Sunday, April 5, 2020

WILDERNESS HUNTING - CHALLENGES AND REWARDS

Photo Courtesy of Paul Turcke



*As some of you know, Paul Turcke is ending his private law practice.  It has been my privilege to work with Paul over the last 25 years on many legal efforts throughout the country to defend good travel management decisions or challenge bad travel management decisions.  Turcke’s prowess on federal recreation access issues is unmatched. There will be plenty of time for me to write on many of those court battles, but I wanted to make sure that folks knew about Turcke’s passion for hunting and fishing on public lands.   His commitment to conservation and resource management is captured below in an article that he wrote about his outdoor experience on Wilderness hunts.  QWR wishes Turcke all the best at his new post and thanks him for his service in support of sustainable OHV recreation on designated roads, trails, and areas.
--  Don Amador  



WILDERNESS HUNTING – CHALLENGES AND REWARDS
By Paul A. Turcke

A colleague emailed me, saying only that he wanted to talk. We worked for a long time in the same building for organizations usually at odds over public lands issues, but I always enjoyed bumping into him, pretty much in the way of Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog in the Looney Tunes. So I accepted his invitation over a cup of coffee.  He asked if I wanted to write a piece on hunting in Wilderness, which evoked a reaction of equal parts flattery and fear.  I accepted, mindful of our backgrounds and differing professional roles. This piece will not emphasize Wilderness as religion, but more a practical perspective on what Wilderness is, and what it is not.

Photo Courtesy of Paul Turcke


I’ve sought opportunities in Wilderness, including a DIY Grand Canyon float trip in 1986 and other similar “whitewater Wilderness” experiences. My assignment here is to talk about hunting in Wilderness, and I have done a share of that. It’s often not exactly “fun” to be in Wilderness. It’s a lot of work. Apparently there are people who backpack camp for “fun” and I don’t get it. But any aversion I have to sleeping in a 24 ounce tent gets overshadowed by the force of an unpunched tag for some elusive ungulate and the prospect of an unparalleled peak experience.

Each Wilderness can offer a unique, dynamic experience. One should be careful to recognize differences across the broad diversity of areas, or different times in the same area. As the Act states, we are ”visitors” who do not remain, catching a momentary and individualized glimpse into any Wilderness. Even within this diversity, Wilderness is rarely an idyllic place where everything is perfect. Classic “rock and ice” Wilderness can be pretty stark, where wildlife is often far less abundant than in successional habitats. So what is the attraction of hunting in an area where one will almost certainly work harder while likely seeing less game?

Photo Courtesy of Paul Turcke


The ultimate goal offers one explanation. Certain species exist primarily in Wilderness, like sheep or goat. For more common species like deer or elk, Wilderness can offer opportunities that may not exist in more accessible areas. The preoccupation with trophy score can sometimes raise concerns, but experienced hunters seek the challenge of locating, studying and taking mature animals. Escapement is a key contributor, facilitated by the vastness and challenges of Wilderness.


There is also something to be said for the constancy and ethos of Wilderness hunting. There are rules, stated and thus locked in by the Act itself. It feels good to understand and devise methods of complying with these standards. One must recognize and solve numerous logistical challenges to thrive during, or even survive, an overnight trip in Wilderness. Quality hunting can be a matter of avoiding competition, and the challenges of Wilderness help limit hunting pressure. The remoteness, distance and difficulty of the terrain demand good fitness, gear and decision making. Those who appreciate and invest in this culture gain deep satisfaction and will help share it and instill a similar appreciation in others.

Hunting connects us with reality. You can’t talk your way out of being upwind of a mature buck. Wilderness intensifies this reality. Planning a stalk and pulling the trigger can have significant consequences, causing one to spend, or squander, many hours or even days reckoning the outcome of the choices made.

These factors all point to a core attribute of Wilderness: Solitude.  Some prefer more of a social or group experience, which is possible in Wilderness, such as the “classic” hunt facilitated by a string of packhorses. But many seek a solitary experience on foot. There is little denying this is in some form escapism. Such escapism is a justifiable if not healthy response to our society’s present trajectory. Connecting with primitive and sometimes harsh simplicity of Wilderness provides insight and perspective on the developed world.

