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Supervisors back letter, resolution changes in bid to make national forests more responsive to local issues

While requesting a 45-day extension on the federal over-snow vehicle use draft plan environmental review, the chair of the Plumas County Coordinating Council (PCCC) and Board of Supervisors also expressed their displeasure that no personnel from the Plumas, Tahoe or Lassen National Forests attended a long-scheduled PCCC meeting.

Plumas National Forest officials didn’t attend a PCCC meeting Feb. 28, but did send management to an open house Feb. 26, it was learned following the March 19 Board of Supervisors meeting.

These concerns are the subject of a resolution revision and a letter by Supervisors and PCCC chair. Concerns expressed in both documents focus on Forest Service officials not attending the meeting and not sending high-ranking forest officials to the open house.

Bob Perreault, chair of the PCCC, was before supervisors Tuesday, March 19, stating, “It is noted that not a single Forest Service upper management official was present at the open house from the Plumas National Forest.”

Perreault is also director of the Plumas County Department of Public Works. Public Works Deputy Director Joe Blackwell attended the open house with Perreault.

Although three of five PNF district rangers, Matt Jedra, Micki Smith and Dave Brillenz, and project leaders Emily Moghaddas, Gretchen Jehle and Lee Anne Schramel all attended the open house.

“They are actually the ones who have the finger on the pulse,” of the projects and can best communicate with the public, said PNF Deputy Forest Supervisor Barbara Drake, commenting on the concerns following the Board of Supervisors’ meeting.

Drake said that the open house was “styled by design” to allow the people who do the work to represent PNF. Sending the top forest management is “not always the best way to handle this,” she said.

At the time Drake commented on the PCCC and Board of Supervisors’ actions, she had not seen the revised resolution or the letter.

As far as attending the scheduled PCCC meeting, Drake said she hadn’t had a day off since spring 2018. With normal workflow as then acting forest supervisor, then November’s Camp Fire in Paradise, followed by the federal government shutdown, she was busy. During the shutdown, as acting forest supervisor, she was at work every day.

Drake said that come late February it was time to take a vacation. “I hope it doesn’t send a message that we’re disengaged,” she said about the PCCC board’s and supervisors’ reactions.

Purpose of the PCCC

The PCCC was established more than 10 years ago. Its purpose is to coordinate plans, policies and priorities of Plumas County with those of federal and state agencies. The plans and polices of the Forest Service are of particular interest.

Tahoe and Lassen national forests are included in PCCC plans as projects include public lands from those forests that reach Plumas County.

At the Feb. 28 PCCC meeting, the council directed Perreault to bring the situation to supervisors’ attention. It was also at that meeting that the council directed him to request PNF officials provide an additional 45 days to respond to what’s known as the PNF-OSV-DEIS. The deadline was originally March 2.

Perreault was also directed by the council “to establish Plumas County standing for Plumas County in the matter,” he said in explanation to supervisors.

During the Feb. 28 meeting, Perreault indicated that the council also reviewed Resolution No. 08-7514, especially regarding membership. The council’s goal is for enhanced representation of the PCCC.

Open house

The open house — an on-again off-again event due initially to the Camp Fire last year, and then the federal shutdown earlier this year — was intended to acquaint the public with draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the designation of over-snow vehicle (OSV) use. This is part of the Forest Service’s Travel Management Rule and a settlement agreement with the Snowlands Network.

Letter

In the draft letter, Perreault included acting forest supervisors Jerry Bird from PNF, Chris Christofferson from LNF and Eli Ilano, forest supervisor from TNF.

Perreault pointed out that representatives from the Lassen, Tahoe and Plumas National Forests participated in the selection of the Feb. 28 open house date. This date was chosen in early November 2018.

The PCCC also directed Perreault to write a letter to the three national forest supervisors from the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisors approved the letter submitted by Perreault.

Supervisor Lori Simpson said the letter should go well above the heads of forest supervisors on the three forests that have land in Plumas County. She said they needed to go to forest supervisors’ bosses.

Perreault was encouraged to include legislators in the letter.

In his letter Perreault stated that government managers “are often reluctant to take responsive action, fearing that it might damage aspects of the governmental relationship between the parties by being construed as being too aggressive or intrusive, leading to further demotivation of the relationship.”

Perreault went on to state that government “trust is already damaged” and “to restore that trust would take significant effort and commitment.”

“Unfortunately, the foregoing aptly describes the current state of affairs between the county of Plumas and the three national forests …,” Perreault wrote.

He went on to state that county officials involved in the Plumas County coordination process “are genuinely disappointed in the non-coordinating behavior” of full or acting forest supervisors involved in the OSV process.

“The current status of implementation of Subpart C of the Travel Management Rule by all three national forests could not be more illuminating of the negative, unexpected consequences that surface when national forests fail to coordinate with Plumas County,” Perreault wrote on behalf of PCCC.

While Perreault stated Deputy Forest Supervisor Barbara Drake didn’t attend the meeting or the open house, he also pointed out that the PNF Project Leader Katherine Carpenter was not there.

Perreault ultimately called for the three national forests to embrace the county resolution “individually and collectively, as the lawful duty of the national forest to genuinely assist the county in the implementation of coordination between the parties.”

PCCC meeting

Perreault included the minutes of the Feb. 28 PCCC meeting with his material to supervisors.

According to the minutes, PCCC member Mike Price said there were no introductions and no agenda at the open house. Participants were encouraged to walk around the room and review maps of anticipated forest OVS changes. Price said that when someone asked a question of those PNF employees present, they were directed to make their comments or objections in writing during the draft comment period that ended the night of March 1.

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