Morongo Basin MAC Resolution Opposing BLM Recommended WEMO Alternative

On May 11 the Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Committee passed a resolution opposing the BLM's preferred alternative in the WEMO DEIS.

You can read the resolution here.

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Send a copy of your BLM comments to Supervisor James Ramos

To increase the effectiveness of the comments we are making re the WEMO DEIS we urge you to also send a copy to Supervisor James Ramos.

Board of Supervisors - 3rd District
Supervisor James C. Ramos, Chairman
385 N. Arrowhead Avenue, 5th Floor
San Bernardino, CA 92415-0110 Telephone: (909) 387-4855
Fax: (909) 387-3018
SupervisorRamos@sbcounty.gov

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Additions to the WEMO Resource Center

The deadline for comments to the BLM re the WEMO DEIS is fast approaching. June 4 is the date. Please visit our WEMO DEIS Resource Center for excellent materials that you can use to write effective and detailed comment to the BLM.

Recent additions are great presentations from Pat Flanagan and Peggy Kennedy as well as detailed example comment letters for both the Wonder Valley and Copper Mountain Mesa areas.

Take action before the June 4th deadline!

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Presentation on WEMO DEIS by Pat Flanagan

Updated presentation.

This is an excellent and detailed presentation of the issues posed by the BLM's West Mojave Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Pat Flanagan presented this information to the Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Council (MB MAC) on April 13, 2015.

The presentation exposes many issues in the flawed DEIS and the BLM's "recommended alternative" and should be reviewed as you prepare your comments to the BLM.

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BLM DEIS Public Meeting -- Wednesday, April 15th in Yucca Valley

It is important that we have a big showing for the BLM's public meeting about the WEMO DEIS plan to DOUBLE the mileage of ORV routes from over 5,000 to 10,000 miles.

• TELL THE BLM THAT NONE OF THEIR PROPOSED ALTERNATIVES ARE ACCEPTABLE
• TELL THE BLM TO ELIMINATE ALL ROUTES IN YOUR AREA

DATE AND LOCATION OF MEETING:
Wed., April 15, 2015, 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.: Yucca Valley Community Center Complex, Yucca Room, 57090 Twentynine Palms Highway, Yucca, Calif.

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BLM's West Mojave (WEMO) Plan Is Open for Comment

The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Western Mojave (WEMO) Travel Management Plan Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is Open for Comment

COMMENT DEADLINE: June 4th, 2015

COMMENT NOW on the BLM’s Recommendation to DOUBLE the Amount of ORV Routes in the Western Mojave Desert

Desert resident and conservation groups sued the BLM in 2010 over its designation of over 5,000 miles of ORV routes because the routes encourage trespass on both private property and public land. The routes have been devastating to natural and cultural resources including Native American sacred sites, Desert Wildlife Management Areas (DWMA)s, critical habitat for endangered species including the Desert Tortoise, wilderness study areas, wildlife corridors, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC)s, designated wilderness areas and public lands off-limits to motorized recreation, as well as private property.

Community ORV Watch believes that the new WEMO plan does not fulfill the court's order in the 2010 suit to minimize the WEMO route network. Rather, the BLM has proposed a plan to significantly increase desert lands available to off-road vehicles. We plan to vigorously respond to this plan, and will encourage others to respond to this terrible plan by providing the community with information and tools so that they will send informed comments to the BLM. We want to assure this ill-advised proposal does not go forward and if it does, the BLM will be once again vulnerable in court.

COW has provided copies of the maps of areas covered by the WEMO DEIS on our WEMO 2015 page. Go to the map of your area and identify those recommended routes that you want eliminated. Use the "Minimization Criteria" to critique the routes.

The WEMO DEIS web site is hard to access, navigate and the maps are difficult to view, are incomplete and inaccurate. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE and you may use these issues as part of your comments to the BLM.

COMMENT NOW:

  • Send the BLM an email, postcard or letter before June 4th asking that they extend the comment period for another 120 days since their web site is hard to access and user-unfriendly and the maps and difficult to download and are hard to read.
  • Tell the BLM that none of their four alternatives are acceptable and that they must offer other alternatives that dramatically reduce the number of routes.

    COMMENT NOW to force the BLM to extend the comment period and provide them with a list of specific routes that you want eliminated. Click on the WEMO tab for a sample letter, suggested comments, instructions on how to access maps of your area and the federal laws that mandate that the BLM minimize impacts on natural and cultural resources and conflicts with residents.

Access the BLM’s WEMO web site here.

FOR INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO COMMENT ON THE WEMO DEIS and more information please visit our WEMO site by clicking on the "WEMO 2015" tab at the top of this web site.

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WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT!

Community ORV Watch is able to advocate for the protection of private and public lands with the generous contributions of its members and supporters. We have no office or paid staff (and therefore no overhead) and depend exclusively on volunteers spending hundreds of hours of their donated time to advance our programs.

