Nevada

 Sierra Front-Northwestern Great Basin RAC Meeting


Meeting Summary
Sierra Front - Northwestern Great Basin Resource Advisory Council
October 21, 2005
Elko Convention Center
Elko, NV 
*******************
I. RAC Attendance and Welcome *

II. Summary of Motions *

III. Summary of Action Assignments *

IV. Minutes from the Meeting in Carson City, Nevada, July 28, 2005 *

V. RAC Subcommittee Reports *

A. Winnemucca RMP Subcommittee *

B. Granite Fox Subcommittee *

C. Wild Horse and Burro Guidelines Subcommittee *

V. Field Managers’ Reports *

A. Winnemucca Field Manager Gail Given’s Report *

B. Carson City Associate Field Manager Elayn Brigg’s Report *

VI. FY05 Accomplishments & FY06 RAC Issues/Priorities Setting & Scheduling *

VII. Public Comment *

VIII. Cooperative Monitoring *

IX. Meeting adjourned at 11:02 am. *

I. RAC Attendance and Welcome

7:45 a.m., Friday, October 21, 2005 – Meeting Called to Order by Chairman Roullier with the following members of the RAC present.

sierra front – northwestern great basin resource advisory council

Council Member

Resource/Expertise

Friday, 10/21

William Roullier – Chair

Transportation/ROW

X

Larie Trippet – Vice Chair

Public-At-Large

X

Laura S. Crane

Environmental

X

John E. Dicks

Recreation

 

Rochanne Downs

Native Americans

X

James Eidel

Wildlife

X

John Falen

Nevada Cattlemen

X

John Gebhardt

State Agency

X

Jerry Hepworth

Energy/Minerals

X

Patricia Herzog

Elected Official

X

John Mudge

Mining

X

Ernest Paine

Livestock

 

Vernon Schulze

Wild Horses

X

Sherm Swanson

Academic

X

D. Craig Young

Archeology

 

BLM staff present – Gail Givens, Field Manager, Winnemucca Field Office (WFO); Elayn Briggs, Associate Field Manager, Carson City Field Office (CCFO); Mark Struble, Public Affairs Specialist, CCFO; Jamie Thompson, Public Affairs Officer, WFO; Nancy Thompson, Secretary, WFO; Ron Wenker, State Director; Amy Lueders, Associate State Director; Jo Simpson, Chief, Office of Communications, Nevada State Office (NSO);

Public present – Jose Noriega, Santa Rosa Ranger District, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

Chairman Roullier welcomed Sherm Swanson, Jim Eidel, Ernie Paine, John Gebhardt and John Mudge as returning members. The letters from the Secretary of the Interior announcing the 2006 returning members are "in the mail." No new members were appointed to the 2006 Sierra Front RAC.

MOVED – by Larie Trippet to nominate John Gebhardt for 2006 Chair of the Sierra Front - Northwestern Great Basin RAC.

SECOND – by Vern Schulze.

DISCUSSION – None

APPROVED – by acclamation.

MOVED – by Jerry Hepworth to nominate Larie Trippet for 2006 Vice-Chair of the Sierra Front - Northwestern Great Basin RAC.

SECOND – Vern Schulze.

DICUSSION – None

APPROVED – by acclamation.

II. Summary of Motions

MOVED – by John Mudge to dissolve the Granite Fox RAC subcommittee.

SECOND – by Larie Trippet.

DISCUSSION – The project is so limited in scope – request for ROWs – that it seems inappropriate to engage a subgroup in it.

APPROVED – by acclamation.

MOVED – by Vern Schulze that the BLM field offices include a small map with their reports to the RAC showing the location of the items mentioned in the reports.

SECOND – by Larie Trippet.

DISCUSSION – The map will be very general.

APPROVED – by acclamation.

MOVED – by Laura Crane that the RAC receive the field office reports ahead of time but have time at the meeting to review them in an abbreviated manner.

Second – by Jerry Hepworth.

DISCUSSION – It was understood that the Field Managers would continue to make an oral presentation at the meetings, though this might be shorter than in the past.

