Nevada

Northeastern Great Basin RAC Meeting


Meeting

Northeastern Great Basin Resource Advisory Council
Meeting Minutes
February 16, 2006
BLM Battle Mountain Field Office
Battle Mountain, Nevada

Resource Advisory Council (RAC) Members Present and Category Represented:
Jo Dean (2) Environmental
Sheri Eklund-Brown (3) Elected Official
Art Gale (1) Grazing Permit
Vince Garcia (3) Native American
Dave Gaskin (3) State Employee
Les Hansen (2) Dispersed Recreation
Jon Hutchings (3) Public At Large
Kevin Lee (1) Transportation/ROW
Bill Upton (1) Energy/Minerals
Jeff White (1) Energy/Minerals

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Representatives Present:
Mike Brown Public Affairs Officer, Elko Field Office
Doug Furtado Assistant Field Manager, Battle Mountain FO
Helen Hankins Field Office Manager, Elko Field Office
Rob Perrin Outdoor Recreation Planner, Battle Mountain FO
Jo Simpson Chief Communications, Nevada State Office
Jerry Smith Field Manager, Battle Mountain Field Office
Mike Stamm Biologist, Battle Mountain Field Office
Jack Tribble Assistant Field Manager, Ely Field Office
Stephanie Trujillo Administrative Assistant, Ely Field Office
Penny Woods Groundwater Projects Manager, Nevada SO

Other Attendees
Marti Collins Refuge Manager, Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Tom Dailey Northern Nevada ATV Association
Paul Flanagan District Ranger, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
Forest Newton Reporter, Battle Mountain Bugle
Mike Stone Public (OHV interests)
Lisa Wolf Reporter, Elko Daily Free Press

8:15 a.m. Chairman Vince Garcia welcomed everyone and called the meeting to order. Everyone introduced themselves.

- Mike Brown discussed Travel Vouchers and noted the U.S. Forest Service handout summarizing the FS Oil and Gas EIS. RAC members are invited to comment on the EIS if they chose.

I. GROUNDWATER DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS UPDATE

- Penny Woods updated the RAC on the Nevada Groundwater Development projects. There are four Rights-of-Way applications: one for the Southern Nevada Water Authority and three from Lincoln County. BLM will continue to prepare Environmental Impact Statements on the projects.

- Jerry Smith asked if Penny is handling the Reno pipelines as well.

- Penny Woods responded that she is not handling the Reno pipelines. Southern Nevada Water Authority must redo their proposal because of their agreement with Lincoln County to carry water for Lincoln County. There will be a new Purpose and Need section and the Plan of Development is coming.

- Sheri Eklund-Brown asked to be kept up-to-date on the projects.

- Penny Woods said they are getting web site update.

- Vince Garcia asked what were the reasons for backing away from the project.

- Penny Woods answered that there are new proposals.

- Jo Simpson commented that she was in a meeting with Lincoln County and they are looking down the road 10 years. They felt if they did not get involved now, then it would be too late for them.

- Jerry Smith asked if they are proposing the same route and if Southern Nevada Water Authority would provide water for them (Lincoln County).

- Penny Woods said as long as they can come to an agreement.

- Sheri Eklund Brown asked about the role of the State Water Engineer’s Office.

- Penny Woods responded that she has talked with the State Engineer and they have not yet set a hearing date. It may be in the next year.

- Sheri Eklund Brown asked about Indian Springs.

- Penny Woods said she did not know, but will find out. Woods added that as soon as hearings are set, then they can disclose their data and start the EIS.

- Jon Hutchings asked if there is a timeframe for the EIS and noted that the EIS process is a long way out.

- Penny Woods commented that a revised plan is coming and thinks that the Lincoln County rights-or-way will move quicker than the Southern Nevada Water Authority rights-of-way.

- Jon Hutchings asked where Penny will work.

- Penny Woods responded that she has a desk at the Nevada State Office in Reno as well as office space in Ely and will be available to meet with those affected by and interested in the project, including Lincoln County and Elko County.

