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Rollback to slash-and-burn pine nut forest "management"?

Goods From The Woods
14125 Hwy C.
Licking Mo.
Robert Abbey                                          December 9, 2003
State Director,
 P.O. Box 12000, Reno
Attention: Brenda Williams
1620 L Street, N.W., Suite 1075
Washington, D.C. 20036
Fax: (202) 452-5112
Facsimile  & US Mail, certified with exhibits
Re: Formal Protest

The Proposed Fire Elko/Wells Management RMP Amendment

Dear Ms. Williams and State Director Abbey:

    I am writing on behalf of my company, our family, clients and others who work with pine nuts harvested from BLM lands in Nevada  including persons and business, who have inquired about Nevada pine nuts, p.monophylla from our company, but who have been unable to purchase, due to the availability of these nuts.   The reasons for the Protest are set forth below.


    By letters dated  a November 20, 2002, I submitted comments to the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) identifying defects in the Proposed Fire Management Plan. I am enclosing that letter as exhibit 1 and incorporate it by reference.

     This is a plan which impacts 7.5 million acres of public lands.  It has highly significant impacts upon the human environment and upon many pinyon dependant species. Many of those species have been identified as “sensitive” by the BLM. While the FONSI notes 3 species of fish inhabiting the region, a quick cross reference between the District Species List, (A6-1),Species of Concern (A-3) and the SOPs (A2-1) are inconstant with the BLM sensitive species list. Many of the sensitive species are from the BLM list (exhibit 2) are found in the plan region, but not listed in other sections of the document.  It is also interesting to note, the District Species List contains no reptiles or amphibians.  This failure to completely consider the ramification of large scale vegetative treatments is indicative of BLM land use policy making..
    For example,there are a multitude of species in the plan area listed as sensitive, including the pinyon jay.  BLM regulations require plans to “ ensure that actions authorized, funded, or carried out do not contribute to the need for the species to become listed”. The Sensitive Species designation is normally used for species that occur on Bureau administered lands for which BLM has the capability to significantly affect the conservation status of the species through management.  Each species of bat in the plan’s inventory(A6-1) is listed as sensitive and afford habitat protection.  These bats eat the inspects which infest pinyon trees. Hence, the well being of bat species is highly significant to pinyon system health. Yet, in the rush to create more range, the full scope of action consequences on 7.5 million acres of public land are haphazard at best.

    The plan fails to use fuel reduction methods, which are scientifically acceptable and employs massive vegetative conversions that significantly affect the human environment, together with a complete failure to assess the cumulative impact, including the impact of pinyon die offs in Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico, together with any sort of accounting of land treatment project in the region and impact those treatments have had upon the entire eco-system, see exhibit 1. The Finding of No Significant Impact is absolutely ludicrous.

