July 12, 2017
By Don Amador
*Permission is hereby granted to reprint article
Rebuttal to CNPS Vol. 47 (July – Sept. 2017) Pro – SB 249 Political Campaign Article: Environmental Damage from OHV Activity is Outpacing California’s Ability to Repair It
LINK TO CNPS ARTICLE
This is a response to a recent California Native Plant Society (CNPS) anti-OHV political campaign (SB 249) article that was referenced (page 22) in the official California Department of Parks and Recreation Weekly Digest published on July 7, 2017.
SB 249 was crafted in the dark of night by the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) and a small group of extreme environmental groups over the course of the last two years without OHV involvement. At this time, not one OHV organization supports SB 249.
The bill fundamentally redirects this environmentally sound, highly successful and nationally acclaimed OHV program – with a recreation focus – to a non-OHV program with a preservation focus that relies on lawsuits and trail closures as primary “management” tools.
Since the creation of the California OHV program with the passage of the Chappie-Z’Berg OHV Act in 1971, OHV leaders have played an important role as stakeholders each time the program has come up for sunset review and reauthorization. OHV leadership has a wide variety of expertise in all issues relating to OHV recreation, both technical and environmental, with specific knowledge on the interaction between state and federal land management processes.
Entire sections of SB 249 significantly alter priorities in ways that are obviously unacceptable to active California recreationists. There are also numerous examples of incorrect definitions, calls for unnecessary reports and demands for duplicative agency consultation that portray a lack of understanding of the interplay already required to create best management practices for areas that host OHV recreation.
It is clear that CNPS and partners crafted this bill with a goal of unduly hampering and purposely setting roadblocks to a program that is world renowned for its existing high standards with regards to both recreation opportunities and environmental conditions. They want the motorized parks to be held to an environmental standard equal to the non-motorized parks – an absurdity at every level.
Furthermore there is no accountability for either reliably foreseen or unanticipated consequences of the drastic measures called for in the bill. Based on estimates from DPR and OHV experts, the magnitude of the costs to the state for land restoration and mitigation for federal, city and county lands, as called for by SB 249, could range from $11M to $20M per year. Expected legal liability cost estimates could be in the tens of millions of dollars per year.
SB 249 focuses solely on management of natural and cultural resources while ignoring important recreation-related water quality and soil erosion mitigation measures and trail facility maintenance activities.
SB 249 contains errors in the description of adaptive management as it is used in conjunction with a monitoring program. To those experienced in land policy, adaptive management is an ongoing process of evaluation leading to changes in operations to improve on-the-ground conditions. Many components are part of this process, although the bill stresses solely natural and cultural resources.
OHV stakeholders believe that water quality, erosion and sedimentation evaluations are equally critical, although none of these important issues are mentioned. Furthermore, natural and cultural resources are mentioned many times in the bill without adequate definition which will only lead to confusion in future decisions.
SB 249 seeks to prohibit use of existing roads in state vehicular recreation areas that were created by previous land owners. The bill would require the state to compile reports of accidents, citations and other infractions from all areas of the state, including federal lands, where off-road recreation occurs. This is a burden placed on no other unit of state parks, the information is not currently collected by state parks, nor is it required by any federal agency. Furthermore there is no justification for the need for this report, leading OHV leadership to conclude this is an unwarranted data collection effort that will be used by SB 249 proponents to discredit public land agencies and off-road recreationists.
SB 249 requires the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) Division to change its purpose from managing for sustainable off-road recreation to primarily managing for non-recreation focused on the protection of natural and cultural resources.
SB 249 seeks to portray and require restoration work to be done in an absolute fashion and be fully mitigated no matter the cause of the damage. Wildfires, earthquakes, rain and other weather phenomena can cause considerable damage, yet the effect of this damage is not differentiated from ongoing maintenance due to OHV activities. Other state parks are not responsible for acts of Mother Nature and it is inappropriate to place that burden on this program and this division. Minimizing impact to land from all forms of human interaction, whether through motorized or non-motorized activities is a goal already undertaken by all park units to the extent possible.
SB 249 adds numerous agencies for consultation and written reports as requirements to be produced, which does nothing to improve environmental conditions on the ground. The redirected time will make performing environmental activities and restoration difficult, be extremely time consuming and add a considerable cost consideration for all entities concerned when there is no indication that anything is amiss in the current program.
The OHMVR Division does much more than manage State Vehicular Recreation Areas (SVRAs). Its efforts include everything from law enforcement to supporting the economic viability of rural counties. The program also supports OHV recreation on lands managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and counties.
Again, I believe the regulatory mandates and related compliance requirements place the entire program (SVRAs and units managed by the USFS/BLM/counties) in both legal and fiscal jeopardy. The legislation creates a target rich environment for future litigation based on the alleged failure of the OHVMR Division and other units to comply with a host of new and unwarranted regulations and reporting schedules.
OHV organizations are urging legislators and the Governor to support reauthorization of the current program that was substantially improved upon 10 years ago in a bipartisan manner under the leadership of Senator Darrell Steinberg (SB 742).
Don Amador was a member of the 2007 bipartisan legislative team that drafted SB742 upon which the current OHV program is based. Don works as a consultant to the BlueRibbon Coalition/Sharetrails.org. Don is president of Quiet Warrior Racing, a recreation consulting business. Don is a 2016 inductee into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame. Don was also an OHMVR Commissioner (1994-2000) Don may be reached by email at: email@example.com