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BLM - Barstow Field Office

 My comments are for the BLM Barstow Office grant: G13-01-04-R01 Juniper Flats Restoration -  667,209     286,641     953,850
 "The CDCA Plan classified lands within the Juniper Flats Subregion of the CDCA into Multiple Use Class (MUC) L, or Limited Use, areas designated to protect sensitive, natural, scenic, ecological, and cultural resource values through carefully-controlled, low-intensity human use of multiple resources while ensuring sensitive values are not significantly diminished."  BLM has recognized that OHV riding in the area is significantly diminishing the sensitive values of the area, and there is an ongoing need for restoration of trails created by unlawful activity. The BLM has also recognized numerous conflicts in this area between the various allowed activities and owners of the local historic ranches. 
 
Other than the CDCA, and the Juniper Flats ACEC (which only covers a small part of the sub region) there is currently no localized planning effort to identify the issues and needs that require resolution in this heavily OHV impacted Limited Use area.  This limited use area is available for OHV touring, however, it contains numerous riparian areas and steep hills (many with considerably more than a  30% slope) which attract a different kind of riding (technical/racing). This type of riding is in direct conflict with the stated management goals. Unauthorized OHV riding also causes conflicts with the cattle allotment, mining, owners of the local historic ranch, hunting and low impact types of recreation as well as the wildlife and habitats.  I strongly suggest that the BLM find a way to work cooperatively with the local residents and as many user groups as possible. If fully funded the grant will greatly help the BLM understand the issues and deal with the underlying problems and conflicts.
 
The agency indicates on their General application that there are publicly available maps or signage marking trails with relative difficulty. While there are varied skill levels on BLM Barstow lands, I have yet to see a publically available map indicating the difficulty level. In fact, the signs in the field are less than adequate. There are motorcycle only trails in the Juniper Flats Area that are simply marked with an M after the route numbers. This causes much confusion and mis-information as people see the "open route" part and don't know what the M means. Although the BLM has been working on this issue in the past year, there are few signs on the ground that show what the M is for and few places where one can pick up a brochure to find out more. In my opinion it would be very helpful to the visitors if the trails were marked with the varied skill levels on the ground as well as on a map.
If fully funded, this grant will dramatically increase the visitor information for the area including clear signage of routes and boxes for additional information via brochures.
 
The grant states that "Preliminary efforts will be seen as successful if at least 40% of sites rehabilitated do not experience new or additional OHV trespass". This is an unacceptably low success rate as new routes are being created all the time. This is partly due to the emergence each year of new cattle paths that the motorcycle riders then use and burn into the landscape (if left alone, they would disappear at least partially in a season). Success at 40% means no success at all. Use of best management practices is not listed in the Evaluation criteria. Installation of hard barriers also creates conflicts with equestrian and other uses. By working with the various user groups and ranch residents, the land manager will have a greater success rate.  If fully funded, the grant will help increase BLM  patrols in the area, and documentation using the stated methods and tablets will reveal the detail of these conflicts - providing much needed data for effective resolution. 
 
Further, if fully funded,  the restoration project will enable law enforcement to  issue citations for "knowing and willful violations" of Federal Regulation CFR 8341.1(c). With adequate signage and effective restoration of closed routes and hillclimbs, the riders and law enforcement will have a clear idea of which are the open routes.
To have maximum effect, Law Enforcement patrols must be focused on weekends, afternoons/evenings and holidays.
 NOTE: Because of the numerous riparian areas and hunting, the interagency cooperation might be expanded to include the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
 
The grant application lists several BLM employees who will provide supervision and current information about the use patterns, conflicts and which will give the BLM manager the essential information for a plan on how to move forward to prevent damaging OHV trespass in the future.
However, the project lacks details. It is unclear from this grant application who is going to perform the work for the much needed restoration of unlawfully created OHV trails and hill climbs. Although the grant correctly identifies problems with riparian area degradation, there is no biologist or botanist listed in the application. Special status species are not listed in the evaluation criteria. Use of native plants and materials is not checked in the evaluation criteria part of the application. Nor is identification of alternate routes to avoid recurring use of the restored sites. Although there are very steep hills and significant erosion problems, there is no soil specialist listed and no materials specified for erosion control.
 
