The ink is dry on the California budget and details are coming into focus. So, what about the OHMVR program? What about the future of OHV recreation in the state of California? The OHMVR budget is linked to the California State Parks budget. Now, for the rest of the story...
While news headlines claim nearly all California State Parks will remain open, the angst caused by Senator Simitian and the California State Parks Foundation ended as no benefit to the Parks and a detriment to OHMVR program.
BAD NEWS: In short, the Governor reduced the OHMVR Trust Fund portion of gas-tax revenue. Rather than $21 million loss of gas-tax funding to the OHMVR program, the loss was $7 million. The end result is the OHMVR local assistance grant program will be funded at the $10 million level as opposed to the $21 million of last year.
GOOD NEWS: Now, let’s examine the details of the gas-tax portion. There was an effort to divert $21 million in gas-tax revenue originally proposed to fund the local assistance grants portion of the state OHMVR Program. That effort resulted in $7 million being lost while the remaining $14 million was transferred to the OHMVR Trust Fund.
Thanks to letters and calls from OHV recreation to local representatives and the Governor’s office, the reduction of funding was not as severe as it could have been.
MORE BAD NEWS: Now, let’s examine the details of the local assistance grants portion. The $21 million was directed to support the local assistance grants program. Other than that, it did not impact the OHMVR Trust Fund; only the local assistance grants program which was targeted to need $21 million for the 2012 grant cycle.
During the legislative session, separate legislation provided authority to spend ONLY $10 million on local assistance grants for the 2012 grant cycle. This placed a cap on the grants program; a 52% reduction from the proposed 2012 grants cycle.
IMPORTANT DISTINCTION: While $14 million was transferred to the OHMVR Trust Fund, the OHMVR Program has authority to spend ONLY $10 million, a 52% reduction and serious impact on local governments and our trails.
At this time, the State Vehicle Recreation Areas remain fully funded and open for use. The funding reduction will be felt at federal and county facilities (like the Rubicon Trail of Eldorado County) that depend on ORMVR local assistance grants to remain open. For the past three years of OHMVR grants, funding has dropped from $26 million in 2010, $21 million in 2011, and $10 million for the current 2012 grant cycle.
So, what is the impact to OHV recreation? First, the $10 million will be split as such:
Law Enforcement - $2 million
Operation and Maintenance - $5 million
Restoration - $2.5 million
Education and Safety - $500,000
An estimate of what this means to the current grants awaiting funding for Operations and Maintenance projects, has been developed.
While BLM El Centro and Glamis Sand Dunes will receive grant funding, the Eldorado National Forest and iconic Rubicon Trail will not receive grant funding.
So, what does this mean for OHV recreation? To put this in perspective, review this analysis of the how law enforcement, Forest Service, BLM and other grant recipients for the past four grant cycles. Note, 2012 grant cycle is included at is original projected amount.
As this analysis points out, the local assistance grants program is an important part of the state OHMVR Program. It provides much needed funding to Forest Service and BLM to maintain the OHV trails and off-road areas important to OHV recreation. The OHMVR Grants Program provides an important economic boost to the rural counties of California where recreation occurs.
In the end, the California State Parks System was projected to receive a $21 million infusion at the expense of OHV recreation. They received a net loss of $24 million while OHV lost $7 million. The California State Parks System is still on life support. The California OHMVR Program is now connected to life support.
For details of the OHMVR portion of the Budget, see pages 58 and 59 of the California Sate Budget.