Idaho Plan Comments
Last month you saw our comments to the Idaho BLM Grand View Travel Management Plan. Our comments were unusually harsh but justified given the huge trail closures proposed by the BLM. They proposed to close many hundreds of miles of routes in the plan alternatives. Keep reading because there is a great outcome. We criticized the plan for citing the Universal Soil Loss Equation, but not showing any work. We criticized them for closing many routes despite saying “OHV registration increased 258% between 1998 and 2014.” We criticized them for using “Special status species” as a justification to close routes. Special status species have no legal status. They used a study by Forman and Hersperger 1996 to justify route density of one mile of route per square mile of land. This study looks at paved highways, not dirt trails. Eleven days after the comment deadline, the BLM released this statement “Due to a large volume of public comments regarding Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) use and demand for access, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Boise District is cancelling the Grand View Travel Management Plan Environmental Assessment to reassess information and validate route inventory.” The BLM listened and we won, for now. Writing comments does make a difference and digging in and writing strong and smart comments can turn around misguided plans like this one.

Each year applications for grants from green sticker money go out for public comment and I review grants in the southern half of the state. I consider myself a custodian of off-roaders’ money and like to see it spent wisely. Following are some of our comments.

“I would like to comment on the San Diego County Sheriff’s Dept grant application. First I would like to say that I am not opposed to this application, but I have found some irregularities I would like to point out. Maybe the applicant can explain some of these points. Quoted from the application on page 1 ‘The SAR unit is non-profit and responds to search missions involving lost persons, overdue hikers, downed aircraft, stranded motorists, human remains detection, evidence searches, body recoveries, natural disasters, and other rescue operations in urban and rural areas in the San Diego County.’ I don’t understand how they are ‘non-profit.’ They are a county agency. I see all the types of responses they make, but I don’t see OHV as a type of response. Should OHV money be used for overdue hikers and downed aircraft? I don’t think so. Also on page 1 you mention you service ‘Pinyon Canyon Road.’ There is no such road as Pinyon Canyon Road. You may be thinking of Pinyon Mountain Road in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. This road is for street legal vehicles only; OHVs are not allowed. As ABDSP is a State Park, I don’t believe grant money can be used there. You also mention “McCain Valley Road” as an OHV area. OHVs are prohibited on McCain Valley Road, but are allowed in nearby Lark Canyon OHV area. The vehicles you want to purchase will do no good in Lark Canyon, as it is a motorcycle area with very narrow routes (I personally ride there).

“You state you would like funding for training, specifically training for • Land Navigation and Orienteering • Human Tracking and Area Search • Search Management • Technical Rope Rescue • Radio Communications • Canine Training – Human Scent Trail, Area Search, Waterborne Search, and Human Cadaver Search • Off-road Vehicle Operations and Winching • Off-road Route Surveys. While these are skills we all want our sheriffs to have, I am not sure if off-roaders want our money to pay for training in these non-OHV areas. Waterborne search? How is that OHV related?

“On Page 4 the applicant mentions where training takes place, but some of these are fictional areas. There is no such place as Otay Mesa Mountain Truck Trails. You may be referring to Otay Mountain Truck Trail. I am very knowledgeable of OHV in San Diego County and have never heard of ‘Borrego Springs Trails’ for OHV. The same for ‘Anza-Borrego Springs OHV routes.’ Anza-Borrego Desert State Park has not allowed OHV usage since 1985. “Also on page 4 it says ‘…provide medical aid, search for stranded motorists, search for lost or overdue hikers, and rescue persons in difficult terrain.’ This is nice, but how does it help OHV? This is an OHV grant application, not general SAR.

“The applicant is looking for money to buy two ATVs. Are ATVs allowed to be used by LE in areas where ATVs are not allowed? If not, then they could only be used in Corral Canyon and Otay Mountain Truck Trail. I frequent these areas and never see a need for law enforcement. Otay Mountain has abundant Border Patrol in the area, negating the need for sheriffs. Corral Canyon is in the Cleveland National Forest (CNF), and they have applied for an OHMVR State Parks law enforcement grant to patrol there. There is no mention of a cooperating LE agreement between the Sheriff’s Off-Road Enforcement Team (ORET) and CNF in the application. Where would you be using these ATVs?

“Page 4 says ‘The SAR unit’s project shall promote OHV safety, respect private property, and adhere to all rules and guidance per the Cal. Code Regs. Tit. 14, § 4970.13(f)(6) – Education and Safety.’ How are you promoting OHV safety? I see evaluation criteria sections 7, 8, 9 and 10 are not checked.

“Evaluation criteria says you can get points with public input in number 6. Next year you are invited to get input from members of the San Diego Off-Road Coalition. I am president and we hold monthly meetings. I have met members of ORET in the past and would like to forge a relationship with the current members. I would enjoy a tour of your facility and equipment and would always be happy to consult with you on this or other grant applications.”

