This report was presented during the General Assembly of the Cal4Wheel Convention in Rancho Cucamonga in February.
This year marks 16 years of representing Cal4Wheel dealing with issues that impact OHV recreation. Those issues can be categorized as: Wilderness, wildlife, water, air, and energy and are the high level issues as codified in federal and state laws. Each breaks down to sub-categories that are predominantly administrative in nature. Federal and state elected representatives pass laws each year that are interpreted (and implemented) by non-elected administrative agencies. Herein lies a major issue.
Implementation of laws is done through a series of “rules” and “directives”. Those rules and directives are developed with input from the public. Public participation is critical to get un-biased rules and directives established.
If you are unhappy with the final rules and directives, you do have a final course of action - court challenge. Provided you have participated in developing the rules, you have standing to show that the rule as implanted will cause you harm.
That, in a nutshell, is the framework of the U.S, government and the states that are part of the United States of America that subscribe to the three branches of government: legislative, administrative and legal. Within that arena, OHV recreation is one of the competing “special interests” working to influence the development of laws and rules and ensuring the implementation does no harm.
Cal4Wheel is involved in legislative, administrative and legal issues. Over the years OHV recreation has been a small voice in the fight to keep public lands open. Cal4Wheel is one of the oldest and most active organizations with a continuous track record of participation to keep public lands open and OHV recreation as a viable activity. We have many partners to help with the effort and we are winning some of the battles.
One notable win was gaining permanent status for the OHMVR Program. For months, representatives of off-road recreation enthusiasts throughout the state worked on legislation to provide re-authorization of the highly successful Off Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) program as administered by the Department of Parks and Recreation. The State Assembly passed legislation that provided a permanent status for the program. The State Senate concurred and the legislation was submitted to the Governor for signature. On October 3, 2017, the Governor signed legislation making the OHMVR program permanent.
This was a major win as the program faced periodic “sunset” reviews which created frequent fights to obtain the necessary re-authorization. That win did bring about new challenges as the state has now begun a major re-organization of the Department of Parks and Recreation. Obtaining a permanent statue for the program has not ended the fight for OHV recreation. It has changed the game and we face new challenges requiring a continued participation in the coming years to protect and provide for OHV recreation.
Notable legal issues involve Oceano Dunes (air quality) and Carnegie (numerous issues) SVRAs. In coming years, the air quality issues are expected to become more prominent in the California Central Valley and the southern California desert region, especially Imperial County. Carnegie is subject to issues involving water quality, planning and siting of an SVRA.
Other litigation involves the Bi-State Sage Grouse in the Humbolt-Toyobie National Forest (Bridgeport area). While this suit is predominantly a Nevada issue, a section of California important to members is impacted by the improperly developed “rule” to protect sage grouse habitat.
The “administrative” issues are more in number and have a major impact on OHV recreation. Forest Plan revisions are high priority at the federal level while State Parks re-organization and SVRA plan updates are a high priority at the state level.
Nineteen national forests are wholly or partially within the borders of California and are important recreation destinations for Cal4Wheel members. Of those, the four southern California Forests (Los Padres, Angles, San Bernardino and Cleveland) have current forest plans. The Sequoia, Sierra, and Inyo NFs have forest plan revisions in progress. The Inyo NF is now in the “objection” phase. On behalf of Cal4Wheel, I attended meetings and submitted comments to the proposed Forest Plan revisions. The final draft for the Inyo NF has been released and, on behalf of Cal4Wheel, I submitted objections to the proposed final plan. Those objections have been deemed valid concerns to be addressed prior to the final plan release. A conference is scheduled for Feb 19-21 to address my objections along with objections of others. The remaining 12 National Forests will be undergoing similar plan revision within the coming years.
The BLM has a number of on-going administrative issues that impact recreation. Ranging from siting of renewable energy facilities to travel management the DRECP and West Mojave Route Network represent a wide range of potential OHV impacts. Both plans are in their final stages with final release expected by fall of 2019. I have attended meeting and submitted comments on behalf of Cal4Wheel. I have noted changes to the drafts that addressed my concerns expressed in my comments.
BLM has a major action pending with the recent Mojave Trails National Monument. And, the National Park Service also has some administrative actions in progress that impact OHV recreation; Saline Valley and Mojave National Preserve (Mojave Road).
These are a sampling of the Forest Service, BLM, and National Park administrative actions. And, the state has a number of SVRA planning initiatives in progress. And, Red Rock Canyon State Park has begun scoping for its revised general plan.
Several pieces of legislation are important to OHV recreation. One, S. 47, is of particular interest. Termed an “Omnibus Public Lands” bill, it is over 660 pages covering a range of topics throughout the nation. Within California, there is Wilderness Study Area release and federal designation of Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Areas in the desert region. This legislation has received Senate approval and will be forwarded to House of Representatives for approval prior to sending to the President for signature. As with all legislation, there is good and bad within this package.
Other legislation submitted for action include:
H.R. 403: To establish the Clear Creek National Recreation Area in San Benito and Fresno Counties, California, to designate the Joaquin Rocks Wilderness in such counties. This bill did pass the House in the previous Congressional session. It does not have a companion bill or sponsor in the Senate.
S. 47: A bill to provide for conservation, enhanced recreation opportunities, and development of renewable energy in the California Desert Conservation Area and its House companion bill H.R. 376: To provide for conservation, enhanced recreation opportunities, and development of renewable energy in the California Desert Conservation are awaiting committee action prior to floor vote.The fate of these bills may not be known for another 2 years.
H.Res. 109: Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal is worth comment. This is a RESOLUTION, and not subject to implementation as “administrative” or legal challenge unless passed in identical form by both houses and signed by the President. As a Resolution, this bill does provide a framework for development of additional legislation that begins to codify the intent of the resolution. This resolution is similar in language and scope to the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 passed by the House. Components of this resolution will have a significant impact on fossil fuel and transportation (internal combustion engine). More important, components of this resolution are being used to craft legislation with the state that will have a serious impact on recreation.