Newsletter

Issue 29 - Summer 2000

Contents:

TIMBISHA BILL GOES TO CONGRESS!

Last summer we asked you to write to the Superintendent of Death Valley National Park, expressing your concern about proposed legislation that could severely impact our freedom to continue to enjoy the Saline Valley Warm Springs. Now we must ask you to take up pen and paper and express your concerns once again.

The Legislative Environmental Impact Statement (LEIS) on the Timbisha Shoshone Tribal Homeland Report was officially issued on May 12, 2000. Thanks in large part to the many comment letters written by SPA members, the Timbisha Homeland Proposal was supposed to require a full Environmental Impact Statement. This did not happen because the sponsoring agencies found a way around the requirement for an EIS -- namely, a Legislative Environmental Impact Statement (LEIS). The LEIS bypasses many of the safeguards provided in an EIS. The only impact the LEIS is actually required to evaluate is the impact of transferring the lands from one government agency to another, in trust for the Timbisha -- not the implied development plans!

The LEIS may be viewed online at: http://www3.iwvisp.com/blm/report/ or you may request a real copy from Death Valley National Park by contacting Joanne DeGraff at (760) 255-8830. Be sure to specifically request Volume 1 and Volume 2.

 

"Co-Management" Concept Inappropriate for National Park

We are concerned about the concept of superimposing an "Indian reservation" on a National Park. The LEIS recommends the creation of a Natural and Cultural Preservation Area (NCPA) comprising an estimated 1.5 million acres -- nearly half of Death Valley National Park -- in which the Timbisha may enter into cooperative agreements with NPS to co-manage resources in specific areas. Neither the LEIS nor the pending Congressional legislation provides any safeguards to protect continuing public access to these areas. Saline Valley Warm Springs is one of the areas that is proposed for co-management under the pending legislation.

 

LEIS Drafters Didn’t Do Their Homework!

Within the LEIS there are many discrepancies, contradictions, and false or undocumented assertions. Much of the environmental evaluation is ill-informed, incomplete and based on bad science. The maps provided in the report are vague and do not reveal the reality of the territory proposed for "co-management" by the Timbisha.

 

Public Comments Ignored

At recent public meetings to gather comments regarding the LEIS, Park officials conceded that many of the letters of concern written by members of SPA and the general public were not included in documentation for the LEIS since they did not address the issue of the land transfer. In fact, none of the members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee who reviewed the Homeland Proposal saw ANY of the letters written by a concerned public. In the words of Senator Inouye’s aide (the senator sponsoring the legislation), the Indian Affairs Committee didn’t have time to read all the public comments, and it was a "judgment call" on the part of the Department of the Interior as to what comments deserved their attention.

 

Please Write NOW!

We need your help NOW to write a letter opposing Senate Bill S.2012, which is making its way through Congress.

It is important at this time to write letters focusing on deficiencies in the LEIS. Letters espousing the Saline Valley lifestyle, or expressing sentiments such as, "We love it; leave it alone," are not likely to receive the consideration we would hope for. To help you frame an effective comment letter, we have included several points you may consider mentioning. A more comprehensive discussion and list may be found at the SPA website at http://www.majorproduction.net/roadmisery.

 

HERE'S WHAT YOU CAN DO:

 

WRITE A COMMENT LETTER TO DICK MARTIN,

Dick Martin, Superitenndent,
Death Valley National Park
PO. Box 579
Death Valley, CA 92328

WITH COPIES TO YOUR SENATORS AND YOUR REPRESENTATIVE. The letter to Dick Martin is required as part of the comment process. The important thing is to be sure to send copies to your U.S. senators and your Congressional Representative. You can locate your Representative and Senators:

-- on line at http://congress.org/

-- from SPA's Senate directory listing (courtesy of Sonja)

-- in your telephone white pages under "Government Listings – U.S. Government Offices – Congress."

If necessary, you may send extra copies of your letter to SPA and ask us to forward your comments to your Congressional representatives.

Please be sure to:

(a) Indicate to whom you are sending copies at the end of the letter (cc:).

(b) Include your complete home address on your letter, so that your legislators will know that you are a constituent. (This is an important requirement for your letters to carry weight.)

(c) Send a copy to SPA so that we can track the disposition of your comments.

(d) If you send an e-mail, send a copy to SPA and show your address. We can also forward your comments along to over 60 members of Congress who sit on committees who have reviewed the Homeland Proposal.

(e) Send a cover letter to your legislator(s), indicating why you are sending them a copy of your letter. (For a sample cover letter, see sidebar.)

