USDA Forest Service announces proposed changes to improve conveyance of small tracts of lands
FEBRUARY 26, 2020 –
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service is seeking public comment on a proposed rule change that would expand use of the Small Tracts Act and provide the Forest Service greater flexibility to resolve land management challenges through sales, exchange, or interchange of small land parcels. The proposed changes are among those that implement new authorities the Forest Service received through the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018—also known as the 2018 Farm Bill.
The proposed rule would allow parcels that are physically isolated, inaccessible, or lack national forest characteristics to be conveyed if they are 40 acres or less in size. It would also allow parcels 10 acres or less where permanent, habitable improvements have been made to be conveyed if encroachment was neither intentional nor negligent. Proceeds from these land exchanges could then be used to acquire lands or interest in lands in the same state that are suitable to be included in the National Forest System. Those proceeds may also be used to reimburse costs associated with the competitive sale of eligible lands.
“These changes are designed to help improve forest conditions, safety and service to the American people” said Chief Vicki Christiansen. “They will also help us to be better neighbors to landowners that border our national forests and grasslands.”
The proposed regulations will be open for public comment for 60 days following their publication in the Federal Register. More information on these rules and instructions on how to provide comments are available at http://federalregister.gov/d/2020-03639.
Despite recent winter rainfall, live fuel moisture levels across the Forest did not significantly recover and are currently hovering just above the 60 percent critical threshold. Predictive weather forecasts indicate persistent, strong offshore wind events through April that will likely further reduce fuel moisture levels.
Long-range weather models have consistently shown well below normal precipitation and drier than average weather with a high likelihood of elevated temperatures through the spring months. If these forecasts are accurate, grasses will cure out earlier than normal and grass fire activity could occur weeks earlier this year. These conditions allow fire to burn readily and remain present in the larger dead and downed fuels in the landscape. Even with recent precipitation and cooler temperatures, live fuel moistures are slow to rise due to a state of dormancy in the brush.
Preventing accidental starts from recreational shooting under dry conditions is key to protecting life and property. Shooting ranges under permit by Los Padres National Forest monitor and implement preventative measures to avoid accidental starts.
Under this Forest Order, discharging a firearm is prohibited except in the designated target ranges at the Winchester Canyon Gun Club and the Ojai Valley Gun Club. Persons hunting during the open hunting season as specified in the laws of the State of California and having a valid California hunting license are exempt from this Forest Order.
A violation of this prohibition is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than six months, or both.
Los Padres to begin implementing prescribed fire activities
GOLETA, Calif.— Los Padres National Forest officials today announced plans to begin implementing their annual prescribed burning operations on the Forest over the next few months. When favorable weather conditions are present, specific project locations and dates will be shared on the Forest’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
The objectives of the projects are to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire to people and communities, create conditions which offer a safer and more effective wildfire response, foster more resilient ecosystems, and minimize the effects of large wildfires on the landscape.
When implementing these projects, fire managers follow a burn plan that outlines the “prescription” or environmental conditions such as temperature, wind, fuel moisture, ventilation and relative humidity that need to be present before the project begins. When the criteria are met, crews implement, monitor, and patrol each burn to ensure it meets the goals and objectives outlined by managers. The prescribed fire program will continue through the winter and spring months as permitted by weather and other environmental factors.
Prescribed fires including both understory and pile burning are intended to reduce the amount of vegetation, such as needles, small plants, brush, and small trees which can carry fire from the forest floor into the treetops. Studies and experience have shown that prescribed fires stimulate the growth of grasses, forbs and shrubs that provide food for deer, mountain quail and other wildlife.
The ignition of all prescribed burns is dependent on the availability of personnel and equipment and appropriate conditions. Prescribed burn planning and execution are closely coordinated with the National Weather Service and Air Quality Management Districts in order to manage smoke production and minimize impacts as much as possible.
When these burns occur, information signs will be posted along the roadways to alert the public to the burning activity and subsequent visible smoke in the area.
For questions on the Los Padres National Forest prescribed fire program, please contact Fuels Management Specialist Rebecca Dykes at (805) 961-5764.
I ended my multi-year discussion of overtourism in Big Sur through my Tourist Tuesday posts sometime ago and how it relates to other destinations in the world. It seemed to be on a trajectory where nothing could be done. I am not convinced, one way or the other, that it is a problem than will be solved, only that it must. Unsustainable population translates into unsustainable tourism, which in turn contributes more than its share to climate change. As we know from other studies, systems here on this finite planet are intimately interwoven and interconnected. Overtourism is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
The Atlantic wrote and created video on this problem, published yesterday.
Last year, 1.4 billion people traveled the world. That’s up from just 25 million in 1950. In China alone, overseas trips have risen from 10 million to 150 million in less than two decades.
This dramatic surge in mass tourism can be attributed to the emergence of the global middle class, and in some ways, it’s a good thing. But the consequences are grave—particularly for the planet. In a new episode of The Idea File, the staff writer Annie Lowrey explains how overtourism has contributed to large-scale environmental degradation, dangerous conditions, and the immiseration and pricing-out of locals.
“Tourists can alter the experience of visiting something such that they ruin the very experience that they’ve been trying to have,” Lowrey says in the video. “That’s the essential definition of overtourism.”