APPROVED – by acclamation.

MOVED – by Sherm Swanson that the RAC voice its support for a program of cooperative monitoring that will be improved by trial and error and application.

SECOND – by John Falen.

DISCUSSION – In summary, this is a concept that may have merit, but needs further evaluation.

APPROVED – by acclamation.

III. Summary of Action Assignments

1. BLM Winnemucca Field Office was asked by Jerry Hepworth, Chair of the

Winnemucca RMP subgroup, to provide minutes and any associated materials from the first two meetings to the subgroup members.

2. BLM Carson City Field Office was asked by John Falen what the reasons are for the four allotments [mentioned in the field office report] having not met the standards.

3. Both BLM field offices were asked by approved motion to include a small map with their reports to the RAC showing the location of the items mentioned in the reports.

4. Both BLM field offices were asked by approved motion to provide their reports to the RAC before the meetings and present them for review in an abbreviated manner at the meetings.

5. Jim Eidel asked if there was sage-grouse money available to do monitoring of grazing control of cheatgrass. Gail said he would check into that.

IV. Minutes from the Meeting in Carson City, Nevada, July 28, 2005

MOVED – by Bill Roullier to approve with a correction by Jim Eidel.

SECOND – Vern Schulze.

DISCUSSION – The following correction to the minutes was requested:

On page 11, section S, comment by Jim Eidel, change "isn’t working a damn" to "isn’t working worth a damn."

On page 4, second action item, Elayn Briggs was asked if the information requested had been sent by Don Hicks to Richard Hilton. Elayn said she supposed it had.

APPROVED – with two abstentions by John Falen and Patti Herzog.

V. RAC Subcommittee Reports
A. Winnemucca RMP Subcommittee

Subcommittee Chair Jerry Hepworth told the RAC that the subgroup had held two meetings, the first on September 16 and 17 and the second on October 11, 12 and 13. He thanked Jeff Johnson, Resource Management Team Leader, and Gail Givens for the hospitality of the Winnemucca Field Office. The subgroup members began the work required in developing alternatives. It was a little bit painful but good experience for everyone. The members decided the best thing to do was schedule a review with the resource specialists. All comments were heard and accepted. The ID team seemed glad the subgroup members were there. The team will take the subgroup’s feedback and develop management objectives.

At the October meeting Sherm Swanson was elected Vice Chair. Other RAC members on the subgroup include Rochanne Downs, John Falen, Patti Herzog, Vern Schulze, John Gebhardt, Jim Eidel and Larie Trippet. Non RAC members in the group include Karen Boeger – Environment, Bill Deist – Humboldt County and Tim Dufurrena – Ranching, Jody Fraser – USFWS. It was suggested that Larry Friedman, or someone else from Nevada Tourism, should be added. There should be an effort to make Tourism aware of the concern over their "Wild Nevada" campaign.

Larie Trippet commented we need a little more advanced warning of the meeting dates. Gail Givens told him that BLM has had a difficult time finding times when most members could meet, but we’ll try to do better.

Jerry Hepworth commented that the management objectives meeting should be sometime before Thanksgiving. The group is asking BLM staff to make sure people on the list are kept up to speed with what happens at the meetings. Vern Schulze commented that Jeff Johnson had said there had been some slippage and the meeting would be sometime before Christmas. Jerry suggested shooting for the week of December 5. Gail was asked to take back December 6 through 9 to BLM staff as potential dates. The meeting will probably be a day and a half. [NOTE: The next Winnemucca RMP subgroup meeting was scheduled for January 17 and 18.]

Jerry asked that minutes from the first two meetings and any associated materials be given to the members.

Sherm Swanson commented that he thought that the modification of the approach this time was the only way we could get through all the material. I gathered there is some hesitation in putting any implementation in the plan. The idea that came out is the possibility of doing an alternate NEPA document. If it is legal and appropriate we could do an overall grazing Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). John Falen commented that he thought that was really crucial. It speeds up the lag time between when a permittee gets his paperwork in and gets his permit. Another thing that came out [at the Tri-RAC meeting] yesterday was the possibility of hiring contractors to clear up some of the things that are not happening on the ground to free up staff people.

