By Deb Murphy

In addition to Los Angeles Department of Water and Power commercial leases, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors another tasty tidbit on its plate Tuesday: a proactive policy on public lands.

During one of his trips to D.C., Board Chair Jeff Griffiths, in the middle of explaining what Inyo County didn’t want in terms of public land use policies, was asked what he, or Inyo, wanted. That question got Griffiths and Supervisor Matt Kingsley thinking they needed to come up with the answer.

Last month, the Board directed Planning Department staff to come up with a work plan. Planner Cathreen Richards’ work plan identified seven immediate issues including potential releases of public lands, Wilderness Study Areas and federally-managed land designations, a series of seven steps over two years and a $430,000 cost to carry out the plan.

The Supervisors weren’t crazy about the budget, $350,000 going to consultants, the balance in staff time. They differed on the starting point. But, by the end of the discussion, they’d come up with two possible slogans: Supervisor Rick Pucci’s “Focus and Fight,” or Kingsley’s “Hold Hands on Public Lands.”

Griffiths put the budget in perspective. “Look at the money we spend reacting,” he said in reference to a long list of land use issues the County has been asked to comment on. “We’re investing significant resources already. It’s pay now or pay later. We need to prepare for what comes next. Maybe we could be driving the train.”

Pucci wanted to start with the fourth step, a public outreach to determine the goals and objectives of the effort. “We shouldn’t let jurisdiction limit us. We need to get in there and fight. Focus and fight.”

Kingsley focused on the second step: opportunities and constraints analysis to give staff and the Board an idea of what was actually do-able. “I have a lot of ideas,” he said, “but some of them may be illegal.”

The Board directed staff to hold a workshop on opportunities and constraints sometime in January.

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