THE LATEST CALIFORNIA BUDGET AND THE ENVIRONMENTAL EXTREMISTS
I feel like Don Quixote tilting against wind mills (implacable forces) although in our case the giants aren’t imaginary. It is all political and it is time that political winds changed.
Environmentalism is the catchword from early elementary school on, with cliche-like admonitions for perceived environmental crimes. The brainwashing starts at an early age. Big money wants to divert attention from real environmental threats to focus on activities enjoyed by powerless people like you and me.
Millions of dollars are pumped into political campaigns by so-called green groups who support candidates who oppose off-road vehicle recreation. These holier than thou environmentalists try to pin the blame for all environmental evils on off-road riding which in California is highly managed to protect the environment (too highly managed if you ask me).
They like to pick on us because we don’t have legions of lobbyists in Washington and Sacramento with great piles of money to protect our interests. In other words, we are an easy target. It makes them feel good.
When the Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) park system was originally created in 1971, off-road riders made a deal that we would support our OHV park system with fees and taxes and in exchange we would be insulated from money woes caused by chronic state deficits.
The politicians have used our rider supported trust fund ever since to help fill in huge gaps in the state budget. Our dreams of being insulated from budget deficits were dashed from the very beginning. See: https://carnegiejournal.com/2012/03/08/theft-of-off-highway-vehicle-funds-from-the-ohv-trust-fund/
In the 2012-2013 budget passed by the legislature, off highway funds collected from fuel taxes paid by off-highway vehicle users were diverted from the OHV trust fund to California Parks and Recreation to maintain non-OHV parks (other parks). There are two hundred and seventy parks controlled by the California Parks and Recreation (other parks) and only eight parks controlled by the Division of Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation (OHV parks).
These other parks are not user funded but get their money from general taxes that include sales taxes and income taxes that we all pay as California tax payers. Due to the latest budget deficit the media claimed that at least seventy of these other parks would close their doors because there was not enough money to keep them open. Even though a year ago a ballot initiative to raise vehicle registration fees to support these other California parks was defeated, the media claimed that these parks were popular and had to be saved.
By the time that politicians had voted to take twenty-one million dollars of OHV related off-road fuel tax from the Motor Vehicle Fuel Account and transfer the money to California Parks and Recreation, the number of these other parks that were going to be closed had been reduced drastically. The original twenty-one million dollars taken from the fuel tax account was later reduced by the governor to seven million dollars as a result of being deluged by mail from off-road riders.
The Department of Parks and Recreation has already struck deals with private donors, foundations and non-profit groups to continue operating some of the other parks with the rest rescued by outside partners. In the end there were only five parks under threat of closure when this legislation was passed. Four of those five parks were not really in danger of being closed according to an article in the Sacramento Bee. See: http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2012/06/nearly-all-california-state-parks-to-avoid-closure—for-now.html
In other words the rumor of the impending death of our state parks had been grossly exaggerated in order to steal money that by law should have gone into the OHV trust fund.
The interesting thing about this theft is that the Department of Parks and Recreation stood by as fuel tax dollars used for off-highway recreation was decoupled from the off-highway fuel tax which by law funds the OHV program. It is a program that has been in place since 1971 to manage off-highway recreation in a manner that also protects California’s natural and cultural resources.
In the end the state took seven million dollars that was slated to be used for grants and cooperative agreements which supports off-highway recreation in rural areas managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management as well as other entities including county OHV parks. These local grants are supposed to support recreation staff, maintain trails, restore damaged areas, and pay for law enforcement.
In addition to the above, the grants and cooperative agreements portion of the OHV trust fund was reduced by the legislature to ten million dollars, a shortfall the will be impossible to make up and that will lead to diminished riding opportunities. For details on how all this works see this link by John Stewart: http://www.4x4voice.com/index.php/access-news/54-my-view/384-california-ohv-the-next-round
Don Amador, aka The General, noted that the CA Parks Foundation is helping implement Karen Schambach’s long-time dream of decoupling the off-road fuel tax from the OHV program. See: http://thegeneralsrecreationden.blogspot.com/2012_06_01_archive.html
All this just goes to show how the most dedicated enemies to off-road vehicle recreation can influence the political agenda in our state. It is not really about the environment stupid! It is all about political connections and huge piles of mullah. In 2011 they put a permanent spigot into the fuel tax fund to take fuel taxes paid by off road users and divert that money into the general fund and now they are using that same spigot to divert money into the Department of Parks and Recreation. That is seventeen million dollars this year if anyone is counting ($10 million into the general fund and $7 million for parks and recreation).
Everybody should be disgusted with what politicians are doing with our tax money. It is time to “just say no” and vote the incumbents that support raiding our trust fund (mostly all Democrats) out of office next November. See: http://leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/postquery?bill_number=sb_1018&sess=CUR&house=B&author=committee_on_budget_and_fiscal_review
It is easy to look at the budget and say look what those evil Democrats have done with our money. Our grants and cooperative agreements program is on life support. The yearly transfers have had an enormous impact on the health of our OHV trust fund which is bleeding cash. These are the effects that we can see, but what about other chunks of our trust fund that the greens have grabbed for their own purposes or in some cases just to taken it away from supporting off-highway vehicle recreation.
