A Draft Environmental Impact Statement addressing environmental effects of a proposed land exchange between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians (Tribe) is now available for public review and comment.
Several of the proposed exchange scenarios, including the "Preferred" scenario, would remove sections of "The Palm Canyon Epic" trail from the public ownership. We need everyone to send in comments in support of keeping trails publicly owned, before March 29th. A sample letter that you can cut-and-paste, add your name and personal experience, then send, is below.
Here are some thoughts from Jeff Slepski on the issue. Jeff is one of the people responsible for the legal trails that are in Simpson Park and is on the IVMTB Board.
The Agua Caliente Land Exchange is Really a Big loss for the Public and the Local Environment
The proposed land exchange with the Agua Caliente tribal interests would remove a classic land use area and trail system from the Public owned lands that are presently valued and enjoyed by Southern Californians. This area is a yearly destination for outdoor enthusiasts that appreciate the unique features of a mountain to desert environment with the rare experience of a desert riparian habitat. It has been recognized as an opportunity for people from all demographics to appreciate.
This land has been successfully utilized by diverse groups including hikers, backpackers, equestrian and bicyclists. It has been an area of study and appreciation for natural history enthusiasts. It affords a unique experience of the California geoflora not available to Californians anywhere else in the state. It is known as a “classic” or “epic” adventure that is eagerly looked forward to every year by the public. One has only to go online and do a simple search to see how many people have made this a positive part of the southern California experience.
The truth is that most of the public consider this land use a “success story.” It is an example of where the BLM has “done it right.”
The proposed land swap has the stated purpose “to promote effective and efficient arrangement of the public and Tribal lands by reducing the extent of “checkerboard” land ownership, thereby providing the BLM and the Tribe with more logical and consistent land management responsibility in the Monument.” However, the logic behind the checkerboard land ownership has not been a problem for the public or the BLM.
In fact, the Aqua Caliente’s (checkerboard) land ownership in the area has been incredibly profitable as it exists today.
What if an argument was made that Tribal Lands such as Indian Canyons that is adjacent to the BLM land in question were “swapped” to promote a more logical and consistent management system? The tribal interests would rightfully present a tremendous objection to such a swap and would consider it stealing their land. That is exactly how the public feels about this proposed land deal.
The public has backed and are interested in protecting Tribal interests throughout our region. This has been evident in the prevalent respect of lands owned by Tribal groups by the public and not encroaching or interfering with these lands. The same respect should be shown to the public use of BLM lands. At present, several trails from the national forest enter into this area and would be subject to restricted access either entering or leaving the national forest.
This is not a local tribe issue. This is a federal land use issue.
This decision will last forever so please contact the BLM for public comments ending March 29th.
THE SAMPLE LETTER BELOW NEEDS TO BE SENT TO THE FOLLOWING:
Fax to: (760) 833-7199,
Email to: AguaCalienteExchange@blm.gov
Postal Mail to: National Monument Manager, Bureau of Land Management, 1201 Bird Center Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262
Your Congressman via the webform
The Congressman of Palm Springs Raul Ruiz via webform
County Supervisor of Palm Springs John Benoit via web form
Subject: BLM-Agua Caliente Land Exchange
ear National Monument Manager,
I am a member of the Inland Valley Mountain Bike Association (IVMTB) submitting comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIS) for the proposed land exchange between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians (ACBCI). I support Scenario 1, which would keep all the BLM parcels containing popular trails (T.5S. R.4.E. section 36; T.4S. R.4E. section 16 & 36) as BLM managed land and help reduce the "checkerboard" landownership by consolidating BLM land base. These trails should remain within public ownership to preserve recreation and access, as the ACBCI has historically not allowed mountain bike access on their trails and charges for hiking/equestrian access.
To increase the viability of Scenario 1, the appraisal should consider that the ~2 ACBCI parcels lack infrastructure for traditional (dense high monetary value) suburban development and have similar value as the ~6 BLM parcels proposed for exchange in Scenario 1. All other Scenarios are not in the environments or public's best interest.
The "Palm Canyon Epic" (Palm Canyon-Indian Poterro-Hahn-Cathedral Canyon-Wild Horse-Goat Trails) is nationally regarded as the best long distance desert mountain bike ride in Southern California. I strongly support having the entire trail system under BLM management (including a short rerouting of Indian Poterro to not cross ACBCI land) so that future generations can experience the natural beauty and remoteness of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument on their mountain bikes. Recreation such as mountain biking, hiking, and horse back riding help promote the protection of public lands.