May 28, 2013 — Public lands belong to the public, and the effort by the Lassen County Board of Supervisors and others to guarantee public access to the roads and woods in the Lassen National Forest should continue.
The board’s fight with the national forest over public access began in earnest more than four years ago — in January 2009 — when the board declared the proposed Travel Management Plan “unacceptable” because of what it characterized as many errors and inconsistencies, a lack of local input and a failure to respond to the concerns of local agencies and residents.
“There has been a serious lack of coordination with Lassen County,” wrote former Lassen County District 3 Supervisor Lloyd Keefer back in 2009. “There has been an unwillingness to collaborate with the pubic to provide a more reasonable balance between motor vehicle access and environmental stewardship … We are extremely disappointed that the comments/suggestions we submitted for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement were either ignored or not adequately addressed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement.”
The board invoked coordination status and created the Lassen County Coordination Council in an effort to give local residents a seat at the table and an opportunity to have input into the decisions.
Then the board wrote another similar letter in 2010, again expressing its dissatisfaction with the Forest’s plan.
Tom McClintock, Lassen County’s former representative in Congress, joined in the effort to get more local input into the plan, invoking memories of “the despotic era and Norman and Plantagenet England” when the English sovereigns declared large portions of England “royal forest, the excusive preserve of the monarch, his forestry officials and his favored aristocrats. The people of Britain were forbidden access to and enjoyment of these forests under harsh penalties.”
A bit of hyperbole perhaps, but the people of Lassen County should at least have input into the discussion regarding the appropriate use of public lands in their region and a seat at the table when such decisions are being made.
Apparently nothing has changed in the last four years, and despite the efforts of elected county officials and interested citizens, the plan seems to be moving forward without the proper consideration being given to the people’s concerns.
Should the Travel Management Plan go into effect as proposed, it would limit the people’s ability to collect firewood, hunt, camp, unload horses or livestock and even travel on some roads with vehicles, off-highway vehicles or even snowmobiles.
As Bill Connelly, a member of the Butte County Board of Supervisors noted during his county’s conflict with the Plumas National Forest over the same types of issues in 2010, “the voluminous public protests accounted for precisely nothing.”
The situation was troubling and unacceptable in 2009. It was troubling and unacceptable in 2010, and it’s troubling and unacceptable today in 2013.
The Lassen County Board of Supervisors, the Lassen County Coordination Council and other concerned citizens should continue to demand a seat at the table and an opportunity to be heard in the discussion of the public’s use of the public’s land until they are satisfied their concerns have been satisfactorily addressed.
They should not stop now.
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