Archive | April, 2021

5 Million in Grant Money Returned to Colorado OHV Program

The Colorado OHV Grant fund will have $5 million in surplus money returned to the program! Additionally, the program will receive an increase in funding of almost $2 million annually. This is a HUGE win for motorized recreation in Colorado and a great way to celebrate the continued success of the Colorado OHV Grant program now celebrating its 30th anniversary!

Background

Earlier last year we were in the unfortunate position of having to report the sweep of $5 million in funds from the OHV program cash reserve in response to the COVID outbreak. We are pleased to announce that with the passage of SB 21-225 today, the $5 million in registration fund money has been returned to the CPW OHV program to be used for OHV purposes. In addition to the return of the surplus money, legislative spending authorizations for the OHV program increased from $4.3 million to $6 million annually. This will ensure that large cash reserves (i.e. the $5 million) will not accrue in the future and each year this money can be put to work for OHV related projects across Colorado the way it was intended.

“I’m philosophically opposed to using cash funds to balance the state’s budget. However, responding to the COVID pandemic required budget cuts no one wanted to make. When the time came to look at undoing some of the cuts we had to make last year, repaying the OHV fund became a priority of mine. I felt it was one of the more egregious cash fund sweeps we had to make. And given the fact that we have a lot of backcountry to repair due to overuse and historic wildfires, I wanted to pay back this fund in particular.” said Senator Bob Rankin (R District 8) member of the Joint Budget Committee and sponsor of Senate Bill 225.

“It’s not often that cash funds get repaid. We were fortunate enough to have Senator Rankin do much of the heavy lifting behind the scenes and working together, we were able to use PDAC’s membership to help educate the other members of the Joint Budget Committee on the serious need for backcountry trail repair. Once there was an agreement to repay OHV fund, we really just stepped out of the way and let the bill proceed through the legislative process without drawing any questions as to why this cash fund was getting repaid when others weren’t.” said Landon Gates, a lobbyist for the Powersports Dealers Association of Colorado(PDAC).

Good news for everyone

With all recreation uses seeing unprecedented increases in users the timing of this bill could not be better. This money was collected from OHV registrations and was intended to fund OHV projects and maintenance. These funds now can be used for that purpose. This is a big win for everyone that buys an in-state or out-of-state Colorado OHV registration and ALL users that utilize multi-use trail systems in Colorado!

Thank You!

The return of this funding has required a large amount of work behind the scenes. We would like to thank all of the following people and organizations for their part in making it all come together- the members of the Joint Budget Committee for passage of this legislation, particularly Representative Kim Ransom (R Distict 44) the House sponsor, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (CDNR), Jerry Abboud of the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO) and the lobbyists that worked with him, Don Riggle of the Trails Preservation Alliance(TPA), and everyone who wrote letters to the legislature in support of this effort.

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Ride With Respect Noise Letter to Grand County and Moab City

This letter is being reprinted here with permission from Ride with Respect (RwR).

This letter was written by RwR to Grand County and Moab City regarding sound regulations. In the attached PDF there are letters from RwR and Grand County’s Motorized Trails Committee as well as copies of the City of Moab Utah approved noise ordinance and Grand County approved noise pollution ordinance at the end.


 

RwR Letter to Grand County and Moab City

Grand County Commission
125 E. Center Street
Moab, UT 84532

Moab City Council
217 E. Center Street
Moab, UT 84532

Dear Grand County Commissioners & Moab City Council Members:

Ride with Respect (RwR) applauds you for starting to take a serious look at sound regulations, and we appreciate the discussion you’ve had thus far, but the approved county ordinance and draft city ordinance need several adjustments before noise concerns can be resolved in a practical and lasting manner. RwR is addressing the county and city together because you are both addressing the same issue, both consulting with the firm Noise Pollution Clearinghouse, and both attempting to make your policies compatible.

Process

First let me explain why RwR didn’t submit detailed comments prior to the commission meeting last Tuesday. In fact I was producing comments based on the April 16th draft that was posted on Grand County’s agenda center. After planning and hosting the third sound-testing demonstration on April 19th, the county attorney kindly sent me an updated draft, although it was not posted on the agenda center. I continued producing comments that evening and the following morning, only to receive an April 20th draft. Again, I appreciate receiving it from the county attorney, but it was not posted on the agenda center. In fact, at present the only draft posted on the agenda center is the original one from April 16th. Anyway the April 20th draft fundamentally changed how motorcycles would be regulated (from sound measurements to EPA labels only), further setting back my comment progress to the point that I couldn’t submit comments in time for your meeting.

Fortunately, unlike the ATV business-license ordinance and LUC that involved a moratorium deadline, the noise ordinance had no such deadline. I figured that I could explain the need for more time on the new draft of the noise ordinance but, during Citizens to Be Heard, comments on the noise ordinance were prohibited with the rationale that a public hearing on the matter already took place. In fact the drafts had changed so significantly since the public hearing that I think the county should allow and in fact encourage comment on the new direction. Instead of going into details, I simply emailed the commission and staff that I have serious concerns about the latest draft, and would appreciate more time to discuss it before voting on the matter. The commission voted anyway, and said that they can amend the ordinance anytime.

Also during the meeting, the county attorney said that the latest version isn’t in the agenda packet, but that I forwarded it to the ATV businesses and members of the Motorized Trails Committee (MTC). I did forward the ATV business-license ordinance and LUC drafts to ATV businesses 12 hours prior to the April 15th meeting in which the commission voted on them. I did it as a courtesy to the county attorney for emailing me the drafts 14 hours prior to the meeting, as no drafts had been posted on the agenda center at that point. However I didn’t forward the ATV business-license ordinance and LUC drafts to the MTC. Further I didn’t forward the draft noise ordinance to the ATV businesses or the MTC, and I hadn’t said that I would do so, just for the record. The process and decisions could be more thorough if given more time which, given the subject’s technical and consequential nature, is warranted in my opinion.

Progress

Second let’s recognize the progress made. RwR has promoted regulating sound for many years and, while the following points were initially challenged by local officials and people on both sides of the issue, we seem to be reaching agreement that:

  1. Education (e.g. Throttle Down) is critical but cannot fix the problem on its own,
  2. Engineering solutions (including alternate routes) are limited by private property in Spanish Valley,
  3. Lowering speed limits is likewise limited (primarily by side effects like reduced efficiency),
  4. Local government should utilize resources like sound testing before expecting industry reform,
  5. Local government shouldn’t count on the state granting permission to restrict the street use of UTVs,
  6. Quieter mufflers can bring the most popular UTV models in line with other sport models,
  7. Regulating sound should involve actually measuring sound in order to be objective,
  8. Measuring motor vehicles in use would be ideal but has major limitations for enforcement,
  9. Measuring motor vehicles while stationary can feasibly catch excessively-loud vehicles,
  10. Stationary sound testing can be done by pulling over vehicles rather than relying on a check point,
  11. Sound meter features (e.g. decibel averaging, tach synching, wireless comm.) aid enforcement, and
  12. Local government should consult an OHV sound expert for its noise ordinance and enforcement.

Stationary Sound Limits

For years RwR has advocated utilizing stationary sound tests for the specific vehicle types that the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) intended when developing them. Matching the intended test to the given type of vehicle makes enforcement more straightforward. For example, it’s important not to subject Type III ATVs (which are typically Jeeps with larger tires) to a test designed for dirt bikes (J1287), which the county’s approved ordinance does. Please refer to the Motorized Trails Committee’s March 15th letter:

“All-Terrain Type I Vehicle and All-Terrain Type II vehicle SAE J1287
92 dB

All-Terrain Type III Vehicle, automobile, and truck up to 14,000 pounds GVWR SAE J1492
95 dB

Off-Highway Motorcycle (any motorcycle that is designed for use on trails or natural terrain, regardless of whether or not it is also designed for on-highway use)
SAE J1287
96 dB

On-Highway Motorcycle
SAE J2825
96 dB for engine with less than 3 cylinders or more than 4 cylinders
/ 100 dB for engine with 3 or 4 cylinders

Snowmobile
SAE J2567
82 dB”

Note that the MTC’s exemption for trucks over 14,000 pounds GVWR was simply based on the observation that 14,000 pounds correlated with other regulations, and it matched the GVWR of the most capable version of one-ton truck available. However after the lengthy discussion on GVWR on April 20th, it’s clear that the commission is not taking GVWR lightly, so I presume that the MTC would defer to your decision. After all, the MTC’s November 12th letter stated “Because the MTC represents enthusiasts of off-highway motorcycle, ATV, UTV, 4WD, and snowmobile recreation, we support requiring sound standards for those vehicle types (based on SAE J1287, J1492, and J2567 respectively). We encourage Grand County to approach enthusiasts of on-highway motorcycle, car, and heavy-truck use before requiring sound standards for those vehicle types.”

In February RwR facilitated a UTV sound-testing demonstration for county and city officials. We are glad to see that the approved county ordinance and draft city ordinance don’t limit UTVs to 88 dB by SAE J1287 for model years 2024 and later because it is unrealistic for manufacturers to achieve, especially when it comes their sport models, which are more suitable than utility models for 4WD trails in Moab. A 92 dB limit is justified given the higher levels of non-muffler sound when compared to off-highway motorcycles (aka dirt bikes) for which the J1287 procedure and 96 dB standard were developed (including UTVs’ greater sound from tires, drivelines, and the engine’s typical operating speed as well as its duty cycle due to the continuously-variable transmission (CVT) or even just the higher payload for models that lack a CVT). A 92 dB limit is attainable for all kinds of UTV, although it may require an aftermarket muffler like the HMF Twin Loop, but the additional cost will significantly help resolve noise concerns. This arrangement is similar to “closed course” models of motorcycle that should have an aftermarket muffler like the FMF Q series installed to bring them below a 96 dB limit.

On April 16th, RwR invited county and city officials to a demonstration with other vehicle types on April 19th, and we appreciate all five county officials who attended especially considering the short notice. In response, the county’s April 19th draft adjusted the automobile limit (from 88 dB to 92 dB by J1492), the dirt bike limit (from 90 dB to 92 dB by J1287), and the on-highway motorcycle (aka street bike) limit (from 90 dB by J1287 to 92 dB by J2825) before doing away with stationary sound testing in the April 20th draft. There is a lot more work that went into the MTC’s suggested limits (which are endorsed by their respective industry groups, enthusiast groups, and codified by many states).

For automobiles, all five states that codify a stationary sound limit by J1492 (or older methods that are equivalent) have chosen 95 dB. If Grand County regulates automobile equipment more strictly than these states, our own state legislature may intervene. Fortunately a 95 dB limit would be effective (especially in combination with other provisions of the draft noise ordinance like the one against throttle jockeying in addition to traditional tools like citations for speeding or reckless driving). The demo 4WD rig (a 2006 Wrangler TJ Unlimited) that measured 95 dB by J1492 did have an aftermarket muffler, but it is actually of a higher quality and lower sound than most other aftermarket mufflers, and the vehicle was not excessively loud when in use (i.e. passing by). It is one of many automobiles that measures over 92 dB by J1492 yet is not contributing to our noise problem. Even the demo sports car (2016 Ford Mustang GT with ROUSH Stage 3 conversion) that measured 93 dB J1492 is a lot quieter than the street racers that cause a nuisance downtown, which tend to have a rattle at certain RPMs that is captured by J1492 due to an RPM sweep (from idle up to the target engine speed, with the test result being at whichever RPM was loudest). Many car-show vehicles exceed 100 dB by J1492, and they could be exempted (based on time of day
/ location / manner of use) if you so choose. The 95 dB standard by J1492 is accepted by the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA).

For dirt bikes, a limit of 96 dB by J1492 is the law in a dozen states including the surrounding states of NM, CO, WY, and ID. Your consulting firm used a small study from 2005 in California to justify a 90 dB limit. As mentioned in your workshop, the study’s actual recommendation is to allow at least 94 dB, and a lot of research has been done since then that finds some dirt bikes with mufflers labeled as EPA compliant measuring up to 96 dB in unmodified condition. The April 19th demo dirt bikes (2012 KTM 350 EXC-F and 2005 Honda CRF250X) with EPA-labeled mufflers measured about 92 dB by J1287, which the April 19th draft ordinance used as justification to set the limit at 92 dB. I have told the county and city that RwR has measured dirt bikes with unmodified EPA-labeled mufflers at well-over 92 dB, and this point has been confirmed by sound professionals who have measured thousands of vehicles. Yet on April 20th the county attorney continued claiming that all motorcycles can meet a 92 dB limit, and the city continues to propose this limit. A 92 dB limit requires exempting EPA-labeled dirt bikes, which creates a huge loophole for people to exploit by removing baffles or drilling out their stock mufflers. The solution is to adopt the 96 dB standard that can be required of every muffler regardless of its label. Further, a 96 dB limit would compel motorcyclists who have noisy mufflers to buy a quieter one because they know it would achieve compliance. However many of them would fail to find a replacement muffler that reliably measures under 92 dB so, if the limit is set at 92 dB, they would be less likely to get a quieter muffler and more likely to just try to evade enforcement.

A final note on dirt bikes is that the county’s April 19th draft proposed to subject street-legal dirt bikes to J2825, which was not designed for any kind of dirt bike, and in fact would be too lenient for dirt bikes given that J2825 tests single-cylinder motorcycles at just 2,000 RPM (which is justified for street bikes because they tend to have more torque to essentially idle through town). Therefore we encourage using the MTC’s suggested definition of an off-highway motorcycle “any motorcycle that is designed for use on trails or natural terrain, regardless of whether or not it is also designed for on-highway use.” This will capture dirt bikes, dual-sport bikes (i.e. street legal dirt bikes), and adventure bikes (which are larger and more street-oriented but still somewhat capable on dirt). All of these models are listed in the J1287 supplement (that shows the test RPM for each model), so they should be subject to J1287. Then the ordinance could regard all motorcycles not designed for use on trails or natural terrain as “on-highway motorcycles” subject to J2825.

