Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chamber of Commerce Joins Fight at the OR Dunes

The "Future" of OHV at OR Dunes if You Don't Join the Fight
The Recreation HQ wants to remind fans of the OR Dunes to send in your comment letters by Jan. 24, 2013.  BRC has created a letter generator to make it easy to send in comments.  They will be routed to the Forest Service official email address and you should get a confirmation that your letter was received.
Direct Link to BRC’s OR Dunes Letter Generator (you can add your own specific comments about how you use and enjoy the Dunes)
Also, HQ wants to let you know that a number of businesses and/or their associations have sent in letters about how important OHV recreation is to the local economy.
Roseburg Area Chamber of Commerce Comment Letter
Again, please send in your comment letter and fwd this alert to your rider network.  If you are a business that depends on OHV recreation at the Dunes… please have all your employees send in a comment letter.
Let’s all continue the fight to protect responsible OHV recreation at the OR Dunes!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

CODE RED OR DUNES ALERT - Comment Letters Needed Today!

The Recreation HQ is issuing its first CODE RED Action Alert for 2013.  HQ is asking all riders and OHV businesses that depend on recreational access to the OR Dunes, to STOP what you are doing and take 2 minutes to send a comment letter to the Forest Service’s travel planning process at the OR Dunes. OHV dune enthusiasts from across the county (even Europe and Asia) make the OR Dunes a destination site to visit.  Active military often spend their entire leave with their families and friends at the dunes.

Between 1972 and 2011, the acreage available for open OHV use has been reduced from 28,000 acres down to just below 6,000 acres.  Just 20 percent of the NRA is available for legal OHV use today.  Over time, that number will dwindle to practically nothing if you don’t act now.

BRC is making it easy for you (and your network) to send in a comment letter which is due January 24, 2013.  Anti-access groups are flooding the agency with requests to close the dunes to OHV --- we must blunt that attack with our own counter-offensive.  HQ understands that the agency is counting each closure-oriented form email as one distinct letter.  We will demand the same treatment.

BRC Action Alert with link to Letter Generator – the generator will send letter to the Forest Service

OHV is not alone in our battle for access at the OR Dunes.  Coos County has joined us in the fight for responsible access for our families and passed a resolution in Dec.

Coos County Resolution in Support of OHV Recreation


Douglas and Lane Counties are also considering passing resolutions that favor responsible recreation and resource management at the dunes.

Again, please send in your comment letter today and ask your riding and business network to do the same.


The Recreation HQ




Wednesday, January 9, 2013

"Minimization" Chapters Needed in Federal Travel Plans

Yesterday, HQ posted an overview on the issue of “minimization” as addressed (or not addressed) in the recent court decision on the Stanislaus NF travel plan.   This rather new and apparent successful legal argument being used by environmental law firms should be a clarion wake-up call to federal agencies who are in the middle (or just getting started) of travel planning efforts.

For example,  there is a federal unit on the west coast that recently released a DEIS where there is only one or two sentences that loosely address the issue of minimizing motorized use impacts to the environment. 

In light of the many “minimization” lawsuits that have or will be filed, HQ believes that the Forest Service (and BLM for that matter) should devote an entire chapter to analysis of minimizing OHV impacts. 

That analysis should include any post Nixon-era land management decisions that already minimized OHV use or user conflicts per directives in his executive order 11644.  Other efforts such as signing that directs non-motorized users to non-motorized areas, etc. should be considered as well.

Nixon Executive Order 11644


If OHV and the agency does not get a handle on the minimization issue… HQ believes that OHV recreation could become so minimalized over the next 10-20 years that it could functionally cease to exist -- as we know it today -- on federal lands.


Stay tuned on this issue as the fight for OHV recreation continues in 2013.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Stanislaus Court Decision and "Minimization"

By now, many OHVers, federal agents, and other observers of motorized travel management have likely heard about the most recent federal court decision in Northern California.  This time the court struck down the Stanislaus NF 2009 motorized travel management decision.  Contrary to enviro spin, the court largely upheld the decision against the green’s standard boilerplate NEPA attack. However, the Achilles heel appears to be the agency's failure to articulate the way in which it applied the "minimization criteria" first outlined in a 1972 Executive Order signed by President Nixon.  This "minimization argument" is the anti-access weapon du jour and it has become very powerful.

BRC Alert on Stanislaus NF Court Decision (with link to court decision)

The "minimization criteria" directs federal land managers addressing motorized access to "consider effects...with the objective of minimizing" a variety of factors including damage to soil, watershed, vegetation and other forest resources; harassment of wildlife and significant disruption of wildlife habitats; conflicts between motor vehicle and other uses; and conflicts among different classes of motor vehicle uses.  The "minimization criteria" has been around since 1972 and long received only passing interest, but were included in the 2005 Forest Service Travel Management Rule.  See, 36 CFR 212.55(b).