After about 20 years of resident applications, the word “selected” appeared on my 2018 Idaho California bighorn sheep draw result. The sheep in that unit live primarily within Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness designated in 2009. This is not impenetrable “rock and ice” Wilderness, but sagebrush-steppe punctuated by 300 meter deep canyons. Out here one will find cherrystemmed access, fences, livestock and F-15s overhead, reflecting the version of Wilderness that can even hope to gain traction in today’s Congress. I have been drawn to this area for over 25 years by hunting, botany, archeology, photography and management issues involving water, livestock grazing and recreation. My knowledge and appreciation grew exponentially through this hunt.

Unlike the hours long treks from a trailhead and backpack camping suggested above, this area offers huntable access about 90 minutes from Boise. I made six scouting trips and hunted a total of seven days throughout the season. I did encounter other hunters along the roads, who were on different hunts and throughout the season. I did encounter other hunters along the roads, who were on different hunts and excited to hear that bighorns roamed this country and to live vicariously through the quest of us lucky enough to hunt them. I never saw another human while afield.

Photo Courtesy of Paul Turcke


Hunting provides an impetus for visiting Wilderness but much of what we experience while there comes simply from being. Equal to the memories of shots successfully taken are those of relict rangelands, fledgling burrowing owls, pediocactus sites and scurrying short-horned lizards.

Beyond one’s own experiental benefits, being in Wilderness allows us to recognize and contribute to the broader custodial effort. In places like the Owyhees agency staff face daunting responsibilities and can be aided by good behavior and feedback from users. Sometimes we see evidence of even light touch management, like boundary signage or efforts to restore the Parker Road to single track after decades of being a vehicle-traveled way. It’s satisfying to recognize or be part of a collective effort. We should all be building karma through respect and better care for our public lands.

Wilderness is one position in our portfolio of public land ownership. There is nothing inherently “good” or “bad” about Wilderness and there is a limit to the lands that qualify, making it ever more important that we know and appreciate these places. Hunting is a recognized and historical use in Wilderness that can provide top quality visitor experiences while enhancing Wilderness ethos and management. For many, including hunters, Wilderness can provide unique challenges and commensurate rewards.

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Monday, March 30, 2020

COVID-19 UPDATE – DON’T BE GROUND ZERO




DON’T BE GROUND ZERO

Many of my colleagues in the recreation advocacy/management profession have been working hard to encourage and inspire motorized and non-motorized trail enthusiasts to follow the “Stay at Home” directives being issued by local, state, and federal authorities to help Flatten the Curve of Covid-19 infections. 

As you know, our frontline healthcare workers and 1st responders place themselves in harm’s way every day to take care of a compounding number of very sick and/or critically ill Covid-19 patients.  Many of them are asked to work long hours with limited amounts of PPE.

Rural government officials including a number of sheriffs and county supervisors are asking visitors to honor those stay at home orders and postpone your backcountry adventures until the nation gets a handle on the Covid-19 crisis.

Here are a couple of reasons for those requests.

DON’T BRING THE VIRUS TO WHERE WE LIVE – With an apparent large number of infected people being asymptomatic (showing no sign of any disease), why  would trail enthusiasts want to be  the “ground zero” for introducing the coronavirus to our friends, healthcare workers, and law enforcement officials who live and work in largely uninfected rural areas of the country?

DON’T TAKE NON-ESSENTIAL OUTDOOR RISKS - Trail enthusiasts of all persuasions understand that participation in the sport comes with inherent risks.   Many of those injuries are critical and can require medical evacuation to a hospital where you will unnecessarily place yourself and others in danger of infection or require hospital staff – who are already maxed out taking care of Covid-19 patients – to address your self-inflicted injuries.  If you get lost, the local Search and Rescue may not be able to respond due to staffing shortages.

There is a growing consensus in the outdoor recreation advocacy corps that the best short-term advice is for us to avoid traveling long distances to recreate but rather utilize local opportunities to get some fresh air and exercise while practicing social distancing.

Responsible recreation means that we have an obligation to be good stewards and show respect for other trail users and our land management partners.  Part of that responsibility is to respect temporary unit closures.