Regarding street bikes, it was good to see the county’s April 19th draft utilize J2825, but it should distinguish between 3- and 4-cylinder street bikes (which are tested at 5,000 RPM) and all other street bikes (which are tested at 2,000 RPM) for reasons explained in the SAE publication “”Development of the J2825 On-Highway Motorcycle Sound Test”” that I shared at the April 19th demo. The limit for on-highway motorcycles should be 100 dB for engines with 3 or 4 cylinders and 96 dB for engines with less than 3 cylinders or more than 4 cylinders. For one thing, the SAE does not advise using J2825 to enforce limits below those figures. For another thing, those standards are law in NH and other parts of the U.S. as well as Canada. The demo touring-oriented street bike (2008 BMW K1200GT, which has 4 cylinders) measured 95 dB by J2825, and sounded quiet under normal operation because it could pass by at less than 5,000 RPM. Since your consulting firm asked about another unit of the same model, yes, I measured it at 93 dB. Since your consulting firm asked about maintenance, I should point out that most stock mufflers are a mechanical design that doesn’t require repacking like many of the fiberglass-insulated aftermarket mufflers do. The primary way to reduce the sound of a K1200GT would be to replace the muffler, which BMW sells for over $1,500. The 96/100 dB standard by J2825 and 96 dB standard by J1287 are accepted by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) and Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC). Only by adopting these standards (or more lenient ones) can stationary sound limits be enforced on all motorcycles regardless of the labels on their mufflers. In other words, if you set limits stricter than 96 dB, you won’t close the enormous loophole that allows mufflers to be extremely loud so long as they have EPA labels.

On April 20th, the county attorney urged abandoning stationary sound testing for motorcycles, stating “The other issue is that there are two different SAE tests that are applied to motorcycles. And again we’re just getting into more complication. So now we’re asking law enforcement; it would be three total tests. Off-road would be the J1287 test. You’d have vehicles at J1492. And then you’d have street bikes at 2825. And again it’s an additional test, an additional complication for law enforcement for probably very little to zero increased enforcement effect.” While officers should be trained to conduct stationary sound testing properly, once you know how to conduct one test, it’s easy to learn a second one. They typically vary in just a few ways, and it becomes routine with practice. The complication of learning three tests is far exceeded by the complication of applying a test to different vehicle types than what the SAE intended. The notion that, compared to requiring EPA labels, enforcing J1287 and J2825 offers very little to zero increased effect on curtailing noise is completely wrong.

Data Sources

Your consulting firm insisted that all motorcycles with unmodified mufflers in decent working order will measure under 90 dB by J1287. The April 19th demo disproved this assertion, and really it should’ve been common knowledge for anyone who has worked in sound regulation for that past quarter century, not to mention the common knowledge that J1287 is not the appropriate stationary test for street bikes. Yet on April 20th the county attorney appeared to be unconcerned, and recommended that the commission hire your consulting firm to help the city police and the county sheriff create a data management plan. Likewise the consulting firm has made poor suggestions to the city, such as prohibiting heavy trucks from idling for more than one minute, which the MTC addressed with the city attorney before she extended it to five minutes.

In contrast, I tried to understand more about the consulting firm. The final report of “Noisy Motorcycles—An Environmental Quality-of-Life Issue,” a roundtable sponsored by The INCE Foundation and The Noise Control Foundation in 2013, states:
“Representing the public, Les Blomberg from the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse expressed concern that the SAE J2825 is not strict enough. Because the SAE procedure is quite different from the current federal procedure, he stated there are motorcycles that would fail the EPA test, but pass the SAE test. He would prefer to see an alternative test that would fail every vehicle that is failed by the EPA test. He also wants to make sure that any wording change in the regulation would not require a vehicle to pass the EPA test or the J2825 test. His concern is that such language would allow a driver who fails J2825 to claim that his motorcycle passes the EPA test, which an enforcement officer can’t determine. Roundtable participants agreed not to recommend a change in the requirement that motorcycles meet the EPA test standard.”

The consulting firm appears to expect perfect enforcement of EPA standards in the field despite obvious limitations that are inherent to all motor vehicles (not just motorcycles). Likewise the consulting firm has advocated banning car alarms and the use of cell phones in public spaces (presumably to talk, not to text). I can relate to the irritation of false alarms and loud phone talkers, but there appears to be a pattern of unrealistic positions. This approach is more characteristic of an advocacy group, and in fact the consulting firm is a 501c3 organization, with past support from Sierra Club and NRDC. The firm’s own website touts the fact that CBS News Sunday Morning declared the firm to be “The nation’s major anti-noise interest group.” How county and city funds are spent is not up to me, but I’d like you to know what you’re getting, and how the work may be perceived by affected vehicle owners, businesses, and legislators.

EPA-Label Requirements

As alluded to in the section on stationary sound limits, thousands upon thousands of EPA-labeled mufflers in use are unacceptably loud, whether through internal modification or decades of deterioration. For example, consider the loudness graph that your consulting firm dramatized by stretching the scale, equating to semi-truck sound levels (even though the 80 dB federal pass-by standard is at hard acceleration, and motorcycles wind up going a lot faster in that test than semi-trucks, so it doesn’t mean that motorcycles are as loud as semi-trucks when following the same flow of traffic), and exploiting the diminishing effect of additional vehicles (e.g. the total sound of 50 semi-trucks simultaneously passing isn’t much more than that of 32 semi-trucks). The consulting firm’s conclusions relied primarily on a single motorcycle that measured 95 dB by J1287 yet 97 dB by the federal pass-by test (i.e. it passed California’s stationary standard yet exceeded the federal pass-by standard by 15 dB). That particular motorcycle, a KTM 525 EXC, had a stock muffler with an EPA label. Even if that motorcycle got louder, it would continue to pass an EPA-label requirement, but would fail to pass a 96 dB limit.

Meanwhile thousands upon thousands of mufflers lacking the EPA label are reasonably quiet, which makes EPA label requirements grossly ineffective at curtailing noise. On April 20th the county attorney stated “100% of motorcycles tested that did not have the EPA stamp required under federal regulation fail 92 dBA at 20″ and 80 dBA at 25′ standards.” First of all, that was a sample size of two motorcycles, where as I have been motorcycling for a quarter of a century, and am keenly familiar with noise culprits, which is a function of the muffler far more than the model of motorcycle. For example, all modern two-stroke dirt bikes lack the EPA label, but most of them have more torque than older versions which allows riders to keep the engine speed low, and the sound dissipates faster than four-strokes. Modern two-strokes are among the quietest dirt bikes despite their lack of EPA labels.

The demo dirt bike with a stock muffler that has no EPA label (2021 KTM 350 XC) measured over 98 dB by J1287. RwR agrees that this is too loud, and the owner is in the process of adding a cap to reach 96 dB or a whole new muffler such as the FMF Q to reach 94 dB. As the bike deteriorates or is accessorized with things like metal skid plates that reflect sound back toward the muffler, this bike will not meet a standard lower than 96 dB. Although RwR encourages EPA compliances, and we walk the walk with our own bikes, there are many reasons why people choose “closed course” models. Skilled youth riders depend on them because they quickly out-grow the entry-level models. Women often prefer the lighter weight of two-stroke engines, all of which are still “closed course” despite major emissions improvements from fuel injection. Racers would rather not spend another ten-thousand dollars on a second bike for non-race riding.

The most popular brand of dirt bike is KTM (which sells alternate models under the Husqvarna and Gas Gas brands), and the vast majority of its dirt-bike models are “”closed course,”” which could be outfitted with a quiet- oriented aftermarket muffler to meet a limit of 96 dB but not 92 dB. Note that quiet-oriented dirt bike mufflers almost always have spark arrestors. On April 20th the county’s commission administrator pointed out that you can’t legally ride a closed-course model on federal property because it lacks a spark arrestor. However the lack of a spark arrestor actually compels most riders to replace the muffler or at least the end cap, both of which reduce sound for most models. Further, enforcing the spark-arrestor requirement is a better indication of reasonable sound levels than an EPA-label requirement would be. Spark arrestors are also easier than enforcing an EPA-label requirement (by simply inserting a metal wire in the outlet to ensure that it’s blocked by the presence of a spark arrestor).

Verifying EPA labels is often challenging in the field. The labels are required of manufacturers, not consumers, which anticipates that the setting of an inspection would be a showroom floor or dealership service department rather than roadside after thousands of miles of use. Consequently the EPA labels on brand-new motorcycles:

  1. Lack a contrast with their background on virtually every model,
  2. Are placed in a location that’s subject to grime or rubbing on most models,
  3. Are placed in a location that requires laying down to view on many models,
  4. Are placed in a location that requires minor disassembly (e.g. heat shield) to view on some models,
  5. Are placed in a location that requires major disassembly (e.g. rear wheel) to view on some models, and
  6. May be removed by the consumer without violating EPA regulation

For examples, see this report from motorcycle advocates in New York City:
http://www.syntheticmachine.net/EPA%20Label%20Survey.pdf
The lack of contrast is probably due to the fact that the external surface of motorcycle mufflers routinely reach 200F. Extreme heat is the same reason that most EPA labels aren’t “stickers” despite how some people continue to refer to them. When your consulting firm suggested using a glove to wipe mud off of muffler to find an EPA label, I wonder if they know that mud from Mancos Shale and other bentonite clay hardens around mufflers like pottery in a kiln. The EPA labels on mufflers are often worn by tire rubbing, and blocked by accessories like storage boxes. To truly verify a label, officers should match the unique code on the muffler label with the unique code stamped on the headset (separate from the VIN), which indicates that the muffler is EPA compliant for use on that particular model of motorcycle. The EPA label on the headset is often worn by cable rubbing, and blocked by accessories like aftermarket fuel tanks (requiring tools to disassemble).

The county attorney said that finding the EPA label was easy on all of the roughly twelve motorcycles that she has tested and/or inspected. I know that she tested one of my motorcycles that does not have its EPA label visible without removing a storage box, which we did not do. Also, once the storage box is removed, an officer would find that the EPA label is upside down and heavily obscured by grime despite that the label faces outward and is only three years old.

On April 20th the county attorney asked “The stamp is required by federal law, so why not leave it there? Why are we incentivizing by creating this loophole for people like the street-bike that we tested, for an individual to buy an illegal muffler when there are millions of mufflers out there that are legal?” As I’ve said, it’s not required of the consumer, and the real loophole is exempting EPA-labelled mufflers from being sound tested. Mufflers lacking an EPA label is no loophole because they would be sound tested just the same. Further there are not millions of mufflers out there with EPA labels for most closed-course models, models that are roughly 25 years old, or custom builds. EPA-labelled mufflers are not only more expensive, but they’re unattainable for a substantial portion of motorcycles.

Regarding the reach of motorcycle sound limits or EPA-label requirements, on April 19th the county attorney and commission administrator assured me that the latest draft confines such requirements to Class B roads with the intention of being confined to street-legal motorcycles in residential areas. However the county’s approved ordinance makes no such confinement, while it does confine the pass-by sound limits to Class B roads. The ordinance provides a separate definition of street-legal motorcycles from other motorcycles, so it could’ve easily confined the EPA-label requirement to street-legal motorcycles. Although the ordinance identifies residential areas as its primary goal, it also identifies balancing the natural quiet of the surrounding desert landscape as a secondary goal, which could be used to justify enforcing motorcycle sound limits or EPA-label requirements virtually anywhere in the county.

Even if it were limited to residential streets, most access roads to the nearby trails are residential. On April 20th the county attorney dismissed the idea that closed-course models are converted to be street legal by stating “There was an admission that they [closed-course models] are not comfortable to drive on the streets.” This refers to a conversation she had with a Marine Corps veteran who certainly couldn’t have been referring to the brief street riding needed to reach trailheads or to connect with other trails and towns. He must have been referring to long-distance highway riding, which isn’t the only reason to make one’s dirt bike street-legal. Not only is riding to the trail easier than trailering, it’s less consumptive, as dirt bikes on the open road get better fuel economy than hybrid cars. Also please keep in mind that rules pertaining to Class B roads that are graded dirt would still affect all dirt bikers. Rides are commonly 50- to 100-miles long, and graded roads are needed to connect trails.

Similarly the city’s draft ordinance states that motorcycle EPA-label requirements, pass-by sound limits, and stationary sound limits (including the much lower ones during restricted hours) would apply to all public roadways. Moab City includes parts of 4WD trails like Hells Revenge and Moab Rim, which are Class D roads. Therefore all of those requirements and sound limits would apply to street-legal and non-street vehicles alike, and justifications like “just trailer to the trailhead” aren’t any consolation. RwR actually encourages making sound regulations reach beyond residential areas to the public lands so long as they’re reasonable. Stationary standards like 96 dB by J1287 for dirt bikes wouldn’t need distinctions (e.g. city/county, residential/non-residential, paved/dirt, road/trail), rather they should protect all of the county all of the time.

Now that our convictions are clear, please stop asking motorcyclists to follow an EPA-label requirement that applies to manufacturers, while telling them not to worry about this aspect of a new noise ordinance being enforced. Instead make prudent rules that can be enforced uniformly, and I promise we’ll help through peer pressure.

