Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving is a State of Mind

I believe that “Thanksgiving” is a state of mind.  Sure, a lot of us are experiencing some trying times in our personal lives, but that is the way it is and always has been.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I hope that we reflect on, and draw inspiration from, those people in our lives and our experiences (on the trail, at work, and at home) that have helped shape who we are.

Thanks to all of my friends, family, colleagues, and even detractors who have helped shape who I am.  Your impact on my life is a highly valued treasure that cannot be bought at any price.  And for that, I am truly thankful.   Thanksgiving Day is a reminder that we should be thankful for every day that we are blessed to interact with those people and activities that influence our life.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gridlock Impacts Post-Rim Fire Federal Land Management

Recent Controlled Burn on the Mendocino NF

Having both played and worked in timber country (Humboldt County -circa early/mid 1970s), I have a strong appreciation for well-managed private and federal forest lands.  That support has only deepened over the last 24 years based on my current career as an advocate for sustainable recreational opportunities which are dependent on healthy forests.

Many of us watched as the 2012 82K acre Mill Fire burned out the core trail network at the Stonyford OHV Area on the Mendocino National Forest.   That fire closed the area to all public access – including both casual and permitted OHV activity- for one year.  For any number of reasons (planning gridlock, fear of environmental lawsuits, appeals, burdensome regulations, etc.) the Forest Service was not able to get the salvage sale out in a timely manner and any merchantable trees were destroyed by the bark beetle.

Pre-Fire Fuels/Timber Project

Today as over 200 logging trucks per day haul salvage trees off of private timber lands damaged by the 2013 257K acre Rim Fire that burned in the Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park, and other lands, not one logging truck has hauled a load from NF lands. The agency appears to be jammed up by the same political, legal, and regulatory planning-noose that plagued the Mill Fire.

Article on the Rim Fire Planning Jam

In an effort to become part of a potential solution to this stalemate,  I proudly answered the call to represent recreation on the Mendocino National Forest’s Firescape Collaborative.  This is part of the Fire Learning Network’s effort to bring diverse stakeholders together to see if we can agree on some forest health projects that can protect both the resource and other related interests such as private property owners, recreationists, and local businesses.

Example of Shaded Fuel Break Project 

Fire Learning Network

I don’t have the answer to the aforementioned planning and project gridlock.  However, it is clear to me the current paradigm is not acceptable.  Prescribed fire has been used for thousands of years to manage timber lands and must be introduced back into the environmental equation.  I believe it is also important to reintroduce both pre and post-fire timber harvest into the planning mix. 

Trail/Resource Impacts from 2012 Mill Fire

Healthy forests and vibrant local economies are concepts that should be supported by both sides of the land-use debate.  Gridlock serves neither.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Huge Turnout of OHVers for Carnegie SVRA/Tesla Public Meeting

Big Turnout of OHVers to Support Carnegie SVRA/Tesla

The Recreation HQ wants to commend all of the OHVers who attended the “standing room only” public meeting in Pleasanton last night to review the preferred concept for the Tesla property at Carnegie SVRA.  I did a head count and there were approximately 300 people in attendance with the vast majority of them in support of OHV use on Tesla.

Park Staff Talks with OHVers About Plan

As you know, a small number of hard-core anti-OHV members of the extreme environmental movement (including one of the SVRA’s next door neighbors) have conspired with the East Bay Regional Park District -- in a fraudulent disinformation campaign -- to ban OHV use on the Tesla property that was purchased in the 1990s with OHV Trust Fund monies for dedicated motorized use.  They had joined with the Sierra Club to try and overrun the event with protesters, but they were outnumbered 6 or 7 to 1.

Preferred Concept Highlighted by Planning Staff

This much needed expansion would provide multiple-use OHV trails (ATV, ROV, 4WD, and dirt-bike) on the new property.   The current 1,500 acre riding area at the SVRA would remain for mostly ATV and dirt-bike riding.

Tesla Will Provide Trails for ROVs

4WDs Will Also Have Trails at Tesla

I especially enjoyed seeing a large number of youth riders who attended the meeting with their parents to support new OHV opportunities on the Tesla site.

Chris Carter Talks with AMA- D36's Dave Pickett About the Project

HQ also wants to give a shout out to Chris Carter and his leadership team at Motion Pro for attending the meeting in support of the project.  Chris continues to be an inspiration to me and many other land-use advocates because of his over 30 years of unparalleled support for the fight.

