From: alra@governance.net
Subject: Deadline Looming On Huge Land Grab In California

Land Rights Network
American Land Rights Association
PO Box 400 – Battle Ground, WA 98604
Phone: 360-687-3087 – Fax: 360-687-2973 – E-mail: alra@landrights.org
Web Address: http://www.landrights.org
Legislative Office: 507 Seward Square SE – Washington, DC 20003
Phone: 202-210-2357 – Fax: 202-543-7126 – E-mail: landrightsnet@aol.com

Deadline Looming On Huge Land Grab In California


Monday, July 7th Deadline.

All that is needed now is a comment period extension.  More will be done later.

By acting quickly, you can save small miner Don Fife and his family from the Forest Service.

No, the Bush Administration has not gotten the Forest Service under control.  The agency is still running roughshod over small business people and local communities.

The Forest Service is trying to destroy Fife and his family and is working to drive them out of the forest and out of business.

The agency is carrying out a mineral withdrawal under the guise of saving endangered weeds and toads.  If this land grab is allowed to go forward by Bush Forest Service officials, billions of dollars in already discovered important minerals will be locked up. 

Lots of small businessmen and whole communities will be economically damaged. 

A few big companies have signed off on the plan because they are being threatened by the Forest Service and they see support for the plan as the only way they can save their own minerals from being locked up.  

In the process, however, they will put out of business lots of other small miners whose total mineral discoveries in limestone and other minerals exceed those of the big companies.  In other words, they are either deliberately or by mistake using the Forest Service to get rid of their competition.  

In the process, huge amounts of wealth and materials will be lost to society as a whole.  These are world-class deposits of limestone.  It can be used to add to tires to reduce the rubber and help save lots of natural resources.  It has many other environment friendly uses.

The Forest Service no longer cares about small businessmen.  In this case, they are trying to crush a long time critic who has had the strength of character to stand up for himself as well as miners everywhere.  It is time for all of us to help pay him back and send the Forest Service a powerful message that we won’t sit by and allow this small miner to be destroyed.

If we let the Forest Service get away with this, no small businessman will be safe from the Forest Service.

Only 30 days were allowed for public comment.  Yet many people on the list to receive copies of the documents from the Forest Service have not received theirs.

The Deadline is Monday, July 7th.  

If you call today, now, there is a good chance to get an extension for the comment period.

We’re also including some background below so if you can submit comments, the information is easily available.

What you should do:

-----1.  Call AND FAX Congressman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) to ask him to request a 90-day extension for the comment period.  Ask him to also request a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the mineral withdrawal.  As of now it is just an Environmental Assessment (EA).  The value of the minerals far exceeds what is appropriate for an EA.  If a Congressman requests an extension to a comment period, it is almost always granted.  Phone:  (202) 225-6861.  Ask for Spencer or Arlene.    FAX (202) 225-6498.   District Office:  (909) 862-6030.   Deluge him with calls Friday and Monday.

-----2.  Call and FAX Mark Rey, Assistant Secretary of Agriculture.  Request a 90 extension to the comment period.  He is the Bush Administration’s top official in dealing with the Forest Service.  Also ask him for a full EIS on the Mineral Withdrawal.  His Phone number is (202) 720-7173.  His FAX number is (202) 720-0632.  Don’t let his phone stop ringing.

-----3.  Call and FAX Craig Manson, the Assistant Secretary of Interior in charge of the Fish and Wildlife Service to request a 90 comment period extension and a full EIS.  Phone:  (202) 208-5347.  FAX:  (202) 208-4684.

Don’t  be looking for the publication in the Federal Register.  Apparently the Forest Service just published it in local papers instead.



The San Bernardino N.F. in southern California is proposing to withdrawal from mineral entry a major portion of the Pacific Southwest's high-grade calcite limestone reserves including millions of tons classified and zoned by the State of California to protect it from incompatible land use or mineral withdrawals. 

This is the major source of calcite limestone (calcium carbonate) for petroleum-conserving filler-extenders that replace resin feed stocks in plastic, paints, rubber, putty, drywall, and other construction materials as well as having chemical and pharmaceuticals uses. Cement is 79% limestone. Each citizen uses 1,000 lbs. per year just to maintain our standard of living. It is also used in water and air pollution control.