 

YOUR LETTER SHOULD INCLUDE SOME IF NOT ALL OF THE BELOW TOPICS:

1) REQUEST AN EXTENSION of the comment period beyond the current deadline of July 22, 2000. This will give us more time to mobilize our political action. Reasons for this request:

It will take time to compare the many false, conflicting, and ambiguous statements in the LEIS Vol. 1 with documentation in Vol. 2, and to check the claims against independent sources. You may want to use our spreadsheet as a reference.

Also, the public was not notified in a timely and consistent manner: Volume 1 of the LEIS was mailed to some of the people on the distribution list, but Volume 2, which contains the documentation of the claims made in Vol. 1, was not routinely mailed. The LEIS was supposed to be available in public libraries in the affected communities, but it is not in many of these libraries. The LEIS was not posted on line in a timely manner. Many interested people were not notified of the public meetings held the week of June 12.

 

2. The LEIS is geographically inaccurate. Geographic areas are inaccurately or vaguely described, or their location is not identified at all, as in the case of the "Indian Rancheria." The Tribe proposes to purchase two privately owned parcels in Saline Valley designated as the "Indian Rancheria." The LEIS states that the Timbishas’ long-standing (but undocumented) occupation of the "Rancheria" is "proof" of the Tribe’s interest in the Springs, which are in fact almost ten miles away, as the crow flies. The owners of the parcels in question were not contacted during the writing of the LEIS. The owner of one of the parcels, Marilyn Moyer, is NOT willing to sell her parcel, and we have reason to believe the other owners are not willing to sell either.

The LEIS claims that 750,000 acres were oringinally considered for designation as the Natural and Cultural Preservation Area, but a more accurate estimate, verified by the local BLM office, is closer to 1.5 million acres.

Members of Congress will not be aware of these inaccuracies, but those of us familiar with the areas in question know how deceptive the geographic descriptions are.

 

3. The LEIS Contains Conflicting Statements. For example:

p. 14 INDIAN RANCHERIA [Saline Valley, near Hunter Canyon]:

"The level of use is envisioned to be residential at approximately the same level that has existed in the past. In addition there may be a small joint NPS/Tribal office for visitor information and resource management for the Saline Valley portion of the Park."

p. 93 INDIAN RANCHERIA:

" Limited economic activities are anticipated at the Rancheria parcels."

p. 95 INDIAN RANCHERIA:

"Specific land uses are not identified for the Indian Rancheria parcels."

p. 97 INDIAN RANCHERIA:

"No specific development is anticipated at the Indian Rancheria."

4. Historical Claims Are Poorly Documented. The Timbisha claim that they have a history of using the Springs for healing and ceremonial purposes. The main document they cite, by anthropologist/contractor Catherine Fowler, is not available for examination by the public. Available historical sources do not document this claim by the Timbisha.

 

p. 16 SALINE VALLEY SPRINGS

"The Tribe no longer uses the springs because current visitor use is incompatible with the Tribal values associated with the springs.

"The area is suitable for special tribal uses because of the historic and cultural use of the area and the historical relationship of the Tribe to the area. The Tribe and NPS wish to establish a greater tribal presence at the springs and will develop and conduct a pilot demonstration project regarding management of the springs."

5. Flawed or Nonexistent Science. No on-the-ground inventory of plant and wildlife communities was done as part of the LEIS. Descriptions of plant communities at the Rancheria and the Springs are inaccurate and/or incomplete, and are treated as if the areas are identical. Anyone who is familiar with the Springs knows this to be entirely inaccurate. (See p. 67 INDIAN RANCHERIA.)

6. Absence of Water Studies. Another troubling example of inadequate science is the absence of water studies on Centennial Flat, where pumping of groundwater may have an impact on the spring in the Cosos that supplies the town of Darwin via a 7-mile pipeline. This concern is dismissed in the LEIS with the following deceptive paragraph:

 

p. 89 CENTENNIAL:

"Water is available to the parcel from surface water sources (at Black Rock Springs, south of the parcel) and groundwater (an exploratory well, which encountered water, was installed approximately 1 mile north of the parcel boundary). p. 89 CENTENNIAL

"Water is available to the parcel from surface water sources (at Black Rock Springs, south of the parcel) and groundwater (an exploratory well, which encountered water, was installed approximately 1 mile north of the parcel boundary). Concerns have been raised that substantial withdrawals of water from the Centennial Flat area could adversely affect water supply to wells in the town of Darwin, approximately 5 miles east of Centennial Flat. Geologic and hydrologic data do not support this assertion, but adverse effects on groundwater availability at Darwin cannot be precluded without assessment of aquifer boundaries, production capacity, and water quality. Small-scale withdrawals associated with limited residential uses would not be expected to adversely affect supplies at Darwin."