When the Covid-19 book is written, let’s hope the recreation community is credited for doing its part to Flatten the Curve vs. being cited as the “Ground Zero” infector of a rural community.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

OP ED - COVID-19 MITIGATION IS NOT VACATION



OP-ED
By Don Amador
March 24, 2019

COVID-19 MITIGATION IS NOT VACATION

With hospitals and emergency responders running out of masks and other PPE in California and elsewhere, it should come as no surprise that local, state, and federal land managers are expanding the scope of their COVID-19 temporary access restrictions to popular destination recreation sites that - are or have the potential to -attract large crowds of visitors.

For example, California State Parks issued a news release late last night that stated, it is taking additional safety measures to reduce crowds and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Many state parks and beaches received record visitation over the weekend which made it impossible for the public to implement appropriate social distancing practices.

LINK TO STATE PARKS ANNOUNCEMENT

The Nevada BLM issued a temporary closure order for the Sand Mountain Recreation Area near Fallon, Nevada.   As many of you know, the Sand Mountain OHV Area is a popular destination site for families and clubs that enjoy riding dirt-bikes, ATVs, SxSs, and 4WD vehicles.

LINK TO NV BLM CLOSURE OF SAND MOUNTAIN

Based on photos and stories posted on social media, it appears that many motorized and non-motorized recreationists have misinterpreted various “shelter-at-home” orders from state or county government as authorization for them to take a short or long-term vacation - often with large groups – on public lands.  

Until we collectively “Flatten the Curve,”   recreationists should honor the stay at home directives and if they do go out for trail activities it should be close to home and/or in dispersed areas sans large crowds where social distancing is practiced.  Respecting the seriousness of this issue will hasten its resolution and help expedite the withdrawal of closure orders and the reopening of public lands for both casual use and permitted events.

The professional healthcare workers, law enforcement officials, and park maintenance staff  that I know will be greatly appreciative of us doing our part to address the coronavirus.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

BEING "TRAIL PROUD" DURING THE COVID-19 CRISIS




BEING TRAIL PROUD DURING THE COVID-19 CRISIS


Over the last week, private citizens, businesses, organizations, and government agencies have been under a tremendous amount of pressure to address and/or take preventative measures to help “Flatten the Curve” by practicing “social distancing” such as avoiding crowded places, working at home, and traveling only when necessary to the grocery store, pharmacy, or essential meeting/appointment.

Having worked the field of OHV advocacy and recreation management for the last 30 years, I want to express my deep appreciation and pride in how the OHV community is responding to recent shelter-in-place orders and other guidance that is severely limiting our ability to work and/or enjoy our sport.

Here are some examples from what I have seen so far from OHV;

PROFESSIONAL - Consultants, contractors, agency leads, and legislative staff are tele-working from home on issues such as grants, policy, programs, cancelled events, resource management, law enforcement, safety, and legislation.

PERSONAL – Taking cancelled events in stride, getting out on trails with small numbers of your family or friends to enjoy the great outdoors, and urging others to remain calm and respectful.

BUSINESS – Instituting strong disinfectant mitigation measures in the store or shop, closing the doors if required by government orders although I believe dealerships should stay open since OHVs are used for farming/emergency services/rescue/utilities/law enforcement, etc., and offering mail order or delivery on products.

The greater OHV community should take pride in how this highly popular outdoor activity has matured over the last 30 years into a sport with the capacity needed to adapt to ever changing Covid-19 related circumstances so as to ensure our continued access to high-quality OHV recreation on public lands during the emergency and after it subsides. 

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Friday, March 13, 2020

QWR STATEMENT ON COVID-19 - This Too Shall Pass


STATEMENT ON COVID-19
“This too shall pass”


The outdoor recreation community in California is all too familiar with having significant natural disaster events - such as the recent 2018 wildfire season - disrupt access to both casual trail use and permitted events.

Today, we are facing the coronavirus (COVID-19) that is another type of natural disaster which is not just restricted to forest lands in California but is impacting people and their activities – including powersports related events - on a worldwide basis.

The federal government has been directing the public to follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and to follow mitigation measures and other guidance from state and local government agencies.

CDC GUIDANCE on COVID-19

QWR would like to support guidance from the AMA, Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals, and other recreation groups who have issued statements about working in a cooperative manner with government officials and our land agency partners when it comes to cancelling or postponing scheduled permitted events or conferences.

