A CAUTION about TONIGHT's BLM meeting in Independence...

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Posted by Last Chance Rand on May 15, 2003 at 14:33:15:

If you are planning to attend the important BLM meeting tonight in Independence, you should be forewarned: there will be NO question and answer session at the meeting. If you had planned to attend to obtain formal answers to your questions, you too will be left with your arm in the air, as I was at the scoping meeing in Ridgecrest on Tuesday night.

These meeting were billed in the Federal Register as a public scoping meetings for an upcoming route closure proposal in the BLM's Northern & Eastern Mojave region (NEMO). Much of Death Valley's surrounding BLM lands are included in this review, such as Panamint Valley, southern Inyo Mountains, Mojave River & East Mojave, and eastern White Mountains. The participating BLM field offices are Ridgecrest, Barstow and Needles.

In all of my BLM public meetings I've never seen such a bullying attitude toward the public, especially when contrasted with the highly inclusive West Mojave (WEMO) route designation process that is also occurring at this time.

Sadly, I found this to be the very first BLM public meeting that was genuinely and truly a waste of my time (and of 180 miles of precious gasoline!). At every other meeting, although I've left as frustrated as everyone else, at least I've found that I've learned something or gained some insight. The presentations at this meeting, however, covered nothing more than their few pages of handouts, which could have easily been made available on their website.

Rather than take public comments, they adjourned the meeting into small groups around three tables of ancient route maps from 1985 & 1987. Note that these will not be distributed to the public, as they were with WEMO process, so the public will have no realistic opportunity to field check them for accuracy. We know from experience that the 1985/87 maps are fantasy compared to what is really on the ground today -- I can attest to that, having served on WEMO's route survey team.

Just by glancing at the maps, the experienced backcountry traveler can see many holes in the route network, but, again, the public will not be provided copies of the maps. BLM staff claims that they just received them and that there was not time to make PDF's for the public. After all, they've only had since 1985/1987 to do so...

Why were those who attended treated with such gross disrespect? We have our guesses. One such guess is to deny the usual special interest group mouth pieces their soapbox, but they were not present -- just the regular folk were there. Maybe interest group leaders were tipped off that they'd not be given an opportunity to speak?

If you plan to attend tonight's meeting, I urge you to walk out after the meeting leaders deny you the opportunity to speak. I promise that you won't learn or contribute anything by staying, but you may make an important statement by leaving, particularly if others follow. I wish I had done so on Tuesday.

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