Tourist Tuesday — The Rights of Nature

I give you something a bit different for my Tourist Tuesday column today. Later, this afternoon, Community Association of Big Sur hosts a meeting here on the South Coast about developing our Destination Management Plan, specifically beginning with data collection. It is a follow-up of the ones held in a whirlwind series of meetings in August by CABS. Those meetings introduced us to what we have been planning and doing since last year. I will report on this meeting later. But for today, I would like to concentrate on what overtourism does to our local environment, and to the greater environment of our world and its impact on Climate Change.

I have been concerned about this for years, and have expressed my frustration in this blog about what some of our tourists/visitors have done, particularly at Bixby, McWay, and here in my backyard of Plaskett Ridge Rd. The destruction is visible and disturbing. From the wildfires started by abandoned campfires:

Mill Fire, July 2019

To the denuding of all the ridge tops:

Plaskett Ridge Rd.
Last Spring, this is completely nuded now.

There isn’t a single ridge top left on Plaskett that hasn’t been denuded and the wildflowers destroyed in order to create a new off-road road and campsite. The escalation of this destruction just this summer has been unbelievable. I have never witnessed anything like it.

I was inspired by the 5- minute speech given by Greta Thunberg to the Climate Change Summit of the U.N. yesterday. It is quite moving. One can find it here: https://twitter.com/CNN/status/1176159504288886785 And realized that our overtourism problem in Big Sur is just one example or manifestation of the destruction of this planet. We can watch the destruction for ourselves right here. But it is happening all over the world in various degrees and in various ways.

There is a very interesting article at https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/8/18/20803956/bangladesh-rivers-legal-personhood-rights-nature

It discusses the granting of “Personhood” or legal status to various parts of nature. It begins with the new declaration in Bangladesh granting “rights” to all the rivers in that country.

It is a thorough article that discusses other areas that have done the same thing, including Ohio and the granting of legal status to Lake Erie. It ends with this discussion:

Granting the status of personhood to a natural environment may seem like a bizarre legal fiction, but it’s no more bizarre than the idea that corporations should enjoy that same status, which has been with us since the 1880s.

If we find it strange to view nature the way we view people, that may just be because we’ve grown up in an anthropocentric intellectual tradition that treats the natural world as an object to be examined and exploited for human use, rather than as a subject to be communed with and respected.

“The idea that we can be separate from nature is really a Western reductionist way of looking at the world — we can trace it back to Francis Bacon and the scientific method,” said Price.

He told me that just as women’s suffrage and the abolition of slavery were once unthinkable but gradually became accepted and normalized, the rights of nature idea seems odd now but will eventually gain social currency. “For the rights of nature to be understood and become something we’re comfortable with is going require a paradigm shift, just like the end of slavery did,” Price said.

That paradigm shift may entail nothing less than a total rejection of capitalism, according to Eduardo Gudynas, the executive secretary of the Latin American Center for Social Ecology in Uruguay. He argues that attempts to reduce environmental devastation while staying within a capitalism framework won’t be enough to address the climate crisis.

“The debate around the rights of nature is one of the most active frontlines in the fight for a non-market-based point of view,” Gudynas told me. “It’s a reaction against our society’s commodification of everything.”

I think it is important to emphasize that a paradigm shift must happen for us to end the destruction of Big Sur, a microcosm of the rest of the world, and Mother Nature. How that shift manifests may be completely unexpected.

USFS to limit public comment due to changes in the NEPA

“Under President Donald Trump, federal agencies have chipped away at the reviews and permitting required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), one of the nation’s bedrock environmental laws. Earlier this month, the Forest Service proposed a significant overhaul of the NEPA process for logging and development on millions of acres of federal forest and grassland across the West. 

In a statement, the Forest Service said NEPA environmental reviews are time-consuming, redundant and prevent active maintenance of healthy forests. The agency called it the first serious change to NEPA’s regulation of forest management in more than 10 years. 

The public has 60 days to weigh in on these significant changes. The proposed NEPA revisions comment period closes Aug. 12. Here are some key takeaways:

The proposed changes would reduce environmental review for logging and infrastructure.

The Forest Service wants to expand the number of projects that would qualify for “categorical exclusions” — projects that can bypass environmental analysis or environmental impact statements. The exclusions would apply to forest thinning, various types of road and trail building, brush removal and recreational site management. More controversially, forest projects of up to 7,300 acres (with logging on up to more than half of those acres) could be excluded from NEPA review. Mineral and energy exploration — such as using seismic testing to gather geological data and various small-scale infrastructure building — could also be exempt if it lasts less than one year.”