Perhaps the details become apparent with the information from the report on the previous grant for the area:  G08-01-04-R04. I request a copy of the report filed for the closed grant: Juniper Flats Restoration G08-01-04-R04 (closed)
 
I look forward to working with the BLM team and the local residents and groups to resolve the issues and conflicts in the Juniper Sub Region and specifically in this identified polygon which includes Arrastre Canyon and Grapevine Canyon.
If fully funded, this much needed interaction will supplement the BLM patrols of the area and many of the known conflicts and issues will have a chance of resolution.  
 
Thank you for the opportunity to comment. I suggest that the OHMVR grant program include on line the reports that are filed with the division at the conclusion of the grant. Jenny Wilder - 4/1/14

 I am writing in support of the grant application G13-01-04-R01.  I understand that this a joint grant request between the Friends of Juniper Flats (FOJF) and the BLM.  I am a resident of Wrightwood, CA and visit the Juniper Flats area on a regular basis.  I am familiar with the membership of the FOJF and I am convienced that FOJF represents a cross section of the private stakeholders living and enjoying quiet recreation in the area.  Restoration and compliance management in the Arrastre Canyon/Grapevine Canyon area of the Juniper Sub Region are important both for quiet recreation as well as habitat protection.  There has been and continues to be significant vandalism and illegal OHV play.  These illegal activities create expensive damage to the public lands. In fact this type of OHV play (as opposed to OHV touring which is legal on signed open routes) literally drives out legal, low impact recreation. It is important that we not continue to reward illegal off-route activity with the designation of new routes.  It is good that this grant does not expand the now legal trails in the sub region.  The restoration activities should help law enforcement and riders know which are the designated legal open routes. Kim F Floyd - 4/3/14

 I am happy to support the above grant.  The grant focuses on restoration and compliance in the Arrastre Canyon/Grapevine Canyon area of the Juniper Sub Region and included the Arrastre Waterfall area (aka Little Tahiti).  Since I first visited Juniper Flats several years ago, there has been a tremendous amount of vandalism and OHV abuse to this unique and lovely area.   Illegal OHV activity has done significant damage to the area's sensitive resources and had an enormous negative impact on hiking and other low impact recreation.  There should be no expansion of OHV trails unless and until it can be demonstrated that illegal OHV riding has been controlled.  Restoration activities and better signage should help law enforcement and riders know which is the designated legal open route. Karen Schambach - 4/3/14

 ORV WATCH is pleased to support BLM Barstow's Restoration Grant request, in partnership with Friends of Juniper Flats. The grant focuses on restoration and compliance in the Arrastre Canyon/Grapevine Canyon area of the Juniper Sub Region and included the Arrastre Waterfall area (aka Little Tahiti).  There has been a tremendous amount of vandalism and OHV abuse in the dips and hills througout the area. This activity is illegal, and creates expensive and often irreversible damage to public lands. In fact this type of OHV play (as opposed to OHV touring which is legal on signed open routes) literally drives out legal, low impact recreation.   We approve that this grant does not expand trails in the sub region. There should be no further expansion of riding opportunities until it can be demonstrated that illegal OHV riding has been controlled.  Restoration activities will help law enforcement and riders know which is the designated legal open route because areas will be well signed. Jan Alford, Jon Rogers, Sandi Tardiff, ORV Watch Steering Committee - 4/3/14

 My comments are for the BLM Barstow Office grant: G13-01-04-R01 Juniper Flats Restoration- 667,209  286,641   953,850

In comparing the budget presented at the Public Outreach meeting on February 19, 2014 and the preliminary budget submitted to the OHVR, I noticed several differences.

1) The SCA crew was omitted from the budget but were mentioned in the, Plan for Protection of Restored Area section, “This public outreach would include the use of the Americorp National Civilian Conservation Corp, and Student Conservation Association (SCA) …”

The budget as submitted lacks the necessary work crews needed to get the job of restoring illegal routes done.  It has come to my attention that the SCA crew is costly.  Perhaps they, the SCA crew, could be used in place of the CCC, which is included in the budget but is not listed under the Plan for Protection of Restored Area section.  Yes they are more expensive but it is my understanding that the SCA crew camps at or near the area that they will be working thereby spending less time in transit and more time getting the job done.   Also perhaps the number of hours (Qty.) spent by the Recreation Planner and Project Manager could be reduced.  I agree that there needs to be a plan and someone who oversees the whole project.  But once the plan has been formulated it needs to be implemented as quickly as possible and monitoring and enforcement started immediately.  There needs to be adequate manpower in the beginning to accomplish all of the restoration that is need.  Hopefully less manpower will be needed in subsequent years to maintain the restoration.

