— For more than 30 years now I’ve been an advocate for off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation and motorized vehicle access to public lands. The last eight years were tough, as the OHV community faced multiple challenges on many fronts, but the most onerous were mountains of federal regulations, national monument designations, the war on fossil fuels, rampant wildfires, and USFS and BLM maintenance backlogs. The good news is that our new president has already rolled back many overbearing federal regulations, suspended the war on fossil fuels and boosted the economy. The bad news is he also slashed the Interior Department’s budget (BLM lands), but then President Trump donated his first paycheck to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for historic battlefield preservation.
It also seems that our 45th POTUS has directed the federal government to work for us again. The advocate group Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA) reports that the U.S. Forest Service is looking to address the USFS maintenance backlog and rehabilitate its OHV trails.
Individualized press releases from five forest service regions are “inviting the public to help identify trails that will be part of a U.S. Forest Service effort with partners and volunteers to increase the pace of trail maintenance.” The releases continue: “Nationwide, the forest service will select nine to 15 priority areas among its nine regions where a backlog in trail maintenance contributed to reduced access, potential harm to natural resources or trail users, and/or has the potential for increased future deferred maintenance costs.”
So, if your favorite trails need so much work that access is limited, here is your chance to do something about it! The regions are Alaska, Eastern, Intermountain, Northern, Pacific Northwest, Pacific Southwest, Rocky Mountain, Southwestern and Southern, and the middle five have already set up links for weighing in. If you are unsure which region the forest(s) you visit are in, click here: www.fs.fed.us/wildflow
UTV Action is in region 5, the Pacific Southwest, which manages 16,000 miles of trails for 16.1 million users. Volunteers and partner groups contributed more than 178,000 hours in maintenance and repair of nearly 2,984 miles of trail last year.
I contributed some of those hours with Yamaha and the San Bernardino NF Foundation, but I missed the last one Yamaha held in April due to memorial rides for my late father.
Yamaha Motor Corporation, USA, employees returned to the San Bernardino National Forest recently to volunteer their time in support of projects aiding the fire-damaged OHV trails within the Trestles/Baldy Mesa OHV staging area. Working with members of the Southern California Mountains Foundation (SCMF) and the USFS, the effort continued a nearly 10-year tradition of Yamaha Outdoor Access Initiative volunteer projects in one of the nation’s most frequently visited forests.
The popular Trestles/Baldy Mesa OHV staging area and surrounding trails have been closed since wildfires severely damaged the area last year. In an effort to help reopen recreational opportunities as soon as possible, more than 60 volunteers, including Yamaha employees, their friends and family members, contributed more than 300 hours of volunteer service. The day’s habitat rehabilitation and erosion mitigation project included planting 300 local seedlings, trenching several straw wattles, and slashing and removing non-designated trails.
Yamaha volunteers have now participated in nine restoration projects over the last 10 years within the San Bernardino National Forest. Past work includes projects in and around the Pinnacles, Cactus Flats, Big Pine Flats and Coxey Meadows areas, planting more than 4000 native seedlings and restoring and maintaining the OHV trails and trailheads. I’ve volunteered at all but two, and it’s great to work with fellow OHV enthusiasts to ensure continued access.
The bad news is that California’s OHV program is now under attack by Senate Bill 249 introduced by Ben Allen (D-CA26). SB249 seeks to reauthorize the state “green sticker” OHV registration program (set to expire January 1, 2018) but ban the building of any new OHV recreation areas with OHV-sticker revenues! It also seeks to shanghai the OHV commission by restructuring the nine-person OHV committee to include only two OHV advocates. Instead of managing state OHV areas for actual OHV use, SB249 would protect “sensitive natural, cultural and archaeological resources,” including soils. Endangered dirt?
If there are 16 million of us in USFS region 5, shouldn’t our “OHV culture” (and revenues) be protected? SB249 passed committee this April along partisan lines (7-2), with our Senator Scott Wilk (R-CA21) being one of the “no” votes. In another blow to OHV recreation, Governor “Moonbeam” Brown has called for a 42-percent gas-tax increase to raise $5.2 billion and “fix” the only “sanctuary state’s” crumbling roads and bridges.
The thing is, California gas-tax revenues, which are already the highest in the USA, were supposed to go towards road maintenance and off-road trails via the Recreation Trails Program (RTP); instead, they have gone to entitlement programs for illegals and politicians.
Hey, Governor Brown and Senator Allen, OHV recreation areas are our sanctuaries—if they’re still open and we can still afford to drive there.