Nevada County agreement with feds seen as threat to property owners
October 11, 2012
Despite apparent majority support for an agenda item, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors elected not to bring the item forward Tuesday as a contingent of vocal residents expressed vehement opposition to the matter.
Supervisors discussed establishing a memorandum of agreement between Nevada County and two federal land managers, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
However, members of the public who attended Tuesday's meeting saw the MOA as a direct threat to the sovereignty of Nevada County and its lawful property owners, and further saw the potential agreement as the county granting more power to the federal government and to non-governmental organizations which will be used to make land-use decisions.
The MOA, which was crafted in association with the California State Association of Counties and the Regional Council of Rural Counties (RCRC) "creates a step-by-step process by which counties can gain leverage in making forests and field offices more responsive to (the county's) comments and to community needs," according to a staff report signed by Supervisors Nate Beason and Ted Owens.
“This MOA is another Agenda 21-based incursion, and I don’t want you to have the distinction of having given away our jurisdiction.”
— KIRK PHARIS, Grass Valley
The MOA aimed to make federal agencies more accountable to established county land use plans by formally including county concerns in any projects they plan to undertake on federally managed lands that fall within county jurisdictions.
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About 12 people provided public comment, all of whom expressed opposition to the item and urged the board to vote no, citing the general inefficiency of the federal government, fears that the MOA is a covert method of enforcing United Nations Agenda 21, and a return to the implementation of Natural Heritage 2020 — a controversial planning initiative that was proposed in the early 2000s which called for the development of a comprehensive strategy to identify, manage and protect natural habitats, plant and animal species, diversity and open space resources.
Chuck Shea, executive director of the California Association of Business, Property and Resource Owners (CABPRO), asserted that by accepting the agreement, the county would transfer authority to RCRC, which he characterized as a non-governmental organization that is not beholden to the voters of Nevada County.
"Since the founding of our nation, state and county rights, as set forth in the Constitution have provided for the ability of you, our supervisors, to conduct land use interface with the U.S. Forest Service or other federal agencies from a position of strength and not to pass this obligation off to some non-elected third party entity," Shea said during public comment.
"This MOA is another Agenda 21-based incursion and I don't want you to have the distinction of having given away our jurisdiction," said Kirk Pharis, a Grass Valley resident.
Judi Caler said she was "disappointed and disgusted" that Beason and Owens even brought the matter before the board.
Many members of the public cited specific examples including the Plumas County Rush
Fire, the killing of border patrol officer Nicholas Ivie and other incidents as examples of incompetence on behalf of the federal government.
Owens said the comments made by those in attendance were "ironic" given that it was anger over the way the federal government handled land-use decisions in rural counties that led to the MOA in the first place.
"Rural counties, especially, which have a high proportion of public lands, feel somewhat powerless that these lands are being managed from distant offices
and decisions are made without local notification or hearings," the report by Beason and Owens states.
"This was designed as a tool to create better communication with the federal government and to urge them to look at the county general plan before enacting a project," Owens said.
Beason, who represents Nevada County on the RCRC, took issue with what he characterized as a campaign of misinformation by CABPRO and other members of the public.
The RCRC is not a non-governmental organization, he said, but is actually made up of 32 county supervisors, all of whom are elected, who represent the 32 counties that make up the RCRC.
Supervisor Ed Scofield, who did not support the MOA, saying it added an additional layer of bureaucracy, still took issue with the misinformation spread about the RCRC.
"There is strength in numbers," he said. "There is a need for rural counties to protect themselves and we need that strength. I don't see a conspiracy here."
Supervisor Terry Lamphier said he "was disappointed in the perspective" put forward during the meeting.
"This MOA is meant to enhance communications and working relationships. It puts in place a process and the county doesn't lose anything. I don't see any loss of local control; it just gives us a stronger voice at the table."
Lamphier said the opinions put forward contained "general rhetorical stuff without focus."
Lamphier further accused CABPRO of failing to protect private property rights in regard to the recently passed medical marijuana ordinance.
"People are no longer allowed to grow medicine on their properties, so where have you been on that?" he asked.
Beason and Owens co-signed the staff report urging other board members to adopt the MOA and Lamphier said he would support the adoption of the item.
Nevertheless, the supervisors neglected to make a motion to adopt the MOA, citing the pressure brought to bear by members of the audience.
"I don't see here any sense that the board wishes to see any enactment of the MOA," Owens said. "The world is run by those who show up. These meetings are important and they are part of the process and you engaged in it and your feelings were reflected."
Supervisor Hank Weston said he would not support the MOA due to what he described as its "inequitable nature" in that it required the county to provide comments, which the federal government could summarily disregard.
Weston did take issue with the personal attacks made on Beason and Owens for bringing the matter forward, he said.
The Forest Service lands comprise about 35 percent of Nevada County and BLM lands comprise less than 3 percent of the county.
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4239.
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