OHV RECREATION IN CALIFORNIA – THE BIG BAD WOLF STORY: A SCARY TALE TO TELL YOUR CHILDREN

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A long time ago the big, bad wolf decided to come back to California and take away all the children’s toys. It wasn’t just the children’s toys he was after. He could never get enough to eat and he was always hungry. In his mind, a child  served with a little gravy is a very satisfying dish. Wolves (as most children know) envision children only as  savory delicacies. He licked his chops thinking about the scrumptious meal planned for his return.

Many years ago  humans hunted wolves almost to extinction and drove them out of the state. When the wolf returned he was upset by the change that had taken place; the housing developments, the business and industrial parks, the ranches, vineyards, golf courses and paved highways with endless streams of traffic.

He growled angrily and vowed vengeance on humans for covering his home with asphalt and yucky ornamental plants. He vowed to stay away from cities and the endless suburbs. Then when looked around he noticed the children riding off-road trails on their dirt bikes.  He hid behind a tree and watched them as they rode past. “Ah the children…” He didn’t finish the thought. Instead, he sat on his haunches, lowered his head and scratched his left ear with a hind paw. He was trying to think of a plan to punish the children.

His first idea was to take away their toys.

*Note: He can be forgiven for calling their dirt bikes toys. The children could have told him that you don’t play with bikes. You ride them. They aren’t toys but the wolf didn’t know that.

He decided to confront the parents. He bared his teeth and snarled menacingly. The fur along to top of his spine rose up in spiky tufts all the way to his bushy tail. He flicked his tail quickly back and forth and tried to look really ferocious. He told the parents that he would eat their offspring if they didn’t give him all the children’s’ toys. “It’s either your children or their bikes.” It was the wolf’s idea of an ultimatum.

He had a secret plan to take their dirt bikes to the recycling center and crush all the metal parts, including the engines, in giant hydraulic presses.

However, the children’s parents weren’t in the least bit intimidated by the wolf’s act. They told him that he better watch out because the Government had taken him off the endangered species list and he would be fair game for anyone with an AK47 or a few grenades.

Hunting wolfs with assault rifles and/or explosives is illegal. Indeed, hunting wolves at all is almost always illegal in California. But the wolf didn’t know that and he put his tail between his legs and slunk away.

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So far children one; and wolf zero…

The wolf wasn’t about to give up and he wracked his brain trying to think of a way to take away the children’s mini-bikes. He overheard the parents discussing toys imported from Asia. A light bulb went off in his head when he heard them say that they were afraid their children would get lead poisoning because the toys contained small amounts of lead.

He decided to use his Washington connections  behind the parents’ backs and contacted sympathetic legislators to ensure that children’s mini-bikes would be included in any ban that was subsequently enacted to protect the children from Asian toys.

Then he got in touch with the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and urged them to recall children’s’ mini-bikes because of  trace amounts of lead in the foot-pegs and batteries. “We all know that children like to put toys in their mouths” he told them.

Toys?

Afterwards Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 which banned all products designed for children ages 12 or under which contain lead over specified limits. These banned products included children’s motorcycles and ATVs. The children’s motorcycles and related parts were recalled. According to knowledgeable sources these products posed a danger to the youngsters because children might suck on the parts containing lead like foot-pegs and batteries.

The wolf generated many of the complaints that spurred the U.S. legislators into action. He showered them with gifts (campaign contributions). At that point he was satisfied with his efforts and took a break to consider what he had accomplished. He laid his head down on his outstretched paws and closed his eyes with a sleepy yawn.

As he was resting consumer advocates, U.S. dealers and concerned parents worked hard to pass legislation to explicitly exclude mini-bikes from the ban on all “toys that contain lead”. When the bill was passed children everywhere celebrated. Parents thought that it was silly to assume that children eat their mini-bikes.

A lot of people suspect that the wolf was behind the attempted ban on mini-bikes. In truth he wasn’t above using his contacts in Washington to get rid of the children.

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So far children two; and wolf zero…

The wolf was heartened by his temporary success, and being a very persistent animal, he continued his efforts. He changed his tactics and decided to attack the children one riding area at a time. Clear Creek Management Area (Clear Creek) was on his radar because it was run by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) .