- Jon Hutchings asked about the Cooperative Agency status and described the counties forming a regional authority separate from local governments. Will the Central Nevada Region Water Authority (CNRWA) receive Cooperating Agency status? Need to follow up.

- Penny Woods responded she would follow up on that. The next task is to have a meeting with all cooperating agencies.

- Kevin Lee asked if there is a more detailed description of the right-of-way.

- Penny Woods said it is coming.

- Jack Tribble remarked that when Bruce Flinn left, there was a change in the proposed action. It is a much bigger right-of-way and a regional approach. There are more than 11 million acres involved with all the watersheds involved.

- Penny Woods commented that there will be Public Scoping Meetings the week of March 20th.

- Bill Upton commented that are some basins a long ways from the rights-of-way and asked why?

- Jon Hutchings and Bill Upton discussed hydrographic basins.

- Sheri Eklund-Brown commented that she’s glad we’re looking at it from a regional watershed approach.

II. REVIEW & APPROVAL OF MINUTES FROM PREVIOUS MEETING

- Sheri Eklund-Brown noted there need to be a correction on the second page for Gund Ranch.

Jon Hutchings made a motion to approve the minutes with that correction. Jeff White seconded the motion. All in favor.

III. LAND TENURE ADJUSTMENTS

LAND TENURE

- Jeff White noted that he is speaking as a Newmont Mining employee. Newmont has acquired surface land holdings across northern Nevada. These are high-value resource lands which have sensitive species and recreation potential. Newmont has proposed to exchange 20,000 acres for 12,500 acres of selected lands where Newmont is already operating under permit. The 12,500 acres are non-mineral.

The offered 20,000 acres or "Selected Lands" includes Willow Creek Reservoir south of Battle Mountain, sage grouse habitat, Howard Ranch, Warm Springs, and special habitat areas. This would be a plus for BLM as it will help block up lands such as in Marys River.

Jeff White has worked with Jerry Smith and Helen Hankins on the proposal.

They are also working with the Forest Service in the Carson City Ranger District for the Long Valley area – 1,200 acres of mining claims.

It is a long and sometimes challenging process.

White will work with Sheri Eklund-Brown and he asked Jon Hutchings to talk to the Eureka County Commission. Today’s presentation is a heads up that this is coming

- Sheri Eklund-Brown asked why Newmont is offering more than they are receiving.

- In response, Jeff White explained that the final acreage of offered lands would be adjusted through appraisal process.

- Helen Hankins commented that the legislation is exchange of equal value for equal value and it also allows for up to 25% cash payment if the values are not equal. It will require a Land Use Plan amendment because some of the lands are not identified for disposal in the Land Use Plan. Newmont will have to do scoping. The process takes one to two years.

- Jerry Smith said the Battle Mountain Land Use Plan (LUP) is 20 years old and out of date. There are new issues, new uses, and new parcels of interest. An LUP amendment is costly – they have put off doing these things until the LUP … they will work with the counties to identify lands they want disposed, develop criteria; they need acquisition language and criteria. Battle Mountain would use this to amend the LUP and look at sustainable development. There are a lot of opportunities through this process … a lot to be gained.

- Art Gale asked about the cost because sometimes the cost of the studies exceeds the value of the land.

- Jeff White said Newmont will pay for the studies.

- Jerry Smith talked about BACA and FLTFA, but the lands must be identified in the LUP or need a LUP amendment. Newmont is a good partner and this is a good opportunity for all involved – Newmont, BLM, the County, and the public.

- Jon Hutchings asked if this is an administrative process and not legislation that must go through Congress. Every time land tenure comes up BLM is short of people. Will BLM hire a project manager?

- Helen Hankins said yes it is administrative and yes, BLM will hire a project manager funded by Newmont.

- Jerry Smith commented that Newmont is not in the recreation business for Willow Creek. BLM would partner with Lander County. A lot of opportunities and there is critical sage grouse habitat in the proposed exchange.

- Sheri Eklund-Brown asked that if lands are acquired w/ SNPLMA money, does BLM have to do a LUP amendment.

