Author Archive | Christina

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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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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Comments BLM Scoping Document in the San Rafael Swell Travel Management Plan

Submitted through the BLM EPlanning Website on the BLM National NEPA Register

ATTENTION:
Daniel Kauffman
Project Lead
Green River District
Planning and Environmental Coordinator
Bureau of Land Management
blm_ut_pr_comments@blm.gov

RE: Comments by Ride with Respect, Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition and Trails Preservation Alliance concerning the BLM’s Scoping Document in the San Rafael Swell Travel Management Plan, DOI-BLM-UT-G020-2019-0019-EA

Dear Mr. Kauffman,

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 San Rafael Swell Travel Management Plan (TMP) environmental assessment (EA) process. We appreciate the BLM’s time and effort in hosting the online public scoping open houses on February 2nd and 4th, and in preparing the February 2021 scoping document to which these comments refer. The Rider Groups participated in the 2008 Price RMP and the related travel planning for the Price BLM resource area. Many of the contributors to the Rider Groups routinely ride and camp in the San Rafael Swell travel management area (TMA). The Rider Groups hope to work with the BLM to develop and produce the TMP with a high quantity of high quality routes to achieve full compliance with the Settlement Agreement while providing an important resource for the visiting public.

Rider Groups’ Scoping Comments San
Rafael TMP EA
March 3, 2021

Responses to Questions Posed in the Scoping Document

1. Resources

One of the most important resource issues is the impact to OHV recreation caused by the Dingell Act’s congressional designation of roughly 650,000 acres of wilderness. The draft TMP should address how to accommodate the valuable and important resource of OHV recreation that was displaced by this wilderness designation, which closed 73 miles of Class D roads and even more non-road routes that have been continuously ridden by OHV from the present day back to many years before the current travel plan (i.e. the 2008 RMP). Some of the best OHV trails were closed upon designation of some Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) prior to the Dingell Act, and the TMP should examine whether they were closed correctly or whether they were and are valid and existing rights to which a WSA designation and a later Wilderness Act designation would be subject. In any event and at the very least, it is critical to keep the remaining roads and trails open to public motorized access as OHV use grows.

In terms of the TMP and its interface with natural resources management overall, the scope of this EA should ensure that the BLM adheres to the consistency mandate of Section 202(c)(9) of FLPMA, which is that the TMP shall be consistent, to the maximum extent consistent with Federal law, with the resource management plans and policies of Emery County and Sevier County for lands within the TMA, Wayne County for lands adjacent to the TMA, and the State of Utah for all relevant lands.

Additionally, the scope of the EA should allow for consideration and impact analysis regarding the human environment, namely the residents of Sevier County and Wayne County who recreate with OHVs, derive income, and are otherwise important stakeholders in large parts of the TMA that are accessible from Sevier and Wayne Counties even as much or more so than from many of the cities and towns of Emery County.

Because the Dingell Act wilderness designation could presumably impose more acreage for wildlife habitat and non-motorized recreation resources, the TMP EA should analyze the impacts from these on the resources of motorized recreation. There should be a careful before-and-after comparison and analysis of total motorized route mileage and area-by-area motorized route mileage in these new wilderness areas.

For additional comments on Resources, the Rider Groups incorporate by reference the written comments of March 1, 2021 submitted by Sage Riders Motorcycle Club, attached hereto.

2. Existing Roads and Trails

The draft TMP should consider designating all existing routes in the San Rafael Swell recreation area because, even though the Dingell Act precludes the construction of new routes, it does not preclude adding existing routes to the travel plan. In fact the Dingell Act intended to balance preservation interests with recreation interests by designating half of the Swell as wilderness and the other half as a recreation area, not an NCA, so we expect this planning process to ensure that the Swell recreation area lives up to its name.

For additional comments on Existing Roads and Trails, the Rider Groups incorporate by reference the written comments of March 1, 2021 submitted by Sage Riders Motorcycle Club, attached hereto.

3. Connectivity, i.e., Roads and Trails that Connect Between the TMA and Adjacent Areas

The draft TMP should address connectivity outside of the planning area, because the planning area dissects many trail systems. The TMA boundaries (per the settlement agreement) appear to be based on SUWA’s interest in ARRWA, not travel patterns. Therefore it is key to consider routes outside of the TMA to link and make loops that would organize travel.

Ensuring the connectivity of routes that lead to and from areas in and out of the Dingell Act Wilderness boundaries is critical, because the Dingell Act provides that public lands adjacent to the Wilderness boundaries shall not be managed as a wilderness buffer area; in other words the motorized, multiple use character of those adjacent areas shall not be diminished at all by reason of the Wilderness designation. The only way to reasonably honor this, is to require and preserve openness, use and connectivity on all routes leading to and from the Wilderness area.

For additional comments on Connectivity, the Rider Groups incorporate by reference the written comments of March 1, 2021 submitted by Sage Riders Motorcycle Club, attached hereto.

4. Resolving Major Gaps and Deficiencies Found in the 2008 Travel Plan

The 2008 Price Resource Area travel plan is clearly incomplete in several areas of the TMA such as Mussentuchit Flat and other areas. Route inventories in these incomplete areas had not been completed prior to 2008, thus the current travel plan is untenable. The draft TMP should recognize this deficiency, and then utilize a complete, TMA-wide route inventory. Thus, decisions will be made for the first time ever in these formerly incomplete areas, based on full knowledge of the use that has taken place over the past half century.

Route inventories in all parts of the TMA should include a baseline of all roads and trails, if any, that are or will be proposed to be closed as a result of the Dingell Act wilderness designation. This information is essential to allow meaningful comparisons among alternatives and to minimize impacts.

Conclusion

The above-named Rider Groups acknowledge and are appreciative of the BLM’s effort to achieve compliance with the 2017 Settlement Agreement and meet the other objectives stated in the Scoping Document. We hope that the scope of this effort will be adjusted to provide for the concerns stated above. Thank you again for the opportunity to submit these scoping comments.

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

 

 

 

SAGE RIDERS MOTORCYCLE CLUB
PO Box 585 Ferron, Utah 84523
sageridersmc.com

SAN RAFAEL SWELL TRAVEL MANAGEMENT PLAN COMMENTS

Background: The Sage Riders Motorcycle Club has over 200 members throughout the State of Utah. The Sage Riders has a strong club membership within Emery and Carbon Counties. The Sage Riders was formally organized in 1980.

We have a strong presence in the San Rafael Swell and Chimney Rock areas. We sponsored our first desert race in 1983 in Chimney Rock. Since then the Sage Riders have had races held within the Price BLM management area in Chimney Rock for over 37 years. The Sage Riders Motorcycle Club currently possess an active special recreation permit with the intentions of having additional desert races in this area.

Within the last 20 years, the Sage Riders Motorcycle Club has provided hundreds of volunteer service hours to enhance and protect OHV use. These projects include kiosk placement, trail markings and trail patrol. At times we have used our own funds to mark and maintain trails.

In 2007 the BLM requested assistance in completing a Wilderness Characteristic Inventory. The club spent over a thousand hours and volunteer time and money to complete this project. A final project was submitted to the BLM.

Travel Management Area (TMA) CONCERNS:

  1. In 2007 the Sage Riders Motorcycle Club and the Castle Country OHV Club submitted a detailed report on Non Wilderness Study Area Lands with Wilderness Characteristics DRMP Price Field Office. This is a detailed report concerning areas within the Price Field Office, outlining areas that contained substantial ground disturbances that would disqualify a particular area from being considered as having wilderness characteristics. This report contained hundreds of GPS location waypoints and photographs that are within the San Rafael Swell TMA. We are asking that the BLM consider this document and give it equal consideration in relation to data submitted by other special interest groups.
  2. The San Rafael Swell TMA boundaries are very concerning. The boundaries lack consistency with other travel management areas. We need to need to make sure that travel routes interface with other travel management areas.
  3. In evaluating essential routes, it is important to recognize the vast recreational experiences that are currently being practiced within the SRS TMA. These experiences can range from single track trail riding to full size 4WD to a low clearance car. Each of these OHV uses have unique disciplines and experiences that need to be recognized. A single track trail experience is different from a UTV experience. For example different areas within the SRS TMA have different recreational nitches. The Sids Mountain Trail System recreational niche is different from the Temple Mountain or Chimney Rock Trail system.
  4. It is important that loop systems and routes to view points be left open to enhance the recreational user experience. This document will also aid BLM recreation managers with the identification of loops and connectivity.
  5. The routes within the SRS TMA have an important economic consideration for the residents of Emery County.
  6. With the implementation of the Dingle Act and the creation of hundreds of thousands of wilderness acres, OHV recreational distribution outside of the wilderness areas becomes vitally important.
  7. The SRS TMA interfaces with several communities such as Green River, Emery City, Ferron and Castle Dale. Routes that allow loops, ingression and digression to BLM travel routes are of high importance. These community interfacing routes have an important function to these interfacing communities and due caution should be used to avoid any closure of existing and used routes in these areas. These areas provide connectivity from community to community. They have an economic base in these communities and have lots of family traditions.

Since the SRS TMA includes a large geographical area, the comments provided by the Sage Riders Motorcycle Club will be broken down in smaller areas. Within our comments not every road or trail will be mentioned; however, this does not negate the need or importance of routes not specifically mentioned within this document.

BUCKMASTER/FOUR CORNERS:

If any area is favorable for an “open OHV” area, the Buckmaster would be an ideal area. The sand, slick rock and other soil components makes this area suitable for an open area. This area has been mined with heavy equipment that created many routes that are now enjoyed by the OHV community from single track, OHV and 4WD. In addition there are many routes in this area that provide access to current State Trust Land and State Trust Lands that will eventually be traded out because of the Dingle Act. Putting aside the fact that the RMP did not classify this area as “open” despite the recommendation and comments made by the Sage Riders Motorcycle Club and other OHV clubs, this area should retain all of the routes that are currently open with the existing travel plan plus the addition of the Miner’s Run Single Track Trail. This area has several key loops. This area is heavily used and has many historical uses and dispersed camping.

The BLM also needs to take into consideration that this TMA interfaces with the San Rafael Desert TMA, specifically with the Acerton Mine OHV area and Shad Scale Mesa.

This area has key dugways and areas that allow interfacing and loops with Tidwell Draw, Cottonwood Wash and Lost Springs Wash.

This area supports the City of Green River. This system has a community interface with the City of Green River and provides economic support to this city.

There are several active mine claims in the Buckmaster. The State of Utah, Division of Gas, Oil, and Mining recently completed a mine stabilization project on abandoned mines to enhance user safety in this area. Many of the mines were stabilized in a manner allowing OHV users to look inside to view this historic use of this area.

Many of the routes on the Buckmaster allow users to access some spectacular views of the San Rafael Reef and San Rafael River.

  1. 2815 has no recreational value and does not need to be considered for use.
  2. Miner’s Run 2317, 2318, 2306, is the only single track trail in the Buckmaster and thus has a high recreation value. The Sage Riders Motorcycle Club has spent many hours maintaining and marking this trail.
  3. 2300 is a key route that allows access and loop opportunities within this system.
  4. 2295 is an out and back route that is highly scenic.
  5. Several of the loops in the Buckmaster are not named; however, they will be described further. One such loop that is used highly is 2297, 2310, 2304, with a key access of 2302.
  6. The Buckmaster Dugway 2304 is a key route that allows access from the Buckmaster to Tidwell Draw. This route has been maintained by the BLM.
  7. Tidwell Draw Buckmaster loop is composed of 2302, 2304, 2371, 2379, 2288 and 2293.
  8. Smith Cabin Loop is open to 4WD. This loop also provides access to hikes that go into the reef canyons including Thompson’s Hole, Grotto Canyon and the San Rafael River access and State Trust Land access. This is completed with 3372, 2371 with a return route of 2379 and 2304.
  9. 2357 is a really fun 4WD route that allows OHV access to avoid the main county road and plays a key part in the Lost Springs Loop from the Buck master.
  10. 2377 provides hiking access.
  11. 2370 provides access to private land.
  12. 1-70 Overlook loop is composed of 2358,2359, 2363, 2362, 2367, 2368, 2367,
    and 2348.
  13. Round Hill Loop is another popular loop that is complemented with 2347, 2343 and 2341.
  14. San Rafael Scenic Overlook Loop is composed of 2337, 2338, 2348, 2340, 2341, 2342, 2344, 2346,2351, 2356, 2334, 2320, 2322, and 2327. This is the main travel loop in the Buckmaster. Users are allowed to view a variety of abandoned mining activities such as old vehicles and cabins.

SHADSCALE MESA

Shadescale Mesa is another area that was part of a large uranium mining activity from the 1950 to the early 1980s. There are many miles of roads that were created by bulldozers that are now enjoyed by OHV users. In addition, the BLM routes allow for critical access to Stale Trust Lands.

Also needing consideration is that Shadscale Mesa interfaces with the Buckmaster and the San Rafael Desert TMA.

Shadscale Mesa has several loops that are also supported with key dugways and routes that allow access to this mesa. Access to this mesa is also important for hunting.

  1. Key access routes to the mesa that are critical include 2422, 2419, 2456, 2453, 2452.
  2. Key loop routes 2460, 2456, 2462 and 2456.
  3. San Rafael River Access is 2459.

PRICE RIVER/MOUNDS AREA

This area is in close proximity to Price City and Highway 6 thus making this area a popular recreational area. Routes in this area have a high recreational value and provide access to historical areas. Many routes provide access to traditional dispersed camping areas, overlooks and access to hunting areas. This area contains routes that cross the Price River that allow for loop opportunities and the disbursement of OHV use. Many routes provide critical access to State Trust Lands.

1403, Price River or Marsing Single Track Trail is the only single track trail that is north of the Price River. Being the only single track trail in this area, this trail has a high recreational value. It is a high technical trail. Routes leading to this
!railhead, 1403 and 1377 also provide access for full size vehicle access to the Price River overlook in conjunction with the Price River Single Track Trailhead. Over the years the Sage Riders motorcycle club has provided volunteer service hours on this trail in terms of marking, trail preservation and trimming back the tamaracks.

  1. 1403, single track trail provides access to 1235 and 1234 that are important components in providing a loop opportunity in conjunction with 1229, 1231, 1129, 1016, 1015, 1014, 1007, 1187, 1533 Jump Trail, 1536, 1534, 1539, 1555, 1556, 1492, 1494, 1486, 1488, 1485 Price River Crossing, 1159, 1165 Bob’s Trail, 1415, 1414, 1413, 1425, 1409 with 1377 completing this loop, This loop has a high recreational value.
  2. The inventory is missing a single track trail, located east of the Price River Single Track Trailhead. This is called the Drill Pad Trail. GPS data for this trail will be submitted.
  3. 1415 Bob’s Trail (already mentioned as a key route in a loop with the Price River Single Track Trail) is part of an ATV/UTV loop with 1430 Case Hole Trail. This loop is completed with 1414, 1413, and 1165. Also of high importance is that 1415 and 1430 provides access to State Trust Land.
  4. 1377, already mentioned as a key route to the Price River Single Track Trail and Price River overlook, is a key recreation route and this road also provides access to State Trust Land.

