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Tuolumne County Postpones Selecting Natural Resources Consultant

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Sonora, CA — After discussing the matter for nearly 40 minutes, the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors postponed awarding a contract to a firm that would provide official “Biologist Services of Record” for the county.

The firm would be tasked with answering questions about biological assessments prepared for land development applications and public works projects. The firm would also assist county staff members in determining necessary permitting requirements, and review biological opinions and environmental impact reports. Also, the county would seek help in coordinating efforts on projects like the General Plan update, Stanislaus National Forest Plan and Sierra Resource Management Plan (BLM).

The county received proposals from 15 firms and the top four were interviewed by a panel assembled by the county. The unanimous first choice was H.T. Harvey and Associates, which is based in the Bay Area, but also has offices in locations in the San Joaquin Valley.

At today’s Supervisors meeting, Vice President and Principal for the firm, Brian Boroski, gave an overview of the services his group can provide. On various projects, the firm would explain the options county leaders have on natural resource matters. Boroski also spoke about his previous background working with the US Forest Service.

District Two Supervisor Randy Hanvelt pressed Boroski on the issue of federal forest management in the southern Sierra Nevada, and public easements. On forest health, Boroski said forest leaders are in a “difficult position,” and are often doing their best to meet multiple objectives. He added, “What I’ve also learned is that none us have all of the answers, and I think you get the best outcome, and they get the best outcome, when you have multiple individuals, and entities, with ideas coming to the table to refine and define a plan, which works best for all parties involved.”

Hanvelt responded, “You didn’t answer my question. Maybe let me rephrase it. I wanted your assessment of the management, not the people or the process, I want to know your assessment of the management of the national forests in the southern region.”

After a 10 second pause, Boroski stated, “I think they could do a better job. I think sometimes when you try to meet all of the objectives, sometimes things are lost, which can be the basic objectives that need to be met.”

Hanvelt took issue with Boroski using the term “best available science” when discussing land management, saying, “It’s either science or it isn’t, and it needs to be vetted to make sure it’s applicable.” Hanvelt also referred to the state of the forest as being a “disaster.”

Supervisor Evan Royce noted he wanted to be explicit with Boroski, trying to make sure they are on the same page, by saying, “I think we have experienced a lot of extreme environmental influence on public lands policy and in Tuolumne County 78% of our county is publically owned and that has a huge effect on our communities, and we fight very hard on this board to try to protect our communities and represent them in a way that will preserve our quality of life and prosperity…looking into the future, as we are about to adopt a general plan and we’re dealing with new forest plans, it’s very critical to us that if we are going to do business with you that you represent us in that way and you help us combat the radical environmental influence that you see from groups like Center for Biological Diversity. That’s what we want. I know you’re trying to thread a needle here, you’re on the record publically, but that’s the flat-out place that we are.”

Boroski spoke about past projects where he has represented clients facing challenges from environmental organizations.

Supervisor Sherri Brennan noted that she had a few additional questions to followup with Boroski about, and Supervisor Hanvelt agreed, and indicated that he had additional questions that may be better to ask when Boroski is not on the “hot seat” at the Supervisors meeting.

A decision to award a contract to H.T. Harvey and Associates was postponed until the first meeting in December. The proposed contract would run for three years, and could be extended by up to two additional years, if both sides agree. The financial impact to the county would be based on how much work is needed from the firm.