Leave The Drecp Intact! Comments Due March 22nd
The Department of Interior issued a federal register notice opening a 45 day comment period “on increasing opportunities for increased renewable energy development, recreational and off-highway vehicle (OHV) access, mining access, and grazing”
This amending of the DRECP is a slap in the face to eight years of collaborative work, research and public outreach to balance renewable energy and conservation in the California Desert and identify areas most suitable for development. The Department of Interior said in a press statement it is exploring changes to the plan at the request of some of the seven counties within the planning area, including Inyo County. Friends of the Inyo spent three years working on the DRECP, submitting formal comments and organizing around public comment within Inyo County. We are opposed to any amendments or land use changes to the DRECP. We are concerned the Interior Department’s focus is not only on renewable energy development, but opening up new mining claims and other destructive development within the formally designated renewable energy development zone as well as in the California Desert National Conservation Lands, National Recreation Areas, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, wildlife allocated areas, and National Scenic and Historic Trail corridors.
Contact the BLM and tell them to leave the DRECP alone! You may submit comments on issues and planning criteria to the BLM-California State Director, 2800 Cottage Way, Rm W-1623, Sacramento, CA 95825 or electronically to BLM_CA_DRECP@blm.gov.
You can also comment here.
Conglomerate Mesa Threatened By Gold Mining (November 2017)
Conglomerate Mesa is, once again, under attack from mining interests. This is the first roadless area in California targeted for development under the Trump administration. We are not being alarmist when we say these exploratory drill sites are only the beginning. The ultimate land management goals of the current administration are explicitly extractive: mine the land until it stops making money, and then abandon it with as little regulation as possible.
Conglomerate in a natural, wild state is precious and irreplaceable for the following reasons:
- Conglomerate Mesa is a spectacular wilderness quality landscape of Joshua tree and Pinyon-pine woodland with elevations ranging from 3,800 to 7,100 ft. From the top of the mesa, visitors can see expansive views of multiple wilderness areas, Owens Lake, the glittering Sierra Nevada and into the expanses of Saline Valley and Death Valley National Park.
- The historic Keeler-Death Valley trail, circa late1800’s, crosses the north end of Conglomerate Mesa and should be preserved for its cultural and historic significance.
- The area is prized locally for deer hunting.
- Multiple special status and rare plant species are found within the proposed project area and will be impacted by drilling.
- Local tribes oppose the project as the mesa is an important tribal site for traditional uses.
- The area is rich in heritage resources exemplified by the remains of historic charcoal and stone masonry sites used in the late 1800’s to supply the Cerro Gordo mine.
- Tourism and recreation remain the primary driver of Inyo County’s economy: total direct travel spending in the desert region in 2013 reached $6.2 billion. While mining comprises only 3% of employment in Inyo County, industries that include travel and tourism comprise 33%.
Industrial-Scale mining would forever and irrevocably impact a natural resource and a beautiful place.
- The ultimate objective of this project is an open pit (cyanide heap leach) gold mine. Such an operation would permanently damage the area’s wild character, degrade wildlife and plant habitat, and pollute scarce local water systems. It’s well documented that cyanide heap leaching poses significant hazards to plants and animals from gold mining and related toxic water issues. Mining operations are likely to provide only limited local revenue and employment, while creating lasting environmental damage that will not only scar the land but degrade Inyo County’s reputation as a scenic, outdoor recreation destination.
The Environmental Assessment, currently open for public comment through Nov 20th, has four alternatives:
1) No-action alternative,
2) Construction of an overland route
3) Opening a road restored by the BLM in the 1990’s
4) Helicopter access
Friends of the Inyo asks you to write the BLM to suggest the “no-action” option and deny any permitting whatsoever for this project.
Join us and let’s work together for this place.
Issues To Watch:
S.B. 32– Senator Diane Feinstein’s latest desert protection bill (the California Desert Protection and Recreation Act of 2017) received a hearing on July 26th. Friends of the Inyo and our partner, the Alabama Hills Stewardship Group, are gathering letters of support for the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area portion of this bill. The bill also contains additions to Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks, designates new wilderness and wild and scenic rivers, closes loopholes to provide true permanent protection for conservation-designated lands in the Desert District, and provides protections from Cadiz and other water export projects (see AB1000 below for more info). Thank Feinstein for moving this legislation forward.
Proposed Federal Budget: In March, 2017 the Trump administration released its proposed budget, including substantial cuts to agencies that protect and manage public lands: Environmental Protection Agency (31%), Department of Agriculture, which includes the Forest Service (21%) and Department of the Interior (12%).
Federal Agency Review: On March 13th 2017, the Drumpf administration signed Executive Order 13781 requiring development of a plan to reorganize the executive branch including recommending agencies, programs, and functions for elimination. Friends of the Inyo submitted detailed comments in support of maintaining or increasing funding for those agencies that manage and support our public lands, including the Forest Service, the Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management.