Please donate using the button on the right side of the page or send us a check for $25, $50, $100 or more. Make the check out to the "Peace Development Fund/COW" our fiscal sponsor and mail to PO Box 3237, Landers, 92285. We cannot be effective without your support as we face off with well-financed ORV special interests.

COW Status Report

ORV PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS

We are addressing the crisis of widespread ORV abuse of private and public lands. When we testified at federal congressional hearings in 2010, we learned from federal land management officials that off-road damage is the NUMBER ONE threat to our public lands. ORV activity is uncontrolled and unmanaged, riders trespass with impunity, law enforcement is often resistant to enforcing the law or are so understaffed that they are ineffective.

The state Off Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) Commission is stacked with representatives of the ORV industry and serves as an advocate for well-funded ORV special interests and resists taking the needed steps to enforce existing laws. One big problem that we are tackling at this time is that ORVs do not have to display any kind of visible identification. This enables riders who commit illegal acts including trespass to escape without identification. Law enforcement cannot trace them and so the problem persists. RIDERS TRESPASS WITH IMPUNITY. We are working through the OHMVR and governor's office to make visible ID a requirement, but it has been an uphill battle despite the fact that the policy is a matter of common sense. We are up against the significant influence of the ORV industry and a subculture of entitlement no matter the consequences.

It is extremely difficult to obtain protection from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) since they are severely understaffed and therefore hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands remain unprotected. Protection of the environment by the BLM remains a low priority while the agency continues to support large scale ORV events such as the King of Hammers and the huge gatherings at Dumont Dunes and other venues. The law enforcement landscape is skewed toward facilitating ORV events and activities at the cost of the environment, private property, invaluable cultural and historical sites and safety.

WEMO ORV ROUTE DESIGNATION

COW is a plaintiff in a successful lawsuit taking the BLM to task for designating 5,092 miles of ORV routes in the Western Mojave (WEMO) desert area without regard for the protection of endangered species, private property, designated wilderness and National Park lands. The federal court agreed with us that the process by which these routes were designated was arbitrary and capricious. Many of the routes pass through fragile desert washes, invade habitat for threatened and endangered species, wilderness areas and directly trespass on private lands. Although the court put the BLM on a timeline to “go back to the drawing board” and restart the process to receive public input, the BLM has successfully requested a series of delays claiming that they did not have the staff to follow through on the court order. In the meantime, riders are proliferating routes that threaten the integrity of the desert ecosystem.

At a recent status conference with the Department of Justice (the BLM’s legal representatives), the BLM and our attorneys, our concerns about the continuing impacts of ORVs on the Mojave desert were ignored. The magistrate granted the BLM another delay in the WEMO process. COW Steering Committee member Phil Klasky told the court: “Everyday the courts allow the BLM to delay implementation of a responsible policy regarding ORVs, the desert suffers – more damage to wildlife, more trespass on private and public lands, more landscapes denuded of vegetation, more erosion, more destruction of America’s natural and cultural heritage.” The statement fell on deaf ears as the court granted the BLM another year delay in the WEMO route designation process. We will continue to monitor the mandates of the federal court but it is an uphill battle. We have held workshops for our members to comment on the proposed WEMO route designation process and prepared extensive comments of our own. After contributing to the scoping process associated with the WEMO route designation, we need to make sure that the BLM incorporates these comments into the Draft EnvironmentaI Impact Report (EIR). We are in the process of asking the court to mandate that the BLM must close areas that they, by their own admission, cannot protect.

There is a pervasive ignorance among the riding public about the environmental impacts of ORV activity and the need to protect archeological, historical, cultural resources and sacred sites. ORVs are damaging critical habitat for endangered species (Desert Tortoise; Mojave Fringe-Toed Lizard; Burrowing Owls, etc.), are denuding landscapes of vegetation and destroying invaluable Native American and early American historical and cultural sites. We have personally witnessed the destruction of cultural resources on the Mojave Indian Tribe, Chemehuevi Indian Tribe and Quechan Indian Tribes in southeastern California and Arizona. ORVs cause widespread erosion of fragile desert soils held together by a network of fungal hypha that is crushed and compacted by the vehicles. Desert soils that take hundreds of years to form can be destroyed in minutes.

The solutions include: federal land use policy (Bureau of Land Management and National Forest Service) that balances ORV recreation with conservation and restoration; public education regarding existing laws and the impact of ORVs on the environment; the well documented dangers associated with the use of ORVs by children; the need for increased law enforcement, stricter fines, penalties and the confiscation of vehicles; development and support for local chapters of ORV Watch; and, visible identification for all ORVs.

The local Sheriff’s department ORV Law Enforcement Team has been responsive to the needs of the community. They work constructively with the community and attend public meetings, broadcast public service announcements (PSAs), deploy electronic message boards on holiday weekends, and contact problem riders who are a nuisance to the community. We support them in their annual grant application to the OHMVR.

We maintain contructive working relationships with the Barstow BLM, local Sheriff’s department, OHMVR, governor’s office, San Bernardino County supervisors, and business and residential groups in the Morongo Basin.

INFORMATIONAL KIOSKS

We firmly believe that public education is key to dealing with the crisis of ORV abuse of our private and public lands. We successfully installed informational kiosks at the Poste Homestead Natural and Historical area and in Landers and at Gold Crown with the assitance of the Bureau of Land Management. These kiosks contain a map of the area, interpretation and the relevant laws.

PLEASE SUPPORT OUR EFFORTS

We have been the recipients of financial and other assistance from the Community Foundation, Rose Foundation, Grosbeck Family Fund, Responsible Trails America, Mojave Desert Land Trust, Morongo Basin Conservation Association and many individuals who generously give their time and resources. We are grateful to our supporters and are in need of financial and other assistance. Contact us about how you can become involved and support policies and public education.

Fast, Furious, And Anonymous

Without visible identification, off-road vehicle riders continue to violate the law with impunity

Almost every weekend in the spring and fall and especially during holidays, rural communities in the
southern California desert are invaded by off-road vehicles (ORV) who use our neighborhoods as playgrounds and cause widespread damage to public lands, wilderness areas, critical habitat for endangered species and other landsoff-limits to all vehicles. Any attempt to report this illegal activity is hampered by the fact that these trespassers demonstrate no respect for private property or the law, are difficult for law enforcement to apprehend and, without visible identification, are virtually impossible to report.

Off-road vehicles in California are not required to display any visible identification. The only information
that could possibly link the vehicle to the rider is on a small sticker obscured behind or below the driver. Private property owners have no recourse from the onslaught of illegal and irresponsible ORV abuse. Riders violate the law without consequences, and law enforcement is frustrated in any attempt to apprehend them. On ORV web sites and blogs, riders boast that they are impervious to the law due to their anonymity. Imagine if automobiles on our nation's highways did not have to display visible identification. How would you report a hit-and-run incident or an intoxicated, reckless or speeding driver? Why should ORVs be any different than automobiles in displaying identification?

According to a recent report by Responsible Trails America (RTA), a non-profit organization that supports common-sense off-road vehicle enforcement and management policies, other states are taking the lead on requiring visible identification.

The report (found on www.responsibletrails.org), explains that twelve states require large, visible
identification in the form of a license plate or decal, and more states are joining the effort. The initiative helps to weed out the renegade riders and help protect opportunities for those who follow the law. Visible identification gives law enforcement the tools they have asked for in order to respond to illegal activity. The rules regarding ORV identification are different from state to state resulting in a confusing patchwork of regulations. Some states require visible identification, registration and decals while others have no title, visible identification or registration requirements at all.

The current situation is unacceptable, but there are remedies. The state of California, through the Off-
Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division, needs to mandate that the green stickers be visibly displayed. We invite ORV organizations in California to join in our efforts to support legislation requiring visible license plates. This is an important way that the Blue Ribbon Coalition, American Motorcycle Association, California Off-Road Vehicle Association, Off-Road Business Association and other ORV special interest groups can exhibit their often stated goal of encouraging legal and responsible behavior. Riders can encourage others to respect the rights of private property owners and businesses by policing themselves through "peer reporting". Advocacy for visible license plates would prove that the ORV industry and user groups are serious about reining in those who give the sport such a bad reputation.

Contact us if you are interested in supporting efforts to make riders more identifiable and therefore more responsible. We invite vendors and user groups to work with us on an ad campaign that encourages responsible recreation through education and accountability.

Responsible Trails America: Visible Identification of Off-Road Vehicles: A Trend Toward a Uniform Standard

From the Responsible Trails America Report - Visible Identification of Off-Road Vehicles:
A Trend Toward a Uniform Standard

Each year, millions of Americans use off-­‐road vehicles (ORVs). The majority of ORV riders respect the millions of acres of designated trails and millions of other outdoors users. However, reckless riders across the country are trespassing on private property and going off designated trails on public lands. They are causing costly damage for property owners and taxpayers. They are ruining hunting, fishing and outdoor experiences for other users and creating conflicts on the trails. And, they are placing an undue burden on already strained law enforcement officers.

Substantial resources recently have been invested by agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, in public planning efforts to identify and designate legal routes for ORV use throughout public lands. Successful implementation of designated route systems hinges largely on the question of whether or not these agencies have adequate tools to educate riders and to determine ownership of ORVs used by persons who knowingly break the rules.

Visible identification, such as a license plate or large decal, solves one of the biggest remaining obstacles to preventing illegal ORV use—identifying the rider. Appearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources, Frank Adams, former executive director of the Nevada Sheriffs’ & Chiefs’ Association and a member of Responsible Trails America’s (RTA) Advisory Board, summed up the challenge, “Part of the problem that encourages this reckless behavior stems from the feeling of anonymity that many of the ORV riders have because there is no way of identifying them or their vehicles.”

Read the whole report.

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