Friday, January 19, 2018

Don't Use Recreation Access as a Political Pawn in Shutdown Battle

2013 Shutdown Closure Sign
BLM Samoa Dunes Recreation Area

By Don Amador


If a shutdown occurs, outdoor recreationists could face a loss of access to federal lands. We all remember the shutdown in 2013 where OHVers and others were met with a confusing array of closure signs and inconsistent messages/enforcement. 

2013 Shutdown Gate Closure at OR Dunes NRA
Photo Credit: Save the Riders Dunes

The 2013 shutdown forced the BLM to cancel an AMA sanctioned motorcycle event.  On another unit, a scheduled cleanup day sponsored by OHV enthusiasts was cancelled.

Should we expect that, once again, “closed to the public” signs will be put up at the entrances to many, if not most, developed campgrounds on FS and BLM lands?  Some units could also post closed signs on the trails.

Although federal recreation programs get a tiny portion of the budget, they are what the public sees and uses.  Regardless of who is in political power, elected officials should not use agency recreation staff and the users as political pawns.

Let’s hope that they find common ground and avoid a shutdown.

# # # 

Don Amador writes from his office in Oakley, California on OHV recreation and land-use issues.  Don has 28 years of experience in OHV-related recreation management and advocacy.  Don is President of Quiet Warrior Racing, his recreation consulting business.  Don is a contractor to the BlueRibbon Coalition/ where he serves as their Western Representative.  Don was a 2016 inductee into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.  

Don may be reached by email at:

Sunday, January 14, 2018

OP-ED - I Have a Trail Dream

By Don Amador
Jan. 14, 2018


In 2001, I wrote an op-ed entitled; I Have a [Trail] Dream.   My dream back then was that someday all trail users will get along and respect each other's personal choice of recreational activity.

I had a belief there are many places where diverse recreational interests have and do manage to use public lands in a cooperative fashion.  That opinion was based on my personal experiences riding multi-use trails in places such as Moab, UT, and the Tahoe National Forest in CA.

That post 1990s-era “Timber War” missive was based on what I saw as an initial thawing of the
 “political ice” that was the foundation of the 30 year-old battle between hardcore environmental groups and conservative land-use interests.

It was also the early dawning of stakeholder meetings and/or collaborative efforts between diverse user groups and land agencies.  I believe those primal collaborations established a framework for the current and widely embraced stakeholder process where traditional multiple-use/environmental interests  seek to find common ground on public land recreation and resource management issues.

Since 2001, there has been a rapid growth in several recreation activities such as mountain-biking or eBike/eMTB use that may have been or need to be more substantively engaged in the collaborative process.  Other eTrail vehicle manufacturers and users also need to participate.

Side x Side enthusiasts are another group that is often not engaged and hence under-represented in the “early scoping” stakeholder process for land-use planning efforts.

User engagement is critical since there are a number of local, state, and federal land agencies or other stakeholders that have biased/misguided/outdated views, regulations, or policies related to these new sport modalities.

The Outdoor Industry Association’s 2017 Outdoor Recreation Economy Report states that outdoor recreation generates $887 billion dollars in consumer spending and employs 7.6 million Americans.

That information highlights the fact that recreation in most of the country is the number one use of public lands.  It also illustrates the need for trail users of all types to work in a collaborative manner to find common ground on today’s pressing issues such as eBike use on mechanized trails, enhanced MTB trail opportunities, creating legal riding and/or touring routes for SxSs, and securing the commensurate level of funding from legislators for managing all forms of motorized and non-motorized recreation.

The English Oxford Dictionary defines segregation as the action or state of setting someone or something apart from others.

I believe that as the country celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day, diverse trail interests and other recreation stakeholders should commit to participate in solution-oriented collaborative efforts where finding common ground is the goal.

Maybe that dream I had in 2001 will become reality.  It’s up to us.

# # #

Don Amador writes from his office in Oakley, California on OHV recreation and land-use issues.  Don has 28 years of experience in OHV-related recreation management and advocacy.  Don is President of Quiet Warrior Racing, his recreation consulting business.  Don is a contractor to the BlueRibbon Coalition/ where he serves as their Western Representative.  Don was a 2016 inductee into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.  
Don may be reached by email at:

Thursday, December 28, 2017


Don Amador Enjoying Visit to Prairie City SVRA

Dec. 28, 2017
By Don Amador

*Permission to reprint or repost is hereby given.  Photos of Don Amador avail. by request


Reflecting back on the hard fought “SB249” victory including tough negotiations which - at the 11th hour of the legislative session – produced an amended bill to basically reauthorize the current CA OHV program and give it permanent status by removing the sunset clause, I am reminded that our success was actually the result of a two-year process where State Park leadership started to substantively engage with the OHV community in November, 2015.

