BLM's final plan would ban OHV users from Clear Creek - Free Lance News : Local Politics

BLM's final plan would ban OHV users from Clear Creek

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Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 11:12 am

With the dust finally settled after a half-decade of debate, it looks as though the Bureau of Land Management plans to follow its long-charted path and permanently shut off the signature use at Clear Creek Management Area – off-highway vehicles.

The federal agency Friday is set to release a final Environmental Impact Statement – the last document in the process before a final approval – which would open a relatively small portion of the 63,000-acre area just to street-licensed vehicles, said an official in the Hollister BLM office overseeing the Clear Creek matter.

The BLM temporary closed Clear Creek in May 2008 on the heels of an Environmental Protection Agency study warning about dangerous levels of cancer-causing asbestos there, largely in the 31,000-acre “Serpentine” area. BLM officials followed up in 2009 by releasing a draft EIS, and the federal agency at the time recommended an option to allow just non-motorized use.

In the final EIS, which includes some changes to the draft, the public land in southern San Benito and eastern Fresno counties would be open only to street-licensed vehicles and would shut out the enthusiasts who provided the vast majority of the 35,000 or so visits per year before a temporary closure.

If the EIS goes through, it would be a disappointing result for those thousands of OHV riders who had flocked to San Benito County, largely on weekends, and who now must likely rely on higher authorities such as Congress to get Clear Creek reopened.

George Hill, a supervisory resource management specialist in the Hollister BLM office, estimated that Clear Creek would draw around 5,000 visitors annually once opened again.

“It’s been kind of a long, drawn-out process, and I’m sure some folks are not going to be pleased with it,” Hill said.

Ed Tobin, treasurer of the Salinas Ramblers Motorcycle Club, has been one of the most outspoken critics about the BLM’s handling of Clear Creek. He declined to comment on the EIS document until it is released, but did talk about the process. He said his expectations about the BLM choosing to reopen Clear Creek were “nonexistent.”

“This whole process is a joke,” Tobin said. “The fact they’ve gone five years before producing this document is absolutely ridiculous.”

Though he had not read the document, Tobin wondered whether the BLM incorporated two studies – a state health risk assessment and an internal study – which have different conclusions than the EPA.

“They have two studies that contradict the EPA study,” Tobin said.

The federal agency’s conclusions have come under fire since the area’s closure – with outcries from riders, county supervisors, the state’s off-highway motor vehicle recreation commission, and even Congressman Sam Farr. The Carmel congressman authored a bill, which is now inactive, to reopen much of Clear Creek.

Most opponents of the decision have questioned the science involved, often underscoring there is no evidence of a link between Clear Creek and sickness. Others have argued in favor of personal freedoms and the right to take any involved, perceived risks.

There are still steps in the process, meanwhile, toward permanently closing it to off-highway users – next is a 30-day protest period starting Friday – but the BLM expects to have a decision made sometime this fall.

During the 30-day protest period, residents can file a protest or appeal on certain items. From there, the BLM must resolve the protests while working with the Washington, D.C., office. That could “easily” take three months, Hill said. When the protests are resolved, the EIS could be formally adopted.

For those interested in commenting, the EIS and related information will be posted on the BLM website Friday. There are also CDs and a limited number of hard copies available of the document, which is about 1,000 pages.

Outside of the OHV ban, Hill said some of the other changes would include:

• A 32-mile “scenic touring loop” would allow street-licensed access to most “places of interest,” Hill said.

• There’s another 20 miles of routes for street-licensed vehicles and ATVs near Condone Peak, historically a hunting area.

• The BLM would examine additional areas outside the “asbestos zone” on the northeast and northwest sides to add prospective routes.

• Within the asbestos area, residents would be limited to five days per year of motorized use and 12 days for other uses.

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  • Baboo posted at 9:16 pm on Tue, Apr 2, 2013.

    Baboo Posts: 187

    As usual your to analytical Mr. Marty even though you are correct about a study and real evidence to show damage to the thousands of off roaders that went there before me and the thousands that went there after me. It would have been interesting to see if in fact there is or there ever was a problem with that asbestos. As far as the 30 or so bikers I'm talking about this probable decision is pure BS.

  • Marty_Richman posted at 8:28 pm on Wed, Mar 27, 2013.

    Marty_Richman Posts: 1283

    Baboo, you know the best evidence of a real hazard would be an epidemiological study since we know that there is a population that has had significant exposure to the area for long periods. This would provide an evidenced-based answer. They could do case histories and control for other well-know factors such as age, smoking, and exposure to other sources of asbestos. With respect, one case without a problem - yours - is not enough to draw any conclusions any more than one case of cancer, or the assumptions of the BLM/EPA.

    They know exactly how to do it - one has to wonder why they are not already in the process.

    I assure you I do not want anyone exposed to a hidden hazard, but this natural occurring asbestos, it is a bird of a different color and it is not reasonable to try and draw broad conclusions without actual data. If they are so convinced just show us the real evidence, a statistically significant result of an epidemiological study involving naturally occurring asbestos of this type. If it exists I'll be the first one to fight to keep the area closed - without it all I can assume they are just speculating and using fear as justification.


    Marty Richman

  • Baboo posted at 6:08 pm on Wed, Mar 27, 2013.

    Baboo Posts: 187

    One thing I could never understand about this issue is who are they trying to save here. Are they trying to save the millions that die from smoking because the government says its legal for them to smoke. Or the thousands that die from drinking to much alcohol which is also legal, Or is it from someone dying from taking to many prescribed drugs.Or is it the people dying because they have no healthcare. I grew up going to clearcreek and stirring up all that asbestos and just recently guess what? I passed my last physical with flying colors and I'm 68.All my old buddies who have not died of natural causes also do not have asbestos cancer. Someone is definitly pulling the wool here..

  • Marty_Richman posted at 12:45 pm on Wed, Mar 27, 2013.

    Marty_Richman Posts: 1283

    "Within the asbestos area, residents would be limited to five days per year of motorized use and 12 days for other uses."

    I am not a OHV rider or user, that sentence reveals the problem, because when i asked an 'expert' that BLM brought in the first time, he told me at a public meeting that the weighted average exposure, was no more than a few hours in about 10 years! How can it go from a few hours or even days every 10 years to 5 days a year in a car or motorcycle and 12 days for 'other uses'? It does not even make sense - someone is not telling the whole truth.

    I am not a conspiracy guy, but I do believe that many government agencies and their employees have 'agendas.' (they are human or staffed by humans - right?) The reasons are obvious, if you are employed by BLM, the more land they manage the more likely it is that you will have a job. Then there is the natural power collection and empire building that occurs in every sector, public and private. Finally, there are the true believers, they are like religious fanatics, in this case they are the ones who want to pack all the humans in concrete boxes and have everything else go back to 'nature' with limited visiting privileges for everyone - except them, of course.

    These attributes are very bad when the private sector does it, when the government does it, it's downright dangerous becuase of they have a lot of power.. Just remember it the next time you vote (p.s. I'll let you know if I get a visit form Homeland Security for criticizing the government).

    Marty Richman