Jim Eidel commented that this should be thought of not just in terms of grazing.

Jerry commented that the handbook spells out pretty clearly what needs to be in the NEPA document. It behooves everyone to include things that could be implemented.

Jim Eidel commented that we now have in this State a comprehensive wildlife strategy which will be a tremendous tool for BLM to fall back on.

Gail commented that he is in favor of the idea of moving implementation parallel with the rmp as long as it doesn’t put us in jeopardy with our contractor and what it can do.

B. Granite Fox Subcommittee

Jerry Hepworth, Chair of the Granite Fox Power Plant Project subcommittee, commented that he has read the Granite Fox plan of development. BLM approval authority is for rights-of way (ROWs) only. I met with staff a week ago. They received 531 comments. Only five were pro-project. I spoke with Jamie Thompson yesterday and tried to discern how the subgroup will function in the process. I suggest that right now as reports are reviewed by staff that the subgroup give suggestions.

Gail Givens commented that as much as BLM appreciates your involvement, I’m not convinced this discrete project warrants a subgroup working on it separately. I would rather have you folks working on the RMP in the coming years. If you want to continue to have a subgroup fine, but I just offer this up to you.

Jerry commented that he would be glad to stand down because he has a lot on his plate at this time.

John Falen commented that he supports what Gail says.

Jim Eidel commented that maybe a good time to come back in is when the draft EIS is available.

John Mudge commented that he isn’t for or against this plan, but his concern is that everyone is against this plan. I wanted the subgroup to be a little more objective. If we can do it without a subgroup that’s fine.

Sherm Swanson commented that maybe BLM should be encouraged to come back to us if there is a significant difference in the way the project is going to be done.

Gail asked whether it should be on the agenda for the whole RAC about a year from now.

Jamie commented that nothing has happened in the Granite Fox EIS process since BLM received the public comments. When something does BLM will certainly keep the RAC informed.

Bill Roullier commented that every power plant project he’d been involved in has had opposition in the beginning.

Patti Herzog commented there were some comments on Granite Fox and power included in the Winnemucca RMP scoping report.

MOVED – by John Mudge to dissolve the Granite Fox subgroup.

SECOND – by Larie Trippet.

DISCUSSION – The project is so limited in scope – request for ROWs –  that it seems inappropriate to engage a subgroup in it.

APPROVED – by acclamation.

C. Wild Horse and Burro Guidelines Subcommittee

Vern Schulze, Chair of the subcommittee, told the RAC that the report sent to the State Office was lost for a while. Some comments should come back to us around Christmas time. I proposed statewide Standards and Guidelines. We need to know whether the State BLM wants us to be involved in that. Each RAC had their own Standards and Guides and they were all quite different.

Ron Wenker commented since I have not read your Standards and Guidelines I really can’t comment. We don’t have to have one set that fits the whole state. I hope there would be valid reasons for differences.

Vern commented you might have your staff look at the three sets and see if there is a need for differences.

V. Field Managers’ Reports

A. Winnemucca Field Manager Gail Given’s Report

1. Written summary of the report was distributed.

2. Additional items covered orally.

a. Hot springs safety has been a hot issue for the WFO in the last few years. We are experimenting with some new signage, rebar and quarter inch steel fencing. We are hoping to move forward with something like that. We have put a temporary fence at Double Hot Springs. The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) is requiring some additional work. We’re finding that whatever we put up people will go over, under, or around. The signage out there is defensible in court.

b. There were some really good successes with fire prevention this year. We didn’t have a lot of big fires. The Unionville defensible space project in particular got into one of our national publications.

John Falen commented that the Wildfire Support Group is alive and doing well. We were very successful in initial attack. Gail commented that the Wildfire Support Group was of super help this year. Some of the group is down in the Gulf right now. They are well enough trained to be of help there. That makes us pretty proud.

Granite Fox work is progressing very slowly.