Restricted Hours

The county’s approved ordinance and city’s draft ordinance that reduce the pass-by sound limits 2 dB during nighttime might work since the reduced traffic should enable reduced acceleration. However the city’s proposal to limit all vehicles under 10,000 pounds GVWR to 85 dB by a stationary test would effectively place a curfew on a substantial minority of cars/trucks and the vast majority of motorcycles / UTVs. Stationary sound tests are an equipment requirement, and the equipment obviously doesn’t get quieter at night, so it’s essentially a method to exclude certain vehicle types. It would not help the city in earning trust that it would regulate vehicles reasonably, as you’d have some restaurant workers unable to use their only vehicles, not to mention tourists trying to get going before 9am on a Sunday in the summer.

Pass-By Sound Limits

During the April 19th sound demonstration, we made rough measurements of the demo vehicles followed by even rougher measurements of traffic on Mill Creek Drive. Keep in mind that we mostly measured vehicles in the downhill direction, which are several decibels quieter than vehicles in the uphill direction, which are several- decibels quieter than vehicles on a steeper hill or accelerating from a stop. The presentation during the April 20th commission meeting indicates that pass-by limits would be used primarily at intersections for acceleration. Therefore the limit at fifty feet should be raised from 74 to 80 dB, which is the federal standard for on-highway motorcycles (and 2 dB less than the federal standard for off-highway motorcycles or semi-trucks). While these standards involve hard acceleration that can usually be avoided in everyday use, non-stock tires and other common accessories add to the total sound, which makes 80 dB appropriate for enforcement purposes (provided that the ordinance specify a recognized test methodology). If the ordinance specifies that pass-by limits are only for screening, or only for cruising on fairly flat ground, a limit under 80 dB may be appropriate. Just keep in mind that 80 dB at fifty feet is low enough to catch all of the worst offenders.

Perhaps pass-by limits are deliberately strict to compensate for a lack of enforcement. The idea would be that, when people know that they’re in violation, they’ll at least mind their manners. One limitation of this approach is that the “violators” eventually catch on to the empty threat of enforcement. Another limitation is that being labelled a “violator” can breed contempt. It can also be problematic for officers who will be accused of picking on certain “violators” arbitrarily, while being accused of failing to act by other citizens who will expect enforcement to its fullest extent. If you set a low limit now with the intent to provide a cushion, that intent may be lost as the years go by. Let’s retain good officers by giving them reasonable standards to enforce closely and consistently for everyone’s benefit.

Property Line Sound Limits

The city’s proposed residential property-line sound limits of 55/50 dB for day/night are too low, and even the county’s approved limits of 60/55 dB for day/night are too low considering the Fast sound-meter setting that’s specified. Such limits would be exceeded by a single bounce of the basketball, bark of the dog, or shut of the tailgate. Unless they’re far louder, such fleeting sounds are not the issue, which is why environmental sound readings usually average over the course of minutes or even hours. If this duration is deemed impractical, then at least specify a Slow sound-meter setting, or set limits significantly higher than 60/55 dB. The need to list so many exemptions is an indication that the limit is too strict.

Plainly-Audible Sound Limits

The city’s draft ordinance prohibits vehicle sound that’s plainly audible from a distance of 1,000 feet. “Plainly audible” standards are more appropriate for larger city’s that consistently have a higher ambient sound level. The Moab city limits includes relatively remote settings. Even on Main Street, there are times when normal operation of a normal vehicle is plainly audible from a distance far greater than 1,000 feet. Therefore the “plainly audible” standard should be limited to places and times when the ambient sound is consistently high, or it should be extended to a distance of 2,000 feet.

The city’s draft ordinance also sets limits in terms of dBC, which captures inaudible sounds, and is difficult to get repeated and confirmable results. Fortunately it’s generally needed only for industrial zones involving very low frequency sounds, so it could be removed from the city’s draft to reduce the burden of enforcement.

Vehicle-Owner Liability

The city’s draft ordinance makes vehicle owners liable for the sound produced by their vehicles when operated by another person. This may make sense when it comes to stationary sound limits because they’re an equipment requirement. However it makes no sense for pass-by or plainly-audible sound limits, which measure the manner of use. Vehicle owners should not be held responsible for the behavior of drivers when it comes to noise any more than speed or recklessness.

Sound-Meter Response Setting

“The county’s approved ordinance and city’s draft ordinance define “dBA” as the sound pressure level using the “A” frequency weighting and the fast response setting (unless otherwise noted or required by testing standards established by the county). The Fast setting measures sound in less than two-tenths of a second, often capturing spikes that aren’t detectable by human hearing, and yielding inconsistent results. Recognized test methods that call for a Fast setting either specify a long duration (in the case of environmental sound measurements) or a series of measurements that prove to be consistent (in the case of some vehicle sound measurements). The sound ordinances should define the Slow setting by default (unless otherwise noted or required by testing standards established by the county/city), as this provides a time sample of at least one second.

Motorboats

The city’s draft ordinance prohibits motorboat operation from exceeding “a sound level of (a) 80 dBA at 50 feet; or (b) 70 dBA at any shoreline; or (c) 80 dBC at any shoreline.” The state of Utah already quantified the sound limit for motorboat mufflers in R651-222 (enclosed). For engines manufactured after 1992, the state limits sound to 88 dBA by the SAE J2005 stationary test. This test appears comparable to the city’s proposed limit of ” 80 dBA at 50″ feet,” with the state’s limit being 8 dBA higher. The state also limits sound to 75 dBA by the SAE J1970 pass-by test, which appears to be comparable to the city’s proposed limit of ” 70 dBA at any shoreline,” with the state’s limit being 5 dBA higher. If so, the city shouldn’t set equipment requirements stricter than the state’s, as equipment requirements are primarily set by states. Instead the city could include the state’s motorboat muffler rules if it would aid enforcement.

Conclusion

Although the rationale may be verbose, RwR’s suggested revisions are specific and pragmatic, and I would be happy to answer any questions or concerns in the coming days. Thank you for considering all sides of this critical issue.

Sincerely,
Clif Koontz
Executive Director

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Public Scoping Comments Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges Travel Management Plan

 

Ride with Respect, COHVCO and the TPA comment in the scoping phase for the Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges Travel Management Plan near Moab, UT.


Submitted through the BLM EPlanning Website on the BLM National NEPA Register, and via email

ATTENTION:
Moab Field Office Canyon Country District
Bureau of Land Management
blm_ut_mb_comments@blm.gov

RE: Public Scoping Comments by Ride with Respect, Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition and Trails Preservation Alliance concerning the BLM’s Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges Travel Management Plan Environmental Assessment, DOI-BLM-UT-Y010-2020-0097-EA

Dear Sir or Madame,

Introduction and Background of the Commenting Rider Groups

Ride with Respect (RwR), Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVO) and Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) (collectively “the Rider Groups”), by and through their undersigned counsel, appreciate this opportunity to submit the following scoping comments in the above-referenced Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges Travel Management Plan (TMP) environmental assessment (EA) process.

The Rider Groups have been involved in discussions regarding access to areas in the TMA for decades both in travel plans and resources management plans. COHVCO and TPA are signatories to the subject 2017 Utah Statewide TMP Court Settlement Agreement. They along with RwR have been active advocates in the Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges TMA. Specifically within this area, since 2008 RwR has contributed several-thousand hours of high-quality trail work to assist BLM in implementing and refining its travel plan. With many volunteers who were also part of COHVCO and the TPA, RwR has blocked-off closed routes, delineated the open routes, repainted blazes on slickrock, and installed hundreds of signs, dozens of fences, and a half-dozen cattle guards. With grants from the Utah OHV Program, they implemented a dozen major reroutes to move trails away from sensitive resources with a design that promotes sustainability, safety, and the satisfaction of various trail users. Reevaluating the whole travel plan has actually sidetracked the site-specific progress that we have made.
However RwR intends to continue assisting the BLM, and the Utah OHV Program now offers five times more grant funding for trail work and related projects, which comes from the dedicated and reliable revenue stream of OHV registrations.

In the view of the Rider Groups, the Moab area continues to be a global destination for the motorized community. Given the significant restrictions to motorized usage throughout the Moab Field Office, combined with the significant expansion of visitation, there is a definite need to keep the existing motorized travel routes in the TMA open to public use.

I. Scoping Comments

Rider Groups incorporate by reference the written scoping comments in this submitted April 25, 2021 by Off-Road Business Association, One Voice, United Four-Wheel Drive Association, and United Snowmobile Alliance, and reiterate the following points from those comments among others:

  1. The EA should consider at the landscape level the many opportunities for solitude and non-motorized recreation that already exist throughout the Moab Field Office planning area, before considering whether any such additional areas should be designated within the Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges TMA at the expense of existing motorized roads and trails already there.
  2. Even in the immediate vicinity of the TMA, there are newly designated opportunities for the highest levels of solitude and quiet recreation by virtue of the newly designated 54,563 acre Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness area directly to the west of the TMA. The EA should take this into consideration.
  3. The EA should also examine the extent of non-motorized recreational opportunities that exist in the two large national parks available on the Moab landscape. The 77,000 acre Arches National Park is immediately adjacent to the east of the planning area and 338,000 acre Canyonlands National Park is immediately adjacent to the south of the planning area. Of course motorized usage is entirely prohibited or heavily restricted by Federal law in these Parks. While there is motorized access to Canyonlands, this access is exceptionally limited as the Park expressly aims to provide a back-country experience on almost 90% of its acreage. The EA therefore should take into consideration the vast opportunities for non-motorized recreation in these two National Parks.
  4. Portions of the Green River that bound the TMA to the west were designated by the Dingell Act of 2019 as a scenic segment or segments in the National Wild and Scenic River system. As such, the river shorelines are to be managed as largely primitive and undeveloped though accessible by roads. This is in contrast to a possible Wild designation in the Wild and Scenic River system, under which road access would have been prohibited. The BLM should take special care in scoping this EA to ensure an alternative to protect existing road access to the Green River in the TMA, especially when considering that existing motorized road access to the River is already significantly lower than historically provided.
  5. The scope of the EA should include careful review and compliance with the 2008 BLM Moab Field Office Resource Management Plan (“RMP”). Simply put, the Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges TMP should be a tool to apply existing RMP goals and objectives and are not the basis for significant landscape level changes that would conflict with the RMP. While the RMP closes 22% of the Moab Field Office planning area to motorized usage, the RMP specifically identifies the area covered by the present TMP rea as a motorized expansion area. Accordingly, the Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges TMA general is the most appropriate in the Moab Field Office planning area for motorized use.
  6. The scope of the EA should include the fulfillment of facilities goals and objectives for the Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA) set forth in the 2008 RMP. These SRMA goals and objectives are specifically identified in the RMP as follows:

“Potential Future Facilities:
– Bartlett Campground: camping in this area would be restricted to this campground.
– Big Mesa Campground: camping in this area would be restricted to this campground.
– Blue Hills Road OHV Trailhead.
– Courthouse Rock Campground, camping in this area would be restricted to this campground.
– Cowboy Camp Campground, camping in this area would be restricted to this campground.
– Monitor and Merrimac Bicycle and OHV Trailhead relocation.
– White Wash Sand Dunes OHV Parking and Camping Area.
– Gemini Bridges Parking Area and Trailhead.”1

  1. The Moab Field Office has made progress on some of these goals. The scope of the present EA should consider employing all means necessary to make progress toward completing all of these goals.
  2. It should be noted that the foregoing facilities related goals of the RMP, for which the current EA’s scope should provide and include, are inconsistent with an imaginary need to convert the use of the TMA for solitude non-motorized recreation. To the contrary, in the 2008 RMP final environmental impact statement, recreational access for multiple use was highlighted as part of the overall strategy for the Moab Field Office as follows:

“3.11.2.5 DEMAND FOR FACILITY DEVELOPMENT
In the past 15 years, the MFO has constructed and maintained a variety of recreation infrastructure. However, the present level of facility development is still not sufficient to meet the needs of the recreating public, nor is it sufficient to protect resources from the recreating public. Areas within the Grand ERMA that are receiving heavy visitation and camping use will require facilities such as camping areas, toilets, information kiosks, marked routes and parking areas in the very near future. These areas include the Utah 313 corridor, the area northwest of Moab known as Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges (including Ten Mile Canyon and White Wash Sand Dunes), the Bartlett Wash/Mill/Tusher Canyon areas, Klondike Bluffs, Bar M, areas south of Moab, Utah Rims, and Kane Creek Crossing area. It is reasonable to expect that, in the next 15 years, recreation facilities construction will continue to be needed, although the pace of construction is expected to lessen. With visitation to BLM administered public lands around Moab continuing to increase (and with the need for additional facilities already extant with the present visitation), facilities to provide for these visitors must keep pace in order to protect the land and to provide for human sanitation. Current use levels continue to produce degradation of resources, and additional facilities are needed to accommodate visitation and stabilize resource values. Examples of demand-driven development include: 1) providing camping facilities where dispersed camping activity exceeds capacity, or 2) providing marked OHV or bike routes when numbers and types of users change so that route marking can maintain public safety and protect resources. In addition, providing for vehicular users often requires building parking lots, trailheads and toilet facilities.”2

  1. The scope of the EA should consider in detail how BLM’s ongoing management of existing roads and trails has significantly reduced conflicts between motorized use, and mechanized and non-motorized use. Documenting these historical facts in the EA, about how current management is generally working to resolve such conflicts, justifies the preservation if not the reasonable expansion of motorized routes and specific other motorized related access goals in the TMA.
  2. The scope of the EA should ensure that minimization criteria are applied correctly to address user conflicts. In particular, for the reasons stated in the April 25, 2021 scoping comments submitted in this matter by Off-Road Business Association, One Voice, United Four-Wheel Drive Association, and United Snowmobile Alliance, the BLM should eschew the incorrect interpretation of minimization criteria foisted by the Wilderness Society in its publication entitled, “Achieving Compliance with the Executive Order “Minimization Criteria” for Off-Road Vehicle Use on Federal Public Lands: Background, Case Studies, and Recommendations and Travel Analysis Best Practices: A Review of Completed Travel Analysis Process Reports.”
  3. The scope of the EA should include and provide for multiple alternatives for addressing and minimizing user conflicts, requiring that any assertions of user conflicts be documented in the scientific process; instead of just accepting wholesale assertions of conflicts and applying a simple closure/no closure binary alternative and analysis for addressing such conflicts. More details on the science of imagined user conflicts and ways to address them are set forth in the above-referenced scoping comments of Off-Road Business Association, One Voice, United Four-Wheel Drive Association, and United Snowmobile Alliance.

