Off-roaders back in driver's seat?


Well-Known Member
Dec 6, 2003
RDC Crypto
This is from todays San Diego UT

Off-roaders back in driver's seat?

Reshaped commission a win for riders, say conservationists
Michael Gardner
SACRAMENTO – Off-road riders have scored a major victory in their quest to reshape a state commission they have said has grown hostile to their sport.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed legislation that will strip the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Commission of its authority over most funding and also hand the governor a majority of the appointments to the board.
The law could lead to the commission's return to favoring off-roaders, some environmentalists say. Over the past few years, the panel's majority, appointed by Democratic leaders in the Legislature, had tended to line up behind environmentalists.
The commission favored spending money on environmental projects over maintaining off-road areas – a bitter point of contention because a large portion of the money was raised through fees on off-road vehicles.
Some environmentalists supported the legislation, albeit reluctantly, as a compromise.
“It's definitely a tough issue for conservationists,” said Brent Schoradt, of the California Wilderness Coalition, which wound up endorsing the bill. “Off-road vehicles are causing increased damage to California's wilderness, waterways and wildlife. However, this is starting to move us in the right direction.”
In return, riders accepted a sharp increase in registration fees, fines on those caught in off-limits territory and some concessions on environmental priorities.
“It's a balanced bill,” said off-road lobbyist Pete Conaty.
Schwarzenegger and lawmakers were under pressure to strike a deal, with the statutory authority and funding for the program due to expire at the end of the year. Seven off-road parks were in danger of shutting down.
“It was a come-together or no-program situation,” said Sen. Darrell Steinberg, an environmentally leaning Sacramento Democrat who introduced the compromise, SB 742. The law takes effect Jan. 1.
Steinberg disagreed with critics who say the measure rolls over for the off-road community. Higher fees and clear funding guidelines will provide resources for law enforcement, maintenance and environmental restoration, he said.
Ed Stovin, president of the San Diego Off-Road Coalition, said: “We're not cheering wildly and having a parade. But we're happy with the bill.”
Stovin said just $365,000 went to maintain off-road areas out of $18 million in available grants this year. Under the new rules, half of that grant money must be set aside for operations and maintenance of off-road parks and trails, he said.
The commission will have little say, if any, over grants; nor will it control spending on capital improvement projects. Those decisions will be made by a separate division within the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Off-roading is a fast-growing sport, both at state parks specifically set aside for the activity, as well as on hundreds of miles of other public land. About 4 million riders annually use state-run off-road parks, and countless more journey to national forests and other getaways.
The sport's growth has spurred controversy, however. Riders are often branded as uncaring, cutting across pristine forests and through streams. Older vehicles are noisy and pollute, critics say.
Disputes have exploded at the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission, a seven-member panel that oversees off-roading in California. Most of the discontent involved funding, with off-roaders angry that their priorities were being shortchanged.
“Ugly personal and political battles don't make sense,” said Terry McHale, who represented the off-road community during marathon talks that produced the legislation.
McHale said the pendulum of off-road spending will swing back to the middle. Without clear spending guidelines, funding would remain up to the whims and ideology of the commission majority at the time, either pro-rider or pro-environment.
“The old days of either side picking each other's pocket are gone,” McHale said.
Under the law, about 25 percent of the funds each year will be dedicated to environmental programs. Some of that money will now become available to improve dirt roads to provide access for nonmotorized uses, such as hiking trails or fishing spots. Most of the remaining funds will go toward law enforcement.
That did little to mollify some critics.
“It's definitely a victory for the off-highway vehicle lobby,” said Terry Weiner, conservation coordinator for the Desert Protective Council. “It's not a good trade-off. In fact, it's a step backward.”
A key concession secured by environmentalists establishes that federal agencies, with a few exemptions, cannot obtain state grants for off-road programs in areas that were once designated roadless but have since been opened to vehicles.
Riders also will increase the amount of money available by doubling their “green sticker” registration fees to $50 every other year instead of $25. The program also receives some funding from the gas tax. Fines for illegal riding are set at $50 for the first offense, plus court-imposed costs to repair any damage.
Despite the changes, the commission could still sway with the political wind depending on who is governor, at least on policy decisions if not funding.
The seven-member panel will be expanded to nine and Schwarzenegger, a Republican with some environmental credentials, might be able to appoint a five-member majority once some terms expire. Currently, a governor only appoints three.
“This is a power grab,” said Karen Schambach of the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
She criticized the measure as a giveaway to off-roaders angry that preservation is getting its due.
“This was the first commission in the program's history that really cared about balancing environmental protection with user opportunity,” Schambach said.
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Well-Known Member
Sep 6, 2005
RDC Crypto
So. CA
Boy, talk about a newspaper with an agenda....whers the bit on all the good that we do...and where did the sticker money go???? Guess they conveniently forgot about that.
But at least it is a step in the right direction for us..
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DA Meatball
Jan 31, 2007
RDC Crypto
San Marcos, Ca or Baja
i dont think Karen Shambach has ever driven to plaster city,or barstow etc. if shes so enthused about saving such places ,she should go hiking there!