NPS/SPA meeting minutes
Death Valley National Park
Furnace Creek Visitor Center - Multipurpose Room
Attendees – Appendix A
Flip Chart Notes – Appendix B
- Purpose – Facilitate dialogue and outline common goals for managing Saline Valley Warm Springs
- Identify what a successful partnership looks like
- Describe Process for Developing an MOU
- Identify SPA and NPS interests
The meeting started promptly at 09:00. Erin Flannigan was the meeting facilitator and tasked the group to keep on target and focused. Erin kept a white board (Appendix B) to gather talking points and notes.
Update on the state of the Saline Valley Warm Springs Plan/EIS:
- Josh Hoines stated the Park Service received 381 Comment letters in response to the Draft NPS Management Plan/EIS. He said the comments sent to NPS were loud and clear and provided a good path for what users wanted for Saline Valley. Those comments have been filed into approximately 33 concern categories/issues. The NPS plans to respond to each of those 33 concerns categories/issues. The NPS was in the process of providing a response based on public comment to each of those 33 categories with the reasons how or why the NPS can or cannot comply with that particular issue.
- Mike Reynold said the NPS is on target for a final Management Plan for April/2019. He further explained that this would start with a release of the Final Management Plan/EIS sometime in February/2019. The Final Management Plan/EIS would include responses to the 33 categories. The Final Management Plan/EIS would be available to the public for 60 days; however there would be NO comment period. Barring legal action against the Final Management Plan/EIS, it would be recorded 60 days from availability or sometime in April/2019.
Rulemaking for the Chicken Strip:
- Abby Wines stated that NPS was currently in a rule making process that required public comment in regard to the Chicken Strip. NPS has received 201 comments all in favor except 1. NPS was made aware of the need for this process and were in the process of successfully completing it. The rule making process would end the middle of November/2018. Park supports the use of the Chicken Strip, but we are going through the rule making process to make the Chicken Strip a legal landing strip.
Discussion SPA Concerns
- Timbo and Mike Reynolds are the point of contacts for each organization.
- SPA is concerned that Saline Valley Preservation Association is only mentioned in the EIS 2 times and they feel like SPA is on the “back burner” for NPS interests.
- The NPS doesn’t believe SPA is a “back burner” and committed to increasing communication with SPA moving forward.
Why an MOU with RAF and not SPA?
- RAF has had a continuous agreement where the SPA agreement expired at some point in the past; the expiration of the agreement has triggered the NPS to wait until the EIS is finalized before signing a new agreement.
- The length of agreements is 5yrs at a time. NPS can only enter into agreements for a 5yr period; at five years we revisit MOUs and agreements to make sure they are still relevant and meet outlined objectives.
- NPS should camp out in Saline Valley to understand the community.
- ‘Bonneau Dickson stated that in his experience elements of the plan are largely driven by the conditions in Death Valley and that the conditions may not be relevant to Saline Valley. Specifically mentioned was overcrowding and invasive species.
NPS Overview and why have a plan at all
Mike Reynolds stated that when an area was designated as a National Park, the NPS was required to protect natural and cultural resources and those places needed to be protected and kept that way forever. And, the NPS needed to provide for the enjoyment of those resources, which included education for its visitors. He further stated, Death Valley comprised of 3.4 million acres and the Death Valley NPS was required to provide for the “Management” of those acres. The NPS was able to create a Management Plan by 2002 of Death Valley National Park, with the exclusion of Saline Valley. Saline Valley was determined to be complicated and some of the current use of the area was not compatible with National Park standards.
- Why has the plan taken so long?
- Saline Valley has unique, non-traditional uses
- 2002 The park completed a General Management Plan – said that Saline should be treated separately
- 2010 The Backcountry Wilderness Stewardship Plan also suggested that Saline needed to have its own plan.
- 2012 Initiated public scoping for this Plan
- 2016 NPS met with SPA to hear their concerns
- Spirit of community
- Character of the place
- Maintain soaking tubs
- Celebrate freedom, including clothing optional
- NPS found a way to recognize Historic uses and protection of the site with the Draft Management Plan.
- Major sections removed any language on nudity
- Not illegal on Federal Lands unless offensive
- State is silent on the issue
- Inyo County has ordinance, NPS is not cross deputized so cannot enforce.
- Community Spirit
- Major tenet of the Preferred Alternative. All about community engagement and working together to manage the site.
- Transparent note – NPS felt like they tried to protect Community, nudity, and tubs; yet NPS staff felt eviscerated on the lawn, burros, and invasive plants with no recognition of what we worked hard to preserve in the draft.
- Death Valley is committed to making this plan work and making it effective.
- Chain for Command for completing the plan is Park; Regional Director; Director of NPS; than DOI approvals.
NPS feels that they have been able to keep what is most important to the visitors Saline Valley; the preservation of the developed tubs, clothing optional use, and the community itself. NPS wanted to successfully accomplish the third issue “community spirit” by community engagement. This issue was included in the Draft Management Plan/EIS. Mr. Reynolds felt SPA and NPS had a joint interest in the preservation and protection of Saline Valley.
SPA mission and overview
John Runkle stated SPA’s mission was the preservation and stewardship of Saline Valley, provide education for the people visiting the area, and organizing work parties in order to maintain the existing tubs.