II. Rider Groups submit the following additional scoping comments:

  1. Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges may be the most high-profile TMA of the 2017 Court settlement agreement because it includes Easter Jeep Safari routes like Rusty Nail, Where Eagles Dare, and Hey Joe Canyon along with less-popular 4WD routes that provide a more primitive opportunity. The prized network of motorized singletrack includes Cow Freckles Trail, Dead Cow Loop, upper Red Wash routes, and a couple singletracks that reach Crystal Geyser. Local leaders support improving OHV links to Green River for tourism. Careful consideration toward preserving motorized use of these areas should be included in the scope of the EA.
  2. Another important scoping aspect is to include in the EA, consideration of all existing routes on the ground in addition to all currently-designated routes. Consideration of all existing routes on the ground should not be delayed or postponed. Otherwise it may be unduly difficult for the BLM to demonstrate minimization when their baseline is the current designated routes as opposed to all the existing routes, which is essentially what the baseline was in 2008 prior to approval of the current travel plan.
  3. To put the roads and trails baseline point more specifically, the Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges Rims EA should define its baseline as all the routes inventoried and analyzed by the 2008 RMP (including the 2003 Trails of Dubinky map by Bookcliff Rattlers Motorcycle Club (BRMC)) in addition to routes submitted by RwR but not analyzed by the BLM.3
  4. In support of the foregoing point, the 2017 court settlement agreement states that the existing TMPs will remain in effect until the BLM issues new TMPs for the twelve TMAs. However it does not state that the existing TMPs will become the baseline for analysis of the new TMPs. Since the 2017 settlement agreement essentially directs the BLM to revisit eleven parts of the 2008 TMPs, the appropriate baseline would be the one that was used to develop the 2008 TMPs in the first place, which is the No Action Alternative of the 2008 FEIS. In other words, to revisit the eleven parts of the 2008 TMPs, we must consider the motorized-travel policies that existed prior to the 2008 RODs.
  5. Consistent with the two previous points, the EA should provide for one alternative to include all the existing routes (or at least all of the ones considered prior to the 2008 travel plan). That would amply show how much minimization the BLM has already done through the closure decisionmaking done as part of the 2008 ROD. At the very least, the EA should acknowledge the amount of routes inventoried by the BLM and others like RwR prior to 2008.
  6. The EA should be properly scoped to recognize that the 2019 Dingell Act prohibits buffering wilderness areas. Accordingly, even though Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness is close to the Labyrinth Rims TMA, its proximity does not justify further restrictions in TMA areas adjacent to the Wilderness area. This anti-buffering legislative purpose would be improperly undercut were the BLM to give into pressure to curtail public motorized in the TMA adjacent to the Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness.
  7. In any event, recreationists seeking solitude within the TMA can consistently find it in the undulating terrain of this canyon country. They may even find it on motorized routes, as protecting the resource of a high mileage of routes reduces the frequency of motorized use on any given route. Further Rider Groups have supported minimum-impact education and reasonable sound standards (such as a limit of 96 dB by SAE J1287 for off-highway motorcycles, which is already law in Colorado) to largely eliminate excessive sound.
  8. Extending from Dubinky Well to the city of Green River is the Dubinky trail system, primarily composed of motorized singletrack. BLM-sanctioned motorcycle races that took place there throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and use has multiplied in each subsequent decade. This increased demand for trails warrants adjusting the scope of the EA to provide for increasing the supply of designated trails in the Dubinky trail system, as decreasing the supply would only concentrate and exacerbate negative impacts.
  9. The importance of adhering to the 2008 RMP and using the current EA as a tool to further implement the 2008 RMP, has already been stressed above. Here are some more particulars to include in the scope of the EA in the name of honoring the 2008 RMP:
    • The 2008 RMP designated Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges Rims as a SRMA, and it includes the OHV focus areas of Dee Pass Motorized Trail Area, White Wash Sand Dunes Open OHV Area, and Gemini Bridges / Poison Spider Mesa Backcountry Touring Area. The EA should be properly scoped to protect those RMP sanctioned uses.
    • The 2008 RMP also rejected some pressure from
      wilderness-expansion groups to close hundreds of miles of routes in the Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges Rims TMA that have been left open since then. The wilderness-expansion groups continue to pressure land managers, but their position generally continues to be unjustified. We ask the BLM to show more of its work as needed, but not to capitulate to the threat of sue-and-settle tactics, as Rider Groups stand ready to continue to defend travel plans that provide OHV opportunities.
  1. The EA should be scoped to consider this important socio-economic resource value: OHV recreation is without question a major component of Moab’s tourism industry, and OHV riders tend to spend more per day than other recreationists. Putting this important socio-economic value in context, the 2008 RMP’s conversion of motorized recreation in the TMA from open cross-country or existing routes to designated routes (with the minor exception of White Wash Sand Dunes) means the surface impact to the land is less than 1% of the Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges Rims TMA.
  2. Comprehensive travel planning should obviously consider adding routes along with subtracting routes from the current TMP. Only when planners consider both options can they identify creative solutions. The 2017 settlement agreement does not direct the BLM to limit its scope to existing routes, let alone to currently-designated routes. If the BLM chooses to limit the Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges Rims EA’s scope to existing or currently-designated routes, as was done in the Canyon Rims EA, it should exercise great caution when considering the closure of any routes. Subsequent travel planning may determine that an existing route has potential value, for example, when an unremarkable spur route is extended to create a looping opportunity that organizes travel. Closing that spur in the interim would require field work to get compliance, followed by NEPA work to reopen it along with the extension, so it makes more sense to just leave the spur open on account of its potential use.
  3. When it comes to routes that are currently designated open, the EA’s scope should recognize that any lack of positive evidence of on-the-ground motorized use does not necessarily mean that:
    1. The routes have received no OHV use in recent years (as some terrain is prone to disguising evidence of use),
    2. The routes have no current value for OHV use (as a lack of use could be due to a lack of wayfinding signs),
    3. The routes have no potential value for OHV use (as the amount and types of recreational use increases), or
    4. Use of the routes would cause significant adverse impacts (as some routes are essentially innocuous).
  4. Consistent with the two previous points, the EA’s decision matrix should put the onus on requiring justification before closing any existing route, rather than requiring justification to keep an existing route open.

Sincerely,

/s/
Mark Ward, Legal Counsel BALANCE RESOURCES

For and On Behalf Of:

Ride with Respect
A Utah Nonprofit Corporation

Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition and Trails Preservation Alliance
Colorado Nonprofit Corporations and Signatories to the 2017 Settlement Agreement

 

1 See, Moab FO RMP FEIS 2008 at pg. 2-23
2 See, Moab Field Office 2008 RMP FEIS at pg. 3-90.
3 In 2003 RwR submitted the Copper Ridge Motorcycle Loop, but the BLM rejected the data as being redundant with the BRMC data despite the fact that the BRMC data was entirely west of U.S. 191 while the RwR data was entirely east of U.S. 191. In 2007 RwR submitted several more Dubinky routes that the BRMC data had missed in 2003. After all, the BLM had provided only two months—November and December of 2003—for the public to submit route data across the entire field office, most of which was covered in snow during the second month. The routes submitted by RwR in 2003 and 2007 were never considered for designation by the BLM; they deserve consideration in the Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges Rims EA. At the very least, they should be part of the baseline for analysis in the Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges Rims, as all of them existed prior to the area being limited to designated routes.

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Book Cliffs (Utah) Travel Management Area Comments

COHVCO TPA RWR logos

Book Cliffs Travel Management Area Comments

Bureau of Land Management Vernal Field Office
170 South 500 East
Vernal, UT 84078

Dear BLM Planning Team:

We appreciate the opportunity to comment on your draft Environmental Assessment of the Book Cliffs Travel Management Area (TMA). COHVCO and TPA are signatories to the subject 2017 settlement agreement, and RwR provided consultation to the OHV signatories. We encourage you to work with us in addition to local entities such as Uintah Riders All Terrain (URAT), Uintah County, and the state’s OHV Program that has expanded its Fiscal Incentive Grant program for all OHV trail work in addition to its own trail-work crews.

Our members access the Book Cliffs TMA from Vernal, from Moab or Green River via the road up Hay Canyon, from Grand Junction via the motorized singletrack toward Baxter Pass, and from Rangley via the Wagon Wheel OHV trails. These singletrack and doubletrack trail systems should be connected for day loops as well as overnight trips that connect the towns, which would support local tourism economies.

The Book Cliffs TMA is suitable for a high concentration of OHV routes because most of it is an oil-and-gas field. Routes utilized by the Outlaw ATV Jamboree form a great foundation, but additional routes are needed to provide diverse recreational opportunities. In particular the more primitive routes provide quality OHV riding, and these routes may appear to be partially “reclaimed” or hard to find, particularly if they have been closed since 2008. This appearance doesn’t justify closure since it doesn’t mean that:

  1. The routes have received no OHV use in recent years (as some terrain is prone to disguising evidence of use),
  2. The routes have no current value for OHV use (as a lack of use could be due to a lack of wayfinding signs),
  3. The routes have no potential value for OHV use (as the amount and types of recreational use increases), or
  4. Use of the routes would cause significant adverse impacts (as some routes are essentially innocuous).

Most of the routes closed in 2008 simply weren’t inventoried, thus they weren’t given due consideration, which is why it’s key to start this Travel Management Plan (TMP) process with a more thorough inventory to make a more informed decision. Even if the TMP were to designate all of the existing routes open, it would still occupy less than 1% of the acreage, which is important context since the area was open to cross-country travel until the 2008 decision that lead to the 2017 settlement agreement.

A more thorough inventory of resources might also identify more potential conflicts. We ask that you consider the full array of options to mitigate those conflicts. Route closure is often not needed or even the most effective solution. Alternatives include educating visitors how and why to practice minimum-impact guidelines, trail work (e.g. marking the trail / blocking off the sides / stabilizing the tread in order to prevent erosion and discourage bypassing), and rerouting the trail to avoid sensitive sites altogether. The environmental assessment should identify these solutions and set a course to pursue them rather than unnecessarily closing a route even temporarily. Route closures tend to have their own costs in terms of public relations, noncompliance, and the displacement of negative impacts. They should be done only as a last resort after fully pursuing less-restrictive measures.

Sincerely,

Scott Jones
Vice President
Colorado OHV Coalition

Chad Hixon
Executive Director
Trails Preservation Alliance

Clif Koontz
Executive Director
Ride with Respect

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Input on the Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad

Department of Interior
Via email only @ oiea@ios.doi.gov

Re: EO 14008 – Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad

Dear Sirs:
Please accept this correspondence as the input and vigorous request of the motorized recreational community to participate in any collaborative efforts required under the Executive Order 14008 entitled “Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad” issued by President Biden on January 27, 2021. The motorized community is the single largest partner with public lands managers in providing sustainable recreational opportunities on public lands. This is a result of almost 50 years of NEPA analysis subsequent to EO 11644 and 11989 which mandated motorized route sustainability in the early 1970s and the hundreds of millions of dollars that our community provides to federal state and local land managers for sustainable recreational opportunities every year. Often this funding is leveraging resources such as AmeriCorps that are also sought to be expanded in the EO.

While we are in vigorous support of a healthy environment and eco-system and improved access requirements of EO, we are also generally confused by certain provisions of this EO such as the 30×30 provisions found §216(a)(1). As a result of this confusion, we are asking for more information on the Proposal and to participate in any discussions around implementation of the requirements moving forward. The Organizations are also keenly interested in the goal of improving access to recreation found in §214 of the EO. Given the almost 50 years of NEPA analysis of motorized recreational access on federal public lands, we cannot think of an interest group that would be better suited to provide input on the goals of improving access in the EO. We would like to avoid impacts to recreational opportunities on public lands and we would also like to understand what the process and ensure that the hundreds of millions of dollars in direct funding from our community is used in the most effective and efficient manner it can be. This can only result from alignment of our programs and interests with the efforts under the Proposal.

1. Who we are.

Prior to addressing the specific input of the Organizations on the EO, we believe a brief summary of each Organization is needed. The Off-Road Business Association (“ORBA”) is a national not-for-profit trade association of motorized off-road related businesses formed to promote and preserve off-road recreation in an environmentally responsible manner. One Voice is a non-profit national association committed to promoting the rights of motorized enthusiasts and improving advocacy in keeping public and private lands open for responsible recreation through strong leadership, advocacy, and collaboration. One Voice provides a unified voice for motorized recreation through a national platform that represents the diverse off-highway vehicle (OHV) community. The United Snowmobile Alliance (“USA”) is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of environmentally responsible organized snowmobiling and the creation of safe and sustainable snowmobiling in the United States. United Four-Wheel Drive Association (“U4WD”) is an international organization whose mission is to protect, promote, and provide 4×4 opportunities world-wide. For purposes of this correspondence ORBA, One Voice, U4WD and USA will be referred to as “The Organizations”.

2. The Organizations vigorously support the goal of improving recreational access on public lands.

The Organizations vigorously support the goal of §214 in providing improved sustainable access to recreational opportunities on federal lands. For purposes of this section, we are using the term “sustainable” to reflect the broad range of goals and objectives including protecting resources, protecting against climate change impacts and reduction of greenhouse gases. The motorized community has devoted the last 50 years of effort to partnering with federal land managers to provide sustainable opportunities on public lands. As outlined in other portions of these comments, part of this sustainability has resulted from the large amount of funding that the motorized community has voluntarily created.