2) The addition of a Restoration Intern at the cost of $40,000 for 3 years or a total cost of $120,000.

This is a welcomed addition and is essential to the success of the project.  The Friends of Juniper Flats Volunteers hope to work closely with this person to help monitor the project and see that necessary adjustments/corrections to the project are taken.

3) The matching funds are missing for the Park Ranger, WG 8 Maintenance Worker and Project Manager submitted to the OHVR, but was included in the budget given to the public.

4) 5 tablet computers were added to the budget submitted to the OHVR.  They are a welcomed addition.  Both the Friends of Juniper Flats and the Restoration Intern will be able to supply instant information about the conditions in the field to each other and the central data collector.   Thereby enabling the Park Ranger and Maintenance Worker to make corrections.

My major concern is that the grant is top heavy with administrators.   I would like to see some adjustments made to allow for more workers doing restoration.   I look forward to working with the BLM to make this project a success. Susan Stueber, Friends of Juniper Flats - 4/7/14

 I have several concerns about this grant and can only give itconditional support:

1.)  becauseof the way the grant was written and
2.)  becausethe expenses written into the grant place too little emphasis on “boots on theground” to do the work and too much emphasis funding personnel in the BLMoffice.

With respect to writing the grant, I had requested that ourgroup have access as “read only” participants in the writing process and wasdenied that access.  This denial ofaccess indicates a lack of transparency on the part of the BLM and resulted ina grant written with decidedly different emphasis than it would have had if theprocess were more of a joint effort with the Friends of Juniper Flats, who arethe partners providing the matching funds via a commitment of volunteer hoursfrom our membership.

The purpose of the grant is to diminish and repair thedamage, caused by unlawful OHV riding, to the sensitive areas, which have beendesignated as such by the BLM itself. Contributing to the problem of OHV damage is the issue of inadequate ornon-existent signage and maps for the area. This lack of signage and maps also needs to be addressed by thegrant.  And the grant needs to be alteredto include much more use of the groups that can come do the restorationwork.  Ten days a year for three years,as written in the grant, is inadequate. 

Also at issue is that the BLM will consider the projectsuccessful at 40%, a figure that is too low. I would consider anything below 55% inadequate and would prefer a figureof at least 60%.

I am concerned with monitoring and accountability with thefunds and the work done with them. Hopefully an independent entity will make sure that the work is donewell by the people who are getting the funding as well as those who areproviding the matching funds through volunteer hours.

The use of tablets to monitor the area and communicate theresults could be very useful and would mean that information would be shared inreal time between the volunteers and the BLM. The BLM and/or law enforcement should then be able to respond quickly toissues as they arise.

I hope the appropriate changes will be made in the grant andthat future ventures involving a partnership of the BLM with any group will bedone more cooperatively and transparently. Sharon Gollmyer – 4/7/14

 I support this grant to restore illegal OHV trails, erect signage and provide law enforcement in the Juniper Flats area.  It is especially important to provide law enforcement to directly patrol the project area, and not rely on work crews and volunteers to report illegal OHV activity.  This is important because by the time law enforcement responds to a call from a volunteer or a work crew member, the offender will be long gone.  At 2,080 hours, presumably spread over 3 years, the grant application does not seem to provide for sufficient law enforcement.  I suggest that these hours be increased to provide full coverage during peak periods on weekends, holidays and early evening hours.
 
Juniper Flats is a beautiful area.  It is rare to find so beautiful an area within BLM-managed lands.  It includes several riparian areas, and it is home to many important plant and animal species.  It offers outstanding outdoor enjoyment opportunities for all, not just OHVs.  It deserves to be well cared for, maintained and patrolled.
 
I urge the BLM to work closely with the Friends of Juniper Flats and other volunteers in implementing this project to its fullest. Lygeia Gerard - 4/7/14