© a Quinn Martin production
Lots of you have been asking what you can do to help. This year's resolution is to affect change on The Angeles and take back OUR forest. I will have an online petition circulating soon. Thanks everybody.

I originally wanted to blog about my adventures in the San Gabriel Mountains. I have some good stories, like the time I took a donkey to Ralph's Supermarket. But then the Station Fire started. I realized that there is much that needs to be brought to the attention of the mountain going public. Most folks are kept in the dark about how the Angeles National Forest operates. I will raise issues that are important to me, which are hopefully important to all citizens, but if you have any suggestions for discussion here, I am willing.

Here's the big agenda: Forest Supervisor Jody Noiron. I've made a few smart remarks and cryptic comments about her. But now, with the backing of some knowledgeable and trusted friends, it is time for a concerted effort to have her removed from her post. Stay tuned for details. And if you have any information you would like to contribute, anonymously or not, email me at gregsweet4@yahoo.com

I will get to some of the stories, sooner or later. Also, I want to make it clear that I no longer work at Adams' Pack Station, that these words are my own, and that the pack station is not the source of my information - they don't want trouble.

Something's Fishy In The Baldy Reservoir

Back in November I reported word that the ski resort at Mt. Baldy had built a reservoir for snow making operations without any environmental studies being done (Reservoir Dogs, 11/21/09: http://sgmountains.blogspot.com/2009/11/reservoir-dogs.html). I am not necessarily holding the resort responsible, because they did this with the permission of the Forest Service, or more fairly, with the permission of the management on the Angeles National Forest - aka Jody Noiron. I also told you about an employee that Jody suspended because she thought this person had spread the word of misconduct, but I will deal with that in my next post.

There is an organization within the Forest Service that makes sure the forest managers across the country uphold their responsibilities. This is the FSEEE - Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics. They were made aware of my report by the Center for Biological Diversity with whom I originally filed a complaint. The FSEEE took the bull by the horns and filed for "FOIA's", that is, documents made public under the Freedom of Information Act. This is the update email that I received on December 18th, 2009 (and I have reasons for holding it back a little)...

"I just received my FOIA request from the Angeles NF regarding the Mt. Baldy reservoir. I'll be looking over it in the next couple of days to try and piece together what went on there. From skimming the documents, it looks like the ski area initially prepared some type of analysis for expansion in the early 80's but could not afford it in the end and so the second reservoir was not built though some land was cleared of brush. Then it looks like in the mid 2000's, they had the money, proceeded with the scoping for the beginning of a NEPA environmental assessment, did a biological assessment, and then something happened and the forest decided to issue a decision memo with the project as a categorical exclusion (specifically Category 3: approval, modification, or continuation of minor special uses of National Forest System lands that require less than five contiguous acres of land). This decision came with some mandates attached regarding reservoir size, the building season, and measures that had to be taken to mitigate or minimize effects to species like big horn sheep. All of that was approved under Marty Dumpis. Then, in fall of 2008, after Marty left his district ranger position, the new district ranger issued an order to the ski resort to cease project construction immediately citing them for violation of several of the decision memo protective measures. There are no documents after this, which is interesting since the reservoir has been constructed and filled, indicating that the forest service did not officially give the go ahead to complete the project. It also looks like the completed reservoir is 3 million gallons larger than was permitted by the decision memo (the completed reservoir has a capacity of 9 million gallons versus the 6 million approved). An interesting question would be whether or not the reservoir is filled to the 9 million capacity or the approved 6 million. The current district ranger (who seems quite concerned with the state of affairs) indicated to me that she visited the reservoir and drew a physical line representing the 6 million mark for which the resort is not allowed to pass. Another thing that I need to look into are issues of water rights. In the initial scoping documents, it looks like the ski resort had obtained water rights from the municipal water board to divert water from underneath the nearby falls and then pump it to the reservoirs. However, that action was dropped from the final decision memo because it was determined to require an environmental analysis. The ski resort also wanted to survey possible wells, and it is unclear whether or not that action got the go ahead or if they would have the water rights.

So this is an update of what I have gleaned from skimming through the documents. Something doesn't add up for me, particularly how they justified skipping from the NEPA process to the categorical exclusion. My colleagues are out for the holidays, but I will be interested in getting their opinions as well."

NEPA is the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. This was enacted as a response to the growing environmentalist population that began to question the practices of entities like the Forest Service that were profitable but disregarded the health of ecosystems. Essentially, as stated in the Forest Service's own documentary, The Greatest Good, it "opened up the decision-making process to The People." When the management of the Angeles National Forest avoids NEPA by taking the easy way, signing a "categorical exclusion", they keep us Citizen Owners out of the loop, and they do not consult with all the scientists that would otherwise need to give the go-ahead. I sometimes get bored and frustrated with the preservationist minutia,  but to address a project by just saying "eh, don't worry about it" is irresponsible and dishonest, at least.

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