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TPA supports proposed Active Forest Management Wildfire Prevention and Community Protection Act

CSA, TPA, COHVCO logos

Congresswoman Lauren Boebert
1609 Longworth Building
Washington DC 20515

RE: The Active Forest Management, Wildfire Prevention and Community Protection Act

Dear Congresswoman Boebert:

Please accept this correspondence as the vigorous support of the above Organizations for The Active Forest Management, Wildfire Prevention and Community Protection Act (“The Act”). Prior to addressing the specific concerns the Organizations have regarding the Act, we believe a brief summary of each Organization is needed. The Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (“COHVCO”) is a grassroots advocacy organization of approximately 250,000 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 the more than 30,000 winter motorized recreationists across the state to enjoy their passion. CSA has also become the voice of organized snowmobiling seeking to advance, promote and preserve the sport of snowmobiling through work with Federal and state land management agencies and local, state and federal legislators telling the truth about our sport.

The Organizations vigorously support the Act as wildfires and burn scars are a massive barrier to all recreational activity in and around these areas and often for times that extend far beyond the fire being extinguished. Many burn scars are closed to recreational usage for decades after fires are extinguished due to the long-term impacts of these catastrophically intense fires. In this situation, funding and hard work is the only way to mitigate impacts from catastrophic wildfire. We believe allowing a more streamlined process for treatment analysis, such as the expanded use of Categorical Exclusions for larger treatments is a significant step in avoiding these types of impacts.

We also welcome the flexibility of the Act in locations that can be managed for wildfires and treatments. We have participated in numerous public forums with land managers discussing fire behavior and successful mitigation efforts. Historically prevention has targeted the WUI, but in the last several years, fires have started in remote areas and then waited for perfect conditions to burn out of these areas with huge intensity. This is exemplified by the Mullen Fire in southern Wyoming on the Medicine Bow/Rout NF, which was lightening started in the Savage Run Wilderness and the Cameron Peak Fire in northern Colorado on the Arapahoe/Roosevelt NF, which was ignited in the Rawah Wilderness. Both fires were of somewhat small size for extended periods of time and then exited the Wilderness when conditions were ripe for rapid intense expansion. Both fires expanded at rates exceeding 5,000 acres of burn per hour and both topped 200,000 in areas severely impacted. Unfortunately, this model is becoming all too common throughout the western US.

The USFS has recently released post fire analysis efforts and recommendations included analysis of many other fires. Their recommendation is these types of ignitions and subsequent explosive growth can be managed and planned for, which is a significant change from previous efforts that only focused on the WUI. We believe the Act is a major step in this direction, as §501 of the Act specifically states Wilderness designations are prohibited from becoming a barrier to treatments. This is in stark contrast to other proposals that would have added further restrictions to treatments such as prohibiting them in Roadless areas. Such restrictions simply make no sense to us.

The Organizations also submit that while wildfires gain almost all press coverage for removal of beetle kill from large tracts, wildfires only are impacting small portions of a massive landscape every year. Damage to these landscapes can only be mitigated with preventative treatment to remove thousands of acres of beetle kill spiderwebs that are unhealthy for wildlife and unsafe for most users. Preventing wildfire before it happens also improves wildlife habitat. We have been actively participating in post fire analysis of the West Fork Complex fire on the Rio Grande NF and researchers have found many species will use burn scar areas, but many also will not. The Canadian lynx has shown a high level of avoidance to these burn scars. Please feel free to contact Scott Jones at 518-281-5810 if you should wish to discuss these matters further.

Sincerely,

Scott Jones Signature

Scott Jones, Esq.
Authorized Representative
CSA, COHVCO and TPA

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CNSA Response to the Stanislaus National Forest Over Snow Vehicle Record of Decision – Pacific Crest Trail Corridor

California Nevada Snowmobile Association (CNSA) letter of response to the Stanislaus National Forest Over Snow Vehicle (OSV) Record of Decision (ROD) regarding OSV travel in relation to the Pacific Crest Trail corridor.


 

Off Road Business Association, United Snowmobile Alliance, CA NV Snowmobile Assoc logos

Stanislaus National Forest
Att: Jason Kuiken, Forest Supervisor
19777 Greenley Road
Sonora, CA 95370

Re: Stanislaus NF OSV usage/designation and Cowpasture US Supreme Court decision

Dear Mr. Kuiken:

The above Organizations are contacting you regarding the final revised Record of Decision regarding OSV travel on the Forest released on May 25, 2021. It is anticipated to be signed in July 2021. Our concerns are surrounding the asserted basis for management of the Pacific Crest Trail corridor in the revised draft decision and the direct conflict of this position with the 2020 7-2 US Supreme Court Cowpasture decision. The Organizations have previously provided a copy of the Cowpasture decision to the Forest by correspondence on March 10, 2021 seeking to avoid the situation we are now facing. The Organizations are in the unusual and uniquely frustrating situation of asking the Forest to apply the interpretation of the NTSA standards with multiple use mandates that the USFS recently successfully pursued in the US Supreme Court. In Cowpasture, the US Supreme Court addressed conflicts between provisions for the management of NTSA routes and multiple use mandates. The Court found that where possible conflict in management exists multiple use mandates govern any NTSA trail, and not the application of more restrictive mandates found in the NTSA. We are again including a copy of this decision with this correspondence in the hope of quickly bringing some type of closure to OSV issues on the Stanislaus, as this has now spanned decades.

The Stanislaus NF currently proposed to resolve statutory conflicts in direct opposition to the Cowpasture decision, as the Stanislaus NF starts with the most restrictive requirements of the NTSA and then applies them without regard to multiple use management objectives for particular segments of trail. In this planning effort, the Stanislaus has been faced with a situation where isolated NTSA provisions are in conflict with general multiple use provisions for the Forest. These restrictive provisions have sought to be exploited by interests that are seeking buffers or exclusive use corridors around the PCT. As we have previously argued application of multiple use planning requirements is also supported by the wide range of uses recognized by the NTSA. While the Organizations are aware that the PCT is a comparatively small issue on the Stanislaus NF, the impacts of the precedent set by the Stanislaus NF are significant and cannot be overlooked.

Pursuant to the draft revised ROD currently available, the Pacific Crest Trail is entirely closed to motorized usage1 and then usage is granted on a case-by-case basis. The application of the most restrictive provisions of the NTSA is deeply concerning and gives rise to two significant forest level concerns. The Cowpasture decision addressed the NTSA management and relationship when multiple agencies were involved and agency management dictated the decisions allowed for each agency. In the Stanislaus situation the USFS is both land and trail manager, simplifying the analysis. The Cowpasture decision clearly states:

“Sometimes a complicated regulatory scheme may cause us to miss the forest for the trees, but at bottom, these cases boil down to a simple proposition: A trail is a trail, and land is land.”

The Court then continues by clarifying the management of the lands in and around the trail remains subject to general agency jurisdiction as follows:

“The various duties described in the Trails Act reinforce that the agency responsible for the Trail has a limited role of administering a trail easement, but that the underlying land remains within the jurisdiction of the Forest Service.”2

We are aware of no argument that US Forest Service is not subject to multiple use mandates generally or that exclude the PCT from multiple use, and the Cowpasture decision clearly identifies that multiple use mandates and processes must govern NTSA route management. We are not aware of any document or decision that creates such exclusionary corridors or buffer for trails, as all planning documents specifically allow many uses on and around the trail. While the NTSA makes provisions for segments of NTSA routes crossing Wilderness areas and other designations, where usage is prohibited the NTSA also specifically allows motorized usages on the route. This is pinnacle of multiple use management and we are asking for its application on the PCT on the Stanislaus.

The Cowpasture decision is compelling in isolation, however these provisions become even more compelling for Stanislaus OSV decision when it is reviewed more generally. Many of the proponents of applying the most restrictive standards between multiple uses statutes and NTSA interpretations, which result in exclusionary corridors around the PCT for the benefit of certain trail interests in the Stanislaus OSV planning effort, argued this very same position in filings to the US Supreme Court in Cowpasture. THEY LOST in a 7-2 decision. While we do not believe a detailed list of these interest groups is productive to this discussion, we will vigorously assert that many of the court filings made in Cowpasture virtually mirrored the public comments that were made to the Stanislaus on this issue. These Supreme Court filings are available and we would be willing to share them if you should desire. The Supreme Court clearly stated that multiple use plans and mandates must guide the management of all NTSA routes.

Our second concern involves the relationship of the Cowpasture decision to the PCT Plan and possible application of the PCT Plan provisions in a manner that conflicts with Cowpasture. The PCT is a trail that runs from Mexico to Canada and clearly would be managed for a single use without significant negative impacts. While much of Stanislaus decision asserts to be applying the PCT Plan, it is our position that the PCT Plan has never applied the standard asserted. Rather the PCT plan applies segment by segment standards of multiple uses for the trail as evidenced by specific management standards for motorized vehicles on the trail. Again we must ask why would the USFS have management standards for motorized vehicles in the PCT plan when they are prohibited under the NTSA. The answer is motorized usage has never been prohibited. We have argued this throughout the Stanislaus planning process based on the clear language of the statute and relevant plans, apparently without success. The relationship of the current PCT plan and the Cowpasture decision remains unclear but is outside the scope of this planning effort. It is our position that numerous provisions of the existing PCT plan are on questionable legal basis after the Cowpasture decision as the PCT plan applies the more restrictive standards. Cowpasture which requires application of the lesser restrictive standards for NTSA designated areas. Application of the PCT Plan in a manner to allow the less restrictive standards for each segment resolves conflict around the PCT Plan as well.

In conclusion, the Organizations are in the unusual and uniquely frustrating situation of asking the Forest to apply the interpretation of the NTSA standards with multiple use mandates that the USFS recently successfully pursued in the US Supreme Court. The PCT is and always has been a multiple use route without buffers and we are asking that it be managed as mandated under the NTSA and Cowpasture decision. While the Organizations are aware that the PCT is a comparatively small issue on the Stanislaus NF, the impacts of the precedent set by the Stanislaus NF are significant and cannot be overlooked.

We are hoping that resolving this direct conflict will speed the final resolution of the Stanislaus OSV planning effort, that has spanned decades and improve recreational opportunities for all users of the Stanislaus. If you have questions, please feel free to contact either Fred Wiley, ORBA’s Executive Director/CNSA Past President at 1701 Westwind Drive #108, Bakersfield, CA. Mr. Wiley phone is 661-323-1464 and his email is  fwiley@orba.biz. You may also contact Scott Jones, Esq. at 3301 Fairway Drive, Argyle TX 76226. His phone is (518)281-5810 and his email is scott.jones46@yahoo.com.