- Goal of entering into an agreement w/collaborative spirit for the management of the site.
- Tub Maintenance
- Several are in pretty poor shape including the Volcano tub
- Education of Visitors
- Reach them prior to coming
- Websites, lack of services signage about backcountry travel back at highway 190.
- Onsite education (norms of site)
- Don’t feed wildlife
- Assist with recruiting for the Camp host
Discussion: what could be considered in the context of the MOU:
John Runkle described the tub maintenance was more of a back log. SPA had been able to maintain the integrity of the Wizard and Sunrise tubs, but there was a lot more necessary maintenance for the other tubs.
John said the NPS and SPA needed to provide a lot more education in regards to the harshness of the area to those considering coming out there.
Gary Kremen spoke of SPA’s role in educating new comers to the area about the norms for the community.
Fred Dickson brought up the need to remove the habituated burros being fed by the camp host and visitors to the area.
Josh Hoines stated the Texas company that was contracted to remove the burros had been directed by NPS to start in Butte Valley. It had initiated operations this week at Anvil Springs.
Abby Wines brought up the NPS had specific rules against feeding or even petting burros. She further stated it was illegal to feed wildlife in a National Park. She would share those specific rules so that SPA could further their educational campaign against feeding the burros.
SPA brought up the need for signage to make those entering the area, aware of its lack of services and what they needed to be prepared for this environment. NPS brought up problems they were experiencing when visitors relied on their GPS to provide directions. Some visitors needed to be rescued because they were taking vehicles to areas they were not designed for.
SPA brought up the need for fee signage. This would help SPA by showing a Park fee was necessary when visiting Saline Valley. NPS brought up annual passes could be purchased at places like REI, as well as Lone Pine Visitor Center. They also brought up they had a position designated for signage but there were 77 ways to get into Death Valley National Park.
- Historic elements
- The area
- Outreach (pro-active)
- Future Generations
- Communication between groups
- Develop Trust
Logistics for developing the MOU between NPS and SPA:
Mike Reynold stated the NPS sought to create a mutually agreed upon MOU between the NPS and SPA during the next six months. NPS would not be in a position to sign an MOU prior to the release of the Final Management Plan. He further added, before the recording of the Management Plan, he wanted a complete MOU ready for signature by NPS and SPA.
It was agreed that the MOU should be a five (5) year agreement with an annual general review. This annual general review should be accomplished via a annual meeting between SPA and NPS. In additional, the MOU should include a work plan that would target priorities. This work plan would be updated during the annual meeting.
Timeline for MOU development:
SPA and NPS created a working group to draft an MOU via email and conference calls. This working group would consist of Tim Hynes, Michelle Hamilton, Cheryl Chipman, Erin Flannigan, and Jessica Barr.
The NPS would provide the preliminary MOU by early December 2018. It will be the task of the working group to take the preliminary MOU and create a mutually agreeable draft MOU using email and/or conference calls.
The Management Plan will be released in February and this group will need to ensure those issues are included in the draft MOU.
There could be a meeting between SPA and the NPS over President’s Day weekend 2019. More likely, SPA would meet over President’s Day with NPS welcome to attend.
March/2019 NPS and SPA would meet as a group and go over the MOU with the intention to finalize it.
April/2019 MOU would be signed on or before the recording of the Management Plan.
Michelle Hamilton and Josh Hoines agreed to share meeting minutes, prior to releasing them to the public. Erin Flannigan requested feedback on what worked well and possible ways to have improved the meeting.
12:03 meeting was adjourned
Appendix B – Flip Charts from meeting
Requests and Courtesies
Stay on time
Limit side conversations
Cell phones on vibrate
Share air time
Limit side bars
Listen to understand
Agree to disagree
Respect for minority opinion
Words to Describe What We Value about Saline Springs
Flora/Fauna Magical, Remote, R&R Salt Trail
Rugged Family Family
People Canyons – Inyo/Saline Discovery
Hot Water Service Nature Art
Water People Petroglyphs
Spiritual Magic Quiet
Isolated, Remote, Solitude Want People to Feel Welcome
NPS and SPA Shared Values
Preservation – the infrastructure and facilities, the area, and the community for future generations
Working together we should assume good intentions
Communication between groups is important
Education – through proactive outreach to all users about Saline Valley
We will work to build Trust/Common Ground/Collaboration – so we can work with all stakeholders
NPS: Mike Reynolds → until MOU
SPA: Timbo → transition?
Formalize future communications through the MOU process
Use the MOU to build on common ground
Timeframe for MOU → Milestones are focused on development of the draft MOU, the completion of the FEIS and the signing of the ROD, followed completing and signing the MOU
Contact with info on issues: Jessica Barr
Frequency of Meetings: Monthly working group
Full Group – March, 2019, potentially Presidents Day in Saline Valley
MOU working group : Timbo, Michelle, Cheryl, Erin, Jess
Potential MOU Discussion Points
Link to NPS from SPA website
Related to burros/wildlife and human interaction
Signs – when leave pavement – conditions
No cellphone coverage or GPS
Pay at Interagency
SPA List – (handed out before the meeting)
Note how to report issues to park
MOU should include enough detail to develop and implement an annual work plan