Inyo National Forest (INF) Supervisor Ed Armenta and Forest Planner Susan Joyce presented Inyo County Supervisors with a preliminary Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) at the March 26 Board of Supervisors meeting in Independence. The purpose of the document, said Joyce, was to help the INF “harmonize with the plans and policies of the County” as the INF continues its 3-year Forest Plan Update.
In February of 2012, USDS Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell selected Inyo National Forest as one of the first national forests to revise its Forest Plan according to the 2012 Forest Service Planning rule.
The INF Forest Plan, created in 1988, currently provides direction and zoning for the management of resources and activities including water, wildlife, ecosystems, and recreation for the 2-million acre National Forest.
The Inyo National Forest Plan Update began with 2 public workshops in the fall of 2012, and is expected to conclude in 2015 or 2016 with a public review of the draft Plan, approval, and monitoring.
Inyo County intends to maintain an “active engagement” with the Plan Update, said Supervisor Linda Arcularius. To that end, County staff has been working with Forest Service staff to draft the MOA, which, Armenta emphasized, “will create a framework for cooperation and coordination” between the INF and Board, designating the County as a Cooperating Agency with special expertise in the INF Plan revision process.
However, Joyce noted that the Forest Service will continue its role as lead agency during the proceedings, with INF Supervisor Armenta “deciding the scope, scale, timing, and methods of public involvement,” she said. “There is the potential that we disagree,” she added. But the MOA document will require the INF “to meet with the County and resolve those disagreements.”
Supervisor Jeff Griffiths said the draft MOA represented “a new day for communication between the Forest Service and Inyo County.” Thus far, Inyo is the only County active with its ‘early adopter’ forest, of 8 national forests participating in the revision Plan process. “We’re the lone rangers,” Armenta said. He promised a return to the Board in April with an update on the MOA, which “we want to get right,” he said. “We don’t want to start off on the wrong foot. I think that’s more important than getting it signed.”
While Supervisor Arcularius wryly noted that getting the document signed was important, she said, “If we can see the fabric of our communities represented in that Plan, it’ll be successful.”