Respectfully Submitted,

Scott Jones, Esq.
ORBA Authorized Representative

Keith Sweepe
CNSA President

Fred Wiley
ORBA Executive Director
CNSA Past President

 

CC: R5; USFS Leadership
Enclosures

 

1 See, USDA Forest Service; Stanislaus National Forest; Updated Draft ROD regarding OSV use designations; Anticipated to be signed July 2021 at pg. 12.
2 See, US Forest Service et al v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association, 590 US ___; 140 S.Ct 1837 @1847 (2019)

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USFS Commends Motorized Groups for Improved Trail Conditions (10-Year Trail Shared Stewardship Challenge)

Letter from United States Forest Service (USFS) Washington

File Code: 2400
Date: June 17, 2021

Mr. Scott Jones
scott.jones46@yahoo.com

Dear Mr. Jones:

Thank you for your letter of April 18, 2021, regarding the Forest Service’s 10-Year Trail Shared Stewardship Challenge, Phase 1: Launch and Learn Guidebook (Trail Challenge). I apologize for the delayed response.

The Trail Challenge focuses collective resources of employees, partners, and volunteers on shared priorities such as greater capacity to manage and maintain trails, and to provide well-maintained and easily located trails that increase access and value to the public. The engagement and efforts of motorized groups have improved the condition of trails across National Forest System lands and we look forward to continued engagement with the motorized community as part of the Trail Challenge.

Interest in the Trail Challenge among your organizations has excellent timing as we continue our launch of the first implementation phase. During phase one, I welcome collaboration to adequately track, monitor, and acknowledge accomplishments by the motorized community while identifying lessons learned to incorporate into future phases of the Trail Challenge.

Again, thank you for writing and for the commitment of One Voice, United Snowmobile Alliance, Off-Road Business Association, and the United Four-Wheel Drive Associations in creating sustainable trail systems for motor vehicles and over-snow vehicles. Brenda Yankoviak, National Trails Program Manager, will be in contact about opportunities to engage in the Trail Challenge. Please do not hesitate to contact her at brenda.yankoviak@usda.gov.

Sincerely,

Signed by: Department of Agriculture
DAVID WHITTEKIEND
Acting Director, Recreation, Heritage and Volunteer Resources

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Rider Feedback Needed!

A citizen planning group, Envision Chaffee County, has produced a Draft Recreation Plan for the Salida and Buena Vista areas in Central Colorado. Within this plan, we have identified some issues and concerns we would like to share with you:

  • Sidestepping Federally mandated public processes –  Travel Management Planning (TMP)
  • Survey questions are deceptively worded and leading
  • Inadequate sample size of respondents related to user size

Please watch this video for detailed information on our concerns.

Send your comments

While it is possible to submit responses through the Envision website – we encourage you to send an email directly to the Chaffee County Commissioners, Chaffee County Planning & Zoning and Cindy Williams the co-chair of Envision Recreation in Balance co-chair.

Contact info:
Commissioner Greg Felt (ERiB Co-Chair) – gfelt@chaffeecounty.org
Commissioner Keith Baker – kbaker@chaffeecounty.org
Commissioner Rusty Granzella – rgranzella@chaffeecounty.org
Planning and Zoning Dan Swallow – dswallow@chaffeecounty.org
Planning and Zoning Jon Roorda – jroorda@chaffeecounty.org
Planning and Zoning Christie Barton – cbarton@chaffeecounty.org
Cindy Williams (ERiB Co-Chair) – cindy@envisionchaffeecounty.org

Copy all email addresses at once to paste into your ‘to” field:
gfelt@chaffeecounty.org, kbaker@chaffeecounty.org, rgranzella@chaffeecounty.org, dswallow@chaffeecounty.org, jroorda@chaffeecounty.org, cbarton@chaffeecounty.org, cindy@envisionchaffeecounty.org

Info to include in your message:

  • Who you are – if you are a Chaffee County resident, be sure to mention it!
  • What you like to do in Chaffee County (riding, camping, hiking, etc)
  • The citizen planning group Envision should not be attempting to assume Travel Management Planning this is a process that is already facilitated by land agencies US Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM.) Specifically their outline of arbitrary Voluntary Seasonal Closures, Recreation development “no go” zones, and identifying areas of critical wildlife habitat in a county Recreation Plan.

That’s it – clean, simple, and to the point. The more input the better and this is all you need to say!

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Comments from TPA, CORE and COTD – Envision Chaffee County Plan

The Trails Preservation Alliance  (TPA), Colorado Off Road Enterprise (CORE) and the Colorado Off Road Trail Defenders (COTD) submitted letters concerning issues with Envision Chaffee County’s Recreation in Balance Recreation Plan.  All letters are available to download as PDF.

 

Trails Preservation Alliance Letter

June 1, 2021

Envision Chaffee County
P.O. Box 492
Buena Vista, CO 81211

Dear Ms. Williams, Envision Chaffee County Co-Chair:

Subject: Envision Chaffee County – Recreation Plan Issues and Concerns

Please accept these concerns from the Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) regarding the Envision Chaffee County Recreation Plan. The TPA is a Colorado based 501 c 3 nonprofit organization whose primary mission is to preserve the opportunities for motorized single-track riding on public land. We partner with land management agencies to ensure that a fair and equitable amount of public land is available for multiple-use recreation. Additionally, the TPA partners with other clubs and organizations such as the Chaffee County based motorcycle club, Central Colorado Mountain Riders (CCMR), and 4WD club, Colorado Off-Road Enterprise
(CORE.)

Envision Chaffee County (“Envision”) recently released a mass email regarding the Chaffee Recreation Plan and how Envision proposes to influence the management of a growing use of public lands within Chaffee County. The Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) is submitting this correspondence to express some of our issues and concerns with the direction Envision has been and is currently embarking upon.

The TPA has observed and been monitoring the action of Envision Chaffee County since its inception and the TPA has become increasingly troubled by the trends we are observing from Envision. The TPA submits that Envision is demonstrating a consistent disregard for established and existing policies and procedures for managing recreational uses on federal lands and lands managed by the State of Colorado.

A recent example of an important concern that the TPA has, was revealed with the Envision email, sent out on May 24, 2021 that makes the statement “…how our community will manage growing use of our public lands”. The public lands within and surrounding Chaffee County are for all Americans and visitors to use, and are not exclusively for Chaffee County residents or those associated with Envision. The TPA is concerned that Envision is endeavoring to limit and reduce outdoor recreational opportunities on federal and state public lands.

Envision’s underlying goal seems to be to limit growth in Chaffee County and restrict the use of public lands and facilities within Chaffee County.

The TPA is also very concerned that Envision is consistently attempting to side-step federally mandated public processes for managing and making decisions on federally managed public lands with regard to public recreation. Decisions for use of federal public lands have a distinct and described process that is firmly based upon federal regulations and laws, which rely upon technical analysis, science, data and vigorous public input.

The TPA takes great exception with the general statements referenced from the survey and noted in the plan concerning wildlife and wildlife habitat. These statements are unsupported and unsubstantiated and certainly do not warrant changes to public lands management.

The TPA has concerns that Envision routinely marginalizes any persons or organizations that do not agree with their leaders’ philosophies, ideas or opinions. We have witnessed and can document on multiple occasions organizations seeking to provide input to Envision, submitting ideas and questions to the Envision process only to be ignored, disregarded and marginalized. It is becoming ever more apparent that the Envision staff and leadership have a preconceived and predetermined outcome for this project and any dissenting voices or contrary concepts are summarily disparaged.

Despite Envision’s attempt to use “Public Surveys”, the surveys are habitually poorly crafted, deceptively worded and consistently drive the results to a predestined conclusion and outcome. Further the sample size of the surveys and the demographics of the survey’s population are inadequate and lack statistical credibility.

The TPA would gladly embrace the opportunity to meet and further discuss our issues and concerns with the Envision Chaffee County project. Chad Hixon, TPA’s Executive Director, along with the Salida, CO. based motorcycle club, Central Colorado Mountain Riders, are available to assist with working to address and resolve these issues moving forward.

Sincerely,

Don Riggle
Director of Operations

cc

Forest Supervisor, Pike and San Isabel National Forest, Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands
Field Office Manager, Royal Gorge Field Office, Bureau of Land Management
Chaffee County Commissioners Felt, Baker and Granzella

 


Colorado Offroad Trail Defenders Letter

  Comment on Envision Chaffee Draft Recreation Plan

Patrick McKay, Esq.
Vice President, Colorado Offroad Trail Defenders
June 3, 2021

I. Introduction

I am a Jeeper and off-road vehicle enthusiast from Highlands Ranch, Colorado, and a non-practicing Colorado licensed attorney currently working as a software developer. I serve as the Vice President of Colorado Offroad Trail Defenders (COTD), a non-profit organization dedicated to keeping offroad trails open to full-size four wheel drive vehicles and maximizing opportunities for offroad motorized recreation. I am also an Advisory Board member of Colorado Offroad Enterprise (CORE), a related organization based in Buena Vista, CO which focuses on trail adoptions and community outreach to preserve high quality opportunities for motorized recreation in the central Colorado mountains.

These comments are submitted on behalf of both myself and Colorado Offroad Trail Defenders as an organization. We submit these comments to express our deep concerns with the Envision Chaffee Draft Recreation Management Plan.

II. Discussion

Colorado Offroad Trail Defenders shares the concerns of the Trail Preservation Alliance that Envision Chaffee is attempting to circumvent established processes for public lands recreation management in service of an anti-growth and anti-public recreation agenda, using deceptively worded, unscientific surveys to conjure the appearance of broad public support. We are especially concerned with the elements of this agenda that involve restrictions on dispersed camping and expanded seasonal restrictions on motorized recreation.

Envision Chaffee claims strong public support for imposing severe restrictions on dispersed camping in Chaffee County and imposing seasonal restrictions on other forms of recreation in alleged high value wildlife habitat areas. These claims stand at odds with the fact that public demand for camping dispersed opportunities in Chaffee County has never been higher, while the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have found no need to impose seasonal closures in the areas that Envision Chaffee is proposing.

While we recognize that some degree of management is necessary to limit the impacts of increased dispersed camping, we strongly oppose any plan which would significantly decrease existing opportunities for camping (i.e. through campsite closures) or that would close off large areas of Chaffee County to camping entirely. It is important to keep in mind that Chaffee County is only one county within a popular area of the Rocky Mountains for outdoor recreation, and that any attempts to close or limit camping in one area will only force would-be campers to shift to a different area.