- Jerry Smith said Yes, Battle Mountain would because their LUP is silent on land acquisition.

- Sheri Eklund-Brown said the counties are supportive of Newmont’s proposal.

- Vince Garcia pointed out this would put more private land in federal control and in return the mines are expanding around their operations. There may be opposition.

- Jon Hutchings said the value in dollars may be equal, but it depends on what kind of value you put on it. He discussed community perceptions and the need for balance.

- Helen Hankins said when you look at economic studies, recreation and tourism is significant … can argue both ways. OHV is growing in this area. It would be beneficial for wildlife and fisheries going to the public instead of being locked up.

- Jerry Smith made reference to the Bullfrog mine in Beatty, Nevada, and said this is why we’re looking at sustainable development. This will be a completely open process.

- Lisa Wolf asked at what level the criteria have to be approved.

- Jerry Smith said at the State Director level and then if protested the Director level.

- Helen Hankins said it is important that the criteria are developed locally with local input.

- Jack Tribble remarked that when lands are sold and resold it can affect access. Tourism is important in White Pine County.

- Sheri Eklund-Brown asked when BLM disposes of lands, can access be retained?

- Jerry Smith said yes, we will make sure.

- Jo Dean asked how many square miles this encompasses.

- Mike Brown said approximately 50.

- Jerry Smith pointed out that the areas are scattered all over and the selected areas are associated with mining.

- Helen Hankins said there are important habitats such as Marys River. BLM would have to evaluate if this exchange is in the public interest.

- Vince Garcia said the public would like to see a fisherman at a reservoir and not a cow at the reservoir. What is the future of ranchers?

- Jo Dean said she likes the proposal because it will benefit the environment and help habitat.

- Vince Garcia said all ranchers are environmentalists … he is concerned for his industry.

- Sheri Eklund-Brown asked about access, will the public be kept out of the mine sites?

- Jeff White summarized that they have initiated the process and it will be open.

- Jerry Smith said when BLM acquires land, we don’t usually fence off and we will continue to manage for public use.

- Helen Hankins commented that generally when BLM acquires land it is managed like adjacent lands.

- Jon Hutchings asked about the process.

- Helen Hankins said the Washington Office generally prefers we don’t do exchanges, but in this case we have the go ahead from the state director.

- Sheri Eklund-Brown asked if there is any direction from President Bush to sell lands.

- Helen Hankins said at this point, it is an idea, not law.

- Jo Simpson commented that we support the President’s Budget and it is proposed. The lands are those already identified for sale. She explained how the money is distributed.

- Paul Flanagan discussed Forest Service parcels identified for sale. The Mount Rose parcels are about 3000 acres and very high value – much more so than the Southern Idaho parcels.

- Les Hansen asked if water rights at Willow Creek would go with the sale.

- Jeff White said yes.

- Sheri Eklund-Brown asked how it works with the state engineer to transfer water. Will Lander County have a problem?

- Jerry Smith responded that no, Lander County will be a partner.

- General discussion about water rights, uses, and the proposed transfer.

- Jo Dean asked if the proposed sale of forest lands in Idaho was 15% of the forest.

- Jack Tribble commented that there is a lot of money in SNPLMA and it is a challenging process with politicians.

- General discussion about county land bills.

- Jerry Smith said a lot of people seem to think that LUP revisions are a better route than doing a county land bill.

9:40 a.m. - Break

10:05 a.m. – Meeting Resumed

Chairman Garcia announced the Public Comment period is open.

IV. SAGE GROUSE CONSERVATION PROJECTS

- Mike Stamm of the Battle Mountain Field Office gave a power point presentation on the South Central Sage Grouse Plan. Stamm discussed:

Bootstrap Program with the University of Nevada, Reno Cooperative Extension. They obtained a $24,000 grant. The crew built five large water guzzlers; built four meadow pasture fences; built aspen exclosures; thinned 350 acres of pinion-juniper in the Tonkin Springs area at a cost of $75 per acre; and did Mormon Cricket removal.

