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.

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

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