Jim Bramham - a pioneer/advocate
Contributed by Bonnie Steele, Cal4Wheel Office Manager
“A Walking Encyclopedia” and “Historian Supreme” of institutional OHV knowledge is how one of many letters of recommendation for Jim Bramham refers to this Class of 2018 inductee.
Jim was inducted in the Pioneer - Advocate category, in recognition of his more than thirty years of off-road advocacy work, from his early years as a volunteer to the presidency of the California Four Wheel Drive Association (Cal 4 Wheel), and many roles in between.
During his decades long relationship with Cal 4 Wheel, that continues to this day, Jim has served the Association as event chair, board of directors’ member, and natural resource consultant. Throughout his long history of event leadership and participation, he has helped the organization earn hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund legislative and land-use outreach at every level. His presidency pushed the organization to the forefront of both state and national recognition and respect.
Jim’s vision for Cal 4 Wheel included a permanent facility that could be used for an office, meeting space, event equipment storage, and association gatherings. To that end, Jim located and negotiated for the building and property that houses the organization and offers meeting space for like-minded groups and functions.
As the first person to represent Cal4Wheel at the SEMA Show, Jim worked to gain acceptance for the four-wheel drive community in the mainstream automotive industry. Jim was also instrumental with Cal4Wheel and other associations in the creation of the North American Motorized Recreation Council (NAMRC).
Jim’s leadership abilities and knowledge led to his appointment as a commissioner on the California Off Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission in 1996, where he served for four years. He helped organize ‘free days’ at State Vehicle Recreation Areas that highlighted local partnerships and responsible recreation. An advocate for safety and education, Jim’s leadership guided State Parks to include four-wheel drive safety and education training areas at a majority of its facilities, many offering driver certification classes conducted by Cal4Wheel volunteers.
Seeing the need for a grassroots element, Jim was extremely active in the creation of Friends of Oceano Dunes. Jim worked on this issue at the Park, with the county, at the California state capital, and before the Coastal Commission. The early framework that Jim helped create has led to maintaining OHV recreation in one of the most contentious environments possible. Noting the success of the Friends of Oceano, Jim continued the ‘Friends of’ effort with the creation of Friends of Sand Mountain. This grassroots organization was pivotal in keeping OHV recreation access open at this popular Nevada sand destination.
Jim Bramham (right) leads a tour of the Imperial Sand Dunes/Glamis with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Environmental pressures on the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area (aka Glamis) and Dumont Dunes Recreation Area led to court mandated closure of hundreds of acres of dunes to OHV use. Jim was involved in studies that were initiated that used scientific data to support the reversal of the closures by the judicial system, allowing the dunes to be reopened to OHV use.
Jim created a Memorandum of Understanding between State Parks and the Bureau of Land Management that created Technical Review Teams (TRT), which became the conduit for visitor input and representation on critical management decisions. The TRTs were recognized all the way to Washington DC as a success story in public land management. Jim served on the TRTs for more than 15 years.
Jim knew that the ‘’Duner” was the one of the least organized and most under represented public land users in California. He worked to provide the group with a voice, credibility, and a conduit for action through creation of the American Sand Association, where he continues as a board member to this day.
As part of the largest endangered species population study ever done, Jim worked in the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area. He coordinated housing, food service and dune transportation for 50 hikers and staff. Jim was also called on to provide logistics for a survey in the West Mojave Desert. The information gathered from these surveys was included in the Recreation Area Management Plan that now guides dune management. This plan included the largest area ever closed to OHV use to be reopened by the court, as a direct result of the information gathered.
Jim Bramham (tan shirt) leading a working group with the Bureau of Land Management on dune management issues.
Jim’s passion for off road took him across state lines to Nevada once again, when he took on the logistics role for the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act, which involved housing and feeding ten two-man teams of 4WD, ATV, and motorcycle riders, collecting off highway route information.
Working as a guide, Jim is a sought after leader who has conducted tours enjoyed by international, national, and local individuals and groups. He has led an untold number of historic and SUV-oriented trips throughout the west. His passion has always been to share the sport he loves with others. Jim concentrates on bringing his knowledge of outdoors, love of history and mechanical experience to many first-timers and interested veterans of the sport.
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