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Travel Management - Good Idea or Big Mistake?
Thursday, May 21, 2009
From the blog of Don Amador - The General's (aka Don Amador) Recreation HQ: Travel Management - Good Idea or Big Mistake?

At the recent CA State Parks OHV Commission meeting in San Jose, Commission Chairman Gary Willard asked the Forest Service representative for an accounting of the more than 12 million dollars of “OHV Green Sticker” grant funds that were spent on the CA OHV route inventory and designation process (RID) circa 2002-2007.

With more CA National Forests coming out with their DEIS’ – that are proposing to close a significant amount of historic OHV routes - there is a growing number of users asking if the CA RID process and its off-spring the National Travel Management Rule (TMR) have been “worth it” or if we are witness to a colossal mistake.

In CA, the 12 million dollars for RID essentially dried up grant funding for trail maintenance on most Forests for almost 6 years. Many users, including yours truly, were convinced that RID was simply an elaborate scheme by the anti-access majority on the OHV commission to enact the closure agenda of the extreme preservationist movement. Remember, it was just that sort of agenda-driven decision-making by the OHV commission that resulted in the new CA OHV program in SB742. Also, a number of FS staffers privately told me that those who supported the now infamous CA RID process would rue the day the MOI was signed and a “forced RID/TMR” process was imposed not only on the users, but on understaffed Forests and Ranger Districts.

For copy of MOI between State Parks, OHV Commission, and FS go to:
Intent To Provide Responsible And Consistent Management Of Off-Highway Vehicle Use

BRC has always supported the concept of designating “roads, trails, and areas” as outlined in the Nixon/Carter Executive Orders. And I, as BRC’s Western Representative, was a strong supporter of the vetted 2005 version of TMR. However, BRC believed that those planning efforts should be based on, and adapted to, actual on-the-ground needs. For example, the Los Padres NF near LA did an early version of TMR in the mid 1980s because they had a lot of use. On the other extreme, the Modoc NF is a very rural Forest in NE CA -with low visitation numbers- may never need to do TMR.

In the lead up to the signing of the MOI in 2003, BRC opposed the creation of the CA MOI because it was not vetted in the public arena. There was no rule-making process that would have ferreted out its now-glaring flaws. BRC also opposed the MOI because it would divert almost all funds from trail maintenance projects for a number of years.

At the end of the day, the question must be asked about the CA RID and the National TMR. Was it a gigantic waste of 12 million dollars of CA Green Sticker Funds for RID and 100s of millions of dollars for TMR? Did RID/TMR really improve the management of OHV recreation at destination OHV areas or in Forests that already had a strong commitment to managing OHV recreation? Was forcing TMR on Forests that had other priorities (such as water sports, timber, etc.) a good administrative decision? Did post 2005 mutations of TMR turn out to be simply a closure tool invented by anti-access groups and embraced by some –but not all – Forests?

Those are all good questions that deserve an answer. A post TMR analysis will be important to answer the question… “Was RID/TMR a good idea or a colossal mistake?”
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