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Off Road Enthusists Visit Capitol

California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs was well represented with members from Tierra del Sol Four Wheel Drive of San Diego and the San Diego 4 Wheelers joining Association President Mark Cave and others.

The day started with remarks from California State Parks Director Ruth Coleman followed by Off Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division Deputy Director Daphne Greene explaining the looming impact of the state budget crisis on motorized recreation. During the afternoon, OHV enthusiasts walked the halls of the Capitol and visited with their elected representatives.

Senate and Assembly Members and their staff were invited to an evening reception hosted by CLORV.  During the reception, recognition awards were presented. CA4WDC Natural Resources Consultant John Stewart was recognized as Southern California Off-Road Advocate for 2011 and Dave Picket, American Motorcyclist Association District 36 was recognized as the Northern California Off-Road Advocate. Tony Pellegrino, co-owner GenRight Off-Road and 2nd Place finisher at 2011 Griffin King of the Hammers, was recognized as the 2011 Off-Road Business Advocate of the year.

In addition to meeting with elected representatives, Mark Cave and John Stewart were able to arrange private meetings with OHV lobbyist Terry McHale and OHMVR Deputy Director Daphne Greene to discuss issues of importance to CA4WDC members.


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Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Announces Historic Decision

Paul Turcke, who argued the case and has long served as lead counsel for the BlueRibbon Coalition's Legal Program, said, "Today's decision will positively affect all nonfederal interests who rightfully seek a meaningful role in public lands litigation affecting them. These positive effects extend, ironically, to the preservation groups who opposed our intervention here and provided the foundation and fuel for this appeal."

The decision follows an en banc hearing of the Court held on December 13, 2010. The underlying case was originally brought in the U.S. District of Idaho when The Wilderness Society and Prairie Falcon Audubon, Inc. sued the Forest Service seeking greater restriction on motorized vehicle access to the Minidoka Ranger District in the Sawtooth National Forest. The BlueRibbon Coalition, the Magic Valley Trail Machine Association and the Idaho Recreation Council were denied intervention on the side of the Forest Service in that case. The district court determined, in large part, that intervention was prevented by the Federal Defendant Rule.

The recreation groups appealed the decision with initial arguments presented in March of 2010 to a three-judge Ninth Circuit panel by Turcke and the Western Environmental Law Center.  Rather than issuing a decision, the three-judge panel asked for further briefing on the question of whether the Court should convene en banc to consider abandoning the Federal Defendant Rule.  In September, the Court issued an order to hear the appeal en banc.

In addition to the recreation groups, thirty-seven other parties filed "friend of the court" briefs on the issue-including conservation, recreation, commercial groups, state and local governments, Indian tribes, regional water authorities and the federal government.

The underlying case remains pending in the District of Idaho. Today's decision marks the elimination of  the Federal Defendant Rule, offers guidance on the proper test for intervention in NEPA cases, and remands the matter to the District Court "to consider anew" the Recreation Groups' motion.

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The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible recreation, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. With members in all 50 states, BRC is focused on building enthusiast involvement with organizational efforts through membership, outreach, education, and collaboration among recreationists. 1-800-BlueRib - www.sharetrails.org


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However, the proposal would also exempt major ground disturbing activities such as completely eliminating the road bed by restoring natural contours and slopes.

"Some of the agency's recommendations make sense, but as usual, they go too far," said Brian Hawthorne, Public Lands Policy Director for BRC. Hawthorne said, "If 40 years of NEPA has taught us anything it is that noble intentions don't justify half-baked analysis. A bulldozer moving dirt is a bulldozer moving dirt. Environmental impacts don't magically disappear because the source of sediment is called a restoration project."

"This borderlines on willful mismanagement," said Greg Mumm, BRC's Executive Director. "The Forest Service is sitting on 20 to 40 million acres of beetle-killed fire hazard and the fuse is lit. Their priorities are out of whack." Mumm said.

As an example, Mumm said that just in Colorado some 6.6 million acres are affected by the mountain bark beetle epidemic. The agency estimates that, over the next 10 years, an average of 100,000 trees will fall daily. Visitors to USFS lands are affected not only by the visual impacts, falling trees pose serious risk to human life and the infrastructure our rural communities rely on. Dead trees across the state have created heavy fuel loading which can result in intense, so-called "fatal wildfires." Beetle-killed trees now threaten thousands of miles of roads, trails and developed recreation sites. Mumm said; "Exempting culvert removal is all well and good, but the agency crosses a line when, at the same time, they increase analysis on such things as maintaining safe power transmission corridors."

Hawthorne also expressed frustration with the proposed changes. He noted that the USFS is saying the majority of issues associated with road and trail decommissioning arise from the initial decision whether to close a road or trail via the travel planning process. "That's not our experience," Hawthorne said. BRC has been urging the USFS to develop a streamlined procedure to allow public comment before any ground disturbing or road obliteration activities are proposed precisely because the travel planning is usually focused on recreational users of the Forest. Other users are often assured their access and activities could still continue under stipulations of their permit, lease or other agreement.

Hawthorne said few, if any, USFS travel planning projects get it right the first time. "Many travel planning projects we are aware of have been amended within one or two years after completion, and many have been amended even before the plan has been completely implemented on the ground." It is quite likely that routes proposed for decommissioning will be necessary additions in future recreation and travel planning. Hawthorne said the fact the agency doesn't want any public involvement means the agency probably doesn't care about any potential recreational uses of these routes.