From our comments to the San Bernardino National Forest application:

“I learned something new from reading the application and think it is great. ‘It is also necessary to conduct mechanized maintenance on a regular basis, and occasionally use skilled professionals to reestablish trail structures and prevent erosion, runoff and soil loss. This level of maintenance is also necessary to periodically restore trails to their intended level of difficulty. By maintaining trails to their intended standard, users are encouraged to remain on designated routes since they are exposed to the trail experience and level of difficulty they anticipate.’ Keeping people on the trail by giving them what they want is a great idea and should be part of all applications.”

Cleveland National Forest grant applications:
“I would like to comment on the Cleveland National Forest grant applications. I was in Corral Canyon today trimming Ranger trail with others at a trail working day. I thank Gabe for being there with us. I looked around and the area looks like it is well maintained. The grant applications for the north and south both look reasonable, even modest compared to others. What I would really like to see is an expansion of opportunities in Wildomar; eight miles of trails is simply not enough. You say in the application that there are 20 million people and 729,000 OHVs in the region. I would love to see a general plan amendment to increase the number of routes. I also saw you want to spend $65,000 to maintain those eight miles at Wildomar. That is a crazy high amount of money for eight miles. That is $8,000 per mile. How much work is really being done there? One pass in the spring should be 1/10 the cost. Maybe I should start a business, because I know I can save you a heck of a lot of money there. If I could have one wish granted from the CNF, I would ask for Carveacre trail to be re-opened.”

To BLM Bishop:
“I see on the first page ‘Due to the number of routes in the Bishop Field Office system, not all routes have been re-inventoried since the 2022/2023 winter.’ If you cannot look at all of the routes in your office after severe weather, you need to reach out to partner organizations like CORVA and CAL4Wheel to ask them to assist in figuring out what condition your routes are in. Jeep club members and other off-roaders are looking for reasons to drive routes and to be able to assist the BLM in evaluating your route inventory would be a satisfying activity. It is irresponsible to go a year after storms without knowing the condition of your routes. You contradict yourself on page 2 when you say ‘Route monitoring is a critical component to successfully responding to maintenance needs. It’s important that we quickly address issues to keep motorized users on routes and reduce resource damage.’

“You have 200 hours at $65/hour for Staff-Civil Engineering Technician, but you don’t say what specific projects this person is to work on. Please be specific.

“It is refreshing to see you have campground hosts. These people will help keep campgrounds orderly and reduce trouble.

“I see you want to buy a welder. I personally weld and I just bought a nice little mig welder for under $500. For your small jobs around a campground, $4,200 sounds like a lot of money.

“Despite my criticism above, I applaud the Bishop Field Office for doing so much to maintain OHV access and recreation throughout our land. I only ask that you please ask for help when you fall behind or get in over your head. CORVA, Cal4Wheel and others would love to help your agency do a great job with managing our land together. I just spent today doing volunteer work in the Cleveland National Forest and we had about 50 people volunteering. If you get volunteers to inspect your route network or assist with other tasks, you may be able to use those hours right here as grant match. Please take advantage of the goodwill in the OHV community and ask for help.”

Lakeside Parade was a big success and lots of fun. SDORC once again had the largest contingent, with lots of Jeeps and other off-road vehicles.

DAC meeting
I attended a BLM Desert Advisory Council (DAC) meeting. My big takeaway from the meeting was the discussion on “Ghost Camping.” This is where people leave their RVs and trailers in the desert, often in prime locations (like Gecko Road in the dunes) for weeks at a time. There may be one person looking after five large campites. This is unfair to people who want to camp in prime locations in the best time of year. The BLM El Centro office is looking at this, with some kind of reservation system possibly on the table. If you have thoughts on this please let us know at [email protected].

There was a trail day at Corral Canyon in the Cleveland National Forest and we had 80 people sign in. I trimmed the west side of Ranger trail while others went about trimming other routes. The forest is very appreciative and our area gets needed maintenance.

Longtime friend of SDORC Andrew Hayes is running for State Assembly and recently had a campaign fundraiser at Trevi Hills Winery (a very nice place). I got to meet Congressman Darrel Issa for the first time. I introduced myself and he immediately criticized the need for catalytic converters in vehicles used off road. You have to like that! It was nice to chat with Supervisor Joel Anderson and Senator Brian Jones as well. We wish Andrew luck and will be holding events to help his campaign as the election draws nearer.

We held our first Lost Lizard Fun Run planning meeting (Thank you Jeff and Diane Jones for hosting!) and it looks like all the pieces for another great event are coming together. Look for online signup to begin in the coming weeks.

Ed Stovin