CEDAR MOUNTAIN

Cedar Mountain is a high recreation area with many traditional uses including dispersed camping, off road vehicle use and hunting access. Many of these routes on Cedar Mountain provide access for hunting and fishing access. This is a very popular recreation area for the citizens of Emery County that live in Huntington, Cleveland and Elmo. Several of the routes provide access to private property and State Trust Lands.

  1. 1404 is the main travel route that provides access to several other key routes.
  2. 1533 and 1536 Jump Trail allows for the completion of a key loop from the Price River Single Track Trail.
  3. 1007 is another key access route that provides access to the 1561 Sulphur Canyon Single Track Trail and 1533 and 1536.
  4. 1234 is an ATV, high clearance 4WD route that is another key access route to the Price River that is used for hunting, fishing access and access to State Trust Land. 1234, 1229, 1015, 1238, 1237, is an access route to the Price River and a historic cabin and homestead that is frequently visited.
  5. Hunting and fishing access along the Price River is supported by 1236, 1238 and 1224, which also includes access to State Trust Land.

CHIMNEY ROCK

Chimney Rock is a premier single track destination in the State of Utah. The Chimney Rock Single Track Trail System collects users from the State of Utah, Idaho and from the Western Slope of Colorado. On any given weekend half of the users are from out of state, with the majority being from Colorado.

The Sage Riders Motorcycle Club has donated hundreds of volunteer hours in Chimney Rock in maintaining, signing, cattle guard placement and fence building. Since 2001, the Sage Riders have spent over $20,000.00 in this area conducting archeology studies within the footprint of the trails.

For over 35 years the Sage Riders have sponsored numerous BLM permitted competitive motorcycle racing events. Through these events, users have gained a knowledge of this area and have returned with their friends and families to enjoy this area.

Being in close proximity to Green River, the Chimney Rock trail system is a financial contribution to the City of Green River.

The Sage Riders Motorcycle Club currently has a special recreation permit for Chimney Rock that is good for three more years.

This TMA is very problematic, in that it cuts the Chimney Rock Trail System in half. It is important that we understand the implications of this and ensure that this TMA interfaces with the rest of the travel plan in this area. It is important that the BLM ensure that the loops from the existing plan will be supported with the TMA of the San Rafael Swell.

Chimney Rock has three very important washes that provide an enhanced single track and ATV loop system. These washes all interface with each other to complete loops. These washes are critical routes. These washes are Camel, Neversweat and Summerville.

  1. 1498 Cedar Mountain Trail (base of Cedar Mountain) is a key 66 inch travel trail that interfaces with trails and roads on both ends.
  2. The Humbug ATV Loop is supported by 1542, 1543, 1531, 1530, 1532, and 1515.
  3. Stove Gulch Trail is a favorite of ATV and motorcycle users. This trail is a loop supported with 1552, 1550, 1549 and 1547.
  4. 1548 known as the Madsen Trail Loop provides access to 1550 and 1549.
  5. 1551 single track trail is heavily used to provide access to other single track trails.
  6. 1544 is a key route in that it provides access to State Trust Land and is a key part of a loop that is shared with 1543, 1515, 1471 and 1472.
  7. The Chimney Trail system is heavily influenced and supported by three key travel washes, Camel, Neversweat and Summerville including 1108 and 1113. Summerville is a high clearance 4WD, Neversweat 1471 (Emery County road 3314), Camel Wash 1461 (Emery County road 3312) is also high clearance 4WD. These routes also provide access to State Trust Land. The connector routes to these three washes are vital. These include and are not limited to 1102 and 1105.
  8. Neversweat Wash Single Track loop system is supported by 1477, 1471, 1478 and 1472.
  9. Summerville Wash Single Track loop system is supported by 1109, 1172 and loops back into another travel plan that is not part of the San Rafael Swell TMP.
  10. Camel Wash has several ATV routes that provide access to overlooks of the Chimney Rock Flat. These have a high scenic value to OHV users. These would include 1461, 1467, 1464 and 1465.

TOWN OF EMERY/SEFERANO’S HOLE

East of Emery are several roads and trails that interface with the Town of Emery. These routes are highly valued by the citizens of Emery. These routes have been historically used by families from Emery for over a hundred years.

These routes also provide access to traditional big game hunting areas. This area is very unique in that it provides a variety of trail/road types and access several scenic overlooks and views.

  1. Serferano’s scenic overlook is supported by 5351, 5350, 5345, 5346, 5353, 5354.
  2. Seferano’s Loop is supported by 5361, 5354, 5344 and 5343.

MUDDY RIVER, IRELAND MESA, MORONI AND SLAUGHTER SLOPES

This area has a high recreational and tradition use value. This area is used by citizens of Emery County that reside in the southern part of the county. In addition, use of this area is also heavily supported by users from Sevier and Sanpete Counties. Also to be considered is that many routes in this area provide access to hiking and hunting areas.

  1. The Lone Tree Single Track Trail System is supported by 5035, 5071, 5041 with connectors 5071, 5070 and 5012.
  2. The Little Wedge Overlook, 5050 is the highest scenic overlook destination in this area. This scenic overlook has a high recreational scenic value. In addition this route provides access to at least three different hiking trails that access the Muddy River and Willow Springs.
  3. The Willow Springs Single Track Trail is supported by 5058 and 5060.
  4. Dike Road 5125 allows access to a hiking trail.
  5. Ireland Mesa routes provide key access to scenic overlooks, view sheds and critical hunting access to areas such as Segar’s and John’s Holes. These critical routes include 5145, 5149, 5147, 5146, 5150, 5158, 5156, and 5158. These routes include loops and access to State Trust Lands.
  6. The Coral Canyon Road 5389, provides access to the Coral Canyon hiking trail and the Lower Last Chance hiking Trail. This is a cherry stemmed route supported by the Dingle Act.
  7. The Temple Wash single track trail system is composed of 5100 and 5099.
  8. The Devils Canyon Single Track Trail Loop has a very high recreational value. Being close to 1-70, this route is easily accessed. It is a short but fun loop. This is completed with 5021, 5023, 5022 and 5026.

KIMBALL DRAW

This area ties into Link Flat and Copper Globe. These areas all interface with loops. This is a very popular recreation area. With easy access and close proximity to 1-70 and the !railhead at Justesen Flat, this area has a high OHV recreational value. Many of these routes provide access to historical use areas and scenic views.

  1. Kimball Draw Loop is supported by 5002, 5003 and 5001.
  2. Another popular loop is 5004, 5007 and 5008.
  3. Airstrip road is also a highly used route. This road gives access to a backcountry airstrip and a scenic view. This is supported by 4588 and 4590.

SID’S MOUNTAIN OHV TRAIL SYSTEM

This trail system includes routes that were cherry stemmed into wilderness and routes that are not part of wilderness. These routes within the wilderness were supported by the Dingle Act and have a high value to Emery County.

  1. Wilderness routes supported by the Dingle Act with high recreational and loop values Eva Conover, Coal Wash. South Coal Wash, North Coal Wash, Devils Race Track and Fix It Pass. 3314, 3269, 3268,3329, 3271 and 3270. All access roads and trails supporting the above mentioned and loops must be maintained. These routes are the highest used ATV trail systems in Emery County.
  2. A key component in completing the Sid’s Mountain Trail system is the routes from Reid Nelson Draw. These include 3040, 3283, 3286, 3290, 3270, 3040, 4028 and 4030.
  3. Cain Wash is a favorite route that is heavily used with a high scenic value. This route also supports hunting access, 3040 and 3041. Cain Wash also provides access to one of two Sid’s Mountain hiking trails 3039.
  4. The Wood Hollow Route relieves some OHV use from the Sids Mountain Trail System and provides an additional loop opportunity. This is supported by 3322 and 3329.

MOORE CUT OFF

This is another key area that interfaces with Ferron City. This is a highly used area and has several loop opportunities. These routes have a high recreational value and provide some economic base to Ferron City. In addition since these routes are in close proximity to the Sid’s Mountain ATV system, it provides some disbursement of use.

  1. Whiskey Wash Loop. This is a heavily used 4WD route that is supported by 5209 and 5208.
  2. The Mustang Loop starts on State Trust Land, off the Moore Cut Off Road. This is a high scenic value loop and is also used for hunting access. This loop has smaller loops within the system. The routes for this loop includes 5211, 5213, 5221, 5220, 5216, 5209, 5210, 5237, 5234 and 5209.
  3. Bass Pond Loop is a favorite destination 5201.

DUTCH FLATT ROUTES AND LOOPS

Dutch Flat is another area that has a community interface with Ferron City. This is a high OHV recreation area that is used by individuals ingressing and digression from Ferron. OHV recreation use in this area has an economic value to the City of Ferron and to Emery County. This is another area that has loop opportunities that will help in disbursing OHV use from the Sids Mountain area.

  1. Short Canyon 4WD loop is made possible with 3397, 3392, 3382, 3380, 3375, 3353, 3357, 3352, 3350, 3346, 3343, 3341 and 3339.
  2. Red Hole Draw Loop. This loop can share a common return route with the Short Canyon 4WD. This loop is completed with 3239, 3341, 3343, 3346, 3350, 3352, 3352, 3353, 3357, 3345, 3327, 3328 and 3337.
  3. Molen Wash/Short Canyon loop is supported with 3419 and 3404.

TEMPLE MOUNTAIN MOTORCYCLE TRAIL SYSTEM / WATERFALL TRAIL

This trail system is probably the most popular single track trail system in Utah. This system strongly supports the City of Green River. The Sage Riders Motorcycle Club has provided hundreds of volunteer hours in maintaining, marking and mapping of this system. In addition, private funds were used lo help in marking this system to maintain the integrity of it. This system is composed of Lone Man Butte Road, Five Miles of Hell, Red Trail, Blue Trail, Orange Trail, Green Trail, Purple Trail and the VJ Trail. Several of these trails were created by bulldozers.

  1. These routes are 2764, 2743, 2757, 2756, 2756, 2744,2723, 2724, 2727, 2581,
    and 4308.

BEHIND THE REEF TRAIL

This is a hallmark trail of the lower San Rafael Area. This is a heavily used trail system that was created by a bulldozer. This route has a high scenic and recreational value.
There are a couple of loop opportunities that are important.

  1. Behind the Reef and Horse Canyon Loops is supported with 4265, 4245, 4242, 4243, 4264, and 4263.

MUDDY RIVER ACCESS

This is a key access road that allows boaters on the Muddy River to retrieve their rafts and kayaks, 4254

RED CANYON

This loop allows users to enjoy old uranium mining activities including mines and mining equipment and houses.

  1. Red Canyon Loop is composed of 4175, 4176, 4061, 4172, 4188, 4194. All these routes were created by bulldozers.

 

Paul Anderson, Sage Riders MC
President
Helper, Utah

Wade Allinson, Sage Riders MC
Southeastern Utah Public Lands
Ferron, Utah

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Wolf reintroduction in Colorado SB 21-105

Senator Don Corum
200 East Colfax, Rm 346
Denver CO 80203

Representative Perry Will
200 East Colfax, Rm 307
Denver CO 80203

Re: Wolf reintroduction in Colorado SB 21-105

Dear Senator Corum and Representative Will:

Please accept this correspondence as the vigorous support for SB 21-105 “Concerning the implementation of Proposition 114 concerning the restoration of Gray Wolves in Colorado” on behalf of the Organizations identified above. The Organizations must express our concerns around the social and economic impacts that might result from Proposition 114 without meaningful analysis of issues such as funding for the entire process and meaningfully providing management clarity for specific uses. Unintended consequences from the reintroduction must be avoided and we believe that SB21-105 would be a significant step towards reducing these consequences.

The Organizations believe it is significant for us to note clearly why we are deeply concerned on the wolf reintroduction issue. We DO NOT believe there is a general safety concern for our members pursing their chosen recreational interests in wolf habitat, as any assertion of wolves chasing OHV riders and killing them is patently silly. Our primary concern is how is this effort going to be funded, as we are opposed to any OHV/OSV program money funding this effort. Our second concern is less direct but also more compelling and is based on the decades of experiences around ESA listed and more general species management. Our second concern involves possible impacts to recreational access that could result from the wolf reintroduction from more indirect issues, such as declining populations of ungulates and other species in areas where recreational activity occurs. Given that wolves are a primary predator of most large ungulates, this type of impact is a primary concern in the wolf reintroduction. Our apprehensions directly concern management decisions taken in response to ungulate populations decline in areas where wolves are present since population declines are already a basis to close trails. CPW expert testimony to the Commission has already established these population declines will happen as a result of the wolf reintroduction, it is just a question of how much decline in particular areas.

1. Funding from State General fund revenues.

The Organizations submit that SB21-105 provides significant clarity around the funding of the wolf reintroduction. Foundational questions, such as the current lack of general funds to support the wolf reintroduction must be addressed. We support the use of general state funds for the reintroduction of wolves for the reasoning we provide in our letter of support for HB21-1040.

2. Timing

Proposition 114 clearly identifies the mandatory end date for the wolf reintroduction efforts and the Organizations have concerns about the ability to meaningfully complete required actions by the December 31, 2023 deadline. Even when these goals and objectives are reviewed in comparative isolation, this deadline is optimistic and many efforts will have to be occurring at the same time to achieve this deadline. The Organizations can say with absolute certainty that the wolverine and lynx collaboration we have participated in took years and this occurred without a
Constitutional Proposal being passed and without much of the complexity that surrounds the wolf reintroduction in Colorado. SB21-105 takes the significant step in ensuring these issues are not overlooked in the rush to reintroduce wolves earlier or without analysis of important issues.

3. Hard wolf population goals should be provided in SB21-105.

While the Organizations support SB21-105 in its current form, the Organizations would respectfully request one amendment to SB21-105, which would be either the specification of a hard goal for population for sustainability or specify a specific process for determining a specific population goal. The Organizations also submit that SB21-105 should include a specific process for delisting under state listings and petitioning for delisting federally once this population has been achieved. Currently the concept of sustainable population is the only objective under Prop 114 and this is comically ambiguous and totally unenforceable. As seen with Gunnison Sage Grouse there is an almost religious zeal for more and more of any species that can only be addressed with hard population goals. Without these mandatory population objectives clearly laid out, we are simply not setting the wolf reintroduction up for success in the long term.

4. Engagement of US Fish and Wildlife Service ad NEPA requirements are vigorously supported.

The Organizations vigorously support the specific inclusion of the US Fish and Wildlife Service in stakeholder discussions as proposed in the SB21-105, as this is consistent with the USFWS national strategy on wolf management. The service provides the following outline of this strategy:

“we described our national wolf strategy in our proposed rule to revise the List for the gray wolf in the Eastern United States (76 FR 26089–26090, May 5, 2011). This strategy was intended to: (1) Lay out a cohesive and coherent approach to addressing wolf conservation needs, including protection and management, in accordance with the Act’s statutory framework; (2) ensure that actions taken for one wolf population do not cause unintended consequences for other populations; and (3) be explicit about the role of historical range in the conservation of extant wolf populations.”

