As the summer winds down and cooler weather prevails we all look forward to the riding season. We are also approaching a number of key deadlines for planning projects and court decisions that will determine the future of public lands. Forest Service Travel Management has now completed the final phase of NEPA with Records of Decision published for most areas. But Motor Vehicle Use Maps, legal documents that say where we can and cannot ride, have been slow in coming. “Use Maps” tell us which routes are legal, and publication of these maps is also the final step in implementation of Travel Management. Once these maps have been published, the Forest Service action is “ripe”, meaning ready for lawsuits filed by any parties that object and have standing to sue. Travel Management lawsuits are more or less expected. Precedent-setting lawsuits have been filed against the El Dorado and Stanislaus National Forests, by environmental groups that contend that the massive trail closures caused by Travel Management simply aren’t enough. Others are sure to follow. Combine this with BLM lawsuits such as the WEMO case and you have a classic example of “land management from the bench”. We say land management should be done by land managers, not the courts. Sadly, this rarely seems to be the end result.
On a brighter note, many of you have begun to receive information from our new partner the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA). I find that I have a lot in common with these folks and their material, which although not OHV focused, is certainly pro-access and of high quality. This is the first of the new and much bigger alliances we need to forge in order to be effective. Recreation groups such as hunters, fisherman, horsemen, rock hounds, hounds men, and hikers are beginning to understand that their access to public lands will be affected by coming change. It is no longer about dirt bikes, quads and 4X4’s. This will affect everyone who visits America’s public lands.
The Obama Administration’s Great Outdoors Initiative – As many of you have heard, President Obama convened the White House Conference on the Great Outdoors on April 16th as a means to start a national dialogue about conservation issues. In addition to the initial conference led by the President, the Administration has hosted a number of “listening sessions” in locations throughout the country. The Administration stated that “The America’s Great Outdoors Initiative aims to reinvigorate the national conversation about the outdoors, and leverage the support of the Federal Government to help these community-driven efforts succeed.” Two of those “listening sessions” were recently held in Davis and Southern California. CORVA representatives attended and participated in these sessions, and it seems that the audience did most of the listening and the officials did most of the talking. This is disappointing given that the Great Outdoors Initiative has been billed as an outreach by an administration seeking public input and advocating transparency in government. It is indicative of why there is so much dissatisfaction with the current administration. They seem to be unwilling to “walk the walk” and prefer to mouth campaign style platitudes and fail to address the tough issues with workable solutions. A disturbing development is that the Great Outdoors Initiative blog seems to have been hijacked and the site’s ballot boxes stuffed with anti-access votes that have skewed the results. Please visit the web site, cast your vote, and fight back! http://ideas.usda.gov/ago/ideas.nsf – Don’t wait, the final report is due on November 15.
WEMO Lawsuit – Hearing held, judge ponders decision – The WEMO Plaintiffs, Alliance for Responsible Recreation, The Wilderness Society, California Wilderness Coalition, Friends of Juniper Flats, Western San Bernardino Landowners Association, California Native Plant Society, Community ORV Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, and Desert Survivors filed a motion for “partial vacatur of the Record of Decision and for interim injunctive relief.” The hearing on this motion was set for June 18, 2010; however this was postponed until September 3, but at the hearing the judge did not hear oral argument or render a decision. I guess we have to stay tuned? The court held that the BLM’s extensive environmental review failed to consider an adequate range of alternatives and was insufficient in its consideration of impacts to soil, cultural resources, certain plant and riparian resources, sensitive animal species, and air quality. This ruling means that the BLM must reconsider environmental impacts of OHVs on public lands in the Western Mojave region. The extent of the additional planning that will be required will be issued as a remedy. Negotiations regarding the lawsuit have been attended by CORVA representatives.