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Possible land closures Last Chance Canyon


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  • Possible land closures Last Chance Canyon

    Posted on Thursday, June 26 @ 17:38:12 PST
    Plan to manage Last Chance Canyon questioned

    Complain that 'multiple-use' ignored

    By Bill Deaver

    CALIFORNIA CITY - Although defended by environmental group representatives, the final draft of a plan to manage a 17,000-acre addition to Red Rock Canyon State Park drew fire from representatives of other user groups and a state senator at a meeting here Saturday.

    Strongest criticism of the plan to manage the Last Chance Canyon addition came from Ed Waldheim, representing the California Off-Road Vehicle Association (CORVA), and state Senator Roy Ashburn.

    Waldheim blasted the plan, which he said "ignores the mandate to manage the land for multiple use."

    "This plan doesn't do anything for us," Waldheim said, referring to off-highway vehicle users.

    Park Plans - Plans to manage the Last Chance Canyon addition to red Rock Canyon State Park were discussed last Saturday by, from left, Supervising Park Ranger Mark Faull and Ed Waldheim and Geoff Teare of the California Off-Road Vehicle Association. Mocal News Corporation Photo


    "You need to take off your blinders," said Waldheim, adding, "We don't want to lose any more trails."

    The CORVA activist also criticized the State Parks and Recreation Department planners for going forward with the Last Chance management plan without waiting for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to complete its proposed West Mojave Plan, which is expected to close many more miles of trails.

    The CORVA officer also noted that the Last Chance Canyon addition contains over 70 mines, which must be managed according to existing state law.

    Waldheim, who is president of Friends of Jawbone, a volunteer group that works with BLM actively to manage off-highway trails in Jawbone Canyon and other High Desert areas, said his group would be willing to manage the addition for the state parks agency.

    Accusing park planners of actions that push OHV users into private property, Waldheim threatened to go to the state legislature to "take this away from you."

    Lawmaker's complaints

    If they go the legislature, Waldheim and the OHV community will find a friend in state Senator Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield), whose field representative, Russell Johnson, read a lengthy statement from the senator questioning the plan and the way it has been developed.

    Saying he was responding to concerns expressed by his constituents, Ashburn complained that members of the public had no time to digest the latest version of the management plan, which was presented to them when they entered the meeting in California City city hall.

    "...this practice of not posting documents on the web or giving the public time to study the materials in advance effectively circumvents the public participation process." Ashburn said.

    In a statement that was echoed by several speakers at the meeting, Ashburn demanded "sound scientific data" for closing roads and taking other actions to restrict public use of the land.

    Ashburn also asked that equestrians and hunters be allowed to continue to use the area, an activity banned in the proposed plan

    Several other speakers suggested that the Last Chance addition be managed as a state recreation area rather than under the more stringent "park" status.

    Environmentalists respond

    Several Sierra Club members responded to Waldheim and Ashburn's comments. All opposed the state continuing a long-standing agreement to allow vehicles to use the popular Nightmare Gulch area for 14 weeks of the year. Joe Fontaine of Tehachapi, a former two-term national Sierra Club president and member (with this writer) of the original citizens advisory committee that helped create the park, said there are many other areas in East Kern and San Bernardino counties available for OHV use.

    Stan Hay of Ridgecrest also favored closing Nightmare Gulch and said he supports closing other roads in the addition.

    "We should close roads unless there is a good reason to keep them open rather than leaving them open unless there is a good reason to close them," Hay argued. His wife, Jeannie Hay, agreed with closing Nightmare Gulch.

    Working together

    Ron Schiller of Ridgecrest suggested that the best way to resolve competing interests would be to form an ad hoc committee to work on issues. "You'd be surprised how quickly conflicts go away when you do that," Schiller said.

    Parks and Recreation Department planner Bob Patterson said the department's staff will take comments from the meeting and use them to develop a management plan and environmental impact report which will be made available to the public in September for comment.

    The plan will then be presented to the State Parks Commission which will consider it at a public meeting, which may be held "within 100 miles" of the proposed addition.

    Copyright 2003 Mocal News Corporation
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