COW Goes to Sacramento

On September 19th, COW members Carol Metzger, Mark Hueston, Eve Vykydal and Phil Klasky joined 25 activists from around the state to educate our elected representatives on ORV issues. We worked with the California Wilderness Coalition, Trust for Public Lands, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, Desert Protective Council, Alliance for Responsible Recreation, plus other groups and just plain folks who have to face the crisis of ORV abuse in almost every corner of California.

The ORV industry and use groups employ professional lobbyists who regularly press the palms of the legislators, but our message that there is a urgent need to protect public lands, natural and cultural resources, waterways, shared recreational lands, wilderness areas and private property was very effective. The ORV lobby has been trying to get rid of the state OHV Commission of citizen appointees that provides grants for law enforcement and restoration so that they can assert their political influence on the state OHV Division to follow their agenda of lax enforcement and more and more public lands turned into play areas for ORVs.

We organized ourselves into teams and visited dozens of key legislators. We found some of the legislative aides very receptive to our message and others, including our own Senator Ashburn, to be downright unfriendly.

Carol Metzger reported that in her visits, the aides were supportive, "They were interested and they listened to us. I think we made a difference." Mark Hueston reflected on the day, "We definitely laid a foundation and I look forward to opportunities in the future to focus on a broader message regarding ORV abuse of homeowners and property owners."

But this is just the start of a process to pass comprehensive, proactive and strong legislation to curb illegal and irresponsible ORV damage throughout the state. We are working within a diverse, knowledgeable and effective coalition of people and will try to build on our success with the San Bernardino County ordinance to get the laws and enforcement we need.