:  Vince Garcia, Chair

Minutes by Diane Hendry and Mike Brown
 

 
Last updated: 03-07-2007