There is a pinion-juniper mapping project with the University of Nevada, Reno.

A radio collar study is being conducted in addition to a study about power lines. Power lines have been installed with anti-perching devices within two miles of sage grouse habitat. They also worked with Sierra Pacific to retrofit some existing power lines. The devices aren’t fool proof, but help reduce perching.

In the Fish Creek area they did sage grouse radio collars, learned about nesting followed thru 4 seasons. Sage Grouse used the top of the mountains. Reviewed the map and discussed the area for the Newmont exchange - acquire the habitat to facilitate the population. They learned in the Fish Creek telemetry study that sage stayed on mountain top.

There are 58,000 acres of encroaching pinion-juniper in many areas.

Five wildlife guzzlers were installed. Have expanded the sage grouse range by installing guzzlers.

-Jon Hutchings asked who are the groups opposed to pinion-juniper cutting and why?

- Mike Stamm said Native Americans are opposed because of pine nut production. Western Watersheds Project is opposed because they think Nevada used to be woodlands and it’s a natural condition.

- Jon Hutchings commented we haven’t done a good job in correlating the thinning of pinion-juniper and its affects on ephemeral streams. This should be studied. They have looked at areas where there is increasing pinion-juniper - they are shading out aspen.

- Jerry Smith discussed the impacts of thinning pinion-juniper on streams. There are differences between true woodlands versus invaded rangelands. Pinion-juniper spread has helped reduce grazing AUMs in Nevada. Joint fire sciences are trying to identify the thresholds. It is a multi-state project.

- Lisa Wolf asked for a copy of the streams that are affected and doesn’t want pinions cut.

- Jerry Smith discussed public process before actions are done. He is concerned with rangelands being invaded, not traditional woodlands.

- Jo Dean asked which tree – pinion or juniper – encroaches the most.

- Mike Stamm responded that on the eastern side of the Great Basin it’s pinion and on the western side of the Great Basin it’s juniper.

- General discussion about expanding pinion-juniper range and the aftermath of a large fire through a canopied pinion-juniper area. Discussion on fire effects.

- Vince Garcia said our duty as RAC members is to report back to our groups.

- Helen Hankins discussed the fuels program and public perception.

- Jon Hutchings proposed having working groups to look at fuels reduction projects.

- Jack Tribble said the Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition is doing that.

- General discussion about focusing on defensible space and urban interface versus the larger picture of landscape management.

- Jon Hutchings asked if it would help to have a RAC resolution.

- Jerry Smith said that the RAC is here to advise BLM and to help with land use planning.

- Helen Hankins said the emphasis has been urban interface – protecting life and property – then business and stewardship contracting. Hankins offered to provide an overview to the RAC at the next meeting about Fuels Treatment. BLM is working on a vegetation map on a statewide basis. This will help BLM manage statewide. Hankins offered to talk about current policy and vegetation management.

- Jerry Smith said all our projects and management are related.

- Lisa Wolf asked about controlled burning in Eureka; she is concerned with the cemetery.

- Jerry Smith described the fuel loading near Eureka and said BLM is burning the slash.

Jon Hutchings made a motion for the next agenda to talk about the BLM fuels program – overview and emphasis. Art Gale seconded the motion. Vince Garcia would like NDOW to update the RAC on sage grouse projects and asked that Shaun Espinoza be invited. All in favor.

- Jerry Smith gave an overview of the Governor’s sage grouse plan.

- Jack Tribble gave the Ely sage grouse update. Lincoln County received $20 million in SNPLMA funding for sage grouse in Round 6 to do following projects:

Telemetry studies in Lincoln and White Pine counties.

Watershed assessment for 230,000 acres.

Pinion-juniper projects and public work.

Cutting pinion-juniper around leks on 400 acres.

Increase forbs in old wheat grass seedings on 600 acres.

Sagebrush restoration on 10,000 acres.

Treat 400 acres of pinion-juniper encroachment – get a native mixture re-established.