The genesis of that early engagement was the Park Transformation Process.  Agency leadership actively sought input from OHV enthusiasts, club leaders, professional consultants, and partners such as the Forest Service and BLM.  Often that input was gleaned from large turnouts by OHV enthusiasts at various transformation public meetings.

That information and feedback helped State Park leadership better understand how the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) Division and its team of knowledgeable, professional and dedicated scientists, administrators, engineers, trail specialists, law enforcement, and planners manage a holistic and sustainable motorized recreation program that is often cited as a national model.

During the SB249 effort, OHV enthusiasts responded en masse to various legislative alerts to send letters, emails, or make phone calls to their elected representatives in Sacramento.   OHV user engagement was largely responsible for making “Save the OHV Program” the number one political issue in the Capitol Building.

Based on my 28 years of OHV advocacy working on legislation, land-use campaigns, commissions, resource advisory councils, etc., I have listed the key tenets in the order of the role they had in turning SB249 around and ensuring that the OHMVR Division and its skillsets were not lost in the transformation process.

One – Having an engaged State Park leadership team (with support from the Governor) over the last 2 years that networked with OHV enthusiasts, partners, consultants, and lobbyists.

Two – Having grassroots activists, clubs, and individual OHVers send in comments and make phone calls when asked - may be the most important key as they made “OHV Recreation” the number issue noted by legislators and their staff in Sacramento over the last 12 months.

Three - Having a professional OHV team of consultants, OHV commissioners, lobbyists, and grassroots leaders that embraced the challenge and utilized user engagement to champion our OHV program before legislators, conservation leaders, media, and the administration. 

2017 shows that active participation by local OHV clubs and individuals is a critical element in the land-use equation.  2018 will require similar dedication by the OHV community to ensure the park transformation process honors its commitment to keeping the OHMVR Division intact and to address a myriad of other local, state, and federal recreation planning processes, legislation, and legal challenges.

2017 proves that now more than ever, you are in charge of your own OHV destiny.

# # #

Don Amador writes from his office in Oakley, California on OHV recreation and land-use issues.  Don has 28 years of experience in OHV-related recreation management and advocacy.  Don is President of Quiet Warrior Racing, his recreation consulting business.  Don is a contractor to the BlueRibbon Coalition/ where he serves as their Western Representative.  Don was a 2016 inductee into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.  Don may be reached by email at:

Monday, October 23, 2017

JOIN the Fight - BE a FORCE for GOOD - A Special Request from Don

JOIN the Fight - Be a Force for Good

Last year at this time, I was inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame where I joined fellow inductees, Malcolm Smith, Ed Waldheim, Clark Collins, Del Albright, and many others.  I was humbled and deeply honored by Dave Pickett as he gave my introduction to the ORMHOF.  Thanks also to the riders who cut short clips for use in the video below!

My Induction Video – A Force for Good (short segments from OHV and Industry Icons)

On October 30, the ORMHOF will be inducting the Class of 2017 - - Dave Ekins, Cliff Flannery, Bob Gordon, and Bill Savage.  I want to send them sincere congratulations.

At the event, I told the ORMHOF that I GOT INVOLVED BECAUSE I DIDN’T LIKE SEEING TRAILS CLOSED and I fight because I want current and future generations to have the same joy on the trail that I had growing up.

I also thanked BRC for giving me the opportunity to represent them for the last 27 years.  I wake up every day with the fire in my belly to fight for trail access.

As part of the run-up to the ORMHOF event, I want to urge those OHVers who are not members of the BlueRibbon Coalition/ (BRC) to JOIN.  BRC champions access to sustainable trail-based recreation on federal lands throughout the country.

As you know, memberships are the lifeblood of any organization especially non-profit OHV advocacy groups such as BRC.

If you are not already a BRC member, you can join either at the 1 year premium level and get  a Trail Tech discount card or take advantage of the special 2 year membership offer that is co-sponsored by Rocky Mountain MC/ATV where they send you a $25 dollar gift certificate when you purchase a 2 year membership. 

Link to BRC Membership

Also, I urge you to send in a donation to the ORMHOF in support for their long-standing efforts to recognize and honor icons and heroes of the off-road community.