HQ will be reviewing the preferred concept (which appears to be a good compromise between OHV access and resource protection) and will share our comments on the proposal in the next week or two.  I will work with BRC’s HQ on an alert that may help you in crafting your own comments in time to meet the December 13, 2013 public comment deadline.

Link to Carnegie SVRA General Plan Preferred Concept

Thanks again to all of you who took time out of your busy schedule to attend the meeting!

PS - If you would like to support BRC's effort to challenge the closure agenda of anti-OHV interests at Carnegie and elsewhere -  please join and/or donate today at the link below:

Sunday, November 10, 2013


For resource and recreation professionals, understanding the agency you work for or with is critical.  That knowledge will make you more effective.  As an OHV recreation consultant who often works with federal and state land management agencies, I want to share my thoughts on one of the most eye-opening works of agency-related literature that I have read in recent years.

Written by Christopher Burchfield, The Tinder Box, chronicles how the Forest Service (with a special focus on Region 5) became host to one of the largest court-ordered social experiments in modern times.

The Tinder Box at

The book details the 1970s era ramp up to the July 1, 1981 Consent Decree.  The Order by Nixon-appointee Judge Samuel Conti directed the Forest Service to implement an unprecedented gender parity hiring program.

The purpose of this review is not to champion or assail the merits of the Decree, but to note how the historic Gifford Pinchot-inspired agency mission of forest and resource management was shifted to creation of a Decree-specific bureaucracy.

The Tinder Box describes how this process evolved in early 1970s and continues on to this day with either overt, covert, and/or tacit support from Congress and over 6 presidential administrations.

Although I take umbrage with the author’s occasional disparaging comments about OHV recreation, his research does seem to substantiate what I have heard from agency employees over the last 23 years on how the Decree has contributed to agency dysfunction and lack of morale.

There are many characters in the book some of which I have worked with or talked to.  Just a few folks mentioned are Max Peterson, Ann Veneman, Dale Robertson, Jack Troyer, Matt Mathes, Jack Blackwell, Jim Lyons, Mike Espy, Wally Herger, Dave Meurer, Jeff Applegate, Lynn Sprague, Corky Lazzarno, Ken Wolstenhom, Mary Coloumbe, Dan Chisholm, John Mica, Ron Stewart, Bob Grate, Robert Tyrell, Doug Leisz, Jack Ward Thomas, and Mike Dombeck.

You will also become familiar with the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Maupin White Paper, Bernardi Consent Decree, Male Class Complaint, Thirtymile Fire, the 43%, and the Blue Book.

Given the impact of 40 years’ worth of Decree-inspired litigation and policies combined with an endless avalanche of environmental lawsuits, it is amazing that agency staff today are even able to sign an OHV event permit, complete a travel plan, construct a trail, or produce a map.

This is a must read for Forest Service employees (new hires, current, or retired) private sector recreation and resource professionals, congressional staff, grassroots leaders, and sister agency employees.

After reading this book, you will have a clearer understanding of the Forest Service and a better appreciation for the men and women who continue their efforts – despite the challenges - to serve the public and care for the land.

--- Don Amador

PS - Set aside a good block of time, since you won't want to stop reading it.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

National Debate - Active (BLM) v. Passive Recreation (NPS)

The statement by former Secretary of the Interior, Gayle Norton, struck a chord here at the Recreation HQ.   As the current Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, advocates for more lands to be set aside as National Parks or under some other preservation-oriented designation,   Norton highlights what many federal and state land managers are seeing and that is the public’s interest in “active recreation.”

Norton who served under President George W. Bush was quoted in an Energy and Environment article today where she commented on protective land designations for passive use or non-entry… That doesn't necessarily mean protection under the National Park Service. Other agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management, also are entrusted with conserving nationally important land… the "full spectrum" of public lands should be considered in any discussion on how to solve the Park Service's budget shortfall while ensuring land is preserved.

For example, some lands might do better under BLM, which spends less per acre of conserved land, she said. People today want to see active recreation. They like the mountain bikes. They like ATVs. They want to bring their dogs along. They want to travel off into areas that are not as populated…Those are all available on BLM lands and not in national parks.

This will be an interesting discussion to watch as federal and state government officials (elected and appointed) review current and potential recreational opportunities on park lands through the prism of declining budgets and growing maintenance backlogs.