News and Press Releases for 2009
Feb 27, 2009
Top of the Morning, Inyo Register, Feb 27, 2009
Out of Control or In Charge?
Has the economic “crisis” got you down? Do you wonder how the national stimulus plan will feed your family? Have you been run over by an ‘omnibus’ lately? Do you enjoy being force-fed national policy that impacts our public lands? Both the Alabama Hills Stewardship Group (AHSG) and the sub-committee I chair (to explore the potential for a federal designation for the Alabama Hills) are grappling with similar questions (of local vs national) as they apply toward access to land and protecting the rich history and landscapes that reside in our ‘backyards’.
A quick history of the AHSG…It was started in November of 2006, when Lone Pine community leaders and the BLM forged a partnership to better manage this fantastic resource. A committee was formed, a vision statement drafted and actions begun in 3 key management areas: First, developing a visitor services program to reduce vandalism and trash. Second, producing and distributing interpretive and educational materials and third, managing the huge inventory of roads and trails in the area. For example, last year ‘Healthy Communities’ partnered with the BLM to construct a “Trail to the Arch”; signage was posted and a brochure was developed. All this hard work was recognized in 2008 by the “Group” being awarded a Cooperative Conservation Award by the US Department of the Interior.
The Alabama Hills Stewardship Group is planning to diligently manage this process over a two year period and will seek a wide variety of input and opinion in order to strengthen the end result. Obviously with a history rich in land management lessons, we plan to not reinvent the wheel but instead ‘steal shamelessly’ from innovative new ideas like the Advocates for Access to Public Lands (AAPL) “semi-primitive roaded and roadless backcountry recreation areas” proposal or Friends of the Inyo partnering with the US Forest Service to provide volunteers for trail improvements and restoration.
So far our process has identified over 40 current user groups… Ranging from climbers and campers to hunters and cattleman…From mountain bikers and horseback riders to motorized vehicle users and movie makers…From wildflower tours to weddings and from fun seekers to fundraisers. Our goal with any legislation for this area would be to protect not only the land but protect the users/uses of the land and to uphold Inyo County government’s own vision statement which strives to: “Maintain the county’s natural environment and rural quality of life; support and expand tourism and promote economic development”. For the Alabama Hills to continue to be ‘valuable’, the semi-primitive state of the location and accessibility must both be maintained. As such, we would demand that parameters specific to each user group’s rights be written into any legislation.
All members of the Alabama Hills Stewardship Group and our Designations Study Sub-Committee are committed to be methodical about this process, to engage all user groups and reach out early and often to stakeholders. We want to reach consensus from the local community and build a coalition of support for whatever we recommend. What that will be, will ultimately depend on stakeholder and user group input. To date we’ve met with the Inyo County Board of Supervisors, Inyo County Film Commission, Lone Pine Chamber, the local climbing community, AAPL, and Friends of the Inyo. As we move ahead we plan to engage all of the 25-plus local stakeholder groups we have identified as well as the general public.
The bottom line is we want to manage this from the grassroots up. Not always the easiest thing to do…But the right thing to do! With the local community driving the process we will make this a valuable learning experience, leading to a well thought out recommendation for the best future management of the Alabama Hills.
It is ironic that in the past, this fantastic landscape was formed by a balance of diametrically opposing forces (tectonic plates and volcanism) and now today we must balance different land use viewpoints. Can we really control our destiny when 98.3% of the land is owned by the federal, state and City of LA governments? Well…I like the old saying that goes: “dance with the one you brung”; and so our committee will, with “eyes wide open”, put on our dancing shoes and start the music. Hopeless or hopeful? We choose to be hopeful.