California Coastal CommissionPublic Review Draft Strategic Plan PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITY The Commission has released the 2020 – 2025 Public Review Draft Strategic Plan and is now seeking public input on the draft plan through February 14, 2020. The Commission has released the Public Review Draft of the 2020-2025 California Coastal Commission Strategic Plan. The Draft Strategic Plan provides a framework of goals, objectives, and actions to set priorities and guide the agency’s performance for the next five years. It can be viewed at: https://www.coastal.ca.gov/strategicplan/spindex-2.htmlThe Draft Strategic Plan identifies 189 priority action items intended to be undertaken in the next five years, organized under 9 separate goals related to: Internal Agency Capacity and Effectiveness; Public Access; Coastal Resources; Climate Change and Sea Level Rise; Environmental Justice, Diversity, and Tribal Relations; Coastal Planning and Permitting; Enforcement; Public Presence and Partnerships; and Information Management and E-Government.The public is invited to provide comments on the Draft Strategic Plan in writing or verbally at the Commission’s December 2019 or February 2020 meetings. Written comments must be received by February 14, 2020. Comments can be mailed to: California Coastal Commission Executive Division45 Fremont Street, Suite 2000San Francisco, CA 94105 Or sent via email to:StrategicPlanComments@coastal.ca.govA final plan is anticipated to be adopted by the Commission in April or May 2020.
I apologize for my lack of blogging this week, but several things converged at once, and since Saturday, I have had to be selfish. First I was sick and ended up sleeping most of three days. Then, I had a deadline to make for Voices (see below), and finally, the winter power issues have hit, which means no internet, among other things.
I have recovered from that nasty bug (thanks in part to the Elderberry tincture I made last year), I made my deadline, and will give you the lead-in and a link below, and today, I am, hopefully, resolving my power issues, by making sure my batteries are fully charged after having replenished them with two gallons of distilled water.
From Voices of Monterey Bay:
“Big Sur is the greatest meeting of land and sea. It is where the mountains are constantly marching to the ocean. It is a place to which the word “iconic” has been applied much too often. It is a place that has been “discovered” and Instagramed into a cliché.
We have come to experience ‘LA-type traffic‘ here in paradise, and thus, we are in need of a plan.
Just in the last few days the magazine Fodor’s Travel put Big Sur on its 2020 NO GO list. It is in good company, along with Bali, Barcelona and 10 other popular destinations. With its beauty and all the promotion it gets, the chickens ’have come home to roost,’ according to Fodor’s.
Big Sur is past the point of needing to be ‘managed.’ Any plan that attempts to do this ‘managing’ will be, by necessity, complex and difficult. In the end, it is Mother Nature who determines much of what happens here. That is the allure and the draw. We humans must be careful to consider the needs of this place — her environment — before our own. And a proposed plan meant to tackle the problem acknowledges that Big Sur’s terrain and remote location make solutions even more difficult.”
The Community Association of Big Sur (CABS) has launched a private public partnership to address tourism and its impact in Big Sur. In partnership with the Monterey County Board of Supervisors and their provision of a seed grant to begin the process, CABS has hired Costas Christ of Beyond Green Travel to lead the effort.
However, we need to raise more funding in order to not only complete the analysis and planning process, but to also test out recommended mitigations.
CABS is proud to announce that the Monterey County Weekly in partnership with the Community Foundation for Monterey County and the Monterey Peninsula Foundation have chosen our non-profit and this project to be highlighted in the Monterey County Givesfundraising campaign.
See link at below photo to go to the Monterey County Gives link to make a donation.
Your contribution will be matched by these sponsors, enabling our community to do this important work to benefit generations to come.
With gratitude, Butch Kronlund, ED, Community Association of Big Sur
“Our community can design innovative solutions to ensure that tourism benefits businesses, visitors, residents and our fragile coastline.”Butch Kronlund, ED, Community Association of Big Sur Donate to McGives & help Big Sur complete and implement a sustainable tourism plan.www.CABigSur.orgwww.BigSurPledge.org
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:
To the denuding of all the ridge tops:
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.
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.
Once one of Norway’s most accessible glaciers, the Nigardsbreen has receded to reveal a difficult trek across hard slabs of rock. Instead of 50 tourists at a time, guides now take as few as six people, even though business couldn’t be better.
Steinar Bruheim, a guide who’s led tours across glaciers for over 30 years, knows why tourists flock to Norway’s rural, western countryside in the summer.
“They want to see it before it disappears,” Bruheim said.
The Nigarsbreen, like over 90% of the world’s glaciers, is melting. And while the planet is experiencing record temperatures, global travel and tourism, which researchers believe represent at least 8% of carbon emissions, couldn’t be healthier. In 2017, there were 1.32 billion tourist arrivals internationally, with Norway earning almost $19 billion from tourism representing 4.2% of the country’s gross domestic product, according to Innovation Norway, a government entity focusing on business growth.
Norway, like most countries in Western Europe, is experiencing record numbers of tourists, especially during the peak summer months—more than half of all overnight stays traditionally happen from May to August. And most of those tourists, according to Innovation Norway, come to see the fjords and the famous Northern Lights in northern Norway.
That influx of tourists is putting a strain on its natural wonders, especially glaciers.