Natural resources report for May 2022
SOUTH COW MOUNTAIN OHVMA
The Bureau of Land Management’s Ukiah Field Office invited public comment on future planning and improvements for the South Cow Mountain OHVMA. In collaboration with Santa Rosa 4x4, a local Cal4 club who regularly utilizes this OHVMA, I submitted a comment to advocate for improvements to trails, facilities, and general park amenities. Specific recommendations included request for jeep trail development, looping of trails, and development of the obstacle course to include 4x4 features. Other suggestions included increased security of trash bins to reduce litter across the park, addition of a picnic area at the 4x4 obstacle course (with shade), and increased ranger or sheriff patrols within the park. Many thanks to Chris Silveira and Santa Rosa 4x4 for providing detailed insight on South Cow Mountain’s current status and needs.
FOOTHILL YELLOW LEGGED FROG
The US Fish & Wildlife Service has proposed listing four distinct subspecies of the foothill yellow legged frog (FYLF) as Endangered or Threatened. Two subspecies are slated for endangered status, and two for threatened. If approved, this set of designations threatens public access to public lands across both the Sierra Nevada mountains and the coastline, covering a significant length of the state on the East and the West (click here for FYLF endangered/threatened proposal details). I submitted a comment to object to the listing. I am grateful to all those in the Cal4 membership who also took action to submit comments.
CREEK FIRE RESTORATION
Restoration of public lands within the burn scars across the state will be a critical issue for OHV users for many years to come. Over 6.8 million acres were burned in California in 2020 and 2021. The USDA has proposed a restoration project for the Creek Fire burn scar, which covers over 380,000 acres in the Sierra National Forest across Fresno and Madera counties (click here for Creek Fire Restoration proposal overview). Post-fire restoration of public lands is badly needed, and it is good to see land management agencies investing resources, funds, and manpower into it. However, it will be important to monitor restoration projects to ensure that OHV access is not unnecessarily restricted or closed during active restoration projects, or as an outcome of post-project regulation. I submitted a comment to advocate for preservation and prioritization of OHV access.
SIERRA NATIONAL FOREST ADOPT-A-TRAIL
Sierra National Forest (SNF) hosted an Adopt-a-Trail meeting on April 13 at the SNF headquarters in Clovis. I attended along with other Cal4 members. Both OHV and general forest updates were provided, including:
- High Sierra OHV Program: Voyager Campground (Courtright Lake) will be open in June. The Red Mountain Staging Area is still in stalemate, there is no progression. Kevin Woods, OHV Manager for SNF, will be completing an environmental impact statement on it this year.
- Bass Lake OHV Program: Whiskey Campground will reopen this year.
- Recreation Program: Swanson Meadows, Knnikinnick, and Upper Billy campgrounds will reopen this year. Gigantea campground will not reopen in 2022, though there was ample pressure from those attending to prioritize improvement and reopening of this site.
- General SNF updates: a large boost of funding is coming into SNF as $150 million in new grant funds have been allocated, which will add 50-60 new permanent staff to SNF operations. Most of the new staff will be field based roles, rather than administrative or science specialists. A core goal for increased staffing is to expand fuel thinning, vegetation management, and fire restoration projects.
Cal4 boasts a rich history of clubs adopting trails to conduct maintenance and enhance rider safety to ensure that trails remain open and in good condition year-round. This is a vital form of partnership with the Forest Service to advocate for and preserve OHV access in our public lands. For more information or to get involved in the adopt-a-trail program, contact Kevin Woods, OHV Manager for the High Sierra Ranger District - 559.855.5355 x3325
OHV GRANT SEASON
The public comment period for BLM and Forest Service grants for OHV projects has recently closed. Grants that are secured in 2022 will be used for projects that are completed in 2023. Details on all statewide OHV grant proposals were available for public review and comment from March 8 to May 2 (click here for OHV grant proposal details). Public comments are helpful to advocate for grant funds to be allocated towards improvements of trail access, trail quality, OHV rider staging areas, and other projects that would create immediate and direct benefit to OHV users. I encourage members to review grant proposals that impact trails in your region and consider submitting comments. OHV grants follow an annual cycle and there will be opportunities for public comment again in the Spring of 2023. In the meantime, it is helpful to be informed of the active grant projects that are currently funded in your region so that you can track project progress and outcomes, and use that insight to inform your comments on future OHV grant needs.
OCEANO DUNES SVRA
The battle to preserve OHV access at Oceano Dunes SVRA continues to be held up in legal action. In a recent positive legal action, Friends of the Oceano Dunes won a court decision to exclude six environmental groups from joining in litigation to advance closure of Oceano SVRA to OHV recreation and camping. The San Luis Obispo County Superior Court ruled in favor of Friends and barred the six groups from being added to the case. The six groups are the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, the Center for Biological Diversity, Oceano Beach Community Association, Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, and San Luis Obispo Coastkeeper.
The Court ruled the groups are adequately represented by the Coastal Commission and that the Commission will make all the arguments that the groups could have made in the litigation. This court decision provides positive momentum for OHV enthusiasts within the ongoing court case, as it prevented the Coastal Commission from gaining significant additional funds and legal support.
In other news, an appeal to prevent the additional closure of 130 acres has been denied. While Oceano Dunes SVRA remains open for use at this time, the 130 acres will be fenced off as the Coastal Commission claims it is necessary for dust mitigation.
If you have questions about any of the items shared in this report, or if you would like to discuss issues related to public land access that are affecting your club or trails in your region, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.