The recognition of this strategy by SB21-105 would provide significant clarity and additional resources for wolf management. This involvement would also facilitate resolution of cross boundary management issues such compensation for herd damage claims in neighboring states that result from wolves CPW has reintroduced.

USFWS involvement also provides significant additional resources and management expertise to the wolf reintroduction. This is exemplified by the fact that USFWS already theorizes that the wolf population in Colorado is sustainable

“Post-delisting and subsequent monitoring, and the expansion of the NRM population into western Washington, western Oregon, northern California, and, likely, Colorado (USFWS 2020, pp. 15–19, 28; see also Current Distribution and Abundance), indicate that the wolf population in the NRM DPS remains well above minimum recovery levels (see Current Distribution and Abundance).”

In addition to the legal complexities that surround national wolf management there have been numerous other legal developments that will clearly impact the Proposition 114 efforts and create additional need for provisions such as those in SB21-105. The 2018 unanimous Weyerhaeuser decision of US Supreme Court1 requiring a definition of habitat be created by the US Fish and Wildlife service, which would clearly impact the identification of designated lands as the Wolf is already listed in Colorado for protection and that protection relies on federal definitions. Even with the temporary removal of the wolf from the federal list, the relationship of the state listing in Colorado and how the USFWS defines habitat will impact wolf processes in Colorado. Clearly designated lands in Colorado must in some way align with federal definitions of habitat areas for all wildlife. Again SB21-105 recognition of this situation is highly valued and will improve the quality of the wolf reintroduction. 

The Organizations vigorously support the application of NEPA processes and review to the reintroduction as such analysis is commonplace in management of species listed under the ESA. The Organizations are aware of landscape level NEPA for management of the lynx in the Northern Rockies and Southern Rockies, Greater and Gunnison Sage Grouse and numerous other species. This type of management is critical in obtaining consistent and clear species management across management boundaries. Without this NEPA analysis, management is often highly variable from site to site, poorly scientifically based and immobile in terms of updating. NEPA also allows funding to be focused on areas where research is actually needed to develop management clarity on issues such as possible management standards and concerns. These impacts must be avoided and we vigorously support this provision of SB21-105 for this reason.

5. What is an economically and socially sustainable Wolf population?

The previous concerns around social and economic issues raised in these comments only address a tiny portion of the social and economic concerns that are present around Proposition 114. The Organizations are doubtful that any State general fund money will become available to support this effort, given the drastically reduced tax revenues that are present in the state due to COVID restrictions, without the mandate of SB21-105. The Organizations are also aware that any wolf reintroduction costs mandated under Proposition 114 are basically entirely new costs to be assumed by CPW in an environment where there are numerous other statutory mandates that must be complied with beyond Proposition 114, such as those provided in the Future Generations Legislation. Until significant clarity on basic questions such as those can be resolved the Organizations submit that only two wolves should be reintroduced as this is all we can afford and there is significant credible science that indicates the existing populations of wolves in Colorado may be sustaining already.

Please feel free to contact Scott Jones, Esq. at 518-281-5810 or via email at scott.jones46@yahoo.com or via USPS mail at 508 Ashford Drive, Longmont, CO 80504 for copies of any documentation that is relied on in this document or if you should wish to discuss any of the concerns raised further.

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

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

 

1 See, Weyerhaeuser v. US Fish and Wildlife Service; US Supreme Court; No. 17–71. Argued October 1, 2018— Decided November 27, 2018

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Article Featuring the TPA in February Off-Road Business Association (ORBA) Magazine

We would like to thank our friends at ORBA (Off-Road Business Association) for this article about the TPA in the February Off-Road Business Magazine as well as Chad de Alva with Lightforce Media,  Rob Watt, and the Central Colorado Mountain Riders motorcycle club for their photo contributions to the article.

Article reprinted with permission.


Fighting for Access One Trail at a Time
Colorado’s Trail Preservation Alliance

by Bill Alspach

Article first page with Don Riggle photoFormed in Colorado in 2008, the Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) was the idea of Don Riggle and a small group of like-minded motorcycle enthusiasts who were concerned by the loss of off-road motorcycle riding opportunities, especially single-track, on public lands throughout the western U.S. Faced with rapidly diminishing and disappearing recreational opportunities for single-track motorcycle riding, the TPA was created as a grassroots, not-for-profit (501c3) organization based in Colorado with influences across the West.

The TPA is not a membership group but a focused advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring fair and equitable access for motorized recreation. Primarily a volunteer organization composed of motorcycle trail riders wanting to preserve access to public lands and motorized trail riding; the TPA often partners with other advocacy groups but the TPA remains the sole regional activist organization for motorcycle trail riders. While the TPA’s primary goal has always focused on preserving the sport of motorized single-track trail riding, all forms of OHV recreation are supported by the TPA’s efforts. The work of the TPA has been accomplished through working with federal land management agencies, namely the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. The TPA also leads the education of user groups on appropriate trail etiquette, supporting like-minded organizations and assisting Colorado-based off-road motorcycle clubs.

Reviewing the past 25 years of USFS and BLM travel management decisions, it became apparent to Don Riggle, his fellow TPA founders and the TPA Board of Directors (all unpaid volunteers), that there had been a concerted effort by land managers to reduce or eliminate OHV recreation on public lands. Riggle states “That if one compares the recreational opportunities for OHV use with the significant increase in wilderness area designations, expansion of ski areas, and commercial enterprises on public land, almost every form of leisure time activity has received a reasonable share of access to public lands, with one exception – motorized vehicle recreation.”

WATCHING CLOSELY

The TPA’s volunteers along with a few select technical and legal consultants are constantly on the watch for upcoming land use decisions and projects undertaken by both the USFS and BLM, and in some instances State land managers and agencies. The TPA staff often partners with and works with State of Colorado outdoor focused organizations and agencies such as Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Outdoor Recreation Office, regional recreation COOPs and others. With these partnerships, the TPA advocates for off-road motorcycle use and OHV recreation and takes whatever actions are necessary to help ensure land management agencies allocate a fair and equitable percentage of access to motorcycles and OHV recreation on public lands. To help ensure success of on-the-ground projects that enhance motorcycle and OHV recreation, the TPA occasionally provides funds to purchase tools, signs and matching monies for grants.

In the past 13 years, the TPA has sponsored and assisted with the formation of numerous off-road motorcycle clubs throughout Colorado encouraging and mentoring the clubs to build positive relationships with their local land managers. The TPA also assists and helps fund similar advocacy efforts for OHV recreation in Utah through its partnership with Ride with Respect and in New Mexico with NMOHVA. Likewise the TPA routinely partners with the Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO). The TPA and COHVCO recently worked together to produce impact studies documenting the economic contributions of OHV recreation and associated tourism across Colorado, which is widely viewed as the best source for this economic information in the region.

The TPA is funded entirely through donations, financial contributions and proceeds generated from the Colorado 600. This funding is provided in part by industry supporters that include KTM USA, Rocky Mountain ATV/ MC, Klim, Motion Pro, Dunlop Tires, MotoMinded LLC, Billet Racing Projects, DoubleTake Mirrors, Scotts and E-Line along with several generous, anonymous donors that believe in the TPA mission. In addition, to help build the TPA’s reserves and ensure adequate operational capital, the TPA’s annual Trail Symposium Workshop, the Colorado 600, is the TPA’s largest fundraiser. This yearly event is a five-day, off-road motorcycle ride and educational symposium through the mountains of Colorado. Each day, in the morning and evening, riders learn about the challenges facing trail riding enthusiasts and issues surrounding persistent reduction of motorized trails in Colorado and surrounding states. Riders have options to enjoy riding single-track, dual-sport or adventure bike routes or rides. The event often includes speakers from the motorcycle industry, USFS, BLM, clubs and organizations around the country. Proceeds from the event directly support the TPA but they also contribute to positive economic prosperity of the many small communities and counties that host the event.

To maintain communication with TPA’s financial contributors and supporters, updates are regularly posted to the TPA website (http://www.coloradotpa.org/ news/) and sent to subscribers using email. At year’s end, the TPA summarizes its activities and achievements in an annual report to TPA supporters via email and postings to the website. Moving forward the TPA will also be using additional social media avenues to expand its communication efforts.

The Future: The TPA recently selected and hired an Executive Director to lead the TPA into 2021 and the future. Chad Hixon brings over 16 years of proven experience in leading organizations and building successful businesses in Colorado. Chad is a skilled off-road motorcyclist and has a proven record as a multiple-use trail advocate. This new leadership position for the TPA will focus on fundraising and ensuring the TPA has sufficient funds to operate long into the future. Additionally, Chad will work to increase the TPA’s support of our affiliated motorcycle clubs along with enhancing the TPA’s regional recognition through marketing efforts that spotlight TPA activities to protect the sport of motorized trail riding and OHV recreation on public lands.

 

Check out the full February edition here:

ORBA February 2020 magazine cover

Download a PDF of the TPA article:

Article first page with Don Riggle photo

 

 

 

 

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Funding wolf reintroduction in Colorado HB 21-1040

Representative Perry Will
200 East Colfax, Rm 307
Denver CO 80203

Re: Funding wolf reintroduction in Colorado HB 21-1040

Dear Representative Will:

Please accept this correspondence as the vigorous support for HB 21-1040 “Concerning the requirement that the costs associated with the reintroduction of gray wolves in the be paid exclusively from the general fund” of the Organizations identified above. Our primary concern is how is this effort going to be funded, as we are opposed to any OHV/OSV program money funding this effort. The Organizations submit that HB21-1040 provides significant clarity around the funding of the wolf reintroduction.

Prior to any discussion around the financial sustainability of the wolf reintroduction, the Organizations would like to clarify our unwavering support for the full compensation of any interest who experiences a loss as a result of the wolf reintroduction. These are valid costs that must be reimbursed fully. The financial sustainability of any species reintroduction is of critical concern to the Organizations and unfortunately, we are already intimately aware that Enterprise funds or other statutorily protected monies within CPW are “State money” for purposes of Prop 114 until the Legislature decides otherwise. This is contrary to Foundational assumptions as many users believe State general fund monies would be available to cover damage claims. HB21-1040 is a significant step in resolving this type of issue.

We have attached the Legislative Services memo that was provided to the Joint Budget Committee regarding the wolf reintroduction effort as Exhibit “A”. This memo specifically identifies management costs borne by States already managing reintroduced wolves. This memo identifies these costs as follows:

STATE

ANNUAL COSTS

YEAR

Wyoming

$1,918,754

FY 2018-19

Washington

1,518,659

CY 2019

Oregon (biennial)

1,393,344

2019-2021

Montana

788,689

FY 2018-19

In current budgets, Colorado has directed minimal amounts to wolf issues, and costs borne around a wolf reintroduction are entirely new. Colorado is estimating $340,000 for just creating the wolf reintroduction plan. Herd damage claims from wolves probably cannot be accurately estimated since we have no idea how many wolves will be reintroduced but we can assume herd damage claims are basically zero from wolves in Colorado, which results in any damage claims being entirely new costs to be borne by a program that is already experiencing tight budget conditions. We are not optimistic that costs such as game damage claims will compete against needs such as COVID response, wildfire response or infrastructure needs for exceptionally limited state budget funds. This type of funding will need to be mandated. This is a major lift in isolation and another reason the detail of HB21-1040 is welcomed by our Organizations.

The long-term social impacts of funding that wolf reintroduction must addressed, given the support from generally non-consumptive users of recreation. The Organizations have partnered with CPW to try and develop alternative sources of funding. Cornerstones of North American management models are the fact that funding from specific user group fees should provide identifiable benefits to the user group. This has been one of the cornerstones of success for the OHV and OSV programs within CPW, which has become eroded already as only 60% of OHV revenues has been requested by DNR to be authorized for spending by the JBC after millions in user paid funding has been swept already. Programmatic support further erodes when possible funding is allocated to other priorities, despite the statutory protections against this usage provided in 33-14-101 et seq and 33-14.5-101 et seq. This is a concern for us and causes a variety of sustainability concerns for the partnership. The longer-range impacts must also be reviewed for sustainability as well as there are no user groups that are going to provide funding to support CPW and expand CPW efforts when only 60% of moneys may be applied to the program. The Organizations are opposed to OHV/OSV programmatic funds being eroded or put at further risk of loss to cover wolf reintroduction costs. HB21-1040 is a significant step towards avoiding this type of risk.

Please feel free to contact Scott Jones, Esq. at 518-281-5810 or via email at scott.jones46@yahoo.com or via USPS mail at 508 Ashford Drive, Longmont, CO 80504 for copies of any documentation that is relied on in this document or if you should wish to discuss any of the concerns raised further.

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2021 Omnibus Wilderness & Amendments

Congresswoman Lauren Boebert
Att: Jeff Smalls & Ashley Higgins
1609 Longworth HOB
Washington DC 20515

Re: 2021 Omnibus Wilderness & Amendments

Dear Jeff and Ashley;

Please accept this correspondence as the comments of the above-referenced Organizations vigorously opposing the CORE Wilderness Proposal (HR 803) and the Colorado Wilderness Act (HR577) hereinafter referred to as “the Proposal”. After a detailed review of the Proposal, the Organizations have concluded that every area expanded or created in the Proposal would result in significant lost recreational opportunities for the overwhelming portion of visitors to the Proposal area, both currently and in the future. While there are significant lost opportunities, there is also no additional protections for multiple use routes that might remain outside the Wilderness areas and no new areas are designated or released for multiple use recreational opportunities.

The Organizations have spent many years trying to hammer out something that works for everyone around these proposals, and have simply been stonewalled at every turn by the sponsors of this legislation in both Houses of Congress. This is despite the fact our groups were thanked by outgoing Senator Mark Udall for our collaboration and efforts around the development of the Hermosa Creek Watershed Management legislation in signed into law on December 19, 2014 as Section 3062 in the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (PL 113-291). This legislation released a WSA and specifically protected motorized usage in the area moving forward, designated a large special management area where multiple uses were protected and designated Wilderness in areas where that management was appropriate. We had hoped this collaboration was a roadmap for resolving many of the ongoing challenges we encounter around Wilderness designation and releases. Unfortunately, we were incorrect as exemplified by the efforts around HR 577 and HR 803 as phone calls are not returned, meetings are continued and ideological trench warfare has returned around these Proposals.

It is worth noting, the Colorado Wilderness Act would heavily impact many recently developed trail networks that have enjoyed strong bi-partisan and community support or historical trail networks that serve a wide range of interests. Examples of these types of losses would include:

  1. Bangs Canyon area, which developed an extensive multiple use trail network after a complete NEPA review and analysis and almost a million dollars in direct funding from users for the project. The Bangs Canyon SMA area is now to be designated as Wilderness.
  2. Delores Canyon – this area has a large network of trails serving a wide range of interests that has existed for an extended period of time without controversy.