The problem with this paragraph is that there are no wells in Darwin, nor any groundwater! The "exploratory well" on Centennial Flat has not been pumped and it is unknown whether it will supply any water, or what impact withdrawals of water will have on wildlife, plants, the town of Darwin and other holders of water rights. Although Centennial Flat is not part of Saline Valley, the dishonest discussion of this parcel in the LEIS is strong evidence that the document is defective.

 

SAMPLE COVER LETTER TO SENATORS/CONGRESSMEN

[Your NAME AND ADDRESS]

Dear Representative.____ or Senator ____________:

The enclosed letter contains my comments on the Legislative Environmental Impact Statement (LEIS) on Senate Bill S.2102, which enacts the recommendations of the Timbisha Shoshone Tribal Homeland Report. As required by the public comment process, the letter is addressed to Dick Martin, Superintendent of Death Valley National Park. The last time that I (concerned citizens) wrote to Mr. Martin with my (their) comments on the Timbisha Homeland Report, my (their) comments were largely ignored.

The LEIS is inherently flawed, as my comments in the enclosed letter indicate. Please consider amending the Timbisha Homeland legislation to correct these problems.

Sincerely,

 (Your name)

Enclosure: Letter to Dick Martin

Dick Martin, Superitenndent,
Death Valley National Park
PO. Box 579
Death Valley, CA 92328

 

SPA NEEDS YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT! In order to defend our access to the Springs, SPA will need to cover the cost of this present mailing, plus possible additional mailings in the near future. SPA is one of the largest membership organizations with interests in the lands affected by the Desert Protection Act and the ensuing GMP and Timbisha Proposal. Your donation to SPA, a 501(c)(3) organization, is tax deductible.

 

If you want additional information, please see the SPA Website. If you have access to the Internet, more complete information on these issues is available on the SPA website at: http://www.majorproduction.net/roadmisery. You may have received a copy of the LEIS in the mail, or read it on line (at http://www5.ca.blm.gov/ads-cgi/viewer.pl/pdfdocs/timbisha.pdf) or at a public library. You may also request hard copies of the LEIS from Death Valley by contacting Joanne DeGraff at (760) 255-8830.

Comments, discussion, and summaries of important points may be found on the SPA web site, at http://www.majorproduction.net/roadmisery


Updates: A Glimmer of Hope

As this issue was at the printer, some potentially good news arrived:

6/20/2000
Today the Inyo County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to request an
extension of the public comment deadline for the Timbisha LEIS. This
decision was based on the recommendation of Planning Commission head Chuck
Thistlethwaite, who had reviewed the LEIS and found some
problems with it. (Unfortunately, he didn't spot all the problems._Ed.)

It is very significant that the Board of Supervisors asked for this
extension.  We may not get it, of course, but at least the governing body of
an impacted entity has taken a stand against the shoddy work in the LEIS.
The letter requesting the extension says that there are problems with it,
and that there was not adequate notification of the availability of the
document; also that while Nye County, NV is listed as a "cooperating agency"
in the LEIS, Inyo County was never contacted about "cooperating."

This letter from Inyo County could help our efforts to get an extension, and
ultimately get the bill amended. But this can only happen with your help!
Write your letters, as mentioned in this newsletter, and follow all the
action on our website. Please help us keep the springs open and free to
everyone!

The SPA Board


LAST MINUTE UPDATE: PARK SERVICE PLAYING GAMES!!!!!
SPA has learned that the NPS has sent out a notice that a 10-day "extension"
has been granted in the comment period on the Timbisha LEIS, to Aug. 1, 2000.

This is an obvious attempt to defuse any requests for a MEANINGFUL extension
that would allow adequate time to prepare comments on the LEIS.

DO NOT BE DECEIVED! PLEASE ASK FOR A 30-DAY EXTENSION BEYOND THE ORIGINAL
7/22.

Please review the reasons for requesting an extension in the newsletter. Be
sure to emphasithe following:

1. A 10-day extension is MEANINGLESS. It does not substantially address the
public's need for adequate time to research the many inconsistencies and
erroneous statements in the LEIS.
2. The General Management Plan (GMP) for the Park has not yet been issued.
3. The Inyo County Board of Supervisors has asked for a 30-day extension.
They represent a county that stands to be heavily impacted by the Timbisha
Bill, and their request should be honored.
4. This is an obvious attempt to rush the Timbisha Bill and LEIS through
Congress before the public becomes aware of the implications of these
documents.

The Inyo County Board of Supervisors was not made aware of the problems with
the LEIS and the Timbisha Bill until Tuesday, 7/20. Many potentially impacted
members of the public are similarly unaware of these  problems. Please help
to spread the word!

PLEASE WRITE TODAY! WE NEED TO COUNTER THIS DECEPTIVE MOVE BY THE PARK
SERVICE IMMEDIATELY!