GUIDANCE FROM GOV. NEWSOM’S OFFICE

Also, some jurisdictions may decide to allow outdoor group events based on site-specific information.  However, local government agencies may have a lower number of people that may be gathered at an event.  Always check with your local health agencies.

COVID-19 has now become a political issue with an uncertain outcome at this point.  It is the hope of many that the virus will run its course in a short period of time so we all can get back to a normal life.   However, there is the possibility that things could get much worse before the situation gets better.  We just don’t know.

As OHV, MTB, MotoGP, Supercross, and other competition events continue to be cancelled or rescheduled it is important to know that both motorized and non-motorized recreationists can still get out and enjoy casual trail use with family and friends in small group settings.

We will get through this natural disaster as we have so many times before.  That is what we do!





Monday, March 9, 2020

NEW CA NOHVCC STATE PARTNER - Comments Needed on CEQ NEPA Reform Process

Don Amador at 2019 NOHVCC Annual Conference

As a new CA State Partner for the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC), I would like to express my appreciation to NOHVCC for allowing me to help support their efforts to promote sustainable OHV recreation here in the Golden State and throughout the country.

LINK to NOHVCC CA STATE PARTNERS

Part of my volunteer work for NOHVCC will be to help share their resources and work products with fellow OHVers in CA.  One of those important current efforts is to let you know that the comment period to submit NEPA reform comments to the Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) ends tomorrow.   Outdoor recreational interests have a keen interest in supporting government efforts to reduce the amount of red-tape associated with federal land agency planning and permitting processes.

NOHVCC issued a recent news release with information on the CEQ NEPA review process with a link to their excellent comment letter.  Please feel free to read their letter and send in a comment with your own suggestions and/or stating support for NOHVCC’s comments. 

LINK TO NOHVCC NEWS RELEASE ON CEQ NEPA REFORM PROCESS

Once you have read the NOHVCC news release, you can go to the CEQ link below and find out about the proposed rulemaking and where/how to submit comments.

LINK TO CEQ NEPA REVIEW PROPOSALS

Thanks for your review of this information and your support of environmentally sound OHV recreation and efforts by federal agencies to reduce the amount of paperwork associated with land agency planning and permitting processes.

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Don Amador, President
Quiet Warrior Racing/Consulting

Don Amador
CA State Partner, NOHVCC


  

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

OP ED - State of the CA OHV Program



OP - ED
By Don Amador
Feb. 25, 2020

OCEANOFICATION 
 State of CA OHV Program

Like many of you, I have had more than a full plate over the last couple of months but am now back more fully in the OHV saddle.  With the upcoming OHV commission meeting slated for Thursday, February 27, I wanted to share my view on the current state of affairs at the CA OHV Program.

The following comments are hard for me to pen and share because of my long history with the Program and my deep appreciation for the OHV staff that I work with and for the many partners it has in various local and federal jurisdictions.

For reasons I don’t fully understand the Program has entered into a “Dark Ages” status where substantive communications with Park/Division leadership are almost non-existent.   Transformation has largely obliterated the hands-on SVRA superintendent role where management is meaningfully engaged with unit staff and partners in operation of the SVRA.

Probable loss of the opportunity to purchase the 1,300 Blue Oak Ranch, because approved grant monies to help with the purchase of the property -  that would act as a high quality staging/camping area for the BLM’s South Cow Mountain OHV area - are now lost in a bureaucratic black hole in Sacramento. 

While there remains the responsibility of grant applicants to be accountable for grant funded projects, there are a growing number of past and potential future grant applicants (including government agencies) that have told me the massive increase in grant reporting requirements goes far beyond other grant reporting requirements including those who get non-OHV grants from other state agencies.

The Oceano Dunes SVRA PWP - absent any meaningful projects that would benefit OHV recreation – is simply adding momentum to ongoing political efforts that seek to permanently ban OHV recreation at the SVRA while at the same time supporting the continued gross misuse of dedicated OHV funds to manage and support non-motorized recreation at the SVRA and other Park units.

It is my hope the Thursday OHV Commission meeting will provide an opportunity for Parks leadership, Division staff, and stakeholders to reconnect, find solutions, and chart a positive course for our OHV Program.

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