UPDATE 6/1/2017 – The bill passed the Senate 22-15. Senator Fuller voted against this bill. It will now be considered by the Assembly. Details to follow. Thanks to all who called their Senators in support of this bill. We will keep you posted as this bill moves forward. You can also sign up for COW’s occasional email updates.
Residents of rural desert communities suffer from the noise, dust, trespass, and destruction from illegal motorized off-highway recreation. The OHMVR Program sunsets on December 31, 2017. The need for reauthorization of this program is critical with important revisions now being proposed. Today, damage from OHVs is outpacing California’s ability to repair and monitor the impacts on our natural resources. California State Senator Ben Allen is sponsoring SB 249, a bill created to address the problem in three ways:
- Greater Environmental Protection – SB 249 creates improved transparency and implementation of commonsense measures to protect our sensitive cultural and natural resources.
- Fuel Tax Revisions – Did you know that every time you pump gas a portion of that goes to fund off-road recreation whether you participate or not? SBÂ 249 addresses this by ensuring that a portion of our fuel taxes go to support all forms of outdoor recreation, both motorized and unmotorized activities like hiking, kayaking, and camping.
- Balanced, Accountable Management – SB 249 ensures a greater balance of viewpoints in California State Park OHV administration and clarifies the relationship between OHMVR decision-makers and the State Parks Director as part of a cohesive Department of Parks & Recreation.
Illegal riders flagrantly disregard restoration and protected wilderness areas. (Juniper Flats in San Bernardino County).
This flyer provides a good summary of SB 249.
The Morongo Basin Conservation Association (MBCA), the Association for Responsible Recreation (ARR) and Community ORV Watch have signed on to this letter to the Senate Appropriation Committee in support of this legislation.
The legislation is currently being considered in the State Senate and if it passes there then it will move to the State Assembly. COW will post updates as this process continues. At this time we urge you to contact your State Senator, early in the week of May 28th (best would be on Tuesday, May 30th after Memorial Day) and support this needed legislation. Here is a list of Senate contacts that we urge you to call to support passage of SB 249 there. In particular if you are resident of the East Mojave area represented by Sen. Jean Fuller – (R) 16th District contact her at (916) 651-4016 – email: link. If you are calling a Senator outside of your district here is a sample script you can use when making such calls.
Send messages of support of the bill’s author to State Senator Ben Allen .
On April 19, 2017 the BLM held an open house at the Yucca Valley Community Center to answer questions about their current Proposed Street Legal Only (SLO) routes. This is their response to a court order to take interim measures in the period until the updated WEMO plan is published. A related open house was conducted in Barstow on April 20 and a third meeting is scheduled in Barstow on May 3.
The proposal is only a temporary measure prior to the next release of the WEMO plan. The BLM is soliciting comments re this proposal. You may use this form to submit such comments. Your comments must be mailed to the address on that form by May 12, 2017. They can also be emailed to Matt Toedtli, BLM Barstow Planning Environmental Coordinator at email@example.com for his reference.
Community ORV Watch is in favor of this proposal but we strongly urge expanding Street Legal Only limits to include all WEMO routes that intersect with any/all County dirt roads. The road system in the Morongo Basin is the result of the Small Tract Act (1938-1976) during which time the BLM surveyed and sold 5 acre tracts for fair market value. Each tract had a 44 and later 50 foot easement for access and there was utility access. Through use by the public these roads have come under the jurisdiction of the County.
Note: County roads include the County Maintained Road System – CMRS (the roads can be paved or unpaved), The County Service Area (CSA) roads (community roads maintained through tax funds paid by community members) and other roads which are unmaintained by the County but over which they have jurisdiction.
Not all of the surveyed land was sold for private use, which explains our checkerboard pattern. Currently riders on BLM off-road designated routes illegally pass though our residential community roads compromising peace, quiet and clean air in our neighborhoods.
Re this current proposal:
- BLM is proposing a interim set of street legal only routes on a limited number of road sections where BLM and and County Maintained Road System roads intersect. Here is the map of this proposal and an associated document with some associated route restriction route numbers.
- The total milage for these sections is 148 miles throughout the WEMO territory.
- This interim program is intended to satisfy the court order to take interim measures before the next WEMO plan is released.
- The purpose is to harmonize the County and BLM road regulations so that there is no confusion for law enforcement. Access to dirt roads on BLM land still allows OHV use at this time.
Updating the WEMO process timeline, on January 26, 2017 the Court issued an order enlarging the time for completion ofthe WEMO plan amendment. The revised planning schedule is as follows from the BLM’s quarterly report:
- The Notice of Availability (NOA) of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, together with the Draft Travel Management Plans (TMP), will be published by January 2018.
- The NOA of the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, together with the Proposed TMPs, will be published by April 2019.
- The WEMO land use plan amendment Record of Decision (ROD) and the TMP RODs will be issued by October 2019.
We were also informed by the BLM that from the late 2015-early 2016 comment period that many of you participated in, those comments are “still being categorized” and an analysis of them will be made publicly available “this summer.”