These actions are on 250,000 acres and will cost $20 million over 3 years. White Pine County is doing partnerships and contracting – not hiring people.

- Jo Simpson discussed how Lincoln County obtained the money via SNPLMA through the Lincoln County Land Act.

V. FIRE REHABILITATION

- Helen Hankins distributed a handout (prepared with the Northeastern Nevada Stewardship Group) about sage grouse projects in the Elko Field Office. Seventeen projects have been accomplished or are underway. Many are funded by the fuels program – combining fuels work with sage grouse conservation. Projects include seedings, exclosures, prescribed burning, mechanical treatments.

Hankins discussed the fire rehabilitation handout. There were 18 major fires in 2005 requiring rehabilitation work. BLM has three years to use the money allocated for rehabilitation.

- Vince Garcia asked about weeds and if BLM monitors.

- Helen Hankins said yes, after three years BLM continues to monitor.

- Vince Garcia noted that there will be a Weed Workshop in Elko on March 2, 2006 at the Convention Center. Sheri Eklund-Brown is on the Board.

- Kevin Lee said he heard that some groups are advocating not using certain chemicals.

- Helen Hankins said the BLM Vegetation Draft EIS analyzes which chemicals to use.

- Sheri Eklund-Brown stated for weeds, during the public scoping, many were against using chemicals and others commenting on the "wise use" of chemicals.

- Helen Hankins said in Elko County we have 25,000 acres of weed infestations and we’re not keeping up. We use a combination of biological, chemical, and mechanical treatments.

- Sheri Eklund-Brown said they got a $10,000 grant for weed control for the Owyhee-Duck Valley.

Noon – Lunch break

1:30 p.m. – Meeting Resumed

VI. SHOSHONE RANGE OFF-HIGHWAY VEHICLE TRAIL

- Les Hansen reported on Travel Management workshops in Elko that he attended representing the RAC.

- Jo Dean asked if the groups can teach OHVers how to behave around horses. Dean discussed public education and the potential dangers of horse/ATV interactions.

- Helen Hankins noted that Travel Management Planning looks at all uses.

Les Hansen said that there are three communities of ATV users:

1 – Go fast, make noise, and use sand dunes.

2 – Ride on a trail fast – sport machines

3 – Utility machines

Hansen asked what is the best way to handle an encounter with horse riders.

- Jo Dean responded slow down, be respectful, stop, and maybe turn off the motor.

- Sheri Eklund-Brown commented that for Spruce Mountain the plan is for education, sharing of the trails, kiosks, and signage.

- General discussion about the OHV trail issue – signing and designating trails.

- Jack Tribble mentioned the NOVAC website and discussed special ATV cattle guards which cost about $650 each.

- Rob Perrin gave a power point presentation on the Shoshone Range Trail System and providing high quality use areas. Slides from the presentation include:

Protecting public land resources

Promoting safety for all public land users

Minimizing conflicts among the various users of the public lands

Types:

Sport (pit/track/sand) riding and races

Technical jeep routes

Trail/touring riding

OHV used while hunting are indirectly related to OHV recreation and need to be addressed separately.

Principles:

Management commitment

Proactive not reactive

Provide for user needs

Positive attitude

Money and resources

Dedicated & knowledgeable personnel

Keep markings simple and visible

Sheri Eklund-Brown said in a situation where there are problems that have been let go, how would you address that?

Rob Perrin said get those concerned involved in problem solving, peer pressure rather than law enforcement.

Provide for user needs in a managed setting. Have high quality areas developed to meet expectations of the rider.

