Monday, November 21, 2016

Perfect Storm Mummifies Forest Timber/Fuel Program

2012 Post Mill Fire Viewshed/Resource Impacts 
M5 - Mendocino NF

Op Ed
By Don Amador
November 21, 2016

Perfect Storm Mummifies Forest Timber/Fuel Program

I believe Californians are facing an environmental disaster of biblical proportions based on recent media accounts and surveys that detail over 100 million dead and dying trees currently exist on federal timber lands.

As a native Californian, I witnessed the creation of a complex set of factors that have mummified the fuel/fire/timber management programs of most land agencies. 

2012 Mill Fire - System Trail Closed 
Mendocino NF

Over the last 30 years, a massive regulatory wet-blanket has been cast over the federal timber and fuel programs.  That “perfect storm” of factors presented in an academic manner include: litigation, court decisions, budget cutbacks, restrictive policies, environmental regulations, legislation, closure of sawmills, and political agendas.

2013 Rim Fire - Route/Area Closure
Stanislaus NF

The trail-based recreation community has a lot to lose in this high stakes game of gridlocked forest management and the resultant Mega-fires that consume lives, property, wildlife, natural resources, and recreation-related facilities and opportunities.

2014 King Fire - Viewshed/Resource Impacts from FS Road
Eldorado NF


Outdoor recreationists have good case studies in recent years of how Mega-fires (e.g. Mill Fire, Rim Fire, King Fire, etc.) impact designated trails and related soil loss mitigation structures, campgrounds, staging areas, visual enjoyment, and often close the fire’s footprint to all public entry for one year or more. 

2012 Mill Fire - One Year Closure to All Public Entry
Mendocino NF

Post-fire recreation rehabilitation can cost millions of dollars.  Designated roads, trails, trail delineators, kiosks, signs, and trail-based soil loss structures often have to be replaced or reconstructed.

2012 Mill Fire - Post Fire Volunteer Project Installing Route Delineators
Mendocino NF

Agency staff and volunteers must be committed to clearing downed trees off of routes for the next 10-20 years post-fire.



2012 Mill Fire - Post Fire Trail Clearing
Mendocino NF


I am glad to see the Forest Service is looking to redirect funds to protect or armor roads, trails, and recreation facilities.

Fuel/Forest Health Project
Sierra NF


Given the limited amount of staff resources and funding available, I support the agency’s focus on recreation-based pre-disaster fuel reduction projects.

Prescribed Fire Project

I have also rededicated myself to helping facilitate those fuel reduction efforts on federal timber lands by working with the agency and various stakeholder groups.  The status quo is simply not acceptable any longer.

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Don Amador writes on environmental and recreation issues from his office in Oakley, CA.  He may be reached via email at: damador@cwo.com
  
  

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

BLM Focused on High Quality OHV Experience at Nor Cal Recreation Area


Opinion
By Don Amador
Date: 11/8/16

Bright Future for BLM OHV Area in CA Coastal Mountain Range

In 2006, the NORTHERN CALIFORNIA COASTAL WILD HERITAGE WILDERNESS ACT established the Cow Mountain Recreation Area.  This was the first congressional designation of lands that codified OHV use by stating: Motorized recreation shall be a prescribed use within the South Cow Mountain OHV Management Area.

I give a lot of credit to Congressmen Mike Thompson and Richard Pombo for crafting up a bill that continues to be a great example of bipartisan land use “win-win” legislation that serves both the motorized and non-motorized recreation communities.

According to the BLM, the South Cow Mountain OHV Recreation Area (CMRA) emphasizes off-highway vehicle use.  Over 120 miles of vehicle trails interweave 23,000 acres, and offer challenges to motorcycle, all-terrain vehicle, and four-wheel drive enthusiasts alike.

BLM Recreation Lead, Sarah Mathews, Checks Spark Arrestor at Event

The North Bay Motorcycle Club also holds several permitted motorcycle events on that unit.

BLM State Director, Jerry Perez (L), and Don Amador on SxS Tour

Recently, I had the privilege of participating in a field trip-based 10th year anniversary celebration of that designation with the CA BLM State Director, Jerry Perez, BLM Deputy State Director, Joe Stout, Ukiah Field Office Manager, Amanda James, Ukiah Field Office Recreation Planner, Sarah Mathews, Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument Manager, Rebecca Carr Wong, BLM State Office Public Affairs Officer, Dave Christy, and the Mendocino 4x4 Club.