In the beginning the idea was that in exchange for having more legal places to ride we would give ups some of our rights to placate the environmentalists.
In 1971 the Legislature established the Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Program in Chapter 1.25 of Division 5 of the Public Resources Code to manage off-highway recreation in a manner that also protects California’s natural and cultural resources. The environmental lobby has been using those provisions to take our money and take away our rights ever since.
Public Resources Code section 5090.02 declares that the indiscriminate and uncontrolled use of those vehicles may have a deleterious impact on the environment, wildlife habitats, native wildlife, and native flora. The Legislature hereby declares that effectively managed areas and adequate facilities for the use of off-highway vehicles and conservation and enforcement are essential for ecologically balanced recreation.
The greens, like many Americans, think that calling someone a dirt biker is an insult, and so they inserted into the original legislation the idea that off-highway vehicle recreation is deleterious to the environment. In this way they qualified the need to expand and manage off-highway motor vehicle recreation in a manner to maintain sustained long-term use and created an overarching objective to protect the environment. Managing the parks for OHV recreation becomes a secondary consideration. In other words we cannot just ride our bikes anymore without being subject to recrimination.
In 2008 the legislature amended certain provision of the Public Resources Code, the Vehicle Code and Revenue and Taxation Code. Among these amendments is Public Resources Code section 5090.02 declaring that the department supports both motorized recreation and motorized off-highway access to non-motorized recreation. This ensures that our money can be used by the greens for their parks even when they don’t pay registration fees or OHV parks entrance fees which support the OHV trust fund.
One of the biggest money grabs involves the grants and cooperative agreements part of the program. The grants and cooperative agreements part of our trust can be appropriated by the legislature in an amount not to exceed 50% with the remainder made available for the support of the Division of OHV Recreation (California SVRA parks). See Public Resources Code Section 5090.61.
Public Resources Code section 5090.50 now details how the grants and cooperative agreements money can be spent. If you envision that it is all spent to enhance our off-road riding experience in federal and county facilities you are in for quite a shock Remember the Legislature appropriated $10 million for grants and cooperative agreements which represents a 52% reduction from the proposed 2012 amount.
Only fifty percent of the funds appropriated by the Legislature ($5 million) must be expended for grants and cooperative agreements solely for the acquisition, maintenance , operation, planning, development, or conservation of trails and facilities associated with the use of off-highway recreation or motorized access to non-motorized recreation. The $5 million, unlike the rest of the money in the grants and cooperative agreements program, is related to of-road vehicle recreation. That is only true if we ignore the provision that we also pay for trails and facilities associated with the use of motorized access to non-motorized recreation.
According to Public Resources Code section 5090.10. “Conservation” means activities, practices, and programs that sustain soils, plants, wildlife, and their habitat in accordance with the standards adopted pursuant to Section 5090.35. Whoops so conservation is slipped in to ensure that even money devoted to off highway recreation is subverted by the greens.
Wait a minute our money can be used by the greens for motorized access to their parks. If you think this is bad stay tuned there is more. If you want to know where the rest of our money goes see: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html check the code section that applies (public resources) and then where it asks for keywords put in the section you are looking for (5090) and click search.
According to Public Resources Code section 5090.50(2) twenty-five percent of the funds appropriated by the Legislature ($2.5 million) are to be expended solely for grants and cooperative agreements for projects that provide ecological restoration or repair to habitat damaged by legal or illegal off-highway motor vehicle use. Basically this money is used for closure and restoration of roads or trails used by off-road vehicles.
Restoration is defined in the Public Resources Code section 5090.11. “Restoration” means, upon closure of the unit or any portion thereof, the restoration of land to the contours, the plant communities, and the plant covers comparable to those on surrounding lands or at least those that existed prior to off-highway motor vehicle use.” Restoration means closure.
The Code goes on to guarantee that no restoration grant will be used for the development or maintenance of trails for motorized use. This represents another chunk of our money that the greens get to use for their purposes.
Public Resources Code section 5090.50(3) goes on to specify that twenty percent of the funds appropriated by the Legislature ($2 million) shall be available for law enforcement grants and cooperative agreements and shall be allocated to local and federal law enforcement for personnel and related equipment. That is a big hunk of change.
This code section specifies that the amount shall be proportional to the off-highway vehicle enforcement needs under each entity’s jurisdiction. Is it to protect us while we are riding on federal or county property or is it to protect the general public against renegade off-road vehicle riders? It seems like an awful lot of our money is given away as a gift to law enforcement. Who do they think we are – the Hell’s Angels?
Among other things the applicant must establish a policy on how violations of off-highway motor vehicle laws and regulations will be enforced… and to identify areas with high priority law enforcement needs because of public safety, cultural resources, and sensitive environmental habitats, including wilderness areas and areas of critical environmental concern. The greens have focused law enforcement money to apprehend renegade off-road riders and to protect the environment against the same rapacious riders. Again they are playing into the myth that we have a particularly deleterious effect on the environment.
