Land-use planning for the future of the vast Carrizo Plain National Monument in eastern SLO County is back on track, after a 15-month hiatus following the May 2, 2005, suicide of its frustrated manager, Marlene Braun ("Death on the Plains," Nov. 17, 2005).
The U.S. Secretary of the Interior has appointed a nine-member advisory committee including four SLO County residents to advise on the development of the plan, U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) State Director Mike Pool announced July 26.
Cattle-grazing has been one of the most contentious planning issues for the future of the 250,000-acre national monument, home to the greatest concentration of endangered wildlife in California. Braun had overseen the development of a controversial plan to put recovery of native species ahead of cattle interests.
Braun had also pushed for a full environmental impact statement on the plan, which the BLM has now agreed to prepare. The BLM and its managing partners for the Carrizo The Nature Conservancy and the California Department of Fish and Game will conduct public scoping meetings to gather input on issues for the environmental report, probably beginning this autumn, according to BLM's assistant field manager in Bakersfield, John Skibinski.
Advisory committee chairman Neil Havlik of San Luis Obispo said he welcomes the additional environmental review.
"The process, in my mind, honors Marlene," Havlik said. "She was so dedicated to the place. By making the program more deliberate and more deliberative, it provides for Marlene's views to be aired."
The advisory committee also includes SLO County supervisor Jim Patterson, Santa Margarita rancher Dale Kuhnle, and SLO environmental planner Robert Pavlik, as well as members from the San Joaquin Valley.