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By: Robert Janis

New Mexico OHV Alliance

Know the Rules -- A Case Study

Continued from page 1...

Werkmeister wrote in the letter:

"The proposed Action document, as it is presented, does not provide adequate detail to allow meaningful public comment on the effects analysis that will underlie the conclusions of being presented in the Environmental Assessment.

The Proposed Action document is completely devoid of any presentation of the specific criteria employed, the analytical methods used to determine which routes to designate or not designate and the effects expected, and . . . of any quantifiable data used to link the criteria and analytical methods to the analysis results and conclusions. The public cannot make any meaningful comments on the analysis process that is the very backbone of the Environmental Assessment without the criteria, analytical methods, and the quantifiable data used to link the criteria to the analysis results.

Without this information and under the Carson National Forest’s stated requirement to establish ‘standing’ within this current comment period, the public is effectively being deprived of its rights and responsibilities promulgated under the Council of Environmental Quality’s NEPA regulations.

It is clear that the public is expected to, and should be able to, comment effectively on all major components of an Environmental Assessment. The lack of any analysis information in the Proposed Action coupled with the requirement to establish standing during the current comment period strips the public of the ability to review, examine, question, and ultimately, to appeal the Environmental Assessment.

The Proposed Action document is inadequate under the stated requirements to establish standing by reviewing the document as it exists today. The total lack of analysis information within the Proposed Action deprives the public of full and adequate opportunity to make meaningful comments and achieve the necessary ‘standing’ to appeal any portion of the analysis process. Since the analysis process forms the backbone of an Environmental Assessment and the succeeding decision . . . the lack of opportunity to establish appeal standing on the analysis method is a fundamental shortfall in the adequacy of this Proposed Action.

NMOHVA (New Mexico Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance) asks that these two documents be withdrawn until the analysis information is included or that an additional opportunity for comment and standing establishment takes place after the EA is published."

Werkmeister also filed an official comment during the 30-day comment period so if his letter were ignored, the New Mexico Off Highway Vehicle Alliance would still have standing to appeal based on the inadequacy of the documents.

“They responded to my letter with a phone call bright and early on a Monday morning,” said Werkmeister. “They said that they had changed their minds and that they were going to put the Environmental Assessment and its underlining specialists reports on the internet within the next couple of days.

“I told them that just posting the EA and underlying documents was not enough because the 30-day comment period would have passed,” continued Werkmeister. “And having stuff out on the internet doesn’t do us any good if the comment period was closed. The comment period was to close the following Monday.

“They said that they would still take comments,” Werkmeister added. “And I said that you may take the comments, but those comments would be useless in establishing ‘standing’ to appeal if they are outside of the 30-day comment window.”

The Forest Service ultimately decided to post the full draft Environmental Assessment and re-start the clock on a 30-day comment period.

“We challenged them on procedure which is the only thing we can do to block decisions. The OHV community as a whole has been kind of ignorant about that as a tactic,” Werkmeister concluded.

A number of clubs who are members of the New Mexico Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance assisted Werkmeister in his battle with the Forest Service. They included: the Black Feather Motorcycle Club, the New Mexico 4Wheelers, and the New Mexico Trials Association.

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