As the dust settles over the State Senate vote on SB 249, a few things are becoming clear. First, that the bill passed with basic minimum votes (3 - NO and 3 - Abstain from the Democrats) indicates this a noted issue and some elected representatives listened to their constituents. This is the OHMVR program praised by former Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell as 'world class'. The same program praised by Department of Parks Director Lisa Mangat as 'world class'.
On behalf of other OHV reps engaged in fight for the renewal of the program, thank-you for your contributions, calls and letters to your elected representatives. They made a difference.
The fight for the program moves to the State Assembly where its fate is unknown. We do know there are some “poison-pill” sections inserted into SB 249 that are viewed as dangerous to the continuance of the program. I will highlight one section…
SEC. 12. Section 5090.39 is added to the Public Resources Code, to read:
5090.39. (a) The division shall ensure that its management of state vehicular recreation areas and the management of other areas in the system as defined in Section 5090.09 meet the requirements of this chapter. No later than July 1, 2019, the division shall, through a public process, develop protocols and practices to ensure all of the following:
(1) Soil conservation standards and measures are adequate to minimize erosion damage.
(2) Wildlife and habitat assessment and inventory methodologies incorporate the best available science.
(3) Soil conservation and habitat protection standards are capable of protecting, conserving, and restoring natural and cultural resources, including sensitive species.
(4) Monitoring and evaluation efforts comply with this chapter, and adaptive management practices address reasonable foreseen and unanticipated circumstances that may occur at units of the system.
(5) Management plans and soil conservation and wildlife habitat protection plans are consistent with other relevant resource protection plans, including, but not limited to, the state wildlife action plan, natural community conservation plans, regional conservation investment strategies, wildlife corridor plans, and other regional land use and resource conservation plans prepared by a local agency.
(6) The acquisition of land intended for off-highway motor vehicle use, to the maximum extent feasible, avoids lands on which motorized recreation would be inconsistent with this chapter.
This section is a late addition. Between the various Senate sub-committee hearings, OHV was meeting with the bill author to address contentious issues. The basic language of the legislation did not change while the words describing the intent did change. As an analogy, You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig.
After several fruitless meetings, OHV sent a letter informing the author and Senate leadership they were withdrawing from the unproductaon meetings.
Then, we received a revised draft indicating that changes OHV agreed to were incorporated. Well, OHV did not agree to ANY changes and the above section was a new addition to the legislation.
Dissecting the language reveals some hidden “poison-pills”.
For example, “The division shall ensure that its management of state vehicular recreation areas and the management of other areas in the system as defined in Section 5090.09 meet the requirements of this chapter.”
This defines that management of SVRAs and OTHER areas of the system will meet the requirements of this chapter. The “SVRA” application is clear. The “other areas” bears clarification as it is inclusive of county OHV parks and trails and OHV trail systems on federal lands. For clarity, this includes Imperial Sand Dunes, Rubicon Trail, Johnson Valley, Stoddard Wells, and other areas around the state.
Subsections (1) through (6) provide the basic requirements that apply. Of importance is subsection (5), specifically, “…including, but not limited to, the state wildlife action plan, natural community conservation plans, regional conservation investment strategies, wildlife corridor plans, and other regional land use and resource conservation plans prepared by a local agency.”
For example, the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) is a conservation plan within the context of the description. In practice, this would eliminate the ability of the Bureau of Land Management to apply for grants to maintain trail systems in the southern California desert region.
This would also impact other areas and trails where endangered species and critical habitat, such as yellow-legged frog, spotted owl, Pacific fisher, and a host of others throughout the Sierra Nevada Mountains are defined.
The fight moves on. And, this is a battle that has many related issues. If you enjoy outdoors lifestyle, this will impact you. If you are into hunting or target shooting, this will impact you. If you are into photography, mountain biking, hiking, wildlife viewing, prospecting, rockhounding, or any other outdoor activity, this will impact you.