The Nevada Cement Limestone Mine EIS (Echo Canyon project) is starting. It will be a little bit controversial too. Coeur Rochester Expansion and Closure is ongoing. WFO changed direction in the Oil and Gas EA and embarked on a Programmatic EA. This is our attempt to be more responsive to the Presidential initiative on energy development.

Larie Trippet asked what the primary recreation activity is at Water Canyon. Gail answered dispersed including paintballing.

Jerry Hepworth commented that he was amazed at the schedule for Range NEPA projects. It seems like a lot of range improvement EAs. Do you have to do EAs on each one?

Gail answered that the WFO has done Categorical Exclusions (CXs) on some but we still have to look at Cultural and Threatened and Endangered species. Jerry commented you might consider including CXs in the RMP. Larie Trippet commented there was a judicial injunction for the US Forest Service on CXs. The injunction said you couldn’t do CXs. Everything has to go through the public process. Apparently it hasn’t affected BLM. Ron Wenker commented it might affect BLM because part of it was fuels treatments. The ability to do CXs is controlled at the Department level. The Department is envisioning very short EAs. Jose Noriega commented the court ruled on the CXs yesterday, but not on fuels or OHV activities.

e. WFO has been pretty successful with Challenge Cost Share (CCS) projects.

f. Changes in Personnel – Matt Varner is going to West Virginia, Allison Christensen was selected as Assistant Field Manager for Support Services. Allison has been there for a long time.

Jim Eidel commented that Will Roger (Peterson), Director of Nevada Relations and Special Projects for Black Rock City said he would make planes available for any flyovers of the NCA that BLM needed.

Jerry Hepworth asked if the fee recovery for Burning Man is covering costs. Gail answered yes.

g. Actions taken as a result of RAC counsel – WFO helped draft a letter of appreciation to Bob Abbey, immediate past BLM State Director. The cheatgrass project is an ongoing issue. Burns were completed last week.

Laura Crane asked if there is any focus at all on seeing what the grazing is like after the burning. Gail answered, I think the study is just to see what intensity of fire is used. Jim Eidel commented it would be a big mistake to not monitor the results to the grazing habitat. John Falen commented the professor who is doing the project knows that. Gail commented there is an offer to take the RAC on a field trip to the area. Jim Eidel commented maybe there is some sage-grouse money to do the monitoring. Gail said he would check into that.

h. Lands available for disposal numbers are in the Winnemucca report. The zoning effort which was done several years ago was done very quickly. One of the areas identified for disposal turned out to be part of a Wilderness Study Area (WSA). The zoned areas are being scrutinized very closely. Thirty-plus sales are currently proposed on the District.

Rochanne Downs asked how many Tribal visits Gail has made. Gail answered three so far. Some of the folks didn’t show up. I do delegate consultation duties to some of my other managers. Rochanne asked if the RMP has been presented formally to any of the councils. Gail answered no we don’t have anything to present yet.

B. Carson City Associate Field Manager Elayn Brigg’s Report

1. Written summary of the report was distributed.

2. Additional items covered orally.

a. Fees were raised at Sand Mountain from $45 to $90 for an annual pass and from $20 to $40 for a weekly pass. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are free. CCFO has only been collecting fees for a few weeks. Two law enforcement rangers were helping with hurricane relief until this week. BLM has been working with interested groups to look at the new route system. A Federal Register notice will be submitted soon as the system is completed which will make it mandatory. There will be a route designation plan amendment. BLM will start taking unauthorized monuments down next month, but will keep them so groups or individuals can pick them up if they wish. Lahontan Valley Environmental Alliance hopes to complete its study on the Sand Mountain Blue Butterfly by December.

Laura Crane asked if BLM anticipates the possibility that USFWS will list the butterfly. Elayn answered, we don’t know.

b. CCFO had a small fire season.

c. CCFO is still trying to get the draft of the Pine Nut Plan to the public.

Jerry Hepworth asked if there has been any activity of the Pine Nut subgroup. Elayn answered she was unaware of the subgroup. They would be in violation of the NEPA regs if they met before the published draft is out.

d. There is nothing new on the North Valleys Project ROWs.

e. CCFO is trying to get the signs for the Ruhenstroth

Emergency Closure Area in the Pine Nuts in place by December.