While these registration programs have been largely successful in providing sustainable opportunities, often planning efforts occurring at the same time have greatly reduced the overall levels of access for all types of recreation on public lands. As a result, in many areas public access to numerous areas is at levels that are 60% of access previously available, which has pushed many existing facilities to or beyond capacities. Over utilization of any resource causes impacts, and often the impacts of the utilization of limited facilities beyond capacities has been highlighted during the COVID outbreak, where visitation increases that might have been projected to take a decade to reach occurred in a year. We believe this impact can be resolved by expanding access in a thoughtful manner that reflects the large number of resources that are now available.
As a result of the history of increasing sustainability and reducing access the Organizations are uniquely situated to address the need for increased access for recreation. We are also uniquely situated to share successes and challenges of our experiences and share these with other interests seeking to improve recreational access in a sustainable manner.

3. What do we do for resource protection and sustainability?

As generally addressed above, the motorized community is the single largest partner in sustainable recreational access with all types of land managers, as a result of our user pay model effort being widely adopted with states. The coverage of this user pay model of sustainability is significant as each of the 22 snowbelt states have a snowmobile registration program that funds sustainable winter trails on USFS lands. The summer-based trail programs have generally encompassed more western states but this is not exclusive by any means, as numerous mid-western and eastern states have vigorous voluntary registration summer programs as well. An example of some of these programs are as follows:

California
$60 million in annual combined budget
Total funding in excess of $530 million dollars
Colorado
$7 million annual combined current budget
Total funding approaching $100 million
Idaho
$3 million annual combined budget
Total funding approaching $50 million
Utah
$5 million in current combined budget
Nevada
$5 million in annual budget
New York
$ 6-7 million annually predominately winter
Vermont
$ 3-4 million annually predominately winter

This funding goes to a wide range of sustainable trails efforts and programs, such as providing management and maintenance crews on many Field Offices and Ranger Districts and these programs not only provide sustainable trails but also protect other resources as well. Many of these crews already directly fund or partner with AmeriCorps, Youth Corp crews and other resources that are sought to be developed in the EO.
An example of how these programs protect other resources would be the fact that Colorado Parks and Wildlife OHV program funds crews throughout the state. These crews cut more than 20,000 dead trees off of routes last year. This not only provided sustainable recreational opportunities but also ensured that routes were open for firefighters if wildfires broke out. We are aware of the use of hot shot crews to open trails in areas where maintenance has not been provided, and this seems like a horrible underutilization of the hot shot crews expertise. Being able to effectively respond to the outbreak of a wildfire is protecting a huge range of resources from impacts but also is not a benefit that is readily apparent from our programs.

3. We have often received conflicting information on the 30 by 30 effort generally.

The Organizations are respectfully requesting to participate in any discussions within DOI on the EO, and more directly the implementation of the 30 by 30 concept reflected in §216(a)(1) as our efforts to engage a wide range of resources to gain this information has not been successful to date. We have actively participated in numerous town hall meetings with Senators, Congressman and state level interests. These meetings have not provided any detailed information and often even generalized concepts and questions are answered in conflicting manners. Our basic questions on foundational issues with the 30×30 effort would include:

  • What is the scale of lands that qualify for conservation? Does the 30×30 effort apply to federal lands, federal and state lands or all lands within an area?
  • What is the sought-after level of protection for the resources on the qualifying lands? Is a National Park protected? Wild and Scenic River? Federal lands generally? If the effort only applies to Federal lands, how is an adjacent Conservation Easement on private lands being addressed?
  • What are qualifying lands being protected from?
  • How does the 30×30 effort align with multiple use mandates and other congressional designations, such as National Recreation Areas, National Conservation Areas or other Special Management Areas?
  • How are general usages already on these lands addressed as each are different in terms of sustainability?
  • How are unintended impacts from management actions avoided?

While these are very basic questions around the implementation of the 30×30 effort, we have not gotten any information on these issues in our due diligence. These are critically important questions to our membership and to improving recreational access in a sustainable manner. As a result, we are asking to participate to allow us to understand this effort more completely.

4. Conclusion

The Organizations would welcome discussions with DOI regarding the management and sustainability of trails on federal public lands and more importantly how to expand access for all forms of recreation in a more efficient and effective manner. Please feel free to contact Don Riggle at 725 Palomar Lane, Colorado Springs, 80906, Cell (719) 338- 4106 or Scott Jones, Esq. at 508 Ashford Drive, Longmont, CO 80504. His phone is (518)281-5810 and his email is scott.jones46@yahoo.com.

 

Respectfully Submitted,

Scott Jones, Esq.
CSA Executive Director
TPA & COHVCO Authorized Representative

Sandra Mitchell
Public Land Director- Idaho Recreation Council

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

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MOAB Ongoing Travel Management Plan Update

Motorcycle rider in MOABA lot of information is being shared about the Travel Management Plan (TMP) in Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges area North West of Moab on social media right now. It’s great to see so much energy and enthusiasm around this issue for an area that so many of us know and enjoy. As motorized recreationists, it is imperative that we make our voices heard in the most reasonable and informed way possible.

With that in mind, we wanted to provide you with an update regarding the current phase of the travel management planning in this area of Moab. We are in the scoping process which is the first step in travel management planning, this is when the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) seeks to identify public concerns and issues to be analyzed.

This issue is not new – Ride with Respect (RwR), The Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA), and the Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO) have been engaged in this process both financially and legally for more than 4 years. We have been working diligently providing comments for the previous reviewed TMA’s and will continue to do so as this process moves forward to provide a voice for all motorized recreationists.

Background

This process is the result of a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) claiming the BLM failed to follow the correct process in 2008 when developing its Travel Management Plan (TMP) across much of southern Utah. SUWA settled and as part of the 2017 settlement agreement the BLM is now revisiting a number of Travel Management Areas (TMA) across the state of which Labyrinth is the third of 12 total TMA’s. See the map of these TMA’s which are all located in the dark gray highlighted areas in the Southeast portion of UT. (Note: The other TMA’s located on this map, predominantly in the NW part of the state, are not part of the SUWA settlement but will be undergoing the same process.)

The first revisited TMA was the San Rafael Desert, the area across the Green River from Labyrinth Rims/ Gemini Bridges TMA. The San Rafael Desert final TMP decision was viewed as acceptable for motorized recreationists in that it kept two-thirds of the existing routes open, most of which SUWA set out to close. The second, the San Rafael Swell, which includes trails such as the infamous 5 miles of Hell, Colored Trails, Waterfall, and Devil’s Racetrack is also underway with the scoping phase that ended in early March 2021.

The Future

With 9 more TMA’s undergoing the same process in the coming months we hope to see the same enthusiasm for the previous ones. The other TMA’s are not as well known as the Labyrinth/Gemini zone but they all contain valuable motorized routes. As more people find value in outdoor recreation (camping, hiking, cycling) it’s important to protect these routes for everyone’s use. Groups such as RwR, TPA, COHVCO, and others such as Colorado Off Road Enterprise (CORE) have been and will continue to be engaged for all recreationists that utilize motorized routes.

What we would like to ask of you is that you stay focused on the process and the steps that will be effective in achieving a good outcome. Make respectful, thoughtful comments pointing out what you care about is valuable, raising factual concerns about the maps, pointing out linkages and uses that might be missed, and so on. Disrespectful or unprofessional comments are as likely to hurt as to help. If you wish to help by making comments, the list below contains important topics to mention.

Advocating for Motorized Use

  • Designated routes for motorized use are a small portion of public land.
  • There are millions of acres designated as wilderness or for other non-motorized use.
  • OHV use contributes millions of dollars annually to the economy.
  • Substantial volunteer hours are contributed by the OHV community.
  • Public land is for everyone, motorized and non-motorized recreationists have a right to enjoy whatever recreation they prefer.
  • Access to camping areas affects all outdoor recreation and is not just a motorized user issue.
  • Mention areas on maps, routes, campsites, or connections that might not exist on current maps.

To make comments go to the BLM website.

Click the green box on the left that says “Participate Now” and then click on the green box on the right that says “Participate Now”. Follow the submission process from there. Submissions are open until 11:59 PM Monday April 26th.

 

 

 

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National Sustainable Trails Phase 1 Guidebook Comments

US Forest Service
Att: Brenda Yankoviak
Via email only

Re: National Sustainable Trails Strategy Phase 1 Launch and Learn Guidebook

Dear Brenda:
Please accept this correspondence as the input of the motorized community on the Trail Stewardship Phase 1 Launch and Learn Guidebook (Hereinafter referred to as “The Guide”). The Organizations welcome the programmatic review of sustainability as this concept has been woven into the multiple use trails network on USFS lands for more than 50 years. While the sustainability concept has been woven into motorized trails for more than 50 years, the advanced nature of sustainability analysis for motorized usage compared to all other usages is not addressed in the Guide. We would like to see that remedied both to recognize a partner of the USFS but also to provide learning experiences to other trails interests on how to effectively create legally defensible sustainability of a trail or network. We submit that the motorized trails community is the closest to sustainable of all trails uses and should be recognized as such. No other usages have been subjected to the scrutiny and review of the motorized trails community around the issue of sustainability and we are also your largest funding partner for sustainability efforts. NEPA, rulemaking, judicial review and funding collaborations are discussed in greater detail in subsequent portions of this document.

In these comments, the Organizations are going to focus on the learning component goal of the guidebook as often the resources the motorized community are providing to sustainable trails are poorly understood and not used to as a resource for other efforts. The learning component is a critical component of the Trails Challenge and is reflected in under the Key Points of the Phase 1 Guide as follows:

“• Main outcomes of the Trail Challenge include a systematic assessment of trail workforce capacity and trail sustainability to identify gaps and take actions to close those gaps; engaging and sharing leadership with local communities and stakeholders in trail priorities; institutionalizing equity, diversity, and inclusion principles in all aspects of our collective work; developing online toolboxes with trail success stories, best practices, and reference documents; and improving Forest Service trail data and reporting systems.
• The Forest Service is leading out on methods and approaches that will benefit all trail managers and help to professionalize trail management. As a result of the Trail Challenge, the Forest Service will be widely regarded as a valued partner, conservation leader, and premier provider of exceptional trail opportunities.”1

The Organizations believe this type of generalized understanding is critical to the long-term sustainability discussion, as we believe the motorized sustainability models that have been developed are critical learning tools for other uses that are ramping up maintenance and sustainability efforts around other uses. The Organizations have confidence in the intent of the Guide and effort is to recognize these collaborations as “unit level plans.” The Organizations are concerned these are not unit level efforts but foundational differences in the sustainability analysis that have been legally mandated for years. The Organizations are concerned that the subsequent inclusion of these unit level plans in established landscape level analysis structures does not account for these landscape level differences may be similar to trying to drive a round peg into a square hole. This is a less than efficient model to do anything and, in the Challenge, would result in a significant missed opportunity.

This foundational difference of sustainability across uses is critical to possible future allocation of resources simply to avoid reinventing the wheel. Also important is understanding that much of the sustainability present in motorized uses, beyond decades of travel management rulemaking, NEPA and judicial review is from the voluntary user programs. This significant outside funding should be recognized as a resource to be leveraged and not as the result of inequitable allocation of resources. While there is a large disparity in funding and resources available, this does not mean there is not a need for additional resources in the multiple use community and any assertion of equity across uses would actually discriminate against the hugely successful programs on the ground rather than leverage their success. The Organizations would like to avoid this situation as well.

We welcome the collaborative nature of the strategy to date and identification of concerns such as all activity having impacts. We vigorously support the stated goal of more sustainable trails, as in many areas there is a critical need for simply more multiple use trails. Not everyone is similarly situated in the trails community and often there is a perception that there are plenty of trails for everyone. This has not been our experience, as the motorized community has been mandated for more than 50 years to provide sustainable routes unlike any other user group. In many areas this resulted in the loss of more than 50% of trail mileage in areas. No other user group has seen anything close to this level of lost opportunity for recreational trails.

Again, the previous closures in many areas have put the motorized community in a different position when discussing sustainability. Decisions made based on visitation levels at locations 50 years ago often create a situation where there is now a shortage of routes to satisfy the demands of multiple use interests. This shortage of opportunities can cause overuse of routes, trailheads far beyond capacity, resource impacts from the overuse which can give rise to users trying to find their own recreational experience. Only by providing more routes that are sustainable can these types of capacity issues be resolved. By providing high quality managed recreational opportunities the public will not seek out their own opportunities in less sustainable or planned locations. The motorized community is again significantly different in any discussion as we have a proven track record of partnering with managers to sustain new trail networks. While the motorized community has been hugely successful in partnering with land managers to create sustainable trails, we have also been horrible in telling this story.

1. Who we are.

Prior to addressing the specific concerns of the Organizations regarding the Guide, we believe a brief summary of each Organization is needed. The Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (“COHVCO”) is a grassroots advocacy organization the 150,000 registered OHV users in Colorado seeking to represent, assist, educate, and empower all OHV recreationists in the protection and promotion of off-highway motorized recreation throughout Colorado. COHVCO is an environmental organization that advocates and promotes the responsible use and conservation of our public lands and natural resources to preserve their aesthetic and recreational qualities for future generations. The Trail Preservation Alliance (“TPA”) is a 100 percent volunteer organization whose intention is to be a viable partner, working with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to preserve the sport of trail riding. The TPA acts as an advocate of the sport and takes the necessary action to ensure that the USFS and BLM allocate to trail riding a fair and equitable percentage of access to public lands. Colorado Snowmobile Association (“CSA”) was founded in 1970 to unite winter motorized recreationists across the state to enjoy their passion. CSA advocates for the 30,000 registered snowmobiles in the State of Colorado. CSA has become the voice of organized snowmobiling seeking to advance, promote and preserve the sport of snowmobiling by working with Federal and state land management agencies and local, state and federal legislators. For purposes of this document CSA, COHVCO and TPA are identified as “the Organizations”.

