It was a busy year in policy for Friends of the Inyo as we worked to protect the Eastern Sierra’s public lands:
Our Work to Protect Our National Forests
- We welcomed a new Forest Supervisor on the Inyo National Forest, and introduced her to our 30-year history of engagement with forest planning and stewardship.
- The Inyo National Forest released its final proposed management plan. We filed an objection because we believe the proposed plan does not do all it can to protect the Forest’s ecosystems. To facilitate public involvement in the development of the best possible plan, we held a free public event about the proposed plan and our objection.
- We provided input regarding a proposal to amend the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) highlighting our concerns regarding streamlining environmental analysis and limiting public involvement.
- We also provided input on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Southwest Rangeland Grazing project, a plan that proposed reopening portions of the forest in the Green Creek and Virginia Lakes area to grazing.
- We provided input regarding the Inyo National Forest Reds Meadow Fuels Reduction project in September, and the Devils Postpile National Monument Fire Management Plan in November.
- We engaged with Regional National Forest staff for our region (Region 5) on policy issues related to forest planning, fire and wildlife.
- We provided input to the Sierra Nevada Conservancy on the future direction of SNC funded restoration and recreational projects.
Our Work to Protect the California Desert
- Southern Inyo County’s desert gem, Conglomerate Mesa, was critically threatened when the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved exploratory drilling for a potential cyanide heap leach gold mine in May. We requested review of the BLM decision. The following day, the mining company withdrew from the project. This victory may be temporary as the claim holders were able to successfully transfer of the approved plan. We continue to wait for a decision on our request for review.
- When Friends of the Inyo learned that the State Mining and Geology Board was considering revising California’s strong open pit mine backfill regulations, we organized a “Mining 101” public workshop and strategy session with local activists to fight for keeping the strong regulations in place.
- Sadly, this year BLM also reopened the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, a framework for renewable energy development, recreation and conservation in the California desert that constituted a great compromise among many stakeholders after eight years of negotiation. Friends of the Inyo objected to the reopening and is working to keep the Plan intact.
- Our policy director made two trips to Washington D.C. to meet with congressional and agency staff regarding our legislative efforts in the California Desert and the reopening of the DRECP.
- BLM released their revised West Mojave Route Network Environmental Impact Statement. Friends of the Inyo responded by gathering on-the-ground data in Panamint Valley and submitted detailed comments with our recommendations.
- The Desert Advisory Council held their first meeting under the new administration. We provided input on mining issues, the West Mojave Route Network, and other issues facing the Ridgecrest Field Office.
- Throughout the year we worked to advance HR.857 and SB.32, which include designating the Alabama Hills as a National Scenic Area. On Dec. 21 the final bill was introduced as part of a larger public lands package, but failed to make its way to a vote.
- In July we provided input to the National Park Service regarding Death Valley National Park’s proposed management plan for Saline Valley warm springs.
- Devils Postpile National Monument released a scoping report in February, followed by an Environmental Assessment in October on a revised fire management plan.
Other Work to Protect The Eastern Sierra’s Public Lands
- Mono County approved a 2018 legislative platform, with guidance from Friends of the Inyo, with many positive directives for Mono County’s public lands.
- We continue to advocate for and protect the Bi-state Sage Grouse and its habitat through the nationally recognized Bi-state Local Area Working Group.
- In the spring we launched the Keep Long Valley Green Campaign, working to make sure Long Valley receives the water it has historically received which is critical for wildlife, ranchers, recreation and fire resiliency.