The wolf knew that with a little smooth talking and placing some cash in the right hands he could cajole Washington into closing this popular riding area where children spend time with their families. He just needed to persuade the BLM that the park posed a danger to human health and well-being.

So he contacted both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to tell them that Clear Creek constitutes a  public health hazard due to the possibility of visitors inhaling naturally occurring asbestos. In other words, the popular OHV area has to be closed to the public to protect the children.

In truth, the asbestos is buried in the ground and a part of the surrounding landscape. What he didn’t want them to know is that California’s state rock is serpentine which contains asbestos.  In other words, California’s state rock was the culprit. See: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/14/us/14rock.html?_r=0

Serpentine can be found almost everywhere in California. It is a pretty green/blue metaphoric  rock that is sometimes shiny and smooth. Rock-hounds love to collect specimens although it is too soft to be used in jewelery.

The BLM closed Clear Creek because they agreed that the naturally occurring asbestos in the ground is a health hazard to humans. They even had an  official EPA report to verify that  asbestos is harmful. The BLM continued the ban after a new scientific study commissioned by the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) Division of the California State Parks Department proved that the health risk from exposure to naturally occurring asbestos was virtually nonexistent.

Daphne Greene, then deputy director of the OHMVR Division, said the study was undertaken “to determine if management and operational strategies could be employed at Clear Creek to mitigate risk while still allowing access to this premier off-highway vehicle recreation destination”. Their conclusion was that it could be managed to eliminate risk.

Jim Abbott, then acting BLM state director, said the bureau’s top priority has always been protecting public health and safety. Clear Creak is still to this day closed to the children.

There have never been any documented health problems caused by exposure to naturally occurring  asbestos. Refined asbestos that is used in insulation is another story entirely. It has been known to cause Mesothelioma which is a malignant cancer caused by prolonged exposure in the workplace. However, humans (especially bureaucrats) are often not very good at differentiating between a known risk and something else entirely. Or maybe this decision was a result of the wolf whispering in his ear.

For the latest BLM Clear Creek Decision go to the General’s blog at: http://thegeneralsrecreationden.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-recreation-hq-continues-to-be.html

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So far children two; and wolf one…

The wolf was still intent on getting rid of the children and noticed that they were having fun riding in the hills on single track trails in a state off-highway vehicle facility named Carnegie, SVRA. He found out that the state had purchased  3,000 acres to add Carnegie’s original 1500 acres.

The acquisition was called the Alameda/Tesla Expansion. The wolf knew that the children and their parents would be able ride their bikes on the 3,000 acres once an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) had been adopted and the acquisition was opened for off road recreation.

The wolf was very shrewd and he realized that he needed to get a lot of support to oppose the adoption of an EIR. He went to work and contacted everybody he knew including the East Bay Regional Parks District, Democratic politicians, the Livermore City Council, local  vineyards, and the Sierra Club, among others, to fight the EIR.

He counted on the fact that most people are environmentalists and support the Sierra Club and other groups which are publicly opposed to off road recreation. He knew that he had to influence the media and he went about feeding them false information.

His supporters were city and suburban folk like ourselves. We get most of our information about the natural world by watching nature programs on television, reading magazines and newspapers (mainly on-line) and by going on trips to heavily frequented spots in the Sierra Nevada (Yosemite) for vacation. We are not immune to hype.

The wolf took his “scientists” to the children’s property and made sure that they explored it with a fine toothed comb and inventoried everything. He asked them to prepare reports to catalog all the different endangered and not so endangered species inhabiting the children’s park. He told his historians to showcase all the historical and cultural artifacts that they could find and even those that they couldn’t find but knew were there from word of mouth and obscure historical references. He thought that he had it nailed. He knew humans and he figured that he could manipulate us without too much trouble. “Education is the key to appreciating the natural world”, he said.

Most of us live in fenced residential complexes surrounded by asphalt and landscaped gardens. We own at least one or two fast cars and whiz about insulated from the outside world, fortified by the smooth flow of asphalt beneath our wheels. A silent luxurious interior imparts a sense of tranquility and isolates us from the sense that we are driving an internal combustion engine.

The wolf knew that we could be won over with our strained relationship with the natural world: A natural world that we profess to care for it deeply and want to save so long as saving it doesn’t interfere with our lifestyles.

