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.

Taxpayers Subsidize ORV Events on BLM Lands

Last year, a deadly ORV race on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands focused attention on “cost recovery” of these events – in other words, how much race promoters pay the government for the use of our public lands compared to what it actually cost the BLM for law enforcement, supervision and other expenses associated with these events. With the renewed scrutiny, the public asked:
“Why doesn’t the BLM charge what it actually costs to administer these events especially in times of serious budget cuts?”

This situation is like a rock music concert promoter charging for attendance to an event on public lands, paying the government a fraction of what it cost to put on the concert and making a huge profit at the expense of the taxpayer.

At a time when the BLM reports that due to budget constraints they cannot adequately patrol public lands where ORV riders trespass and destroy invaluable cultural, historic and natural resources, we cannot afford to subsidize these races. In the Morongo Basin, ORVs regularly abuse public lands where they are prohibited and, in the checkerboard pattern of public and private lands, riders continue to trespass on our private property. With inadequate law enforcement and no visible identification on their vehicles, these outlaws break the law with impunity. My property in Wonder Valley is scarred with the evidence of years of ORV trespass, with tracks that run right past “No Trespassing” signs.

In February 2011, Hammerking Inc. conducted a race on BLM lands for thousands of ORV enthusiasts. We warned the BLM ahead of time that they needed to calculate the actual costs of the event and charge accordingly. After the event, we asked the agency to tell us how much they charged the promoter and an accounting of their costs. The BLM informed us that the only way we could get this information was to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, and so we did. After several weeks, we received tally sheets from the BLM’s Recreation Division. We crunched the numbers and discovered that the King of Hammers event cost the taxpayers $43,390 but that the BLM only charged the promoter $27,650 – a deficit of $15,740. I confirmed this discrepancy with BLM staff who told me that they would try to do better next time.

Continued taxpayer subsidy of ORV races on public lands is unacceptable. The public has been paying for ORV events on public lands for years and we may never know the real cost of these government giveaways. We also want to know the cost of the environmental impacts (air quality, damage to adjacent private property, destruction of vegetation and wildlife habitat) of these races? What are the costs to local law enforcement such as the Sheriff’s department and California Highway Patrol and what do they recover from the promoters? Who pays for local emergency response when accidents occur at these events?

If you want to protect our public lands from ORV abuse, you need to communicate your concerns to the Barstow Field Office of the BLM, the state BLM director, and our local elected representatives. Otherwise, ORV special interests will continue to use public lands at a discount and pass off the real costs to the taxpayer.

Teri Raml, California Desert District Manager for the BLM (951) 697-5214
Roxie Trost, Barstow Field Manager for the BLM (760) 252-6000

Back to the Bad Old Days – Supervisors Eliminate Permit Requirement from Ordinance

On March 23, 2010, in a vote of 3-1, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, voted to eliminate the Staging Permit requirement from the County ORV Ordinance, in an action that threatens to make County residents more vulnerable to increased noise, dust, harassment and trespassing from abusive ORV riders. This unfortunate action removes an important protection from the Ordinance, one that has definitely improved the quality of life of County residents.

A large number of residents made public statements in support of preserving the Ordinance as is. These statements were passionate, informed and spoke directly to the issue of the negative consequences of changing the Ordinance. These statements also spoke to the fact that the process undertaken to gut the Ordinance by Supervisor Mitzelfelt was deeply flawed, as he only listened to the pro-access special interests, ignoring other views.

Supervisors Mitzelfelt, Derry and Ovitt voted to remove this protection from the Ordinance. Supervisor Gonzales expressed reservations that residents adversely affected by ORV abuse were not being heard, and voted not to change the Ordinance. Supervisor Biane was not present.

Supervisor Mitzelfelt had cut this deal with pro-access advocates, inappropriately negotiating this change with them last year. Supervisors Mitzelfelt and Derry came into this hearing with the issue already decided in their minds and nothing said was going to sway their vote. We thank Supervisor Gonzales for listening with an open mind and expressing well considered reservations on the negative effect that this action will cause.

We thank everyone who has been supportive of the efforts to protect the quality of life of residents affected by ORV abuse and protecting our beautiful desert.


Read the LA Times Report.