While the list above is far from exhaustive, these are examples of impacts we are seeing all too frequently.

a. Our position on Specific Amendments.

Please note that while we do not specifically address every Amendment, several of these are unrelated to recreational usages and outside our expertise to discuss in a meaningful manner. While we are not opposed to any of the Amendments on the list, we are not taking a position.

  1. Rep. Boebert 30×30 Program Nullification Amendment #18
    Vigorously support. This Executive Order is a direct conflict with multiple mandates that have managed public lands successfully for decades. Not only does this EO conflict with these mandates, the application of these concepts to private property rights and interests is even more troubling.
  2. Rep. Boebert – BLM headquarters – Amendment #16
    Vigorously support. Moving BLM national headquarters closer to lands owned and managed by BLM has greatly increased the responsiveness of the BLM to a wide range of issues. This amendment has garnered strong bipartisan support.
  3. Rep. Boebert Native Americans, Other Minorities and Women Jobs Protection Act – Amendment #60
    No position.
  4. Rep. Boebert CO, AZ, CA, WA Wilderness Study Act Amendment #56
    Vigorously support. The lingering designations around the Wilderness process create significant management challenges moving forward in areas that have never been suitable for designation as Wilderness. The loss of historical recreational opportunities due to the lingering designation of the West Needles WSA was a major issue driving the Hermosa Creek legislation.
  5. Rep Boebert Wilderness Wildfire Amendment #20
    Vigorously support. Impacts from catastrophic wildfire must be addressed to avoid further impacts to recreational usages and other interests outside the burn areas. Prohibiting this management by a subsequent Congressional designation of Wilderness simply makes no sense. Even without a Wilderness designation these efforts can be hugely expensive and the goal for these areas must be restoration and stabilization in a cost effective and timely manner.
  6. Rep Boebert Wilderness Authorization Amendment #19
    Vigorously support. Too often local interests in a Wilderness designation are overwhelmed by large special interests that are not even familiar with the areas being designated. Both CORE and Colorado Wilderness Proposals have extensive opposition from local governments impacted by designations but these concerns are not an issue for special interests based in Denver.
  7. Rep Boebert Colorado Wilderness Study area release Amendment #17
    Vigorously support. This has been proposed in stand alone legislation and as a possible balancing interest in the CORE proposal as part of Congressman Tipton’s REC act. Release of this designation is hugely important to the motorized community. These have proven unsuccessful previously.
  8. Rep Boebert Recreation Amendment 14
    Vigorously support. It is our experience that clearly stating all actions to be protected in the designation is a critical step and this simply has not been done in the Curecanti NRA portions of the Proposal. There is a long history of diverse high-quality recreational opportunities being provided without controversy in the proposed Curecanti NRA. These high-quality multiple use opportunities have been specifically recognized when Congress passed legislation exploring a possible Congressional designation for the area in 1999. These are recreational opportunities that the Organizations and its members have enjoyed in the area including use of the 10 campgrounds located throughout the proposed NRA some of which are approaching 100 sites in size. When Congress mandated review of the Curecanti area for possible designation as an NRA, Congress specifically recognized that:
    “Congress finds that….
    (8) land in and adjacent to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison Gorge is—
    (A) recognized for offering exceptional multiple use opportunities;”1
    As a result of Public Law 107-76, the NPS undertook an extensive review and analysis of the recreational usage on the Curecanti NRA. This research specifically identified the wide range of important recreational opportunities on the Curecanti as the NPS identified the following breakdown of visitation to the area:2While there is a long history of high-quality multiple use recreation occurring in the Curecanti NRA with Congressional recognition and approval, the CORE Wilderness act seeks to greatly reduce the scope of these opportunities without discussion. Currently, the CORE Wilderness Act requires that the Curecanti NRA is to be managed for:
    “(A) AUTHORIZATION. —Except as provided in subparagraph (B), the Secretary shall allow boating, boating-related activities, hunting, and fishing in the National Recreation Area in accordance with applicable Federal and State laws.”3
    The wide range of recreational opportunities and diversity simply is not supported or protected when the characteristics of the Curecanti NRA are hunting, fishing and boating. In a troubling turn of events, hunting, which is identified as the reason less than 5% of visitors are using the Curecanti NRA is identified as a characteristic of the NRA, while other uses such as camping and trails-based usages, which are some of the highest visitations of the area are omitted. This simply lacks any basis in logic or fact and simply must be resolved to ensure that the current usages of the area are reflected as the Curecanti area is an area where all recreational usage exists with minimal conflicts and identified as one of the big wins for multiple use. Our position on that assertion is exactly the opposite.
  9. Rep Boebert Water Rights Amendment #13
    No position.
  10. Rep Boebert Grazing Amendment #15
    No position.
  11. Rep Boebert grazing Amendment #66
    No position.
  12. Reps. Stauber and Boebert Amendment #11
    Vigorously support for reasoning in issue #6.
  13. Reps Stauber and Boebert Amendment #12
    Vigorously support for reasoning in issue #6.
  14. Reps. Stauber and Boebert Amendment #10
    Vigorously Support. Our concerns with Thompson Divide and mineral withdrawal more generally are the standards proposed would require management of the area to reduce emissions generally found in auto exhaust. This could be used to close trails in these area in the future. We would like to see any management restricted to at least point sources for emissions.
  15. Reps Fulcher, Boebert and Man water Rights- Amendment #39
    No position.
  16. Reps Fulcher, Boebert and Man water Rights- Amendment #44
    No position.
  17. Reps. Westerman and Boebert OHV trail Amendment #48
    Vigorously support. This is a major concern for the motorized community as many proposed Wilderness boundaries are only a few feet from adjacent trails outside the Wilderness. This makes it very difficult to impossible to maintain the trail in the long term and also puts the trail at risk of immediate closure as MVUM and forest service mapping often is not accurate enough to be used in this manner.
  18. Reps Westerman and Boebert High Risk Fire Amendment #46
    Vigorously support for reasoning in #5.
  19. Reps Newhouse and Boebert Amendment #54
    No position.
  20. Reps LaMalfa and Boebert vegetation management
    Vigorously support for reasoning on issue #5.

B. Conclusion.

The Organizations welcome this opportunity to comment on the proposal and related amendments. These amendments are a step in the right direction.

Please feel free to contact Scott Jones, Esq. if you should wish to discuss any of the issues that have been raised in these comments further. His contact information is Scott Jones, Esq., 508 Ashford Drive, Longmont Colorado 80504; phone 518-281-5810; email Scott.jones46@yahoo.com

Respectfully Submitted,

Scott Jones, Esq.
COHVCO/TPA Authorized Rep.
CSA President

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

1 See, Public Law 107-76 at §2.
2 See, National Park Service; Curecanti National Recreation Area- Visitor Study- Summer 2010 at pg. 34
3 See, §402(c)(4) of the CORE act proposal.

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Manti LaSal National Forest – Forest Plan Revision Comments

Manti LaSal National Forest
Att: Supervisor’s Office
599 West Price River Drive
Price UT 84501

January 25, 2021

RE: Forest Plan Revision

Dear Supervisor Nehl:

The Organizations (Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA), Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO), Colorado Snowmobile Association) are submitting these comments to the Manti La Sal in response to the recent pre-NEPA public review process that has been made available (“the Proposal”). The Organizations are seeking to provide general information on a wide range of issues we have encountered in planning efforts on other Forests throughout the Country and address some of our more specific concerns around the limited information provided to date on the Manti LaSal including:

  1. The desire for a simple forest plan;
  2. The need for a reasonably complete version of the RMP and supporting documents for public review before the NEPA process is started;
  3. Need for better public engagement in the planning effort moving forward;
  4. Major concerns around roadless area designations; and
  5. Extensive scientific information around the behavior of snow under a variety of conditions.

Prior to providing initial thoughts and concepts on the development of the RMP, we believe a brief summary of each Organization is needed. 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. 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. 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”.

The snow-based information has been developed as a result of our involvement in the development of numerous Resource Management Plans (“RMP”) throughout the western United States and our more than decade of involvement in the litigation and subsequent settlement efforts around the California OSV grooming program across 5 forests in Region 5. Our desire is to provide high quality information for decision making early in the process in the hope of avoiding many of the pitfalls we have encountered in the California winter travel planning efforts. This information is also provided as the Manti LaSal NF has provided exceptional winter recreational opportunities for the public for decades without a large amount of controversy. These opportunities have drawn users from Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and numerous other states and Canadian provinces.

The Organizations are submitting these comments to supplement the input of local clubs and to assist the planners in developing a high-quality science-based management plan that continues to provide recreational opportunities in a high-quality manner. The Organizations submit that these opportunities will only become more valuable with the passage of time given the growing population of communities in and around the Manti-LaSal NF.

To continue – please open the PDF to read the entire document.

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Methow Valley Closure Objection Letter

Methow Valley Objection Letter

Okanogan – Wenatchee NF
ATT: Kristian Bail, Forest Supervisor
215 Melody Lane
Wenatchee, WA 98801

RE: Emergency Order 06-17-04-20-25

Dear Supervisor Bail:

The Organizations are writing to express our vigorous opposition to the Emergency Closure Order 06-17-04-20-25 (“The Order”) on the Methow Valley Ranger District, as this situation is neither an emergency or safety concern but is rather a persistent user conflict issue which has been previously addressed with forest plans and travel management for the area. The Organizations vigorously submit processes are in place to address user conflicts and management issues such as those asserted to be the basis of the closure and these processes must be used. The long-term nature of the conflicts around usage of the area are directly evidenced by the fact the 1989 Resource Management Plan for the Forest has an extensive public process outlined that is to be used for issues such as this. This document clearly states areas more difficult to access, such as the closure areas, are provided for motorized usage and clearly states that closures are only to be used as a last resort. None of the process outlined in the forest plan has been undertaken and the fact the process has been in place for more than 30 years directly undermines any claim of emergency concerns being a valid concern in the area.

The Organizations also surprised by the emergency orders, given that safety concerns have been present in the backcountry almost in perpetuity and often can change significantly in very short periods of time. Education of users has always been preferred to closures. Every discussion we have participated in, closures have been avoided due to the possibility of liability being created for the USFS if members of the public are injured or killed outside the closure areas. While every forest in the Country has been overwhelmed with visitation to public lands since the COVID outbreak, we have worked hard to educate many of the new users on backcountry safety issues and challenges to provide high quality recreational opportunities for all multiple uses. The Organizations are also vigorously opposed to the arbitrary nature of the Emergency conditions sought to be remedied, as the exclusion of a single user group simply cannot be justified and stands in stark contrast to the broadly supported emergency closure orders for entire forests for all usages issued throughout the western United States in response to wildfires this summer. The precedent set by this Emergency Order is deeply concerning to the Organizations and their members.

1. Who we are.

Prior to addressing our objections to the Order, we believe a brief summary of each Organization is needed. 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 grassroots Organization that focuses on insuring that local experiences and challenges are conveyed to decision makers in Washington overseeing these areas and issues for resolution. 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.

The Trail Preservation Alliance (“TPA”) is a volunteer organization created to be a viable partner to public lands managers, working with the USFS and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to preserve the sport of trail riding and multi-use recreation. The TPA acts as an advocate for the sport and takes the necessary action to ensure that the USFS and BLM allocate a fair and equitable percentage of public lands access to diverse multi-use recreational opportunities. Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (“COHVCO”) is a grassroots advocacy organization representing approximately 150,000 registered off-highway vehicle (“OHV”) users in Colorado seeking to represent, assist, educate, and empower all OHV recreationists in the protection and promotion of multi-use and 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. Colorado Snowmobile Association (“CSA”) was founded in 1970 to unite winter motorized recreationists across the state to enjoy their passion and seeks to advance, promote and preserve the sport of snowmobiling by working with Federal and state land management agencies and local, state and federal legislators. California Nevada Snowmobile Association (“CNSA”) represents all snowmobilers throughout California and Nevada to promote safety and good will for the snowmobile community and provide a voice for the individual snowmobiler in all matters relating to the sport of snowmobiling. Washington State Off-Highway Vehicle Association is a not-for-profit organization and our objectives are to Pursue, promote, protect and educate responsible off highway vehicle use. WOHVA is an Alliance of Organizations including OHV Clubs; OHV businesses; and supporting Individuals. The Idaho Recreation Council (“IRC”) is a recognized, statewide, collaboration of Idaho recreation enthusiasts and others that will identify and work together on recreation issues in cooperation with land managers, legislators and the public to ensure a positive future for responsible outdoor recreation access for everyone, now and into the future. Collectively ORBA, One Voice, USA, U4WD, TPA, COHVCO, CSA, CNSA, WOHVA and IRC will be referred to as “The Organizations” for this correspondence.

2. RMP provisions provide a detailed outline of public processes and collaborations that must be undertaken prior to any closure and that closures are the last resort for any area.

The Organizations first objection to the Emergency Order is based on the exceptionally detailed formal public engagement processes that has been provided in the Forest’s Resource Management Plan (“RMP”) to address situations such as this, and that NONE of these processes have been attempted to be used prior to issuance of the emergency order. User conflicts around winter recreational opportunities have been occurring on the Forest since the adoption of the RMP in 1989 as directly evidenced by the unusually explicit provisions in the RMP for management of issues such as this. These RMP provisions are as follows:

“Snowmobiling opportunities will continue to be provided in partnership with the Okanogan County Snowmobiling Advisory Board. Emphasis will be placed on groomed routes currently authorized in a Memorandum of Understanding with Okanogan County….

Potential conflicts between motorized and non-motorized winter recreation activities will be resolved involving the individual users. Separation of users will be used only as a last resort. Timber management activities and new road access will increase the availability of areas for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.

Existing helicopter skiing will continue and additional opportunities will be considered.

Approximately 202,000 non-wilderness unroaded acres will be available for winter ORV opportunities. Winter ORV use may be restricted if found incompatible with other objectives. The difficulty of nonmotorized access into these areas will minimize user conflicts.

Primitive recreation opportunities are provided in the 626,200 acres of designated wilderness…. Semi-primitive nonmotorized or motorized opportunities will be provided on 202,000 acres in portions of the Liberty Bell, Sawtooth, Tiffany, Mt Bonaparte, Pasayten Rim, and Bodie Mountain Roadless Areas.

Approximately 183,000 acres of Roaded Natural recreation will be provided in the following areas parts of the North Cascades Scenic Highway, the Chewuch/Eightmile, Upper Hethow/Hart’s Pass, Middle Salmon Creek-Boulder Creek, Sun Mountain, Twisp River/Blackpine Lake, Loup Blackline Highway, Aka Lake, North Fork Gold Creek, McClure Mountain, 5-Lakes, North Fork Salmon Creek, Sweat Creek, Mt Hull, Toats Coulee, Aeneas Valley, Crawfish Lake, and Summit Lake. Timber yield in these areas outside the North Cascades Scenic Highway will be reduced There will be no scheduled timber harvest in the North Cascades Scenic Highway. ” 1

We would be remiss in simply stating NONE of these processes and guidelines have even arguably been applied, discussed or analyzed in the issuance of the emergency order. Local users were shocked when the Order was issued despite the numerous specific mechanisms that are provided for in the RMP for the Forest. This frustration is compounded by the fact that the RMP specifically states less accessible areas are being provided for motorized usage. This is directly contrary to the alleged basis of the Order, as the Order specifically states new motorized usages to less accessible areas is the basis for the closures. It is our experience that motorized usage of this area is not new in any manner as the closure areas is one of the few areas open for motorized usage in this portion of the valley. Given that the RMP process was developed more than 30 years ago also directly undermines any assertion that there is factual basis for declaring an emergency, as this is a known travel management issue and additionally specifically provided for in the RMP.

We would also note comical imbalance of recreational opportunities being provided in the planning area as well. While a majority of the Methow Valley Ranger District is closed to winter motorized usage, none of the District is closed to those pursuing recreational opportunities by other means. Given this horrible imbalance of opportunities on the District, the Organizations believe this was a major driving force in the creation of the above provisions in the RMP. The Organizations submit there is a formal process in place to address issues such as those asserted to be the basis for the emergency, and the Organizations submit this process must be used.

3. Winter travel management processes which provide extensive mandatory public engagement processes are in place to address user conflicts in recreational access.

In addition to the highly specific and unusual formal public processes that are provided for at the Forest level, extensive mandatory public processes are provided for in national regulations to address winter user conflict issues and possible safety concerns. This is reflected in the recently updated Winter Travel Rule that was completed in 2015 by the USFS 2 and is hugely important to many of the Organizations who intervened with the USFS in defense of the legal challenge to the superseded winter travel rule. These Organizations then provided years of effort, detailed information in the development, detailed input of nationally recognized experts and others in the revision of the new Winter Travel Rule. To say the Organizations, have a vested interest in avoiding situations such as this would be an understatement.

The Organizations also believe it is important to note that even before the new winter Travel Rule, perceived user conflicts have been woven throughout the recreational planning efforts since recreation has existed on public lands and these are issues that are specifically addressed in the travel management process since the issuance of the Executive Orders governing the Travel Management Process were issued by President Nixon in 1972. Throughout the development of the new winter travel management rule by the USFS, user conflicts were easily the most common public concern voiced in the planning process. This is also a major concern around the Order as the Organizations and our members directed years of effort into the development of this rule to insure there was a process available to address user conflicts. The fact that this entire nationally mandated process has been avoided with the Order is deeply concerning to the Organizations for this issue alone and the Organizations vigorously assert that these processes must be applied.

4. National USFS regulations on the issuance of Emergency Orders provide no basis to address recreational user conflicts.

The Organizations have been involved recreational activity in the winter backcountry for decades, and can say with absolute certainty that these recreational opportunities can be some of the most exceptional opportunities available for the public. With these opportunities, there are inherently risks to anyone that pursues these opportunities, regardless of where or how recreational interests are pursued. Many of the winter risks are present in similar levels in developed ski areas as are present in backcountry areas. Users fall and break bones, frostbite for poorly equipped recreational users does not care where they are located, users simply get lost and run into trouble, storms develop faster or stronger than weatherman had predicted. These risks are inherent in pursuing winter recreational opportunities that are knowingly accepted by those users as these risks are present every year. These conditions simply are not an emergency.

The Organizations also express serious concerns around any assertion of an emergency nature of any closure in the Methow Valley as the press release issued on the closure seems to focus on user conflicts in the area as the basis for the emergency. The Organizations are unaware of any condition that might have developed in the area that would have altered the nature or conditions of the area, such as a wildfire or landslide. User conflict is a factor in travel management and is most effectively dealt with through that process. Again, these mandatory public processes have been completely ignored in favor of a closure order that lacks legal or factual basis. The Organizations would also note that the USFS has extensive regulations regarding management in emergency situations generally outlined in 36 CFR 261 and related regulations issued under FSM 1500 Chapter 1590. While there are numerous issues addressed in these regulations, such as fires and floods, there is no mention of user conflicts or recreational usages being the basis for any emergency closure order authority.

We are also intimately aware that these are opportunities that simply are not inherently safe for numerous reasons that are outside the control of managers and can change rapidly due to changing weather conditions. Programmatically, the lack of safety of users has not been recognized as a basis to exclude the public from any areas, but rather these rapidly changing safety concerns have been the basis for partners educating the public of the risks and letting each member of the public individually accept or decline these risks. The USFS has avoided these types of closures simply due the liability that can result immediately when a safety concern is relied on to close an area and then a member of the public is killed or injured outside the closure area. This immediately causes possible liability for managers based on the accuracy of closures. Any assertion of a safety concern impacting a single winter user group more than other user groups has no basis in fact. Clearly avalanche risks and other risk of injury clearly remain in the closure areas despite the closure of the areas to motorized usages.

The Organizations would be remiss if the potential liability that is created for the USFS as a result of this Order was not raised as potential liability of land managers has always been a major concern in any discussions around winter recreation and covering a wide range of issues ranging from signing, grooming, general safety concerns and avalanches. The USFS has consistently avoided closure order such as this for any reason as the potential liability from this order is immense. Clearly conditions inside the closure order area are similar to those outside the closure order area, which immediately causes legal questions regarding how boundaries were drawn or how were conditions reviewed or monitored to provide a basis for the closure. These questions can be foundational in any challenge to compensate a member of the public who may have been injured.

5. The National Trail Strategy Core Strategy specially identifies collaboration as the tool to be used in these situations.

The Organizations would also like to address the immediate conflict in the nature and direction of the Order with the basic direction and intent of the newly released National Trails Strategy, as our members have several years of effort in the development of the new strategy. This new strategy specifically states as follows:

 

“Sustainable Systems: Collaboratively create and achieve a common vision.

Challenge: Many trails are not socially, ecologically, and economically sustainable, including many legacy trails that were not well designed or located and are not being used for their intended purpose. These unsustainable trails—and the proliferation of unauthorized or user-created trails—drain agency resources.
Aspiration: Trail systems are sustainably designed, well maintained, used for their intended purpose, and valued and supported by trail users and communities.
Actions: 4.1 Create Shared Understanding: Invite national/regional/local trail groups to create a shared understanding of how to better balance the desire for more opportunities for current and emerging trail uses with the need for a sustainable trail system.” 3

Given these specific goals and objectives of the new USFS Trails Strategy, the Organizations vigorously assert the arbitrary nature of the Order and non-existence of public engagement is directly contrary to the guidance and objectives of the new USFS Trails Strategy. This again is a troubling development for the Organizations when processes such as these are simply avoided or disregarded.

6. Best Available Science on User Conflicts directly weighs against closures.

The proper management of perceived user has resulted in the creation of many other longer-term problems when decisions reflecting an imbalanced multiple use or when decisions made without public processes are implemented. This concern was recently identified as a major planning issue throughout the western United States. The Western Governors’ Association released its Get Out West report in conjunction with its economic impact study of recreation on public lands in the Western United States. The Get Out West report from the Western Governors’ Association also highlighted how proper balancing of recreation is to the development of good management plans based on multiple use principals. The Get Out West report specifically found:

“Good planning not only results in better recreation opportunities, it also helps address and avoid major management challenges – such as limited funding, changing recreation types, user conflicts, and degradation of the assets. Managers with the most successfully managed recreation assets emphasized that they planned early and often. They assessed their opportunities and constraints, prioritized their assets, and defined visions.”4

The Organizations believe our concerns regarding the Methow Valley closure and those expressed in the Western Governor’s Get Out West report virtually mirror each other. This concern must be addressed in establishing any basis for an emergency claim for the closure of any area.

The Organizations believe that after a brief summary of research into user conflict, the difference in the Methow Valley closure and best available science on the issue will be clear. Researchers have specifically identified that properly determining the basis for or type of user 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.” 5

Other researchers have distinguished types of user conflicts based on a goal’s 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 the presence of conflict. The perceived source of this goal interference must be identified as other individuals.”6

It is significant to note that Mr. Norling’s study, cited above, was specifically created to determine why travel management closures had not resolved user conflicts for winter users of a group of yurts on the Wasache-Cache National forest. As noted in Mr. Norling’s study, the travel management decisions addressing in the areas surrounding the yurts failed to distinguish why the conflict was occurring and this failure prevented the land managers from effectively resolving the conflict.

The Organizations believe that understanding why the travel management plan was unable to resolve socially based user conflicts on the Wasache-Cache National Forest is critical in the Methow Valley planning decision. Properly understanding the issue to be resolved will ensure that the same errors that occurred on the Wasache-Cache are not implemented again to address problems they simply cannot resolve. The Organizations believe the Order must provide a basis that avoids this failure and move forward with effective management rather than fall victim to the same mistakes again. Unfortunately, the District appears to be falling victim to the same issues as the Wasache-Cache rather than learning from them, since closures are immediately relied upon to address what the Organizations have to believe are a significant amount of socially based user conflicts.

At no point is there any mention of programs or resources to be developed that might be available to address socially based user conflicts. While the Organizations are aware that such a discussion is technically outside the issuance of the Order, the Organizations believe that if a distinction between the different bases for user conflicts had been made in the planning process, this distinction would have warranted a brief discussion of methods for resolution of socially based conflicts through educational programs. The lack of an educational component in planning as a tool to be utilized in conjunction with travel management issues and trail closures, leads the Organizations to conclude that there was a finding at some point in the planning process to the effect that all user conflicts are personal in nature. This type of finding would be highly inconsistent with both the Organizations experiences with this issue and the related science.

As noted above, personal user conflicts only account for a small portion of total user conflicts. While these personal conflicts would be resolved, the overwhelming portion of user conflict results from a lack of social acceptance by certain users and these conflicts would only be resolved with education. The Organizations believe the distinct between personal and social user conflict must be addressed in the public processes required and the levels of closures reviewed to ensure that the levels of closures are not going to result in increased user conflicts. The Organizations believe that increased conflict is a serious risk given the high levels of closures that are currently in place.

7. Conclusions.

The Organizations must object to the Order based on its horribly arbitrary nature and complete lack of factual basis for the Order and the failure of the Forest to engage in established public engagement process in place for more than 30 years. The Organizations are intimately aware that there are numerous formal public processes in place in both forest level and national level regulations to address the concerns that appear to be the actual basis for the Order. None of these public processes have been engaged in any manner prior to the issuance of the Order. We would welcome the USFS engaging in the formal public processes mandating for the resolution of issues such as those asserted to be perceived in the area, as we submit these processes are the most effective manner to reduce user conflicts in the long term and that the current Order is simply creating unprecedented user conflicts rather than reducing them.

The Organizations would welcome a discussion of how legally required public engagement processes in place will be complied with to address management concerns in this area in order to achieve a plan that balances usages in the entire area. We would welcome engagement of local groups and interests in this effort and would welcome discussions of how the larger landscape level concerns about the issuance of the order could be resolved. 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 508 Ashford Drive, Longmont, CO 80504. His phone is (518)281-5810 and his email is scott.jones46@yahoo.com.

 

Scott Jones, Esq.
USA Vice President
COHVCO/CSA Authorized Representative

Fred Wiley
CNSA Past President
ORBA President and CEO
One Voice/U4WD Authorized Rep.

Keith Sweepe
CNSA President

Bryan Peterson
WOHVA President

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

Sandra F Mitchell
Idaho Recreation Council

CC: Glenn Casamassa, R6 Regional Forester

1 See, USDA Forest Service; Okanogan National Forest – Record of Decision -Resource Management Plan 1989 @pg.18
2 See, 36 CFR 212 subpart c.
3 See, USDA Forest Service; National Sustainable Trails Strategy pg. 9
4 Get Out West Report at pg. 5.
5 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.
6 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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Emergency Closure Order on the Methow Valley Ranger District Objection

Okanogan – Wenatchee NF
ATT: Kristian Bail, Forest Supervisor
215 Melody Lane
Wenatchee, WA 98801

RE: Emergency Order 06-17-04-20-25

Dear Supervisor Bail:

The Organizations are writing to express our vigorous opposition to the Emergency Closure Order 06-17-04-20-25 (“The Order”) on the Methow Valley Ranger District, as this situation is neither an emergency or safety concern but is rather a persistent user conflict issue which has been previously addressed with forest plans and travel management for the area. The Organizations vigorously submit processes are in place to address user conflicts and management issues such as those asserted to be the basis of the closure and these processes must be used. The long-term nature of the conflicts around usage of the area are directly evidenced by the fact the 1989 Resource Management Plan for the Forest has an extensive public process outlined that is to be used for issues such as this. This document clearly states areas more difficult to access, such as the closure areas, are provided for motorized usage and clearly states that closures are only to be used as a last resort. None of the process outlined in the forest plan has been undertaken and the fact the process has been in place for more than 30 years directly undermines any claim of emergency concerns being a valid concern in the area.

The Organizations also surprised by the emergency orders, given that safety concerns have been present in the backcountry almost in perpetuity and often can change significantly in very short periods of time. Education of users has always been preferred to closures. Every discussion we have participated in, closures have been avoided due to the possibility of liability being created for the USFS if members of the public are injured or killed outside the closure areas. While every forest in the Country has been overwhelmed with visitation to public lands since the COVID outbreak, we have worked hard to educate many of the new users on backcountry safety issues and challenges to provide high quality recreational opportunities for all multiple uses. The Organizations are also vigorously opposed to the arbitrary nature of the Emergency conditions sought to be remedied, as the exclusion of a single user group simply cannot be justified and stands in stark contrast to the broadly supported emergency closure orders for entire forests for all usages issued throughout the western United States in response to wildfires this summer. The precedent set by this Emergency Order is deeply concerning to the Organizations and their members.

1. Who we are.

Prior to addressing our objections to the Order, we believe a brief summary of each Organization is needed. 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 grassroots Organization that focuses on insuring that local experiences and challenges are conveyed to decision makers in Washington overseeing these areas and issues for resolution. 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.

The Trail Preservation Alliance (“TPA”) is a volunteer organization created to be a viable partner to public lands managers, working with the USFS and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to preserve the sport of trail riding and multi-use recreation. The TPA acts as an advocate for the sport and takes the necessary action to ensure that the USFS and BLM allocate a fair and equitable percentage of public lands access to diverse multi-use recreational opportunities. Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (“COHVCO”) is a grassroots advocacy organization representing approximately 150,000 registered off-highway vehicle (“OHV”) users in Colorado seeking to represent, assist, educate, and empower all OHV recreationists in the protection and promotion of multi-use and 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. Colorado Snowmobile Association (“CSA”) was founded in 1970 to unite winter motorized recreationists across the state to enjoy their passion and seeks to advance, promote and preserve the sport of snowmobiling by working with Federal and state land management agencies and local, state and federal legislators. California Nevada Snowmobile Association (“CNSA”) represents all snowmobilers throughout California and Nevada to promote safety and good will for the snowmobile community and provide a voice for the individual snowmobiler in all matters relating to the sport of snowmobiling. Washington State Off-Highway Vehicle Association is a not-for-profit organization and our objectives are to Pursue, promote, protect and educate responsible off highway vehicle use. WOHVA is an Alliance of Organizations including OHV Clubs; OHV businesses; and supporting Individuals. The Idaho Recreation Council (“IRC”) is a recognized, statewide, collaboration of Idaho recreation enthusiasts and others that will identify and work together on recreation issues in cooperation with land managers, legislators and the public to ensure a positive future for responsible outdoor recreation access for everyone, now and into the future. Collectively ORBA, One Voice, USA, U4WD, TPA, COHVCO, CSA, CNSA, WOHVA and IRC will be referred to as “The Organizations” for this correspondence.