2. The 50-year history of sustainability analysis for motorized routes far exceeds the analysis for other uses and must be addressed in the Challenge and Guide.

The sustainable use of motorized vehicles on federal public lands over the last 50 years has easily been the most strictly scrutinized recreational usage of public lands. This usage has been the basis of numerous rulemaking efforts, directly addressing motorized access and also indirectly addressing motorized access. These rulemaking efforts directly addressing motorized usages have resulted in an almost incomprehensible amounts of NEPA analysis on almost every facet of possible impact to sustainability from motorized usages. This scrutiny of sustainability has then been continued to extensive judicial review of a huge percentage of both rulemaking and NEPA analysis. The ongoing judicial review of decisions is exemplified by the challenge to winter grooming on 5 forests in California, overturning of the winter travel rule by a court in Idaho and recent rulings on the use of e-bikes on Department of Interior lands. No other recreational usage of trails has been subjected to this level of direct scrutiny of sustainability. An indirect challenge to sustainability would be exemplified by use of the Endangered Species Act challenging motorized access to large tracts of lands in California around concerns over the desert tortoise and many other species. When the scrutiny of sustainability and partnerships that have developed are compared at the landscape level, the motorized community is by far and away the most sustainable usage of trails on public lands.

The Organizations believe the management history around the sustainability of motorized trails, and application of the Travel Management Rule, and extensive judicial review will be highly relevant to elements B and C of the Guide, which is described as follows:

“Units should consider the results of identifying the desired trail system from Element C. Achieve Sustainable Trail Systems when completing this element. They should use the results to understand the workforce needed to manage the desired trail system and then document, the current workforce, the needed workforce, and steps to achieve that workforce in their Trail Stewardship Plans”2

As the Organizations have participated in travel management discussions throughout the Country at all levels, we have frequently encountered an erroneous assumption, mainly that the all trails have been subjected to similar levels of administrative review. This is simply incorrect and we are very concerned the concept of Travel Management, which has driven much of the sustainability of motorized routes, is not mentioned at all in the Guide. This is a foundational difference between motorized routes and almost all other trail uses on USFS lands and must be addressed in the Guide simply to create a relevant planning document. While it may be convenient to assume all trails usages are similarly situated in terms of sustainability, this simply is not factually correct.

The Organizations believe it is highly important to recognize the wide range of management of specific trails usages that has occurred on USFS lands to date, as these management efforts will be foundational in the discussion. For the motorized community, the scrutiny of motorized usage has been occurring on USFS lands since the original issuance of EO 11644 by President Richard Nixon in 1972. As a result of 50 years of management of motorized usages on USFS lands, the concept of a designated route is the norm for those users recreating in the summer. This is simply unheard of for most other trail-based activities and will significantly impact how the challenge should be rolled out to the communities and also possibly impact allocations of funding. Not all uses are similarly situated in the trails community to address sustainability and we would be concerned about any landscape level analysis that treated sustainability of routes from a single mindset. Significant flexibility must be provided as trails are not a one size fits all issue due to the disparate management history of sustainability across the uses.

There are several large-scale models of trail sustainability that have been developed by the motorized community in collaboration with a wide range of interests that are discussed subsequently. The motorized trails community was forced to address funding of sustainability of our routes much earlier than other uses and often under intense public scrutiny and sometimes decades of legal wrangling. If trails were found to be unsustainable in the analysis process they were simply closed, sometimes decades ago. Funding of management efforts for sustainability were a major tool in mitigated trail loss. If impacts could be repaired or mitigated, opportunities could be preserved. This type of forced sustainability of motorized routes uniquely situates the motorized networks and mileage when compared to other types of trail usage. As a result of the more than 50 years of management, there is simply far more data available to justify sustainability of these routes and opportunities. This management history will result in a much stronger need to open new routes from the multiple use community than other trail interests, as there have been significant closures to motorized at the landscape, while other interests have only lost small portions of historical access.

While there is 50 years of management history available to address sustainability of motorized routes, the Organizations would be remiss if we did not mention that often this data has come at a significant price to the users. We would hesitate to support any large-scale discussions that might provide a basis to reopen travel management decisions at the landscape level, as the travel management process has resulted in large portions of trails being closed and huge amounts of conflict between uses and between the trails community and land managers. We would like to avoid this and would support some type of assumption that motorized routes that have been subject to management at least once are per se sustainable. We believe the Guide is a significant opportunity to provide educational resources on the different management histories of different trail uses as all trail uses are not similarly situated from a sustainability perspective. This understanding will be valuable to other users and should be recognized in the Guide. Again, while the motorized community has been hugely effective in providing management resources for sustainable trails, we have also been horrible in telling our story. We are asking for help on this.

3. What we do and development or sophistication of partners in sustainable trails efforts.

Prior to addressing how the motorized community has partnered with the USFS to provide sustainable trails at the landscape level, the Organizations believe identification of some common experiences around trails highlighted is warranted. These common factors include:

  1. All uses have impacts, regardless of the type of usages. Many interests believe their activity has no impact while every other usage is causing impacts
  2. The removal of usages can have impacts.
  3. All trails need maintenance, regardless of the trail management objective for the area or route. Even primitive routes must be periodically maintained to primitive levels.
  4. Some components of sustainability are best handled by professional trained USFS staff, such as law enforcement.

It has been our experience that no matter how perfect a trail may be designed or how careful every user may be to protect resources, every trail needs maintenance to be sustainable, and maintenance simply costs money. There are numerous factors that may be able to reduce funding needs for large scale trail efforts, such as volunteers or combining trail users to reduce trail mileage, but none can extinguish the need for funding and direct management resources. We also have found that the underestimation of maintenance costs for any route is often a key contributor to the failure of a route or system to remain sustainable. The motorized community has worked hard to address this component of sustainability for an extended period of time, as often there was no discussion around unsustainable motorized trails. If there were unsustainable routes, they were simply closed. We hope to have moved passed this mentality and seek to make the sustainable trails effort a resource in continuing the success in moving away from this mindset.

At one point, the USFS was Congressionally provided generally sufficient funding to support a wide range of large trail networks across the country. Over time these resources have dwindled and the Organizations do not anticipate the return of this long-term stable funding. Generally, the large programmatic partnerships from the motorized community are major tools in the sustainable trails discussions and are based around a voluntary created fee program involving the registration of motor vehicles used for recreation. These are generally administered through the state where the trail or area is located. These user fees are frequently used as match for federal funding such as Land and Water Conservation monies or Recreational Trail Program funds. Some states administer summer and winter funds in a single program, while other states administer each program separately. Generally, these programs have sought to provide sustainable recreational opportunities while backfilling the funding shortages that the USFS now faces and have developed in response to the closures of the Travel Management process due to sustainability concerns.

The coverage of this user pay model of sustainability is significant as each of the 22 snowbelt states have a snowmobile registration program that funds sustainable winter trails on USFS lands. The summer-based trail programs have generally encompassed more western states but this is not exclusive by any means, as numerous mid-western and eastern states have vigorous voluntary registration summer programs as well. An example of some of these programs are as follows:

California
$60 million in annual combined budget Total funding in excess of $530 million dollars

Colorado
$7 million annual combined current budget Total funding approaching $100 million

Idaho
$3 million annual combined budget Total funding approaching $50 million

Utah
$5 million in current combined budget

Nevada
$5 million in annual budget

New York
$ 6-7 million annually predominately winter

Vermont
$ 3-4 million annually predominately winter

The Organizations submit that the value of these programs is significant alone but the value expands as this money is consistently available. This means capital purchases such as heavy equipment can be undertaken and that staff will be assured that the position, they are applying for will be on the District 5 or 10 years after they are hired. This makes these positions more appealing as they have a career path moving forward.

The Organizations vigorously assert that understanding the collaborative foundation for sustainable trails that the motorized community has developed will be a critical component in leveraging resources to ensure the most sustainable network on USFS lands. The large-scale support of sustainable trails that is present should not see as a reason to direct resources for the sustainability of routes to areas that may not have similar levels of funding based on the erroneous attempt to create equity across programs. We have frequently encountered this type of a misplaced equity concern when funding for trails is addressed at the state level. Interested parties want to start and end discussions with the fact the motorized program may be 4 or 5 times the size of the state non-motorized program. Often the disproportional nature of the funding leads to an assertion similar to the following: “Clearly the non-motorized program must need more money.” This must be avoided.

While this type of funding equity may be acceptable to some, this is a complete failure to understand our partnership and from our perspective we are being penalized for the success of our volunteer efforts in these situations. Every one of the programs we are going to outline benefits all users of the forest often without their knowledge. The Organizations submit these partnerships are ready, willing and able to be leveraged or scaled up to address sustainability in ways that simply are not present in many other interests or uses. These large programs we hope are leveraged in larger scale efforts to address the sustainability of routes outside the motorized sphere of usage.

Our concerns around leveraging existing sustainable trails efforts extends well beyond mere funding. Often the motorized programs have encountered large scale challenges and costs that simply never are addressed with smaller scale sustainability efforts. Examples of these types of issues would include issues as simple as how data is presented; USFS hiring practices; oversight of insurance costs at a large scales and changes in management processes that could directly impact how partner funding is allocated and administered.

4a. Two general models predominate how sustainable motorized trails are provided.

Generally, our partnerships with USFS land managers to support sustainability of trails fall into two overall categories or models of effort. These categories are:

  1. Those centered around multiple use summer trails and access; and
  2. Those centered around winter trails and access.

We do not believe that either model is better but each of these models has strengths and weaknesses that warrant discussion in creating a collaborative partnership for sustainable trails. We will attempt to summarize strengths and weaknesses, as we believe these experiences are important pieces of data in the USFS efforts to expand sustainable trails and partnerships across the country. While some states separate summer and winter funding streams, while others combine these streams, these funding efforts remain the predominate type of funding for the sustainability of both routes.

The Organizations believe that understanding some of the difference of the winter program to the summer program results from the fact winter models generally started earlier and in states where lands were generally privately owned. These programs rapidly expanded into other snowbelt states and into areas where USFS lands were the primary provider of recreational opportunities. The largest snowmobile states in terms of registrations are located in the mid- west and northeast and generally not associated closely with USFS management due to the large component of private lands in these models and areas. While these programs may not directly tie to USFS, we believe these experiences are important as the sustainability of these routes is critically important to the trail networks regardless of the property ownership where the trail is located.

A second significant distinction between the summer and winter efforts towards sustainability is the fact that generally snowmobile trail networks are smaller than summer networks in terms of total miles and generally winter trails are in the same location they have been for 50 or more years. Generally winter trails do not exist, are created when sufficient snow is available, are vigorously maintained over the winter and then melt away in the spring. Generally, the target audience of winter trail networks are smaller in terms of diversity, as often issues like grazing permits are not as significant (if they are present at all) and the visitation is generally lower than the summer trail networks. While these are significant differences, they are not so significant to make the experiences irrelevant.

4b. Model of sustainable winter trails.

Generally, the model for winter grooming efforts is closer to an autonomous contractor working on federal lands who provides sustainable trails than their summer equivalent. While winter grooming efforts have to obtain special recreation permits for grooming and are often the basis of significant NEPA analysis there remains a more defined division of labor between grooming and management efforts. While it is not unheard of have agency personnel operating a groomer, this is FAR less common than agency staff operating equipment funded from summer registration programs. Winter trail grooming is almost entirely provided on USFS and private lands by the winter motorized users and their funding streams. This model heavily relies on volunteer or club efforts where significant portions of operational costs are assumed directly by the clubs and then reimbursed partially from registration monies conveyed through state programs. Much of the educational resources such as maps, avalanche safety resources and signage are created and provided entirely by the clubs or state associations.

Most non-snowmobile users of winter groomed routes are not aware this sustainable trail benefit is not provided by the USFS, but is the result of volunteer efforts of partners and voluntarily created funding programs rather than general state or federal tax revenues. It is important to note that these programmatic partnerships are entirely in addition to the more traditional partner efforts on sustainability that are common across all user groups, such as efforts through club type partners that are funded through donations or sporadic grants obtained by partners. Many of the larger scale efforts from the motorized community towards sustainable trails are so large and advanced that people outside the motorized community simply do not believe they exist. As exemplified above, significant moneys are available to work toward providing sustainable winter trails on public lands for the benefit of all members of the public. Generally, these funds are allocated through the state agency to local clubs to attempt to help clubs offset costs of operation.

The snowmobile community is intimately aware that for much of the groomed network that is provided only results from local relationships and as a result we support the bifurcated model of analysis proposed in the Guide (landscape/unit efforts). This division of labor is an important component of the success of our programs. The critical nature of these local relationships is highlighted in the more eastern based snowmobile programs, that provide much of their trail networks through rights of way on private lands for the trails to be used. Often federal lands are only a small portion of these trail networks, and federal relationships are only one of many the local clubs must maintain.
These local relationships are critically important to the success of programs as the state level funding is often more than doubled through the fundraising efforts of these local clubs. This funding is often foundational to the basic operation of the club but often comes in a variety of ways other than direct funding and as a result is rarely calculated. This money is generally administered by local clubs in a wide range of manners but all programs also assist in capital equipment such as snow groomers, trail dozers, facilities improvements. While there is significant funding available, most groomer operators and other support staff are entirely volunteer as operational costs for snow grooming have simply exploded.