For the rest of this article see: https://www.hcn.org/articles/u-s-forest-service-might-limit-public-comments

The Dangers of Illegal Off roading

This was taken last year, but as the prolific grasses are drying out, I am reminded of this, and how dangerous it is. Besides destroying the environment, causing erosion which washes out the road below (not shown in photo), off roading can cause a wildfire if the grasses catch from your muffler or catalytic converter. Why take a chance? Stay on the roads please.

245F2270-8A5B-4F0C-927A-71C13C09144A

And now, a growing number of “Subaru Ambassadors” have found these spots (the one below is just up the road from this one above) and more and more Subarus are coming every weekend. A month ago, it was a group of 4 Subarus. This past weekend, it was those four, plus four more, and at least two more want to join the group on the next trip.

29B89553-2566-4CC3-970F-A4D1B95534E3

May 1, 2019 SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) – The National Interagency Fire Center is predicting a heavy wildfire season for areas along the West Coast of the United States this summer.

The Boise, Idaho-based center said Wednesday that most of the country can expect a normal wildfire season in the period from May through August.

But the states of California, Washington and Oregon are an exception.

The agency says a heavy crop of grasses and fine fuels has developed across California and should elevate fire potential as it dries through the summer.

 

Tourist Tuesday on a Wednesday, 1/2/19 – Big Sur is a health hazard

National Parks during the government shutdown – several examples from CA:

Joshua Tree National Park: 

“The government shutdown has left America’s national parks largely unsupervised. No one is at the gate. No one is collecting a fee. The visitor centers are closed. There are some law enforcement and emergency personnel on site, but certainly nothing as standard as a park ranger who can answer a question.

People are streaming into the parks, enjoying the free access, but they’re finding trash cans overflowing and restrooms locked. Vault toilets are not serviced, and there’s hardly a flush toilet to be found anywhere. If nature calls — well, the woods are over that way.”

Read more of this article here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/in-shutdown-national-parks-transformed-into-wild-west–heavily-populated-and-barely-supervised/2019/01/01/db51564e-0d3b-11e9-84fc-d58c33d6c8c7_story.html

Joshua Tree National Park campgrounds will close at 12:00 p.m. Wednesday, January 2 “to take…action for health and safety concerns as vault toilets reach capacity,” according to a National Park Service news release.

During the government shutdown, much of the onus of park upkeep has been left in the hands of volunteers. 

“In addition human waste in public areas, driving off road and other infractions that damage the resource are becoming a problem,” reads the release.”Additional closures include Lost Horse Mine Road due to illegal activity and Rattlesnake Canyon in order to reduce the number of search and rescue events for rangers already spread thin due to the government shutdown.”

Joshua Tree business people and volunteers have tried to take over for the furloughed rangers and maintenance staff as best they can.

About 35 people pitched in Saturday during a volunteer event, while businesses in downtown Joshua Tree tried to help incoming visitors looking for information.

Volunteers including retired park ranger Caryn Davidson, Stone Adventures co-owner Annie Semmelroth and Coyote Corner co-owner Ethan Feltges manned a makeshift information booth outside Coyote Corner through the weekend.

One of their main concerns by Saturday afternoon was where to put all the trash generated by the thousands of visitors.

“Our dumpsters are full,” Feltges said.

It pointed out a larger problem with the volunteer effort. “It’s not sustainable for the long haul, and the cash isn’t going to be here,” said Seth Zaharias, co-owner of Cliffhanger Guides.

He estimated he and other business owners had paid several thousands of dollars over the past week to stock bathrooms with toilet paper, buy cleaning supplies and rent portable bathrooms.

Park Superintendent David Smith praised the efforts of locals who have been working to help park visitors. (http://www.hidesertstar.com/news/article_d9cf37c0-0d2a-11e9-9f7c-e7e542e5ea9f.html)

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite visitors turn roads into toilets as shutdown crises mount at national parks

Mountains of garbage and human waste are challenging efforts to keep U.S. national parks open during a partial shutdown of the federal government, National Parks Traveler reported.

In California, Yosemite National Park officials have closed the Wawona and Hodgson Meadows campgrounds, along with the Mariposa Grove of redwoods, after finding human feces and urinebeside Wawona Road, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“With restrooms closed, some visitors are opting to deposit their waste in natural areas adjacent to high traffic areas, which creates a health hazard for other visitors,” National Parks Service spokesman Andrew Munoz told the publication in an email.