FLMPA Violations

     The biggest flaw – and one that infects land management policy throughout Nevada– is the continued  failure to manage a significant resource as obligate pursuant to FLMPA. Federal Land Policy and Management Act 1976 (FLPMA), 43 U.S.C. secs. 1701-1784, the Nevada BLM  must manage its lands under principles of multiple use and sustained yield in accordance with land use plans developed by the agency, 43 U.S.C. sec. 1701(a)(7), 1732(a).
     BLM has failed to inventory its lands and develop land use plans, that among other things: reflect the principles of multiple use and sustained yield; take a multi disciplinary approach involving physical, biological, economical, and other sciences; consider present and future uses; 43 U.S.C. sec. 1712(c).  "The Congress declares that it is the policy of the United States that... (8) the public lands be managed in a manner that will protect the quality of scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resource, and archeological values; that, where appropriate, will preserve and protect certain public lands in the natural condition; that will provide food and habitat for fish and wildlife and domestic animals; and that will provide for outdoor recreation and human occupancy and use." (43 U.S.C. § 1701(a)(8)).
     I have an extensive file of  correspondence with various districts of the Nevada BLM about pine nut production, pinyon life cycles, under valuation of the resource, failure to monitor harvests, pine nut dependant wild life species, changed conditions in the Southwest, and complete documentation of market data for pine nut imports by the United States.  There has never been a response by any Nevada BLM district, which addressed management of pinyon pine nuts.  This clearly demonstrates of the continuing pattern of negligence and a failure to perform duties mandated by Congress. While this letter is in reference to a particular plan, the issues of multiple use and sustained yield, should be addressed on a national level. This plan, together with underlying plan documents represent a continued violation of Federal law. See exhibit 1, description of pinyon fire dynamics, incorporate by reference into this document.
      Until such a time as all Nevada BLM districts have developed a comprehensive   of the pine nut inventory of seed producing pine nut trees (160 to 200 years of age),  a plan for sustainable harvest of pinyon pine nuts, together with a with monitoring of the resource and those who commercially harvest the food,  and developed a plan to manage such stands for the harvest of pine nuts and all the species which depend upon them. FLMPA,  responsibilities have not been met and the entire district is in violation of Federal Law. One may look to the USFS data plant data base for guidance in examining FLMPA criteria for pinyon, specifically,  p.monophylla,  “Multi-resource management of pinyon-juniper woodlands for sustained production of a variety of products including tree products,(emphases added) forage for livestock, habitat for wildlife species, watershed protection, recreation, and archeological values.” I respectfully request the BLM to immediate begin developing a multi-use resource plan for pinyon, p.monophylla.
     It is especially important to note the number of wild life which are pinyon nut dependant. For example the pinyon jay, (see, exhibit2). Collectively. 70 species are known to breed in these  woodlands. All raptores eat mice, which depend upon the pinyon nuts as a primary food source, yet no where in planning documents have I seen consideration for the wildlife’s dependance upon pinyon nuts as a food source, together with the number of seed producing trees in treatment areas. Additionally, bat species control inspect populations and one must consider the reduced number of  bats in the district as a factor in impacting the beetle populations, which are infesting pinyon. In short, there has been a complete failure in recognizing cumulative impact of vegetation conversion projects, and the disruption of the environmental systems as a result of land use patterns in the region. Over the last 40 years been untold deforested for mono-culture grazing has occured. There is no cumulative accounting of vegetative conversion projects, or land treatments for the Nevada. It is impossible to gauge cumulative impact making rational decision about the factors impacting system health, fire and other  until such a record can be established and compared to fire history in the region.
     Pinyon create shade, reduce soil temperature and hold moisture close to the earth and are critical to the overall moisture in the region.  How have massive fuel reduction treatments and vegetative conversions contributed to the drought in the Southwestern United States?  I have heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, while expecting different results. In the case of American Public Lands in the South West, we need to do things differently.  It is important to work with the natural sustainable systems in place, rather than to continue to deplete the resources and the systems which renew them.  In the Great Basin, pinyon pine nuts represent a highly productive, sustainable land use, which despite a multitude of correspondence, decades of research and a mass of market data has been completely unmanaged by the Nevada BLM.
FLMPA and FONSI - Impact to Human Environment
     Management of woodlands for nut production will yield 100 times more income than will management for livestock forage.”   United States Forest Service Plant Data base, URL  In further support of this statement, and the with the true hope someone will read the material, I am enclosing exhibits #4-9  publications addressing the economic  potential for public revenues from pine nuts harvested upon public lands.  As a vender of pinyon pine nuts (exclusively, p.monophylla, harvested from BLM lands), I speak with expertise about the market and the demand for the woodland product. This year many Nevada residents called and asked, “Why can’t I find Nevada pine nuts in the stores here?” I tell them, “because the people in New Mexico discovered how good the Nevada nuts are and are willing to pay a great deal of money for them.” The New Mexico pinyon pine nut market is huge and because of the edulis crises, (see exhibit #1) people there are willing to spend a great deal of money for Nevada pine nuts.  Street venders in New Mexico are currently selling Nevada pine nuts on roadsides for in excess of $20.00 per pound.  Over the internet, Nevada pine nuts are being sold from $12.00 - $15.00 per pound. The value of these nuts spreads far beyond the boarders of the Nevada.  Yet, the Nevada BLM fails to even monitor the production or harvest of the nuts and has no clue of the value of the resource that is being squandering in deforesting pinyon under the fallacious reasoning of fuels reduction.  
Failure to Apply Acceptable Science

    What this protesting party finds especially frustrating is that plan fails deals honestly with the scientific data surrounding fire issues in Nevada, fails to account for how previous land treatments and uses are impacting system health, and ignores science, which had developed over decades about the pinyon systems. In support of this statement, I am enclosing and   a sampling of scientific research discussing the mono-use of public lands for grazing, and the determent to the land from this land use philosophy.  See, exhibits 4-9.
     BLM managers in Nevada understand the root of the fire crises in that state. “ We found that a fire cycle had developed, referred to in recent science reports as the ‘cheatgrass-wildfire cycle.’ This problem is acute in Nevada, where the cycle of fire disturbance has spurred the invasive cheat grass to alter range and wildlife habitats." Statement of Robert V. Abbey, State Director, Nevada Bureau of Land Management Before the United States Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Concerning Nevada Wildlife Conservation Initiatives April 10, 2001.  The plan itself notes the nitrogen absorbed by cheatgrass and its potential to  create a nitrogen based firestorm,( page 3-17 ). Yet, the plan fails to address this primary hazardous fuel, while proposing to treating the live, green, moisture retaining trees of the Great Basin pinyon pine trees. The proposed treatments of  pinyon   actually enhances the risk of the risk from hazardous fuels in Nevada. Fuels reduction targeting pinyon, a fire resistant species (see exhibit #1),furthers cheatgrass infestation and perpetuates hazardous fuels.
    It is possible for the Nevada BLM to enhance trees for pine nut production, while fire proofing pinyon trees, through removing the lower limbs of the trees in regions where cheatgrass and other invasive plants ajoin pinyon ranges. Native Americans groomed pinyon trees, removing these lower limbs and increased pine nut production and coning.  This alternative was never considered as a means of reducing fires.     

 A full EIS must be prepared for the proposed treatment, including a comprehensive accounting for land treatments from 1972 to date for the entire State of Nevada and a problematic assessment for the pinyon woodlands across the Western United States.  The plan impacts 7.5 million acres of public lands is completely inadequate. A the large number of environments effects of the broad array of actions that are proposed in this document. All direct, indirect and cumulative impacts must be assessed. Regardless, of changes to procedures in the National Environmental Policy Act, the Nevada BLM must comply with FLMPA, and the issues raised must be addressed under that legislation.
    The plan fails to provide current and basic information on the soils, watersheds, native vegetation, wildlife habitats and populations, recreational uses, and other important values of the affected lands. Basic information on ecological condition/seral status of vegetation is not examined. Such information is necessary to ensure protection of values under the Federal Lands Management Act..


Penny Frazier
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