SOME UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTHS

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT

If you want to explore the environmental impact of any outdoors type activity, it is best to approach your investigation with total neutrality. Unfortunately this truism is often ignored. Most of the so called “environmentalists” turn their attention to the environmental impact of a sport or activity that they despise. That is the reason that many of them set their sights on off road vehicles. They hate the sport and it becomes a good focus for their environmental activism. In this article I want to turn the tables and look at the environmental impact of some of the sports that they cherish.

It occurs to me that most of the so called environmentalists probably play golf, ride horseback, ride bicycles and/or hike. These are the same people who filed a lawsuit against Carnegie and/or who are trying to stop the opening of the Tesla/Alameda property based on allegations that dirt bike riding is detrimental to the environment.See: http://carnegieforever.org/carnegie-svra-status/

They have a holier than thou attitude that needs to be explored. First let’s look at the sport of golf.

There are a total of 18,514 golf courses in America today. In 2011 there were 928 golf courses in California. In the United States, golf courses cover more than 1.7 million acres and soak up nearly 4 billion gallons of water daily. They also use pesticides and fertilizers that contribute to water pollution.

Golf is perceived by some as an elitist activity, and golf courses have become a target for opposition due to environmental concerns. In urban areas there are a lot of golf courses near population centers and almost no Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) areas. There are only eight state OHV areas in all of California. Sadly the elitists want to close the few OHV areas that do exist. They cite environmental concerns as justification to their opposition to our parks.

But environmental concerns over the use of land for golf courses have increased exponentially over the years. They include the amount of water required for irrigation and the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers for maintenance. These toxic chemicals get into the water supply.  In California where water is a scarce resource the use of water to irrigate fairways and greens amounts to a genuine environmental threat. There is also concern over the destruction of wetlands and other environmentally sensitive areas for construction of golf courses.

Today’s players hit the ball farther as a result of the development of new high tech equipment and so golf courses have been lengthened and widened. This has led to a ten-percent increase in the acreage required to build a typical course Most modern 18-hole golf courses occupy as much as 150 acres of land, and the average course has 74 acres of maintained turf.

Wildlife, especially burrowing creatures, is not tolerated on gold courses and some wildlife is eliminated with smoke bombs and toxic chemicals (see Caddy Shack). Non-native turf and the chemicals applied to that turf discourages wildlife from using golf courses as habitat.

In the West, where many communities are coping with a drought of historic
proportions, golf courses have been scrambling to secure senior water
rights. In dry conditions, that means junior downstream water users make do
with less water.

After a new golf club acquired senior water rights, the water levels in the
stream that runs by Steve Gildesgard’s home near Reno dropped so low that
fish disappeared. Groundwater tables also have declined; filters Gildesgard
has installed on his well and water heater no longer keep out sediment, rust
and salt.

“I turned off the ice maker because I don’t like orange ice cubes,” said
Gildesgard, a construction engineer. “We’re all going to go thirsty while
the rich people up there are playing golf.”

See: http://www.organicconsumers.org/corp/golf042604.cfm

Let’s compare the environmental record of golf courses with Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) riding areas in California and Carnegie in particular where the use of natural terrain requires no toxic chemicals for maintenance and where wildlife finds a welcome environment for grazing and hunting. In fact I have heard it said that there is a possibility that larger mammals find sanctuary in Carnegie from a neighbor’s profitable hunting business. This is the same neighbor who is behind efforts to restrict off road riding or close Carnegie.

The fact that threatened species find a sanctuary at Carnegie should not be used as an excuse to close our riding area or not open the Tesla/Alameda property purchased for OHV use with OHV trust fund money. They too find sanctuary within our park. Native plants also grow in abundance in Carnegie because our park is left in a completely natural state.

Many of our wealthy citizens (including politicians) love golf and treasure the sculptured grace of the landscape used in golf courses. They hate OHV recreation which is perceived as a sport for the unwashed masses. They say that OHV recreation destroys the environment but the artificial environment that they create for their aristocratic game is far more destructive than our OHV parks.

Some of the same pseudo environmentalists who filed suit against Carnegie lobbied to put provisions in the Public Resources code to specifically protect the environment and cultural artifacts in OHV areas. They cannot claim to be unaware of heightened environmental standards in state OHV parks.