Jim Eidel asked if the Winnemucca contribution on the range response is the same wording as Russ Suminski’s [CCFO]. I assume you agree with the Winnemucca assessment. Elayn answered some of the 16 unfilled range positions in Nevada BLM will be filled and some won’t.

f. Actions taken as a result of RAC counsel – the Sand Mountain business plan was provided to the RAC and Friends of Sand Mountain.

John Falen asked what the reasons are for the four allotments [mentioned in the report] having not met the standards. Elayn answered she doesn’t know but can find out.

MOVED – by Vern Schulze that the BLM field offices include a small map with their reports to the RAC showing the location of the items mentioned in the reports.

SECOND – by Larie Trippet.

DISCUSSION – It was discussed that the map could be very simple so as not to be a major new workload for the field offices.

APPROVED – by acclamation.

Gail proposed that the reports be sent to the RAC members prior to the meetings and then not reviewed at the meetings except for any updates needed. Larie Trippet agreed.

Sherm said he appreciated the speed with which the reports were reviewed at the meetings.

MOVED – by Laura Crane that the RAC receive the field office reports ahead of time but still have time at the meeting to review them in an abbreviated manner.

Second – by Jerry Hepworth.

Discussion – It was understood that the Field Managers would continue to make an oral presentation at the meetings, though this might be shorter than in the past.

APPROVED – by acclamation.

VI. FY05 Accomplishments & FY06 RAC Issues/Priorities Setting & Scheduling

The Sierra Front-Northwestern Great Basin RAC met four times in FY 2005 to provide significant counsel and advice to BLM managers on a variety of resource management programs and projects.

The Council has reviewed and provided significant input on the following ongoing planning efforts:

· BLM-Nevada OHV Route Inventory and Designation Strategy

· Carson City Field Office Energy RMP Amendment/DEIS

· North Valleys Rights-of-Way Projects DEIS

· Pine Nut Mountains RMP Amendment/DEIS (Sub-group designated)

· Coeur-Rochester Mine Plan/DEIS

· Winnemucca RMP/DEIS (Sub-group designated)

· Granite-Fox Power Plant Project (Sub-group designated & dissolved)

· Wild Horse & Burro Management Guidelines for the Carson City & Winnemucca Field Offices (Sub-group designated)

The RAC also recommended stepped-up law enforcement actions/fee increase for the Sand Mountain Recreation Area (went into effect on October 1, 2005).

Jim Eidel recommended that in the future the list of accomplishments should document from the minutes what recommendations the RAC has made during the year. That way the RAC can assess its progress.

John Falen commented Jim’s idea is for subgroups to form ideas and come back to the RAC before they are put into the list of accomplishments. It seems to me that it would be awkward to put the suggestions on a list of accomplishments. We need not have that complication.

Sherm Swanson commented it seems to me that the trajectory that we are on now is that one of the alternatives will be the one supported by the RAC.

Jerry Hepworth commented that we have to document the recommendations. I gave a report to the RAC this morning on what the subgroup is accomplishing.

Jim Eidel commented that he has never seen an EIS that included an alternative that was RAC supported.

Sherm continued that he misspoke there. The hope would be that the alternative would be RAC supported. There could be lines that could be a RAC elucidated array of alternatives.

Ron Wenker commented there is no law that prevents the RAC from putting together an alternative and presenting it to BLM for consideration.

Jamie Thompson commented that there was something put into the NCA plan about the RAC Subgroup and by its later concurrence the RAC reaching 98% consensus approval on the BLM preferred alternative.

