(June 2012) - OHMVR - The California Off Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation program has been the big story for the second month. On June 27, Governor Brown signed the state budget. While news headlines claim nearly all California State Parks will remain open, the angst caused by Senator Simitian and the California Parks Foundation ended as no benefit to the Parks and a detriment to OHMVR program.
For details, see pages 58 and 59 of: http://www.dof.ca.gov/documents/FullBudgetSummary_web.pdf
In short, the Governor reduced the State Park budget by $31 million. 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.
So, the California State Parks system is still broken and the OHMVR program has moved from a fully funded program and is harmed by the budget actions.
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 that depend on ORMVR local assistance grants to remain open. For the past three years of grants, funding has dropped from $26 million in 2010, $21 million in 2011, and $10 million for the current 2012 grant cycle.
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. A preliminary breakdown of grants with various funding scenarios is included with this report.
Thanks to all that answered the CA4WDC call to action and sent letters and made phone calls. Those actions helped reduce the overall damage to the program.
Recreation Trails Program - In other budget news from the federal level, U.S. House and Senate conferees have hammered out a final highway funding bill.
As you know, taxes you pay when you fill the tank on your OHV are made available to manage OHV use via the Recreational Trails Program. The RTP program must be re-authorized each time Congress passes a new highway bill.
National recreation groups have lobbied hard and the House/Senate conference has kept the RTP program intact, but has everyone scratching their heads on the details. One new provision allows states to opt-out of the program if they want. While the program will continue, it is unclear how it will change under this authorization.
This program has been used to fund small trail improvement projects throughout the state. The RTP grant program is open for motorized and non-motorized trail projects.
On your next visit to the gas station, check out the sticker on the pump that notes the amount of state and federal tax collected for each gallon of gas sold within the state. A portion of the state tax component is used to fund the California OHMVR program. A portion of the federal tax component is used to fund the RTP grant program.
Johnson Valley - The 29 Palms Marine Corps expansion into Johnson Valley is still bouncing around Congress. An amendment added to the Military Appropriations Bill calls for the Marine Corps to conduct additional studies and address a potential shared-use concept where the Marine Corps would apply for a special use permit and not conduct any live fire in a joint use area. That bill has been approved by the House of Representatives but has not come to a floor vote in the Senate.
Dinky Landscape Restoration Project - The DLRP is focused on landscape restoration efforts under the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program authorized by the Omnibus Public Lands Act of 2009. This 154,000 acre portion of the Sierra NF was selected during the first round as a priority forest landscape. The goal of the DLRP is to return the forest to a pine-dominant forest and reduce the number of fir and cedar trees; approximately a 60-40 split (60% pine and 40% combination of fir and cedar).
The Dinky LRP will have several “projects” over the coming years. The current project involves the Bald Mountain area will impact several OHV trails used by Central District clubs for events. The Wilderness Society has provided matching grant funds to support a monitoring program along with a monitoring consultant. That effort is expected to be in place early fall 2012.
Giant Sequoia National Monument - The final Monument plan and Environmental Impact is expected in August after almost 7 years of work. As part of this plan, a non-profit, Giant Sequoia National Monument Association was formed. I was active in forming that association and beginning in June 2008, began a 4 year run as chairman of the association. I have now passed the gavel to my successor.
During that 4 year period, two significant accomplishments stand out. The Association implemented a docent led walking tour of the Trail of 100 Giants. Now in its third year, the trail is credited with increasing visitor count to the the Monument.
The other accomplishment was establishing a challenge cost share agreement with the Forest Service. Under the cost share terms, the Forest Service would provide $10,000 per year in matching funds for projects within the Monument or Sequoia NF. To date, the Association has received $20,000 from the Forest Service under terms of the cost share agreement.
Clay Pit SVRA - At the June OHMVR Commission meeting in Oroville, the General Plan for the Clay Pit SVRA was approved opening the way for facilities improvements to begin in the small SVRA on the outskirts of Oroville, CA.
The Clay Pit property was turned over to OHMVR Division by the State Water Department. Earth fill removed from the site was used in the 1960’s construction of the Oroville Dam. The resulting “pit” now serves as an SVRA. An adjacent portion contains a Department of Fish and Game managed shooting range. While small in size (approximately 280 acres), Clay Pit offers many benefits due to its close proximity to an urban area. This type of small urban/regional SVRA offers many benefits for dirtbike and ATV riding opportunities.