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The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible recreation, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. With members in all 50 states, BRC is focused on building enthusiast involvement with organizational efforts through membership, outreach, education, and collaboration among recreationists. 1-800-BlueRib - www.sharetrails.org


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RTF Issues Little Sluice Position

In 1992, the first large boulder was rolled in to the Little Sluice. No agency action was taken in response to it or to subsequent events in Little Sluice until the County, in cooperation with the Forest Service and private property owners, closed Spider Lake in 2004. Since then, few significant agency actions have taken place, and none have adequately managed the issues related to concentrated use of the Little Sluice area. The only agency to take positive action on the Rubicon Trail has been El Dorado County Department of Transportation (DOT). The Forest Service (USFS) has failed to implement its 2008 Route Designation and has signed the area adjacent to the Sluice more than 150 feet away from the trail. This failure to address parking and related camping has allowed continued unsustainable concentrated use near Little Sluice, in spite of strong efforts such as distributing WAG bags and spill kits; installation of new vault toilets at Loon Lake; outreach from the kiosks, roving trail patrol, and mid-trail staff; and internet-based education.

Rubicon Trail Foundation (RTF) supports a full public process led by DOT to address unsustainable concentrated use near Little Sluice. Change is needed because of vegetative loss over the years (bushes), potential damage to the cypress tree, re-occurring vandalism, water shed impacts downstream, and risk of oil contamination in the Little Sluice. RTF believes that there is no single easy answer to the multiple challenges of Little Sluice and the immediate area around it and that at minimum, the following solutions must be considered:
* USFS to support NEPA processes for bathroom installations
* USFS to encourage sanitation via multiple solutions (not just personal sanitation solutions)
* EDSO and USFS to cooperate for law enforcement, with emphasis on enforcement against drinking and driving as well as prevention of off-trail travel
* Agencies to correctly place and enforce trail centerline and trail boundary signage to discourage off-trail travel
* Agencies to consider possible reroutes to mitigate environmentally untenable sections of the trail
* Agencies to plan implementation/education/enforcement to ensure that changes in one area don’t just divert impacts to other areas
* Any mitigation plan to include measures to protect the big cypress tree above Little Sluice

RTF is willing to consider any solution, up to and including reduction of rocks in Little Sluice, but believes this should not be the first or only option considered.  If agencies, organizations, and volunteers can come together, RTF believes solutions can be found that require less destructive management techniques.

Overall, RTF believes that successful intervention at/near Little Sluice will require a multi-pronged effort that coordinates agencies, organizations, and volunteers. RTF welcomes the opportunity to actively work within the public process along-side other members of the public – this is a public right-of-way, and we need to work together to identify specific goals and measurable outcomes.

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Massive Wilderness Sounds Alarm in Land Use Debate

H.R. 980 was first introduced in 1993 by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and proposes to designate 24 million acres of Wilderness across five Western states, (Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming).  The bill has also been described as the modern incarnation of the Wildlands Project, an ambitious proposal first conceived by Dave Foreman, the co-founder of Earth First!. The Wildlands Project would "re-wild" approximately half of North America by outlawing most human use and occupancy.

NREPA was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources and is scheduled for a hearing on May 5, by the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. http://resourcescommittee.house.gov/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=58

Brian Hawthorne, BRC's Public Lands Policy Director, speculated that NREPA was moving up as a priority for recreation advocacy groups, including mountain bike and sporting conservation groups, perhaps because the growing influence of the green lobby on decision-makers in Washington DC.  "We don't know if the Wilderness lobby really thinks Congress will let eastern politicians draw lines on maps around lands they've never seen, or if this is a strategic ploy to make smaller scale proposals seem reasonable by comparison. Either way, the recreating public should be on high alert," observed Hawthorne.

BRC is urging its members to contact their legislators and express opposition to the passage of NREPA and has provided a portal on their website to easily contact legislators. http://www.sharetrails.org/rapid_response/

BRC is also cautioning its members not to let the hearing on NREPA distract their attention from equally serious threats to access to other public lands. In an email to members today the Coalition stated, "NREPA is perhaps the largest threat to public access to public lands pending in Congress today. However, our members must remember that large, multi-state Wilderness bills are very difficult to pass and there are many smaller bills, each equally unfair in denying public access that need immediate attention by our members and supporters."

A few of the smaller initiatives mentioned by the Coalition were:

H.R.1769 & S. 721 -Alpine Lakes Wilderness expansion in the State of Washington
Mojave Desert Wilderness bill - Senator Feinstein's effort to designate more Wilderness in San Bernardino, Imperial, and Riverside counties
H.R.192 Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA), will designate an additional half million acres of Wilderness in Idaho
Montana's Beaverhead-Deerlodge Conservation, Restoration and Stewardship Act
Legislation to designate Johnson Valley a National Recreation Area (BRC is supporting this one!)
SUWA'S massive Utah Wilderness bill (H.R.1925 and S.799)
The ongoing county-by-county Wilderness approach currently underway in Nevada, Colorado and Utah
For further updates on these and other issues, visit BRC's webpage at www.sharetrails.org.

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The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible recreation, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. It represents over 10,000 individual members and 1,200 organization and business members, for a combined total of over 600,000 recreationists nationwide. 1-800-258-3742. http://www.sharetrails.org/

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