FY 06 RAC Issues/Priorities - Meeting in Carson City - March 2 & 3
Pine Nut RMP
Sand Mountain conservation strategy – maybe one-day field trip to Sand Mountain
RMP Mineral Amendment
Alpine County RMP amendment

Meeting in Winnemucca – June 28-29
Cheatgrass removal by grazing field trip
Winnemucca RMP
Granite Fox Power Plant Project
Coeur Rochester Expansion and Closure
Echo Canyon Project update
Black Rock NCA Implementation plan

VII. Public Comment

The only public comments were from Jose Noriega, Santa Rosa District Ranger, US Forest Service, relating to a recent court decision on categorical exclusions and later on the Forest Service’s changing roles that will include cooperative monitoring. (See his remarks in sections V and VIII.)

VIII. Cooperative Monitoring

Sherm Swanson reminded the RAC that at the meeting in July they talked about cooperative monitoring. At the [Tri-RAC] meeting yesterday we learned that the BLM State Office is in complete support of cooperative monitoring.

Jerry Hepworth asked if the item has to be on the agenda to be discussed. Jo Simpson answered agendizing is not a huge issue for the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).

Jim Eidel commented that at the beginning of the meeting we always ask if there are things that need to be put on the agenda. I’m not ready to vote on cooperative monitoring yet. I want to know more from Sherm. I think it’s the responsibility of the RAC to look into this program. I would like to agendize it.

Sherm told the RAC my sense this summer [at the July RAC meeting] is that we didn’t have time to talk about it and we didn’t have a quorum. My sense if that we won’t know what we don’t know until we discuss it.

Vern Schulze commented that he has some questions about the sideboards for cooperative monitoring. Are the impacts of wild horses and burros being included?

Sherm commented that the people who are managing the livestock will probably do a better job of monitoring if they are the ones managing the animals. That is not the primary emphasis of that cooperative monitoring idea.

Jerry Hepworth commented, I support the spirit of cooperative monitoring.

Sherm commented that virtually every other group that has to get a permit with BLM has to do monitoring.

Jim Eidel asked John Falen what he thought of it. John answered, we worked on this for a long time [the council involved in the Memorandum Of Understanding]. We knew that the ranchers would have to be involved eventually. I think they have to be involved. Over time we’ll get participation by the ranchers but that will be a little slow. When the BLM State Office sent a letter to the permittees about cooperative monitoring there was about zero response. Our biggest challenge is to get the cooperation of the permittees.

Gail Givens commented there’s nothing that prevents BLM from doing a cooperative monitoring effort with any permittee. We just haven’t done it.

John Falen commented that what is stopping the permittees from doing this is that the interested publics need to be notified. We need to be doing this on the ground work and then if we need to do a change, the interested publics need to be involved.

Jose Noriega commented the Forest Service is in a changing mode, a new way of doing business right now. Cooperative monitoring is going to be a part of that. The biggest challenge in cooperative monitoring is the permittees who don’t understand how things work out there. There is some monitoring that I believe our permittees are going to struggle with as far as the scientific aspect.

Vern Schulze commented that what you run into from the Bureau’s perspective is that if you’re talking about range improvements especially with horses you’re talking about fences. In the long term if you’re looking for more Animal Unit Months (AUMs) and that might not be possible.

John Falen commented, I disagree that you’re looking for more AUMs out there. The aim is protecting what you’ve got and having data to back up that what you’re doing is right.

Sherm commented the duration of the grazing period is important to plants. Most commonly the permittees are going to be asked when they have met triggers that indicate it’s time to do something, and whether they met the end point indicators. End point indicators are probably where the agency will get involved: use indicators, taking photographs of key areas, etc. In addition, the permittees might be involved in some long term monitoring.

Jim Eidel commented the bottom line is acquiring scientific data in a standardized form that will hold up.

Jose Noriega commented that every operator should have a photo point on his land that can be tracked over time.

MOVED – by Sherm Swanson that the RAC voice its support for a program of cooperative monitoring that will be improved by trial and error and application.

SECOND – by John Falen.

DISCUSSION – In summary, this is a concept that may have merit, but needs further evaluation.

APPROVED – by acclamation.

Meeting adjourned at 11:02 am.

The RAC reconvened with the other two Nevada RACs for the concluding Tri-RAC joint session at 11:30 am.

Please contact the Nevada RAC Coordinator for further information.


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