CHUCKWALLA COMMENT LETTER

  • 13 Jun 2024 1:46 PM
    Message # 13370028
    Anonymous member (Administrator)


    PLEASE EMAIL THIS LETTER ALONG WITH YOU COMMENTS:

    All comments must be emailed to mvanderlinden@blm.gov before the end of the meeting at 12PM June 14th, 2024, in order to be included.  For those coming to the meeting, do these by Thursday night. For those that can’t make it, you have until noon on Friday ( not a minute later) to email this to the address here in this paragraph.


    Proposed Chuckwalla National Monument

    Public Meeting – June 14, 2024

    Written Public Comment Form


    Name:

    Represented Organization/Title (if applicable):

    Email Address:

    Comments: Dear Madam Secretary,

    Efforts are well underway to designate a Chuckwalla National Monument in the eastern California Desert

    between Joshua Tree National Park and the Salton Sea. Its stated purpose is to protect 661,000 acres of

    federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). As a member of the public, I feel it is important for the BLM and the American public to understand the significant and durable protections these acres already receive.

    In 1994 the United State Congress passed the California Desert Protection Act which designated

    approximately 40% of these acres as Wilderness, which is the highest level of protection that federal lands

    can receive.

    Fifteen years later, the U.S. Congress passed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 [Public

    Law 111-11] (Omnibus Act) which legislatively established the National Landscape Conservation System

    (NLCS, also known as the National Conservation Lands, or NCL). The NLCS was created to conserve,

    protect, and restore nationally significant landscapes that have outstanding cultural, ecological, and

    scientific values for the benefit of current and future generations. The NLCS includes BLM’s National

    Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Forest Reserves, legislated Outstanding Natural Areas,

    Cooperative Management and Protection Areas, Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas, Wild and Scenic

    Rivers, and National Scenic and Historic Trails.

    The Omnibus Act also included within the NLCS “public land within the California Desert Conservation

    Area administered by the Bureau of Land Management for conservation purposes.” Therefore, in 2016

    through its Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) the BLM permanently added 4 million

    acres to the NLCS as directed by the Omnibus Act. This action included virtually all of the remaining

    60% of the proposed Chuckwalla National Monument not already designated Wilderness by the U.S.

    Congress.

    Following their identification, under Section 2002(b)(2) of the Omnibus Act, these lands qualify as an

    “area designated by Congress to be administered for conservation purposes” and are a component of the

    NLCS. Under the Omnibus Act, once identified, these lands can only be removed from the NLCS through

    an act of Congress; their designation cannot be changed through a subsequent BLM land use planning

    process.

    Therefore, based on these actions and legislation I conclude that:

    1) It is misleading to lean on assertions that the lands within the proposed Chuckwalla National

    Monument are not protected and need to be protected. These lands are already durably designated by

    Congress as Wilderness and as California Desert National Conservation Lands, and are receiving high, if

    not the highest, level of protections that can be afforded to public lands.

    2) Because these lands are already under conservation through the NLCS, designating them a Chuckwalla

    National Monument will not further the President's goal of conserving at least 30 percent of U.S. lands

    and waters by 2030.

    3) Proponents have not identified the specific resources, objects and values that are not currently receiving

    adequate protection, and what specific measures they conclude are necessary to provide additional

    protection.

    4) Recognize that DRECP's NCL designations do not include a withdrawal from mineral location.

    However, these NCL lands are subject to a stringent disturbance cap of 1%, and where NCL land is

    overlapped by an ACEC, the cap falls to as low as 0.1%.

    5) Recognize that a national monument designation for these lands:

    a) Will not preclude the development of existing mineral claims;

    b) Will not provide additional law enforcement funding or personnel, and;

    c) Will not supply additional appropriated funds.

    6) Proponents have failed to assemble and demonstrate broad public support, particularly within local

    governments or the recreation community.

    7) I further understand that proponents are seeking this national monument designation through both an

    Act of Congress and a Presidential proclamation. While I acknowledge and appreciate that through their

    proposed legislation, H.R. 5660, the proponents are not seeking to limit current recreational access or

    activities within the proposed Chuckwalla National Monument. However, it must also be recognized that:

    a) The proponents cannot guarantee that assurances contained in any legislation would be

    maintained under a Presidential proclamation and subsequent BLM planning;

    b) Numerous and key affected stakeholders were left out of the drawing of proposed boundaries

    and the drafting of language for legislation or a proclamation; and

    c) The proponents have not publicly released their draft language for the Presidential Proclamation

    they seek.

    d) As a member of the public I strenuously disagree with Section 3 of H.R. 5660 which would establish a ‘‘Chuckwalla National Monument Advisory Council’’. This body would be entirely duplicative of the BLM's California Desert

    District Advisory Council (DAC) which is a statutory advisory committee established under

    section 309 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. The DAC is already chartered and

    authorized to “develop recommendations regarding implementation of the BLM's long-range plan

    for the California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA) with respect to land use planning,

    classification, retention, management, and disposal of public lands” within the CDCA.

    e) As a member of the public I agree that designating a national monument through an Act of Congress is a superior path than that of a Presidential Proclamation. The President should not pre-empt H.R. 5660 and should allow

    Congress the opportunity to consider and act on it.

    Based on the above statements, I recommend that the Secretary of the Interior:

    1) Advise the President against designating a Chuckwalla National Monument through a Presidential

    Proclamation; and

    2) Advise Congress against the passage of H.R. 5660.

    Before including your address, phone number, email, address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, please be aware that your entire comment – including your personal identifying information – may be made publicly available at any time.  While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.



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