Three existing mining companies were pressured into supporting the withdrawal by the USFS promise to exempt their permitted mining operations from the withdrawal. If the EA is approved, they would get a side benefit of the elimination of competition from small companies and individuals who own the greater part of the reserves in the proposed USFS withdrawal area. 

These mineral resources are needed to sustain the economy of the Pacific Southwest over the long term. The Desert Wilderness Act (S-21) that closed 10.6 million acres of the adjoining Mojave Desert has reduced the population of nearby Lucerne Valley by about 25%, or more than 2,000 inhabitants.

Ironically, this withdrawal does nothing to add to the protection of the ESA listed plants. They are already: 1) protected by their ESA listed status, 2) USFS surface regulations 36 CFR 228 subpart A, 3) USF&WS Critical Habitat Designation with a Carbonate Habitat Strategy (CHMS) plan in place. 

The Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Services own Carbonate Habitat Management Strategy Report, Appendix D, dated April 29, 2003 admits that only about 5% (some 1,400 acres) of the 30,000 acres of carbonate habitat will have been disturbed in the next 75 years. About half of this is already disturbed from 50 years of mining. Reclamation will require habitat restoration of any new disturbance.

The deadline for comments on the EA is July 7, 2003. A copy of the EA can be obtained by calling Scott Eliason at the Mountain Top Range Station, Fawnskin, CA (909) 866-3437 his fax is 866-2867. E-mail: seliason@fs.fed.gov. Ask for a 90-day extension, as this is a major federal action impacting the economy and human environment.

Note from important geologist regarding the Mineral Withdrawal in the San Bernadino National Forest.

---1.  Under FLMPA a withdrawal of 5,000 acres or more requires Congressional Approval ------Therefore requires an EIS Major Federal Action.

---2.  Major impact to the human environment---------------When looking at San Bernardino County not much in Social -Economic Impact but when looking at local (Lucerne Valley) it is a major impact.

---3.  EA does not disclose that other methods of protecting the plants was given a proper evaluation:

------A.   listing as endangered gives full protection of the ESA;

------B.  designating the Critical Habitat gives special protection as defined in the ESA and the accompanying Regulations;

------C.  The implementation of the Carbonate Habitat  Management Strategy give the Federal Government additional protection to the plants;    
------D.  The Surface Use Regulations 36 CFR 228 sub-part A require that Plans of operations provide protection to listed plants and animals prior to approval of the Plan of Operations;  and

------E.  The requirement of reclamation in surface disturbing activities was not given proper evaluation to assure that old habitat can be restored to support the plants.

---4.  By the Forests own admission only 5% of the identified habitat will be disturbed with or without the withdrawal.  There fore the withdrawal does nothing to protect the habitat of the plants.

---5.  The EA is flawed in that it does not properly identify the withdrawal process.  It left out the major step of congress.

---6.  The whole process is beneficial to the large mining companies and is detrimental to small mining companies and individuals.  It flies in the face of Federal Policy to support small businesses and individuals.

Letter to Congressman Jerry Lewis from Don Fife:

Subject:	Request for a 90-Day Comment Period Extension and Request for a full 				Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on mineral withdrawal

Dear Representative Lewis,

The above referenced withdrawal encompasses 44,760 acres of highly valuable mineral lands in the San Bernardino National Forest of Southern California.  It constitutes a major federal action that will adversely affect the regional economy and the human environment.

The Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA) requires congressional action for withdrawals of more than 5,000 acres.  The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires the Forest Service to incorporate local and state planning documents in Forest Service planning and land use actions involving minerals. The State Surface Mine Reclamation Act (SMARA) has a provision classifying and identifying economic mineral in order to preclude incompatible land use that would make these resources unavailable to society. The State Mining Board has transmitted these documents to the San Bernardino National Forest.  The Forest Service's EA ignores this requirement, and is locking up millions of tons of valuable minerals.

Many impacted and interested parties did not receive the EA in time to make informed comments. The companion Mineral Report is a 169-page document prepared by Forest Service Geologist Raj Daniel. It was not made available for at least a week after the EA was reportedly published in the San Bernardino Sun on June 2, 2003.

As a mine owner and affected party I have not yet received Mr. Daniel's Mineral Report even through I am on the distribution list and have specifically requested the report.  Others who have wanted to comment have not received it, or have received a defective CD of the Mineral Report from which they could not print 

At least one party received his CD of the Mineral Report only last week.