“It’s a free-for-all,” said Dakota Snider, 24, a Yosemite Valley resident, reported The Associated Press. “It’s so heartbreaking. There is more trash and human waste and disregard for the rulesthan I’ve seen in my four years living here.”

Read more here: https://www.sacbee.com/news/nation-world/national/article223795490.html#storylink=cpy

 

Sequoia or Kings Canyon National park

The partial federal government shutdown, now into its 11th day, has forced furloughs of hundreds of thousands of federal government employees. This has left many parks without most of the rangers and others who staff campgrounds and otherwise keep parks running.

The lack of staff and unsanitary conditions have led to the closures of several areas of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

The closures went into effect at 6 p.m. on Monday, according to Sintia Kawasaki-Yee, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks public affairs officer.

https://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/story/news/2019/01/01/government-shutdown-leads-sequoia-kings-canyon-park-closures/2457254002/

Closer to home is Pinnacles National Park

“Park rangers will close the eastern park entrance… due to impacts from human waste and increased vehicle congestion,” the press release says.

https://www.thecalifornian.com/story/news/2018/12/30/pinnacles-national-parks-eastern-entrance-closes-due-shutdown/2446878002/

All of the above listed California National Parks are now closed (or partially closed) due to trash and human waste, which are health hazards. Sound familiar? Big Sur has become a health hazard. Just ask anyone who lives or camps here. Trash, feces and toilet paper everywhere. Big Sur, one of the most beautiful and healing places on the planet is now a health hazard. How did we let it go this far?

 

 

 

 

Community Fuel Break work to begin next year.

Los Padres signs Big Sur Community Fuelbreak Record of Decision

 GOLETA, Calif.— Los Padres National Forest Supervisor Kevin Elliott signed a Record of Decision on Nov. 13 for the Strategic Community Fuelbreak Improvement project Environmental Impact Statement. The project is on the Monterey Ranger District near the communities of Big Sur, Palo Colorado, Cachagua, and Jamesburg.

The purpose of the Strategic Community Fuelbreak Improvement project is to re-establish and maintain a series of fuelbreaks to enhance protection for at-risk communities and firefighting resources, preserve wilderness character, and reduce suppression costs. These historically-used and effective strategic fuelbreaks extend in and out of the Ventana Wilderness.

This project is a result of collaborative engagement at the community level and will improve effectiveness and efficiency in protecting communities from wildfire. The project will also minimize future impacts to wilderness. Wilderness character is diminished when fuelbreaks are re-opened by bulldozers during emergency suppression of wildfires. By proactively designing and establishing strategic fuelbreaks during a non-emergency environment, the Forest Service can reduce the reliance on mechanized equipment and subsequently reduce the adverse fire suppression impacts on the wilderness landscape.

A notice of intent to prepare an EIS was published in the Federal Register on December 28, 2012. Public scoping and an “analysis of comments” was completed. A Draft EIS was then prepared and scoped for public comment in January 2017 and two public open houses were held in February 2017.

Work on this project will begin next year.

For more information, please contact District Ranger Tim Short at (831) 385-5434 or attshort@fs.fed.us or visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=40713.

Excellent Work for all the people who helped, contributed, and collaborated on this.

LOVING THE WILDERNESS TO DEATH…

“If you were to hike nearly nine miles into a wilderness area, paralleling a creek through alpine meadows and woods, you might expect to find solitude. But that’s not the case at Conundrum Hot Springs, an extremely popular area of natural pools at an elevation of over 11,000 feet with views of surrounding peaks in White River National Forest. Dozens — and on busy weekends, sometimes hundreds — of overnight visitors hike in. Some even carry speakers and cases of beer. “It’ll be like you’ve gone to someone’s backyard for a pool party,” Karen Schroyer, Aspen-Sopris district ranger, says.”

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One can read the rest of this article here: http://www.hcn.org/articles/recreation-the-conundrum-of-loved-to-death-wilderness?utm_source=wcn1&utm_medium=email

 

Big Sur Wilderness Celebration

  
NEWS RELEASELos Padres National Forest

For Immediate Release

Contact: Andrew Madsen (805) 961-5759

Twitter: @LosPadresNF

Los Padres Forest Association to Host

Big Sur Wilderness Celebration

 GOLETA, CA, June 22, 2015….Los Padres National Forest officials today announced a Big Sur Wilderness Celebration will be held Saturday, June 27, from 10am to 4 pm at the Big Sur Visitor Center located along Highway 1 in Big Sur. The free event is hosted by Los Padres Forest Association (LPFA) and is open to the public. Activities will include live music, food, kid’s crafts, booths and local exhibits as well as a rock climbing wall. 