He started a website to convince us that the children and their dirt bikes caused irreparable environmental damage. Valuable and unique resources in the Alameda/Tesla Expansion Project (which he renamed “Tesla”) would get damaged by the children’s dirt bikes and it had to be protected. He claimed that “Tesla” is only appropriate for grownup activities such as hiking and exploring nature.

He shrewdly designed his website for people obsessed with unconscious  feelings of guilt arising from a disconnected, comfortable lifestyle cut off from nature. If he could just convince us to keep the children and their dirt bikes out of the Alameda/Tesla Expansion he knew that he could win.

He talked to local and state politicians and gave them legislation to pass that cut back on the children’s fun. He spread the word that the children pose a threat to a rich riparian and historically relevant region.

The Alameda/Tesla Expansion is actually located in a semi-arid region and the only history related to the region was a local coal mine which ran out of coal after a few years and was then abandoned. Coal mining was common in the hills above Corral Hollow Creek at the time.

He told them that it was a critical spot for endangered species and even posted pictures of the coal mining town called Tesla.

Endangered species can still be found in Carnegie where they are protected by the OHMVR Division. Endangered species and their habitat are therefore not incompatible with OHV recreation. All vestiges of the town disappeared years ago before the property was purchased by the state. The OHMVR Division is statutorily required to  promote soil conservation standards and protect natural resources and historical and cultural artifacts.

If the EIR is adopted, he argued, the children running amok on their dirt bikes will destroy this precious little 3,000 acre park. He neglected to say that it had escaped industrial, residential and agricultural development like all the surrounding area (cattle ranches, a shooting range, a place for weapons development and a Super Fund site) because it had been purchased by the state for a state vehicular recreation area. Nor did he mention that the children rode on unpaved  trails.

He said that if “Tesla” (meaning the Alameda/Tesla Expansion) was opened for OHV use it would mean the end of a rich and diverse environment.

He addressed important and influential environmental groups and persuaded them to adopt his campaign against the children. With the money and immense power of the biggest environmental groups behind him he knew that he could not loose. They adopted his strategy of lies and distortions. See: http://thegeneralsrecreationden.blogspot.com/2014/02/sierra-club-smear-campaign-against.html

He knew how to throw around words like “unique bio-diversity”… “precious natural resources”… “rich cultural and historical heritage”… “native biological habitat”, “scenic”… “culturally significant”…” irreparable environmental and historical/cultural resource damage”… “a threat to fish”… “ruin habitat for endangered plants and animals like the red-legged and yellow-legged frogs”.

He grasped how he could stimulate different areas in the human brain with language. He was very careful with his choice of words to create an impression of extreme danger.

“There are,” said Twain, “certain sweet-smelling, sugarcoated lies current in the world which all politic men have apparently tacitly conspired together to support and perpetuate… We are discreet sheep; we wait to see how the drove is going and then go with drove. We have two opinions; one private, which we are afraid to express, and another one –the one we use– which we force ourselves to wear to please Mrs. Grundy.”

The parents didn’t know what to do. They felt defeated by the wolf’s  blitzkrieg. So, like Neville Chamberlain at the start of World War II, they appeased the wolf by designing the park to be unattractive to children.

They added a museum (not related to dirt bikes), fenced off whole large areas where the children weren’t allowed to ride, provided places where bike hating grownups could convene with nature free of the children, provided areas for grownup (non OHV) activities, and designed roads for grownups in SUVs to cruise along in comfort and enjoy the scenery through tinted windshields.

They also fenced off hill climbs and single track trails in Carnegie proper. They allowed the wolf to take away all the things that the children loved. The children felt that they were not welcome in their park anymore and the wolf knew that he had won again.

This is a tragedy because in this large but heavily developed state there are millions of acres for grownup games (golf, hiking, mountain biking, climbing, wine tasting, horseback riding, etc.) but very few places for the children to ride their dirt bikes.

The children were disappointed because they knew that their parents paid special fees, appraisals and taxes that weren’t assessed on others to purchase land for OHV recreation and for the planning, developing, maintaining and policing of the land. Why were they taking this land away from the children whose parents had sacrificed to much?

The wolf was very pleased with what he had done so far. So he shut his eyes and curled up into a little ball of fur to rest and contemplate his next move.

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