I hereby request a 90-day extension for comments, and also the preparation of an EIS as required by NEPA.  This extension is needed in order to allow germane and intelligent comments on the Environment Assessment


Donald L. Fife

Proposed 44,570-acre Weed and Toad Sanctuary: An Economic Disaster

San Bernardino Mountains, Southern CA…  San Bernardino Forest Supervisor Gene Zimmerman’s Requested Withdrawal Area1 (RWA) to create a “Refugia” of more than 44,570 acres in the northern San Bernardino Mountains is well under way with the publication of a 30-day notice on June 2, 2003 of an Environmental Assessment  (EA) or negative impact statement.  This region is already protected under existing Forest Service regulations and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFS) Critical Habitat Designation.

Impact on listed species
Upon approval this Request would allow restriction of access to virtually twice the 44,570 acres with the inclusion of adjacent BLM lands.  Much of Johnson Valley has already been closed in the Bighorn Mountain Wilderness by the Feinstein/Boxer (S-21) Desert “Closure” Act of 1994.  

The E.A alleges that mining and public access must be stopped to save listed endangered toads (the Arroyo toad) and weeds, including the allegedly limestone endemic plants that “only” grow in the San Bernardino Mountains.  There are no peer-reviewed scientific papers supporting these plants as either limestone endemic or unique to the San Bernardino Mountains.  However, there is evidence that these plants are not limestone endemic and that both they and the toad have a wide distribution well outside the San Bernardino Mountains.

Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens has grown the two most prominent of the listed plants, oval leaf buckwheat and Parish’s daisy in sandstone, potting mix and decomposed granite as well as weathered limestone.  It appears that they require only a granular, well-drained soil.  Botanists planted these two weeds on a fresh road cut in granite more than 10 years ago; they are currently thriving and have expanded in this granite habitat.

These plants are invader species that require open space, disturbed soils and/or wildland fire for habitat expansion.  We usually refer to these as weeds.  Birds spread the seeds up and down the western flyways between Canada and Mexico.  The SBNF botanists have only looked at the 30,000 acres of the National Forest underlain by limestone or carbonate rock. 

A real scientific study would require examining the remaining 790,000 acres of the SBNF underlain primarily by granite or granite-derived rocks.  There are little or no known mineral resources in the remaining 790,000 acres.  How convenient to have a plant or animal that only grows on valuable mineral resources.

The real reason for withdrawal
This closure isn’t just about expelling mining from the region; it is about closing roads and public access.  The Wildlands Project (see www.unesco.org/mab/mabicc/1996/implemt.htm and www.sovereignty.net) identifies much of this area as a human exclusion zone.  This is one of the hidden agendas behind these closures. Had it been known that the entire California Desert was placed in a UN Man and the Biosphere Zone (MAB) in 1974,2 S-21 the Feinstein/Boxer Desert “Closure” Act might well have been defeated.

Since 1860 much of Holcomb Valley has been disturbed by thousands of miners, loggers, ranchers and Boy Scouts.  A recently published study by Brown (1994) debunks the alleged threat from limestone mining, documenting that only 5% of the 30,000-acre limestone terrain will be disturbed in the next 75 years.3  Under current reclamation laws, these 1500 acres will be restored to productive habitat.

The proposed 25-acre “playground” for mineral collectors in Holcomb Valley is an insult.  Why would any claimholder give up his rights to a 20-acre mineral-bearing claim just to play in a sandbox with no exclusive privileges?  Why would any small miner/prospector give up his rights to explore with his family in a National Forest and allow himself to be restricted to this 25-acre sandbox?

Economic Impact 
By virtue of its size alone, the proposed action is a major Federal Action that requires an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  The economic impact of withdrawing millions of tons of high quality limestone and calcium carbonate from mineral entry and production would result in significant socioeconomic impact to the area of concern.  This impact will occur through the loss of both new and existing jobs for the citizens of San Bernardino County.  Existing mines will be allowed to deplete their current reserves, and then the local mining industry will die a slow death.

The proposed action would significantly reduce the tax base of San Bernardino County.  The economic and social impacts will be felt beyond San Bernardino County.  

The trucking companies that haul the limestone products from the mines to the processing plants and beyond will feel the impact of the reduced production that would result from the implementation of this action.  

The drivers of these trucks and their families will feel the impact of the proposed action.  