We have seen how detrimental this can be to recreation with the BLM’s camping restrictions around Moab, Utah. Every year, the BLM bans camping in more areas near Moab, which only serves to push dispersed campers further and further out into the wilderness and causes increased impacts elsewhere. As a result, the BLM has continued to push its camping bans further outward, to the point where it will soon be impossible to camp within 100 miles of Moab.

The same problem will happen in Chaffee County if the land managers take a restrictive approach to managing dispersed camping there. A dramatic reduction in dispersed campsites will only increase competition for the few remaining sites, causing increased social conflict; and will displace dispersed campers to outlying areas outside of Chaffee County, causing increased impacts there. That in turn will cause land managers to restrict dispersed camping in these newly affected areas, and so on, in a cascading series of actions with no realistic end.

We therefore oppose the provisions in the Draft Recreation Plan which proposes to limit growth of dispersed campsites to an arbitrary 3% increase per year, while closing numerous other campsites and restricting many areas to designated campsites. We do however support proposals to construct additional outhouses and other infrastructure to sustainably provide for the needs of increased numbers of dispersed campers. We also support addressing camping issues holistically through joint plans between all relevant land managers, rather than piecemeal through area-specific plans by individual land managers which do not take into account landscape level effects.

Even more concerning to us than restrictions on dispersed camping is the notion of “voluntary” seasonal closures of existing motorized routes. While the draft plan includes scant details of what these “voluntary” seasonal closures would entail or where they would apply, we strongly oppose any attempt to circumvent the normal NEPA-based Forest Service and BLM travel management procedures in favor of “voluntary” seasonal closures imposed unilaterally by a third-party interest group.

As described in the draft plan, these seasonal closures appear to be based solely on a map produced by Envision Chaffee of alleged “high quality” wildlife habitat with “severe” seasonal wildlife impacts. Little information is provided about the methodology used to create this map, and it has not been vetted through any kind of public process. Unlike Forest Service and BLM travel management plans which must balance multiple competing interests including both wildlife habitat and recreation, this plan appears to be driven entirely by wildlife interests to the subjugation of all other concerns.

We entirely reject the premise that recreation must inherently yield to wildlife concerns. Rather, there must be a balance between accommodating both the needs of wildlife and human recreation. This is exactly what the NEPA-based travel management processes of the Forest Service and BLM attempt to do. Notably, all of the public lands shown on this map have already been analyzed in the travel management plans of the relevant public agencies, with full consideration of where seasonal closures for wildlife are necessary and appropriate.

The Forest Service is currently in the process of finalizing its new travel management plan for the Pike San Isabel National Forest, which includes all Forest Service lands in Chaffee County. As of the draft decision published in November 2020, the new plan would add numerous seasonal closures to Forest Service roads and motorized trails in Chaffee County based on both wildlife and resource protection concerns. This travel plan underwent extensive public input and scientific analysis under NEPA. Once finalized, it will definitively determine which Forest Service routes in Chaffee County require seasonal closures and which ones do not. The BLM’s Four Mile and Arkansas River Travel Management Plans finalized in the early 2000s also included full consideration of wildlife needs and imposed seasonal closures where necessary.

Should Envision Chaffee believe that substantial changes are necessary to the seasonal closures in the various travel management plans in effect in Chaffee County, the appropriate venue for such changes would be in agency travel management processes, not a county-level recreation plan as proposed here. Yet for reasons unknown to us, it seems Envision Chaffee had little to no involvement in the recent Pike San Isabel travel plan and did not even try to make its case to land managers that more seasonal closures are necessary.

Instead of participating in that public process and accepting the results, Envision Chaffee now proposes to circumvent established travel management processes through the unilateral imposition of “voluntary” seasonal closures, which by its own admission are anything but voluntary. As stated on page 29 of the draft plan, “Implementation will start with voluntary action with a more regulatory approach to follow only if required.”

“Voluntary” seasonal closures backed by the threat of future regulatory action if they are not heeded are not “voluntary” by any definition of the term of which we are aware. When such “voluntary” closures are inevitably ignored by motorized recreationists who do not acknowledge the authority of Envision Chaffree to impose such restrictions upon us, it appears Envision Chafree has every intent of running to the very land managers it failed to make its case to initially, in a belated attempt to make these restrictions mandatory.

The map of supposed “high value” habitat with “severe” winter recreation impacts on wildlife in which these voluntary seasonal closures would likely apply appears to include areas like the Four Mile Recreation Area and Chinaman Gulch, which offer highly desirable opportunities for year-round motorized recreation. Chinaman Gulch/Carnage Canyon in particular offer rare opportunities for challenging motorized recreation during the winter when most other difficult motorized routes are either seasonally closed or impassable due to snow. The motorized community therefore absolutely opposes any attempt by Envision Chaffee to impose additional seasonal restrictions in these areas, voluntary or otherwise, beyond those determined to be necessary by the relevant land managers in their respective travel management plans.

Should Envision Chaffee persist in moving forward with its flawed notion of imposing “voluntary” seasonal closures on popular motorized routes in Chaffee County, Colorado Offroad Trail Defenders (along with other motorized advocacy groups) will encourage the motorized community NOT to comply with them. We will also oppose any attempts to make these restrictions mandatory through revisions to agency travel management plans.

We urge Envision Chaffee to accept the seasonal closures the various land management agencies have adopted through their existing travel plans and to drop the idea of unilaterally imposing “voluntary” seasonal restrictions on motorized recreation, which without buy-in from the motorized community is a plan doomed to failure.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments, and we will continue to closely follow the development of the Chaffee County Recreation Management Plan. Should Envision Chaffee exhibit any willingness to include the motorized community as a partner rather than an opponent in considering how best to manage recreation in Chaffee County, we stand ready to participate. Sincerely,

Patrick McKay, Esq.
Vice President, Colorado Offroad Trail Defenders

 


Colorado Offroad Enterprise (CORE) Letter

  Comment on Envision Chaffee Draft Recreation Plan

Marcus Trusty
CORE
June 4, 2021

My name is Marcus Trusty. I am the founder/president of Colorado Offroad Enterprise (CORE), based in Buena Vista, CO. CORE is a motorized action group dedicated to keeping all motorized roads and trails open in Central Colorado. CORE currently helps maintain 15 adopted trails in the Central Colorado Region. During 2019, we completed nearly 2,000 volunteer hours through our organization.

I am a third-generation Chaffee County Native and own a local business that has been in operation for 15 years. I have spent a considerable amount of time on public land in Chaffee County, participating in all types of recreation.

I. Summary

Land and user management is an increasingly difficult task. Land Management Agencies have several federally mandated regulations and processes to follow before making public land decisions. The Management Agencies also have obligations to solicit public input at several points before making a project final decision. Public lands belong to everyone, and individuals, groups, and municipalities frequently comment on issues about their concerns and interests.

The Envision project was initially marketed as encompassing three areas, Wildfire Prevention, Working Lands and Water Quality, and Recreation. The first two areas seem highly specific to Chaffee County and its residents. A wildfire in Chaffee County could destroy the local economy for several years and residents’ personal property. The rural atmosphere of Chaffee County is highly desirable, and for many, it was a big part of the appeal in moving to the county. CORE does not have significant issues or specific concerns with the Wildfire or Working Lands initiatives developed from the Envision Process. However, the Recreation in Balance Draft Rec Plan and the process used to create this plan is troubling. CORE is concerned that Envision is trying to sidestep and influence the federally mandated NEPA process required for travel management and recreation on public lands. Initially, Envision’s goals seemed to look at recreation from a global level county-wide. However, the Draft Rec Plan reveals Envision’s aspirations for travel management and recreation restriction on public lands.

It seems Wildfire and Working Lands initiatives have more merit for residents of Chaffee County, and it is reasonable to involve residents in the development of these policies. Envision, however, should NOT be steering public land decision-making outside of the regular afforded public process. Public Lands belong to everyone, and as such, The Land Management Agencies have Federal Law dictating how they manage projects and the subsequent decision-making process. Envision is highly focused on dispersed camping in Chaffee County. It seems Envision could be helpful in the dispersed camping concerns in Chaffee County if the process recognized the shortterm living that is taking place within the County. Without acknowledging short-term living disguised as camping, any solutions coming from the Envision project will not have a positive outcome.

Additionally, Envision’s scope for recreation is limited to the county boundaries. This is problematic because the public does not recreate on arbitrary county boundaries. Regional recreation is a much more accurate way of analyzing existing recreation and would be a better method.

Envision consistently names numerous individuals and groups to appeal to their authority and convince those not familiar with the process of its value. However, at the same time, Envision is short on producing specific information it cites throughout the process. CORE is concerned with the accuracy of statements made in the Rec Plan, which do not contain supporting documentation and does not cite a source. CORE is also concerned with the Recreation Zone Boundaries, Survey Results, Seasonal Closures, and Motorized Use assumptions.

Please accept the following specific comments for Envisions’ Draft Recreation Plan.

II. Dispersed Camping

CORE is concerned that Envision suggests the outcome of the current BLM Camping Project and the future Forest Service Camping Project. The BLM Camping Project appears to be pre-decisional and Envision is already planning for the known outcome. Public Land belongs to all users, not just Chaffee Residents or those driving Envision. In several other areas the Rec Plan appears to try and steer these yet-to-be-determined objective processes used by land managers. This pressure could cause an issue with the objectivity and validity of each project. Envision should be a participant in the land management process, just as all groups and individuals participate in public land decision-making processes. Envision in no way should be driving how all people can recreate on public lands.

III. Recreation Concentration Zones

CORE has concerns with the recreation concentration zones identified in the Draft Plan. The recreation concentration zones are inaccurate and much too small. They do not reflect the current recreational usage and the current residential/recreation opportunities. Motorized recreation is also much too broad and needs substantially more mileage than available in these zones.

A consistently overlooked detail by Envision is the short-term living, which is taking place on public land near the county municipalities. These are not weekend recreators but are summer residents, and they require analysis as such. We do not condone short-term living on public lands, but the results of these summer residents are similar to people coming to Chaffee County to use their second home for recreation. Short-term living and housing developments outside of municipal boundaries have not been accurately accounted for, and thus the recreation zones are much too small. Many people living outside of municipalities frequently recreate year-round from their homes in the form of cross-country skiing, biking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, fat biking, hiking, and offroad driving. These activities are dynamic to the environment and may change yearly, but the act of engaging in recreation constant. Additionally, development in these areas is growing.