4c. Model of sustainable summer trails.

The partnership model around summer sustainable trails has taken a somewhat different direction compare to the winter efforts due to the larger number of miles to be maintained and less homogenous nature of the activities in these usages. While winter trails have a somewhat defined user base, summer routes often have to provide for a large and diverse community of users such as dispersed and developed camping interests and shooting interests. Often non recreational interests, such as grazers or timber interests are heavily involved in trails discussions. Generally, the model of summer sustainable trails efforts created by the motorized registration fees and efforts are far more integrated into general land management efforts when compared to the more contractor-based type model used for winter recreation.

The summer model has been developed to backfill the critical staffing shortages for the USFS at the District level rather than following the more contractor-based model that has been used for winter. The summer model also seeks to make sure these staff are working as efficiently as possible as funding is also available for specialized equipment, such as trail dozers, skid steers, rock breakers and other project specific resources. A major component of these activities is people in trucks and shovels in dirt maintaining trails under the general vision of an ounce of prevention is preferable to a pound of cure when addressing sustainability. If a culvert is blocked, the summer crews clean it. Generally, the summer programs are developed to address one of the foundational challenges identified in the Guidebook which is:

“Employees on some units are unable to effectively engage partners and volunteers due to lack of capacity or other constraints.”3

The Organizations would state that not some units but rather most units are in this situation. Many of the summer-based programs have been forced to address this issue head-on and are now providing staffing to districts to facilitate engagement of partners and volunteers in addition to the performance of on the ground duties. An example of this would be the trained operator from the USFS, funded by the OHV program, operates a trail dozer to repair trail and then volunteers follow behind to finish the trail after the dozer has passed.

Rather than being a semi-autonomous entity working on public lands on trails issues, summer motorized usages are more wholistic in nature. Some programs provide direct funding to USFS districts to hire seasonal staff for trail maintenance; other programs hire state staff to work on USFS lands and others leverage local resources or work through programs such as AmeriCorp or local Youth Corp efforts. Despite the significant resources that are available, very few of these programs are directly hiring maintenance staff or other resources through the volunteer organization or local club. Volunteers remain a cornerstone of the sustainable efforts through clubs, and there are some exceptional clubs providing unique resources.

Generally, the barriers to this type of highly integrated hiring are significant in terms of direct costs and administrative efforts. Many local groups are poorly positioned to assume these responsibilities as these groups that are generally social in nature. This is why these functions are often moved to land managers under the summer model. Barriers to club oversight such as employee oversight, payroll taxes, medical benefits, Workers Compensation and other foundational elements of hiring employees are expensive and simply are not desirable burdens for volunteers in an Organization that was founded to recreate. In addition to these general costs of hiring employees, hiring employees to work on federal lands in an official capacity gives rise to a wide range of additional issues, such as proper training on trail issues (first aid, sawyer training or equipment training) and non-trail issues (anti-discrimination policies). These are issues 99% of volunteer-based groups simply don’t want to be involved with and state or federal resources are far more equipped to deal with in a timely and cost-effective manner. It has been our experience that providing funding to the relevant land manager is simply a more efficient manner to address many landscape level issues. Not only is this more efficient but also allows clubs to engage with issues that they see value in. Doing paperwork and training simply is not appealing to most members of the public but fixing damaged trails to reopen them can be a highly desirable opportunity even for social clubs.

As efforts around sustainable trails continue to expand, there will be questions and issues encountered that no one can anticipate and existing resources are poorly situated to respond too. There are many important administrative requirements that simply do not translate well to a less integrated management model. Utilizing scales of economies on many of these issues greatly reduce costs and streamline these efforts. The motorized community has a perfect example of issues where these types of challenges can be a barrier to less integrated process, which was reflected with the “and justice for all” poster that is required to be publicly displayed by the USFS and contractors. This poster is reflected as follows:

USFS poster

We are intimately familiar with this poster and challenge as several years ago one of our winter clubs was told by local managers the Club had to display the poster in their grooming equipment
and at storage facilities, be responsible for all components of the program and open their facilities to the public as they were providing grooming services for winter trails under a permit. This discussion started with shear panic from volunteers in the club who were concerned about significant fines and penalties accruing to them from their volunteer efforts, which was clearly not good for sustainable trails and partnerships.

While the motorized community vigorously supports every aspect of the program and its goals, the motorized partners providing sustainable trail opportunities are not able to provide translation services, 24 hr. reporting hotlines and ombudsman representation. Access to the resources of the club for the public consumption was a non-starter as under no circumstances would our insurance allow the general public to operate equipment or to be in storage areas for equipment.

The club explored obtaining a review of club efforts for anti-discrimination concerns and the estimate for the review exceeded the entire budget of the club for that year. Obviously, this was a non-starter for the club. After months of sometimes vigorous efforts, this issue was finally resolved when the Ranger District resources for these issues were found to be sufficient to comply with these requirements for the club. These are resources that cannot be cost effectively managed at such a small scale as a club or small non-profit group and are exactly the type of administrative efforts that are unrelated to trail sustainability that we frequently encounter. These are issues and challenges that will be faced as other interests expand their maintenance efforts in support of sustainable trails at a larger scale.

While the direct costs and burdens of employees is significant, hiring of staff by local clubs or groups creates additional liability for members, which can only be mitigated by purchasing insurance. Often clubs will not address any services approaching a contractor type relationship without specific insurance coverage for their Board members. As exemplified above, there are aspects of sustainability that most clubs are not aware of and are poorly structured to assume, but may open the club to liability. This is always a significant additional cost for clubs beyond the basic liability coverage generally provided. Insurance costs also increase for clubs as USFS permitting generally requires $1,000,000 in general liability for any activity on USFS lands. These types of insurance policies are becoming more difficult to obtain and costly every year for clubs given that many of the activities needed by the USFS are also difficult to insure generally. Liability insurance of the type and level needed to hire employees and work in a more advanced nature on federal lands can easily exceed $6,000 per year for a club. This exceeds the average income for most clubs for the year. While some clubs have adapted to perform under these circumstances, these are far from the norm.

5. Examples of unique nature of sustainability in the motorized world

a. Law enforcement resources.

This is an important component of sustainable trails that is often overlooked. Often there are numerous other usages and management concerns woven into sustainable trails that can only be properly addressed with a professional law enforcement presence. The motorized community have worked to support that type of enforcement through direct funding, training resources and legislation and many of our maintenance crews have a Forest Protection Officer embedded in the crew. We believe there is an important role for professional law enforcement in the trails community as often sustainable trail can be impacted by other recreational uses, such as shooting or issues not related to recreation such as homelessness. Often this has become enforcement actions by your peers, as trained professional law enforcement that the motorized users are paying for are riders themselves.

While the Organizations have had success with peer-to-peer type informal enforcement action, generally our experiences with one user group patrolling or monitoring other uses have been poor. It has been our experience that often multiple use interests don’t feel welcome in these areas patrolled by a group that opposes multiple uses in the area. We have had far too many instances of legal uses being the basis of enforcement by citizen law enforcement patrols that can only be resolved through the engagement of professional law enforcement. We can provide several recent occurrences, if that would be helpful, but we do not believe this information is helpful here.

b. Stay the Trail educational efforts in Colorado.

As mentioned previously the Organizations have had large amounts of success with peer-to-peer educational efforts. The Stay the Trail Program in Colorado would be an example of a successful educational effort in the motorized community. While this program is exceptionally successful, this is again a program that is expensive to provide and plays a critical component in the sustainable trails’ discussion. Generally, efforts such as this have not competed well in other funding programs. Highly relevant to Element G of the Plan

c. Training of staff for sustainable trails

As we have addressed previously, the motorized community has provided significant resources to ensure trails are sustainable including direct funding of staff to work on trails. As these efforts have expanded in scope, the motorized community has identified that hiring trained staff with a trails sustainability background was becoming more and more difficult every year. As a result, the National Off-Highway Vehicle created the Great Trails Guide and training program. This program is a two-day training program where complete lay persons can be trained by national leaders in sustainable trail design including an onsite training and classroom portion. This training has now been provided to thousands of USFS, BLM and volunteers across the country to try and address this systemic lack of training for new staff. While other user groups have created trail design guides, we are not aware of training efforts around these guides that approach the efforts of motorized community. As a result of this program, the motorized community is hiring USFS staff, equipping USFS staff and training them to build and maintain sustainable trails.

6. Barriers to expanded efforts for sustainable trails.

a. USFS Staffing processes are a major barrier to sustainability

One of the major barriers we have encountered in our partnerships with the USFS is the staffing challenges that seem systemic at this point, even after funding is provided for this resource. This issues most commonly involves the hiring of recreational staff and seasonal staff that are regularly utilized in the trail crews funded through our programs. Recent modifications to existing USFS hiring practices have moved this process to a more centralized process, which has been a major barrier to hiring most seasonal employees despite the desire to streamline the hiring process. In the centralized hiring processes that have resulted, the hiring windows are often very short in nature. The hiring of skilled or trained seasonal, such as equipment operators or blasting specialists or trained sawyers with short windows of recruitment on various federal databases is almost impossible. These types of employees often must be recruited and interest in positions may be expressed months or years before the skilled seasonal is hired. Previously Districts or Forests could build databases of employees that have expressed possible interest in positions when they should come open. The loss of this ability has greatly complicated hiring far more than any economic benefits of consolidating the hiring process.

It has also been our experience that while the consolidated staffing model may work for higher level positions, such as Forest or District leadership roles, the lower levels of staff encounter an additional barrier. This barrier is the fact that many of the staff at lower-level positions that are often critical to sustainability are unable or unwilling to relocate over long distance. This undermines one of the major benefits of the centralized hiring process.

Employee turnover within the USFS more generally is also a serious concern, as it is rare to find USFS staff that have been in a position for an extended period of time. More common is the utilization of persons in a “acting” role. While we appreciate having an acting person in a role, it is certainly better than a totally open position, this is not the same a normal employee. We are familiar with the expectation of the acting person completing one or two projects in the acting role, this is often unrelated to long term objectives such as trail sustainability. Given the level of partnerships and trust between partners that is critical to the success of systemic integration of resources in the manner we have, this can only be achieved strategically and stability of employees is critical to these more strategic efforts. While we support staffing every position, even in an acting capacity, stability of land managers is critically important to the long-term success of the goals of the sustainable trails.

b. Changes to USFS Budget Processes

The Organizations are also concerned about the challenges that resulted from the recent large- scale reworking of the USFS budgeting processes. While we applaud the desire to streamline budgeting, the process to address programs such as our partnerships into the new budget and accounting was unclear and difficult. This caused significant confusion around the future of many of these efforts, despite the fact the funding in many instances had been provided for decades and may have already been awarded for several years in the future. Often the partner funding for crews and other projects was more consistent than USFS budgets for trails. Despite the consistency of this funding the non-agency funding stream was often subject to significantly heightened scrutiny, and concerns about what category or classification in the new budget process was the correct one to place the funding and staff time in, which was counterproductive to the collaborative efforts that are seeking to provide sustainable trails to the public.

While we hope that this challenge will be resolved in the near future, simply due to the education process that naturally occurs around any large-scale change. Often educational efforts on these types of large process changes have some lag time to take effect and we hope that the next budgeting round will go smoother. This will facilitate better trust between partners and ensure that the maximum funds and efforts go towards sustainable trails.

c. Costs and overhead of sustainability activities on trails.

The adoption of costs and overhead expenses around sustainable trails efforts is an issue that the motorized community has significantly struggled with in the development of our efforts towards sustainable trails. While the motorized model provides significant funding in many areas, when compared to other funding streams for trails, even this funding is not enough to sustain trails and expand or improve opportunities. As a result, the cost/benefit analysis of models is an important component of any project or program. This type of overhead expense is an issue the motorized community is uniquely situated to address, given the scale of the partnerships that are already on the ground. While costs such as this may be small based on a single project, they rapidly expand to levels that become significant when landscape levels of effort that are engaged.

While a volunteer agreement may be available for partners, these documents only protect trained volunteers and training is often difficult at best to stay in compliance with. Volunteer agreements also provide no protection for the Organization that might be coordinating volunteers, so there is still a need for insurance. Moving to a cost/share challenge level agreement simply moves more overhead costs to the volunteer organizations.

It has been our experience that insurance costs quickly accumulate when you start looking at multiple crews working on a landscape. Easily consume 10% or more of the funding streams simply covering insurance costs for operations if this was all managed separately. The motorized community has worked hard to avoid consuming this level of resources for operations, as the goal of the program is to maintain sustainable trails not subsidize insurance companies. While insurance coverage is an important issue, it does not fix trail. Often these accumulated costs at the landscape level can eliminate funding that could provide crews on 4 or 5 more Districts or offices that are badly in need of maintenance efforts towards sustainable trails. While the idea of working towards a contractor type model for sustainable trails may appear easy to manage from the land manager perspective, there are significant additional costs that are associated with this model for the partner functioning as a contractor. These types of costs must be avoided.

Even when large numbers of clubs come together to try and reduce insurance and overhead costs, those costs remain significant. An example of this is available from the Colorado Snowmobile Assoc grooming partnership. Each of the 28 grooming clubs pool their resources and buy a single liability policy for grooming in the state. Even with the pooling of programs, the insurance policy costs more than $40,000 per year to purchase and does not provide coverage for any equipment used for grooming. Those insurance costs are born by the clubs and are entirely outside the liability policy. This is $40,000 that must be paid before any efforts towards sustainability are addressed or a groomer has even started. We believe this type of funding would be far more effective if it was applied to grooming activities instead of insurance.

