Bruce Babbitt, former Secretary of the Interior (Clinton Admin), once said, “The Planning Process IS the Product.” After spending the last few weeks on various federal units working events and reviewing their OHV management prescriptions, I could not disagree more with Babbitt’s statement.
It has been my experience over the last 22 years that often times travel planning processes have and are being used as a tool to restrict or ban legitimate OHV use. In other cases, agency staff has crafted plans in a futile effort to avoid lawsuits from environmental groups. Sometimes, federal officers have worked hard to designate a functional trail system that both protects the resource while providing a quality OHV recreational experience, but don’t have the resources to implement the plan.
Sadly, the common thread between the aforementioned planning scenarios is that it has diverted agency staff and resources away from what I feel the goal of any travel planning process should be – on the ground management of the trail. What good is a planning effort if there is no staff or money to maintain, construct, or reconstruct a trail?
Sure, planning efforts are important as they help guide or direct the unit when it comes to management of the area. However, it appears that in some cases…the planning effort has simply become a mental squirrel cage where people look busy (and they are) as the previous planning process has led to yet another planning process that drains precious staff time away from actually getting out-on-the-ground and taking care of the trail.
I think it would be wise for agency staff and stakeholders to remember that the travel planning product is on-the-ground management of our route system vs. an endless cycle of planning.
# # #