The Buena Vista Recreation Zone should include all development communities on the west side of the valley, including Trail West, Game Trail, Three Elk, and Four Elk. Residents from the valley and visitors frequently access adjoining public lands from these developments year-round. The east side of the Recreation Zone should include all of Sleeping Indian and the surrounding Trail networks on the north side and the south side within Fourmile. Many residents use these areas year-round because of the proximity to Buena Vista and the four-season access to quality trails and multiple recreation opportunities. More residents live outside the City Limits of Buena Vista than inside the City Limits. Nearly all these people recreate year-round in an area larger than the area shown in the draft plan. The following satellite image depicts the actual recreation zone around Buena Vista, shown as the red boundary. This imagery includes the campsite zones defined in the BLM Dispersed Camping Project, County Boundaries (light green), and Wilderness Boundaries (Dark Green).

Buena Vista Recreation Zone Map

The Salida/Poncha Springs Recreation Zone is also much too small to reflect the residential population and the recreation within those residential areas, which border public land. Envision should also include the Shavano Camping Area from the BLM Camping Project due to the proximity of Salida and Poncha Springs. Short-term living is taking place in many of these areas, and although not lawful, it adds residents in the same aspect as established homes. The extensive developments along Hwy 291 and the Hwy24/285 Corridor house numerous residents in a similar fashion to developments outside of Buena Vista. These areas require inclusion when considering the Recreation Zones. The Envision process has consistently overlooked the housing issue in Chaffee County, which could be one of the main factors in dispersed camping. See the following satellite image depicting the actual recreation zone shown in Red. Also shown for reference are the BLM Camping Project Areas.

Salida Poncha Springs Recreation Zone Map

Also, much of these larger suggested zones include orange, purple and red wildlife areas developed by Envision. These include ‘disturbed high quality’ and ‘undisturbed high quality’ wildlife habitat, which can mean only one of three things. The information used by Envision was not accurate, the survey data is not correct, or recreation and wildlife can co-inhabit the same areas.

IV. Recreation Survey

CORE is concerned that the Envision survey data is weighted far too heavily and is a primary factor driving the Draft Rec Plan. Envision chose to use a survey to collect and analyze information to form the Rec Plan. The Rec Plan refers to the survey responses on numerous occasions to justify the Rec Plan Recommendations and proposed actions. Envision’s survey was fully completed by 2,543 participants, with 36% of those responses from Chaffee County Residents, 915 people. With a county population of 18,507, that means residents represented only 5% of the respondents. The other 1,628 responses were from people outside the county, and one can assume these people responded to the survey because they visit the county. Envision’s data also claims that Chaffee County saw around Four Million visitors last year. If only 1,628 responses came from Four Million visitors (people outside the county), there is no statistical significance to draw sound conclusions for public land use.

Envision and the Draft Rec Plan repeatedly refer to the communities’ desires, but when only 5% of the local population responded to the survey, that claim is questionable. Suppose you had a room with 100 people, and you asked five people a question. Upon those five answers, you then claimed to represent the other 95 people; nobody using objectivity would allow five people to speak for the complete room.

While the survey was developed by professionals and was done to mitigate bias, there are still issues. Envision decided on the variables of importance and then asked the community questions concerning those variables. The only responses are then, by default, only concerning those topics.

The Land Management Agencies, by contrast, do not solicit comments and feedback during the public process through survey questions. They instead rely on written comments submitted by the public. Comments are grouped into three types of classifications. These classifications are substantial, unsubstantial, and form letters. Substantial comments are original and contain specific comments relative to the project and, in many cases, include specific recommendations to be used by The Agency during the process. Unsubstantial comments are a comment directed at a general statement or staff, contain no detailed or credible information to be used during the process. Form letters are a copy of the same comments submitted by several individuals. Form letters get recorded as a single comment. If a commenter addresses a specific topic, it is from their direction. If an Agency were to get hundreds of substantial comments concerning the same subject, The Agency could know the issue is essential to the recreating public. The Agency method contrasts with the Envision Survey, which asked questions about set topics. Furthermore, many of the cited responses in the survey report were comments a Public Land Agency would classify as unsubstantial. These are a few examples:

“The constant demand for new trails is reducing habitat available to wildlife.”
“high mountain streams and lakes are soiled by campsites and social trails on the banks.”
“Far fewer sightings of large game (elk, bear, etc.) than 10 years ago”.
“We see less wildlife (turkeys) and birds.”

Where is the substance in these survey comments? What specific habitat is reduced, and where is it happening? What lakes and streams are soiled, and which social trails are a problem? Anecdotal game sighting comparisons over the years by an individual are not scientific. It’s not merely wildlife-specific comments that are unsubstantial in the survey responses. Here are motorized comments:

“Create more OHV specific trails to avoid user conflict.”
“Open more ohv routes that connect roads and trails to spread users out.”
“Separate walking and wheeled vehicle trails.”

These comments also lack substance and specificity. Where is there user conflict, what is happening, and how would OHV specific trails remedy this? Which routes need to connect to roads and trails? How would this help to spread users out? What areas and trails in Chaffee County would benefit from separating users with designated routes to the same location?

All the above examples do not help land managers make decisions. Alternatives for Agency projects are largely determined during the scoping period and based on substantial public comments. Envision appears to collect un-specific information around various topics to make specific recommendations to land managers concerning those same topics. This tactic is distorting public feedback and inserting Envision’s motives into the recommendations.

In several cases, the survey and data exhibit the Social Desirability Bias. This Bias affects data when people recognize the socially appropriate answer and give a perceived response regardless of their honest opinion. The results, section 6 specifically, referring to question 18, 19, and 21 appears to have some red flags associated with this bias. People rated protecting wildlife, small wildlife, maintain quality experience, and maintain multi-use opportunities higher than facilities, more opportunities, and tourism. People felt the ‘right’ answer was to protect more virtuous things rather than state the ‘wrong’ response, which seems more selfish. The following survey section also exhibits many similarities. Protecting water, wildlife and forests were the most common answers compared to increasing economic benefits. Which is the more socially acceptable answer? Who doesn’t want to protect water, wildlife, and the forest? Is it socially acceptable to think economics supersede the protection of those things? These results must account for the Social Desirability Bias.

V. NEPA and Seasonal Closures

The Agencies are required by Federal Law to engage in a rigorous NEPA process before making decisions. The Draft Rec Plan seems to acknowledge this fact and assumes Envision can steer the process in its desired direction. From page 20 of the Draft Rec Plan referring to the Recreation Planning Tool:

It does not replace federal land agency processes such as site-specific NEPA but accelerates work by clarifying priorities. It helps direct limited resources to the most important projects, identifying the top 25% so they can be developed quickly.

Timeliness should not always be the driving factor, especially since Federal Regulations drive land management projects specifically, so all voices have a chance to be heard and weighed equally. The Draft Rec Plan admits that areas and projects were reviewed and adjusted by only six people, several of whom were the driving forces behind the creation of Envision.

The Rec Infrastructure tool was initially populated with potential projects and prioritized in early 2021 by land management agencies, town and county staff, and Rec Taskforce members who used nine metrics tied to the Rec Plan goals, as shown below. To get ratings as consistent as possible across all lands, they were reviewed and adjusted by a team including CPW Wildlife Biologist Jamin Grigg, Chaffee County Fire Protection District Chief Robert Bertram, Former Summit County Commissioner and water expert Rick Hum, Outfitter and guide Chuck Cichowitz, Chaffee County Economic Development Corporation founder and 5th generation agricultural operator Jeff Post and Envision Co-Lead Cindy Williams.

How is it viable that only six individuals should drive the direction for future NEPA processes? How can objective recreation planning, NEPA, and subsequent decisions affecting all future recreation be based on the opinions of SIX individuals, several of whom have a conflict of interest by being directly involved with the creation of Envision? Especially since CPW can, and does, comment during Agency Projects, and all others from this ‘team’ are free and encouraged to comment during all Agency Projects.

Excluding CPW, did any of the people listed comment on the ongoing Pike and San Isabel Travel Management Process and NEPA? Travel Management, while specific to motorized travel, is the direct access to all forms of recreation and most camping opportunities. This rigorous process was conducted over many years, since 2015, and analyzed every road and motorized trail segment within Chaffee County and the entire Pike and San Isabel National Forest.

You can see the National Forest’s thorough process in the below graphics depicting the broad spectrum of info considered before making a management decision on each motorized route. The following example is for NFSR 185.D. This road is in Chaffee County, just outside of the Ruby Mountain Camping and Staging Area. It includes a current seasonal closure located in a purple area on the Envision Wildlife Habitat Map.

 

Forest Road Little Cottonwood Creek Route Details

Travel analysis process

pecies & Management Area Data

Screening Criteria

As previously mentioned, this road, according to Envision, is placed in the highest level of concern for Wildlife Habitat, the purple zone. Yet, when The Agency assessed the critical information, the road was given a high benefit rating compared to a low-risk rating. And the road is currently managed under a seasonal closure to protect the moderate rating for wildlife habitat and winter range. How is Envision’s team of six people a better option to determine how and where recreation should happen on public lands for all users? The Rec Plan also only refers to Wildlife species in general:

The wildlife tool is based on information about 44 species, current development, and research by biologists at CPW, USFS, BLM and other organizations. The resulting map, below, is a tool to help the county create opportunities that protect the wildlife users love. The Chaffee Rec Council will use this tool to focus recreation growth where it has the least impact.

Yet, in the example above concerning NFSR 185.D, the only sensitive species identified in the area is Big Horn Sheep. Current seasonal closures on NFSR 185.D and the surrounding roads are in place because of their winter range. These seasonal closures are also not new; they have been in place for many years to manage the area. Much of the Rec Plan, in contract, reads as though all 44 species are in all the purple areas, any human interaction threatens all, and currently, these species are not protected by seasonal closures, which is not correct.

Seasonal Closures are in place for many routes within Chaffee County. The current Motor Vehicle Use Map shows all the roads with a seasonal closure. Currently, 42 motorized roads and trails are under a seasonal closure within the Salida Forest Service District. Again, this limits all types of recreation in these areas because the access is closed. Also, all the roads listed for seasonal closure on the Salida MVUM have undergone the same process as the previously highlighted NFSR 185.D. To take it a step further, just because a road or trail does not have a seasonal closure listed does not mean that road or trail is used year-round.

In most cases, only the routes that wheeled vehicles can access during all 12 months of the year are considered for seasonal closure. In most other cases, routes are seasonally closed by winter and are not accessible for at least eight months. Envision should not assume these routes pose a risk because they are not seasonally closed.