Guidance:

National Management strategy for motorized off highway vehicle use on public lands

RAC- Nevada off highway vehicle guidelines

Shoshone Eureka Resource Management Plan (open not limited)

OHV recreation in NV:

Most use is related to hunting

Steadily increasing

Local public and government interested in partnering to develop managed OHV opportunities

Currently no active management on land managed by Battle Mountain

Entire district is open

OHV planning process:

Local OHV users interested

Lander County

Checkerboard ownership in the county

Potential areas narrowed down

Fish Creek Range has sage grouse concerns, not motorized routes available

Shoshone has advantages to the others

Planning basics:

Loops creative variety

Adequate mileage learner loops

TH areas

Variety of challenge

Provide multiple access points

Concerns:

Sensitive riparian/aspen

WH&B

Deer range

Unsustainable

Sage grouse

Lambing in spring

Cultural resources

Develop and manage:

Constraints

Recruit partners

Share specialized resources across managed units

Solicit grant funding (development) challenge is maintaining

Central Oregon has trail system and the users are compliant, which has been looked at. Some users were from distant areas.

Trail management for Battle Mountain is for local use.

Two sets of day opportunities trail.

- Jack Tribble also discussed that the Ely and Battle Mountain Field Offices are sharing staff for OHV management. The Ely Field Office is working on the Oxtail Trail EA in the Egan Range about 20 miles south of Ely.

- Rob Perrin said the Shoshone Trail System is in the consultation phase. They are looking at alternatives for an EA and analyzing resource issues.

- Jerry Smith said this is a good example of NIMBY (not in my back yard)

- Sheri Eklund-Brown asked how you keep public out of sensitive areas.

- Rob Perrin responded to emphasize the positive and use adaptive management with thresholds.

- Jerry Smith said it is important to do the first one right.

- Sheri Eklund-Brown asked if there will be a lot of marketing.

- Rob Perrin responded just locally and regionally.

- RAC asked that the Shoshone OHV Trail be put on the June meeting agenda and an update on the Spruce Mountain Trail be put on the April meeting agenda.

VII. MINING UPDATE

- Dave Gaskin presented the Mining update. They are meeting on mercury emissions in Reno on March 8th at the Washoe County Chamber. They are also working with EPA, NDEP, and BLM so that they can work together and not conflict with regulations. The group is meeting, taking tours, and discussing water issues.

- Jon Hutchings discussed resolving conflicts.

VIII. COOPERATIVE RANGELAND MONITORING UPDATE

- Helen Hankins updated the RAC on the Cooperative Monitoring Project. The Sierra Front Northwestern Great Basin RAC has endorsed the project. The Mojave Southern Great Basin RAC meets in March and Hankins expects them to endorse it as well. Then Elko BLM will go to the state office and ask them to proceed. A schedule of the range schools will be sent to the RACs. Art Gale will be the pilot for the Battle Mountain Field Office. The class last fall was good and well attended. There will be a pilot in Elko Field Office as well.

- Art Gale discussed being a pilot and talked about the pros and cons.

IX. GOLD QUARRY SLIDE PRESENTATION

Jeff White gave a power point presentation on the ‘Gold Quarry Slide.’ In summary, on February 5, 2005, about 10 million tons of soil material was displaced from the Gold Quarry North Waste Rock Facility due to a slope failure. The failure occurred slowly over a matter of a few hours and blocked State Route 766. Fortunately, now one was injured and property damage was limited. Maggie Creek was not affected. White described Newmont’s actions:

Immediate Actions

Notifications

Traffic Management

Power Restoration

Geotechnical Monitoring

Environmental Protection and Monitoring

Short Term and Long Term Actions

Installed geotechnical monitoring devices

Conducted causal investigation and developed long-term stability plans

Removed about 4 million tons of material in both un-weighting and SR 766 recovery

NDEP established and "Oversight Panel" for the investigation

The investigation concluded that the slope failed because of the low sheer strength of the soil material and that the strength of the material decreased over time.

Vince Garcia asked about how the slide affects mining in the rest of the state.

Dave Gaskin said it is currently under investigation.

Sheri Eklund-Brown asked what has happened since – what are the lessons learned.

Dave Gaskins said they have not heard much lately; the findings are about to be released.

Les Hansen moved the meeting adjourned and the motion was seconded by Dave Gaskin. All in favor. Meeting adjourned at 3:45 p.m.

Signed by Vince Garcia, Chair   

Minutes by Stephanie Trujillo and Mike Brown

Please contact the Nevada RAC Coordinator for further information.


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