The minimization criteria acquired teeth largely through the decision declaring invalid the Salmon Challis NF travel decision.  This decision was issued in 2011, and is published as Idaho Conservation League v. Guzman, 766 F.Supp.2d 1056 (D.Idaho 2011).  In short, that decision rejected the Forest Service effort to characterize the minimization criteria as providing broad guidance ("consider with objective of minimizing") and interpreted the language as requiring the agency to show, in its NEPA analysis, how it applied the minimization factors in selecting from decision options for specific routes.  There have been several more decisions that have followed similar reasoning.  The decisions to this point have only come from federal district courts, but several appeals from them are pending before the 9th Circuit and it is likely the Court of Appeals will hear at least one of those cases sometime in 2013.

The approaches taken by individual Forest Service units to minimization (and other issues) vary somewhat, but the bottom line is that minimization has been addressed in many Forests under a template that is consistently being found deficient in the eyes of the courts.  And there can be a 3 to 5 year time lag between the time the agency conducts its analysis and completion of judicial review.  So the agency has effectively been trapped- it took a similar approach to minimization in the post-2005 rash of travel decisions, and has just recently learned that many of those decisions were apparently built from a flawed decision-making template.  So in a forest like the Stanislaus we have just learned this week that the analysis completed in 2009 was inadequate, based largely on the reasoning of a 2011 court decision.


HQ does not feel the latest round of anti-agency minimization decisions will improve agency analysis or on-the-ground management.  We constantly find ourselves asking, how much can our society reasonably demand from land managers who spend years and millions of dollars on decisions that all but universally have to be redone?  Anti-access advocates are driven by complex forces, but we are confident a true desire to carry out President Nixon's vision is far down that list.  Instead they are prioritizing the claim(s) that will best serve them in a never-ending effort to challenge any balance struck by the agency in a system that rewards them handsomely for producing even a flesh wound in the effort.   But we would be foolish to ignore the trend.  As in all aspects of agency planning, we need to work with the agencies to ensure that minimization is properly considered and eliminated as an excuse to second guess agency decisions necessary to ongoing authorization of motorized access.

As Wilderness advocates in the Stanislaus case argue for the closure of OHV routes in roadless areas… it is important to remember that in a previous case… preservationist interests “defended” motorized access to roadless areas in their strong opposition to the intervention of access-advocacy interests in California -- Lockyer et al. v. U.S.D.A., Case No. 05-3508 (N.D.Cal.). That case, consolidated with a similar action brought by private groups led by The Wilderness Society (“TWS”) sought to challenge the 2005 State Petitions Rule. The California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, United Four Wheel Drive Associations, American Council of Snowmobile Associations and BlueRibbon Coalition moved to intervene. The preservationist plaintiffs opposed, arguing “the interests that the Off-Road Vehicle Groups assert in motorized recreation in roadless areas are not at stake in this action.” Plaintiffs’ Opposition to Motion to Intervene (Doc. No. 79) at 7 Case Nos. 05-3508 and 05-4038 (N.D.Cal.)(March 7, 2006) In reaching this conclusion, the TWS plaintiffs summarized language from the Rule and its associated planning documents, stating “[i]n sum, even if the Roadless Rule is reinstated by this Court as plaintiffs request, it will not prohibit a single person’s off-road vehicle use or close a single off-road vehicle trail as alleged by the Off-Road Vehicle Groups’ declarants.” Id. at 5. The TWS surreply clarifies and extends on these conclusions, again saying the “Roadless Rule does not close any existing vehicular routes (ORV or otherwise) in any National Forest roadless areas.” Plaintiffs’ Surreply in Opposition to Intervention (Doc. No. 100) at 1, Case Nos. 05-3508 and 05-4038 (N.D.Cal.)(March 24, 2006) . That document goes on to address specific routes of concern identified by BlueRibbon declarant Don Amador and says “[a]s to the two routes Mr. Amador might hypothetically use for ORV recreation … neither route is more than 50 inches wide, and therefore the Roadless Rule would not even apply to them.” Id. at 2.

HQ Blog with more "Roadless" Discussion including citation above

Certainly, 2013 will be filled with a number of challenges for OHV recreation… with the ongoing legal battles being front and center in a number of venues.  Stay tuned, it is going to get bumpy this year.

Thanks for your support! 

Friday, January 4, 2013

BREAKING NEWS - CA AG Says Scandal Money is OHV

The Recreation HQ wants to share this breaking news regarding the 54M in the CA State Park scandal that broke last summer.   The California Attorney General, Kamala Harris, just released the results of her investigation into State Park’s reporting and use of special funds.

The report appears to conclude that over 34M of those monies belong to the OHV Fund.   As many of you know, the legislature reconvened in August to address the scandal.  Yours truly and several other OHV leaders met with legislators in Sacramento and in their Districts to petition them to allow those funds to be used to restore the local assistance grants program to previous levels.  Before the scandal, the legislature had capped the grants program at 10M (compared to 21-26M in previous years).  HQ believes the legislature's new post-scandal bill allows for those monies to be potentially used to restore the grants program to previous funding levels and to lift the 10M cap.

SACBEE Article on AG Report


Link to AG Report

HQ believes the AG’s findings could benefit the upcoming grants cycle/program that helps fund OHV recreation-related management on FS, BLM, and county lands.  Stay tuned as the results of this report are analyzed for any potential impacts to current and future OHV funding needs.


Here is HQ Aug. 2012 Scandal Update

Happy New Year! -- And thanks to all of you who sent in letters to your legislator and Governor.  It did make a difference.