Salida Ranger District Seasonal Route Designations

The following statement is one of the most concerning sections in the entire Draft Rec Plan.

The Seasonal Protection program will implement a seasonal closure plan using the Recreation for Wildlife tools that show where animals are most vulnerable when they are concentrated to have young (production areas) and to find food when the winter snows are deep (map below). Implementation will start with voluntary action with a more regulatory approach to follow only if required. Currently, just over 10% of roads and trails in these critical zones are managed with seasonal closures – we have the potential to do much better for wildlife now that we have the tools!

CORE can’t emphasize the inaccuracy of the above statement enough. There is a seasonal protection plan currently in place. Not all roads and trails are accessible year-round or during sensitive times for identified wildlife in specific areas. Seasonal closures are applied to accessible trails. All roads and trails in Chaffee County within National Forest have undergone wildlife risk assessment. The final Record of Decision for all these routes factored those assessments into the outcome. CORE is concerned with Envision’s attempts to influence NEPA based on their wildlife assessments. NEPA is an information-gathering process; it does not make decisions. Why would Envision try to circumvent that process instead of actively participating in The Agency’s public comment periods and submitting their concerns?

Envision is also extremely unclear which recreation groups these voluntary and then mandated seasonal closures would apply. Are they all recreation groups or just motorized? Currently, the only required routes seasonally closed are motorized, and the public may assume the above statement will apply to more motorized routes. However, substantial scientific research suggests non-motorized recreational use poses a more significant threat to wildlife. The following scientific review states: “Counter to public perception, non-motorized activities had more evidence for a negative effect of recreation than motorized activities, with effects observed 1.2 times more frequently.”

Larson CL, Reed Se, Merenlender AM, Crooks KR (2016) Effects on Recreation on Animals Revealed as Widespread through a Global Systemic Review. PLoS ONE 11 (12): e0167259. Doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0167259

Is the public aware of this fact? Does Envision intend to implement seasonal closures for all users, and does Envision believe that is realistic? Will Chaffee residents voluntarily stay off the mountain bike and hiking trails the first nice days in March after a long winter? The recreating public deserves honest answers, and Envision should be forthcoming with its full intentions regarding ‘voluntary’ seasonal closures so the public can voice their opinions.

VI. Wildlife

CORE is concerned with the lack of specific information provided throughout the Draft Recreation Report. Page 5 states this:

Keep it Wild Local herds of elk, bighorn sheep, and mountain goat are really taking a hit as human pressure moves them out of high-quality habitat and shrinks the area they need to survive. 65% of key wildlife populations are already in decline. The plan’s Wildlife Tool maps critical habitat to focus improvements in the right areas and informs voluntary seasonal closures to give wildlife a break.

A reader could easily assume that recreation is the driving factor in wildlife populations decline and that because of recreation, all wildlife in Chaffee County is in decline. Wildlife populations have the potential to be affected by numerous factors. Recreation is undoubtedly one of them, but focusing on one variable and magnifying it will not ultimately solve the problem.

The 2020 CPW Big Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors Report offers informative information on statewide population numbers, priority landscapes, and research areas. This information is not broken down specifically for Chaffee County because animals do not spend their time within a single county boundary. CORE suggests the best way to account for wildlife is through the current project evaluation and NEPA process used by The Agencies to inform a management decision. Looking at a small area instead of the larger region will not produce a
better result.

https://cpw.state.co.us/Documents/Hunting/BigGame/2020BigGameWinterRangeandMigratio nCorridorsReport.pdf

VII. Motorized Use

Motorized users have been consistently grouped, and CORE does not feel these groups were sufficiently engaged or involved in developing the Draft Rec Plan. In many cases, Envision looked for a ‘motorized person’ to review and look at info instead of understanding the unique aspects of motorized recreation, the crossovers, and the differences within the user group. CORE was involved in presenting information to the Envision group to help understand the motorized user behavior profile and how motorized users address negative behaviors.

CORE suggested all recreational groups understand and promote the multi-use access of Central Colorado and respect the opportunities for everyone. CORE feels motorized use is perceived negatively, and users should understand the crossover and the areas where multi-use is likely to be encountered. Envision captured this information to suggest motorized groups are responsible for educating non-motorized users, which is not correct.

Outreach by the groups also involves education to non-motorized users, that they should expect to hear engine noise if they are in an area that allows motorized recreation.

Many trails are multi-use but are not presented as such. This lack of information confuses users and does not manage or set their expectations for what they may encounter during their time. This is a contributing factor to the ‘user conflict’ suggestion. Users experiencing something they are not planning for can be seen as a conflict.

This should not be looked at as a Motorized User Issue and Envision should prioritize information distribution among all groups to counter these issues. The Draft Plan and Survey results suggest motorized recreation is everywhere and is disturbing all other forms of recreation, specifically quiet users. This is also an incorrect assertion, Chaffee County is bordered by three separate Wilderness Areas, two within eyesight of Buena Vista and one near Salida. There is ample opportunity for quiet recreation within Chaffee County.

Additionally, when compared to the overall acreage of the Salida Forest Service District, motorized roads and trails comprise a very small percentage of area. The Salida District has 498.8 total miles of motorized roads and trails. Assuming a 200’ buffer for each road and trail mile, that accounts to 12,092 acres of land. The entire Salida Forest Service District is 440,000 acres. Motorized roads and trails account for only 2% of all lands within the Salida Forest Service District. 98% of the Salida District is quiet use and there is ample opportunity for all recreation desires without conflict or ‘noise’.

The Draft Rec Plan suggests one motorized project, The Triad Ridge Singletrack. The Rec Plan states:

“Motorized singletrack connectors to enhance capacity and efficiency at Triad Ridge in South Fourmile.”

This suggested project would seem to be in response to the survey results, however, a small singletrack section in an already small area for singletrack would not alter the available experience greatly. Additionally, motorized singletrack is the most restricted motorized asset because only two-wheeled equipment can use it. By contrast ‘roads’ can be used by all motorized equipment. The Agencies should take motorized proposals directly from motorized groups to best service these users.

Thank you for considering these comments. CORE will continue to follow the Envision process and the Recreation Plan.

Thank You,

Marcus Trusty
CORE Founder/President

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2020 TPA Special Edition KTM 690 Sweepstakes WINNER!

And the winner is…ANDRE BOSSE!

Congratulations once again to Andre Bosse the winner of the TPA Special Edition KTM 690. Executive Director Chad Hixon handed over ownership of the new KTM 690 just last week. Andre is a Colorado Springs local and plans to use his new whip to explore the many back-country roads and trails nearby. We think there is no better way to enjoy Colorado, and Andre will be sure to see some of the most amazing things right in his own backyard – and doing it in first-class style!

Be safe out there and have fun ANDRE!

Andre Bosse

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Monetizing the Scenery

Most of you are familiar with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance – but if you are not you should be. SUWA is behind efforts to continually restrict access to public lands for all types of recreation. This recent article in Range Magazine is well worth your time – it paints a really good picture of what we are up against in the struggle to protect access to our public lands in Utah and all over the West.

Reprinted with permission from Range Magazine and Marjorie Haun.


 

RANGE MAGAZINE
SUMMER 2021

Utah’s biggest Green group is caught between protecting wilderness and big tourism.

By Marjorie Haun

Indian paintbrush, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah.

Indian paintbrush, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah.

In the early days, environmentalism—now called the “Green Movement”—was both loved and hated for its implacable devotion to conserving nature. Now Big Green has become the kind of immovable, profit/power-motivated industry it once found detestable. In just 50 years, it has evolved from a grassroots push to protect nature from industrialization and overpopulation into a political operation with its hooks in all levels of government, allied with the kinds of billionaires and corporate giants it once eschewed. Big Green 2021 is more concerned with monetizing scenery than with what is right for the environment.

Worlds Collide

The rural West is in the midst of an unnatural evolution driven by ideologies disconnected from its elemental truths and by billionaires disconnected from its need to survive. Southern Utah is a case in point. Early on it was a place of sprawling high-desert ranches, mines, and other extraction operations. Mormon pioneers were the first white settlers in this region destined to become famous for uranium, movies, homey outposts, and astonishing sandstone anatomy. Though this evolution has taken more than a century, there has been an alarming acceleration in recent years as once-conservative Utah towns such as Moab, Torrey, Escalante, Bluff, and Boulder have morphed into progressive havens for wealthy ex-urbanites. It’s impossible to overstate the role the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) and its cohorts have had in driving this unnatural evolution.

In 1970, President Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), effectively nationalizing the outdoors. In 1976, Congress passed the Federal Lands Management & Policy Act, which greatly expanded the power and scope of the Bureau of Land Management from its original mission of managing the range and facilitating grazing for western ranchers to the regulation of minerals and energy extraction. The BLM took a heavy hand in policing cultural antiquities and micromanaging activities on public lands, thus becoming at times useful to Big Green.

In the mid-1970s, helped along by seismic changes in federal law and inspired by Edward Abbey’s “Desert Solitaire,” SUWA and other groups, such as the Utah Wilderness Coalition, rode into the West on a wave of environmental sentimentality. Abbey’s book depicted both the cruelty and delicate allure of southern Utah’s red rock country and worked like a magnet to draw young activists from across the country. In the beginning, SUWA’s goal was to protect as many millions of quiescent acres as possible by breaking Utah into massive piebald wilderness designations.

SUWA has always been a little estranged from rural Utahns with roots and economic ties to ranching and traditional natural resource development, but the alienation has worsened with its growing disconnect from common sense. Taking extreme positions on political issues—Orange Man bad, anything left-wing good—SUWA’s rhetoric is that of panic. In 2017, at the request of Utah’s congressional delegation, President Trump downsized two massive monuments previously created without the consent of Utah’s leaders or citizens by Presidents Clinton (Grand Staircase-Escalante, 1996, 1.9 million acres) and Obama (Bears Ears, 2016, 1.3 million acres).

In emails to supporters and on its website, SUWA exploded with indignation, accusing President Trump of “eviscerating the monument” and leaving “rare archaeological sites and stunning wildlands without protection from looting, prospecting, oil and gas drilling, uranium mining, or off-road vehicle damage.”

Four years hence, none of the hysterical projections have been realized. With the Biden regime now in control of the nationalized outdoors, however, SUWA’s tone is fawning to the point of being comical: “The Earth and all its inhabitants face the dire threats of climate change and the loss of nature, including extinctions. And in its first 10 days, the Biden administration has already taken meaningful steps to address those threats. It isn’t our job at SUWA to cheerlead for a particular administration; it’s our job to push them to go further. But we are very encouraged—even excited—by the Biden administration’s start.”