Moving sustainability efforts into state or local management offices also allows for maintenance and sustainability efforts to be governed by state level caps on liability for litigation purposes. Many States have provided significant limitations on liability of the state for various actions and strict requirements for filing of claims far sooner than a traditional claim. In Colorado, this liability is generally capped at $350,000 per occurrence. This is a limitation that is totally unavailable to partner organizations and would greatly reduce costs for similar protections.
Integration of staff into the local USFS office also has significant benefits for intangibles, such as improved communication across employees, leveraging of resources, long term staff development and the ability to timely respond to issues.

7. Conclusion.

The Organizations welcome the programmatic review of sustainability as this concept has been woven into the multiple use trails network on USFS lands for more than 50 years. While the sustainability concept has been woven into motorized trails for more than 50 years, the advanced nature of sustainability analysis for motorized usage compared to all other usages is not addressed in the Guide. We would like to see that remedied both to recognize a partner of the USFS but also to provide learning experiences to other trails interests on how to effectively create legally defensible sustainability of a trail or network. We submit that the motorized trails community is the closest to sustainable of all trails uses and should be recognized as such. No other usages have been subjected to the scrutiny and review of the motorized trails community around the issue of sustainability and we are also your largest funding partner for sustainability efforts.

In these comments, the Organizations are going to focus on the learning component goal of the guidebook as often the resources the motorized community are providing to sustainable trails are poorly understood and not used to as a resource for other efforts. The Organizations believe this type of generalized understanding is critical to the long-term sustainability discussion, as we believe the motorized sustainability models that have been developed are critical learning tools for other uses that are ramping up maintenance and sustainability efforts around other uses. The Organizations have confidence in the intent of the Guide and effort is to recognize these collaborations as “unit level plans.” The Organizations are concerned these are not unit level efforts but foundational differences in the sustainability analysis that have been legally mandated for years. The Organizations are concerned that the subsequent inclusion of these unit level plans in established landscape level analysis structures does not account for these landscape level differences may be similar to trying to drive a round peg into a square hole. This is a less than efficient model to do anything and, in the Challenge, would result in a significant missed opportunity.

This foundational difference of sustainability across uses is critical to possible future allocation of resources simply to avoid reinventing the wheel. Also important is understanding that much of the sustainability present in motorized uses, beyond decades of travel management rulemaking, NEPA and judicial review is from the voluntary user programs. This significant outside funding should be recognized as a resource to be leveraged and not as the result of inequitable allocation of resources. While there is a large disparity in funding and resources available, this does not mean there is not a need for additional resources in the multiple use community and any assertion of equity across uses would actually discriminate against the hugely successful programs on the ground rather than leverage their success. The Organizations would like to avoid this situation as well.

We welcome the collaborative nature of the strategy to date and identification of concerns such as all activity having impacts. We vigorously support the stated goal of more sustainable trails, as in many areas there is a critical need for simply more multiple use trails. Not everyone is similarly situated in the trails community and often there is a perception that there are plenty of trails for everyone. This has not been our experience, as the motorized community has been mandated for more than 50 years to provide sustainable routes unlike any other user group. In many areas this resulted in the loss of more than 50% of trail mileage in areas. No other user group has seen anything close to this level of lost opportunity for recreational trails.

Again, the previous closures in many areas have put the motorized community in a different position when discussing sustainability. Decisions made based on visitation levels at locations 50 years ago often create a situation where there is now a shortage of routes to satisfy the demands of multiple use interests. This shortage of opportunities can cause overuse of routes, trailheads far beyond capacity, resource impacts from the overuse which can give rise to users trying to find their own recreational experience. Only by providing more routes that are sustainable can these types of capacity issues be resolved. By providing high quality managed recreational opportunities the public will not seek out their own opportunities in less sustainable or planned locations. The motorized community is again significantly different in any discussion as we have a proven track record of partnering with managers to sustain new trail networks. While the motorized community has been hugely successful in partnering with land managers to create sustainable trails, we have also been horrible in telling this story.

The Organizations would welcome a discussion of these comments and any other challenges that might be facing the USFS moving forward at your convenience. Please feel free to contact Don Riggle at 725 Palomar Lane, Colorado Springs, 80906, Cell (719) 338- 4106 or Scott Jones, Esq. at 508 Ashford Drive, Longmont, CO 80504. His phone is (518)281-5810 and his email is scott.jones46@yahoo.com.

Respectfully Submitted,

Scott Jones, Esq.
CSA Executive Director
TPA & COHVCO Authorized Representative

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

 

1 See, Guide at pg. 1.
2 See, Guide pg. 7.
3 Guide pg. 2

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Proposed Beaver Creek Restoration Project in the La Sal Mountains Comments

Balance Resources
Utah Nonprofit Corporation
3004 W Sweet Blossom Drive
South Jordan, UT 84095
801-783-7643
mark@balanceresources.org

 

Louis (Ted) Neff, Deputy District Ranger
Moab-Monticello Ranger District
Manti-La Sal National Forest
62 East 100 North,
P. O. Box 386
Moab, Utah 84532

Re: Comments by Ride with Respect, Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition and Trails Preservation Alliance on the Proposed Beaver Creek Restoration Project in the La Sal Mountains.

Dear Mr. Neff:

I represent Ride with Respect (RwR), a Utah Nonprofit Corporation, Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA), a Colorado Nonprofit Corporation, and Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO), also a Colorado Nonprofit Corporation. We appreciate the opportunity to comment on your proposed Beaver Creek restoration project in the La Sal Mountains.

The Commenting Organizations

Ride with Respect (RwR) was founded in 2002 to conserve shared-use trails and their surroundings. RwR has educated visitors and performed thousands of hours of high-quality trail work in Manti-La Sal National Forest (MLSNF), in addition to thousands of hours of similar work on SITLA property around Upper Two Mile Canyon, which is adjacent to the site of your proposed project.

The Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (“COHVCO”) is a grassroots advocacy organization of approximately 150,000 registered OHV users in Colorado seeking to represent, assist, educate, and empower all OHV recreationists in the protection and promotion of off-highway motorized recreation throughout Colorado. COHVCO is an environmental organization that advocates and promotes the responsible use and conservation of our public lands and natural resources to preserve their aesthetic and recreational qualities for future generations.

The Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) intends to be a viable partner, working with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to preserve the sport of trail riding. The TPA acts as an advocate of the sport and takes the necessary action to ensure that the USFS and BLM allocate a fair and equitable percentage of motorized access to public lands.

The members and supporters of all three organizations depend on motorized routes in the MLSNF and particularly in the La Sal Mountains for responsible recreation. They are concerned to see that those opportunities have dwindled in the Moab Ranger District, despite your agency’s mission to manage the lands pursuant to a multiple-use sustained yield standard. A significant concentration of roads exists on nearby SITLA property, but the singletrack and ATV loops there can each be ridden in an hour, so there is a great need to preserve other existing trails, which can be used, improved and/or maintained sustainably.

Comments

I. The project documents fail to acknowledge the importance of the two subject roads to the overall outdoor motorized recreation resource in the La Sal Mountains, fail to explain the impact to the human environment and outdoor recreation resource from their closures, and fail to explain why closing them is the only reasonable way to adequately restore the stream.

In the stream restoration project documents, there is lacking any acknowledgment of the outdoor motorized recreation resource and value provided by the two subject roads that the Forest Service proposes to close, nor acknowledgment of the negative impact to that motorized recreation resource that would come from the road closures. This is unreasonable given the multiple use mandate under which the Forest Service operates.

There is also lacking any explanation as to why closing the two subject roads is necessary to achieve the desired stream restoration. Reasonable explanations to develop these should occur before even beginning to consider any such closures of established publicly accessible Forest Service roads. NFMA and NEPA and project regulations require no less.

II. In case the Forest Service is concerned that vehicular stream crossings at and above the restoration project area may cause erosion and produce harmful sediment loads, then the project managers should strongly consider reasonable alternatives to road closures in the name of sediment control such as bars, hardening of stream crossings, and/or culverts and bridges.

Simply closing the subject roads without considering alternative measures to control sedimentation, including but not limited to hardening stream crossings, installation of bars and rolling dips, and/or installation of bridges and culverts, fails the Forest Service’s management mandate from an environmental basis, a multiple use mission basis, and a cost-benefit basis.

We urge you to redesign your approach to this project and give serious consideration to the alternative measures described above at those road crossing areas where you may perceive a sedimentation threat to aquatic and riparian resources. Instead of simply cancelling the longstanding valuable motorized recreation resource that Forest Service Roads 4733 and the upper part of Forest Service Road 4732 have provided to the public in the overall multiple use mosaic, you make every reasonable effort to the aquatic resource and the travel resource compatible and harmonious in the ways mentioned above. Make it a win-win situation, not a zero-sum game.

Again, it is unclear from the documents, but if you rest proposal to close Forest Road 4733 and the upper part of Forest Road 4733 mainly on a perceived erosion/sedimentation problem that might be caused in the area of the roads’ stream crossing(s), then you cannot reasonably just close those roads without giving consideration to wisely making the travel resource compatible with the stream and aquatic resource. Your agency has provided no reason why the subject roads could not be preserved for public use through the alternative stream crossing improvement measures described above. Further your proposal makes no comparison of the proposed closures to these other alternatives.

We believe that any stream management issues could be resolved through these alternative measures and education, for which there is now five times more grant funding available from the State of Utah’s OHV Program than ever before. We would be more than happy to meet with you on the ground to discuss such measures and possible funding for such.

III. In any event, road closures should be delayed and taken up only as part of the public NEPA MLSNF plan revision process.

In any event, road closures are such a drastic measure that consideration of such should wait to be taken up as part of the public process in the NEPA public MLSNF Forest Plan Revision process, including a comprehensive travel management planning and revision process.

RwR has been participating in the Forest planning since 2004. Since 2009 RwR requested minor travel-plan amendments near the site of your proposed project, and SITLA made the same request in 2011 (see attached letter). Essentially RwR and SITLA requested that the USFS close one mile of riparian and seldom-used route while opening another mile of non-riparian and often-used route to conform with SITLA’s travel plan. Since then RwR was told that your agency will not initiate any travel-plan amendments prior to revising the Forest Plan. If my clients must wait over a decade for minor and pragmatic changes to the travel plan, then why can’t the USFS itself wait to go through the full Plan Revision process before closing two roads? We hope this is not a roundabout effort to enable the Forest Plan to zone the Beaver Creek area as non-motorized, thereby preventing the subsequent revised travel plan from considering any form of motorized use on either of those roads.

IV. The formal notice of this project is inadequate to give the public sufficient notice of road closures.

Your formal public notice was insufficiently titled “Beaver Creek Restoration Project,” because it left out the road closure part. Were you to engage in the hardening of subject roads stream crossings instead of the closure of those roads, that would not even require public notice. What requires public notice is the closing of roads, which is not mentioned until six paragraphs into your public notice. Moreover you communicated your formal notice to multiple environmental organizations but no OHV organizations despite the fact that motorized recreationists would be the most adversely impacted by your road closure proposal. It would be appreciated if in the future projects be properly titled and my clients be notified of any projects in MLSNF that would affect OHV recreation.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while we take no issue with the other aspects of your stream restoration project, we respectfully urge you to suspend any proposal to restrict access on Forest Road 4732, Forest Road 4733, and instead provide continued public use of those roads by undertaking alternative measures to improve and upgrade each stream crossing location on these and or any other routes in the project area.

At the very least, you should forego consideration of any proposed road closures until initiating comprehensive travel planning as part of the public NEPA Forest plan revision process. We appreciate your careful attention to this matter.

Submitted this 12th day of April, 2021

BALANCE RESOURCES
/s/ J Mark Ward
J. Mark Ward, President and Legal Counsel
Representing:

Ride with Respect
Clif Koontz, Executive Director
395 McGill Avenue
Moab, UT 84532
435-259-8334
cliftonkoontz@yahoo.com

Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition
Scott Jones, Vice President
508 Ashford Drive
Longmont, CO 80504
518-281-5810
scott.jones46@yahoo.com

Trails Preservation Alliance
Chad Hixon, Executive Director
P.O. Box 22
Howard, CO 81233
719-221-8329
chad@colordotpa.org

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Upshift Magazine Article: Strength in Numbers

Republished with permission

 

By Chad de Alva

Upshift Magazine cover April 2021There is no greater tool for trail advocacy than the local motorcycle club and their boots-on-the-ground presence. Yet different clubs enjoy varying degrees of success in their trail advocacy efforts, as each club faces a unique set of challenges surrounding their local trails. Different user groups, different land managers, and different advocacy strategies all impact what a club is able to accomplish. Operating in their own little worlds, some clubs produce impressive results while others struggle just to keep their existing trails open.

In an effort to increase the impact of local clubs, and to further improve riding opportunities in Colorado and the surrounding states, the Colorado Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) recently arranged for a meeting of the minds. A chance for clubs that work with the TPA to get together to compare notes and share lessons learned. Clubs typically operate on a tactical level, engaged with their local land managers on efforts in their backyards, where the TPA supports strategic-level efforts across the state in addition to backing local clubs. By working with so many different clubs on a diverse set of advocacy issues, the TPA is a unique resource in that it can help clubs with everything from grants and legal challenges, to getting the equipment and resources that clubs need to get work done.

This combination of local club and state level trail advocacy is powerful, and the value in getting involved with other advocacy organizations near you can’t be overstated. If you are not part of your local club, you need to be. If you are part of a local club, determine what other clubs are in your state and make a plan to trade notes. The challenges your club has surmounted may hold the keys that another club needs to get a new trail project in the ground. Likewise, another club may have the additional resources that your club needs to accomplish its goals. Trade notes. Seek out opportunities to support each other. When it comes to preserving and creating the trails we all love to ride, we’re strong alone – but we’re stronger together.

 

Upshift Magazine Article April 2021

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