Southern Natural Resources Consultant Report - October 2019

The Cal4Wheel website is now hosting a fairly comprehensive Glossary of Landuse and Environmental Terms. (https://cal4wheel.com/access-advocacy/glossary). I have been working on this glossary for the past 15 years by compiling terms and definitions from a variety of landuse documents. It is now in a format that is relatively easy to update with new terms and is a good fit for the Cal4Wheel Access Advocacy section of the website. If you encounter any terms you do not understand, send me a note and I will get it added to the glossary.

Bi-State Sage Grouse

Recently filed legal arguments challenge Humboldt-Toiyabe Forest special use permit restrictions imposed by the Forest Plan Amendment for the Greater Sage- Grouse Bi-State Distinct Population Segment. The legal briefs were filed September 20, 2019, by the Sierra Trail Dogs Motorcycle and Recreation Club, Pine Nut Mountains Trails Association, American Motorcyclist Association District 36, California 4 Wheel Drive Association, and the BlueRibbon Coalition. The challenged decision effectively prohibited long-established events between March 1 and June 30, based on a “resolution” of objections by a handful of preservationist groups. In order to resolve the objections, the Forest Service adopted requirements that were never publicly reviewed by agency specialists or made available for public comment.

Sequoia-Sierra Forest Plan Revision

Comments were submitted on behalf of the California Four Wheel Drive Association (Cal4Wheel) and its membership. Cal4Wheel represents clubs and individuals within the state of California that are part of the community of four-wheel drive enthusiasts. These comments are directed to the Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Revision of the Sequoia and Sierra National Forests Land Management Plans.

Within the comments, seven distinct issues were identified as areas of interest for Cal4Wheel members; 1) Wild and Scenic River Designation, 2) Pacific Crest Trail, 3) Non Recreation Project Impacts to Recreation Program, 4) Zoning, 5) Mega-fire Impacts to Recreation and Recreation Infrastructure, 6) Wilderness Designation, and 7) Economic Impact Analysis.

The agency terms documents such as the Land Management Plans as “programatic” in content as they provide for a framework for future management decisions and activities.

The future decision and activities are subject to a rigorous analysis process where the agency is required to disclose and analyze the impacts of proposed actions. As such, this current DEIS does include decisions that will limit future management activities; specifically with proposals for Pacific Crest Trail area management, additional wilderness, and wild and scenic rivers. The decisions written into this DEIS provide limitations on future site specific actions involving recreation and fire management. Both are deemed by the agency to be priorities, and yet, this document provides restrictions on future decisions concerning them.

The comments received will be reviewed by the Forest Service and a revised document is expected to be released mid-2020. That document will be the Record of Decision which will be subject to Objections. A final ROD is will be released after the objections are resolved.

Inyo Forest Plan Revision

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Inyo National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan has been completed.

The draft Record of Decision and 2018 EIS were released in August 2018 and were subject to the objection process identified in 36 CFR Part 219 Subpart B (219.50 to 219.62). Twenty-two objections were received from the public, which were reviewed by the Deputy Regional Forester, and received instructions that required updating of the final EIS, plan, and supporting documents.

The modifications to the final EIS clarify effects and correct errors, as well as update analyses in the final EIS, including its appendices. This final EIS is the result of refining our analysis, guided by public comments received throughout the seven-year planning process. The revised land management plan, once approved, will guide management of the Inyo National Forest for the next 10-15 years. My comments submitted on behalf of Cal4Wheel were included in the objection resolution phase.

Mixed use of OHV on public roads. For clarity, the “OHV” use refers to “green sticker” vehicles.The “public roads” in question are county roads.

By law, non-street legal vehicles (California green-sticker) are not permitted for operation on federal highway system roads. Additionally, state law prohibits their operation of state highway system and county roads. There are provisions within state law where OHVs can be authorized to crowd a state or county road at designated crossing points. That approval rests with the California Highway Patrol.

Currently there is legislation that has passed the Assembly and Senate to authorize mixed use of county roads in the Bishop area. That authorization expires Jan 1, 2020 and the current legislation will extent that authorization for an additional five years.

The focus of the Bishop area mixed use authorization is to develop a connected trail system to transit from Forest Service to BLM managed lands with connections to county and LA Water and Power holding in the Owens Valley area. There are a number of segments of county roads that are identified as part of the designated route system in the area.

There is another issue within the California City area where the city has authorized use of a road leading from OHV riding area into the city for non-street legal vehicles. That authorization is currently up for renewal and facing opposition.

There are also several proposed mixed use segments in the Shasta-Trinity NF and Lassen NF that would provide some loop trail opportunities around Lassen National Park.

While considering the benefits, trail connectivity is a major point, there are some significant legal points to consider. First is insurance liability. California has defined requirements for drivers to be licensed and maintain liability insurance for drivers of automobiles. There is no defined requirement for riders to maintain a liability insurance policy for OHVs.

In addition, OHV are not designed and built for operation on paved (public) routes. Their design and construction is in accordance with Consumer Products Safety Commission and National Highway Safety Standards. In general, they lack the same vehicle safety equipment (turn signals, windshields, etc.) that are applied of street legal vehicles.

Currently, manufacturers of OHV vehicles have taken a stance in opposition of mix use operation.

This issue does lead to another related issue: reciprocity.

Currently, California Green Sticker vehicles can be taken to neighboring states and operated without obtaining a permit for operation within that state. The reciprocity issue with Arizona has been breached and California Green Sticker vehicles are now required to purchase an Arizona OHV permit.

The issue is further confused in that Arizona, Nevada, Idaho and Utah allow for licensing of OHVs. That licensing also requires the operator maintain liability insurance for the OHV.

About the Author

John Stewart

John Stewart

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