But neither its extreme partisanship nor its disconnect from the grassroots is a problem for SUWA’s bottom line. With its offices in D.C. and Salt Lake City, assets of over $16 million and an annual revenue of nearly $6 million, reliable donations from billionaires, billionaires on its board of directors, and lucrative relationships with fashion designers and gigantic outdoor recreation companies such as Patagonia, REI, Black Diamond and Petzl, SUWA doesn’t need to appeal to working people in the rural West.

Shady Billionaires & the De-democratization of the Green Movement

Although Jeff Gibbs’ 2019 documentary, “Planet of the Humans,” came to the odious conclusion that only mass human depopulation would save planet Earth, it showcased how in the last two decades Big Green has sold out to corporate interests and wealthy donors with their own profit motives. Not only does the onboarding of billionaires de-democratize groups such as SUWA, but it also makes them dependent on venture capital and sometimes ill-gotten wealth. There are dark chapters in the histories of SUWA’s most high-profile billionaire board members Hansjorg Wyss and Bert Fingerhut.

In 2012, Mina Kimes penned a report for Fortune magazine titled, “Bad to the Bone: A Medical Horror Story,” in which Hansjorg Wyss plays the role of supervillain. In the early 2000s, Wyss’ medical device company, Synthes, began testing Norian X-R, a bone-growing compound, using illegal trials on human subjects. Synthes promoted Norian X-R for use in spinal surgeries, a procedure for which it had not been approved. Johnson & Johnson purchased the compound, which started killing patients almost as soon as it hit operating rooms. Four Synthes executives were indicted and convicted on charges related to “off-label marketing,” but Wyss went untouched. In 2021, Wyss continues to make sizable donations to SUWA and sits on its board of directors.

Bert Fingerhut, a billionaire Wall Street securities analyst and Green activist, moved to Aspen, Colo., in 1983 and connected with several groups including SUWA. In 2007, while serving as director of SUWA, he pled guilty in federal court to numerous charges of securities fraud. Mark Ristow, an associate of Fingerhut’s and then SUWA treasurer, was indicted as well. According to a column by Joe Bauman in Deseret News: “Ristow, 62, a resident of Indianapolis, was a SUWA director as well as treasurer for the environmental activist group headquartered in Salt Lake City. Like Fingerhut, Ristow pleaded guilty to organizing an elaborate scheme to defraud savings banks and depositors.” This is not the stuff of grassroots conservation.

In a 2006 article, environmentalist and former SUWA board member Jim Stiles detailed an instance showing how the influence of billionaires such as Wyss, Fingerhut, and venture capitalist David Bonderman, who sits on the boards of the Wilderness Society and Grand Canyon Trust, has de-democratized the environmental movement.

“The Wyss donation was particularly fortuitous,” Stiles wrote. “Its founder, Swiss-born Hansjorg Wyss, became a member of SUWA’s [b]oard of [d]irectors in 1996 and is its current chairman… In 2004, SUWA had almost $5 million in ‘net assets and fund balances,’ including $2.5 million in ‘savings and temporary cash investments,’ nearly $300,000 in ‘non-interest-bearing cash,’ and about $1 million in ‘stocks and mutual funds.’ With all those assets, a gala party is planned in May as a tribute to Wyss. The event, to be held in New York City, will cost about $100,000. But according to [SUWA director Scott] Groene, ‘it’s a fund-raising event…[it] will raise us money.’ How much money is enough? No one can fault SUWA for its good fortune, but Utah’s most prominent environmental organization is starting to look more like a bank. And while its coffers have grown, membership, according to a SUWA source, has fallen to less than 14,000.”

Big Tourism & Cognitive Dissonance

Edward Abbey wrote in “Desert Solitaire” (1968): “Industrial Tourism is a big business. It means money. It includes the motel and restaurant owners, the gasoline retailers, the oil corporations, the road-building contractors, the heavy equipment manufacturers, the estate and federal engineering agencies and the sovereign, all-powerful automotive industries.” Twenty-five years after he penned those words, Abbey’s disciples would come to embrace the “big business” about which he cautioned.

Monetizing the scenery brought with it the promise of tourist-generated wealth that would supplant mining, oil and gas jobs and revenues. The amenities economy solution became the rose-colored-glasses selling point for SUWA’s overarching wilderness bill. Seeing an area for compromise and the possibility of a reliable flow of tourist dollars into their towns, a lot of locals went along with the scheme. What followed was a boom of small locally owned restaurants, outfitters, rental shops, retailers, and guide services that quickly became dependent on the marketing of Utah’s beautiful places. Some sectors boomed more than others. Then Big Green backtracked.

Fast-forward to 2021, and red rock tourism is now dominated by off-road-vehicle enthusiasts. After embracing the amenities economy solution in the 1990s, SUWA now stands in opposition to the OHV (off-highway vehicle) sector of tourism. But SUWA wields political clout and its dissonant agenda threatens to shut down a large sector of the local economy. Under pressure from SUWA, the Moab and Grand County councils recently banned large OHV events in the area and are leaning heavily on nearby San Juan County to do the same.

Dispersed camping—an iconic outdoor activity enjoyed by all demographics—is also on SUWA’s hit list. In 2020, SUWA petitioned the Bureau of Land Management to restrict off-roading and dispersed camping in the San Rafael Swell region, a vast range of sagebrush and red rock in central Utah. Under the purview of President Trump’s BLM director, the agency rejected SUWA’s petition.

In the SUWA universe, however, the scope of acceptable economic alternatives is narrowing. Arbitrary bans won’t hurt its wealthy donors, staff of attorneys, or billionaire board members, but it may be the death of local businesses that serve off-road and camping enthusiasts. Frankly, it’s hard to know what to do. Millions of hikers and thousands of mountain bikers on unregulated trails…good. Families with ATVs camping by the creek…bad.

Political Puppet Masters

Today SUWA is immersed in politics and, like all savvy political organizations, it’s playing the long game. The demographic shift needed to achieve its prime goal of a federal bill that would put tens of millions of acres into a restricted wilderness designation forever is underway. With progressives, many favored or employed by SUWA, now dominating commissions in both Grand and San Juan counties, SUWA is neither looking for, nor does it need, the consent of the governed.

In 2017, following a decades-long series of lawsuits brought by the Navajo Nation against San Juan County, federal Judge Robert Shelby took the unprecedented action of federalizing a local election and redrawing voting districts. In doing so, Shelby gave majority control of two of the county’s three districts to the Navajo Nation, which comprises a small fraction of the county’s landmass.

During that same time SUWA founded and funded the Rural Utah Project, with the goal of ensuring that Democrats would dominate local government. Using identity politics to recruit minority voters, RUP helped to flip San Juan County in 2018. The “get out the vote” arm of SUWA/RUP has the kind of money that grassroots political organizations could only dream of. SUWA’s activities are creating a political serfdom in which majority conservative/Republican counties are being controlled by progressive politicians enacting agendas disconnected from the history and traditions of the people.

Liz Thomas, a SUWA field attorney who lives in Moab in Grand County, has been in fact writing policy for the county commis¬sion in San Juan County. Documents obtained from the county show that Thomas has ghost-written at least 12 resolu¬tions from 2019 to the present. Her resolu¬tions are invariably put forth by one of the two progressive commissioners whom RUP helped elect in 2018: Mark Maryboy and Willie Grayeyes. Documents related to the county policy were emailed directly to the county administrator from Thomas with instructions to put them on the agenda. Recently, Thomas wrote a controversial reso¬lution asking Joe Biden to reestablish the rescinded boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument.

Using official letterhead, Thomas has written at least one response from San Juan County to the BLM. At one point, she was sending Commissioner Maryboy so many directives that the county administrator, Mack McDonald, made the following state¬ment in an email to Maryboy: “Is there a way when these come to you, that we can meet and review them with enough time so that we can fix these and have the [c]ounty [a]ttorney review them?” The people be damned; SUWA is steering policy in San Juan County.

America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act

Since it was introduced into Congress by Wayne Owens in 1989, SUWA’s defining piece of legislation, America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, has doubled the landmass it would encompass from around five million acres to nearly nine million acres. It would pack such a severe punch to Utah’s rural economies that few legislators have wanted to touch it. Even Obama’s Interior Department regarded it as radioactive. But with Biden now occupying the White House, SUWA may get its prize. In its currently proposed form, ARRWA would lock up a large percentage of southern Utah’s most resource-rich lands into wilderness des¬ignations in perpetuity. SUWA’s radical pro¬posal, however, may be small potatoes when compared to the Biden regime, which has recently announced that it intends to “pre¬serve” anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of America’s lands. With one-third of the U.S. landmass now under federal control, and another third to one-half removed from eco¬nomic production, American ranchers, farm¬ers, miners, oil and gas workers, and the families they feed could fade into history.

The Pendulum

With decades of activism and millions of dol¬lars, SUWA has transformed Utah’s political landscape. Nonetheless, there is organized and growing opposition to its initiatives. Pres¬ident Trump’s downsizing of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in 2017 dealt a painful political blow. Now, even with the Biden regime on its side, SUWA has an uphill battle to enlarge the national monuments due to profound opposition at both state and local levels.

In 2017, SUWA used “open meetings” rules to sue three counties—Kane, Garfield and San Juan—whose commissioners met with Trump’s then-Interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, about the monuments. In August 2019, the court rejected the lawsuit and fined SUWA for $50,000 in legal fees. Utah’s Blue-Ribbon Coalition/Share Trails, comprised of small businesses, outdoor recreation/OHV clubs, and individuals, has successfully rebuffed many of SUWA’s recent efforts to close roads and prohibit motorized access on federal lands. And most recently, a federal judge rejected SUWA’s bid to stop a helium drilling operation on BLM land in Labyrinth Canyon near Lake Powell.

To a degree, transplanted ex-urbanites have changed demographics in southern Utah. Nevertheless, SUWA remains largely alienated from the working people of the region. With its political puppeteering exposed and a gauntlet of finicky criteria for outdoor activities to gain its acceptance, SUWA’s clout remains dependent on big-dol¬lar outside support. Giving its oblations to bil¬lionaires, big corporations, and pop-culture elites, SUWA is guilty of anti-rural bigotry, a cynical disregard for the people whose des¬tinies it seeks to control.

The average yearly income for people who live and work in southern Utah is around $42,000 per household. SUWA’s payouts are six figures. In 2018, SUWA director Scott Groene earned $163,000 in salary and bene¬fits. Attorney Steven Bloch took home $126,000. SUWA paid one legal contractor $411,355, and the total payroll for that year was $1,873,000. Finally, with most of its activists coming from outside southern Utah, and its main offices in Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C., SUWA looms as a self-righteous crusader, sweeping down from on high to save rural Utah from the rural Utahns who live there. SUWA’s political extremism, dissonant objectives, erosion of its donor base, and disconnect from “roots Utahns” are a chink in this Big Green’s vainglorious armor.

Marjorie Haun is a freelance writer from southern Utah who shares with Jim Stiles both wonder and dread at the urbanization of the rural West.

Download Full article with images:
Monetizing the Scenery

 

Read the full magazine:
RANGE  Magazine
Summer 2021

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Pre-Scoping Public Input – Chaffee County Camping and Travel Management Plan

United States Department of the Interior
Bureau of Land Management
Royal Gorge Field Office
3028 E. Main Street
Cañon City, CO 81212

SUBJECT: Pre-Scoping Public Input – Chaffee County Camping and Travel Management Plan DOI-BLM-CO-F020-2021-0020 EA

Please accept these comments from the Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) in the BLM’s request for comments for Pre- Scoping Public Input concerning the Chaffee County Camping and Travel Management Plan, DOI-BLM-CO-F020-2021-0020EA.

The TPA is a Colorado based 501 c 3 nonprofit organization whose primary mission is to preserve the opportunities for motorized single-track riding on public land. We partner with land management agencies to ensure that a fair and equitable amount of public land is available for motorized recreation. Additionally, the TPA partners with other clubs and organizations such as the Chaffee County based motorcycle club, Central Colorado Mountain Riders (CCMR), and jeep club, Colorado Off Road Enterprise (CORE.)

We appreciate the opportunity to engage with this process and recognize the issues that dispersed camping is having on public lands across the west. The TPA is committed to helping the RGFO find the best possible solutions to protect the resource while maintaining quality experiences for ALL users that value the camping opportunities provided on the public lands of the west and in this case Chaffee County.

The TPA has several grave concerns about this project and the process that the RGFO is proposing to use for this project. On advice of counsel, we have listed our most troublesome concerns regarding documents prepared by the RGFO and posted to the project website (https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/2012291/510):

  • The RGFO documents do not adequately articulate a Purpose and Need for this project. The Purpose and Need as currently published is not sufficient to examine a range of alternatives.
  • The RGFO has crafted the Purpose and Need too narrowly. In addition, the documentation and scoping materials for this project appear pre-decisional.
  • The project must consider a range of alternatives in an Environmental Assessment (EA).
  • “Travel management” should not be done in an EA. It is a major federal action requiring an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
  • The Best Available Science on User Conflicts directly weighs against closures.
  • Analysis and comments must not be arbitrarily limited to Chaffee County. BLM managed public lands and lands managed by the USFS extend well beyond the jurisdictional boundaries of Chaffee County. Limiting this project’s analysis to Chaffee County will preclude a holistic investigation and result in a myopic conclusion.
  • Analysis of dispersed camping issues should be concurrently conducted with the USFS Salida Ranger District and the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (ARHA) to avoid a Decision that results in adverse effects, or unintended consequences on lands adjacent to BLM properties but managed by other agencies.

For this Pre-Scoping phase of the project, the TPA is compelled to point out that dispersed camping involves more than just motorized users and is utilized by multiple and diverse outdoor recreation groups. This is extremely relevant to this project considering the limited access for OHV’s use and the proximity to many of the inventoried sites. On the contrary many of the inventoried sites are in very close proximity to many non-motorized recreational opportunities such as the Methodist Hills trail system, Colorado Trail Trailhead, Mt. Shavano Trailhead, and areas in close proximity to the AHRA managed land. In addition to the broad range of recreation users utilizing dispersed camping many social issues are also a factor. People living on public lands of which many are a part of the Upper Arkansas Valley’s workforce and people that are otherwise homeless all contribute to this issue. This is further evident within the plan’s inventoried sites near Salida which are inaccessible by vehicle. The TPA suggests the RGFO to not term or reference the issue as vehicle-based camping or motorized dispersed camping but rather just Dispersed Camping.

Other considerations and suggestions from the TPA include the following:

  • Dispersed camping is currently, or is becoming, an issue on public land all over the western U.S., but especially near areas with various and diverse recreational opportunities. Some areas’ efforts, such as Moab, to mitigate these impacts, including closures to dispersed camping or other management strategies such as designated
    dispersed and paid camping, have only pushed the dispersed camping use to adjacent areas or the next available location. Trying to resolve this issue by only addressing BLM managed lands in Chaffee County will only push the use and “stress” to adjacent lands managed by other agencies within Chaffee County or to neighboring counties including Fremont, Gunnison, Lake, Park and Saguache. Most users do not camp or recreate based on a particular land management agency, county or state jurisdiction. Why then would the RGFO attempt to take this approach to manage this issue? To adequately curtail and manage the dispersed camping issue a more holistic approach that involves ALL the agencies and adjacent counties that could experience the effects of this Decision must be included. Without this we are only transposing the issue, not resolving it.
  • This plan incorporates two distinct processes, Travel Management Planning (TMP) and a plan to address dispersed camping issues. These are acknowledged by the RGFO as two separate processes. However, Travel Management Planning, generally requires a more detailed and arduous Environment Impact Study (EIS) when it is determined that a “significant” change is adopted that could affect the human environment. Travel Management Planning is arguably a significant change and should not be done in an Environmental Assessment (EA.) It could also be that the closure or new management strategy of hundreds of dispersed campsites could arguably be considered “significant” changes. The BLM should address Travel Management Planning for the Shavano and Pass Creek areas separately from dispersed camping planning.
  • The pre-scoping questions posed to the public seem to be focused on limiting and “closing” camping opportunities. Given the increase in use and recreational opportunities created in the area, why would the questions and suggestions for comments be focused on reduction or elimination of an obvious (and increasing) demand? These questions and suggestions could be perceived as pre-decisional or as pushing the agenda of a special interest group. To achieve the best possible Alternatives, the TPA suggests the RGFO must also include suggestions about where to create and expand camping opportunities. In addition these suggestions should be open to areas not identified in this process as having camping issues and/or that could potentially see the effects of the outcome of this Decision. For example lands that are easily accessible to popular trailheads, communities in the area and fishing access on the Arkansas River should all be considered for potential camping development. A broader scope of questions and suggestions should be provided.
  • The planning approach seems to insinuate the issue is recreation vs. conservation. This leads to the perception that you can only have one or the other. However, proper management strategies should allow for the two concepts to coexist.
  • The TPA offers a brief summary of research into user conflict. Researchers have specifically identified that properly determining the basis for, or type of user conflict (personal vs social conflict,) is critical to determining the proper method for managing this conflict. Scientific analysis defines the division of conflicts as follows:
    • “For interpersonal conflict to occur, the physical presence or behavior of an individual or a group of recreationists must interfere with the goals of another individual or group….Social values conflict, on the other hand, can occur between groups who do not share the same norms (Ruddell & Gramann, 1994) and/or values (Saremba & Gill, 1991), independent of the physical presence or actual contact between the groups……When the conflict stems from interpersonal conflict, zoning incompatible users into different locations of the resource is an effective strategy. When the source of conflict is differences in values, however, zoning is not likely to be very effective. In the Mt. Evans study (Vaske et al., 1995), for example, physically separating hunters from nonhunters did not resolve the conflict in social values expressed by the nonhunting group. Just knowing that people hunt in the area resulted in the perception of conflict. For these types of situations, efforts designed to educate and inform the different visiting publics about the reasons underlying management actions may be more effective in reducing conflict.” 1
  • Other researchers have distinguished types of user conflicts based on a goals interference distinction, described as follows:
    • “The travel management planning process did not directly assess the prevalence of on-site conflict between non-motorized groups accessing and using the yurts and adjacent motorized users…. The common definition of recreation conflict for an individual assumes that people recreate in order to achieve certain goals, and defines conflict as “goal interference attributed to another’s behavior” (Jacob & Schreyer, 1980, p. 369). Therefore, conflict as goal interference is not an objective state, but is an individual’s appraisal of past and future social contacts that influences either direct or indirect conflict. It is important to note that the absence of recreational goal attainment alone is insufficient to denote thepresence of conflict. The perceived source of this goal interference must be identified as other individuals.”2
  • An overwhelming portion of user conflict results from a lack of social acceptance by certain users and these conflicts will only be resolved with education. The TPA believes the distinction between personal and social user conflict must be distinguished and addressed in this process. Any proposed changes must be reviewed to ensure those changes do not generate, and result in, an increase in user conflicts.
    The TPA thanks the RGFO for reviewing and considering our comments and suggestions. We would welcome a discussion of these comments at your convenience.

 

Sincerely,

Chad Hixon Signature
Chad Hixon
Executive Director
Trails Preservation Alliance
chad@coloradotpa.org 

 

1 See, Carothers, P., Vaske, J. J., & Donnelly, M. P. (2001). Social values versus interpersonal conflict among hikers and mountain biker; Journal of Leisure Sciences, 23(1) at pg. 58.

2 See, Norling et al; Conflict attributed to snowmobiles in a sample of backcountry, non-motorized yurt users in the Wasatch –Cache National Forest; Utah State University; 2009 at pg. 3.  

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Adventure Rider Article – Access and Advocacy

Reposted with permission from Adventure Rider Magazine – December 2020
Ned Suesse is a member of the TPA Board of Directors


Access and Advocacy

The challenges faced when connecting beautiful places

Words & Images Ned Suesse

Rider on MotorcycleFrequently, I’ve had conversations with friends on adventure bikes about public land management, and they fall to either side of a divide. One side holds that federal agencies are worthless and trying to close all of our access, and they therefore deserve to be either hated or ignored. The other side claims that the federal agencies are worthless and not doing enough to protect public lands, and groups like the Sierra Club are necessary to secure natural values.

In my view, neither of those stories has it right. In fact, we have an incredible bounty of great routes maintained by these agencies, so they deserve some credit. We also have great natural areas, and the laws that govern land use are generally biased to protect them. No matter what action or inaction the agencies choose, people will disagree, which explains how we can struggle to find consensus. Given that, I submit that the best way to improve the outcome for interesting routes that connect beautiful places, which we all enjoy riding, is a third idea: effective involvement to preserve and protect not only routes, but also the lands they pass through.

In the American West, most of our riding is on public land managed by one of two agencies: the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the Forest Service (USFS). These agencies operate under different rules, but both are governed by public process, which requires public engagement to achieve the best outcome. Neither agency is mandated or equipped to look at the popularity of their decisions, so effective engagement is rarely a matter of sending form letters. The place where popularity counts is the voting booth, specifically for members of Congress, the branch of government from which the agencies secure their funding. Your congressional representatives will have offices near you, and it isn’t hard to get a meeting with staff and explain what you think is important. They may not agree, but they will take note that you care.

In both the USFS and BLM, a great deal of control is delegated to the local offices, where there is a line officer who is generally equivalent to the captain of a ship. These people don’t control the armada, they don’t pick the overall direction, but the ship does not move without their consent. Therefore, effective engagement happens most often at a local level. In many areas, there are clubs that are doing this work, and you can join and donate time, energy and money to help them make a difference. Clubs are also where most on-the-ground work happens, from cleaning up trash, to clearing trees and building new trails. Often, clubs are run by exhausted volunteers on the verge of quitting, so joining and helping can make a huge difference as well as providing new riding buddies.

The public servants who work in these agencies are generally bureaucrats who have worked their way up through a system that does not reward the same qualities private industry does. In many cases, these bureaucrats are pleasant, reasonable folk, which doesn’t necessarily mean they understand or appreciate the existence of motorcycle riders on their public land. It is our job to justify ourselves, and our use, to people who are unaware or maybe even biased against us. It may not be obvious to a non-motorcyclist that connections and campsites are important to us. We can help them see the world our way.

These land managers are tasked with managing our lands within a mess of laws that are difficult for the layperson to understand and often contradictory even when one does. The rule that comes up most often is the National Environmental Policy Act (referred to as “NEPA”) which sets a process for every decision the federal government makes that affects the quality of the environment. The NEPA process has different protocols depending on the potential impact of the decision, but the key thing to understand is that decisions are made in a process, and there are times in that process where you can comment and be involved, and times where you cannot. Generally, during the “scoping period,” you can get involved. Later, once scoping is past and comment periods close, nothing you say has any effect, no matter how correct you might be. Scoping and comment is required for all NEPA processes, and most offices have a process to get you subscribed to notices so that you can be involved at the appropriate time.

Rider standing on trail with bikeThe other key rule that affects our use is Travel Management. This is done at a broader level than decisions, typically by a Forest (USFS) or a Field office (BLM). As with everything else, there is a defined process to be involved with, and effective engagement requires getting involved early. Travel Management may only happen every decade or two, so when it comes along it is critical to be involved with it. Because Travel Management encompasses a larger area, often a statewide organization will be involved. These statewide organizations serve an important role alongside clubs. Where a club is more likely to make a difference on the ground, the statewide groups are able to bring legal pressure, expert testimony and policy experts to bear on the larger regional issues.

Personally, I was uninterested in any of this until my favorite place to ride was closed. I went from uninterested to really angry in a flash, and it has taken decades to work my way back to engaged. Everything that happens on public land happens at the speed of government, which is both frustrating and occasionally beneficial, since bad news can happen as slowly as good news does. If you are getting involved, recognize that advocacy requires slow and steady involvement, not just a few moments of your time. It takes hydraulic pressure, not hammer blows. If you want to make a difference, show up, join a club, donate, get to know your local agency people and expect that moving the needle will take months and years, not days or weeks.

In the end, I see a false division between “environmentalist” and “motorcyclist”. I don’t know a single rider who would prefer an unhealthy forest to a thriving one, and in many areas, most of the trail work and funding to maintain trails comes from off-highway vehicle riders. This leads to the final point: wherever possible, we can try to break down the perception of us (motorcyclists) vs. them (environmentalists). Enviromotorist is a viable position (not to be confused with moto-mentalists) that holds that responsible access can coexist with maintaining natural values. Motorcyclists will never win a popularity contest, but we can show how our position is compatible with others.

Wilderness

  • Wilderness (capital W) is defined by congress and allows no mechanized recreation, including bicycles, motorcycles, hang gliders and so on. It is the most restrictive protection available. Many companies talk about riding in wilderness (small w), so keeping the legal definition in mind is important.
  • Wilderness does not allow for fire mitigation (exceptions are made for fires once burning), or management for species of concern. Trail maintenance must be done by hand (no chainsaws).
  • You can support existing Wilderness, but be against additional Wilderness. This is my position. The places that are “untrammeled by man” as congress defined are largely already designated. New designations focus increasing use on diminishing areas and abdicate responsibility for management.

Success Story

  • In Salida, Colorado, the Central Colorado Mountain Riders (CCMR, local club), with support from the Colorado TPA (state organization) have succeeded in adopting, maintaining and even opening several new trails over the last few years.
  • Each action has taken years to complete, and required partnerships with non-OHV groups for success. CCMR has an active board of volunteers who each take ownership of individual projects.
  • Latest example: In 2020, Dudbob’s trail was constructed and opened on BLM. The process for this trail started in approximately 2015.

Things You Can Do

  • Be a steward—take care of the roads and trails you use, help educate other users, and leave campsites better than you found them.
  • Be an ambassador—show the best of motorcycling to other users, businesses that you patronize, and people who work in the land management agencies.
  • Get involved locally—join your local club and show up for work days and public process meetings.
  • Donate funds—send money to organizations not only where you live, but also where you want to ride.

 

About Adventure Rider

ADVrider was launched in 2001 to provide adventure motorcycle riders their own dedicated online community. The site was debuted as an adventure riding forum and has grown to become the most visited website in the world for motorcycle enthusiasts. ADVrider currently has over 350,000 registered members who have submitted 33 million original posts.

Adventure Rider Magazine

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Rio Grande National Forest Response to Continental Divide National Scenic Trail Corridor Issues

Rio Grande National Forest response to the request of clarification on Supreme Court ruling USFS vs. Cowpasture River Preservation Association and its relationship to Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST) corridor issues.


USDA
Forest Service
Rio Grand National Forest
1803 West Highway 160
Monte Vista, CO 81144

Dear Mr. Riggle:

This responds to your letter dated March 10, 2021, regarding the 2020 Supreme Court decision involving the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (ANST), United States Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association, 140 S. Ct. 1837 (2020). The decision clarifies the role of the National Park Service as the administrator of the ANST and the United States Forest Service (USFS) as a trail managing agency for the ANST, i.e., a federal agency with jurisdiction over some of the federal lands traversed by the ANST.

I would like to clarify two points made in your letter. Paragraph 2 of the letter states (emphasis in original):

The US Supreme Court addressed the management relationship of the National Trails System Act and the Multiple Use mandate of the US Forest Service for the corridors around NTSA routes and the designated trail itself. . . . The Supreme Court clearly stated the mere designation of any route under the National Trails System Act does not alter the multiple use mandate of the agencies managing this land.

Paragraph 3 of the letter states:

The Court ruling provides significant protection for continued multiple use access to public lands and prohibits many of the proposed closures of the trail and adjacent areas to multiple usage recreation.

The Cowpasture decision holds that a national trail is most akin to right-of-way over land and as such does not change the jurisdiction of the underlying land. Therefore, the legal authorities governing federal lands managed by a national trail administrator do not apply to federal lands crossed by a national trail that are managed by another federal agency. Federal lands underlying a national trail that are not managed by the trail administering agency are subject to the legal authorities of the federal agency with jurisdiction over the underlying lands. With respect to the ANST, where the trail traverses National Forest System lands, those lands are subject to the legal authorities that apply to the USFS, not to the legal authorities that apply to the National Park Service.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Cowpasture does not address the multiple-use mandate of the USFS under the Multiple Use–Sustained Yield Act in the context of national scenic trails designated under the National Trails System Act (NTSA). The decision also does not address multiple-use access to National Forest System lands or prohibit closure of the ANST and adjacent lands to multiple-use recreation. Rather, the decision holds that National Forest System lands traversed by the ANST remain under the jurisdiction of the USFS and are not part of the National Park System.

As outlined above, the facts of the Supreme Court Cowpasture decision are materially distinct from the management scheme present on the Rio Grande National Forest and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST). The USFS is both the designated administrator of the CDNST and the underlying land managing agency of the land traversed by the CDNST within the Rio Grande National Forest. Management of the CDNST within the boundaries of the Rio Grande National Forest is governed by the 2020 Rio Grande National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan, the comprehensive plan for the CDNST, and all applicable law, including but not limited to the NTSA, the National Forest Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Forest Service’s travel management rule.

I look forward to continuing to work with the Colorado Snowmobile Association, the Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition, and the Trails Preservation Alliance—as well as many other partners—to provide outdoor recreation opportunities to the thousands of visitors to the Rio Grande National Forest each year.

Sincerely,
Dan Dallas
Forest Supervisor

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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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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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Bureau of Land Management National Headquarters Grand Junction Comments

Representative Lauren Boebert
Att: Ashley Higgins
1609 Longworth Building
Washington, DC 20515

RE:The LOCAL Act

Dear Ashley:

Please accept this correspondence as the vigorous support of the above organizations for the LOCAL Act and its requirements for the BLM National Office permanently remaining in Grand Junction, Colorado. Our Organizations have directly experienced the significant benefits of the recent move of the BLM National Headquarters to Grand Junction, as many of our members have partnered with BLM for the maintenance and development of recreational resources on BLM lands through the State level OHV registration programs our member have created and through targeted funding from industry partners. Historically, our members have made annual visits to the Washington DC headquarters of the BLM to address issues involving BLM lands. While this annual communication was effective, there were obvious limitations on this model to convey information in a timely and effective manner. Many times, there were long periods of limited communication between in person meetings.

Since the BLM National Office moved to Grand Junction, Colorado the timely and effective communication with BLM leadership has greatly improved. Often our members would encounter BLM National leadership at meetings on other issues and have informal meetings with BLM leadership over coffee at breaks. Often these unscheduled meetings were highly effective in simply conveying information in a timely and effective manner on whatever issue BLM might be encountering. These discussions have included coffee maker discussions on the use of electric bicycles on BLM lands and how funding from the Great American Outdoors Act was being administered on BLM lands. While issues such as this can been addressed over phone calls, in person meetings and contact eases transfer of information and allow limited resources to be targeted most effectively.

These in person based meetings also facilitated building personal relationships with managers and these existing relationships proved highly valuable in addressing issues around the explosion of usages on BLM lands as a result of the COVID outbreak. This free exchange of information was highly effective in using exceptionally limited resources from partners to respond to the COVID outbreak. The creation of these relationships with partners is a huge basis for keeping the BLM National headquarters in the Grand Junction location.

The Organizations would welcome a discussion of these opportunities and any other challenges that might be facing the GMUG 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.

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

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

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