We discussed the various partnerships that have developed over the years which help support the agency’s effort to provide high-quality OHV recreation.  I believe it is because of those partnerships and collaborative efforts that created momentum for the BLM to acquire the 1,391 acre Blue Oak Ranch along the Highway 175 corridor to provide much needed high quality public access to the area.

Mendocino 4x4 Club Explains Volunteer Efforts

This new land acquisition will provide substantive parking for RVs and trailers.  Currently, there is very limited camping and staging to the CMRA.   The acquisition will help the area realize its full potential as a world-class destination recreation site.

BLM Deputy State Director, Joe Stout (L), and Don Amador Enjoy SxS Tour

It was great to spend time on the trail with BLM leadership and local users.  I continue to believe that relationships and partnerships will continue to be the cornerstone upon which quality OHV programs are built.

# # # 

Don Amador writes on recreation and land-use issues from his office in Oakley, CA.  Don is a contractor to the BlueRibbon Coalition/Sharetrails.org and serves as their Western Representative.  Don is also president of Quiet Warrior Racing/Consulting.   Don may be reached via email at: damador@cwo.com



Thursday, October 27, 2016

New Recreation Report Shows National $650 Billion Dollar Economic Benefit


Designated Multiple-Use FS SystemTrail
Mendocino National Forest

QWR wants to thank our good friends at the Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals (SORP) for sharing some great news about recreation from the American Recreation Coalition (ARC) in their:  OUTDOOR RECREATION OUTLOOK 2017.

The report notes that outdoor recreation has more than a $650 billion annual economic impact in America.

It also highlights that federal land agencies are doing more recreation-oriented outreach to the public. 
QWR agrees with that observation since both the Forest Service and BLM have devoted more resources to trail-based recreation opportunities and collaborative planning efforts.

OHV Travel Management Kiosk
Stanislaus National Forest

The report also states that recreational use of on- and off-highway motorcycles, ATVs, and ROVs is also growing and contributes nearly $109 billion in direct spending to the U.S. economy annually and over 1.5 million jobs.

ARC notes that Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles (ROVs) or Side-by-Sides (SxSs) are becoming increasingly popular and are the fastest growing segment of the powersports market. They found that nearly 30 million Americans ride motorcycles on and off roads, and ATV ridership is some 35 million annually.

Designated FS Trail for Wide Range of Vehicle Types
Mendocino National Forest

In addition, the report cited information from the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA) that showed average snowmobile (OSV) use grew at 10% which is often in rural parts of the country.

Open Area for OSV Recreation
Tahoe National Forest

QWR believes this report should help inspire both the motorized and non-motorized recreation communities to work together to help champion sustainable outdoor recreational opportunities on federal lands through a combination of increased (and dedicated) appropriated  “recreation” funds, grant monies, and site-specific user-pay/user benefit fee programs where monies collected stay on the unit for on-the-ground public services.

LINK TO RECREATION REPORT


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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

QWR Launches ROHVA BasicDriver Course Training

QWR's, Don Amador, Demonstrating an Exercise

QWR is proud to have completed teaching its first Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association (ROHVA) BasicDriver Course today at Argyll MX Park located near Dixon, CA.  Argyll MX Park is QWR’s primary teaching facility.

Student Reading Labeling and Stickers
Exercise 1: Vehicle Familiarization

According to the ROHVA website, the association was formed to promote the safe and responsible use of recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs) manufactured or distributed in North America. ROHVA is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to develop a standard for the equipment, configuration and performance requirements of ROVs. Based in Irvine, Calif., the not-for-profit trade association is sponsored by Arctic Cat, BRP, Honda, John Deere, Kawasaki, Polaris, Textron, and Yamaha.

QWR's, Don Amador, Ready to Instruct Students


Don Amador, President of Quiet Warrior Racing/Consulting, states, “SxS use is an important and growing recreational activity on public lands.  I think it is important for trail-based recreation professionals to aid in SxS or ROV-related safety education of agency and private sector operators of these vehicles.”

