There are lots of issues on BLM land currently underway in the Eastern Sierra. The BLM lands are sometimes put in the shadow of the vast expanses of US Forest Service and National Park lands like Death Valley, the John Muir Wilderness, and newly added White Mountains Wilderness, but they should not be overlooked. In the Eastern Sierra, they include the Bodie Hills, Granite Mountain and Owens Peak Wilderness (photo shown) areas, and the Alabama Hills, as well as many more extraordinary places that make up the East Side.
Here are just some of the many preservation issues, on lands managed by the Bishop and Ridgecrest BLM offices, to learn more about and comment on:
Currently, in the Bodie Hills, there is a plan for landscape restoration treatments in the pinyon-juniper woodlands for fuels reduction and sage grouse habitat. The project includes treatment on approximately 17,000 acres in the region by burning, thinning, mowing, and chipping. You can view the BLM’s Notice of Proposed Action here. The comment period is over, but the Bishop BLM office should have further public NEPA documents released for future review.
Conglomerate Mesa Gold Mining Threat
In addition to the gold mining threats in the Bodie Hills, Conglomerate Mesa in the Inyo Mountains is also threatened by gold mining. Bordered by the Inyo Mountains and Malpais Mesa Wilderness, Conglomerate Mesa is an unroaded, undeveloped, wild and rugged landscape. The area has come up multiple times in the past, you can read about the previous efforts to mine gold in Conglomerate Mesa here in California Wilderness Coalition’s newsletter. A company named Sungro Minerals is now looking to begin mining in the area.
The BLM Ridgecrest office is seeking comments regarding the Briggs Mine expansion, a mine located in the Panamint Mountains within Death Valley National Park, find out more info here. Public comment is open until August 1, 2011.
The Furnace Creek road follows up the east side of the White Mountains out of the Fish Lake Valley, and continues into the newly designated White Mountains Wilderness, is being considered by the Ridgecrest BLM office for route designation. The majority of the road was closed in 2009 when the Wilderness area was created, but about 2 miles of road were left in a narrow, 60′ corridor of non-Wilderness. The road had washed out in the 1980s during floods, but there have been off-road vehicles driving up the canyon since, causing impacts to riparian habitat and water quality. There are four proposed alternatives for the appropriate designation of the road, you can look at maps and find out more info on how to comment here. The comment period ends on July 29, 2011.
Adjacent to the Granite Mountain Wilderness, there is a proposal for a wind energy right-of-way. There are several areas proposed to place 200 ft. tall wind monitoring towers to determine viability of wind energy near the Adobe Valley. The BLM acknowledges potential impacts to sage grouse habitat and visual impacts to the Granite Mountain Wilderness, the Mono Lake Scenic Area, and private landowners, as well as resource concerns regarding a golden eagle nesting site. The BLM is conducting a field trip and informational meeting nights, and will be accepting comments until July 30, 2011; find out more information here.
We will continue to keep you up to date here at Friends of the Inyo of important issues that arise in the Eastern Sierra regarding the preservation and protection of our public lands. You can also stay up to date on BLM issues at the Bishop Field Office: http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/bishop.html, and the Ridgecrest Field Office: http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/ridgecrest.html.