Link to ORMHOF

Thanks to the ORMHOF for all they do and to all of you who support OHV recreation on public lands!!!

Don Amador

Sunday, August 20, 2017

OHV Meets "Challenge" of 21st Century at Torrance Commission Meeting

The recent CA OHV Commission meeting/tour in the LA area made me Trail Proud and highlighted why the OHV community (consultants, clubs, lobbyists, industry, partners, supporters, agency, advocates, et al) should take pride in how this highly popular outdoor activity has matured over the last 30 years into a sport that has effective professional and volunteer representation at the grassroots, administrative, legal, and political levels.

CA OHV Commission Meeting in Torrance, CA

I feel it is important to share with you my quick takeaways from the last two days.  So, I will break them down into a few of the most important topics.

Reauthorization of the CA OHV Program – OHV’s collective efforts over the last 7 months was acknowledged by legislative leads from State Parks and the Governor’s Office when they stated for the record that the administration could simply not support Senator Allen’s SB249 as written because it was too complex and had too many unachievable requirements.   Instead they are using the current SB742 language as the basis for reauthorization and meeting with Senator Allen to review potential language that might address his concerns without destroying the program.  We should see the results of this effort over the course of the next two weeks as the legislative sausage-making draws to a close for 2017.

State Park/Administration Leads Give Update on Reauthorization Process

State Parks Transformation Process - As many of you know, there has been an ongoing process over the last 2 years or more by State Parks to try and modernize the State Park System (both motorized and non-motorized units) to make it more streamlined, relevant, and responsive to the public.  27 years ago when I started my OHV career, the OHMVR program was considered more of a bother than an important member of the Parks’ family.  Based on that past history, many in OHV had concerns that the OHMVR Division/Program would lose its identity and specialized skills if it was integrated into the “Family.”

L to R - Randy Short, Commissioner CA Boating and Waterways - Paul Slavik, Commissioner CA OHV Program - Don Amador, Trail Guy

To Parks’ credit, their leadership listened to those concerns and made a substantive effort to learn about how OHV recreation (and our powersports sister agency – Boating and Waterways) has become a critical and important factor in the statewide recreation opportunity spectrum.  

Presentation at Urban State Park in LA

In fact, commission and executive staff from the CA Department of Boating and Waterways were at the OHV commission meeting/tour.  This represents Parks’ commitment to cross-pollenate (i.e. better appreciate and utilize) the skills, staff, and other resources that exist in the various motorized and non-motorized State Park programs.

LAPD Off-Road Patrol talks about their Partnership with the OHV Program

 The commission tour and meeting which largely featured how Parks (both motorized and non-motorized) is working to achieve those aforementioned transformation goals and objectives.

Preparing Youth for Service 

Youth Movement – The meeting/tour also highlighted how OHV recreation and Parks is playing an important role in serving the children and teens of South LA.  Attendees had the privilege to tour the Challenger Boys and Girls Club in South LA and see the many youth development programs they manage.  One of those programs is the National Youth Project Using Minibikes (NYPUM) that uses small dirt-bikes to teach self-esteem and life values.

Challengers Club Director Talks About NYPUM Training Site

MYPUM was founded in 1993 and is supported by the American Honda Motor Company.  It is managed by the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps in Boston, MA.

We also learned about a recent field trip where youth from the NYPUM program got to ride dirt-bikes at Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreation Area… they had a blast!

Closing Personal Observation – It was sort of an emotional time for me at the commission meeting that was being held at the Honda Museum since it was several of their Rider Education Program leads (Paul Slavik and Charlie Keller) in the early 1990s that helped mentor me in the early part of my OHV advocacy and trail stewardship career. 

Over the years, I put a lot miles on a non-factory version of this Honda XR600

 As a member and former chairman of the OHV commission (circa mid/late 1990s), I was proud of that oversight body’s growth and professionalism over the years that was noted by several folks I talked with at the meeting.  I also want to commend Commission Chair Cabral, other commissioners, agency staff, and partners for their ongoing efforts to champion environmentally sound OHV recreation for current and future generations.