“I think this is an important service that QWR can now offer those wanting to learn how to operate  ROVs in a safe and environmentally sound manner.” Amador concludes.

LINK TO ROHVA (Go ahead and take the free online ROHVA E-Course)

*If you are interested in having Don teach a ROHVA BasicDriver Course, contact him at: damador@quietwarriorracing.com


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sharing Passion for Trails with Next Generation of Land Managers


Chico Student at OHV Information Kiosk - Stonyford OHV Area
Mendocino National Forest

QWR, as part of its Sound Trails Initiative (STI), spent the last 5 days doing various post-fire and other trail stewardship projects on the Mendocino National Forest.

Merriam-Webster defines “Stewardship” as:  the conducting, supervising, or managing of something [and/or] the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care [i.e. trail-based recreation]

QWR believes an important element of trail stewardship is helping pass on your expertise and field experience to a new generation of public land managers that are enrolled in outdoor recreation education at institutions of higher learning such as Chico State University and their Recreation, Hospitality and Parks Management Program.

Designated Trail for Dirt-bike, ATV, SxS, Buggy, and 4wd Use
Mendocino National Forest


According to Chico State, students develop appropriate, professional capabilities, and attitudes required for work in a variety of settings. They learn to advise customers, to organize and plan, to budget, and to manage both leisure services and recreation and park resources. Using technology to enhance the provision of leisure services has become a distinguishing characteristic of our graduates.

Chico Student at Wilderness Trailhead
Example of Motorized Access to Non-Motorized Recreation
Mendocino National Forest

Fieldwork is offered in various recreation and resource settings; students serve full-time internships with public recreation agencies, private or commercial recreation businesses, hotels and resorts, therapeutic programs, or parks and natural resource-related agencies. The Department of Recreation, Hospitality, and Parks Management has one of the largest and most respected programs of its kind in the nation. Fifteen diverse and dedicated faculty members strive to ensure the best professional education for program majors, minors, and graduate students. The department was first accredited in 1986.


OHV Restoration Project - St. John's Mountain
Funded by CA State Park OHV Restoration Grant
Mendocino National Forest

QWR commends the Forest for encouraging interns and students to learn about recreation and resource management at the dirt or ground level.   A number of students from Chico State worked alongside agency staff and federal partners at the Oakland Motorcycle Club’s annual Jackhammer Enduro to better understand how both casual OHV recreation and permitted events are managed by the agency.

QWR was privileged to take one of the students on a full day tour of the OHV program on the Grindstone Ranger District.  The field trip in a SxS included on-site reviews of various federally funded or California State Park Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Grant funded designated trails, destination and dispersed camping opportunities, trail signing, kiosks, conservation and restoration projects, and how OHV routes can often provide motorized access to non-motorized recreation.

User Pay-User Benefit Fee Station at Developed Campground
Mendocino National Forest

As the Forest Service and BLM continue efforts to maintain and enhance their recreation programs, QWR believes that it is important for the OHV community (public land agencies and partners) to share their experience and passion for trails with a new generation of land managers.






Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Commitment to Collaboration and the Stakeholder Process is Future of OHV Recreation

Chad Roberts (L), Tuleyome, Mary Huffman (C), The Nature Conservancy
and Fire Learning Network, Don Amador (R) Quiet Warrior Racing/BRC

As many of you know, QWR is a strong supporter of the collaborative process as it relates to forest health and recreation planning efforts.  OHVers are now an important stakeholder in public land management decision-making.   That hasn’t always been the case!

According to the 2008 Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation in the United States and its Regions and States: An Update National Report from the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment (NSRE) in 1960, when the first U.S. National Recreation Survey was done for the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission, off-highway motorized recreation was not included as a recreational activity. There were, of course, many people who rode motorcycles on back country trails and used 4-wheel-drive vehicles (such as jeeps) to gain access to the back country, with and without roads. But there was no recognition of off-highway motorized recreation (then referred to as off-road driving) as a population-wide outdoor activity and the use levels were modest. However, OHV use is now recognized as one of the faster growing outdoor activities.

Earlier today, I was given the opportunity (as an OHV stakeholder) to give a presentation on  “Collaborative Engagement in Land Use Management to Meet Recreational Needs and Other Nontraditional Objectives” at the 43rd Natural Areas Conference at U.C. Davis, California.



