Article- BLM to Analyse Public Comments From Dunes Plan

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Jerry Seaver
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Article- BLM to Analyse Public Comments From Dunes Plan

Post by Jerry Seaver » Tue Dec 04, 2012 8:33 am

FEE INCREASES PROPOSED

BLM to analyse public comments from dunes plan

BY JULIO MORALES

Staff Writer, Copy Editor

The public comment pe­riod having ended Friday for the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area draft business plan, the Bureau of Land Manage­ment nonetheless acknowl­edged a desire to continue to hear from the public.

The proposed business plan is calling for a permit and vendor fee increase for the 2013-2014 dunes season, with season visitor permits doubling in price from $90 to $180, weekly permits rising $25 to $40.

Vendor fees would also go from having three price structures in place corre­sponding to the weekend, midweek or a major holi­day, to a flat rate for short­and long-term vending.

The bureau signaled that its next move would be to analyze the 236 comments that the agency had re­ceived via email, as well as the dozen or so made during a Desert Advisory Council meeting Saturday.

“We have some work ahead of us,” said DAC Dis­trict Manager Teri Rami.

The need for further di­alogue among stakehold­ers was also expressed by Rami, who noted she was able to detect an “under­current of dissatisfaction” from the public Saturday’.

The public had 45 days to comment on the draft plan, an increase from the 30-day time period origi­nally suggested by the bu­reau upon the draft plan’s October release. The bu­reau has been operating the dunes area under a $1 million deficit for the past three years, said El Centro field office manager Mar­garet Goodro.

The amount of funding the El Centro field office has seen from federal, state and the off-highway vehicle green sticker pro­gram has seen reductions over the past several years The proposed fee in­creases would secure some $3.6 million in funding for the ISDRA, considerably more than the $2.5 million it currently operates under, the draft plan stated.

The possibility of a stag­gered fee increase may be taken into consideration, Goodro said. Yet the amount of services pro­vided would correspond with the amount of rev­enue generated by such a staggered fee structure.

“We can’t keep incurring a deficit,” she said.

Critics of the draft plan have called for a clearer accounting of the manner in which the BLM is spending current funds. They also openly ques­tioned the data that the BLM uses as the justifi­cation for a fee increase.

John Stewart, of the Cal­ifornia Association of 4-Wheel Drive Clubs, said the business plan lacked “clarity of purpose and a clear def­inition of expectations.”

Noting the professional and personal respect that he had for local BLM per­sonnel, Lloyd Misner said concerns with the draft plan remained.

“It hasn’t been presented with enough data to justify (the fee increase), Misner, a member of the Orange County ATV Association, said.

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