Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nov 3 Election, Land Use Lessons, and OHV Politics

The General has received a number of private emails from riders who are asking what, if any, land-use lessons can be learned from yesterday’s political earthquakes in Virginia and New Jersey.

The easy answer would be to say that yesterday’s vote was a referendum on the Obama Administration’s policies that seek to expand the role of government, increase taxes, and decrease people’s freedom. Any political commentator could say that.

Rather, I believe the vote was really a political shot fired across the bow of legislators and bureaucrats in general regardless of party affiliation. As it relates to federal or state land agencies, the “folks” clearly said they are mad as hell and not going to take it any longer when it comes to imposing top-down “We Under the Dome Know Best” programs that ignore local publics, increase bureaucracy, assault family traditions, and negatively impact the economy.

An example of where a local government and riders are standing up and fighting for reasonable access is in Shasta County where the Shasta Trinity NF has proposed to close almost 100% of single-track motorcycle trails and ATV trails less than 50 inches in width. Also, the Forest has proposed to close thousands of miles of level 3 dirt roads to non-street legal OHV use.


Nov. 4 Op Ed - Forest Shifts Stance on OHV Road Policy?

I believe there are two separate yet related messages that were created by yesterday’s electoral tsunami. One message is for riders and the other for land-agencies.

RIDERS – Never give up. Be respectful, yet bold, in your advocacy for trail access to public lands especially as it relates to travel management.

LAND AGENCIES – Don’t force ill-conceived travel management plans down the throats of local OHV users and county governments. Many TMR plans have little to do with “travel management.” Instead, they are simply being used as a political tool to effect landscape level closures in an attempt to please the anti-access lobby. Land managers should not be afraid to push the “reset button” if they find themselves with a plan that does not have the support of the local OHV community or county residents.

Maybe it is time for land agencies and users to take a time-out in TMR and work in a genuine collaborative process that blends the requirement to address legitimate resource concerns with the need to respect traditional recreational access to public lands.

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