2. RMP provisions provide a detailed outline of public processes and collaborations that must be undertaken prior to any closure and that closures are the last resort for any area.

The Organizations first objection to the Emergency Order is based on the exceptionally detailed formal public engagement processes that has been provided in the Forest’s Resource Management Plan (“RMP”) to address situations such as this, and that NONE of these processes have been attempted to be used prior to issuance of the emergency order. User conflicts around winter recreational opportunities have been occurring on the Forest since the adoption of the RMP in 1989 as directly evidenced by the unusually explicit provisions in the RMP for management of issues such as this. These RMP provisions are as follows:

Snowmobiling opportunities will continue to be provided in partnership with the Okanogan County Snowmobiling Advisory Board. Emphasis will be placed on groomed routes currently authorized in a Memorandum of Understanding with Okanogan County….

Potential conflicts between motorized and non-motorized winter recreation activities will be resolved involving the individual users. Separation of users will be used only as a last resort. Timber management activities and new road access will increase the availability of areas for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.

Existing helicopter skiing will continue and additional opportunities will be considered.

Approximately 202,000 non-wilderness unroaded acres will be available for winter ORV opportunities. Winter ORV use may be restricted if found incompatible with other objectives. The difficulty of nonmotorized access into these areas will minimize user conflicts.

Primitive recreation opportunities are provided in the 626,200 acres of designated wilderness…. Semi-primitive nonmotorized or motorized opportunities will be provided on 202,000 acres in portions of the Liberty Bell, Sawtooth, Tiffany, Mt Bonaparte, Pasayten Rim, and Bodie Mountain Roadless Areas.

Approximately 183,000 acres of Roaded Natural recreation will be provided in the following areas parts of the North Cascades Scenic Highway, the Chewuch/Eightmile, Upper Hethow/Hart’s Pass, Middle Salmon Creek-Boulder Creek, Sun Mountain, Twisp River/Blackpine Lake, Loup Blackline Highway, Aka Lake, North Fork Gold Creek, McClure Mountain, 5-Lakes, North Fork Salmon Creek, Sweat Creek, Mt Hull, Toats Coulee, Aeneas Valley, Crawfish Lake, and Summit Lake. Timber yield in these areas outside the North Cascades Scenic Highway will be reduced There will be no scheduled timber harvest in the North Cascades Scenic Highway. ” 1

We would be remiss in simply stating NONE of these processes and guidelines have even arguably been applied, discussed or analyzed in the issuance of the emergency order. Local users were shocked when the Order was issued despite the numerous specific mechanisms that are provided for in the RMP for the Forest. This frustration is compounded by the fact that the RMP specifically states less accessible areas are being provided for motorized usage. This is directly contrary to the alleged basis of the Order, as the Order specifically states new motorized usages to less accessible areas is the basis for the closures. It is our experience that motorized usage of this area is not new in any manner as the closure areas is one of the few areas open for motorized usage in this portion of the valley. Given that the RMP process was developed more than 30 years ago also directly undermines any assertion that there is factual basis for declaring an emergency, as this is a known travel management issue and additionally specifically provided for in the RMP.

We would also note comical imbalance of recreational opportunities being provided in the planning area as well. While a majority of the Methow Valley Ranger District is closed to winter motorized usage, none of the District is closed to those pursuing recreational opportunities by other means. Given this horrible imbalance of opportunities on the District, the Organizations believe this was a major driving force in the creation of the above provisions in the RMP. The Organizations submit there is a formal process in place to address issues such as those asserted to be the basis for the emergency, and the Organizations submit this process must be used.

3. Winter travel management processes which provide extensive mandatory public engagement processes are in place to address user conflicts in recreational access.

In addition to the highly specific and unusual formal public processes that are provided for at the Forest level, extensive mandatory public processes are provided for in national regulations to address winter user conflict issues and possible safety concerns. This is reflected in the recently updated Winter Travel Rule that was completed in 2015 by the USFS 2 and is hugely important to many of the Organizations who intervened with the USFS in defense of the legal challenge to the superseded winter travel rule. These Organizations then provided years of effort, detailed information in the development, detailed input of nationally recognized experts and others in the revision of the new Winter Travel Rule. To say the Organizations, have a vested interest in avoiding situations such as this would be an understatement.

The Organizations also believe it is important to note that even before the new winter Travel Rule, perceived user conflicts have been woven throughout the recreational planning efforts since recreation has existed on public lands and these are issues that are specifically addressed in the travel management process since the issuance of the Executive Orders governing the Travel Management Process were issued by President Nixon in 1972. Throughout the development of the new winter travel management rule by the USFS, user conflicts were easily the most common public concern voiced in the planning process. This is also a major concern around the Order as the Organizations and our members directed years of effort into the development of this rule to insure there was a process available to address user conflicts. The fact that this entire nationally mandated process has been avoided with the Order is deeply concerning to the Organizations for this issue alone and the Organizations vigorously assert that these processes must be applied.

4. National USFS regulations on the issuance of Emergency Orders provide no basis to address recreational user conflicts.

The Organizations have been involved recreational activity in the winter backcountry for decades, and can say with absolute certainty that these recreational opportunities can be some of the most exceptional opportunities available for the public. With these opportunities, there are inherently risks to anyone that pursues these opportunities, regardless of where or how recreational interests are pursued. Many of the winter risks are present in similar levels in developed ski areas as are present in backcountry areas. Users fall and break bones, frostbite for poorly equipped recreational users does not care where they are located, users simply get lost and run into trouble, storms develop faster or stronger than weatherman had predicted. These risks are inherent in pursuing winter recreational opportunities that are knowingly accepted by those users as these risks are present every year. These conditions simply are not an emergency.

The Organizations also express serious concerns around any assertion of an emergency nature of any closure in the Methow Valley as the press release issued on the closure seems to focus on user conflicts in the area as the basis for the emergency. The Organizations are unaware of any condition that might have developed in the area that would have altered the nature or conditions of the area, such as a wildfire or landslide. User conflict is a factor in travel management and is most effectively dealt with through that process. Again, these mandatory public processes have been completely ignored in favor of a closure order that lacks legal or factual basis. The Organizations would also note that the USFS has extensive regulations regarding management in emergency situations generally outlined in 36 CFR 261 and related regulations issued under FSM 1500 Chapter 1590. While there are numerous issues addressed in these regulations, such as fires and floods, there is no mention of user conflicts or recreational usages being the basis for any emergency closure order authority.

We are also intimately aware that these are opportunities that simply are not inherently safe for numerous reasons that are outside the control of managers and can change rapidly due to changing weather conditions. Programmatically, the lack of safety of users has not been recognized as a basis to exclude the public from any areas, but rather these rapidly changing safety concerns have been the basis for partners educating the public of the risks and letting each member of the public individually accept or decline these risks. The USFS has avoided these types of closures simply due the liability that can result immediately when a safety concern is relied on to close an area and then a member of the public is killed or injured outside the closure area. This immediately causes possible liability for managers based on the accuracy of closures. Any assertion of a safety concern impacting a single winter user group more than other user groups has no basis in fact. Clearly avalanche risks and other risk of injury clearly remain in the closure areas despite the closure of the areas to motorized usages.

The Organizations would be remiss if the potential liability that is created for the USFS as a result of this Order was not raised as potential liability of land managers has always been a major concern in any discussions around winter recreation and covering a wide range of issues ranging from signing, grooming, general safety concerns and avalanches. The USFS has consistently avoided closure order such as this for any reason as the potential liability from this order is immense. Clearly conditions inside the closure order area are similar to those outside the closure order area, which immediately causes legal questions regarding how boundaries were drawn or how were conditions reviewed or monitored to provide a basis for the closure. These questions can be foundational in any challenge to compensate a member of the public who may have been injured.

5. The National Trail Strategy Core Strategy specially identifies collaboration as the tool to be used in these situations.

The Organizations would also like to address the immediate conflict in the nature and direction of the Order with the basic direction and intent of the newly released National Trails Strategy, as our members have several years of effort in the development of the new strategy. This new strategy specifically states as follows:

“Sustainable Systems: Collaboratively create and achieve a common vision.

Challenge: Many trails are not socially, ecologically, and economically sustainable, including many legacy trails that were not well designed or located and are not being used for their intended purpose. These unsustainable trails—and the proliferation of unauthorized or user-created trails—drain agency resources.
Aspiration: Trail systems are sustainably designed, well maintained, used for their intended purpose, and valued and supported by trail users and communities.
Actions:
4.1 Create Shared Understanding: Invite national/regional/local trail groups to create a shared understanding of how to better balance the desire for more opportunities for current and emerging trail uses with the need for a sustainable trail system.” 3

Given these specific goals and objectives of the new USFS Trails Strategy, the Organizations vigorously assert the arbitrary nature of the Order and non-existence of public engagement is directly contrary to the guidance and objectives of the new USFS Trails Strategy. This again is a troubling development for the Organizations when processes such as these are simply avoided or disregarded.

6. Best Available Science on User Conflicts directly weighs against closures.

The proper management of perceived user has resulted in the creation of many other longer-term problems when decisions reflecting an imbalanced multiple use or when decisions made without public processes are implemented. This concern was recently identified as a major planning issue throughout the western United States. The Western Governors’ Association released its Get Out West report in conjunction with its economic impact study of recreation on public lands in the Western United States. The Get Out West report from the Western Governors’ Association also highlighted how proper balancing of recreation is to the development of good management plans based on multiple use principals. The Get Out West report specifically found:

“Good planning not only results in better recreation opportunities, it also helps address and avoid major management challenges – such as limited funding, changing recreation types, user conflicts, and degradation of the assets. Managers with the most successfully managed recreation assets emphasized that they planned early and often. They assessed their opportunities and constraints, prioritized their assets, and defined visions.”4

The Organizations believe our concerns regarding the Methow Valley closure and those expressed in the Western Governor’s Get Out West report virtually mirror each other. This concern must be addressed in establishing any basis for an emergency claim for the closure of any area.

The Organizations believe that after a brief summary of research into user conflict, the difference in the Methow Valley closure and best available science on the issue will be clear. Researchers have specifically identified that properly determining the basis for or type of user 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.” 5

Other researchers have distinguished types of user conflicts based on a goal’s 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 the presence of conflict. The perceived source of this goal interference must be identified as other individuals.”6

It is significant to note that Mr. Norling’s study, cited above, was specifically created to determine why travel management closures had not resolved user conflicts for winter users of a group of yurts on the Wasache-Cache National forest. As noted in Mr. Norling’s study, the travel management decisions addressing in the areas surrounding the yurts failed to distinguish why the conflict was occurring and this failure prevented the land managers from effectively resolving the conflict.

The Organizations believe that understanding why the travel management plan was unable to resolve socially based user conflicts on the Wasache-Cache National Forest is critical in the Methow Valley planning decision. Properly understanding the issue to be resolved will ensure that the same errors that occurred on the Wasache-Cache are not implemented again to address problems they simply cannot resolve. The Organizations believe the Order must provide a basis that avoids this failure and move forward with effective management rather than fall victim to the same mistakes again. Unfortunately, the District appears to be falling victim to the same issues as the Wasache-Cache rather than learning from them, since closures are immediately relied upon to address what the Organizations have to believe are a significant amount of socially based user conflicts.

At no point is there any mention of programs or resources to be developed that might be available to address socially based user conflicts. While the Organizations are aware that such a discussion is technically outside the issuance of the Order, the Organizations believe that if a distinction between the different bases for user conflicts had been made in the planning process, this distinction would have warranted a brief discussion of methods for resolution of socially based conflicts through educational programs. The lack of an educational component in planning as a tool to be utilized in conjunction with travel management issues and trail closures, leads the Organizations to conclude that there was a finding at some point in the planning process to the effect that all user conflicts are personal in nature. This type of finding would be highly inconsistent with both the Organizations experiences with this issue and the related science.

As noted above, personal user conflicts only account for a small portion of total user conflicts. While these personal conflicts would be resolved, the overwhelming portion of user conflict results from a lack of social acceptance by certain users and these conflicts would only be resolved with education. The Organizations believe the distinct between personal and social user conflict must be addressed in the public processes required and the levels of closures reviewed to ensure that the levels of closures are not going to result in increased user conflicts. The Organizations believe that increased conflict is a serious risk given the high levels of closures that are currently in place.

7. Conclusions.

The Organizations must object to the Order based on its horribly arbitrary nature and complete lack of factual basis for the Order and the failure of the Forest to engage in established public engagement process in place for more than 30 years. The Organizations are intimately aware that there are numerous formal public processes in place in both forest level and national level regulations to address the concerns that appear to be the actual basis for the Order. None of these public processes have been engaged in any manner prior to the issuance of the Order. We would welcome the USFS engaging in the formal public processes mandating for the resolution of issues such as those asserted to be perceived in the area, as we submit these processes are the most effective manner to reduce user conflicts in the long term and that the current Order is simply creating unprecedented user conflicts rather than reducing them.

The Organizations would welcome a discussion of how legally required public engagement processes in place will be complied with to address management concerns in this area in order to achieve a plan that balances usages in the entire area. We would welcome engagement of local groups and interests in this effort and would welcome discussions of how the larger landscape level concerns about the issuance of the order could be resolved. 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 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.
USA Vice President
COHVCO/CSA Authorized Representative

Fred Wiley
CNSA Past President
ORBA President and CEO
One Voice/U4WD Authorized Rep.

Keith Sweepe 
CNSA President

Bryan Peterson
WOHVA President

Don Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

Sandra Mitchell
Idaho Recreation Council

CC: GlennSasamassa, R6 Regional Forester

 

1 See, USDA Forest Service; Okanogan National Forest – Record of Decision -Resource Management Plan 1989 @pg.18
2 See, 36 CFR 212 subpart c.
3 See, USDA Forest Service; National Sustainable Trails Strategy pg. 9
4 Get Out West Report at pg. 5.
5 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.
6 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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Dolores Ranger District Adds New Routes in Recent Decision – Chicken Creek Trail

Reprinted with permission – a message via email from the San Juan Trail Riders.   