Throughout 2014, the Los Padres Forest Association joined with Los Padres National Forest and groups from across the country in celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the landmark Wilderness Act of 1964.

 “We’re thrilled to kick off what we hope will be an annual celebration in Big Sur that is focused on the Wilderness Act,” said LPFA Director Bryan Conant. “Big Sur is a great example of the inter-connectivity between the lands, the creeks and the ocean, and how wilderness areas have a trickle-down effect that protects these valuable resources.”

Founded in 1979, the LPFA is the official non-profit 501(c)(3) of the Los Padres National Forest. The LPFA mission is to care for the Los Padres National Forest, ensuring it thrives and remains safe and open for the American public to use and enjoy. The LPFA shares the U.S. Forest Service motto of “Caring for the Land and Serving People.”

 For more information about the Big Sur Wilderness Celebration or how you can become involved with LPFA, visit their webpage at http://lpforest.org. For additional information about Los Padres National Forest and current conditions, visit the Forest webpage at http://www.fs.usda.gov/lpnf.

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Helicopter Training Missions

One of my readers, Brian Mack, found this very interesting article about military training exercises at FHL, Camp Roberts, and Bridgeport. Thanks for finding this an sharing it, Brian. It is a Press Release article from the Army and the Utah National Guard, so keep that in mind.

“Utah Apache Helicopters Return from Record-Setting California Training Event

DRAPER, Utah — Twelve Utah AH-64 Apaches are scheduled to return June 26 at the Army Air Support Facility in West Jordan from a record-setting California military training event at Fort Hunter Liggett, California.

Approximately 22 aircraft from multiple states culminated in a complex air assault operation, which inserted more than 1,200 servicemembers, making California history as one of the largest combined operations executed.

1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion 211th Aviation participated in the operation named ‘Thunder Hammer,’ a large, multi-division training event with the 40th Infantry Division and 91st Training Division June 7-15.

“It was a very demanding mission and we were able to integrate quickly,” said Maj. Ricky Smith, commander of the 1-211th ARB. “Our guys performed fabulously.”

Sixteen Apaches and 82 Guardmembers from the 1-211th ARB, the “Air Pirates” of the Utah Army National Guard in West Jordan, trained in collective, complex, and often challenging missions that were flown day and night, with a formations of Apaches, UH-60 Blackhawks, and CH-47 Chinooks.

“Our pilots are really competent and extremely professional,” said Capt. Kelly Kimber, operations officer for the 1-211th ARB. “The plan came together well and everybody got busy and dirty and made it happen.”

Utah aviators honed their skills during the exercise with missions to Camp Roberts, Hunter Liggett and the Mountain Warfare Training Center, a remote Marine Corps base near Bridgeport, which presented rugged terrain and high altitude landing zones well above 10,000 MSL.

The Air Pirates, three-time recipient of the prestigious Army Aviation Association of America National Guard Unit of the Year, have deployed three times since 2001, twice of which were to Afghanistan.”

The 1-211th ARB was awarded the “Fahnenband des Ministerpräsidenten” personally by Joachim Guack, President of Germany on its most recent deployment. This award is the the highest award given by Germany to another military unit, which was awarded for the support of the International Security Assistance Force.

Media Notes: The twelve-Apache formation is scheduled to fly into the AASF (7563 South Airport Road, West Jordan) between 5:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday June 26. Media are invited to the return of the Apaches (four returned previously) and interviews with members of the 1-211th ARB will be available. Please contact LTC Fairbourn for coordination at above contact numbers.”

Military Training over Big Sur

Kathleen:

In your Blog, I would like it if you could announce the formation of a Public Interest Political Effort to prevent the Strike Fighter basing from using the Big Sur MOA without many more restrictions and mitigation measures included in the EIS, including allowing blocks of days and times, say Friday noon to Monday noon to allow the unfettered use of the Coast as a recreational and wilderness experience which would be a “non-military” civilian use period exclusively. We also want to see the low flight corridor reoriented so it is primarily on the Base, not in the Ventana Wilderness. There are many other questions as well. The Strike Fighter is of undemonstrated reliability as I am sure you are aware from recent groundings and publicity. It also flys at speeds that will make 150 Decibel noise over Big Sur routine, on the order of 15 sorties, up to three planes per sortied, for over 250 days a year, at a minimum. You may, for the time being, use my email address as the contact point, until a website can be developed. For ease of my internal work load, please use the following reference email: stevecraig@wildblue.net. There is a certain irony there as well.