Environmental regulations and safeguards were put into place when the California off-highway vehicle parks system was created in 1971. The Legislature established the Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Program in Chapter 1.25 of Division 5 of the Public Resources Code (commencing with Section 5090.01) to manage off-highway recreation in a manner that also protects California’s natural and cultural resources.

Public Resources code section 5090.35 provides that the protection of public safety, the appropriate utilization of lands, and the conservation of land resources are of the highest priority in the management of the state vehicular recreation areas.

The Division of OHV Recreation (the division) is directed to promptly repair and continuously maintain areas and trials and prevent erosion and to restore lands damaged by erosion. They are directed to make sure that soil conservation standards are met and to ensure that habitat protection plans are preserved on lands used for OHV recreation. The requirements are very strict and are imposed to require OHV parks to meet the highest environmental standards. The division is also required to monitor and protect cultural and archeological resources within the state vehicular recreation areas.

Soil conservation and wildlife preservation standards are only imposed on state off highway vehicular parks in California. Other state parks are not required to meet these standards. As a result of the heightened standards OHV recreation has been severely curtailed without any improvement to the environment in general. Our parks have been transformed into nature preserves as well as cultural and archeological sites as a result of the lobbying of anti-motorcycle people. Thus it seems strange that these people can claim that we are destroying the environment.

Soil conservation standards were originally designed to ameliorate the effects of agriculture. They include standards to prevent degradation and contamination by herbicides and insecticides as well as to protect against erosion. These same soil conservation standards should be applied uniformly to golf courses as well as other non OHV parks.  The same is true for standards to protect wildlife.

Any geologist will tell you that erosion is caused by water running downhill especially down any surface devoid of vegetation. This description includes all trails whether they are equestrian trails, hiking trails or cow trials. Therefore, it seems strange that only motorcycle trails are subject to soil conservation standards.

The perception among OHV riders is these standards were imposed to prevent us from using our park for off-road riding. Using these standards as a pretext, the majority of our trails in Carnegie have been closed since the state acquired the land in 1979. Another explanation for this abnormality is that our enemies plan to use alleged non-compliance by OHV park officials as an excuse to close our park or heighten environmental protections by filing a petition for writ of mandate which is exactly what they did.

The case has recently settled implementing the Storm Management Plan for Carnegie SVRA and keeping our park open.  See; Big Yellow Taxi below for a description of this plan.

Although the main culprit for erosion on unpaved trails is rainfall carving ruts in the trails, this truism is ignored by environmentalists and others who measure erosion on trails used by motorcycles and conclude that the erosion is caused by the motorcycles splaying rooster tails of dirt off their back wheels. This description is utilized in plaintiffs’ petition for writ of mandate asking the judge to, among other things, close Carnegie. It is based on a common misconception that is for the most part caused by how off road vehicles are portrayed in the media (think truck commercials).

In reality roost caused by wheels digging into the dirt only happens under artificial conditions specifically engineered to create this effect and in closed course competition run on man-made surfaces. I ride off road off-road motorcycles in Northern California and see the ruts caused by the rain after the rainy season. I have never observed motorcycle wheels carving up the trails.

I also hike and ride my bicycle on the hundreds of miles of off road trials in the East Bay Regional  Parks system. These trails are composed of the same clay based soils as the hills in Carnegie. Water runs downhill and carves ruts in the trails during the rainy season. Afterwards each year the ruts are filled in by huge mechanized graders.

The blading of the trails in both OHV parks and the East Bay trials contributes to further erosion because the blade cuts into the raised portion of the trial. It is done to allow emergency vehicles access and not to stop or lessen the effects of erosion. There is no difference between trails used by off road motorcycles and trails used by hikers, bicycles and horses but we are the only ones subject to strict environmental standards.

Although golf courses are beginning to be monitored, there remains a lot to be done to ensure that they meet the same soil conservation standards as agriculture with respect to the pesticides and fertilizers.

Also, there is no reason that trails used by hikers, equestrians and bicycles should not be subject to the same standards as OHV trails. In both cases the force of gravity on rainwater causes erosion. If they do not want to be subjected to these standards then off road motorcyclists should not be subject to them either.

The prejudice against off road motorcycles has clouded the perception of people who do not take part in our sport. Yet they can tell us how we can ride our off-road vehicles and where. These same people defend their sports with the vigor of the true believers. They say that they are the environmentalists. How could anything they do be detrimental to the environment? I hope this little essay answers that question.

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