Dolores Ranger District, San Juan National Forest
Chicken Creek Trail Project Decision

 

News Release from Forest Service

Motorized Trails

Per the Final Environmental Assessment:

The Deer Lick Trail would be approximately 0.9 miles of trail that would connect NFSR 566 Echo Basin Road to the #617 Box Canyon Trail, following a previously abandon route, and would include trail design to mitigate damage to wet areas. This trail is represented in red on the following map.

The Owens Basin Connector is an existing 0.23 miles non-motorized route between two motorized routes and would connect the #173 Golconda ATV Trail to the #621 West Mancos Trail. The connector is currently non-motorized but was intended to be designated as a motorized route under Mancos-Cortez Travel Management Plan (2008) decision; however, this did not occur. The #183 Owens Basin Connector would provide a better crossing of the West Mancos River than the existing crossing at the bottom of the #173 Golconda Trail. This trail is represented in green on the following map.

 

Map of Motorized Changes

 

Chicken Creek Trail Map

Documents

Significance of these Trails

These two trails will provide better connectivity to #621 West Mancos Trail and a direct route to NFSR 566 Echo Basin Road from the #617 Box Canyon Trail and vice-versa.

  • The #183 Owens Basin Connector will be a dramatic benefit in early season during spring runoff by providing a safer and more negotiable river crossing.
  • The Dear Lick Trail connection to NFSR 566 Echo Basin Road gives motorized single-track users additional loop options when combined with other routes and a “bailout” if necessary.

On the surface comparing our net miles gained to non-motorized users in the Chicken Creek Trail Project, it may not seem like a substantial improvement of opportunities. Once evaluated closer these two trail segments are of very high value to our user group and improve opportunities for motorized multi-user single-track in the area.

Sincerest Gratitude

We would like to express our appreciation to SJTR’s Board Members Allen Christy and Gary Wilkinson for taking this project on, our Partners with the Dolores Rangers District of the San Juan National Forest who have been exceptional to work with getting these segments through the proper processes as well as individuals that submitted comments supporting this project.

We again thank you for your continued support and please know that your SJTR Leadership Team remains fully engaged in support of your trail riding opportunities across public lands.

Regards and Best Wishes – San Juan Trail Riders Board of Directors

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2020 Ride With Respect Year in Review

On rough trails, when scanning ahead for obstacles, you can sometimes find a line that threads the needle to get you through. The “middle path” is how RwR approached most issues in 2020.

Also on public lands, we performed another few-hundred hours of trail work and trail hosting, combined (see photo). To increase productivity, we’re acquiring trail tools ranging from a sign/fence-post driver and welding supplies to a motorcycle and pickup truck for transporting on singletrack and doubletrack. This equipment is made possible by grants from the OHV Program of Utah State Parks and the Yamaha Outdoor Access Initiative  (www.yamahaoai.com). In fact they topped the list of entities that contributed over a thousand dollars in 2020:

  1. OHV Program of Utah State Parks
  2. Yamaha Outdoor Access Initiative
  3. anonymous
  4. Trails Preservation Alliance
  5. Peter Lawson
  6. Rocky Mountain ATV/MC
  7. anonymous
  8. A Nonni Moose  (Our third anonymous contributor was quite clever.)
  9. Grand County Recreation Special Service District
  10. Fullsize Invasion by Xtreme 4×4 Tours
  11. TrailTaker
  12. John Borg
  13. Dave McEuen, CPA for HEB Business Solutions

Of course, we still have costs to cover, such as insuring the trail equipment and paying for some of my time, albeit at under twenty bucks an hour. This was a rough year for many people across the world, so we haven’t solicited donations until now, and we haven’t gotten CARES Act funds. At whatever level you can afford, please consider pitching in, as it’s not too late to donate for a tax deduction in 2020 (by sending a check to Ride with Respect, 395 McGill Avenue, Moab, UT 84532).

2020 Ride With Respect EOY cover image

 

Motorized Trails Committee of Grand County

As you may recall from the previous Year In Review RwR did most of the groundwork for Grand County to form the Motorized Trails Committee, a collaboration between the area’s land managers and recreation enthusiasts including clubs like the Red Rock 4-Wheelers and Moab Friends-For-Wheelin’ (MFFW) While practicing COVID-19 health guidelines, the MTC managed to perform five-hundred hours of trail work, most notably from members of MFFW (who volunteered over a hundred additional hours this year during club outings separate from the MTC). The MTC worked with the Sand Flats Recreation Area staff and stewardship committee to propose several short links that would make better use of the existing trail system. In fact, staff from several county departments attended the MTC’s monthly meetings, along with BLM staff and a handful of motorized-trail enthusiasts who are tremendously dedicated to responsible recreation. Hopefully, the MTC will grow its volunteer base and get paid staff to follow in the footsteps of Grand County’s non-motorized trails committee, Trail Mix.

Vehicular Noise Concerns

When it comes to most forms of motorized recreation, excessive sound has always been an issue to work through, but it has come to a head particularly in Moab over the past five years. During that time, RwR has consistently recommended mitigation measures that are both feasible and effective.  This year the MTC carried these recommendations even further (see second attachment). Please take the time to read through them, as this is an issue about which many people have opinions, yet few people have a real understanding of how sound can be mitigated. Unfortunately, Grand County and Moab City have thus far declined to try out the MTC’s recommendations, favoring other measures that won’t actually reduce the sound emitted from a vehicle, and will have several negative side effects. Moab City seems particularly interested in reducing the amount of OHV use rather than improving the quality of such use. Nevertheless, RwR remains willing to work with anyone who commits to genuinely resolving this issue.

One positive sign is that Grand County recently budgeted for the purchase of sound-measuring equipment. We hope that they will also budget for a sound expert to train staff in using the equipment, not to mention advising staff on refining its ordinances and rules (such as event permits). To properly use a sound-measuring kit donated by the American Motorcyclist Association, RwR received instruction from Chris Real of DPS Technical, a foremost expert who also generously gave RwR several hours of consultation on mitigating noise concerns more generally. The OHV industry deserves additional credit for funding the development of stationary-vehicle sound testing procedures that are objective and enforceable (such as SAE J1287 that measures sound just twenty-inches from the exhaust outlet of OHVs at half-throttle). Further, the OHV industry funds education such as this webinar from the National OHV Conservation Council (NOHVCC):

RwR supports the 96 dB standard via J1287 for all OHVs, and we ask the OHV industry to surpass this standard by a few decibels for UTVs, also known as side-by-sides. The 96 dB standard and J1287 procedure were established in 1980 specifically for off-highway motorcycles. Compared to UTVs, off-highway motorcycles tend to have quieter tires as well as less weight and manual transmissions that allow riders to lower RPMs while still moving along past a town, trailhead, or wherever people and animals are encountered. These are some of the reasons that UTVs measuring 96 dB via the stationary test tend to actually emit more sound in real-world applications than off-highway motorcycles measuring 96 dB via the stationary test. Fortunately most UTV models—even most sport models—already measure 92 dB or less via J1287. Getting the remaining UTV models and aftermarket exhaust systems to follow suit would benefit everyone in the long run.

RwR has already approached the OHV industry and already seen some encouraging signs. However, we could use Grand County’s help by suspending actions that appear to arbitrarily reduce or eliminate use across the board, and instead target inconsiderate use by carrying out the recommendations of its Motorized Trails Committee. Granted it’s tempting for OHV critics to claim that OHVs are inevitably loud, just as it’s tempting for OHV advocates to dismiss noise concerns as fabricated. Indeed anti-noise measures are sometimes a guise for anti-OHV ends, but such bias can’t be fully countered until OHV sound levels are consistently moderate to the average ear. The community deserves for OHV leaders and local government to ensure that vehicle sounds are reasonably low even when the level of OHV use is high.

Manti-La Sal National Forest Land Management Plan Revision

Each national forest is guided by a Land Management Plan (LMP aka “Forest Plan”) that is supposed to be replaced within twenty years, but they tend to last much longer. In fact, the Manti-La Sal National Forest is about to start scoping on the revision of its current LMP from 1986. Actually, the USFS started scoping in 2004 but got sidelined by new agency planning rules. Since 2004, RwR has proposed to make the existing trail systems more useful (by adding short links and trails that parallel graded roads), but the USFS has told us to wait until travel planning begins after the LMP is revised. (Travel plans define which routes are open to motorized travel, as motorized travel is limited to designated routes on most public lands, with designated routes occupying far less than one percent of the area.)

Assuming that the LMP and travel plan each take a couple of years to complete, our proposals will have waited twenty years since 2004. What’s more concerning is that the draft LMP zones half of the acres as exclusively non-motorized via Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS) classification, and it’s the good half (generally the acres above 8,000′ that are away from graded roads). This zoning would prevent proposals for motorized trails (including e-bike trails) from even being entertained by the subsequent travel planning. Unless the USFS sticks with its current ROS, which zones ten-percent of the acres as non-motorized, then the agency is effectively telling us to wait until it’s too late, essentially punishing us for being patient instead of blazing unauthorized trails like other user groups have been rewarded for doing. On top of that, the draft LMP manages Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRAs) as non-motorized even though they contain most of the few singletracks remaining for motorized use. The 2001 “Roadless Area Conservation” rule was intended merely to prevent most road building, not to prevent motorized-trail building, let alone close existing trails.

ROS and IRA are among a half-dozen issues that RwR partnered with other OHV groups to request that the USFS revise in its draft LMP (see third attachment, which includes ROS maps more clear than what the USFS has provided). The partner groups are Castle Country OHV Association, Sage Riders Motorcycle Club, Utah OHV Association, and Utah Off-Roaders Alliance. Our request is modest considering that the draft LMP is more restrictive than the current LMP in almost every way. Apparently, the further restrictions don’t go far enough for the Grand Canyon Trust (GCT), which drafted its own LMP that they expect the USFS to carry forward as an alternative to analyze. Wilderness-expansion groups often develop their own alternatives, and agencies rarely carry them forward, often because the alternatives propose that agencies go beyond their legal authority. One can’t blame GCT for drafting its own LMP, as it makes sense for any group with over seven-million dollars in annual revenue and over twenty-million dollars in net assets. Our concern is their end game, for example, the GCT’s 2014 proposal to designate half of the La Sal Mountains as wilderness, and again it’s the good half (see fourth attachment). This wilderness would close the vast majority of trails to regular mountain-bike use despite that the USFS had just closed over twenty miles of trail to mountain biking in 2013. Even if Congress doesn’t designate more wilderness, GCT aims to make the USFS manage it as de facto wilderness by self-imposing an LMP that’s impossible to implement. Already the agency’s draft LMP is rather cumbersome when you consider the layers of regulation.

The joint comments with RwR’s partner groups would merely scale back the extent of new restrictions so that subsequent travel planning has a chance of resulting in a map that the public will actually follow. RwR will continue helping land managers to gain compliance of the travel rules and reduce conflicts between uses, but our success depends upon an adequate quantity, quality, and variety of trails. You can help by submitting similar comments to the USFS during this pre-scoping period. The agency has indicated that the documents won’t significantly change when scoping officially begins, and they will probably accept comments through February. While there’s plenty of time to flesh out your comments, we do recommend submitting them soon, as it would give the agency time to actually incorporate your suggestions. In fact, RwR will meet with USFS planners tomorrow to continue trying to work through these issues. If the revised LMP winds up lasting another forty years, it will deal with electric vehicles more so than gasoline-powered ones. The concerns will be less about noise and more about ensuring that vehicles emit sufficient sound to alert oncoming trail users!

BLM Travel Planning Statewide

With roughly ten-thousand miles of route at stake, RwR is engaging in all twelve of the Travel Management Areas (TMAs) where the BLM must reevaluate its 2008 Travel Management Plans (TMPs) per the 2017 settlement agreement. See the colored areas in the southeast half of the state (dark gray half.)

Note that BLM also plans to approve six TMPs in the northwest half of the state (light gray half), covering an equally-large area, but those six TMPs are not subject to deadlines of the settlement agreement. Scroll down the BLM’s webpage to find links for the TMAs where the agency has begun its reevaluation. Each link takes you to a planning page with a contact person who you can ask to put you on an “interested public” list to receive notification of comment periods. However most field offices don’t make those lists or notifications, so you should bookmark the planning page and periodically check when it was “last updated.”

Of the twelve TMAs, the BLM completed its first TMP covering the San Rafael Desert, designating 767 miles of route as open out of the 1,181 miles that BLM determined to exist prior to 2008 (although we know of additional routes that were missed, not to mention 80 miles of route permanently closed by the Dingell Act’s designation of Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness). Although the TMP closes some routes that were of high recreational value and low impact to natural or social resources, the new TMP can be refined in the future, so we accept the BLM’s decision. Despite that the new TMP closes over a third of the routes, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) appealed it. SUWA had signed the 2017 settlement agreement along with the OHV intervenors BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC), Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA), and Colorado OHV Coalition (COHVCO). During those settlement talks, all three groups relied heavily on consultation from RwR, as well as legal counsel from the venerable Paul Turcke. This year Paul changed career tracks, but thankfully the TPA, COHVCO, and RwR secured representation from Mark Ward of Balance Resources, a Utah nonprofit legal advocacy organization. Mark has nearly two decades of experience in public lands law. Although RwR doesn’t favor a litigious approach to land managers, wilderness-expansion groups do, and it’s important for OHV advocates to be at the table.

With the guidance of Balance Resources, including substantial work done pro bono, RwR / TPA / COHVCO intervened to defend the San Rafael Desert TMP from SUWA’s appeal, and we were joined by Emery County, the State of Utah, and BRC. All parties will be filing their arguments over the next few months. First, though, we successfully opposed SUWA’s petition for stay (which would have blocked the TMP from taking effect while the appeal is in process). All the intervenors contributed to opposing the stay so that BLM can start implementing its TMP, and RwR / TPA / COHVCO made the most detailed case. SUWA’s petition for stay was denied, so the public is free to enjoy the routes designated in the San Rafael Desert, but it’s important to follow them precisely. Mind you it’s important to Tread Lightly! on all public lands simply to maintain their health. But it’s particularly important in the San Rafael Desert as SUWA has collected and will continue collecting evidence to argue that the BLM failed to minimize negative impacts. We expect this claim to be made in every TMA, so everyone should visit the areas carefully to show that the currently-designated routes are generally sustainable. Further, we should volunteer to do trail work and education projects in these areas. Finally, we should work with BLM and county staff to help them include every route in their inventories before the agency even starts its formal scoping period. In fact, RwR can assist you toward this end, so don’t hesitate to contact us about any of the twelve TMAs.

BLM’s Utah Resource Advisory Council

I have served on the BLM’s Utah Resource Advisory Council (RAC) for the past couple of years, which primarily weighs in when the agency plans to charge fees for campground development or other services. RwR supports fees to cover such development or services when they’re needed to maintain the recreational opportunity and resource conditions. This year the BLM proposed to charge OHV users of Five Mile Pass a $10 fee that lasts until 2pm the following day, or an $80 annual pass that also covers Knolls Recreation Area (mostly sand dunes.)