There were 7 presentations as part of the Organized Session entitled- “Science and Collaborative Action: Addressing Climate Change, Disturbance, and Restoration in California’s Northern Coast Range and Beyond.”

The important role that collaboration plays or should play in modern land management planning (forest health/fuel/timber projects, private land forestry and conservation efforts, forest plan revisions, mobilizing local and elected official support for projects and legislative initiatives, forest collaboratives such as FireScape Mendocino, motorized and non-motorized recreational trails, etc.) was highlighted by the speakers.

Again, QWR is committed to the collaborative process as a strategy to bring land agency staff, conservation groups, local government, other diverse stakeholders, and the trail-based recreation community together with a common goal of both protecting resources and providing a high-quality outdoor experience.  This stakeholder process is centered on attending meetings and field trips where information is shared, values are appreciated, and relationships are formed.

QWR appreciates that federal land agencies have made a long-term commitment to a substantive stakeholder process on the front-end of the NEPA process.   This is a much needed and welcome change from historic NEPA planning efforts where the agency had already made the decision and was simply going through the required public process as more or less of a formality.

The agency’s shift to investing more time up front in collaborative efforts also requires the recreation community (both motorized and non-motorized) to make a similar commitment to getting some skin-in-the-game by attending meetings and substantively engaging with agency planners, recreation staff, conservation groups, and other stakeholders.

QWR has an axiom that “The quality of your local FS/BLM trail recreation program is or will be directly proportional to the quality of your engagement with agency staff and other users.”

Now is the time for your club to appoint a designated representative(s) to attend local land use planning meetings and make that long-term commitment to help ensure that you and your family continues to have access to high quality trail-based recreational opportunities.  Congrats to those clubs and individuals who have made that commitment.  It is the future of OHV.

# # #

*Don Amador is a Founding Core-Team Member of FireScape Mendocino



Monday, October 17, 2016

"Encouraged" ROV Use on Public Lands Requires Partnership

Colusa County Road Combined-Use Designation
(County Road Provides OHV/ROV Access to Federal Route Network)

As the popularity of Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle (ROV) -- which is sometimes called a Side x Side (SxS) or Utility Trail Vehicle (UTV) -- recreation continues to grow in the country, it creates a need for land managers to ensure (on units that have potential ROV opportunities) their OHV program includes ROV-related travel management information and legal access to designated roads and trails where said use is appropriate.

In addition, travel management has become highly complex and even political since many federal OHV route networks depend on city, county, or state roads (both paved and natural surface) for campground/staging area access or connectivity.

Plumas County Non-Highway Designation for OHV/ROVs
(County Dirt Roads Provide Connectivity between Federal Route Network)


Some states have laws that classify ROVs via a legal description which then dictates which routes are open based on vehicle type.  Helmet law requirements for ROV use can also differ from state to state.

ROV/ATV Helmet Law Sign
(Mendocino National Forest in California)

QWR understands that public land agencies often don’t have the fiscal or human resources to construct new ROV specific trail opportunities.

However in the meantime, OHV program managers can review their route network and camping opportunities to see where road/trail reclassifications or designations can be made to create legal ROV opportunities.

New ROV Access Route from Campground
(Hull Creek Campground, Stanislaus National Forest)


ROV users also have a role to play in helping enhance the functionality of the existing route network.  They can help identify where a road/trail segment needs to be reclassified or redesignated for ROV use (i.e. level 3 road to level 2 road or road to primitive road, etc.) ROVers can also suggest where appropriate loop or destination opportunities might exist.   Those opportunities could be part of an “encouraged” ROV route network.

Discovery Point Along OHV/ROV Tour Route
(BLM's Chappie Shasta OHV Area)

Local ROVers have an important role in helping create political support in areas where county or state roads provide connectivity between federal recreation facilities such as trails and campgrounds.

QWR commends the land managers and local ROV groups who have created partnerships to designate fun and exciting opportunities.

Backcountry ROV Adventure
(BLM's Carson City Field Office - Pine Nut Mountains, NV)


QWR believes that current and future high quality ROV recreation on public lands will rely on a substantive working relationship/partnership between the public and private sectors.