Public Resources Code section 5090.50(4) directs that five percent of the funds ($500,00) appropriated by the Legislature for Grants and cooperative agreements are for education and safety that either provide comprehensive education that teaches off-highway motor vehicle safety, environmental responsibility, and respect for private property, or provide safety programs associated with off-highway motor vehicle recreation. The greens even inserted their exaggerated environmental concerns into this one.
A closer look reveals the full extent of their usurpation of our fund. Grants may be awarded to educational institutions and nonprofit organizations. Eligible projects shall be limited to scientific research, natural resource conservation activities, trail and facility maintenance, restoration, and programs involving off-highway motor vehicle safety or education. Would environmental non-profits like the Sierra Club or groups like Friends of Tesla be eligible to receive our money?
If you think this is bad, it is only the beginning. Public Resources Code section 5090.53 requires recipients of grants and cooperative agreements satisfy specific environmental conditions if their project involves ground disturbing activities. The recipients must agree to monitor the condition of soils and wildlife in the project area each year. If the soil standards or wildlife habitat protection program is not being met the recipient must temporarily close the non-compliant section until these standards are met.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. The greens have inserted the same kind of language into provisions that govern how California SVRA parks are managed. When areas or trails or portions thereof cannot be maintained to appropriate established standards for sustained long-term use, they should be closed to use and repaired, to prevent accelerated erosion. Those areas should remain closed until they can be managed within the soil conservation standard or should be closed and restored. The same sort of language can be found regarding wildlife habitat protection programs.
Everywhere you look in the Public Resources Code the greens have us in their grasp. This happens when the Democrats and their supporters insert or amend provisions of the Public Resources Code. These restrictions can only found in the context of managing parks for off-highway vehicle recreation. They are not applied to other forms of recreation no matter how many trails are created for hikers, equestrians, mountain bikers and their ilk who have as much of an impact on soil conservation and wildlife habitat as we do.
There is more. Revenue and Taxation section 8352.8. creates the Conservation and Enforcement Services Account in the Off-Highway Vehicle Trust Fund. Up to 40 percent of the funds in his account are spent, for cooperative agreements or challenge cost-sharing agreements with the United States Forest Service and the United States Bureau of Land Management, to complete necessary route designation planning work and to implement route planning decisions (good stuff), and up to one million one hundred thousand dollars ($1,100,000) for each grant cycle, are spent to increase the amount of funds available for restoration grants in the grants and cooperative agreements program (bad stuff).
That is over $1 million for restoration in addition to the 25% of funds appropriated to grants and cooperative agreements that is expended solely for restoration found in Public Resources Code section 5090.50 (2). They have us coming and going. The greens have inserted these provisions in the code to ensure that our money is used against us.
There is only one thing we can do and that is vote. If you want to get rid of the influence of the greens you need to vote in the coming elections and defeat their closest allies, the Democrats in Sacramento. We need to demand that these provisions be deleted and our right to ride reaffirmed without exception.
They are using our money to close and rehabilitate our favorite trails because the greens think that they are ugly. Our favorite hill climb trails have been in the process of being closed and rehabilitated since the nineteen-nineties. Expert level, steep, rugged trails are being fenced off. Trials sections are also off-limits because of excessive restrictions dreamed up by these bozos. Screw them. How would they feel if we shut down their favorite black diamond ski runs or their class five rapids? What if we could do this with their own money?
Unfortunately the foregoing proposition is impossible because we are the only ones whose sport is financed by its participants. We need to stand up for our rights. Right now the greens have us over a barrel and are using our money to take away the sport we love. They just can’t believe that we ride because we like to challenge ourselves. Everything they do is aimed at taking away our challenging trails. It’s not the environment. They hate our machines and the places where we ride them.
As you can see from this post, the greens have appropriated most of our money even before each individual budget takes money out of our trust fund or re-appropriates money that is supposed to go into our trust fund. So discounting the fact that the general fund or the California Department of Parks and Recreation (non-OHV parks) gets big chunks of our money, it is still not being used to meet the needs of the riders.
If you prefer to ride challenging terrain you will not find anything suitable in state, federal or county land in California. Where are riders going to hone their trials, cross-country, or hill-climbing skills? They will have to look elsewhere. Whether this means sticking to local motocross tracks, long road trips or just moving out of California, it is not in the interest of anyone to deprive the next generation of Californians the opportunity to ride challenging terrain with their families.
It’s not like these activities cannot be managed to enhance off-road challenges and at the same time curtail excessive damage. We have the money but it is being used for other purposes. Maybe if park personnel were riders they would understand and be sympathetic to our needs, but they are not riders. The legislature and agencies that make the rules are not riders. We need to change this culture of ignoring the needs of the OHV community and do something about it.
VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE! Remember to register. November is coming up faster than you think. It is really important that we send a message to Sacramento that we just want to ride and we want money in our OHV trust fund to be spent to enhance our riding experience.