As the U.S. Forest Service begins work on a plan for ecological restoration on the Inyo, county leaders continue to challenge the federal agency to coordinate with local government on projects that will impact citizens.
Forest Supervisor Ed Armenta met with the Board of Supervisors Tuesday to discuss a number of projects the Forest Service has in the works, including an Ecological Restoration Plan that was drafted in June and is scheduled for release in October.
According to Armenta, the goal of the Restoration Plan is “to retain and store ecological resilience and provide a board range of services to organisms and humans. Provide clean water and natural landscapes.”
In Inyo County, the plan calls for trail repair and watershed stabilization in the Mt. Whitney Trail and Lamarck Lakes Trail areas; ongoing implementation of the Travel Management Ruling; fuel reduction in the Whitney Portal and Bishop Creek areas; restoration at the Kern Plateau Meadow; and stabilization of the Oak Creek gully north of Independence.
The plan is expected to be approved later this later, with targeted completion dates in 2014.
“This is only the beginning,” Armenta said, adding that the document is a draft plan for the Ecological Restoration program that will be released to the public for comment in October.
Local leaders once again expressed concern that they were not brought into the loop on the planning document through coordination.
“The first we heard of this was from (Regional Forester) Randy Moore,” Second District Supervisor Susan Cash said. “I didn’t even know this document was going on. I don’t want to feel like you’re the Green Gestapo … We need to write this document together.”
“Collaboration requires early and often talking so we are not caught off guard,” First District Supervisor Linda Arcularius said, pointing out that the draft document was written without input from the county and shared with the Sierra Nevada Conservancy before the Board of Supervisors had an opportunity to review it. “This puts us in an adversarial relationship.”
Arcularius, who is a Conservancy board member, said she wears her “conservancy hat” during those meetings. Just because she was present in a meeting where the plan was discussed, she said, does not mean that Inyo County’s local government was notified of the Ecological Restoration Plan.
Armenta said he was hoping to avoid exactly that kind of relationship by bringing the board the draft plan early, giving county leaders and staff members time to review and make suggested changes on the document before it is released for public scrutiny.
“I will try to be more mindful of getting these things out in front of you,” Armenta said.
Before wrapping up the meeting, Cash asked if the Forest Service was working on any other operations the county should be aware of.
Armenta said he could not think of anything that has not already been before the board.
The meeting with Armenta ended without the board suggesting any changes or amendments to the plan, or scheduling a workshop to review the plan with staff to suggest amendments before it is presented to the public next month.