Wednesday, July 21, 2010

OHV Cost Recovery Fight on Eldorado NF

The Recreation HQ has been working with AMA D36 and others to address the issue of exorbitant fees being charged to clubs for permitted events by some FS units under the guise of “cost recovery.”
PHOTO: The General riding one of the event trails for the 2006 Fools Gold Enduro

The Eldorado Fight was recently highlighted in this Sac Bee article

The public process for the 2006 Cost Recovery Rule actually started back in 1999. BRC urged its members to comment as well as submitting its own formal comments.

2000 BRC Cost Recovery Article and Concerns

As some of you know, the focus of the aforementioned cancelled permitted OHV events is on the Eldorado National Forest. The General along with leaders of CERA and AMA D36 met with the Forest Supervisor to express our strong concerns and objections to the unit’s misuse of cost recovery to essentially bankrupt several OHV clubs.

The Forest did not really have an answer to our questions about why their cost recovery charges are so extreme when other federal units (Mendocino NF, Cow Mountain, Chappie-Shasta, and CCMA when it was open, etc.) with AMA-sanctioned permitted events have more reasonable charges.

The General will say what the Forest was afraid to state. HQ believes the high cost being charged to clubs is because there is a nationally-recognized anti-OHV leader who is a vexatious litigant. She lives on the Forest and uses her green legal clout as a club to beat the Forest Service into submission with legal action or threats of legal action unless the agency uses cost recovery to put the clubs out-of-business.

Description of Vexatious Litigant

The issue of cost recovery is complex. Riders must understand that the issuance of permits for most recreational events is totally discretionary. At the end of the day, the FS does not have to issue a permit if it does not want to. HQ does not believe that litigation regarding the Eldorado issue has judicial merit at this time. Rather, OHVers should look to resolve this issue via regulatory reform or political pressure.

Here are several suggestions.

1 – AMA, BRC, and other national groups should seek amendments or revisions to the cost recovery rule that might allow the agency more flexibility when faced with a vexatious litigant or other adverse circumstance.

2 – Congress might have a role in passing legislation to address exorbitant fees

3 – Congress should pass EAJA reform to discourage and not reward vexatious litigants
with taxpayer funded awards.

HQ is certain there are answers - albeit not easy ones - to this issue. OHV clubs that use the Eldorado NF are seeing the ugly side of OHV Wars. Enviros have perfected the fine art of green litigation to stop OHV recreation (and other uses such as farming in the Central Valley, logging on federal lands, etc.).

BRC working with other OHV partners have been and will continue to fight back. One recent victory regarding TMR is noted in the MIC press release below:

MIC News Release on recent TMR victory where trails and campgrounds were reopened

Just how the Eldorado NF cost recovery issue is resolved is yet to be determined. One thing for sure is that the OHV community cannot give up and let the extreme enviros succeed in kicking us out of the Forest.

Thanks for your commitment and service!