Nearly half of the fees would go to law-enforcement patrols that are not eligible for FIG (state OHV grant) funds, but most of the remainder would go to facilities (mostly at the main trailheads) which are eligible for FIG funds. Therefore I suggested that the BLM charge $5 and get the rest from FIG, especially since Five Mile Pass has multiple entrance points and free alternatives nearby. However most of my fellow council members supported the $10 charge. Nevertheless I urge the BLM to apply for FIG funds, which can be combined with the $10 charges to provide more trail work beyond the basic patrol and trailhead services that the BLM has already pledged, resulting in a better product for visitors.

Fortunately the RAC did advise the BLM to offer a better deal on the annual pass, such as making the pass cover additional fee sites like Little Sahara Recreation Area (more and larger sand dunes), considering that other annual passes with comparable fees cover entire state-park and national-park systems. They even appointed me as the primary RAC contact for the BLM to develop its annual-pass proposal. Therefore I would like to hear ideas from all public-land visitors in the coming weeks. I look forward to working with the BLM’s new state director, Greg Sheehan. He will have big shoes to fill after the retirement of Ed Roberson. However Greg has a solid background including  twenty-five years in the Utah DNR, and can rely on many long-time BLM staff at the state office who do good work despite COVID-19 and even some earthquake damage, not to mention tectonic shifts in D.C. on a four-year cycle that seems to intensify over time.

Utah’s Fiscal Incentive Grant Program

In Utah’s history, one of the greatest developments for motorized trails is the Fiscal Incentive Grant (FIG) program resulting from H.B. 143, which enables land managers / local government / OHV organizations to do more trail work and other things that benefit responsible recreation. The FIG fund is already five times larger than the federal Recreational Trails Program (RTP) funds that are allocated for motorized trails in Utah. Last year, the FIG program started slowly and was even in jeopardy of replacement. This year the leadership of the Utah DNR and its Division of Parks and Recreation graciously hosted multiple meetings with RwR, Brett Stewart of Utah OHV Advocates, and Steven Hawkins of the Utah OHV Association. Thankfully they agreed to hire a grant administrator, to automatically allocate H.B. 143 funds to FIG each year, and to report annually on the Division’s spending of all other OHV funds outside of the RTP and FIG programs (nearly five-million dollars which goes to OHV-friendly state parks, law enforcement in and out of the parks, and the Division’s own OHV Program that trains trail hosts and loans heavy equipment among other services). This is a great start and, although we predict needing to create a position for a second grant administrator, we greatly appreciate the Division’s renewed focus on a competitive grant program that should achieve the best value for OHV taxpayers.

Now it’s up to land managers / local government / OHV organizations to put those funds to good use. Unlike many grant programs that can only pay for up to half of the proposed project, FIG funds can pay for most of the project if the proposal is sufficiently compelling. In fact, FIG funds can be used to cover the match that RTP grants require. In other words, although applicants must put some “skin in the game,” most of their work can be covered by grants. COVID-19 has increased visitation on public lands, especially by people who are new to backcountry settings, which calls for more trail work and education than ever. Applicants can request up to $12,500 through the quarterly grant cycle that ends January 15th, and higher amounts through the annual cycle that ends May 1st (apply here – stateparks.utah.gov/resources/grants.)

Contact the OHV grant administrator well in advance to refine your application. Also, feel free to ask me for preliminary feedback since I served on the grant review committee for eight years. Even though funding is spread statewide, FIG offers millions of dollars for a wide variety of projects, with projects ranging from a few thousand dollars to a few-hundred-thousand each. Land managers / local government / OHV organizations should team up to seize this unprecedented opportunity to improve trails and their surroundings.

The Path Worth Pursuing

On the proverbial trail, things are far from perfect, but they’d be worse without RwR’s moderating influence. Of course, life is sometimes less like two obstacles that need to be threaded, and more like two paths that demand committing to one or the other, lest you involuntarily impersonate a lawn dart (as I’ve done more than once). However on most issues, a middle path exists, and it’s worth pursuing despite attacks from both sides. We appreciate the many supporters of RwR and wish everyone a smooth ride in 2021.

Clif Koontz
Executive Director
Ride with Respect
www.ridewithrespect.org
395 McGill Avenue
Moab, Utah 84532
435-259-8334 land
201-741-0361 cell

 

 

Downloads

Ride with Respect 2020 Year in Review
2020-11-12 noise letter from Motorized Trails Committee
2020-12-18 RwR and other OHV groups comment on the Draft Forest Plan for the Manti-La Sal National Forest
2014 Grand Canyon Trust proposed wilderness in La Sal Mountains

 

 

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Big update! TPA Files Objections to Pike San Isabel Record of Decision

Rider on bike on mountainStill Fighting the Good Fight

The Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) is continuously working for you and after an 8-year long fight, we are nearing the finish line. The TPA has filed objections to the Pike San Isabel National Forest (PSINF) Record of Decision (ROD) Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS.) At this point, we have kept a number of routes open and opened a few that had been closed. We are not out of the woods yet, but we will continue to strive for positive outcomes!

A Little History

In 2012 various environmental groups including The Quiet Use Coalition, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, The Wilderness Society, WildEarth Guardians, and Rocky Mountain Wild sued the (PSINF) claiming they had not done the necessary Environment Assessment (EA) on hundreds of roads and trails within the six ranger districts encompassing all PSINF land East of the Continental Divide from Rampart Range to Walsenburg. In 2015 the PSINF settled and agreed to complete EA’s on all of the contested routes, and the scoping phase began shortly thereafter in 2016. Late in 2019, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was released with five possible alternatives that would determine the future of hundreds of motorized routes within the PSINF. Late in 2020, a Record of Decision (ROD) was released approving Alternative C which, along with some additions, has been fairly favorable to the motorcycle community.

Because the TPA has been leading the efforts to protect Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) recreation since this lawsuit began we can place objections to this final ROD. Defending off-highway motorcyclists and ALL OHV users’ rights to access public lands and ensure the USFS allots a fair and equitable amount of land to accommodate OHV use for the increased demand that it continues to experience is a fundamental part of the TPA’s mission.

Thank you!

This is your donation money at work and we appreciate your ongoing support! Our work will never be done – every day the TPA is monitoring countless issues that have an impact on how our public lands are managed. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the TPA to help continue this important work.

Excerpt from the letter:

Rocky Mountain Regional Office
Attn: Reviewing Officer
P.O. Box 18980 Golden, CO 80402

Sent via U.S. mail and electronic mail: r02admin-review@usda.gov.

Objections to DRAFT Record of Decision for the Pike and San Isabel National Forests Motorized Travel Management (MVUM) Analysis and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS)

Dear Reviewing Officer:

The following objections are being submitted regarding the Record of Decision (ROD) for implementing the selected alternative [Alternative C] for the Pike and San Isabel National Forests (PSINF) Public Motor Vehicle Use Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). We are submitting these objections on behalf of the Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) and the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO). The TPA and COHVCO have previously submitted comments relative to this project’s Draft EIS and Scoping comments on November 1, 2019. The TPA and COHVCO recognize and appreciate the substantial amount of work and effort that it has taken to accomplish this major milestone in the project.

In 2011, both the TPA and COHVCO joined the Pike and San Isabel National Forests as Intervenor Defendants in the lawsuit that began the MVUM Analysis Project. The TPA and COHVCO have both invested substantial financial resources since 2011 in the interest of maintaining access to the PSINF and United States Forest Service (USFS) lands. The TPA is an advocacy organization created to be a viable partner to public lands managers, working with the USFS and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to preserve the sport of motorized trail riding and multiple-use recreation. The TPA acts as an advocate for the sport and takes the necessary action to ensure that the USFS and BLM allocate a fair and equitable percentage of public lands access to diverse multiple-use trail recreational opportunities. COHVCO is a grassroots advocacy organization representing approximately 170,000 registered off-highway vehicle (OHV), snowmobile and 4WD users in Colorado seeking to represent, assist, educate, and empower all motorized recreationists in the protection and promotion of multiple-use and 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 TPA and COHVCO are referred to collectively in this correspondence as “The Organizations.” The Organizations offer the following comments, concerns and formal objections regarding the project and the recently released Draft ROD and FEIS.

We believe it is appropriate and imperative to once again point out that the current Forest Plan for the PSINF is critically out of date, lacks the framework for current land management and inadequately provides relevant management guidance for the growing needs and demand for multiple-use and motorized recreation, especially OHV recreational opportunities. The current Forest Plan did not foresee, and therefore does not account for, changes in technology such as e- bikes and a escalating growth of UTV/side-by-sides. Whereas the existing Forest Plan no longer contains “desired conditions” that are meaningful and realistic given the growth and expansion of the Front Range communities that border the PSINF and the associated needs of the citizens relying upon, using and recreating on the Forest. The Organizations would offer that subsequent planning documents, namely the South Rampart Travel Management Plan (SRTMP) prepared in 2011 more accurately reflects current and ongoing conditions and incorporates relevant and attainable desired conditions in addition to receiving substantial public support from affected user groups. One of the primary purposes of the SRMTP was to determine which motorized roads and trails in the South Rampart Planning Area of the PSINF were necessary to provide a diverse, functional and sustainable transportation system (similar to the purpose of this action). The SRTMP also sought to balance resource protection, public safety, current and anticipated future recreational use demands, and public and administrative access needs. Key issues that were already developed in the SRTMP and remain relevant to this action/project included1:

a. Trail sustainability and impacts of trail based recreation and dispersed camping to forest resources (i.e., soils, hydrology, wildlife, & vegetation).
b. Inadequate opportunities for trail-based recreation in the planning area.
c. Minimization of motorized/non-motorized user group conflicts.
d. Consistency of proposed uses with adjacent land uses and special management areas, including roadless areas and the Manitou Experimental Forest.

“Under [NEPA], an injury results not from the action authorized by the agency’s decision, but from the agency’s uninformed decision-making.” Comm. to Save Rio Hondo v. Lucero, 102 F.3d 445, 452 (10th Cir. 1996). Such is clearly the case here.

 

To read the entire Objections to DRAFT Record of Decision for the Pike and San Isabel National Forests Motorized Travel Management (MVUM) Analysis and Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) download the PDF here.

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The TPA Helps Ride with Respect Save Valuable Routes Southwest of Moab Utah

Bureau of Land Management
Moab Field Office
82 East Dogwood Avenue
Moab, UT 84532

Re: Comments on the Draft Environmental Assessment of the Canyon Rims Travel Management Area

Dear BLM Planning Team:

We appreciate the opportunity to comment on your draft Environmental Assessment of the Canyon Rims Travel Management Area (TMA). Of the four alternatives in the Canyon Rims draft EA, we believe that alternatives A and D are the only acceptable options for providing a modest quantity and quality of off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation opportunities, which is key to ensuring compliance and sustainable management of the area.

Moab Friends-For-Wheelin’ (MFFW) is a non-profit club founded in 2005 to bring four-wheel drive enthusiasts together and promote the pastime of four-wheeling to the community as well as other enthusiasts. MFFW has worked closely with the Moab offices of the BLM, SITLA, USFS, local landowners, and the community to promote responsible four-wheel drive recreation in the Moab area. MFFW has volunteered thousands of hours and thousands of dollars to various projects such as trail maintenance and restoration, community service, and effective communication with other four-wheel drive organizations as well as public land managers.

The Colorado Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) is an advocacy organization created to be a viable partner to public lands managers, working with the USFS and BLM to preserve the sport of motorized trail riding and multiple-use recreation. The TPA acts as an advocate for the sport and takes the necessary action to ensure that the USFS and BLM allocate a fair and equitable percentage of public lands access to diverse multiple-use trail recreational opportunities. The TPA actively supports Ride with Respect’s efforts in the greater Moab area and have partnered on our comments concerning the Canyon Rims draft EA.

Ride with Respect (RwR) was founded in 2002 to conserve shared-use trails and their surroundings. Since then, over 750 individuals have contributed money or volunteered time to the organization. RwR has performed 20,000 hours of high-quality trail work on public lands, most of which has been in the Moab Field Office. RwR participated greatly in the Moab Resource Management Plan revision from 2003 through 2008. RwR also provided consultation to the TPA and other OHV signatories of the 2017 settlement agreement.

The 2017 settlement agreement states that the existing Travel Management Plans (TMPs) will remain in effect until the BLM issues new TMPs for the eleven 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.

In the case of the Moab Field Office, the 2008 RMP limited motorized travel to designated routes in the Canyon Rims TMA for the first time. Prior to the 2008 RMP, roughly half of the Canyon Rims TMA was open to cross-country travel, while the other half was limited to existing roads and trails. Limiting travel to a few hundred miles of routes thereby limited the footprint of impact to less than 1% of the Canyon Rims TMA.

The Canyon Rims draft EA defines its baseline as the 272.5 miles of routes designated open by the 2008 RMP. These designated routes excluded 21.7 miles of Class D roads. Unlike other counties, San Juan County claimed only the subset of roads that it recommends to be available for motorized travel by the public. Many other roads exist. In fact, a quick review of satellite images clearly indicates that the Canyon Rims TMA has several times more existing roads than what is currently designated open by the 2008 RMP. Further, San Juan County didn’t attempt to inventory non-road routes including wash bottoms, slickrock routes, and narrower trails for ATV or motorcycle use. In relying on San Juan County’s recommended transportation system, the 2008 RMP didn’t consider hundreds of miles of routes that existed in the Canyon Rims TMA.

Although Alternative D may exclude only 26 miles of routes that are currently designated open, it excludes over ten times that amount of routes which were historically used by motor vehicle in the Canyon Rims TMA. Although nearly all of the 26 miles were not found on the ground by the BLM, it 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).

In addition to the many routes excluded from the baseline of the Canyon Rims draft EA, Alternative C excludes 42 miles of routes that are currently designated open. Some of these 42 miles are routes that provide unique viewpoints, connectivity for looping opportunities off of graded roads, and portions of the San Juan OHV Trail System. These routes simply lack the negative impacts upon natural or social resources to warrant blocking them off, straining the BLM’s relations with members of the public, and increasing traffic on the remaining routes.

In the Canyon Rims TMA, the existing TMP is already restrictive, and Alternative A would meet the BLM’s legal obligations including the 2017 settlement agreement. Nevertheless, we would accept Alternative D since Section 3.1.3 states that “The construction of new routes is not in the scope of this project; however, the addition of new routes is part of the operation and management of the overall travel network.” After all, the spirit of the 2017 settlement agreement was to provide a path forward rather than to mire the BLM in excessive analysis.

Considering the context of all existing routes in the Canyon Rims TMA, and the restrictions already made there in 2008, we urge the BLM to minimize additional route closures by choosing alternatives A or D. Thanks for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Jeff Stevens, President
Moab Friends-For-Wheelin’

Chad Hixon, Executive Director
Trails Preservation Alliance

Clif Koontz, Executive Director
Ride with Respect

 

Moab Friends for Wheelin, Trails Preservation Alliance, Ride with Respect logos

 

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