Newspaper Archive of
Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
November 18, 2015     Feather River Bulletin
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November 18, 2015

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4A Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015 , Feather River Bulletin PLAN, from page 1A representatives to express concerns over possible closures around bald eagle nesting sites at Lake Davis. "The Forest Service did adjust the proposal in terms of bald eagles, based on subcommittee input," Wood said. The subcommittee planned to meet a fifth time. But that meeting never happened. No one can say exactly why. "The subcommittee never set a date," Thrall said. "We kept waiting for the Forest Service to say they were ready." Bob Perreault, chairman of the Coordinating Council and the county's public works director, said that when the subcommittee didn't meet, he thought the Forest Service would bring its proposal to the whole council. "Members were confused why the process was thrown under the bus. The full council was supposed to coordinate before the public proposal," he said. "Coordination was blown up." Forest staff said county representatives see the public proposal as the end, rather than the beginning, of the process. "Plumas County wants to be involved in the proposed action before it goes public. They seem to see the proposed action as farther into the process than it is," Wood said. Lovato likened the public unveiling to the dating process: "It's the conversation starter at the party." If the subcommittee collaboration process was working, why did the Forest go public with its proposal when it did? "The Forest Service staff stumbled at the end," Perreault said, "We heard some lawyer was getting itchy under the saddle." Two lawsuits prompted the over-snow planning effort, and the Forest had to meet a deadline specified in one of its settlement agreements, Wood said. "I would like a time machine. I would like to have had that last planned. subcommittee meeting," Lovato said. "We dropped the ball." He takes full responsibility: "I made the decision. We had to meet the settlement deadline. That wasn't going to change." Going public Once the Forest went public with its proposal for managing over-snow vehicle use on the Forest, tensions escalated. Possible closure areas, particularly in the Lakes Basin Recreation Area, angered local snowmobilers. County supervisor Terry Swofford, a member of the Coordinating Council and subcommittee, accused the Forest of trying "to pull a fast one" on the subcommittee "when they showed us a map with just green areas on it and no roads or lakes." The map became a locus of controversy. Everyone says the preliminary map was not good. Subcommittee member Randy Wilson, also the county's planning director, said it was "very poorly done," and the maps at the first public meeting left "somethihg to be desired." "Maps can make or break your project," he noted. Wood said the map the Forest gave the subcommittee was not what was at the first public meeting. "We didn't have a good enough map until the second public meeting," Lovato said. Although the map the subcommittee saw was not great, Thrall said it did "have roads and lakes on it, and closure areas." "It was really preliminary. The Forest Service said please don't publicize it," she explained. "I was aware of the Lakes Basin closure area. I knew it was there. I can't say why Terry (Swofford) didn't notice or remember. He was so intensely focused on the Lake Davis area and bald eagle issues. We all were." County supervisor Lori Simpson chastised Swofford for his comments, "If you want people to coordinate with you, you can't call them liars." She told the Coordinating Council, "If it's hostile, it's not going to work out. How can you coordinate that way?" Thrall replied, "I see the process as a diplomatic process. There is an element of trust. Being loud and carrying on doesn't further the mission of this group." The and Opmtea Propa Compa in P =mas & S rra Com,a=t 65 East Sierra Ave, Portola Very Competively Priced No delivery fees, statement fees, or hidden costs. "We Live Local, We Shop Local, We Support Local" Building trust The element of trust Thrall alluded to has been elusive. Part of the problem has been a revolving door of acting forest supervisors. "It's been a major problem the last two years," Thrall said, "We've been through four forest supervisors and two or three deputies. That's very challenging." Lovato has been with Plumas National Forest for two months. His assignment ends Feb. 7, 2016. He says he is willing to stay longer. The Forest is not expected to make a final decision on its OSV plan until August 2017, so it is unlikely Lovato will make that decision. "Regardless of who is the forest supervisor, the process is larger than that," Lovato said. "I'm not surprised people are upset. It's a change. Most PeoPle don't do well with change. But we have a sound process. We need to make our decision for the right reasons." Ultimately, whoever is Forest supervisor will make the decision. The county's input will be just one factor. "We're a national resource," Lovato said. "We have to treat everyone equally. We have policy and law we have to follow." "We have to consider local government input," Wood said, "but we don't have to comply with it." Most of the coordinating council members acknowledge that. "The Forest Service is not under legal obligation to do what we want them to do," Perreault said. "There is no obligation for them to accept our suggestions carte blanche." Even Swofford, the most vocal critic of the OSV effort, recognized, "The key thing is they are not required to listen to us. It's never going to be 100 percent. It's a coordination. There will always be some give and take." The future While moving through the Forest's process, the council has been figuring out its own process. "The council has been in a 'what will we be when we grow up' mode," Swofford said. Thrall agreed, "We are figuring out our process as well as a major issue at the same time. It's working well. I feel we've had input, they've made changes. This has been our test case. I ask the public for understandingS" Lovato said he felt the same way. "This is the first time. We're learning. We've made mistakes. Some things could have been done better. But we're still at the table." One way the council could continue to influence the forest's process is by building local consensus. OSV users have criticized the forest for playing favorites because the agency reached out to skiers. "The OSV community has been well-represented," Wood said. "The non-motorized not SO." Thrall took responsibility for prompting the outreach. "Folks were mad the Forest Service contacted skiers outside of the process. I recommended it. I told Dave (Wood) if I were being sued, I'd be missing a few screws ifI didn't reach out to anyone who might have an opinion." While the Forest will consider all public comments on its plan, it is not the agency's role to build consensus, Wood said. However, the county could bring interested parties together. "The county could still get both sides together and still provide input," Wood said. "They could get that info and give it to us." The county is considering doing just that, Thrall said. "We will continue to coordinate and to try to get people to the table without screwing up the Brown Act." Beyond the OSV plan, there will be future opportunities for the county and the Forest to collaborate. Early next year, the Plumas National Forest will begin work to revise its forest plan. All parties will have an opportunity to practice the lessons learned during the OSV process. Postal Sarvlce: USPS (No. 188-550.) Periodicals postage paid at Quincy, CA. PubliShed: Every Wednesday morning by Feather Publishing Co., Inc. OffiCe Location and boom: 287 Lawrence St., Quincy, CA 95971. Mailing address: P.O. Box B, Quincy, CA95971. Office is open Men. through Fri., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. How to contact I~: 'All departments: (530) 283-0800. FAX: (530) 283-3952. Email: Website: Ownarsllip and hertia~e: The Bulletin was established Aug. 11, 1866, as the Plumas National (later changed to. Plumas National Bulletin May 16, 1892) subsequently changed to its present name May 7, 1931, which merged with the Plumas Independent (1892 - 1945) June 7, 1945. Published weekly. It is part of the Feather Publishing family of newspapers serving Plumas and Lassen counties. Deadlines: Display advertising: Thursday 4 p.m.; display classified: Thursday, 3 p,m.; legals: Thursday 4 p.m.; news: Fridays, 3 p.m.; classified: Monday 9 a.m. Breaking news: anytime! 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