We will also be seeking more information about the testing and use of drones over the Wilderness and Monterey District, and private lands adjacent.

We are also seeking the formation documents for this Big Sur (Hunter Liggett) MOA, which appear to be tied to the Cambodian Secret Bombing by Nixon according to work done some years ago now by the UCLA Environmental Law program. Lemoore Naval Air Station, which manages the allocation of uses in this MOA, claims not to have the formation documents (if they even exist) or any other analysiis. I am beginning the process of contacting the NAA which has a role in the managing the MOA, albeit a limited one.

Legal assistance, and a meeting with Sam Farr and several members of the County Board of Supervisors, are going to be among the first steps to take. We will be approaching public interest groups with legal expertise at UC Berkeley and several other institutions.

Our request to discuss the MOA formation and use, and its land use incompatibilities, effects on the Marine Reserver, etc., went unanswered in the EIS, Thus far, and this is a first, the present Strike Fighter Commander has indicated an unwillingness to have an open, wide ranging discussion of how to reconcile public use and the military hardware issues, both for testing and training. We will be continuing to try to arrange such a meeting, but have had no success over the past six months.

A record of decision has been filed or is immediately pending for Strike Fighter training over the Big Sur MOA at a low elevation of 200 feet above the ground, up to 15 sorties a day, from dawn to 10:30 PM at night,

Also, the agreements between the Secretary of the Navy and Sam Farr regarding live ordinance bombing in Stoney Valley have been disrespected and ignored, the flight levels of military aircraft are not aligned to minimize Wilderness Impacts, and the 250,000 acre base is often not respected relative to NAA restrictions, particularly for special forces training and helicopter activity. The recent fire you made reference to was started by a live ammunition exercise according to information gathered from the Base Fire Department, and resulted from the firing of a hellfire missile in extreme drought conditions into Stony Valley, a place with many remarkable rock formations and Salinan archaeological and sacred sites.

I have found it near impossible to set a meeting date with the present squad commander. Prior commanders have always made time to meet with citizens, who are the funding entity and tax base that develops these extremely loud, disruptive military systems, such as the Strike Fighter.

The Lemoore Base staff has no information, or claims not to, about the formation of this MOA [Military Operations Agreement] over Big Sur, or any information about the NEPA review it may or may not have entailed. The MOA is routinely used and abused, as it was over the past three weeks of helicopter fighter aircraft flights.

When researched by the UCLA Environmental Law program several years ago, the principal findings were that this MOA was formed secretly during the Nixon bombing of Cambodia, deemed an illegal action by the US Supreme Court.

The use of live ammunition from aircraft was specifically prohibited in an arrangement managed into existence by Sam Farr when the Dont’ Bomb Big Sur campaign was underway some several years ago now. The recent five day fire in the region was caused precisely by such live use of Hellfire Missiles, shot from low flying attack helicopters. What has happened to the agreement made by Sam Farr and the Secretary of the Navy? One gets the impression the military does whatever it may want to do, including flying these attack helicopters down our valley at eye level with our houses, well below the scheduled NAA flight levels, at less than 100 feet from the ground surface. We experienced these flights for three full weeks.

I have requests out to numerous parties to see what if ANY documentation of the formation of the Big Sur even MOA exists.

Thus far, of course as expected, the military, particularly the Lemoore NAS Base which schedules the use of the MOA, has been of no assistance at all.

They have referred me to the Pentagon for information about the formation of the MOA. Not exactly a transparent source of information.

The present lowest flight zone passes right over Rancho Salsipuedes and into the Ventana wilderness. Given the availability of over 250,000 acres of Base land for this type of exercise, why public and private lands are used for this purpose is simply, well, mysterious. We intend to find out why the low fly corridors cannot be revised under an NAA program to alter the present flight corridor to make more concessions to the multi-use nature of Big Sur. And certainly, military uses are, among most of the public who visit this area for recreation and refreshment, of lowest priority for this exceptional and lovely wilderness and landscape.

Steve Craig
Citizen Planning Alliance,
South Monterey County

I have a tracking file on all mis-use of the Military Operations Area (MOA) so please send me your name and address and email so I can enter the time and date into my data base.

Steve Craig (stevecraig@wildblue.net)