OHV must remain ever vigilant.  But on occasion, it is important for us to celebrate the many positive steps that we have accomplished over the last 30-50 years.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

SB 249 Hearing Update with Video of Hearing - Must See OHV TV

OHV Supporters Line Up to Speak in in Favor of the Currrent OHV Program
and in Opposition to SB249

SB 249 Hearing Update (Video of Hearing) – Many OHVers have heard the term to describe the ugly process of legislation as “sausage-making.”  The following 45 min. video (thanks to our OHV lobby team for making this video available!) gives the general OHV community a good peek into the dark work of land-use politics.  Having been engaged in land use politics for the past 27 years at the state and federal level, this video (OHV starts at 50:20) starting with SB249 sponsor, Senator Ben Allen, illustrates the political spin of trying to cast the bill as a pro-OHV bill that simply wants to basically reauthorize the current OHV program by adding just a few simple amendments.

LINK to SB249 on my FB Page

After Sen. Allen’s presentation you will find environmental representatives that make false declarative statements against the OHV program and by inference … Division staff.

At 1:03:23, you will listen to OHV lobbyist, Terry McHale, strongly defend the current OHV program and highlight SB249’s fatal flaws.  He highlights the fact that the program is a National Model and that SB249 was created in a vacuum without input from OHV.  Terry also points out that SB249 places unreasonable environmental standards on SVRAs (which may even extend to other “units” of the system which include FS/BLM/County riding areas). He is a good friend of OHV and one of our best advocates in Sacto. 

At 1:08:45, I highlight my concerns about the legal mine field laid by SB249 and the fiscal impacts it would have on the program… if the program continues at all in a SB 249-based program.  I also join Terry in making a commitment to work with Sen. Allen and the proponents in a bipartisan manner to address remaining issues and concerns.

At 1:11, a representative for rural farm workers stated his opposition to SB249 because of the potential impacts to the OHV grants program.

At 1:13, you will see various pro-OHV representatives from rural counties, OHV industry, OHV clubs, and others speak in opposition to SB249.  Am very proud of the OHV Coalition!

At 1:16, the vice chair (a rural legislator and OHVer) restates the fact the SB249 had no real stakeholder engagement and that the bill could impact OHV areas in his district and also impact motorized access to non-motorized recreation.  Other legislators weighed in as well.

Maybe the most important thing at the hearing happened at the end when Sen. Allen made a commitment to “work” in a more substantive manner with rural legislators and OHV representatives to resolve issues.   The bill did pass with an 8-5 vote, but that vote was based on future meetings with affected parties to resolve issues.  This battle is far from over.  Thanks for taking time to watch this video!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

OP-ED - Rebuttal to CNPS's Anti-OHV Political Campaign (SB 249) Article

Hillside Restoration Project - Carnegie SVRA

July 12, 2017
By Don Amador

*Permission is hereby granted to reprint article

Rebuttal to CNPS Vol. 47 (July – Sept. 2017) Pro – SB 249 Political Campaign Article: Environmental Damage from OHV Activity is Outpacing California’s Ability to Repair It


This is a response to a recent California Native Plant Society (CNPS) anti-OHV political campaign (SB 249) article that was referenced (page 22) in the official California Department of Parks and Recreation Weekly Digest published on July 7, 2017.

SB 249 was crafted in the dark of night by the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) and a small group of extreme environmental groups over the course of the last two years without OHV involvement. At this time, not one OHV organization supports SB 249.

The bill fundamentally redirects this environmentally sound, highly successful and nationally acclaimed OHV program - with a recreation focus - to a non-OHV program with a preservation focus that relies on lawsuits and trail closures as primary “management” tools.

Engineered OHV Trail with OHV Bridge to Protect Stream Course
Eldorado NF - Supported by CA OHV Grant Program

Since the creation of the California OHV program with the passage of the Chappie-Z’Berg OHV Act in 1971, OHV leaders have played an important role as stakeholders each time the program has come up for sunset review and reauthorization.  OHV leadership has a wide variety of expertise in all issues relating to OHV recreation, both technical and environmental, with specific knowledge on the interaction between state and federal land management processes.

Sediment Catch Basin - Rubicon Trail
Collaborative Project between CA OHV Grant Program, Eldorado County, Eldorado NF
and OHV Recreationists

Entire sections of SB 249 significantly alter priorities in ways that are obviously unacceptable to active California recreationists. There are also numerous examples of incorrect definitions, calls for unnecessary reports and demands for duplicative agency consultation that portray a lack of understanding of the interplay already required to create best management practices for areas that host OHV recreation.

OHV Travel Management Sign - Carnegie SVRA

It is clear that CNPS and partners crafted this bill with a goal of unduly hampering and purposely setting roadblocks to a program that is world renowned for its existing high standards with regards to both recreation opportunities and environmental conditions. They want the motorized parks to be held to an environmental standard equal to the non-motorized parks – an absurdity at every level.