The wholesalers of the limestone products would lose this domestic source of product, and would have to add increased transportation costs into their pricing. Each citizen consumes of 1,000 pounds of high-grade limestone per year to maintain our standard of living.

The builders and manufacturers in southern California would experience increased costs of materials as a result of this proposed action, requiring price increases reflected in the cost of services and leaving less to support current jobs.

Violation of SMARA and FLPMA
This withdrawal is a clear violation of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in that it ignores the requirement to implement state mineral zoning under the state Surface Mine and Reclamation Act (SMARA). 

The state has classified and zoned mineral deposits in the proposed closure area as important economic deposits to preclude them from incompatible land use that would exclude mining.  The proposed action is requires congressional approval and is substantial and has far-reaching effects on the human environment, thus requiring an EIS under NEPA. 

The BLM is working with the SBNF to make the closure even bigger…it may wind up being a defacto 160,000-acre closure with the BLM lands included.  Under the Federal Land Management Policy Act (FLPMA), any withdrawal of more than 5,000 acres must be approved by Congress.

Human Exclusion
RS-2477 was part of the 1866 mining law.  If they get rid of prospectors and mining claims, they can close the roads.  

Something the SBNF doesn’t want us to know is that most if not all the withdrawal on the north side of the San Bernardino Mountains inside the SBNF didn’t become part of the San Bernardino National Forest until President Calvin Coolidge made it so in 1925 by an executive order.  This means that the basic RS-2477 road network existed in this area before it became a National Forest in 1925 and cannot be closed.

We urge San Bernardino County Supervisors Postmus and Hansberger, whose districts are affected, to continue to claim RS-2477 rights-of-way (www.rs2477.com) in the areas of USFS and BLM closure areas. The County of San Bernardino also must oppose not only this but also any future USFS and BLM land and RS-2477 closures.  

Because of the Feinstein/Boxer Desert Wilderness Bill’s restriction of mining and OHV use in the California desert, the population has dropped by almost 2,000 persons in Lucerne Valley alone5; this represents a loss of ¼ to1/3 of the town’s population.  The SBNF/BLM’s proposed closure would have even more adverse impact on the larger community.

We don’t need this protection
This closure and withdrawal wouldn’t be needed even if the plants and toads were truly endangered, because overlaying this area is an “official critical habitat” to “protect” this toad and alleged limestone or carbonate endemic vegetation4.  Reading between the lines, it appears that even if all the listed plants or animals were delisted, we would be stuck with a “Refugia,” or defacto national park, or a USFS Scenic Area similar to the one Zimmerman helped to create in the Mt. Hood National Forest along the Columbia Gorge in Oregon and Washington (see Ron Arnold’s “Trashing the Economy” p. 218).

$92,000,000 taken out of the economy
A SBNF plan, approved several years ago, brags about USFS generating about $8,000,000 (eight million dollars) per year to the local economy.  However, it fails to consider that limestone mining in the SBNF generates on the order of $300,000,000 (three hundred million dollars) per year to that same local economy.  For each mining job, 27 “downstream” jobs are created in the local economy.  With these jobs, there is more than $1,000,000,000 (one billion dollars) per year added to the regional economy.  

At a time when California is carrying a deficit of some $38,000,000,000 (thirty-eight billion dollars), taking these jobs as well as the corporate tax income from the economy just doesn’t make sense.  

We recommend the NO-ACTION ALTERNATIVE outlined in the RWA.  

Don Fife (714) 544-8406
       Fax: (714) 731-3745

(Type Don Fife on www.google.com)

1. A copy of Zimmerman’s EA for this RWA can be obtained by calling the SBNF Mountain Top Ranger Station in Fawnskin (909) 866-3437.  Wildland Conservation Biologist/Botanist Scott Eliason is in charge of the closure.

2 This document is available at Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks.

3.  SBNF’s Carbonate Habitat Management Strategy (CHMS), Appendix D, April 29, 2003 admits there is no threat from mining and confirms Brown’s 1994 figures.

4.	Ernie Gommel, Lucerne Valley Chamber of Commerce

5 See Mr. Fife’s article, “Law Gone Loco” posted at http://www.prfamerica.org/DonFifeIndex.html and also published in the Lucerne Valley Leader. 

Donald L. Fife
10500 Christenson Road
LucerneValley, California 92356                                       (760) 248-6583 (714) 544-8406
 e-mail: donfife@earthlink.net


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