Forest Service plotting for off-road funds


Well-Known Member
Apr 1, 2001
Check this crap out - your tax dollars at work!!

<font color=yellow>Forest service plotting for off-road funds</font color=yellow>
Stanislaus staff seeks state cash for new trails

Glen Martin, Chronicle Environment Writer Saturday, April 6, 2002
U.S. Forest Service officials have proposed a variety of inappropriate and even fraudulent strategies for obtaining money to promote off-road vehicle use in the central Sierra Nevada, an internal agency memo shows.

The memo, which circulated among staff members of the Stanislaus National Forest, also urged recruiting off-road vehicle clubs to lobby a state commission to support the Forest Service's off-road programs. A copy of the memo was obtained by The Chronicle.

The use of off-road vehicles such as dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles and dune buggies on public land has long been a bone of contention between environmental groups and off-road enthusiasts. The memo surfaces at a time when that controversy is growing.

Since taking office, the Bush administration has loosened off-road constraints, killing a Clinton administration plan to phase out snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park over three years.

And last week, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management proposed reopening 50,000 acres of environmentally sensitive California desertland to dune buggies; the federal tract was closed to off-road use by Clinton administration officials.

Disclosure of the Forest Service memo is likely to further inflame the controversy over motorized vehicles on public wildlands. Both off-road critics and advocates say the memo demonstrates the Forest Service is unable to craft a coherent off-highway vehicle policy for the Stanislaus -- and perhaps other national forests as well.

The memo concerns the troubled relationship between managers of the Stanislaus Forest, in the east-central Sierra Nevada, and the California Off- Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission, which oversees off-road motoring in California and disburses state funds to other government agencies for off- road programs.

To the frustration of Forest Service staff members, the Stanislaus has suffered funding cuts from the commission in recent years because of state dissatisfaction over the Forest Service's failure to designate sanctioned off- road routes.

The commission also is concerned about increasing complaints from local citizens about the noise and environmental impacts associated with dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles.

The memo covered a meeting held among Stanislaus forest managers to discuss two things: perceived disrespectful treatment of Forest Service staff members by commission members and strategies for obtaining commission funds.

Several strategies for obtaining funding from the commission were described in the memo as such:

-- "Take the money (for off-road projects on the Stanislaus) and run!"

-- "Fake it! Apply for funds during the upcoming cycle, and see what progress we have made over the next few months." If Stanislaus forest managers are still unhappy with the commission's attitude at the end of that time, the memo notes, the Forest Service could "pull out" of discussions.

Paul Spitler, an off-road commission member and the executive director of the California Wilderness Coalition, said he was outraged by the memo.

" 'Take the money and run,' 'Fake it' -- the tone is completely nefarious," Spitler said. "It suggests a conspiracy on the part of the Forest Service to defraud the state of California and rip off the forest's public users."

The memo also promoted using off-road clubs to make the Forest Service's case to the commission for proposed off-road trails on the Stanislaus.

"A user group (could) present our Power Point presentation, or notify the commission that we will not be present at the hearing until our concerns (about hostile treatment) are adequately addressed," the memo states.

Ben del Villar, superintendent for the Stanislaus forest, said the memo was a draft meant for internal use and should not be construed as forest policy. Despite the impression left by the memo, he added, the Forest Service tries to address the interests of a broad array of user groups.

"Off-highway vehicle use is just one of the many opportunities we try to provide on our lands, but we don't limit our (comment) invitations to specific user groups," del Villar said.

<font color=yellow>Paige<font color=yellow>