CA OHV Grant Funded Restoration Project
Tahoe NF

Furthermore there is no accountability for either reliably foreseen or unanticipated consequences of the drastic measures called for in the bill. Based on estimates from DPR and OHV experts, the magnitude of the costs to the state for land restoration and mitigation for federal, city and county lands, as called for by SB 249, could range from $11M to $20M per year.  Expected legal liability cost estimates could be in the tens of millions of dollars per year.

SB 249 focuses solely on management of natural and cultural resources while ignoring important recreation-related water quality and soil erosion mitigation measures and trail facility maintenance activities.

Engineered Contour OHV Trail
Carnegie SVRA

SB 249 contains errors in the description of adaptive management as it is used in conjunction with a monitoring program. To those experienced in land policy, adaptive management is an ongoing process of evaluation leading to changes in operations to improve on-the-ground conditions. Many components are part of this process, although the bill stresses solely natural and cultural resources.

Engineered OHV Trail with Rolling Dip and Sediment Catch Basin
Eldorado NF

OHV stakeholders believe that water quality, erosion and sedimentation evaluations are equally critical, although none of these important issues are mentioned. Furthermore, natural and cultural resources are mentioned many times in the bill without adequate definition which will only lead to confusion in future decisions.

CA OHV Grant Funded Meadow Restoration Project
Stanislaus NF

SB 249 seeks to prohibit use of existing roads in state vehicular recreation areas that were created by previous land owners. The bill would require the state to compile reports of accidents, citations and other infractions from all areas of the state, including federal lands, where off-road recreation occurs. This is a burden placed on no other unit of state parks, the information is not currently collected by state parks, nor is it required by any federal agency. Furthermore there is no justification for the need for this report, leading OHV leadership to conclude this is an unwarranted data collection effort that will be used by SB 249 proponents to discredit public land agencies and off-road recreationists.

CA OHV Grant Funded Multi-Use Trail
Eldorado NF

SB 249 requires the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) Division to change its purpose from managing for sustainable off-road recreation to primarily managing for non-recreation focused on the protection of natural and cultural resources.

Specialized Equipment to Maintain Trails
Supported by CA OHV Grant Program

SB 249 seeks to portray and require restoration work to be done in an absolute fashion and be fully mitigated no matter the cause of the damage. Wildfires, earthquakes, rain and other weather phenomena can cause considerable damage, yet the effect of this damage is not differentiated from ongoing maintenance due to OHV activities. Other state parks are not responsible for acts of Mother Nature and it is inappropriate to place that burden on this program and this division. Minimizing impact to land from all forms of human interaction, whether through motorized or non-motorized activities is a goal already undertaken by all park units to the extent possible.

Sanitation Facilities to Protect Water Quality - Supported by CA OHV Grants
Rubicon Trail - Eldorado NF

SB 249 adds numerous agencies for consultation and written reports as requirements to be produced, which does nothing to improve environmental conditions on the ground. The redirected time will make performing environmental activities and restoration difficult, be extremely time consuming and add a considerable cost consideration for all entities concerned when there is no indication that anything is amiss in the current program.

CA OHV Grant Funded Restoration Project 
Stanislaus NF

The OHMVR Division does much more than manage State Vehicular Recreation Areas (SVRAs).  Its efforts include everything from law enforcement to supporting the economic viability of rural counties.  The program also supports OHV recreation on lands managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and counties.

CA OHV Grant Program Supports County LE/Search and Rescue Programs

Again, I believe the regulatory mandates and related compliance requirements place the entire program (SVRAs and units managed by the USFS/BLM/counties) in both legal and fiscal jeopardy.  The legislation creates a target rich environment for future litigation based on the alleged failure of the OHVMR Division and other units to comply with a host of new and unwarranted regulations and reporting schedules.

OHV organizations are urging legislators and the Governor to support reauthorization of the current program that was substantially improved upon 10 years ago in a bipartisan manner under the leadership of Senator Darrell Steinberg (SB 742).

Don Amador was a member of the 2007 bipartisan legislative team that drafted SB742 upon which the current OHV program is based.  Don works as a consultant to the BlueRibbon Coalition/  Don is president of Quiet Warrior Racing, a recreation consulting business.  Don is a 2016 inductee into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.  Don was also an OHMVR Commissioner (1994-2000) Don may be reached by email at: